Movie Recap – Tron Legacy


CAST OF CHARACTERS

SAM FLYNN (Garrett Hedlund) – A twenty-something (emphasis on “something”), layabout billionaire with dead parents. Hobbies include hacking, breaking and entering and BASE jumping. Despite this backstory, he has somehow avoided becoming a Batman-esque superhero.

QUORRA (Olivia Wilde) – A sentient computer program with a fondness for Jules Verne and the game of Go. Childlike and innocent with an A-Level in Badass. Being the perfect computer woman she is of course the love interest for Sam.

CLU (Jeff Bridges) – Did you know that in the original film Clu’s name was actually an acronym for Codified Likeness Utility? Yeah, me either. I bet the producers of that film also didn’t know that. In this movie he’s trying to take over the real world… or something. For some reason.

ALAN BRADLEY (Bruce Boxleitner) – Here is where I’m expected to make a whole series of jokes based around Babylon 5. Well, I never really got into that series. Shocking, I know. So instead you’ll have to put up with whatever other lame jokes I can think of. Sorry.

MICHAEL SHEEN (Castor) – Having become increasingly unpopular since his party led the war against a rival OS, Castor stepped down as Prime Minister, left politics and took on a new job as the host of the Grid’s most popular talk show, Castor Over the Grid. When ratings declined he opened a nightclub and began impersonating David Bowie for reasons unclear.

EDWARD DILLINGER, JR (Cillian Murphy) – Here to remind you who the bad guy was in the first film and set up a role to be the bad guy in the next film. Serves no other purpose.

KEVIN FLYNN (Jeff Brigdes) – Here is where I’m expected to make a whole series of jokes based around The Big Lebowski. Well, I haven’t seen that film. Shocking, I know. So instead you’ll have to put up with whatever other lame jokes I can think of. Sorry.

RINZLER (Anis Cheurfa) – Some people say that he’s the one who started the war between pig and bird, and that he’s the reason Pac-Man became a Ms. All we know is he’s called the Stig!

——————————————————————–

Back in 1982, Disney released a risky, ground-breaking film called Tron. Now this isn’t the Disney we all know today, who’ve released such movies as every Pixar film ever made, The Lion King,Beauty and the Beast and the ever-thrilling The Hunchback of Notre Dame. This isn’t even the Disney that released such films as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. No, this is Disney coming off the 1970s, which were a dark, dark time for the studio.

See, somewhere in the 1970s, they’d lost their way. They’d stopped making interesting animated films and instead began releasing crappy live-action movies like The Cat From Outer Space, The North Avenue Irregulars and Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo. In fact the only notable animated film during the 1970s was the all-fury version of Robin Hood, and even that wasn’t all that great.

But Disney did have one really memorable release during this time period, and that was The Black Hole. It wasn’t all that great, really, and was a bit confusing for the audiences, but it was bold and it was different from what they usually did (even if they did still manage to somehow have a Disney character in the form of a robot voiced by Slim Pickens). The fact that it was clearly done as a reaction to Star Wars was incidental. It didn’t make a huge amount of money for Disney, but it did do respectable box office and it proved that they could handle adult material.

So it was that in 1982 Disney released another science fiction epic. This one, Tron has had a far greater legacy (snicker!), than The Black Hole. It featured ground-breaking special effects and… well, it had a story… and some acting… but, yeah, mostly just ground-breaking special effects with a story that was good enough to not insult your intelligence. That alone places it on a plane higher than certain other films I could mention (I’m looking at you, Michael Bay’s entire filmography!). The movie proved a box office success and spin off merchandise (including a memorable video game), helped keep Disney afloat long enough to let them get back to making cartoons, which they did in 1989 with The Little Mermaid.

Since 1982, fans had been asking for a sequel. Well, the studio dithered and did nothing about that for the longest time (except for a decent, but not great, video game a few years ago). Then they decided that since so many other movie franchises had done so well picking up the pieces a decade or two later, well, why couldn’t they? After all, how hard could it be?

Our film opens with some lights and circuits accompanied by the voice of Jeff Bridges talking about the Grid to the decent opening theme by Daft Punk. It then morphs into the streets of some unidentified American city that I’m going to call Seacouver. We go along through the streets and toward a lovely house where we hear and then see Bridges talking to his young son, Sam. He’s telling him the story of Tron while in the background we see a room filled with things like a movie poster for The Black Hole and, confusingly, one for Tron, as well as several toys based around the first film. So… Flynn came back to the real world and made a movie about his experiences? No reason not to, I suppose, but it seems a bit odd to me.

Not nearly so odd, however, as the boy he is talking to. So, get this, it’s 1989, right, and the boy is supposed to be his son. It’s implied the boy’s mother is Lori from the first film (it’s later mentioned that she died in 1985). There is no mention of them having a child together in the first movie, so presumably this happened after that. So, okay, no problem. They had a kid sometime after the first film, which probably took place in 1982, so that means the kid should be six or seven years old. Logically this means that the producers should cast a thirteen-year-old boy to play the role.

So… young Sam suffers from precious puberty? I mean, I don’t know too many seven-year-olds who keep a special sock under the bed, but this one sure looks like he does. For the record, the actor who plays what the credits themselves call “7 Year Old Sam Flynn”, is named Owen Best, and he was born in 1997. If this movie was shot in late 2009, that means he was twelve, almost thirteen. So nearly double the age of his character. Jeff Bridges is 61 and this would be like casting him to play someone who is only about 30. Something you’d need serious CGI work to accomplish.

Ok, point made.

Now I know this seems like a minor point and I suppose it is, but it speaks to really shitty continuity. And while it’s possible that the character is actually 12 or so and we simply never heard mention of him in the first movie, Sam himself, later in the film, gives his age as 27. This movie takes place 21 years after 1989, so that means the character as a young boy would be six and not seven. This is really clumsy writing on someone’s part, accompanied by clumsy casting on someone else’s part, and it does not bode well for the film as a whole.

Anyhow, once we’re done establishing this happy father/son scene, we see Flynn drive off on his motorcycle and then go to some TV-based exposition telling us Flynn has disappeared and left his company, Encom, behind and Alan Bradley is running it now. It’s actually not the worst way of telling the story, and it includes Flynn channeling Steve Jobs telling us about the virtual world and how “in there” is our future and our destiny. The scene ends with Sam looking out of a rain-spattered window. How tragic. We’re told the future of what happens to the company depends on what happens to “this orphaned little boy”. I vote the kid moves into Wayne Manor and hires Alfred.

Sam runs from his well-meaning grandparents and hops onto his bike. The shot flashes to his older version unsafely riding a motorcycle at high speed. Because he’s a badass rebel who doesn’t have to play by your “rules”! Yeah! Stick it to the man, you spoiled multi-billionaire!

He gets chased by a cop and, through some incredibly irresponsible, unsafe driving, eventually eludes him, and I conclude, before the character even takes off his helmet, that he’s basically a dick. Nothing I see in the rest of the movie would prove to change my mind.

And when he does take off said helmet, he reveals himself to be Garret Hedlund, best known to the world from his appearance in the Oscar-worthy fantasy epic Eragon, where he played a character far more heroic than the actual hero. He proved then what sort of an actor he was and continues that trend with this film.

He leaves his motorcycle out on the street where, despite probably being fairly expensive, it’s somehow not stolen. He then uses a Nokia smart phone to break into Encom through a big door. Yes, it’s apparently the same big door as in the first movie. And does he comment on it? Yes, he does, saying, “Now that is a big door,” in a perfunctory fashion. Because this movie will rub your face in references rather than just let you sit back and enjoy them. That’s ok. I want to rub this movies face in a steaming pile of Bay.

Inside the Encom boardroom, the people who actually run the company and let Bruce Wa-excuse me, Sam Flynn-do what he pleases, are preparing for the release of their new operating system software, Encom OS 12. Cut in with this discussion are shots of Sam sneaking his way through the company, including blinding a security camera with a laser pointer. After he runs past a guard notices the white-out on the screen, which shows multiple camera feeds, and taps the screen with his coffee cup. That of course fixes the problem. Kind of like how thumping on your windshield will fix a problem with your spark plugs.

And lowering taxes will balance the budget!

Up in the board meeting, the Evil CEO is talking about Encom OS 12 and makes special mention of Edward Dillinger, Jr. This is so we all know who the bad guy will be in the next movie. I know this because a: he’s played by a reasonably well-known actor (Cillian Murphy), and b: he serves no purpose to this movie other than to be a set up for the next one.

Sam is continuing to dinker around, sneaking through the building. I suppose to be fair I should point out here that we haven’t been told this is actually Sam Flynn. But we all know it is from the trailers and because we’ve seen movies before. Those of us who are of a thinking sort of mind might start saying to themselves, “Hang on. Kevin Flynn owned Encom, right? Or at least was a majority shareholder? Presumably when he ‘died’ those shares transferred over toe Sam, right? That makes him majority shareholder. Why is he sneaking around through his own company?” To which the movie replies, “Shut up, that’s why.”

Sam makes his way into a server room that has some interesting overtones to it.

The servers were created by man. They evolved. They rebelled. There are many copies. And they have a plan.

In the process he trips a laser alarm which causes the security guard (apparently the only one in the building), to dash from the room, spilling his coffee in what I think is a variation of the Praxis Teacup Rule.

If this were 2005, there'd be a 'hot coffee' joke here.

Upstairs Alan Bradley asks what changes and upgrades have been made to OS 12 to justify a new release and the associated expenses to students and businesses. The Evil CEO replies, “This year we put a 12 on the box,” and then cackles with evil glee and eats the arm of a dead baby. Because, as we all know, that’s all software companies do. Because they are evil. And stuff.

Dillinger explains that the software is the most secure ever and that the idea of giving it away for free vanished with Flynn. Well, ok. No one suggested giving it away for free, but maybe there was an edit that removed a line of Bradley saying that or something. Of course what this really is supposed to be is a setup for a scene a few seconds later when we see Sam uploading a copy of the software onto a file sharing site, thus essentially releasing it for free. Well, unless the company requires some sort of activation code or something like that. Or requires online verification of the software. Which they probably would. Sure, some people would be able to get around it, but most people would still have to buy a copy, so he may have just cost the company about 1% in sales. The company he basically owns. What a rebel.

You rebel scum!

As the OS hits the web, the Evil CEO panics, wondering how he will explain the fact that their new expensive OS has just gone out for free, because no one has ever had an operating system leak out to the public on file sharing sites before. Dillinger plays it cool and tells him to just say it was intentional, then walks out of the movie. It’s possibly worth noting here that by doing this, he costs the company billions. If they just ignored the file-sharing they still would have made tons of profit on this product. Now he’s saying they should just give it away free to everyone, which means the company loses all the money from it. An odd solution, to say the least.

Moving out to the roof, we see Sam standing at the end of a crane looking down at the world. As he does, the one security guard the company employs comes out to the crane. He’s apparently very committed to his job because rather than just wait on the safe end and call the cops, he starts edging out toward Sam. I have no idea why. I also have no idea why the two pick this time to have a discussion on the ethics of software piracy with the guard taking the legally and morally defensible position that stealing is wrong and Sam taking the substantially less valid position that information wants to be free. Sam then confirms that he is indeed the largest shareholder and then jumps off the crane, parachuting down to safety. Well, more or less.

First he gets caught on a lamppost, then drops onto a cab. “Hilariously”, in a completely not racial-caricature kind of way, the cab driver speaks with a thick accent and shouts “No free rides! You pay! No free taxi!” as anyone would under the circumstances. Our “hero” then eludes the cops for a bit before finally being caught; throwing his arms into the air, grinning and saying, “Ok, boys! You got me!”

The subsequent police beating occurs offscreen.

We then cut to the police station where Sam is being released. I’m not sure why this is happening. Off the top of my head, I’d think he would be charged with Breaking and Entering, Resisting Arrest, Theft, Vandalism (landing on top of the cab probably did it no good), the probably illegal BASE jump, possible criminal trespass charges, and the Reckless Endangerment and Speeding charges from earlier. Multiple felonies, but he’s allowed to walk free on the same night. And don’t say, “Well, he is the majority shareholder, so it’s not a problem.” I bet it is actually a huge problem. I’m fairly sure there are laws against sabotaging your own publicly-traded company, especially when it could potentially cost them billions in profits. He didn’t own the company and didn’t own the software. If he wanted it to be free, he should have called a board meeting and voted on it.

This also begs another question: why did he break into the company? And, “Shut up, that’s why,” is not a valid answer. If he’s got any computer skills at all, I’m sure he could have hacked into their servers remotely and got the files from there. Failing that, I’m very sure that waving a wad of money under some hard-working programmer’s nose would have been enough to get them to download it onto a flash drive for him. Obviously from a story-telling point of view it was designed to show what a bad-ass he is, and how fearless, and how wonderful, and also what a total dick he was. I mean, if his little stunt wound up releasing a viable copy to the world, that could cost the company billions, and that would likely mean downsizing, which means a lot of people losing their jobs.

So, yeah. Here we have a character that’s committed multiple felonies and done something that might result in a lot of people becoming unemployed. He’s the hero, mind you.

And judging by that neck, he’s also Gul Dukat’s illegitimate son.

Once he’s released from jail, he goes to the Batca- er… Dumont’s garage. Yes, that’s a reference to the first film. It turns out this is where he lives for some reason. Also, Alan Bradley is there. The two talk and Sam makes some reference to Bradley acting as a surrogate father when Sam was twelve. So… right. Back to the age thing. The character looked about twelve or so in those scenes, and if he actually was that might make sense, but it contradicts things later and-

Get on with it!

Ok, fine. Where was I? Oh, yes. Sam. And he’s about to take off his shirt. Of course this being the movie it is, it promises more than it delivers and all we get to see is his slightly bruised back. Bastards. Anyhow, the two engage in a conversation where the entire purpose is for Bradley to tell Sam he got a page from Flynn’s arcade. I didn’t even know pagers were still available, but ok. Why not? Anyhow, Sam waffles a bit and then decides to head off and investigate.

He gets to Flynn’s old arcade. It’s dusty and musty and in what looks like a bad part of town. Why Sam isn’t mugged and bike-jacked within moments is beyond me. Anyhow, the place clearly hasn’t been used in years. Despite that the electricity is still on and all the video games and jukebox power up like normal. Ah, the 1980s. That great decade when things were Built to Last.

Sam noses around a bit and eventually finds the Tron video game. It’s the same one we all played back in the day. I mean exactly the same, which apparently indicates there was a movie of Tron in this universe. Sam decides to drop a quarter in, which then falls out and lands on the floor. He notices groves in the wood of the floor and figures this must be a secret door. It is and he walks through.

Now, spoilers here. It’s revealed later in the film that the page to Bradley was sent by Clu who is evily masterminding everything. He sent the page as a way of luring Sam onto the Grid. This plan is stupid and makes no sense. First, he assumed that sending the page to Bradley would mean that Bradley would relay it to Sam. Then he assumed Sam would go to the arcade and somehow interact with the Tron cabinet in such a fashion as to find out it was a secret door. Then he assumed that upon finding out it was a secret door, Sam would go inside and position himself in front of the laser beam that would send him to the Grid. There’s about a billion ways this plan could have gone very wrong and clearly the only reason it really worked was because the script needed it to. It also shows that Clu knows far more about human psychology than he seems to later in the movie.

Anyhow, so yeah, Sam goes through the magic wardro-er… secret door… -and gets laser-blasted into the Game Grid. He’s only there a few seconds before an admittedly cool-looking version of a Recognizer arrives. Sam, to his credit, quickly picks up on what’s going on. He protests that he’s a user, is told to shut up, and put on the Recognizer near Duane Dibbley.

He’s so geeky he couldn’t even get into a science-fiction convention!

The Recognizer lands and everyone gets sorted. Duane Dibbley is told he’s going to the games. Well, he doesn’t want to die on the gaming field, so instead he commits suicide. Yes, that makes sense. For his part, Sam is muscled over to an elevator and dropped a few stories downward into a room full of women who wear shoes Lady Gaga would envy.

A worker's comp claim waiting to happen.

The women strip off Sam’s clothing, and in keeping with the nature of the film, we don’t get to see anything good. They put him into a black bodysuit and then load him up with armor and a disc before punting him into the game area.

A word now about the outfits the programs wear. In the original version they were white with quite a lot of red, blue or occasionally yellow light running through them. In this case they are generally black, occasionally white, and have very few lights, all of which are white. They look frankly less interesting than the costumes from 1982, and that’s not saying anything good. I think that the problem is that in the 1982 version there was more light and it looked like it was coming from inside the armor. Here, there’s surprisingly little light and it’s clearly on the surface.

Sam steps into an elevator which lifts him up into the game grid and to a disc fighting arena.

'Last Day, Capricorn 15s. Year of the city, 2274. Carrousel begins.'

Sam quickly finds himself fighting in something called “Disc Wars”. We know that’s what it is called, because the audience keeps chanting “Disc Wars!”

As the fight begins, he starts getting it handed to him. He manages to barely dodge the first couple throws of the enemy’s disc (which looks more like a doughnut than a disc), and basically through sheer luck manages to defeat him. Well, that seems reasonable. I mean, he’s not a trained combatant and we’ve not had any indication that he does martial arts or anything like that, so he should win basically through luck and guile and not anything like skill.

His luck and guile continue to serve him well as he gets through another fight very easily. Meantime we see an orange-lined program watching it all from a large ship while a lackey kisses his ass. This bad guy is Clu, but we aren’t told that yet, and even though we’ve seen from the trailer that he’s a villain, it’s still handled as a “surprise” when we do find out. Meantime he’s wearing a full-face mask for no reason other than to hide his secret identity.

Sam runs around like a twit on the top of the game grid as the computers controlling everything (which presumably are programs themselves), start to notice that he’s an unknown program. They send in the Sti- Rinzler- to sort him out.

Some say he’s the one who gave Donkey Kong his barrel fetish and that he’s the reason the Princess is always in another castle. All we know is he’s called the Stig!

Now previously Sam, who had no obvious martial arts training, had survived through luck and guile. He has no known combat skills. Yes, he’s clearly in good shape, can ride a motorcycle with some skill, BASE jump and be a dick, but we haven’t seen that he can handle himself well in a fight against a highly-skilled, well-trained opponent who is using weapons Sam has no experience with. Well, unless he was on the Seacouver University Firsbee Golf Team. Logically he should get his ass handed to him.

This is indeed what happens. Rinzler in fact has several chances to easily kill Sam and so clearly he’s just toying with him. This means there’s programs out there who have sadism.exe installed into them. I always knew there was something wrong with Windows Vista.

Up in the ship Clu has been watching the fight while playing with his balls. Yes.

Coming soon from EA: Caine Mutiny: the MMORPG!

Rinzler finishes beating the tar out of Sam and is about to kill him when he notices some blood. He says, “User!” in a voice that’s very obviously (spoiler), Tron. Yeah. The fact that, like Clu, he’s wearing a full face mask is something of a giveaway. Anyhow, this alerts Clu that something is up. Apparently he didn’t know beforehand. Take that, Mister High and Mighty Master Control Program!

Sam gets brought to Clu and we finally see Clu’s face. I’ll give Jeff Bridges great credit for his acting here. He does a wonderful job of acting like a slightly “off” version of Kevin Flynn. He really sells this role quite well in a lot of ways.

Anyhow, it isn’t long before Sam is Clu’d (ha!), into the fact that this isn’t his dad. Clu postures a bit and then sends Sam off back to the Games to play around on the light-cycles. When Sam gets to the light-cycle arena he’s introduced, as is his competition, which, surprise, turns to be Clu, and is handed a stick. He’s not sure what to do with it, so he holds it like a lightsaber and asks how it’s used. Jarvis, Clu’s suck-up sidekick, smirks and says, “I’ll give you a hint. Not like that.”

However come by my server later, my dear boy, and I’ll give you some private lessons.

Meantime yet another mysterious masked figure is watching things from above the arena. This is Samus Arn-… er… Quorra, but that’s a stupid name and a pain in the ass to type, so I’m going to call her 13. 13 watches most of the introduction and slinks off, but you can be sure she’ll be back.

That's MIZ Justin Bailey, to you!

And so begins the light-cycle fight. I’ll say this for it; it’s quite lovely to look at. Very bright and well-animated and also as boring as a particularly boring stone that’s recently been found on a damp Tuesday in Borington, Wales, and then profiled in The Boring Stone Monthly. The original light-cycle duels, as pointed out by Spoony, were all about claustrophobia. The walls never disappeared and so as the riders went, they navigated a more confined and narrow space with each second.

In this case, it’s been set to 11 and then end result is that the players have a huge arena with several levels and not much use for the light trails, which are even turned off for large parts of the race. The sense of claustrophobia is gone and we never get a good “feel” for how everything is laid out. What we end up with is ok, but like with so much of the film it’s a flashier, yet more pale, copy of what was done in 1982.

As the race goes on, Clu’s side really starts handing it to the blue team. Soon there’s only Sam and one other racer. Sam shouts to him that they need to work together, the guy nods, and with no other communication than that they somehow coordinate all their actions and moves. No practice needed, no actual strategy. I agree that, yes, they’d do much better as a team, but there does need to be a bit more to teamwork than just saying, “Hey, gang, let’s team up!”

In the end, Sam is about to get totally destroyed when the Batmobile comes out of nowhere to rescue him.

In the process it generates a wall that knocks Clu head over teakettle, but doesn’t kill him. Clu, apparently, uses cheat-codes. This also explains a line from earlier in the movie where it’s mentioned his bikes are faster than those of the blue team. Apparently Konami’s codes really are everywhere.

'up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a! Ha! Now I can finally beat Contra!

The driver of the Batmobile, 13, tells Sam to get in. She has to tell him this twice, because he is very stupid. It then drives off with a squeal of tires (?), and smoke (?!). As it does, the Stig sets off in chase and Clu says, “Game on, bitch,” or something to that effect.

The Batmobile drops a couple explosives to slow down pursuit and then blows a hole in the wall to escape. Hmmm… blowing a hole in the wall to escape a light-cycle arena… now where have I seen that trick before?

Oh, right.

As the car drives along, 13 removes her mask and introduces herself, then explains that the enemy vehicles can’t follow them because they aren’t designed for the terrain they now find themselves on. Ok, that makes sense. Well, it’s a good thing Clu’s forces don’t have planes like the ones Clu’s forces have later.

Sam asks 13 where they are going. She says, “Patience, Sam Flynn,” because as a sexy computer babe she has to call him by his first and last names. At least it’s better than calling him Sam Unit, I suppose, though not nearly as wonderful as if he was called “The late Flynnsamflynn.”

The Batmobile rolls and goes up along a steep and narrow road, looking for all the world like a miniature remote controlled car, before driving through a tunnel and coming to a stop.

Coming soon: RC Pro Am 2012!

With the Batmobile safely stowed away in the Batcave, Sam and 13 are able to get out and take an elevator up to a small house where a man sits meditating. No points for guessing who this is. Yes, Kevin Flynn himself. He and Sam have a fairly awkward, but somewhat touching, reunion and it’s a testament to the acting skills of Bridges that he does a great job selling the scene.

Flynn then goes to look out a window while 13 shows Sam around the house. This includes showing him an older prototype light-cycle so that the audience will know it is significant and will likely turn up later. Then she goes over to a game of Go, which I honestly know nothing about, but which has always struck me as somewhat silly.

I mean, if checkers was good enough for the crew of the Botany Bay...

13 shows Sam some of her book collection, which contains works by Verne, Dostoyevsky and other public domain writers. 13 comments that Flynn is teaching her about “the art of the selfless, about removing oneself from the equation.” I’m sure there’s no way that’s going to be relevant later in the story.

After a brief shot of Clu pouting, we go to dinner. It’s a happy family meal with father, son and 13 all gathered around munching and crunching. From the look of things Flynn apparently has spent much time learning how to properly code good food. I can entirely support that notion.

Romulan ale? Isn't that illegal?

Ok, I didn’t want to come back to the age issue, but in this scene 13 asks Sam how old he is and we are told he is 27. Like I pointed out before, that means he was 6, not 7, in the scene where a 12 year-old boy is playing a character described as being 7. I really can’t tell you how much this annoys me and-

GET ON WITH IT!

Fine, fine.

We also learn a few other things, like that Cal Tech apparently has a campus in Seacouver, and that Sam has no life, really. It’s a reasonably tense conversation and actually fairly well done all things considered. Eventually Sam gets to the main part of the scene, which is giving Flynn a chance to explain what happened all those years ago when he disappeared.

Now stay with me cause this gets a bit puzzling. First, Flynn explains that he brought a copy of Tron from the old system (presumably the one from the first movie), and he, along with Clu, were supposed to help Flynn build a new Utopia, with Clu under orders to make it perfect. Yes, no way that’s going to bite someone on the ass. Flynn apparently never watched any science fiction ever.

Anyhow, Flynn continues to explain, saying that as they worked, something unexpected happened. Something called isomorphic algorithms appeared spontaneously. Flynn says that, like a flame, they weren’t really from anywhere, proving that he also didn’t pay much attention in basic chemistry.

These things, ISOs, he calls them, were apparently a sentient life form that evolved in the computer system. No explanation is provided for why this happened, except to add to the God parallels in the movie. Flynn explains that these beings were an intelligence beyond our own. He also says they were “…profoundly naive. Unimaginably wise.” And now I want to hit my head with a mallet.

Also they were short and tall, stupid and smart, sexy and Mormon! Ok, maybe that last one works…

Then he really goes off the rails, telling us that somehow the ISO DNA was going to be able to cure diseases and alter science and philosophy, with every idea man has had about the universe “up for grabs”. Biodigital jazz, he then says. I have no clue what he’s babbling about.

Sam, channeling the general audience reaction at this point.

We then see that Clu acting like a bitch and rebelling against God- er… Flynn. He leads a little coup that results in Tron being killed off screen. Well, having never seen a movie before I assume he’s dead for good. Right? Right?

I really don’t want to sound dense or anything, but I just don’t “get” the whole ISO concept. First, I fail to see how intelligent life can just spontaneously happen without a long evolutionary run up. Second, I don’t see why Clu would view them as a threat to his perfect order. Even if he did, surely Flynn could have just issued some master override command to get him to knock off what he’s up to?

But most importantly, I really don’t understand what Flynn is babbling about when he’s talking about how the ISOs would revolutionize everything in the real world. So he’s apparently got spontaneously artificial intelligence. Great. How does that cure disease and change everyone’s views on science, philosophy, etc?

The ISOs are apparently a very important concept in this movie and the movie does not do a good job of explaining them or why they matter. That’s a real big problem considering that the whole story revolves around them.

Anyhow, back at Basil Exposition’s place, Sam asks Flynn why he didn’t fight back. Flynn says he did but, for some reason not explained by the story, this only made Clu stronger. I’m sure there’s some Zen thing involved. So all he could do was stay back and hide while Clu wiped out the ISOs. By the time all was said and done, the portal back to the real world had closed and Flynn was trapped. I’m sure GLaDOSwas somehow involved.

You'll need the orange one, too, Flynn.

Sam begins trying to plot to get Flynn out of Dodge. Flynn says he can’t leave because as soon as he enters the grid, Clu will know where he is and will try to get his disc. He wants the disc so that he can get to the real world and then it’s “game over”. Now I would have thought that to find Flynn, all Clu would have to do is send his army to look for the only damn house outside the grid and… and… wait. Wait. Did he say Clu wants to get into the real world and then it’s “game over”?

Yes. Yes, he did. Apparently Clu’s big master plan is to get the disc and take himself and his little army of programs out to the real world where they will do evil and nasty things because our world isn’t perfect. Perhaps not, but I’m fairly sure we could successfully kick the ass of a bunch of programs, even if they were smack in the middle of Seacouver. The combined might of the Amerocanadian military should be able to squash them pretty easily. So, yes, game over, but only for Clu and the Gang.

I am pretty confused here, though. From what Flynn is saying, Clu lured Sam into the game world to use him as bait to bring Flynn out onto the grid. Ok, fine. But if that’s the case, why does Clu spend several minutes trying to kill Sam? Make no mistake, during the light-cycle battle that’s totally what he’s trying to do. He wasn’t pulling any punches, and if 13 hadn’t showed up in the Batmobile, Sam would be a puddle of cubes. If Sam is dead, Flynn would likely hide even deeper in the outskirts of the system making it less likely that he’d come out and play. So Clu’s actions here are just bizarre.

Meantime, Sam is still pretty gung-ho about the idea of making a run for the portal. Flynn tells him that’s a bad idea and explains that Clu brought him to the game world so that he’d be another piece on the board and they’d be forced to make a run for it, thus making themselves targets for Clu. He even goes so far as to say, “The only way to win is not to play.”

How about a nice game of chess?

Sam bristles at all this. He has a bit of a dust-up with the old man, who then wanders off. 13 and Sam step to one side and she explains that Flynn could just end it all pretty easily but Flynn would die in the process. Sam gripes and bitches and announces he’s going to make a run for the portal to delete Clu from the other side. He then stomps off to his bedroom. Yes, it’s news to me that he has a bedroom already, but there you are. I suppose it could be a guest room, though who exactly would be visiting is left up for us to wonder.

As he’s pouting, 13 turns up and tells him about Zuse, a program who can possibly help him with his little plans. We then go to a brief, rather oddly placed, flashback of Sam and Flynn down at the beach. Flynn, who apparently is the one having this flashback, then wakes up and goes looking for Sam only to find that, surprise, he’s stolen the prototype light-cycle and is heading to town. Sam drives it through the rain (?), and then finds a homeless program (?!), and tells him it’s his lucky day. Sam trades him the light-cycle for the guy’s cloak and then watches as the guy drives off with security chasing him.

Now to find some younglings!

As he walks through the city, Sam comes across one of the Gaga wanna-bes who stripped him down earlier. She of course also calls him by his first and last name, and apparently knew exactly where he would be. Since it’s raining she’s carrying an umbrella. I don’t have the energy at the moment to mock just how stupid this rain concept is to begin with, so just make your own punchlines.

(insert witty caption HERE)

Back up at Clu central his lickspittle is telling him about how they’ve been able to track the light-cycle back to its point of origin. This means the bad guys now know where Flynn is, though given how long they’ve had to find him, this does not speak well of their investigatory prowess. We then have a scene of Flynn telling 13 to bring the car around so they can leave. He’s also now wearing black instead of white, which I’m sure is significant.

Now begins one of the odder bits of the film as Sam arrives at the End of Line Club. There he meets Castor, played by noted actor Michael Sheen, who I am sure took the role just so that he wouldn’t have to play Tony Blair in yet another film.

I also have to point out that in a room full of entirely heterosexual pairings, Castor stands out as someone more flaming than a forest fire. He comes off as really, really gay. He’s constantly flirting with everyone male and refers to Sam as, “prettiness,” while basically licking his lips. He’s clearly supposed to some sort of homage to Ziggy Stardust, but I have a feeling even David Bowie would pull him aside and say, “Dude, tone it down.”

Life is a cabaret!

Castor leads Sam up a staircase while telling the club DJs to play something different and entertain the masses. The DJs are Daft Punk, for those who care. Meantime the woman introduces herself as Gem. Well, I wondered what had become of her after the Holograms broke up.

Back at Flynn’s house we see that Clu and the Crunch Bunch have arrived. They wander about and look at things. Clu smashes up some stuff while dealing with his daddy issues. He then picks up a shiny apple and has a flashback to his creation. No doubt the apple has some Eden-esque symbolism that I don’t care about. At the end of the scene, which was really rather pointless, Clu goes stalking off.

Over at the club, Castor gives us the unsurprising news that he is, in fact, Zuse. He and Sam carry on a conversation which is clearly designed to just distract Sam as Flynn’s guys drop down from above (they drop out from one of those planes that clearly Clu doesn’t have or he could have used them to follow the Batmobile earlier). Castor gloats that he no longer believes in the users and a fight starts with 13 appearing out of nowhere as it begins. It’s big and exciting in its own way, I suppose. I note that Sam does a very good job of holding his own against highly trained warrior programs, which makes no sense since, as I mentioned earlier, he doesn’t have any noticeable combat skills.

The fight stops rather abruptly when Flynn turns up. Castor makes a run for it as Flynn grabs Sam and 13 (now missing an arm), and takes them to the elevator. One of the warrior programs fires a grappling hook and steals Flynn’s disc. Then blows up the elevator. Nice to see a bit of competence from the bad guys. His competence doesn’t last long as Castor kills him, takes the disc and begins impersonating Chaplin. I wish that were a lie.

You know, like the cake.

The elevator is now falling out of control. Flynn, being the master user, hacks into it and stops it from falling. Once they’re on the ground, he and Sam have a bit of an argument that ends with Flynn saying, “You’re messin’ with my Zen thing, man.” He then notices that the elevator has conveniently deposited them near a train. He decides that the three of them will hop the train and make a run for the border.

On the train Flynn examines 13 and we get the unsurprising news that she’s an ISO. It seems they have some sort of weird three-strand DNA that he fiddles with while explaining that in the real world she could change everything. Left unexplained is exactly how she’d change everything. He does eventually fix the damaged code which then turns into a moth and flies off. Yes, she had a bug. It’s one of the few clever computer references, so I shall now smile.

*smile*

Ow. That hurt.

Anyhow, Sam and Flynn are talking with Sam whining about how horrible the real world is. The environment is terrible, the Middle East is a mess, the poor are getting screwed, etc, etc. Of course this ignores the fact that people around the world are healthier and living longer, that poverty is on the decrease, that there’s peace in most countries and that the Cold War has ended, thus stopping the threat of global thermonuclear war.

Not now, Joshua!

Anyhow, the world is in fact in far better shape than it’s been at any point in world history, but that goes against the narrative flow of the film, so whatever. I do find it somewhat amusing when Sam mentions wi-fi and Flynn smirks a bit, saying he’d thought of that idea in 1985.

The real purpose of this scene is to establish that Flynn loves his son and that he’d do anything for him. It’s a decent enough scene, I suppose, with some good emotion to it. If the whole film was as well-written we might have really had something good.

We go back to the End of Line Club where Clu and his troops turn up. He and Castor trade some “witty” banter for a bit. This eventually ends with him taking the disc and blowing up the club, killing Gem and Castor in the process. I’m not exactly sure why he kills them, but then again, I’m not entirely sure why he didn’t kill them long ago. Perhaps he’s just tying up loose ends. I’m also surprised Castor didn’t see it coming and didn’t have an escape capsule handy.

One notable thing about the scene is that Castor mentions Clu had been searching for the disc for “about a thousand cycles”. From something Flynn said earlier about the portal, we know that one mili-cycle is about 8 hours. That means eight-thousand hours per cycle. By my math, that’s about 8 million hours or about 365 years. So Clu had 365 years to track down Flynn and get the disc from him and still couldn’t. Oh, yes, he’s a force to be reckoned with, all right.

Back to our three merry fugitives. 13 has woken up and Flynn is meditating. This gives us a chance to have a little heart-to-c:/emotions/love.exe with Sam and 13 as she goes on about wanting to see a sunset. So now we know what the last frame of the movie will be.

Flynn snaps out of his meditation just in time to see they are being followed by a Recognizer that has Rinzler inside. They get off the train at a station where they find several cars full of programs just standing there doing nothing. Flynn explains they are there for Clu to reprogram into being his soldiers, since apparently he can’t create new programs and hasn’t ever heard of copy/paste.

Control-c, then control-v, or right-click, select 'copy' then right-click, select 'paste'.

13 sees Rinzler looking for them. She hands her disc off and goes to distract him. A brief fight ensues and she is captured (thus removing herself from the equation, fulfilling the line from earlier), but not before Flynn realizes Rinzler is actually Tron. He and Sam sneak off while 13 is led away.

Now we have Clu’s big moment of exposition where he explains exactly what his plan is and what his motivations are. From what I can tell his plan is to get his army of a few thousand into the real world and completely take over. His motivation is because… I’m not sure? He’s pissed about Flynn, that much is obvious, but clearly he’s not yet completed his task of creating a perfect system, so why is he abandoning that task and going to go take over our world? This just doesn’t make much sense. The speech that he gives is the mirror image of Flynn’s speech from earlier in the movie and that’s kind of clever, I guess. Also at least the scene looks impressive in a vaguely disturbing, Nuremberg kind of way.

You know who else was a genocidal maniac? HITLER!

While this is going on, Sam sneaks into the area where Clu has placed Flynn’s disc. He has about four guards on this disc. Well, yes, that makes sense. Spend 365 years looking for something and you develop a somewhat casual attitude toward securing it. To be fair, there’s also these other guys who immediately hide behind shielding and who remind me of those goggle-wearing guys from a certain other movie.

Flash! Aaaaah!

Sam, of course, dispenses with the guards very easily, despite him having, as mentioned before, no notable combat training. He gets in, grabs the disc, saves 13 from Rinzler and then grabs a wing-suit to escape to freedom, rendezvousing with Flynn, who has managed to get his hands on an aircraft.

Back up on Clu’s ship, he goes to were the disc was, exchanges a significant look with Rinzler and then, for no obvious reason, kills his lackey before leading his troops to jump out a window. He activates an airborne version of a light-cycle and begins chasing after our heroes.

On the plane, 13 is piloting and Flynn tells her to “head for the light”, a line which doesn’t sound good unless it’s coming from Zelda Rubenstein. 13 then notices the light-jets following them. Flynn sends Sam back to man the rear gun turret and the fight begins!

Great, kid! Don't get penisy!

The fight itself is reasonably well done, though I do find myself confused at one point when 13 flies their plane straight up, another plane follows and then stalls and begins falling. What, there isn’t enough virtual oxygen for his virtual jet engines?

The fight is also reasonably important because it’s when the Stig… Rinzler… Tron… whatever… finally remembers who he is and that he fights for the users! He turns on Clu and they wind up fighting each other. In the end, Clu flies off with Tron’s light-jet while Tron crashes into the water, his lights turning back to blue. So he’s apparently alive, but we’ll never see him again. Meantime, 13 continues to fly the plane, heading toward the portal.

'Fly into the light, Carol-Anne!' Yeah, it just doesn’t work without good old Zelda, 1933 – 2010

The plane lands and they get out, bee-lining for the portal. Clu, of course, is waiting there to stop them. Clu and Flynn have a bit of a talk, and then Clu kicks Flynn in the crotch so hard he flies backward several feet. I imagine his happy-parts are now in the vicinity of his tonsils. Sam attacks Clu, but since Clu still has his cheat codes enabled, he doesn’t accomplish much.

13 then pops up in time to save Sam from Clu. Clu lets them go and grabs Flynn’s disc, which, unsurprisingly, is actually 13’s disc. He jumps over to the portal to stop Sam and 13 from escaping and it’s that this point that I felt there was something very familiar about the set and the staging, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on what.

V'Ger seeks the Creator.

Clu charges toward the happy couple as they start to transmit out. Flynn does some weird floor thing that activates a big tractor beam effect and pulls Clu toward him. The two merge and then explode, taking out the portal station, Clu’s carrier ship and lots of things for miles around. Sic Transit Kevin Flynn, at least until we need him for the reported sequel.

Back in the real world, Sam loads the grid onto what appears to be some fancy USB drive that he then wears as a necklace. At least I assume that’s what he’s loading onto it. For all I know he’s vacuumed some Russian porn site.

sluttysvetlana.ru in all its glory!

Out in the arcade we find Alan staring at his pager as Sam appears out of nowhere. How he didn’t hear the sound of Sam’s steps and the opening of the secret passage is beyond me, but there you are. Sam tells Alan he’s making him Chairman and taking back the company. Sam makes some enigmatic comments about Alan being right about everything, and then goes out to his motorcycle where 13 is waiting for him. They then ride off into the sunrise as the movie draws to a close.

The human adventure is just beginning...

So there we go. Twenty-seven years of waiting and we got this. Here’s the thing; it wasn’t a horrible movie. I didn’t like it, but I didn’t hate it as much as… well, basically anything from Michael Bay. The SFX were decent, if not great. At no point was I blown away by them like with the first movie, but they got the job done. The acting was acceptable, especially by Bridges (and I had no problem with the CGI face, unlike many other people), and there was a decent emotional core to parts of the script.

But there were so many, many problems. The ISO concept made no sense to me and wasn’t well explained. We never understood exactly how they were supposed to change everything in the world. Clu’s motivations were also very, very murky. I never got exactly why he was doing what he was doing or what his grand plan was supposed to be. Get out and take over the world, apparently, but that just didn’t make any sense.

Then there’s the other stuff that the first movie did better than this one. The light-cycle race was frankly more interesting in the first movie. The costumes looked better. The MCP and Sark were better villains than Clu. The world that was presented was really unique and interesting, and not like anything we’d seen on screen, where as in this movie it was just reality with a few racing stripes laid over it.

Then there’s the confusing nature of the computer world, which wasn’t exactly clearly explained to begin with. Ok, so you have a universe where programs are out doing things. If someone was a debugging program, you’d see them out hunting viruses and the like. But here you have programs that apparently do nothing but attend games and go to clubs, or are homeless and out on the streets. They don’t appear to have any real function.

But perhaps the most annoying part of the film is that it’s somehow less savvy about computers and cyberspace than a movie that was made back in the early 1980s. In that movie you had a lot more references to computers and how they function than you do in this one.

A lesser complaint is the fact that Tron himself had basically nothing to do with this movie. He had little enough in the first film, but almost nothing happening in this one, and that’s irritating.

Ultimately this was just a wasted opportunity. The producers could have made something really, really great, that could have showed us a really unique, original vision. Instead we got your basic summer sci-fi action film released in December, and that’s just not what we deserved.

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The Worst of Doctor Who – “World War Three”


CAST OF CHARACTERS

The Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) – RACE: Time Lord. AGE: 900, or over 1000, or somewhere about 750, or 906… but he can pass for 35 in a good light. MORALITY: Variable. DRESS SENSE: Variable.

Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) – RACE: Human/salt-water elemental half-breed. DEFAULT EMOTION: Vaguely weepy. SECONDARY EMOTION: Incredibly weepy. THIRD EMOTION: Aggressively weepy.

Jackie Tyler (Camille Coduri) – RACE: Human, of course! Why would you even ask such a thing? ANNOYANCE FACTOR: What are you trying to imply by that?! AGE: Don’t you dare ask! WEIGHT: Oh, someone’s cruising for a smack!

Mickey Smith (Noel Clarke) – RACE: Human/puppy dog half-breed. DEFAULT EMOTION: Sullen. OCCUPATION: He is t3h l33t hax0r with mad skillz! EVENTUALLY MARRIES: … Martha Jones?! Jeez, they can both do better!

Margaret Blaine (Annette Badland) – RACE: Raxicoricofalapatorian. EMOTIONAL STATE: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! POLITICAL/RELIGIOUS STANCE: Antidisestablishmentarianst. FAVORTE WELSH CITY: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. FAVORITE COMPOSER: Johann Gambolputty de von Ausfern-schplenden-schlitter-crasscrenbon-fried-digger-dingle-dangle-dongle-dungle-burstein-von-knacker-thrasher-apple-banger-horowitz-ticolensic-grander-knotty-spelltinkle-grandlich-grumblemeyer-spelterwasser-kurstlich-himbleeisen-bahnwagen-gutenabend-bitte-ein-nürnburger-bratwustle-gerspurten-mitz-weimache-luber-hundsfut-gumberaber-shönedanker-kalbsfleisch-mittler-aucher von Hautkopft of Ulm.

Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North (Penelope Wilton) – RACE: Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North. OCCUPATION: Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North. FAVORITE MOVIE: Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North. FAVORITE ROCK BAND: Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North. FAVORITE FOOD: Crackers. With cheese.

So my previous recap, one on the horrible first part of this story, “Aliens of London“, I optimistically put this at the end:

So that’s it for part one. Lots of set up and no resolution, as is to be expected. Really, aside from the farting aliens, this episode isn’t as bad as it might’ve been. Oh, it’s still not great, but it’s not truly horrible. No, the horribleness doesn’t begin until next week.

Stay tuned for “World War Three,” next time, on the the Worst of Doctor Who!

Ok, yes, I know, it’s been a long three months since I said I would have this written up and posted a week after the previous one. Sorry about that. It’s amazing the things I can find to do when I have a choice between doing them or watching this particular episode of Doctor Who again. Things like update Wikipedia, work on my novel, file my taxes, file my neighbors’ taxes, bake twelve dozen cookies and eat them in one sitting, practice exploratory surgery on myself, join a cult, find reasons to vote Republican, etc. It’s incredible how motivated I can be do anything else when faced with the prospect of this story.

Oh, well. Enough excuses! On with the show!

Consider this your only warning.

Previously on Doctor Who

When last we saw the Doctor and pals, the alien Slitheen had staged a fake landing of a spacecraft in the Thames. Why was anyone’s guess. They were hanging around disguised as various members of the UK government, farting up a storm and generally being jerks.

Currently they are electrocuting the Doctor, menacing Jackie in her flat and menacing Rose and Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North, at 10 Downing Street. Is this the end for our heroes?

Well, sadly, no.

As it is, before the opening credits even run we see the Doctor take the energy that’s going through his body, gather it into a ball (?), and push it onto a collar one of the big, green, evil Slitheen is wearing. It starts twitching like a meth addict and we go to the credits. Me, I would’ve killed some time and built some suspense by running the credits and then showing the resolution to the cliffhanger, but what do I know?

Use the Force, the Doctor does!

Anyhow, now that the Doctor has reversed the polarity of the neutron flow in the one Slitheen’s collar, this somehow causes a feedback that makes all the other Slitheen twitch and writhe. That gives Jackie, Rose and Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North, the chance to make their collective escapes. In Jackie’s case this helped by the timely arrival of Mickey who clobbers the Slitheen with a chair, and giving Mickey the chance to take a pic of the Slitheen with is cell phone.

The Doctor meanwhile goes to some soldiers gathered outside the room where everyone was being brutally killed a few moments before and gets them to come running in to help. Why they didn’t do this during the rather loud set of deaths is beyond me, but there you are.

Meanwhile, Rose and Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North are making a run for it when Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North says to stop, because they have to go back and grab the emergency protocols. My guess is that like with all other emergency procedures in the world, there is only one copy of these and they are not stored on line anywhere. It’s the only thing that makes sense, really, since I can’t think of any other reason why she’s willing to risk her life to go back and fetch them. Seems kind of stupid to me to have only one copy of these in the entire world, though. I mean, if that were the case someone in authority could tell people anything they want to about what’s in them and the people would have to believe them, since it’s not like they could check, though I am sure no one would ever, ever abuse them in that way. Ever.

Of course the Sltiheen in the room gives chase, leaving Rose and Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North to make a run for it, minus the protocols. While they do this, the Doctor turns up in the conference room with soldiers in tow. Needless to say by the time they get into the room the Slitheen are back in their human costumes. The Doctor tries briefly to explain what’s going on, that the PM is actually an alien in disguise. One of the very few moments of funny happens when he sees the look on everyone’s faces and says to the soldier next to him, “That’s never going to work, is it?” The soldier shakes his head, the Doctor says, “Fair enough”, and runs for it.

Don't ask, don't tell... seriously!

After a very short chase, the Doctor gets cornered in a corridor and the Slitheen dressed as a general orders the soldiers to execute the Doctor under the jurisdiction of the emergency protocols. The soldiers, of course, ask to see some documentation of this. The general doesn’t have it, since there’s only one copy of the protocols in the known universe. The soldiers get suspicious and within minutes the Doctor has turned them around and made them understand what’s really going on. The PM and the general are both arrested and the day is saved! Actually, none of that happens. Instead they just accept what they are told.

Now look, I know soldiers are trained to follow orders, but in this case I’m guessing all but the most hardcore, brainless idiots are going to pause and say, “Really?” I mean, it just seems unlikely that even in a situation like this a general would be allowed to have someone summarily executed. Admittedly I’m not up on military law but I’m pretty sure that even under martial law conditions people are usually granted at least a basic trial before they are killed, right? Anyone from the JAG’s office wanna clear that up?

So the Doctor is, it turns out, backed up against some elevator doors. They open in time for him to get in and escape. He ends up, briefly, on the floor where Rose and Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North are fleeing the Margaret Slitheen. He briefly says hello to the Slitheen and then closes the elevator door, buying a bit of time for the other two who make it into a room where they are, essentially, trapped.

Meantime the general and the PM are getting into the elevator to give chase. As they do, they give orders to the soldiers, telling them to stay on the lower floors and to shoot the Doctor on sight. One of them says they should get the PM to safety and he basically says that, hey, since they haven’t read the emergency protocols and he has they should just shut up and do as they’re told. Oh, yes, good thing there’s not multiple copies of those protocols available for people to check on, eh?

Memo to governments: make sure your emergency protocols are where people can look them up, and make sure that the elite soldiers that guard your government offices are very familiar with these protocols so that someone can’t just barge in and takeover while claiming they are allowed to under these rules.

So on the elevator the general and the PM have a little chat, we add another fart to the Fart-o-Meter, bringing our total up to fourteen, and the two characters shed their human skin.

Upstairs we see Margaret coming into the room where Rose and Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North are hiding. She makes all sorts of “Mummy loves you!” kind of mocking noises as we see the other two arrive. We then hear them talk about the things they smell from Rose and Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North because, as we all know, bad guys always have a very acute sense of smell.

The Doctor bursts into the room with a fire extinguisher. He uses it on the Slitheen to make a distraction and allow everyone to escape, with Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North nattering on about the emergency protocols. We see them running away from the Slitheen and the Slitheen giving chase, and I have to ask: how on Earth do they actually manage to outrun the Slitheen? These creatures are about eight feet tall and seem to have a pretty good turn of speed. If they’re a hunter species, which is strongly implied throughout the story, they should have no problem cornering and outrunning our heroes. Instead the heroes never seem to have any problem keeping ahead of them. I suppose it’s what the story requires but it’s like seeing Scrappy Doo outrun a cheetah.

The Doctor and crew get into the cabinet room where the Doctor does a kind of nifty bluff about how he plans to “triplicate the flammability” of a decanter of alcohol. Me, I’d take my chances if I were one of the Slitheen, but instead they all stand around and talk for a few moments.

This is where we learn that Slitheen is not the name of their species; it is in fact a family name. Of course neither here nor at any other point in the series do we see any members of their species other than the Slitheen, so I’m going just keep calling them that. There’s another good reason for this, which has to do with the name of their home planet, Raxicoricofalapatorius. That means that I’d have to call them Raxicoricofalapatorians, and while Luke Smith may be down with that, I’m not.

Not technically called Slitheen, but you don't care, do you?

We also learn that they are here on Earth to make a profit. Before the Doctor can find out how, they call his bluff, and he seals himself, and Rose and Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North, away inside the cabinet room by activating some metal shielding that was apparently installed at some point. The Slitheen seem content with this and wander off, plotting the next step in their evil scheme!

We are then treated to a brief shot of Mickey and Rose wandering around and then shots of various dignitaries arriving at Number 10. The reporter knows who they all are, including one who is merely chairperson of a local boating club. Well, alright then. Either this guy has a Rolodex from hell or he’s a big fan of boating.

'Tune in tonight to watch my career die a dismal death!'

Back inside Number 10 we see the various Slitheen arriving and Margaret acting as a coat check girl. She leads everyone off to little chambers where they can shed their skins and be themselves and we also add another far to the total, bringing us to fifteen.

As Margaret does this, the general tells a soldier to alert the media that the PM wants to make an official address to the nation. Fun fact: Did you know that when the president wants to do that, he actually has to ask the networks for airtime? It’s true, and just one of the many things you can learn while browsing Wikipedia, trying to avoid this story.

We now move on to Mickey and Jackie talking about the Doctor and how dangerous she is and how much Rose’s life is at risk. Outside we see the police officer who had menaced them earlier talking about how he’s still got plans for Jackie. I hope they aren’t plans like Elton’s because, yikes!

In the cabinet room, Rose, the Doctor and Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North are all talking. The Doctor explains that the reason for the farting is because of a gas-exchange system that allows the Slitheen to compress themselves into normal human skin. Hmmm. And I thought it was just the legendary British love of toilet humor.

During the conversation, the Doctor keeps thinking he’s heard of Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North before. We also find out what’s in the emergency protocols that’s worth risking life and limb for. It is, apparently, a list of people to contact in the case of an emergency like this. Yes, that’s apparently the sum total of what it is, or at least that’s all that’s mentioned. So basically Rose and Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North nearly got killed for something that’s essentially just a phone tree. Nice! It’s also during this scene that Rose mentions her great plan to save the day: launch a nuclear strike against the Slitheen.

Now presumably she means the ones who are apparently hiding out in the North Sea, even though from what we can tell there’s no reason to think there’s any actually there. They might have just left an unmanned station or something. The only Slitheen we’ve seen so far are in London. This means Rose thinks a nuclear strike against London is a dandy idea. I was going to make a joke about a rather obscure (at least in the USA), British TV miniseries here called Threads but there doesn’t seem to be much point. Instead let’s all bask in the glory that is Rose… and that’s all the time there is for that. Moving on.

At any rate, Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North explains that they couldn’t launch a nuclear strike even if they wanted to as all the launch codes are controlled by the UN. Wait, what?

Apparently this is something of a call back to the Fourth Doctor’s first episode, the technically watchable “Robot” (technically in the sense that you can sit down and look at it while it is playing, though you might hate yourself after). In that serial it was revealed that the UN had the codes, so I guess it makes sense that they’d follow-up on that here.

But what doesn’t make sense is the idea that all countries would give up these launch codes and hand them to the UN. Now clearly the organization is more powerful in the Whoniverse than they are in reality (UNIT, for example), but still I’m not buying it. There’s no way every country would cooperate on this one and if every country isn’t involved, then the ones who are involved are left at the mercy of those who are not.

Furthering the strangeness is the fact that Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North allegedly voted against this. Now I know there’s some controversy about exactly when the UNIT stories during the Third Doctor’s time took place, but even if we were generous and assumed it was the mid-1980’s that would mean that Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North has been an MP for Flydale North for some 20+ years. The actress who plays her, Penelope Wilton, is 63 now, so in 2005 she would’ve been 58. 20 years prior to that she would’ve been 38, so I guess it’s not that implausible that she’s been an MP since then, but it does seem unlikely, especially if she’s just an unregarded back-bencher with no power.

The Doctor and his pals try to figure out why the Slitheen are there. Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North suggests things like oil, gold and water, and the Doctor is impressed by this, despite the fact that oil, gold and water would be too heavy to transport any distance through space. Plus water seems quite plentiful in the galaxy. Plus oil is probably also found on any planet that’s had life for some time. Plus why would gold have any special value? Ok, it’s used in modern electronics, but would something as advanced as the Slitheen really be using electronics that are like ours?

So why are the Slitheen here, you might ask? Oh, just wait. You’ll love it.

Back at Mickey’s flat, he and Jackie have contacted Rose on her magic cell phone. The Doctor talks with him/insults him and gives him a password to hack into UNIT’s website. Surprisingly the password is not “swordfish”, but is rather “buffalo”. This gives me an excuse to read the Wiki article on Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo, which also gives me an excuse to pause the video for a few merciful seconds.

Also surprising is that he’s asked only for a password and not a user name. Also the password apparently works for every single place on the site he wants to go to. This is the website for UNIT, mind you. The United Nations Intelligence Taskforce. Their job is to stop alien incursions on Earth. And they have a “secure” website a six-year-old could hack.

Now we move onto one of those scenes that Russell T Davies is actually quite good at: domestic fun-ness. Jackie takes advantage of the phone call to lecture the Doctor about the things he does and the situations he’s getting Rose into. It’s nicely played and quite realistic and I just wish that it was in a better story. Davies can write well as he showed with “Midnight” from the fourth series, the Torchwood mini-series “Children of Earth” as well as this scene, but so often he takes something brilliant like this and the demolishes it at the end.

In this case the scene is cut off by the arrival of the cop Slitheen to Mickey’s flat. Now when the Slitheen were chasing Rose and Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North, we saw that they were very strong and capable of knocking doors aside like they were mere CGI constructs. Therefore the fact that Jackie just slams a door in the face of this Slitheen is no impediment to his progress. He simply removes his human disguise, knocks down the door and eats Mickey and Jackie.

Sadly, the etire batch of HeadOn had to recalled due to severe allergic reactions. (joke credit to Premier Blah!)

Well, not quite, because that wouldn’t give the Doctor time to figure out what planet the Slitheen are from. So he works on figuring that out as we see the Slitheen very slowly cut slices in the door and then knock it down as the Doctor works out that their home planet is, as I mentioned before, Raxicoricofalapatorius. God, that’s an awful name. Rule of Funny, I suppose, but it certainly does nothing to make these guys a more credible threat.

From this and the fact that their farts smell like bad breath, the Doctor works that the Slitheen are a calcium-based lifeform. Therefore acetic acid (vinegar), is what’s needed to kill them (“Like Hannibal,” points out Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North, though I’m sure the good Doctor Lecter wouldn’t use vinegar in this way).

So the Slitheen of course has Jackie and Mickey cornered in the kitchen. Jackie roots through his cupboards and finds everything with vinegar in it. She mixes it up into a container and throws it at the Slitheen and, just like with a person when you throw something acidic on them, this causes the Slitheen to… er… explode. Messily. Oh, and in the aftermath Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North explains that she was referring to Carthage’s general Hannibal who crossed the Alps and took over the Italian peninsula back in the day and not Hannibal Lecter.

Always remember Rule 34 when you look at something like this.

In fact the historical Hannibal’s victory over Rome was, in many ways, one of the worst things that could’ve happened to Carthage. It gave Rome a motivation to get revenge and eventually they assembled a massive fleet to invade Carthage. They took the place over and made it clear that Carthage wouldn’t be allowed to wage even defensive war without Rome’s permission.

Carthage was sadly backed into a corner not long thereafter and had to fight against an invading army. Rome got pissed, invaded Carthage and, according to legend, left no stone upon another. They also sowed the ground with salt so that nothing would ever grow again and called their priests to perform a special ceremony that would enslave the Carthagian gods (Baal, Astarte, etc), and transfer their essence to Rome. Now that’s revenge!

For more on Carthage consult your local library or browse Wikipedia while trying to avoid watching more of this episode, though for the record, that information was all from memory and I didn’t have to look it up. A no-life person who watches entirely too much of the History Channel instead of doing his recaps, you say? Oh, yes.

Back at 10 Downing Street the general and the PM talk about how they “felt” the death of their friend (because all aliens are psychic), and make nasty comments about how bad things are about to happen to Earth. The PM then goes out to the street to address the media.

'Yes, I have accepted the Silly Party's nomination.'

The PM announces that the experts summoned to Number 10 were killed by aliens. He then cleverly explains that they have an arsenal right above Earth capable of launching an attack within 45 seconds. In case you, like me, wonder why they haven’t yet, he further adds that so far the military has been able to “baffle the probes”, which sounds like a sexual euphemism in search of an act to describe (“Hey, honey, you wanna ‘baffle the probes’ tonight?” “No, my toes are still sore from last time, dear!”). He then calls on an emergency resolution from the UN to launch a nuclear attack against the aliens.

Several things are wrong here. First off, no doubt the rest of the world, including the United States is going, “Alien ships? What alien ships?” Second, these ships are likely in orbit if they exist at all. I’m not some sort of highly-educated, well-trained professional who specializes in ballistic physics, but I’m pretty sure that the average nuclear missile cannot reach orbit.

And it’s now that we get to the really stupid part of this story. Yes, farting aliens (the Fart-o-Meter topped out at sixteen, by the way), as a concept actually seem intelligent compared to what’s coming next and that’s the big explanation for why the Slitheen are here on Earth.

See their cunning master plan is this: trick the nations of the world into going to war. After the nuclear war is over, they’re left with a planet that’s been cleansed of life and is full of radioactive chunks ready to harvest and turn into starship fuel. That sound you just heard? That’s my eyes popping out my head in disbelief. One moment, please, while I put them back in.

*squish, squelch, splut-splut*

Right. So the plan is to make the planet into radioactive slag to sell on the galactic fuels market. Ok. Let’s destroy this.

1. Radiation and radioactive materials are abundant in the universe. Astronauts are bombarded with radioactive particles up in orbit and one of the stumbling blocks on a trip to Mars is the fact that they’d spend about 9 – 24 months each way being hit by large amounts of radiation. The source of this? The Sun.

2. Even if radiation were fairly rare, all you’d have to do is get a few nukes and drop them on an uninhabited planet. No fuss, no muss, no investigators from the Raxicoricofalapatorius Securities and Exchange Commission coming along later wondering about the source of your income. None of the Raxicoricofalapatorius News Network doing a big expose on how your company killed nearly seven billion people to get starship fuel. Sure, it’d probably be a bit more expensive, but the money you’d save fending off investigations from regulatory bodies would be more than worth it.

3. Radioactive slag is starship fuel? Really? I imagine that would be pretty heavy and inefficient. Even now we have space probes propelled by ion drives and we had them before this show was even in production. Years before. Most likely any large-scale starship drive would use hydrogen as a fuel source in some way, and that’s the most abundant element in the universe! Well, aside from stupidity, though this story seems to be boiling through the world supply of that right quick.

So the Doctor gives the Slitheen his usual, “You get one chance,” ultimatum that no one ever actually takes him up on. After that we see footage reporting on the UN making a resolution about using the nukes, and one bit of credit I will give the producers is that they seem to have remembered that early morning in London is still night-time in New York, since they show the UN building at night. We are told by resident American newscaster, Trinity Welles, that the UK has shown evidence of the alien fleet. You know, the fictional fleet that no one else can see. Right.

The Slitheen head up to the PM’s office, cackling all the way (and adding another fart. Damn. Seventeen). In the cabinet room the Doctor mentions that he has a plan to save the day, but it will likely result in the death of Rose. This is another one of those great, rather touching scenes and it ends when Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North, points out that she’s the only elected representative in the room and orders the Doctor to put his plans into motion. I actually like that touch, too. But that’s the end of things I like about this story.

Writers waiting to hear from Michael Bay about their latest screenplay for Transformers: We Don't Need Megan Fox

The plan begins with the Doctor helping Mickey to hack into the command console of a Royal Navy submarine. Apparently he’s been watching Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, wherein we learned that all ships, space and otherwise, can be taken over by remote control. He has Mickey fire off a Harpoon missile, which is, for the curious out there, an anti-ship missile made by Boeing. It has a 221 kg warhead and is capable of doing massive damage. Ah… Wikipedia!

Oh, Tarueen. Those make good druids!

We see the Doctor and pals getting ready to seek shelter in a closet as the missile streaks over the English countryside towards London. The soldiers inside Number 10 evacuate as the Slitheen wonder what’s going on. We see them briefly trying to get their skins back on as the missile hits, blowing Number 10 to pieces!

I’m not kidding. Number 10, the UK’s equivalent of the White House, is blown up. Completely reduced to rubble. We see it not long after in perfect condition and it’s explained that it was rebuilt. Because as we all know there can’t be any permanent consequences.

Oh, and lest you’re left wondering, apparently a sturdy closet is all you need to survive a hit from a Harpoon missile. Yes, it’s just like hiding in a refrigerator to avoid a nuclear explosion, never mind that the forces involved would kill you stone dead, or at least break several bones.

The one time everyone should be in the closet.

Our heroes emerge from the rubble and Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North goes to address the press. As she does the Doctor finally remembers where he’s heard of her: she ends up being Prime Minister for three terms and ushers the UK into a golden age. Very nice! Too bad he destroyed her political career only a few months later, removing her from office and setting the stage for someone named Harold Saxon to take charge, something which is never addressed on screen, except in a deleted scene.

As the story winds down we get some rather nice moments with Rose and Jackie and then we see the Doctor having the kid who’d spray painted “BAD WOLF” on the side of the TARDIS clean it off. Mickey is sitting nearby reading a newspaper with the words “ALIEN HOAX?” on the front page. Yes, once again we’re handwaving away the story. Humanity will be convinced that aliens aren’t real, that it was a mass hallucination, that everyone’s wi-fi went zany or whatever it takes so that there are no lasting consequences from this story, because God forbid that should happen.

Now to be fair to the series they eventually stopped doing this. But it was a hallmark for ages that every time humans would be surprised at the existence of aliens the Doctor would basically shake his head and go, “Oh, humanity! So delusional!” They largely stopped that in the next couple series, though it’s interesting note that in the current series Amy never heard of Daleks and the Doctor, rather than just rolling his eyes, pauses and says, “Hey, wait, that’s not right. You should know about them. And come to think of it, why does no one remember a 100’ tall Cyberking in Victorian London?” My theory on that, though, is that it’s the current producer’s way of undoing a lot of the stupid by done by Davies during his time.

Anyhow, the Doctor gives Mickey a disk to plant a virus on the net that will erase all mention of him (something Mickey doesn’t do, apparently, given what we see later on this series and Torchwood). The Doctor then invites Mickey to come along, but Mickey refuses. We are then treated to some last scenes of Jackie and Rose saying their goodbyes with Rose saying that, hey, since it’s a time machine they could be gone for a year but only ten seconds will pass. The final shot is of Jackie and Mickey standing alone as Jackie whispers, “Ten seconds,” then wanders off leaving Mickey to his newspaper. The end.

Like I said before, there’s things in this story that are worthwhile. I love some of the more emotional scenes and the chemistry between the Camille Coduri and Billie Piper is really strong. But it’s dragged down by the Slitheen and their incredibly stupid plan. I get left with a feeling of whiplash after seeing some nice drama and then some ham-fisted comedy relief.

It doesn’t help that the Slitheen are quite possibly the worst villain ever to appear on the series, old series or new. They look stupid, they aren’t even vaguely threatening and they can be killed with vinegar. Every time I see them I keep remembering Andy Millman’s appearance on Doctor Who playing a slug-monster who was killed with salt. Depressing.

The Slitheen were touted in the pre-episode publicity as the first major alien race designed for the new series. It was rather like the Ferengi when they first showed up on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and, just like the Ferengi, the powers that be quickly realized what a mistake they’d made in creating them.

The Slitheen appeared only once more on the series in a major role in an episode called “Boom Town”. It featured the return of Margaret and was a somewhat better story than this one, but still pretty bad. After that the Slitheen were relegated to a cameo shot in part two of “The End of Time”. They also appeared in an episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures where a young girl kills one and experiences no remorse for it. Budding young sociopath. They do work better on a kid’s show, I’ll say that much for them, though I found it somewhat disturbing that in that episode one of the Slitheen is disguised as a boy of about twelve. This means that they hunted down a twelve-year-old boy, killed him and skinned him. Charming.

Next time on “The Worst of Doctor Who”? Not sure yet. But I have some ideas for a story involving giant flies, a London bus, a bionic woman and the deserts of Dubai…

The Worst of Doctor Who – “Aliens of London”


CAST OF CHARACTERS

The Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) – RACE: Time Lord. AGE: 900, or over 1000, or somewhere about 750, or 906… but he can pass for 35 in a good light. MORALITY: Variable. DRESS SENSE: Variable.

Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) – RACE: Human/salt-water elemental half-breed. DEFAULT EMOTION: Vaguely weepy. SECONDARY EMOTION: Incredibly weepy. THIRD EMOTION: Aggressively weepy.

Jackie Tyler (Camille Coduri) – RACE: Human, of course! Why would you even ask such a thing? ANNOYANCE FACTOR: What are you trying to imply by that?! AGE: Don’t you dare ask! WEIGHT: Oh, someone’s cruising for a smack!

Mickey Smith (Noel Clarke) – RACE: Human/puppy dog half-breed. DEFAULT EMOTION: Sullen. OCCUPATION: He is t3h l33t hax0r with mad skillz! EVENTUALLY MARRIES: … Martha Jones?! Jeez, they can both do better!

Margaret Blaine (Annette Badland) – RACE: Raxicoricofalapatorian. EMOTIONAL STATE: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! (side note: good lord… that’s in my spell-check!) POLITICAL/RELIGIOUS STANCE: Antidisestablishmentarianst. FAVORTE WELSH CITY: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. FAVORITE COMPOSER: Johann Gambolputty de von Ausfern-schplenden-schlitter-crasscrenbon-fried-digger-dingle-dangle-dongle-dungle-burstein-von-knacker-thrasher-apple-banger-horowitz-ticolensic-grander-knotty-spelltinkle-grandlich-grumblemeyer-spelterwasser-kurstlich-himbleeisen-bahnwagen-gutenabend-bitte-ein-nürnburger-bratwustle-gerspurten-mitz-weimache-luber-hundsfut-gumberaber-shönedanker-kalbsfleisch-mittler-aucher von Hautkopft of Ulm

Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North (Penelope Wilton) – RACE: Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North. OCCUPATION: Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North. FAVORITE MOVIE: Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North. FAVORITE ROCK BAND: Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North. FAVORITE FOOD: Crackers. With cheese.

Now on the Worst of Doctor Who we have the first recap from the 9th Doctor’s era with the two-part story “Aliens of London” and “World War Three”! It was the first multipart story for the show during its first season and, as we will see here, it blows chunks. I’m tackling “Aliens of London” this week, but like with the series, you’ll have to wait a week for the next part.

This was only the fourth episode of the series falling on the heels of “Rose” (bad), “The End of the World” (almost as bad), and “The Unquiet Dead” (surprisingly decent). While not the worst of the early stories, this one gets my particular rage due to one horrible thing.

The Slitheen.

But more about them later. First let us visit the cause of our pain, Russell T Davies. He wrote this one (and two of the episodes I mentioned up above). He’s also the producer of the show and the man most responsible for its return. I expressed a few thoughts on Davies in my recap of “Love and Monsters” and now I’m going to express a few more.

Davies is obviously a very intelligent and creative man. He comes up with fascinating ideas and interesting situations and expresses them in an entertaining fashion. He’s also the man who brought back Doctor Who and for that we fans shall be forever grateful.

However he also has a fascination with toilet humor (just wait… you’ll see what I mean…), thinks the Doctor should be fixated on early 21st century Earth cultural references, and he isn’t just gay. He is, rather, an extremely gay homosexual who feels the need to express this by having a Mary Sue character named Rose Tyler and another named Martha Jones as well as a Gary Stu named Jack Harkness. He also had Kylie Minogue appear on an episode.

Here’s how I sum up Davies’ writing style: come up with a great story, insert some interesting characters, give them some peril, get the audience really into it, and then slam them hard with a fart joke or, failing that, a sex joke. Repeat endlessly throughout the story.

But enough Davies bashing for the moment! Let’s discuss the 9th Doctor and his companion, Rose.

When we first met the 9th Doctor in the first episode of the new series, “Rose”, it seemed like he’d only just regenerated. He was dressed in clothing rather more normal than that normally worn by the Doctor, had ears like a pair of satellite dishes and spoke with a northern accent (though as pointed out, most planets have a north [all I would think]).

This Doctor, it turned out, was also haunted by something horrible he’d done in the last great time war, where the Time Lords had fought and defeated the daleks at a terrible price. We wouldn’t find out until the 10th Doctor’s last episode what exactly had happened to them, but we knew it was bad.

This all lent a nice nuance to the Doctor’s personality, and made the character very interesting, taking him in new directions. There was a lot of potential to be had with the character who, sadly, was only on the show for one season.

See, for some bizarre reason RTD had decided to hire an actor who would only play the role for a single season. I’m not sure why he did this. Me, I would’ve either had the man commit to two seasons or found another actor. As it was, he built up the character quite a bit and then threw him away just as we were getting to know him.

The same cannot be said, at least by me, for Rose Tyler, the companion to the 9th and 10th Doctors. Now Rose had some fine moments to be sure, and at her best was very likable and enjoyable, particularly during the first season.

Sadly, she also seemed to be at least 99% tears and was prone to crying at just about anything. Dead cat? Crying. Crooked painting? Crying. Waffle burned? Crying. Much of her weeping and wailing seemed to center around the fact that she was in love with the Doctor and he wasn’t having that. Well, at least not until he became the 10th Doctor.

Also unlike with the original series, New Who is almost as Earth based as the 3rd Doctor. This isn’t an entirely bad thing, but it does mean that we are saddled with constant reappearances by Rose’s mother, Jackie, and puppy-dog boyfriend, Mickey. While I’ll admit having them turn up from time-to-time can lend some nice drama to the show, it gets old quick.

Anyhow, enough of my rather long-winded introduction! Let’s get to the show!

Our story begins with the Doctor and Rose flitting about in the TARDIS and coming in for a landing in the council flat that Rose and her mum live in. They’ve just returned from a rather Dickensian episode where they met… well, Charles Dickens, circa 18something. Now they’re back in modern London.

As they get out of the TARDIS the Doctor says to Rose that no time, really, will have passed since they left. He’s returned her only twelve minutes after their departure, and feels rather smug about that, since he normally can’t steer the TARDIS for a damn.

Rose is pleased and goes skipping off. She runs back to her apartment and surprises her mum quite severely. It seems that, in fact, the Doctor actually returned them 12 months after they left. D’oh!

Needless to say, this leads to some activity on the part of Jackie, as well as a visit by the police, and I must say that as cheesy as this concept is, it’s handled rather well. It’s not played for laughs for the most part, but treated seriously. Sadly, that’s the last real moment of any weight we’ll have for a while.

There’s some happy family moments and a shot of a kid tagging the TARDIS. He’s spraying the words “BAD WOLF” onto the side. Well, interesting. I’m sure that has nothing to do with nothing and will never be relevant to a larger plot ever.

Nothing to see here, folks. Just move along, move along, please.

The next day we see Rose and the Doctor up on the roof of her flat talking about all the places she’s been and the things she’s seen and how no one else on Earth knows about aliens, and she is absolutely correct in that. Well, except for UNIT.

Oh, and Torchwood.

Well, and I guess Ian, Barbara, Dodo, Ben, Polly, Liz, Jo, Sarah Jane, Mike Yates, Sergeant Benton, the Brigadier, Harry, Tegan, Ace (possibly, depending on where she ended up), Grace, and Chang Lee might qualify.

Oh, also in the past of Earth Vicki, Katarina, Sarah Kingdom, and Jamie. And Adric, if you wanna go really far back and have access to a medium. Plus in the future Susan and Zoe.

And I guess and all the people the Doctor ran into over the years, like Jago and Lightfoot, Sir Robert Muir, H G Wells, the aforementioned Charles Dickens, Mr Ollis, and dozens, if not hundreds, more.

So, yes, other than all those people, Rose is the only human to know about aliens.

Oh, also Mickey knows.

Anyhow! Just after Rose makes these comments we have a sound like a semi honking its horn and a large alien space ship goes flying over head. It smacks into the clock tower holding Big Ben and then crashes into the Thames. Apparently it was traveling on mute since neither Rose nor the Doctor noticed it until it was right on top of them.

The Doctor and Rose try to get to the Thames but due to traffic they aren’t able to make it. The Doctor gushes on about how cool it is to see history happening right in front of them and then Rose suggests they go back to her place and watch it on TV, which is, sadly, how most people witness history these days.

At Rose’s place we see Jackie and friends all gathered around to watch the events. Well, actually, they’re talking with each other and ignoring the TV which is going on about panic and looting and crap like that. Cause, you know, people saw an alien ship crash. So they panic and loot, right?

Yes, yet again we have another Trope That Annoys Badger. In this case it’s “Humanity Isn’t Ready!” Conventional wisdom says that if we make contact with aliens, well, of course everyone will go batshit nuts. Their worldview will be so shattered that suddenly they’ll run around… well, panicking and looting.

I don’t buy it. I don’t think that’s ever been true. Alien contact would not be so traumatizing that people would be panicking and looting. Concerned? Sure, but like Rose points out, they’d probably all be at home watching TV. If anything, I imagine that crime would go down due to everyone being at home or the nearest bar to watch the news.

Meantime, some kid at Jackie’s flat grabs the remote and flicks through the channels, landing on a cooking show where some chef talks about how to prepare a cake that looks almost, but not quite, like a spaceship. Yes, that’s what it was like on 9/11, I remember. Of course CNN and the like had the news, but no one else did. Well, I mean, aside from all the stations rebroadcasting newsfeeds which were all the stations. I had cable installed that very morning and vividly recall getting 100+ channels which were all showing news and nothing else. But apparently in the Whoniverse aliens visiting must take a backseat to cake.

Unfortunately, this cake is not a lie.

On the news we see that there’s rumors a body was recovered from the spaceship, and indeed we see this is the case. It’s taken to a nearby hospital where, we are told, all the patients were moved out onto the streets. Because, you know, that makes more sense than to just secure one floor or go to a military hospital. I bet the lawsuits from patient’s families were impressive. Most impressive.

In the hospital we see that the alien is being examined by… Toshito Sato?! The Asian chick from Torchwood? The hell? Isn’t she supposed to be a computer geek and not a medical examiner?

Ah, I see from Wikipedia’s article on this episode that she is a computer geek and apparently in an episode of Torchwood it is mentioned that she was covering for her friend Owen who was hung over from partying and couldn’t be bothered to be at work that day. Yeah… ok. That makes sense, I guess? Me, I would’ve just made up a completely different character, had her be played by the same actress and otherwise ignored the situation, but then again I’m not Russell T Davies, master of logic and subtlety.

Anyhow, some general comes in and has a look at the alien body, which we cannot see because it is under a sheet. He seems a bit disturbed and then gets ready to leave, but as he does, Sato comes up to him and asks if what they’re saying about the Prime Minister is true. He doesn’t say anything, just turns around and heads off screen.

He arrives at 10 Downing Street, where a reporter for the Exposition News Network explains that the PM has been missing for a while. The opposition are bitching about the PM not being around to handle the emergency. What, they’re prefer he sit around and stare blankly into space for seven minutes?

At Number 10 we see the arrival of a rather fat MP and I gotta say, something seems wrong here. I mean, there’s a crapload of cameras around snapping pics and reporters shouting questions. I realize that Number 10 isn’t as far back from the street as the White House, but surely in a time of massive global emergency someone would’ve had the press pushed back a bit, just for security reasons if nothing else?

Anyhow, the MP, Joseph Green walks inside where a secretary greets him. As they do a walk-and-talk that would make Aaron Sorkin proud, a woman falls in behind them and interrupts, introducing herself as Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North.

The secretary tells her off, and he and Green head upstairs. The two men talk about how the PM and the Cabinet are still missing and this means that Green is now the acting Prime Minister. Really? That’s really how it works? I mean, I know British politics are done somewhat differently than in the USA, but even then this still doesn’t seem right to me.

All thoughts of politics are quickly swept aside, however, as Green farts. Farts loudly, farts enthusiastically and farts definitively. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that wonder of comedy known as The Fart Joke has now dropped it’s sulphorous little self onto Doctor Who. One wonders what William Hartnell would make of it.

Now normally I’d ignore this bit of nonsense, except that this entire show, both parts, is built on a premise of alien farting. No kidding! This rather loud, annoying bit of cutting one in this scene is discrete and tasteful compared with what’s to come.

So Green and the secretary go into a room where we’re introduced to two more fat people, namely Oliver Charles and Margaret Blaine. I must say, given how unpleasant her character is and the nasty thing she does, Annette Badland’s performance almost makes her sympathetic, both here and even more so in another episode where she appears.

The secretary hands Green something known as The Emergency Protocols. These are apparently a set of rules that tell everyone what to do in the event of an alien landing on Earth. Green farts in gratitude and takes the satchel and goes into a room with Margaret and the other fat one. They close the door and have a nice evil laugh.

You know what? That last fart annoyed the hell out of me, and there’s more to come. So just for fun let’s start the Fart-o-Meter. Currently we’re at two.

Back at Rose’s apartment complex she and the Doctor are talking about first contact. No, not that First Contact. This one is this world’s version of humanity making contact with aliens officially for the first time. The Doctor is getting rather excited about this possibility, but that confuses me.

See, the Doctor is a Time Lord, right. That means that he comes from a species for whom time travel is as natural as breathing. One would think that he, of all his people, would know for sure when humanity’s first contact with alien life is (we know it’s somewhere between now and when the daleks take over the Earth). And don’t tell me that this is some sort of malleable kind of thingy, where the time stream is uncertain. I’m pretty sure that if the destruction of humanity’s first base on Mars is an unchangeable thing, so is this.

Before the Doctor leaves to get out of the way, Rose makes him promise not to just up and disappear on her. Understandable, so he gives her a TARDIS key. She goes all goey and domestic and the Doctor heads out, tailed briefly by Mickey, putting in his first appearance since the pilot. He sees the Doctor and tries to leap at the TARDIS as it dematerializes only to wind up smacking into a wall. Apparently he exists entirely for comic relief, which might explain his eventual marriage to Martha Jones. Everyone needs a good laugh, right?

We go back to 10 Downing Street where Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North, is bringing the secretary a bit of tea. He cleverly sees through this ruse and as Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North is trying to explain why she needs to get in to see Green and company, they come walking out. She tries to give him some papers for something she wants addressed and he quite rightly tells her to get some damn perspective.

I’m not sure what the writers were going for with Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North. Yes, she’s a darling woman but clearly very out of touch with reality. Everyone that tells her to fart off (ha! I can make those jokes, too!), is quite right to do so. There’s a time and a place and this is neither. To her credit, the character becomes somewhat relevant here and quite relevant later, but her introduction sucks dalek eye-stalk.

Everyone glares at Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North as they walk past, but she shows herself to be a woman of pluck and determination. She sneaks into the cabinet room and cleverly tries to insert her idea for cottage hospitals into the agenda. While there she finds and reads the emergency protocols. I’m not clear as to why these things are supposed to be a great revelation, but they appear to be for her. I’m guessing high speed internet has yet to make its way to Flydale North.

Back at the hospital, our future Torchwood compu-tech hears some ominous crashing and banging sounds while the Doctor arrives in another part of the hospital. Sato advances down the corridor looking wary as the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to open a locked door. Inside are soldiers who stare at him. He stares at them. They pull all their guns and aim them at his face.

Now I’ve never been in the military. My kind aren’t welcome there. But I do rather think that in the military what would really happen in a case like this is that one of the soldiers would ask to see some ID while others keep their guns almost, but not quite, pointed at the Doctor as someone else calls to HQ. But that’s just me.

Sato sees something break out through a door and screams. The Doctor shouts “Defence plan Delta!” and leads the soldiers out to the rescue! The Doctor catches up to Sato who is clearly traumatized by what she’s seen. The Doctor orders the troops to move out and find whatever is in here, which, as the Doctor discovers, is a humanoid pig.

The pig looks scared and the Doctor tries to coax it out of hiding. It panics and goes running down a corridor towards some soldiers who, seeing an alien creature with hooves raised and making horrible noises, sensibly react as they’ve been trained and shoot it. It sucks, but I would’ve likely done the same thing. They have no idea what it was, after all.

A bad day for Captain Link Hogthrob.

The Doctor bitches out the soldiers and makes them feel bad by saying the creature was scared, and no doubt it was, but I’m sure the soldiers were, too. The Doctor making them feel like dicks isn’t very nice, but it is at least par for the course when the Doctor would regularly butt heads with the Brigadier over some issue or another.

Back at Downing Street, Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North is reading off the emergency protocols when she hears the three fatties approaching. She hides in a closet as they come in lecturing a rather fat general. He tells them off for the way they’ve handled the situation and they smart-mouth him, with Green saying he thought he was Prime Minister now. The general is taken aback and threatens to declare martial law. Really? In the UK generals can just do that on their own authority? Interesting.

Anyhow, the fatties start farting again. Very quickly the Fart-O-Meter adds another seven notches and we now have a total of eleven. We are twenty-five minutes in, so not counting opening credits, that gives us about one fart every two minutes. Well done, Mr Davies. You’re setting a standard we can only hope the rest of the BBC’s programming decides to live up to.

Green comes up to the general at this point, makes some comments about him saying things that are “hair raising” and then unzips his forehead. The other two do the same, with a ghastly alien light pouring forth from inside. What evil dangers could lurk therein, you wonder? The tension builds and builds as you ponder the horrible things that could be inside these bodies…

Then you remember the farting, and that kills that mood.

She smells fart people...

Down in the morgue, Sato and the Doctor are looking at the dead pig who, it turns out, is a human/pig crossbreed. She quickly figures out this is a hoax where apparently aliens are creating a fake alien to crashland on Earth. She’s not clear why they’d bother and frankly, I’m not too clear on it later. Even once the plan the aliens have is revealed, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. What’s their plan? Well, you don’t get to find out yet, but I’ll give you a hint: think Lex Luthor.

Also, as the pig thing lays there on the table, the actor inside is obviously breathing. Normally I don’t call out shows on things like that, because it happens. But I’m not sure why, in this case, they didn’t just put the costume on a dummy, and if you think that’s a build-up to a cheap shot about how Davies couldn’t fit into it… well, you might be right.

Back at Jackie’s place, she’s throwing a very multi-ethnic party for her friends and as she does, Mickey shows up. He and Rose trade some terse words and, oops, it turns out he was the number one suspect the police had in her suspected murder. Yeah, gotta suck when people go around accusing you of a murder you didn’t do.

Mickey tells Rose that the Doctor has left. She goes running out to where the TARDIS was and, certainly, it’s gone. Rose argues with him and shows off her TARDIS key which starts glowing for some reason. Okay. Also an ominous wind begins to blow. Alrighty. I never knew that the TARDIS could cause wind, but whatever.

They are startled by the wind of its passage... See, Davies? I can write that stuff, too!

Rose, Mickey and Jackie all pile into the TARDIS. There’s some “clever” dialogue where the Doctor keeps calling Mickey Ricky, which isn’t nearly as interesting as when he used to call Chesterton Chesterfield. There’s some domestic bickering, and Jackie goes running off understandably scared.

Up in the flat, Jackie is wigging out and apparently so is all of the UK due to the government not really saying or doing anything during this crisis. I can actually buy that people would react that way in this case, but I rather doubt they’d set up a phone line for people to call in with UFO sightings, as they do here, since such a thing would result in so many false positives it wouldn’t really get anything accomplished.

Jackie decides to take action and calls the number on the screen. On the other end of the phone, we see someone using a Hollywood OS and entering in keywords into a computer system. Words like “The Doctor”, “Blue box” and “TARIDS”. This results in an alarm flashing, proving that perhaps the government isn’t that stupid after all, given that every time he’s turned up, something has gone all twonky.

Subtlety, thy name is Hollywood OS

In the TARDIS, the Doctor insults Mickey, Mickey and Rose have a little make-up conversation, and then the Doctor sets up a computer screen that shows the trajectory of the alien spaceship. It appears to have been launched from Earth and then circled back to land.

Meanwhile in Downing Street we see Charles slipping into the skin of the General. This results in another fart (twelve now). The discarded Charles skin, which has a literal zipper along the forehead, gets tossed into the closet and they head out, only to run into the secretary who tells them there’s been a “code nine alert”. It seems that during times when the emergency protocols are activated, they have software which scans all communications for certain key words.

Really now.

There’s so many problems here. First, as I mentioned before, something like that would give you even more false positives than setting up a hotline for people to call in. Second, no country, not even the USA, has computers capable of scanning every single bit of communications for certain words. This is basically just the ECHELON concept, and it pisses me off so much that I wrote a blog article about it. Yes, I have no life.

On the Doctor’s monitor, we now see several shots of various people and then finally some video footage of military types walking along. The Doctor indentifies them as members of the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, or NAMBLA. Rose wonders how he knows about them, and Mickey explains that the Doctor used to work for them.

They all exit the TARDIS and are instantly surrounded by what appears to be most of the UK’s military. This includes all the requisite guns and helicopters on mute. How the Doctor and company did not know they were all outside is beyond me, but there they are.

As the military types move, in Mickey goes running off into the night and, for some reason, is not instantly shot. The Doctor meantime says, “Take me to your leader”, and I roll my eyes a little bit. He and Rose get thrown into a car and are shuffled off to Downing Street.

At Downing Street we see that the paparazzi have not yet been chased off. They take several pics of the Doctor as he arrives, and really the whole place looks like the outside of the BAFTA’s. I’m really quite baffled as to why the military hasn’t chased them off yet. Does 10 Downing Street just not have a back door or something where they can bring in people without the world knowing?

In Jackie’s apartment we see her being questioned by a rather fat police officer who has a rumbling stomach. No points for guessing what he is in disguise. As I roll my eyes at this, we cut to a shot of Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North wandering around Downing Street.

There’s what appears to be a small reception going on, and then the secretary turns up to give the Doctor an ID card to go into a little meeting. Rose is excluded, but not to worry, Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North, says that she’ll keep an eye on Rose. She takes Rose and leads her away rather quickly, generating a small sub-genre of slash fiction.

In the meeting room, we see the Doctor and a bunch of military and science types. The general starts talking and the Doctor interrupts, mentioning something about a mysterious space launch in the North Sea. As he does that, we flash upstairs where in true “Black Orchid” fashion, Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North and Rose find a dead body in the cupboard. Turns out to be the Prime Minister.

Back home, Jackie is completely missing out on some menacing statements from the police officer who is hanging around in her flat. He then takes off his cap, and, oh lord, has an actual zipper visible on his forehead! This is beyond stupid! None of the others had this until after the costume was taken off! Why does he have one? Argh!

Gods! Troubled by goddesses of wisdom trying to hammer their way out of your head? Try the all new Oxy Head Zipper!

As the Doctor exposits, figuring out that the whole thing is a trap for all the great scientific minds on the planet (complete with our thirteenth fart), we see Margaret wander into the upstairs office and start advancing on the secretary, Rose and Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North. She then reaches up and begins to unzip her forehead, and back in the meeting, we see the general doing the same thing and also the police officer is wiggling out of his bodysuit in Jackie’s flat.

Now as these aliens do their thing, I find myself noticing all the lights in the room where they are turn off, leaving only an eerie blue light over everything. Clearly this was done for dramatic purposes (though again, remembering the 13 farts makes them somewhat less menacing), but it makes no sense story wise. Then again, the story makes no sense itself, so I guess that’s ok.

The general is the first one to finish coming out of his shell (and as soon as he’s done, the lights turn on again). He announces that they are the Slitheen, Margaret kills the secretary, Green activates an electrical device that electrocutes everyone, the police officer advances on Jackie and… end episode!

Aw, it's actually kind of cute! ^_^

So that’s it for part one. Lots of set up and no resolution, as is to be expected. Really, aside from the farting aliens, this episode isn’t as bad as it might’ve been. Oh, it’s still not great, but it’s not truly horrible. No, the horribleness doesn’t begin until next week.

Stay tuned for “World War Three,” next time, on the the Worst of Doctor Who!

Movie Recap – Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen ver 2.0


Cast of Characters:

Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeoff) – An annoying human who was somewhat endearing in the first movie and now just irritates when he’s on screen. He doesn’t do much aside from run around, scream and get blown up. Doesn’t have the ability to tell his girlfriend he loves her. Also doesn’t have the ability to make the movie good.

Mikaela (Megan Fox) – Sam’s insanely hot girlfriend. Her purpose in the movie is… is… actually, I’m not really sure. I know it’s something. Oh, wait. It’s standing around looking hot, and also possibly as a Mary Stu for Michael Bay, which is disturbing on many levels.

Sam’s Parents (Kevin Dunn, Julie White) – Exist only to embarrass their son and get some cheap laughs from the audience. Somehow even more stupid and annoying than they were in the first movie, and that’s saying something.

Leo (Ramon Rodriguez) – Sam’s idiotic roommate. He runs a conspiracy theory website talking about how the alien robots are real, man, and live among us! The truth is out there, dude! Mostly he just serves to annoy.

Seymour Simmons (John Tuturro) – The Sector Seven jerk from the first movie who is now here to show his butt off to the world. Also one of about sixteen comic relief characters in the film.

The National Security Advisor (John Benjamin Hickey) – Turns up to make some actually intelligent and interesting comments, but since he’s just a government flunky, he has no business in the movie! After all, the government sucks! Well, except for the military.

Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) – Leader of the Autobots. He stands around and makes grand statements and noble-sounding quotes while reminding the viewer how much better the really crappy animated series was compared to this steaming pile.

Megatron (voiced by Hugo Weaving, though not so you’d notice) – Leader of the Decepticons. Well, sort of. His leader appears to be the Fallen, so I’m not sure what Megatron is anymore. Killed in the last movie, but he’s not quite dead.

The Fallen (voiced by Tony Todd) – Megatron’s boss. Yeah, it’s news to me that he had one. Galvatron had one, you know? In the animated film? Gosh, what a good movie that was compared to this one. I hate Michael Bay so much.

Bumblebee (voiced by your iPod’s playlist) – At the end of the last movie he gained the ability to talk. Naturally following the patterns of sequels such as Rocky II and Ghostbusters II, he has regressed and can’t talk anymore.

Skids and Mudflap (Reno Wilson and Tom Kenny) – Dese be a couple hard workin’ Autobots, yes, dey is! Dey’s gonna work mighty hard for you, massa! You don’t need to worry none about them bein’ uppity, and you ain’t gonna need to whup ‘em none, cause dey keeps to dey place!

The critics rave about Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen!

…Michael Bay’s latest bid to bludgeon audiences into dulled submission, is the reductio ad absurdum of a summer blockbuster. It is loud (boom!), long (two and a half hours!), incoherent (poorly explained intergalactic warfare!), leering (Megan Fox in short shorts!), racist (jive-talkin’ robot twins!), and rife with product tie-ins (Chevy! Hasbro!)… John Yoo would not be able to draft a memo excusing the torment this movie inflicts on its audience… – Dana Stevens, Slate.com

The film is padded by an hour of completely unnecessary, worthless, offensive and repugnant sequences that do nothing but tread water. – Harry Knowles, Ain’t It Cool News

Often bypassing any logic or reason let alone character or depth, this utter mess of an action opus is only sporadically entertaining thanks to all the visual flair that $200 million worth of computer-generated fighting robots can buy, but holds no real value beyond that. – Garth Franklin, Darkhorizons.com

Bay stages battle sequences the way a three-year old plays with Lego’s. He dumps everything out at once in one loud crash, and just starts snapping pieces together and tossing them into each other… And much like a child at play, things get loud, there’s a lot of screaming, and shit gets destroyed. – Capone, Ain’t It Cool News

It’s tempting to dismiss Michael Bay’s long, loud and ludicrous sequel to 2007’s Transformers with one word — hunkajunk. On every level this movie is as bankrupt as GM. But there is more to be said about a movie this gargantuan ($200 million spent on robot hardbodies) and galactically stupid. Transformers: The Revenge of The Fallen is beyond bad, it carves out its own category of godawfulness. And, please, you don’t have to remind me that the original was a colossal hit ($700 million worldwide) and the sequel will probably do just as well. I know it’s popular. So is junk food, and they both poison your insides and rot your brain. – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

Though there are more special effects and new ways for machines to turn into ‘bots, the story seems as if it’s about to end at least three times.

If only. – Claudia Puig, USA Today

If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination. – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times

This is the second version of this recap. You can find the original on my website here. This new version contains most of what’s in the old, along with a bit of the new and lotsa purty pickchurs to look at! Enjoy!

It just doesn’t seem like summer anymore until Michael Bay gets the chance to visit upon us his latest cinematic abortion, and in the case of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, the newest bit of diaper gravy to spew forth from his directorial anus, he does so in a way that truly sets a new standard for craptacular films.

Now I liked, or at least tolerated, the first movie. I didn’t think it was great cinema by any means, but it was reasonably entertaining and succeeded despite Michael Bay’s involvement. At the time I figured Spielberg had managed to reign in Bay’s habitual excesses and actually found myself looking forward to the sequel.

How naive I was…

The film opens in the year 17,000 BC. We know this because of a nice caption that tells us this. Quite nice of them to so accurate. Imagine if it had been, say, 17,014 BC! The confusion that might cause! It’s rather like the film 10,000 B.C., . The confusion it caused! True, mostly it was people confused about how the movie got made in the first place, but still.

In the distant past, we see standard Stone Age tribesman (looking like a bunch of Australian Aborigines), hunting a tiger (a tiger? In Africa?). Also, there’s a white guy with them.

Anyhow, the hunters stumble across a large Decepticon outpost on Earth. They get stepped on and the movie goes into modern times with a nice scene showing modern Shanghai’s nighttime skyline illuminated by bright sunlight. I know it’s Shanghai because of the caption, and I know it’s night that same caption informs me that it it’s 2214 hours. Jolly good. It’s possible that it’s meant to be 2214 GMT, but a: it doesn’t say that, and b: several other scenes show this happening in the late afternoon, the evening and in the dark. I chalk it up to Michael Bay’s Second Rule of Filmmaking: Continuity is for losers (the First Rule? “Never shoot an air vehicle on the ground when you can instead film it airborne, against the sun and through an orange filter”).

Ah, the lovely nighttime skyline of Shanghai...

Optimus Prime gives us a little voiceover wherein he explains that the Autobots have teamed up with a multi-national human taskforce called Network Elements: Supporters and Transformers, or NAMBLA. They basically travel the globe hunting down Decepticons while keeping their presence a secret, in this case through a toxic spill cover story. This cover story is required, because apparently even after seeing Los Angeles – er… Mission City – get leveled, likely with lots of video footage both amateur and professional, everyone has “forgotten” the Transformers exist.

Let me divert here for a moment. There’s a common theme in a lot of science fiction television and film that you can have some major, Earth-shattering event (like “Mission City” being trashed in the first movie , London being menaced countless times in Doctor Who , Cardiff being menaced in Torchwood, and supernatural nonsense in Buffy The Vampire Slayer), that happens, gets witnessed, gets filmed/video taped, and then everyone conveniently forgets about it and/or there’s a government cover-up.

This is particularly egregious in the TV series War of the Worlds, an otherwise forgettable show that takes place a few decades after the events shown in the 1953 film of the same name. In that film, we see millions killed, cities devastated and nuclear bombs set off. Yet by the time the TV series rolls around, there’s been a cover-up and everyone has “forgotten” it happened.

This sort of nonsense is the laziest form of writing there is. It’s implausible, insulting to the audience and just plain stupid. It’s like saying that ten years from now all the video footage of the 9/11 attacks and all the news coverage will just disappear and that people are likely to, as a large majority, sit around saying, “September 11, 2001? No, nothing happened that day. Why do you ask?”

Writers like to do this because it means they don’t have to work too hard to try and figure out what the consequences would really be to the events they set up initially. If giant robots had beat the crap out of each other in downtown Los Angeles, that would have massive repercussions worldwide, especially once we found they were aliens. But the writers don’t want to deal with that, so they just say “cover-up!” and that’s all there is to it.

Lazy fuckers.

Back to the story, where we see the Autobots and the humans deploying onto the scene in Shanghai. The Autobots drive there (except Optimus, who drops out of a plane), and the humans drive there, too, in various hummers and on motorbikes and some of them even deploy from the back of a semi for some reason (get used to the words, “for some reason”. You’ll see them a lot).

The two groups start to close in on the (two) Decepticons, who appear to be just sitting around minding their own business. The attack begins and, as you’d expect, most of the humans get quickly killed. I’m not even sure why the humans are there, and why they aren’t carrying high-quality ammo. They’re using rifles which they know don’t work. What, were all the tanks busy or something? We do see some helicopters in the fight. They of course hover at a distance and fire HE rounds and missiles at the enemy. Actually, they don’t. What they do instead is get really, really close, fire their weapons, and then get shot down. Because apparently missiles are melee weapons.

It’s stupid to send these humans into the fight. The way a friend of mine put it is that it’s like sending ants to fight an elephant, and why bother when you have several elephants of your own just standing around waiting to do something?

Anyhow, the Autobots go cashing after the Decepticons. We see some big, exciting battles, which are reasonably well executed, I suppose. There’s one Decepticon who runs around on a huge wheel, and his design is cool. Otherwise, it’s a lot of meh, and the big wheel Decepticon is pretty much owning everyone until Optimus drops out of his plane and joins in the battle. Why he wasn’t involved in the first place is left up to you to guess.

The big wheel bot is eventually brought down, though it takes quite a bit of effort and results in millions of dollars of damage to Shanghai and likely dozens of civilian deaths. Mind you, the presence of the Autobots is a secret!

At the end of the battle, Optimus is standing over the defeated Decepticon, who taunts him a little, mentions something about the return of the Fallen, and then Prime shoots him in the face. Executes him. Murders him. Now, I ask you, does this sound like what Optimus Prime would actually do? No, because Prime is presented as a noble sort of figure, and not the sort who goes in for the cold-blooded killing of a prisoner. A warrior, yes. A murderer, no.

Before dying, though, the Decpticon mutters something about how the Fallen is about to return. One of the NEST people say that doesn’t sound good, and I entirely agree. The fact that they felt he need to make up something new, like the Fallen, instead of using something established, like Unicron, doesn’t sound good at all!

Leaving this happy scene, we move on to Sam, as he gets ready to head to Princeton for college. He has some moments with his insufferable parents (you know, the idiots who in the last movie thought a robot falling down was an earthquake). They serve the same purpose here as they did in the first movie, which is overly exaggerated comic relief. They’re two of the roughly sixteen comic relief characters in the film. No, that’s not an exaggeration. Spoony (and I still can’t decide if I think he’s hot or not), actually counted in a review where he also called Bay a “shit-flinging monkeychild”.

Sam’s parents mostly spend this first scene with his mom running around crying hysterically about her little boy leaving for school, including breaking down emotionally when she finds his baby shoes and insisting he come home for every holiday, including the small ones (do any mothers actually act like this?), and his father making crass sexual remarks about his wife in front of their son. Charming.

We’re also introduced to Sam’s two dogs. His two male dogs. Obviously male dogs. I mention this because we get not one, but two, scenes of them having sex. Thanks for that, Michael Bay. You’ve wrecked sex forever.

Normally I'm all in favor of doggie-style, but... ugh!

Sam calls his girlfriend, Mikaela (isn’t that a female form of the name Michael? Trying to tell us something, Mr Bay?). She is shown on screen for the first time in a shot you’ve no doubt seen in the trailer, sitting on a motorbike in pose that might make most Playboy Playmates feel embarrassed.

I do hope Megan Fox's chiropractor sent Michael Bay flowers in thanks.

They talk briefly about the possibility of her coming with him to college. She says she can’t because, among other things, she has to look after her dad, who was recently released from prison. Now I might be mistaken, but wasn’t he supposed to have had a pardon? Wouldn’t that have resulted in him getting out of prison two years ago? If so, why does Mikaela still need to look after him? Anyhow, he’s working at a bike shop. He seems to be doing ok. Most felons should be doing so well two years out of prison.

While yammering on the phone to Mikaela, Sam is fiddling with the outfit he wore in the first movie and a shard from the Allspark cube falls out. Because Sam’s mother apparently never does laundry. Sam touches the shard, it zaps his brain and falls through the floor, burning its way down into the kitchen where it turns all the appliances into robots that promptly attack everyone.

This brings up a flaw from the first movie that is carried over into this one, which is: why does the Allspark apparently only make Decepticons? Every time it creates some sort of robot entity, the first thing that bot does is attack everyone. Ah, well. If there’s one thing I learned quickly from this movie, it’s not to ever ask “Why?” cause the movie won’t explain it.

Anyhow, a small battle starts up inside the house, which catches on fire. Bumblebee comes out from the garage and tries to fight off the little bots, and eventually does so. He then hides as the fire department and police show up and, interestingly, none of the neighbors notice any of this. All sorts of comments are made about security (cause of the robots being Sooper Sekrit!) and there’s more annoying interplay between Sam’s parents and then Mikaela shows up and shows what her real purpose is to the movie, which is (aside from showing body parts), to engage in “witty” banter with Sam and get annoyed when he won’t say “I love you” to her (and does the camera spin 360 degrees while they are talking to each other? Why yes, it does! Ladies and gentlemen, we have Michael Bay’s Third Rule of Filmmaking: never just film people when instead you can spin cameras around them).

I mention “I love you” thing only because that discussion, the whole “I love you thing” is the entirety of the central emotional core to this movie. No, seriously. That’s the entire scope of their relationship conflict point. Now admittedly, I’ve been single most of my life, and don’t expect this to change anytime soon, but when I have been in a relationship, I haven’t had any problem with saying, “I love you,” to whomever I was involved with. It’s just not that big of a deal. Well, unless you’re in a major Hollywood blockbuster where the lazy writers have to come up with some sort of emotional conflict.

After brushing off his ridiculously hot girlfriend, Sam goes to chat with Bumblebee, and tells him that at Princeton, freshmen aren’t allowed to have cars (I doubt this, but it’s possible, I suppose). Bumblebee responds with… music and clips from movies. He does this because, like in the first movie, he can’t talk. Now that was fixed at the end of the first film, but clearly someone said, “Hey, the kids like him talking in music! So let’s keep doing that! Yeah!”

Also this is the moment when Sam basically tells Bumblebee to butt out, and that he can look after himself. Yes, that makes plenty of sense given that he was nearly killed a few moments ago.

Now we catch up with the military guys, who are busy doing their thing in their little hanger and getting ready for a debriefing with what I believe is supposed to be someone from the Joint Chiefs.

This set of scenes also introduce us to two cringeworthy characters named Mudflap and Skids. You may have heard about the controversy surrounding them. If you haven’t allow me to enlighten you by saying that if you think Jar Jar Binks is the height of funny, if you can’t get enough of minstrel shows, and if you enjoyed Amos and Andy, you’ll love the comic stylings of Mudflap and Skids, two characters who prove that racist humor is alive and well and living in America!

God, these two are awful. They are the worst characters I’ve seen on screen in ages. Now I’ll defend Jar Jar Binks for the most part. He wasn’t well-executed, but I got what Lucas was going for with the character (ie: the awkward adolescent who isn’t comfortable in their own body), but these guys? Painful! They talk in Ebonics (robonics?), they always fight each other, one has a gold tooth (?!), and they can’t read. There is nothing good about these characters at all. They serve no useful purpose to the plot and Spielberg ought to be ashamed to have his name attached to a film where these guys appear.

Now how did two characters like these get created? Let us turn to the words of Mr Bay himself:

Bay said the twins’ parts “were kind of written but not really written, so the voice actors is when we started to really kind of come up with their characters.”

You understand what that means, right? The characters weren’t really written. They made up a rough sketch, had the voice actors come in, and built the characters around their performance. Memo to Mr Bay: This is not how movies should be made. The usual flow of action is to write up the characters and then cast them. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but this is not one of them.

More troubling, though, is this quote:

“I purely did it for kids,” the director said. “Young kids love these robots, because it makes it more accessible to them.”

So according to Michael Bay, the kids of America are fundamentally racist and will be best entertained by two jive-talkin’ robots presented as caricatures of black people. Well done, Michael, well done. I believe this officially undoes everything good that’s come of race relations since the election of Barack Obama. I am impressed.

Also it’s worth noting that this implies that Bay wanted to have this movie be accessible to kids under 13. The movie is rated PG-13 and was likely made with an eye to that rating. Again, well done, Mr Bay!

Back to the “story”. One of the Marines from the first movie (didn’t bother to learn his name then, don’t care to now. He’s the white one. The one who had cannibalistic fantasies about eating his daughter’s cheeks), is having a video conference with a four-star general discussing recent operations. They go out of their way during this conference to avoid showing Optimus on screen, even when he’s talking to the general. This is because of security. I mean, four-star generals certainly can’t be trusted to keep secrets, now can they?

The National Security Advisor turns up and wanders in. Apparently there’s no problem with him seeing Optimus. Anyhow, he starts bitching at the military guy, and then begins arguing with Optimus Prime, complaining about how the Autobots wouldn’t share any of their weapon technology. Optimus gets all smug and says that basically it’s because humans are too violent. Now I could be wrong, but I seem to remember a bunch of robots, “Autobots”, I think they were called, shuffling off to Shanghai to hunt down and kill some Decepticons who were just minding their own business. I also seem to recall one of these “Autobots”, I forget who, violently executing a prisoner.

Eventually the National Security Advisor tells Optimus that this isn’t humanity’s war and that he blames the Autobots for bringing the Decepticons to Earth and then causing more trouble by inviting everyone else to come and play. This might actually be an area that could lead into interesting discussion if, say, Christopher Nolan had been at the helm, but not in a Michael Bay film, where plot cannot be allowed to get in the way of the action!

In the end the National Security Advisor flat-out asks Optimus if the Autobots will leave if the US government asks them to. Optimus says yes, and I can’t help but think of the large queue of governments behind them that would be happy to have the Autobots come live in their countries. That plus the fact that the Decepticons would be quite gleeful at this turn of events and would promptly take over.

In the meantime, we have Sam and company arriving at Princeton. Sam meets his annoying roommate, Leo, who runs a conspiracy website all about how the government is covering up these giant robots running around (memo to Leo: why not just contact KTLA, who surely would’ve had miles of video tape from the original battle in Los- er… Mission City, and ask to borrow some of their footage?). It’s a big, huge cover up, but he’s able to find out about it due the Rule of Incompetent Omnipotence*. Leo also mentions, in a rather telegraphed plot-point, that another website often scoops him.

We get more of Sam’s parents running around engaging in Komedy!, including Sam’s mom eating a pot brownie without knowing it, which is something of a surprise given that there’s a marijuana leaf prominently displayed on the bag she’s holding and she’s old enough to have lived through the Sixties and Seventies. You know, I’ve never smoked weed in my life, but even I know what a pot leaf looks like. I also know, despite not ever having smoked weed, that it doesn’t make people run around like they’ve just done a line of coke, unlike what happens to Sam’s mom in this movie, but then, this is the kind of movie where humor comes from people being morons.

Are you older than 10? Then you probably know what the leaf is, don't you?

It was at this point I realized something about this film. I’m about ten years too old to enjoy it and about three hundred times too smart. But I soldiered on!

Now we come to one of the few cool parts of the movie as Soundwave, a Decepticon that is a satellite in orbit (and is voiced here by Frank Welker, who really should’ve been given the role of Megatron), drops Ravage down to Earth. Ravage goes to a US military base and ejects some ball bearings into a vent shaft. These merge and form… DEVASTATOR! Well, no, but they do make a fascinating looking two-dimensional robot (giving it more dimension than the screenplay). This, along with a couple other scenes, show some real flickers of imagination, that prove that there could actually be something of substance to this movie if only people had actually put forth the effort. But no, why bother?

Ok, that's just cool looking.

Anyhow, the 2-D robot wanders around a bit until he gets hold of an Allspark shard that the military had. Keep that in your mind. The military had an Allspark shard. The Decepticons steal it in this scene (which includes the 2-D robot jumping through someone and cutting him in half. Ick!), and then spend much of the rest of the movie perusing Sam to get… an Allspark shard.

Now maybe there’s a good, solid reason for why they’re doing this. Possibly they just want to have a complete set. They do eventually stop chasing him to get that and instead chase after him for something else, but their motivations throughout the film are about as clear as… oh, let’s say… rice. Brown rice. Yes, that’s not very clear is it? The analogy doesn’t make a lot of sense, but neither does the movie, so there you go.

Meantime, back in California, we see Mikaela closing up shop. We also see her getting ready for a little video-conference scene with Sam, reminding me of a much better scene in the highly-superior British TV series Skins. Speaking of things I’d rather be watching… Oh, my Skins boys (except Cook)! Where are you when I need you?

Sam isn’t there for the video chat because he’s allowed himself to be dragged to a college party, where he’s starting to hallucinate and draw strange characters in cake frosting while some hot babe (is there any other kind in a Michael Bay film?), is busy checking him out. She then starts hitting on him and riding his crotch, making me very slightly jealous.

Mikaela is shown still waiting for her man to turn up as Bumblebee shows up at the college. Yes, he’d apparently gone clear across country to be with Sam. Aw, isn’t that sweet? Sam and the slutty girl get into the car, but it’s clear that Bumblebee doesn’t like her and eventually sprays what I believe is anti-freeze into her face. Jealousy? Perhaps. Or perhaps Michael Bay just wanted to show a woman getting fluid sprayed into her face.

We go from there to a scene where Prime finds Sam and talks with him a bit about destiny and duty and all the usual boilerplate nonsense. They’re meeting in broad daylight in a nicely secluded public graveyard. Gee, good thing no one ever visits those, right?

Out in the ocean we see a cargo ship carrying some construction vehicles. The vehicles, apparently desperate to avoid being in a Michael Bay movie, jump overboard and sink down. It is not surprise when they transform, thus introducing the Constructicons to the film.

Upon arriving at the bottom of the sea, they find Megatron and rebuild him. Now more than a bit pissed at the universe, he rises up, knocks aside a submarine and heads out into space, by which I mean he leaps out of the water and then he’s at Saturn.

On one of Saturn’s moons, Megatron meets up with Starscream and bitches at him. Interestingly, as the two talk you can see their breath. Cause, you know, it’s cold in space. Also airless. Also, Decepticons exhale when they talk. I do believe my brain just caught fire.

Megatron beats on Starscream for a few seconds and the knocks him to an egg sac out of which drops a baby robot (?!). Then he goes off to bow and scrape in front of the Fallen, who looks like he’s wearing an Egyptian headdress. It’s actually not a bad look, really.

The Fallen, voiced rather effectively by Tony Todd, tells Megatron that he needs to find the location of the Matrix. No, not that Matrix, or even that Matrix, but the Matrix of Leadership. Makes sense to me! Megatron heads out.

Next up we have Sam in astronomy class going slowly bonkers as he puts up with the introduction of Professor Schrute, who dresses like a Time Lord and has a libido that would make Hugh Heffner go “Damn!” He’s rather creepy and disturbing, so of course all the women in his class (all of whom are drop-pants gorgeous, because those are apparently the only women who go to this school), seem infatuated with him. I believe we have a Gary Stu for this movie. The whole scene is really rather nauseating and makes me want to have a shower.

Sadly, Rainn Wilson's audition tape to be the 11th Doctor was lost in the mail.

Anyhow, during class, Sam starts hallucinating, reads his entire astronomy text book in only a few seconds, runs up the chalkboard screaming about Einstein’s equation of E=MC2 being wrong.

Another short digression here. For some reason every time filmmakers or TV writers or the like want to show someone being super smart, they have them ranting on about how Einstein was wrong and how E=MC2 is just not true. This always annoys me. It’s one of the most proven theories in science. It’s like someone saying the Earth doesn’t really rotate around the Sun or that evolution is wrong, and no one would ever think that!

His mind bubbling and fizzing away, Sam run out of his class and we go back to California to see Mikaela wandering around the garage while a small RC truck tails her. Turns out the truck is Wheelie, who is even more annoying here than he was on the original animated series, and believe me, that’s no small accomplishment.

Wheelie tools around the garage and finds out that Sam’s Allspark shard, which for reasons that baffle me he gave to Mikaela to hold onto, is in a small safe. While doing this he seems to be lusting after her. Yes, apparently Megan Fox is so hot that even alien robots want to fuck her. Alrighty, then!

She captures this annoying little creature and tortures it for information and then crates it, then tells Sam (she’s been talking with him on the phone the entire time this was going on), that she’ll be catching a flight to Princeton.

For his part, Sam is continuing his breakdown. We currently see him back in his room, twitching like a tweaker and… and…

I almost cannot bring myself to type this. Michael Bay has truly exceeded himself here, for young Sam starts scribbling alien characters on a framed poster for Bad Boys II, a movie generally regarded as one of the worst made in the last ten years and a low-point in Bay’s career.

Now from any other director, I might think this is a nice bit of irony. If Spielberg had, say, a shot of a poster for 1941 in a movie, that might be kind of fun, and him having a joke with the audience. But he’d just do it as a quick throw-away thing. He wouldn’t do what Bay does, which is to center it in the screen and keep it there for several seconds, showing the main character interacting with it. I seriously doubt Bay is self-aware enough to do irony; I think he’s just being an idiot here.

Self-aware irony or Bay just being a clueless moron? You decide!

The next sequence brings us another odd little WTF?! kind of moment. As Sam is going slowly- well, rapidly- mad, the slutty woman from earlier turns up. Now she has him in his room, in private and is, again, crawling all over him. Then she sprouts a tail, some spikes and proceeds to toss him around and it turns out she’s what’s known as a Pretender.

Pretenders, for those unfamiliar with Transformers lore, were a group of transformers that human and/or animal shells. They didn’t turn into vehicles; they just disguised themselves in these shells. It was a weak idea and one that was never popular with the fans.

In this case, the woman, named Alice, is a Pretender whose only real job appears to be driving a wedge between Sam and Mikaela and then chasing after them in an exciting, Terminator 3 kind of way, thus reminding me of another movie I hated, but would rather watch than this.

I’m also baffled as to her presence. Basically her being in Sam’s school means that the Decepticons went to the trouble of creating her, giving her an alternate, very slutty, human form, and then enrolling her in Sam’s school, making sure she was nearby and could seduce then kill him. Just in case she needed to. Now that’s some forward planning!

Anyhow, Mikaela and Leo both turn up at Sam’s room just in time to see him about to be probed by this alien robot. A fight ensues and our heroes get away, running off onto a nice little chase through campus not unlike one in a better Shia LeBeouff film. Naturally this is the time Mikaela and Sam argue about their relationship. You know, like you do when you’re being chased by something that wants to kill you.

Also, when chasing Sam, Mikaela and Leo, Alice of course moves at walking speed, cause as we all know, the super-powered bad guy/gal is never allowed to run. She’s eventually she defeated when Mikaela crashes her into a lamppost, thus losing the film it’s only real chance to have a good old fashioned woman-on-woman fight. Given Bay’s track record so far, I’m surprised he managed to avoid it.

As our friends are sitting there chatting, a large electromagnet drops down and picks up the car with them inside. Sam and the gang (now available on LP and 8 Track, Sam and the Gang’s Greatest Hits!). The car is delivered to Megatron who promptly beats up Sam a little and says, “It’s good to feel your flesh.”

Yeah, I’m not saying a word.

Megatron gives Sam over to a docbot who naturally has a German accent. Herr Scalpel is drops some creature into Sam’s brain which then projects images of what the Allspark has stamped onto his medulla oblongata (or hippocampus or pons or whatever other part of the brain I can’t remember from my one semester of psych), and things look grim for our heroes! But then the Autobots arrive to save the day. This leads into a great big fight which leads into…

Well, amazingly enough, it leads into another really well-done scene! Rather like the 2-D robot, this is one of the scenes that shows what this movie could’ve been if it had tried. It’s a nicely done, creative, well-visualized, fight scene in a forest, where Prime fights Megatron, Starscream and some other Decepticon. It’s everything exciting that the rest of this movie is not. It also contains one of the other few emotional scenes as Prime gets killed off. Those of us, like me, who are Transformers fans, know this must be temporary since neither Ultra Magnus nor Hot Rod are around, but it’s still nicely done.

Now we go to a scene where Megatron and Starscream are hanging out on the top of the MetLife building in New York City. It is time to get humanity’s attention, they decide. “No mercy” declares Megatron as they launch off on a rampage where they go to the top of the Brooklyn Bridge and… er… knock over an American flag. Ok, that’s… impressive? I suppose? I mean, I would’ve knocked down the bridge and held the city hostage, but what do I know?

Glenn Beck's gonna be pissed!

We see some footage of military stuff getting blowed up real good and Sam’s parents on holiday in Paris where they get captured by the Decepticons. Remember this happening, because it explains why they turn up later in the movie, though it doesn’t justify them doing so.

In a panic, the military minds meet up at the Pentagon which, according to the caption, is in Washington, DC. This is no doubt a great surprise to the residents of Virginia, but amazingly it’s not even the worst geographical error in the film.

Also, the Statue of Liberty is in Delaware and Minnesota is in Florida!

Then the Fallen goes out live to the world, explaining that, yeah, hey, your governments have been lying to you. We’re here, we’re queer (well, Starscream is anyhow), and we’re going to destroy you all unless you turn over Sam, bwa-ha-ha-ha, etc.

Sam and the Gang, now wanted fugitives, try to decide what to do. This includes Sam having to destroy Leo’s cell phone, because Leo is so stupid he apparently doesn’t realize those things can be used to track movements. I don’t even run a stupid conspiracy theory website (I debunk them), and I even I know that! God, these people are stupid.
For those who are curious, we are now at the halfway point in the movie! Oh… joy.

After much conversation and Komedy! from the racist Autobots, Leo says they should go to talk to the man who runs the website that competes with his. There’s brief discussion, and then they head out to New York City. To be fair, since they are on the run, Sam disguises himself with a baseball cap and a hoodie. Yes, that’ll help.

When they get to New York, they go to a deli and behind the counter is, argh, John Tuturorororo, who played the leader of Section Seven in the first movie. His character was annoying then, and is annoying here, though amazingly slightly less so, since he alone of the cast seems to understand that he’s in a very, very stupid movie and plays accordingly.

Through the ensuing conversation its revealed that in archaeological sites all around the world are these same strange letters that Sam keeps seeing. They’re in Mexico, Egypt and lots of other places the movie doesn’t bother to mention (since archaeology happens only in Egypt and Mexico). Somehow, in the roughly 150 years that professional archaeology has been going on, no one bothered to take notice of this, which I find somewhat odd, since that’s the sort of thing that would make archaeologists wet their knickers.

Anyhow, Sam and the Gang break into the Smithsonian (after Michael Bay turns me straight by showing us a shot of Tuturro’s bare ass), where Wheelie (a really, really obnoxious Decepticon who turns into an RC truck. He was also in the animated series, and was annoying there, but even more so here), tells them they can find one of the really old Transformers, and we get a hint of some possibilities. We see pictures of things like WWII bomber planes and an old-time car, which, along with a toy I picked up (transformers from robot to WWI biplane), gives me hope that we might see something really cool.
Instead we get Jetfire.

Jetfire, the toy, was originally a Veritech fighter from the anime Robotech. Hasbro liked the design and so turned it into a Transformer, who had a backstory where he’d been a Decepticon, and friends with Starscream, before setting aside his evil ways and becoming an Autobot. He was one of the few multi-dimensional characters on the TV series (called Jetstorm on there), and when I heard he was in this movie, I got pretty interested!

Then I saw the character.

First, his vehicle form is an SR-71 Blackbird. It seems an odd choice, but doesn’t really matter, since one he turns into robot mode, he stays that way. Second, though, and most irritating, is that he’s played as an old man robot, complete with a “get off my lawn!” attitude, a cane and at least one incontinence joke. Yes, this is how Jetfire should appear.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen...

He stomps around sounding pissed off and then blows open the doors to the hanger. He stomps outside and we’re suddenly a: in the daytime and b: in an airplane graveyard in Arizona. Yes, apparently when you walk out the Smithsonian’s backdoor you travel through time and through space! Well, technically you actually do but generally it shouldn’t be this extreme!

There’s some banter between our heroes and Jetfire who goes on about these damn robots today, no respect for their elders, etc. Then he tells them they are part of his mission on Earth. Of course they are. So he grabs everyone and transports nearer to their goal by teleporting them.

Wait, teleporting? Only one character in Transformers lore could teleport, and that was Skywarp. Why bother having him teleport anyone? He can turn into a frakking plane! Shouldn’t everyone just pile in and fly? The SR-71 was incredibly fast. They’d be in Egypt within a couple hours and it would make a lot more sense to the character and the story! Argh! *brain pops slightly*

Anyhow, he teleports Sam and the Gang to the middle of an empty desert wasteland which Leo, apparently tipped off by all the hookers, bright lights, fountains, money and cars that are failing to appear on screen, guesses is Las Vegas. It was at this point in my notes that I wrote the plot is officially missing, presumed dead.

Welcome to Vegas!

Our heroes are still trying to remain hidden from the authorities, so Sector Seven Guy (hereafter called SSG), calls the military guy and speaks in clever code to tell him where they are headed, so they can have reinforcements. He speaks in this slightly clever code, and then at the end gives latitude and longitude coordinates.

*sigh* I think I just lost three IQ points from that.

The characters are currently in Egypt, which we know by all the camels and shots of the Pyramids. The police are chasing them for no reason that I can assume. Maybe it’s due to a lack of chest hair and 80’s music pumping forth from the cars.

Our characters lose the cops and are now free in Egypt, but they need to go to Jordan. So they hop into Bumblebee and, along with Skids and Mudflap, drive to the land-based border crossing between Jordan and Egypt. Yes, apparently Google Earth is wrong, as is every map in the known world. It turns out Egypt and Jordan share a land border which is, I am sure, news to Israel.

The team crosses the border through the cunning tactic of saying “we’re from New York”. The border guard commander (played by Deep Roy, known to the world from such works of art as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Doctor Who: The Talons of Weng-Chiang), apparently thinks that’s good enough, so he lets them cross into Jordan, where they set up camp for the night at the Pyramids.

Like I said, the Pentagon in DC is the least of the geographical fuck-ups in this movie.

Now to be completely fair, no where does it say that this is a border checkpoint, but it sure looks like one and the guards on one side are wearing different uniforms from the guards on the other side. Plus if it’s not a border checkpoint, there’s no point in it being in the movie. Arguably there wasn’t any point it in being in the film anyhow, but that’s another issue.

Our heroes make camp for the night at the Pyramids (in Jordan), making me really wish Jaws would pop up and take a bite out of someone. Then Sam spots Orion’s belt and deduces that under the belt is where the Matrix is located. The stars, I cannot help but notice, are much larger and spaced much farther apart then they are in real life, but what the hell. This is a world where the Egyptian pyramids are located in Jordan, so why not fuck with the stars, too?

Meanwhile in the skies we have shots of various bots, like Starscream, scrambling to get to our gang as the NEST team decides to do the same. They push the National Security Advisor (you know, the job Condalezza Rice once had), out of the plane and head off. Yes, that make perfect sense. Toss the NSA out of an aircraft for no particular reason, putting him into a situation where he could get captured by god knows who and give up intelligence that would put our entire country at great danger. Then again, what’s the lives of three-hundred million Americans up against getting petty revenge against someone you don’t like?

Now we have shots of one of the great archaeological sites in the world; Petra. It is an incredibly beautiful site and served great purpose in Spielberg’s film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Here, it’s only job is to be the burial chamber some tomb that was hidden thousands and thousands of years go, which is quite impressive, given that the site is only about 2100 years old.

Petra is, in fact, located in Jordan, and the Pyramids aren’t. Looking at the scenes again, I wonder if maybe someone just wasn’t paying attention in the editing booth. If the scene of everyone crossing the border was shown in the morning, before they got to Petra, it would’ve made sense and shown that they were in Egypt during the night and Jordan in the morning. But like I said before, continuity is for losers.

The tomb itself, where the Matrix is located, is stuck behind a wall that appears to be about an inch thick. I have to believe that at some point some archaeologist would’ve done radar or sonar searches that would’ve shown this, but apparently not. Anyhow, the Matrix crumbles into dust as soon as Sam touches it.

We’ve about forty minutes left to the film. I mention this because there’s a lot that occurs in the next forty minutes, but only about five minutes of actual content. Seriously, when watching it with my friend Rob, he said, “Nothing’s happened for the last twenty minutes”. He’s absolutely right. It’s lots of shots of people moving around and vehicles pulling into position and shots being fired and nothing really vital happening. I’ll do my best to describe it here.

The US military arrives in what I will now call Jor-gypt. They bring all sorts of tanks and planes and hovercraft and make a sea landing near the Pyramids, which is also near the Sphinx and the Valley of the Kings and within walking distance of Petra. Also, there’s no mention of them asking the Jor-gyptian government’s permission. I believe the word for today is “invasion”.

GI Joe! He's a real American hero! GI Joe is there!

Now comes a fight. The penultimate fight in the movie. I don’t really have a lot to say about it. It’s pretty big and, as mentioned, happens over a long period of time. Much of it takes place in a small village where the US military sets up camp (not bothering to ask the locals for permission, and placing civilians in danger by doing so). There’s also a few scenes in a construction area (with people wandering through with goats), near the Pyramids (though at this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if this movie showed the Space Needle being near the Pyramids), which leads to the introduction of Devastator.

Devastator, for those who do not know, is what’s called a Combiner. He’s a set of Transformers called Constructicons who, in addition to being robots in their own right, can merge into one larger robot, in this case called Devastator. In the original version of the character, he was just a really big-ass robot, but in this movie he turns into something really, really big that looks like a gorilla and has a large suction device that pulls in people, vehicles and in one shining moment, either Skids or Mudflap (I can’t tell the difference). Sadly, he survives and, at least at one point, looks as though he destroys Devastator.

As the big desert fight continues, we get treated to about three seconds of screen time by fan-favorite, Arcee, the first-ever female Autobot. Now we can go all around about the impossibility to gendered robots, but who cares? She was a cool, interesting, and to some people, sexy character and that’s what matters.

Lots of people, myself included, had been really looking forward to her appearing in this film, hoping that she might do something interesting and cool. So what does she do, actually?

She gets most of one line and then gets blown up.

That’s it. It’s an even more pointless death than the one Jazz had in the first film (you might remember him as the other horribly stereotypical black character, and the only Autobot to die). What a fucking waste of an opportunity.

So Sam gets knocked ass-over-teakettle at one point and winds up apparently dying and going to Silicon Heaven (it must exist. Why, if it didn’t, where would all the calculators go?). While dead he sees three Primes talking to him, and one of them is voiced by Michael York. Oh, Michael. Are the jobs really this few and far between? You disappoint me, sir, you disappoint me. Anyhow, they tell Sam, “Well done! Here’s the Matrix, just stab it into Optimus and all will be well with the world.”

And the iron shall lie down with the lamp. - Kryten 3:6

Sam comes back to life, says “I love you,” to Mikaela, who says the same to him, thus tying that up, and then stabs Prime, bringing him back to life for a bit. But then Prime is newly injured and it’s up to the mortally wounded Jetfire (he got about ten seconds of fight time and then was taken down by freakin’ Scorponok!), to allow some of his parts to be used to Optimus more optimal. Now fully functional, Prime goes off to fight Devastator, the Fallen, Megatron and coherent movie making in an FX extravaganza that left me feeling completely detached and uninterested.

In the end, Devastator is defeated by a rail gun being shot at him while he is busy demolishing one of the Pyramids (he’d already removed most of the top by this point), and, ugh, I can’t help but notice (cause the movie forces you to notice), that Devastator has two large wrecking balls dangling between his legs. Yes, I’m sure the crew who rendered that had a grand old time (and, actually, there’s a rumor that rendering Devastator caused one of ILM’s computers to overheat and melt).

I am standing directly beneath the enemy's scrotum!

Then Prime fights the Fallen, and in the process destroys quite a bit more ruins, thus continuing this jolly rape of Egyptian culture. Finally at the end he destroys the Fallen, Megatron gets away, Devastator is destroyed, thousands of people worldwide are dead and I… just… don’t… fucking… care.

There’s so many things wrong with this movie and so many points at which it could’ve been turned around. For starters, when the next film is written, people writing it need to remember the franchise is called Transformers, not Humans. We don’t need to see the humans running around doing stuff for most of the screen time. We can see that in any movie. Giant transforming robots, however, are somewhat rarer.

I never thought it would be possible to describe a movie as being “aggressively dull”, but that’s exactly what Michael Bay has accomplished with this film. He has made a movie that left me completely bored and uninterested in what was happening on the screen. The parts where I sat up and paid attention consisted of about five minutes of screen time, but otherwise I was starting to feel like Jeddidiah Leland watching opera.

There’s still good material that can be had here for a third movie. It’d be nice to see the Dinobots and to introduce characters like Ultra Magnus, Springer, Hot Rod and Galvatron (ideally with Leonard Nimoy doing the voice), and let’s perhaps move the story into space. Bring on Shockwave, Skywarp and Thundercracker. Move the story to Cybertron. Bring out Unicron. Any of these things could help make the next movie better.

But ultimately what will need to happen for the next film to be better is for the powers that be to tell Michael Bay to take a hike. He’s already made some noise about thinking that two years is not enough time for him to do the next movie, so with any luck they’ll toss him and hire someone who knows what they’re doing. While at it, they can keep the original writers of the first movie and Star Trek and ditch Ehren Kruger, who Harry Knowles blames for most of the problems with this film.

I want the next movie to blow me away and not leave me disgusted and annoyed. Until that happens, I’ll just have to stick with my toys.

* The Rule of Incompetent Omnipotence: the government is all-powerful, all-knowing and sinister. The run the whole world and kill anyone, cover-up anything and do what they please. But there’s nothing they can do that some weird geek can’t unearth on a website with about two seconds of effort.

The Worst of Doctor Who: “The Two Doctors”


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CAST OF CHARACTERS:

6th Doctor

The 6th Doctor (Colin Baker) – The “current” incarnation of the Doctor. He wears a Technicolor dream coat that would have any Biblical prophet blushing with shame.

2nd Doctor

The 2nd Doctor (Patrick Troughton) – A previous version of the Doctor. Suspiciously older looking than he was at the time he regenerated into the 3rd Doctor. If you expect this to be explained on screen, don’t hold your breath.

Peri

Peri (Nicola Bryant) – The 6th Doctor’s American companion. Was most definitely not added to the series as a bit of T&A. Not at all. Why would you think such a thing?

Jamie

Jamie McCrimmon (Frazier Hines) – One of the 2nd Doctor’s most popular companions. Like the Doctor, he looks strangely older, but fear not. The explanation for this is just the same as it is for the Doctor’s appearance.

Dastari

Dastari (Laurence Payne) – Your standard megalomaniac scientist hell-bent on doing what he’s going to do, damn be the consequences, those fools at the Academy laughed at me, LAUGHED!, they called me mad, but I’ll have my revenge, bwa-ha-ha-ha, etc, etc. Every bit as interesting as you expect. Also, he looks kind of like Kim Jong Il.

Chesene

Chessene (Jacqueline Pierce) – An Androgum. They’re some sort of poorly-developed species that exists entirely in this episode as a way of pushing a vegetarian message, and is never mentioned again, thankfully. She’s an “augmented” Androgum, and Dastari assures us that she’s perfectly safe to be around and nothing can possiblie go wrong.

Shockeye

Shockeye (John Stratton) – Another Androgum. For some reason, he has a name like a Decepticon. He’s a humanitarian in the same sense that people who eat vegetables are vegetarians.

Oscar

Oscar (James Saxon) – An annoying, bug-collecting English actor (but he really wants to direct), who is managing a restaurant in Spain. Serves absolutely no purpose to the plot, except to die well. Vote Saxon!

Anita

Anita (Carmen Gomez) – A Spanish woman who, for reasons unclear to anyone, including the writers, seems to have a “thing” for Oscar, which he ignores. Oh, if only the rest of us could. Like Oscar, she serves no purpose to the plot, except to be there when he dies well.

Stike

Field Marshall Stike (Clinton Greyn) – A Sontaran who is, for some reason, in this story. Like Oscar and Anita, you could remove him and the other Sontarans from the story without anyone noticing. Looks kind of like a pissed-off Mister Potato Head.

Logo

When I first set out to do these recaps, I had planned to do two for each Doctor. I figured that was a pretty solid plan, and indeed it is, depending on the Doctor.

See, there’s a lot of stories for the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th and 10th Doctors. There’s not nearly as many for the 9th and 6th because they filmed so few, and for the 2nd there were a whole lot of them, but the BBC junked most of his stories back in the 1970’s. They did the same with the 1st Doctor, but a great many of those have been recovered. As for the 8th Doctor, he had only one on-screen adventure, and, boy, did it stink.

So anyhow this left me in a bit of a quandary. There’s a couple stink-bomb 6th Doctor stories (this one, “The Twin Dilemma” and “Terror of the Vervoids” come to mind), but I couldn’t think of any really bad 2nd Doctor stories. Oh, to be sure, “The Mind Robber” has its bad points, but it’s so overflowing with late 1960’s strangeness that I couldn’t find it in my heart to dislike it. I understand “The Krotons” is pretty awful, but I haven’t seen it, so I cannot comment.

Thus I was caught in a small trap. I couldn’t find too much to complain about with the 6th Doctor (even his weaker stories still tended to be pretty good), and there’s so little of the 2nd Doctor, I didn’t have any idea how to handle him.

Fortunately for me, back in the mid-1980’s, Robert Holmes sat down and kindly wrote today’s travesty, “The Two Doctors”, bringing together two of my favorite Doctors in one of my least favorite stories. You know that’s gotta get a recap! So let’s get to it!

Title

The story opens with the 2nd Doctor and Jamie tooling around in a suspiciously modern looking version of the TARDIS control room. They’re using the console from the olden days, but the rest doesn’t look quite right for the 2nd Doctor. Still, the scene starts up in black and white before gradually fading to color, so that’s kind of neat. But right off we hit a few snags.

Opening

Let’s back up a bit. At the end of “The Tenth Planet”, William Hartnell’s last adventure (which introduced the Cybermen as well as the concept of regeneration. There were four episodes and the last one is missing. Come on, guys, let’s have a DVD release with that last episode animated!), the Doctor died and, before the startled eyes of Ben and Polly, regenerated, changing into a completely new person.

From the start, it was clear that the new Doctor was quite a bit different from the old Doctor. He was much more likely to stick himself into situations rather than let events pull him in, his attitude was vastly different, he often acted like a clown (or “cosmic hobo” as he’s often referred), and generally came off a bit more accessible and human than the 1st Doctor. This usually enabled his enemies to underestimate him.

The 2nd Doctor had a good four-year run, and for most of that time was teamed up with his companion, Jamie McCrimmon. Jamie was a Scot from the Jacobite era. Sadly, the episode that introduced him, “The Highlanders”, is missing, so I don’t know exactly how he came to be on the TARDIS. Still, there was great chemistry between him and the 2nd Doctor and his presence on the show was nothing but a plus.

In 1969, as the show was about to transition into color, Patrick Troughton decided to step down as the Doctor. His finale was a ten part (!), story called “The War Games”, which comes out on DVD in North America quite soon. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend picking it up, as it’s really good! Anyhow, at the end of that story, he pisses off the Time Lords who force him to regenerate and send his companions, Jamie and Zoe (a science wiz from the future), back to their own times with their memories erased. The Time Lords exile the Doctor to Earth and the last thing we see of him is him spinning off into the void as the regeneration starts.

Or does it?

See, that’s where things get a little odd. When you watch “The Two Doctors”, you notice right away that the Doctor and Jamie are visibly older and the TARDIS looks different on the inside from how it had looked at the end of “The War Games”. This combined with a scene in another multi-Doctor story, “The Five Doctors”, wherein the Doctor knows Jamie and Zoe had their memories erased creates a massive continuity error.

Thankfully, in steps the “Season 6b” concept. This concept states that right before he was made to regenerate the Doctor was captured by the Celestial Intervention Agency. They left him in his body as the 2nd Doctor and sent him off on various missions with Jamie and Victoria tagging along. As retcon explanations go, it’s not a bad one, and has been the basis for a couple really great novels.

This Season 6b concept explains a lot of what’s happening on screen here. It explains why the Doctor is older, why he has Jamie and Victoria with him and why he’s out running errands for the Time Lords. It also explains how he knew, during the events in “The Five Doctors”, exactly what had happened to Jamie and Zoe. His knowledge of their fates only makes sense if you accept the idea that he didn’t regenerate right away after the end of “The War Games”.

Anyhow, the Doctor and Jamie are tooling along when the Doctor notices some little gizmo on the TARDIS console. Turns out the Time Lords (presumably the CIA), are diverting him off course to a space station where he’s meant to investigate some goings on involving time travel experiments. The TARDIS materializes in the station’s galley and we are introduced, sadly, to the character of Shockeye.

What to say about Shockeye and the Androgums? They’re a horribly done species, really. They exist as Robert Holmes’ effort to get us all to forego meat and become vegetarians, so he made them very over-the-top. Shockeye is constantly hungry, and always talking about how he really wants to sample the meat of a “Tellurian”. It took me three- count ‘em! – three viewings of this story to realize he was talking about humans when he says “Tellurian”. It does make sense that other species would have different names for humans (Tosevites, for example), but no other species in Doctor Who does, so it’s very out of place here.

Shockeye menaces the Doctor and Jamie for a bit and then they wander off to find Dastari as the TARDIS mysteriously vanishes. This leads into Chesene putting in her first appearance. She talks briefly with Shockeye and make it clear at the outset that she has an agenda of her own. Like Shockeye she’s an Androgum, though “augmented” to look more… well, human, I suppose, though it’s never said that Dastari and the others on the station are humans, but that’s ok.

Chesene congratulates Shockeye on a wonderfully tasty poison dinner he’d made for some people. She’s also stolen a prototype time travel device. The two have a bit of a “mwa-ha-ha! We’re so deliciously EVIL!” moment and then we cut to the Doctor and Jamie who have arrived at Dastari’s office.

Dastari seems unimpressed by the Doctor’s arrival, especially as the Doctor is delivering a rather heavy-handed message from the time Lords about how they plan to evaluate the time travel experiments and see if Dastari and company will be allowed to continue to do them.

This implies that time travel technology is a very closely-guarded secret and one the Time Lords don’t want just anyone to have. I guess that explains why they are the only ones who can travel through time. Well, them and the Daleks, the Cybermen, the humans (Captain Jack, etc), the tourists in “Delta and the Bannermen”, the Family of Blood, and many, many more, including, if I’m not much mistaken, the Sontarans, which is ironic given this episode.

Ironic because, only a few minutes later, some Sontaran battlecruisers are spotted on a scanner screen. Uh-oh! Before the tech who sees them can do anything, Chesene comes up and takes him out. Nice. In the office, Dastari faints, the Doctor is captured and Jamie makes a run for it.

We now leave this merry scene and go to the surface of an unnamed planet, where a blinding glow from someone’s coat means we’re about to see the 6th Doctor and his stalwart companion, Peri!

Well, what to say about the 6th Doctor? Colin Baker remains the only actor to have been fired from a role and allegedly was hired because the producer of the series, John Nathan-Turner, liked him after meeting him at a party. Nice.

The character himself was chaotic and, at least initially, very unlikable. This was intentional on the part of the writers who wanted to make him an unstable character that people would grow to love. Empirical evidence seems to indicate this was not the case, as Baker was, as mentioned before, fired after only 18 months in the role.

It’s too bad, actually. I personally rather like the 6th Doctor, and as people have looked back on his performance, many have come to like the character quite a bit. He’s abrasive and arrogant, and more than a little unstable and violent, but also very interesting.

Anyhow, the Doctor is fishing with Peri when he gets a horrible image of the Second Doctor being tortured and possibly killed. He knows this can’t be, since he’s alive and well, and, concerned he might just now be a temporal anomaly, decides to resolve the issue by consulting with his good friend, Dastari.

A little fan-service for those who want it!

A little fan-service for those who want it!

You know, this brings up an interesting point, which is this: why don’t the Doctors remember the various events that happened when they met each other? With the exception of the 5th/10th crossover, “Time Crash”, the Doctors never remember information.

For example, in “The Five Doctors”, the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th Doctors are running around doing various things. At no point does, say, the 5th Doctor remark that, “Hey, I went through all this three times before. I know what we need to do next!”

Anyhow, my point here is that the 6th Doctor should remember all the events of this episode and not walk into the situations he walks into. Though of course I suppose if he didn’t, that’d create it’s own temporal paradox. Ah, the joys of time travel.

Oh, well. Moving on!

The 6th Doctor and Peri arrive at the station only to find it largely in ruins. Wandering around they eventually find information that makes the Doctor wonder if the Time Lords might’ve been behind the attack, and I have to say that Colin Baker actually does a good job of selling his reaction to that. It’s clear the character doesn’t want to believe that the Time Lords might’ve killed everyone, but he’s willing to accept the idea if the evidence points to it.

Meantime, Dastari, Chesene, Shockeye, a Sontaran major, and the Second Doctor have all arrived in Spain, somewhere near Seville. They attack and kill an old woman and take over her hacienda, where they set up shop.

Interestingly, the episode is, in fact, filmed in Spain, which is pretty neat. It’s always cool when the series goes out and films on location. They haven’t done it too often, and sometimes it’s kind of pointless (“The Fires of Pompeii” springs to mind. It was filmed in Italy, but you wouldn’t know that unless you were told. “Planet of the Dead” was filmed in Dubai, but could’ve been done with a sandbox and CGI set extensions), but generally it works.

This episode, however, was originally supposed to be set and filmed in, of all places, New Orleans! That’s right; they’d planned to do a story here on this side of the Pond, and since they were focusing in part on food, filming and setting in New Orleans made great sense!

Sadly, some of the funding which was being provided by a PBS station, fell through. So they production was moved to Spain. They still kept the food focus, which, I don’t know, seems kind of odd to me. When I think Spain, I don’t think food, but then again, maybe it’s different in Europe?

Anyhow, back to the story, where we’re now introduced to the extremely pointless characters of Oscar and Anita. They serve no plot function whatsoever, except to leave a jar of cyanide laying around (this becomes important later). Really, they could’ve been left out without really changing the story any. Their function here is to see the Sontaran ship land and think there was a plane crash. They go to investigate!

Back on the station, the 6th Doctor and Peri are going through various corridors trying to get some information as to what’s been going on. Peri is convinced they aren’t alone and are being perused by something. The Doctor scoffs at this, but is proven wrong when a shadowy figure attacks Peri! This is unfortunate for the ole Doc, because at that point he was trying to disarm a trap. Peri’s scream startles him and he gets gassed, falling onto some cables, and we go to the credits!

Yeah, ok, episode one isn’t all that bad, actually. There’s a few good moments with the Second Doctor and Jamie, but Oscar and Anita are pointless as is presence of the Sontarans. Shockeye is lightly annoying (he gets worse later), but otherwise, yeah, not too bad of a start.

Sadly, this episode is the high point of the story.

Anyhow! Not surprisingly, the Doctor isn’t dead. No, the Doctor turns out to be ok thanks to his respiratory bypass system. You know, the one the 7th Doctor wished the writers had remembered before knocking him out with anesthetic. Like many of the Doctor’s physical attributes, it’s there when the script needs it and gone when it doesn’t.

As for the thing that attacked Peri? Turns out it’s some obsessed fan, desperate for her autograph!

Ok, it’s not. It’s actually Jamie. He’s gone crazy due to being stuck on this space station. Or something. I’m not really sure why he’s wandering around all weird and sub-vocal. I guess the writer thought it would make for some tension, but it’s actually just confusing. And for the record, I have Peri’s autograph on my copy of “Trial of a Time Lord”, so there. 🙂

Jamie tells the Doctor about the Sontaran attack. The Doctor goes and examines some records on the station’s computer and as he does, he sees an image of Peri being tortured. He presses some buttons and cycles through images of the Peri, Dastari, the Second Doctor and himself (though I suppose that’s technically the same as the Second Doctor). He determines this is just a holograph to make it look like someone’s being tortured. Why Dastari has such a device laying around is not explained. Perhaps some questions about his personal life are best left unasked.

The 6th Doctor deduces that the 2nd Doctor and Dastari must’ve been kidnapped and taken away by the Sontarans. He mumbles something about some symbiotic McGuffiin that’s in the Time Lord DNA which allows them to do time travel. The Sontarans apparently want this, though I’m not sure why.

See, during the time of the 4th Doctor the Sontarans invaded Gallifrey in an episode called “The Invasion of Time”. During this they presumably killed a few Time Lords and would have all the DNA McGuffins they need, so why the need them here is puzzling to me, as is the fact that, near as I can tell, they can already do time travel!

To make matters worse, their appearance here is truly pointless. One of the signs of a bad screenplay is an overabundance of villains. Consider, if you will, painful though it may be, the latter Batman films of the early 1990’s. From Batman Returns to Batman and Robin you had two or three villains per movie. It removed the focus and dragged down the storyline.

Same thing here. Had the story featured just the Sontarans as antagonists, it would’ve made more sense, made for a tighter story and removed the need for the Androgums. Likewise, had Dastari and Chesene been the primary villains, with no Sontarans, that could’ve also made for a better, tighter story (though probably not as good, since the two characters aren’t very interesting). Instead the writer, who created the Sontarans, decided to have the two different groups with the result you see here.

Ultimately, had the Sontarans not been in the story at all, the story wouldn’t have changed in any substantive way, and that’s a sure sign they do not belong.

Pardon that digression, but I thought it an important point to make, and it’s also worth noting that, in theory, all they’d need to do is drug the Doctor, take a blood sample and be done with it, but whatever.

Back on the station, the 6th Doctor puts himself into a trance to try and find the 2nd Doctor. He eventually hears the sounds of bells and determines that one of them is the largest bell at the Great Cathedral of Seville. Ok, well done, I suppose. I’m not sure that I buy that even a Time Lord could tell the difference between the bells of the world (or universe, since he didn’t know the 2nd Doctor was on Earth). Possibly it’s a faint memory of his time as the Second Doctor experiencing all this stuff, but that’s never mentioned, so Who knows? (Who! Ha! I’m funny!)

Dastari and pals (you might remember Dastari and Pals, an exciting show about a boy-scientist and his pets, which ran for ten glorious minutes on the CBC before someone realized it didn’t, in fact, exist. It was right after Mister Dressup), are talking about their various evil purposes. The Sontarans want to use Earth as an attack base against their enemies and Shockeye wants to eat some people. Dastari takes great pains to remind Chesene that she’s no longer a normal Androgum and is above the normal desires of her people, letting us know that by the end of the story, she’ll be giving into the normal desires of her people.

Meantime, Anita and Oscar are wandering around and come across the TARIDS. Intuiting that it’s from Interpol (?), Oscar goes up to it and when the Sixth Doctor and friends come out, he figures they’re police officers. Oooookay. I mean, clearly it’s a British police box, and as Anita points out, doesn’t say “Policia”, but rather “Police”. Like I’ve said before, you know it’s a bad plot point when even the characters in the show are nitpicking it.

Dastari, for his part, is now telling the Second Doctor all his wonderful plans, thus entering into the “Talking Villain” trope. Basically he plans to give Chesene the ability to travel through time. He doesn’t really explain why he wants to do this, but I suspect he’s got something of a hard spot for her, if you get my meaning. I’m saying that’s not a sonic screwdriver in his pocket, he’s happy to see her. I mean that he really wants to reverse the polarity of her neutron flow! I’m talkin’ sex! Hell, it’s either that or hubris, but there’s more jokes to make about sex.

The Sixth Doctor, Jamie and Peri make their way to the hideout and plan to enter through a back passage. The Doctor tells Peri to go cause a distraction. She does this by knocking on the front door and claiming she’s there as an American student scouting locations for a student trip, which isn’t a bad cover story, actually.

Chesene, who is for some reason telepathic, reads that at the top of Peri’s mind is concern about the Doctor. To double-check this, she has the Second Doctor brought through the room, and dismisses her theories when Peri doesn’t recognize him. Peri eventually leaves, and Shockeye goes hounding after her, determined to “taste” her “meat”, if you get my meaning… actually, there’s no meaning there. He wants to eat her. If you get my mea- oh, nevermind.

Anyhow, this is as good a chance as any for me to rant briefly about telepathy. What a stupid concept it is! I’ve never understood quite how it’s supposed to work. How would such a thing evolve? What use would it be to sentient beings? And surely you’d only be able to send and receive messages from someone else who is telepathic, right? Otherwise it’d be like a radio broadcast; if you don’t have a radio, you can’t hear it. I know it’s a major sci-fi feature, but I just don’t like it.

Meantime, downstairs the Sixth Doctor and Jamie tamper with the time travel module that Dastari and pals brought with them. The Doctor spouts of some technobabble that basically boils down to: once he’s used it, anyone can. Stike (remember him? He’s in this story), overhears this and takes the Doctor and Jamie captive, as outside, Shockeye catches up to Peri, and we end the episode!

So with lots of padding, we’re now two-thirds of the way through the story. Mind you, this entire episode was pretty much nothing but padding, which really sucks, since the episodes at this point were 45 minutes long. Yes, this means that we just had 45 minutes of padding to suffer through. Argh!

But frankly, I’ll take the padding over what we get in the next episode. Ever wanted to see Patrick Troughton with bushy orange eyebrows? Yeah, me, neither. Sorry.

Back in the story, we see Shockeye knock Peri unconscious by hitting his arm (?!). Yeah, sorry, but that’s what it looks like he did. It’s supposed to be a karate chop kind of thing, but really, it’s just him hitting his arm.

Down in the cellar (and, no, “cellar door” is not the most beautiful phrase in the English language. Someone really hot saying, “Sex? Oh, alright,” to me is the most beautiful phrase), Stike threatens to off Jamie unless the Doctor primes the time machine. The Doctor does and Stike, of course, plans to kill Jamie anyhow, until Jamie stabs him in the leg. Well done, Jamie!

The two heroes run upstairs where we get the part every fan wants to see in a multi-Doctor story; the Doctor meeting the Doctor! The two engage in some rather entertaining banter, but before the 6th can release the 2nd, the bad guys come back. The 6th Doctor and Jamie hide as the Second pretends to be unconscious. I’m bored enough at this point that I wish I could do the same.

Talk about your fashion nightmares... where's Anna Wintour when we need her?

Talk about your fashion nightmares... where's Anna Wintour when we need her?

They overhear as Chesene, concerned that now there’s a second Time Lord involved her plans might not go as… er… planned, concocts a new plan to have the Second Doctor implanted with some of Shockeye’s DNA, thus turning him into an Androgrum and putting him, at least somewhat, under her control.

Of course after that’s done they plan to backstab the Sontarans, unaware that the Sontarans plan to backstab them by self-destructing their ship and escaping in the time travel module the Doctor primed. Makes sense, I suppose. Hell, as much sense as the rest of the story does.

Chesene goes to the kitchens where she finds Shockeye about to do nasty things to Peri. She stuns him and hauls him down to the basement so that she can do the DNA switch and make the Doctor an Androgum. Once she’s clear, the Sixth Doctor and Jamie rescue Peri and the Doctor explains that he was bluffing earlier when talking about the need for the travel pod to be primed. In fact it’s not going to work at all due to the Doctor removing some little device called a “briode nebulizer”, but which I am going to call “the flux capacitor”.

Shockeye’s DNA is implanted into the Second Doctor. Partway through the implant process, Shockeye wakes up and frees the Doctor who now… well, now looks like a Scotsman in need of the local free clinic.

Sure, Androgums can cook, but would you want your daughter to marry one?

Sure, Androgums can cook, but would you want your daughter to marry one?

Orange eyebrows. See? I warned you. You could’ve turned back, but no. Now you’ve seen it, and you can’t un-see it, so there.

Anyhow, Shockeye and the Doctor start talking food and eventually make plans for a dinner date. The Doctor, clearly the top in this budding relationship, explains that they will need nicer clothes.

As they plan out their night on the town, Chesene and Dastari set off some coronic acid bombs, which apparently is a Bad Thing for the Sontarans. The bombs look rather like Roman candles, lending a nice, festive air to the events. Stike’s assistant is killed, but he survives and staggers into the time machine. I flash back to David Warner’s fate in the fine film, Time After Time as it messes up and injures him even further.

Death by... er... Roman candle...

Death by... er... Roman candle...

Now really messed up, he heads off to his spaceship. In a very Wile E Coyote move, he forgets he set it to self-destruct. It does what he told it to do, and, well, that’s the end of that pointless subplot. Yes, the Sontarans really did nothing, contributed nothing, and had no business in this story. Well done, Mr Holmes. Well done.

Shockeye and the Second Doctor have been busy in the meantime by getting changed into coats and top hats (?) for their little dinner date. Why exactly an old Spanish woman had two men’s coats and top hats in their size is left to the viewer to guess. My theory is that it’s something like Arsenic and Old Lace.

Sadly, the spinoff series, <em>Ug and Uglier</em>, didn't make it past the pilot.

Sadly, the spinoff series, Ug and Uglier, didn't make it past the pilot.

The Second Doctor and Shockeye have, in the meantime, wandered into the restaurant run by Oscar. Very convenient, that. They have a sit, engage in some “witty” banter about human meat and Oscar then goes around warning everyone that no matter what else they do, they mustn’t talk about the war!

The Sixth Doctor, Jamie and Peri head off in pursuit, wandering around greater Seville trying to find Shockeye and the Second Doctor. As they do, the Sixth Doctor is starting to feel the effects of the change to his DNA inflicted by the Second Doctor’s transformation. This makes no real logical sense, but it does lend itself to some amusing sequences of him wanting to eat a cat. Chesene and Dastari are also trying to find Shockeye and the Second Doctor so they can give him a second treatment and stabilize the DNA transfer.

Back at the foodery, Anita recites a gigantic list of food eaten by the Second Doctor and Shockeye. It’s clearly more food and drink than either of them would actually be capable of eating. I briefly expect Oscar to offer them each a wafer-thin mint to go with the last of their grub. Instead he makes plans to give them their bill, which is much less interesting, though, as it turns out, just as fatal.

'Dear God, it's another Russel T Davies screenplay! Noooooooooo!'

'Dear God, it's another Russel T Davies screenplay! Noooooooooo!'

Shockeye stabs Oscar after refusing to provide any viable form of currency. Oscar, who took a rather unconvincing hit to the shoulder, has his dramatic death scene as Anita mourns over him and I doze off. The Second Doctor, meantime, reverts to normal. This includes his eyebrows going back to their usual color.

This is something that often happens in TV and movies. Someone gets aged and when they do, their existent hair, which is dead keratin, changes color. That never made sense to me. Yes, any new hair they grow would change color, but the stuff that’s already grown would not. So basically the Doctor’s eyebrows wouldn’t have changed in the first place and they wouldn’t have changed now. Yes, it’s a minor nitpick, but one that always irks me.

Anyhow, Chesene and Dastari capture everyone (as the diners continue to eat and no police or ambulances appear), and take them back to their HQ. Shockeye wanders off with Jamie to kill and cook him, as Chesene decides to test the time machine. She has Peri sit inside and sends her a bit into the future, pleased with that, she has Peri, the 6th Doctor and the 2nd Doctor tied up. Dastari talks at them for a moment and then leaves, and very pointedly leaves the key where they can get it.

WTF? Why leave the key at all, much less where the people you just chained up can reach it? Why not just carry it with you? Argh, this episode pisses me off!

Once Dastari leaves the Sixth Doctor talks about how he sabotaged the flux capacitor so that it would work once, but never again. Everyone seems pleased, and then the Doctors get the key and free themselves.

The Sixth Doctor, worried about Jamie, runs upstairs to free him. He gets into a bit of a tussle with him which eventually ends up with them both outside. The Doctor stumbles across Oscar’s cyanide and uses it to kill Shockeye. So, there we are. Maybe I was wrong and Oscar did serve a point in the plot. *eye roll*

During the chase, Shockeye managed to stab the Doctor a bit, and now Chesene and Dastari happen on his blood. She gets all gooey and starts licking it up. He gets disgusted and tries to free Peri and the Second Doctor. Chesene gets pissed and kills him and tries to escape in the time machine. We get a repeat of what happened to Stike and she falls out, dead, and turns back into her normal Androgum state.

That’s about it for the story. Everyone says their goodbyes, the Second Doctor and Jamie head off in their TARDIS and the Sixth Doctor tells Peri that from now, it’s going to be a vegetarian diet for them both. I, meantime, have a hamburger.

So that’s it. That’s it for the last big multi-Doctor story. The last appearance of the Second Doctor and, so far, the last appearance of Jamie. All that glorious potential wasted on this annoying, obnoxious story that hammers you endlessly over the head with a “don’t eat meat!” message.

I can’t bring myself to totally detest this story. It did have it’s good points, but it could’ve been much better had they left out the Sontarans, Oscar and Anita, given up the whole meat subplot and cut it down from three 45 minute episodes to just two. All that would’ve helped. Instead we got what we got.

Next time on the Worst of Doctor Who… Hell, I don’t know. Suggestions? It has to be something out on DVD in region one!

The Worst of Doctor Who – “Love and Monsters”


Logo

Cast of Characters:

Elton

Elton (Marc Warren) – A lonely, insular young man with a fetish for dancing to ELO and video blogging. The main character in an episode of a series called Doctor Who.

Ursula

Ursula (Shirley Henderson) – Elton’s friend/girlfriend. She wears glasses to make her look geeky, but is clearly a hottie. The supporting character in an episode of a series called Doctor Who.

LINDA

LINDA – A support group of people who are looking for a man known as the Doctor, the star and main character of a series called Doctor Who, but whom we might as well dub Sir Not Appearing in this Story.

Victor

Victor Kennedy (Peter Kay) – A KOMEDY! goldmine! He’s fat, he’s obnoxious, he’s offensive and later turns into a hideous green monster which slightly improves his looks.

Jackie

Jackie Tyler (Camile Coduri) – The mother of the primary supporting character on the series. Has more of a role in this story than either the main or supporting stars of the show.

The Doctor

The Doctor (David Tennant) – The tenth incarnation of an alien traveler through time and space. The main character of the show. Clearly added as an afterthought.

Rose

Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) – The Doctor’s human companion. Default state is vaguely weepy. She’s the supporting character in the series. Also added as an afterthought.

And so the Worst of Doctor Who gets ready to drop its first stink-bomb on the new series!

The original series of Doctor Who went off the air in 1989 after 26 years and 159 stories. The last episode, “Survival“, aired in December of that year, and lead to a drought of the show on TV that ended briefly with the backdoor pilot movie imaginatively called Doctor Who. It’s failings are many and have already been chronicled by me, but they did at least keep the show going and introduced the 8th Doctor. But it was still a long wait before the show would return to TV on a regular basis.

Finally in 2005, after years of speculation, starts and stops and general confusion, noted television producer Russell T Davies (known for creating Queer as Folk, and also someone who wrote a Doctor Who novel), finally got a new series into production! With future Destro actor Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor, the show took off into high ratings and generally pleased most fans, old and new. Sure, it had it’s failings (farting aliens, anyone?), but it had its good moments and many were disappointed when Eccleston stepped down after only one season to be replaced by David Tennant who, fortunately, ended up being one of the best Doctors the show has ever had.

I like the new series (sometimes referred to as “New Who“, cause that, you know, rhymes. Kind of like New Zoo Revue only with no talking frogs. Well, usually none). It’s kind of goofy and stupid at times, but it has its charms. I don’t know that I would watch it had I not been such a fan of the original series, but perhaps. Some of the stories have, after all, been among the best in science-fiction, with stories such as “Blink” and “Human Nature” leading the way.

Sadly, the series has been saddled with one major problem since its relaunch, and that problem is a chap named Russell T Davies.

See, he’s not a bad producer or even a bad writer, but like many fans, I kind of twitch when I see the episode I’m about to watch is one written by him. Why? Because his episodes tend to be the most self-indulgent, cringe-inducing, vaguely nauseating episodes. All the really good stories are ones he didn’t write, while the worst of the series are ones he did. Those worst episodes include today’s crime, Love and Monsters.

“Love and Monsters” occupies an odd place. It’s an episode of Doctor Who that doesn’t really feature the Doctor or Rose very much at all. They’ve started doing stories like that once per season and it worked well with “Blink” and “Turn Left“. It does not work well with this episode. It’s too bad, too, cause it had the potential to be the best show of the series, and some scenes work incredibly, wonderfully well, but it’s still a dreadful, awful episode, and as we delve into why, keep in the back of your mind: it was written by Davies.

Title

The story begins with a not-unattractive fellow, later revealed to be named Elton, running through some sort of factory-type of place. We are unsure what he’s doing, but we see the TARDIS. He runs over to it, and then hears the voices of the Doctor and Rose. He runs towards the voices and comes to a mysterious door with light leaking out of the bottom of it. It opens, revealing a character illuminated heavily by the Backlight of Rassilon. We cut to the opening credits.

The dreaded Backlight of Rassilon makes its first appearance!

The dreaded Backlight of Rassilon makes its first appearance!

The character turns out to be a rather impressive looking monster, and I’ll say this for both the old and new series: at least they had unique and interesting alien designs, often involving full masks and costumes. When this worked, we got cool looking monsters like the Ood, the Sontarans, the the Daleks, the Cybermen, and Sil. It didn’t always work (the Zarbi are a great example), but it was reasonably creative and daring and far more interesting in many ways than what the higher-budgeted Star Trek series managed to accomplish, since most of their aliens were clearly humans with bumpy bits added.

Anyhow, the Doctor turns up as the monster is about to, possibly, munch on Elton. He distracts the monster with some steak while Rose comes up and throws what appears to be water from a blue bucket at it. The Doctor tells her, no, it was meant to be the red bucket and then we get our first sign that, just possibly, this won’t be a great episode, as the monster, the Doctor and Rose (astonishingly not weeping at the moment), run back and forth through a series of doors in the kind of corridor gag that was old and stupid when Scooby Doo did it. Now possibly it didn’t really happen like that, and Elton is a unreliable narrator. If this were a better episode, I’d presume that was the case. Instead I just chalk it up to Davies’ crap writing.

The chase sequence ends abruptly, thank the FSM, and Elton goes back outside. We then go to him in his bedroom as he talks into a video camera about all the experiences of his life and how it’s intersected the Doctor in various ways. This starts with him seeing the Doctor when he was a little boy and then goes up to reference various new series episodes, like “Rose”, “The Christmas Invasion” and “The Aliens of London” (yeah, thanks, Davies, I really wanted to be reminded of the Slitheen). There were apparently plans to reference various original series episodes, and I’m rather disappointed that didn’t happen, but, oh, well.

Anyhow, Elton talks about his love for ELO (and subjects us to a dance, continuing Davies’ and company’s drive to shoehorn incorporate as many elements of the real world as they possibly can into their stories), talks about the Internet crashing during the Sycorax invasion (which somehow causes his computer to explode), and then starts talking about Ursula and the group they are a part of, a group that meets in the basement of an old library and hangs out talking about their interest in the Doctor.

Apprently denial of service attacks are <em>really nasty</em> in England!

Apprently denial of service attacks are really nasty in England!

As everyone gets to know each other, they begin to bring in food, start playing music together (looking very much like Elton and the Pussycats), and generally bond. I must say, the character building scenes between Elton and his friends actually work really, really well and work to the point where one can start feeling some response when Bad Things start to happen to them. It’s a great example of what this story could’ve been, if only they’d tried (or shot Davies on sight).

Eventually the group decides they need a name, so they call themselves the “London Investigation ‘n’ Detective Agency”, or NAMBLA. All is going well for these folks, and going reasonably well for the story, until Victor Kennedy (illuminated by the Backlight of Rassilon), shows up and, in true Davies-style, begins to display all the fine attributes that will bring this episode crashing down to Earth.

The return of the dreaded Backlight of Rassilon!

The return of the dreaded Backlight of Rassilon!

Victor Kennedy is an odd looking fat man with a blonde goatee. He tells the group he’s there to help them and please don’t touch him, as he has a rare skin disease. The group accepts him as their new leader and are soon doing everything he tells them to, including homework and the like. They do this all without question, and I’m guessing they feel guilt over having gotten sidetracked from the original project, but the story isn’t really clear on this.

One day not long after his arrival, the group has a meeting, and when they leave, he asks Bliss, one of the groupies, to stay behind. She does, and we see everyone else leave. We get an exterior shot of them departing when a blood-curdling scream rings out. Clearly there’s no way that the group could’ve failed to notice this loud cry of misery. Just as clearly, there’s no way she could’ve screamed loud enough for us to hear her outside the building. Obviously, it was a scream added in post to make it clear that Something Bad was happening, but frankly I feel that silence would’ve been more effective.

The gang come back for their next meeting and are told that Bliss has run off to get married. They blindly accept this and prepare for new assignments. It’s during this time that Elton has his run-in with the Doctor and Rose at the factory. Back at base, Victor berates him for having frozen-up, and Elton tells him, “Fuck off and die, you fat bastard.” Actually, he doesn’t, but he should. Instead he just meekly accepts the criticism and moves onto his next goal; finding Rose’s mom, Jackie.

Victor explains that due to the “Bad Wolf” virus (cute), the files on Rose that are held by Torchwood (cute), are very incomplete, and for some reason in this scene, Elton is so badly lit that he looks like he’s got hepatitis. Seriously, he’s got this yellow tinge to him. Very weird.

Elton gets into it with Victor and Ursula responds, threatening Victor, who backs down after making some comments about how she’s been considered the one most likely to fight back. Hmmm. If that’s the case, one wonders why he didn’t off Ursula first, but never mind. He does, however, take the time to off Bridget right after we see that her and Mr Skinner are falling in love. Great. Nothing like a little pointless pathos.

So Elton heads off on his impossible quest to find Jackie Tyler. This impossible quest takes all of about a minute. He-he. Then as he’s doing laundry next to her (don’t ask), he’s pondering the four steps he needs to undertake to make contact with her. “Hilariously” as he thinks them, she does them for him. KOMEDY! Anyhow, her washing machine at home is broken, so she eventually entices Elton to come back to her place and fix it. We see it sitting in the kitchen.

I don’t understand this about the English. I’ve watched quite a bit of How Clean is Your House? and invariably the washer and dryer are located in the kitchen. What’s up with that? Surely that can’t be the most sanitary arrangement. It may just be due to the convenience of the water pipes, but a: a newly-built place (like in the last 50 years), would likely take washers into account, and b: there’s plumbing in the bathroom, and if I had to choose between washing my clothes in the kitchen or the bathroom, it’d be the bathroom every time.

So Elton then finds himself spending a lot of time around Jackie with her being painfully obvious about how attracted she is to him, and how much she wants him to tend to her plumbing, if you know what I mean (believe me, I wish I didn’t know what I meant there). She also turns up in a close-up shot of her bum in a miniskirt, giving me a new reason to dislike Russell T Davies.

I should look this good at 39! Or now...

I should look this good at 39! Or now...

The good thing about these scenes is that it does nicely illustrate how alone Jackie is and how much she misses Rose, and so I can’t totally hate the scenes. I just wish they’d been handled better, with a little more emotion and a lot less attempts at KOMEDY!.

Moving on, we see Jackie make a very clumsy, obvious attempt at getting Elton into the sack, which does at least result in him removing his shirt, so my hatred for Davies’ work decreases slightly. He approaches Jackie shirtless, making it clear that he’s go for the Moon, as it were, only to find her sitting talking on the phone to Rose. Jackie finishes the call, gets as vaguely weepy as Rose usually is, and suggests Elton go home. He instead offers to go buy pizza and spend the evening hanging out with her as friends.

This plan is thrown slightly when, as he’s coming back with the pizza, she approaches him with a photo of Rose he’d been carrying in his pocket for the last couple weeks. He explains that, no, he’s not some creepy stalker after Rose, he’s actually after the Doctor. Oddly, this fails to move Jackie, she tells him where to go, and we have the last, the very last, of the really good scenes in the entire story. I mean it. It’s downhill from here, folks.

Elton goes back to the group disconsolate. He makes a little speech to Victor about how he’s had enough, and it’s not fun anymore. He says he’s leaving, as are Ursula (who he invites to dinner), and Mr Skinner (who he does not). They get ready to storm out and Victor asks Mr Skinner to hang back a bit. Astonishingly, he does, and is of course killed right after Ursula and Elton leave. Proof if any was needed that natural selection is alive and well in the human species.

Ursula realizes she’s forgotten her cell phone. Her and Elton return to find Victor sitting behind a newspaper which he is holding with light green fingers. They don’t believe him when he says Mr Skinner has gone the toilet (especially when they hear his voice), so Ursula pulls down the newspaper and sees that Victor is actually a rather unpleasant green alien who looks not unlike a Vogon. Actually, he really resembles one quite a bit. He also faces sticking out of him, including the faces of Mr Skinner, Bridget and Bliss (who is apparently on his ass. KOMEDY!).

This is a guy who gets a lot of face time. Get it? Face time? Ha-ha-ha-ha! I write better than Davies!

This is a guy who gets a lot of face time. Get it? Face time? Ha-ha-ha-ha! I write better than Davies!

I must say in many ways the design of the creature, which Elton dubs an Abzorbaloff, is actually rather creepy and interesting. It’s apparently based off this picture:

Absorb1

The picture is a contest entry from a nine-year-old boy who won a “Design a Doctor Who Alien” contest. The kid was apparently somewhat disappointed because he’d pictured the creature as being the size of a bus. That’s alright, kid. The rest of us were disappointed cause he was used in such a sucky episode.

Anyhow, the Abzorbaloff apparently absorbs people into itself for… uhm. I don’t know why, actually. It’s never said straight out. Sucking up their knowledge, possibly, since that’s what he appears to want to do to the Doctor. No explanation is offered for why he did it to these people.

Ursula threatens to hit him with his cane if he doesn’t release everyone. He says he can’t and grabs her arm. The act of him touching her is enough that she starts to get absorbed into the monster as well, saying goodbye to Elton and mentioning that she wishes she could touch him one last time before she dies. She also helpfully informs him that he’s next on the chopping block, something someone with the IQ of a turnip could figure out. Then she’s sucked inside, clothing and all, and appears on Victor’s chest as a face… that can talk. And see. And has glasses. And makeup. None of which makes any sense, but ok.

Victor chases after Elton and eventually corners him. Elton is cowering and basically gives up, but then the TARDIS appears, generating some strange wind that it generates when the script calls for it to do so. Rose and the Doctor get out and Rose starts to take Elton to task for upsetting Jackie. Elton and Victor exchange the sort of looks that anyone, including viewers, might exchange under the circumstances.

Rose then makes some remark about how Victor looks rather like a Slitheen. Victor apparently comes from a planet called Clom, which is a sister planet to the Slitheen planet, Raxacoricofallipatoris. Which explains the resemblance, or rather it doesn’t, in fact, since the two species look nothing like each other! See, here’s pictures!

The Abzorboloff

The Abzorboloff

A Slitheen

A Slitheen

Nada! Nothing alike, aside from a vaguely greenish skin color. Argh, this show is pissing me off! It can’t even stay consistent within it’s own universe! It’s enough to make me wager that, should we see the Slitheen again, they might be retconned to look like this happy fellow.

Anyhow, Victor is about to absorb Elton when Ursula and the gang realize they have limited control over his body. They pull hard inside him and keep him from killing Elton as Elton grabs Victor’s magic cane and breaks it in half. This apparently reverses the polarity of his neutron flow, or some such, and causes him to collapse into a wet blob that gets absorbed into the dirt, leaving Elton sad that his friends are all dead and leaving Rose looking, yes, weepy, as she tries to comfort him.

After this we have more of Elton sitting in front of his computer talking about how the first time he’d met the Doctor, it turned out he’d been chasing a shadow elemental that had gone into Elton’s house. The Doctor stopped it, but not before it killed Elton’s mother, and then follows a rather touching series of shots with his mum that actually make me feel a little sad, especially when we have the final shot of them in the park together, her waving goodbye and walking off. It’s a very wonderful, and effective scene, as is Elton’s comments after on the nature of life and how darker, madder and better it is than anyone ever tells you.

And this is where it should’ve ended. If the episode had ended there, I would’ve forgiven a lot of what had gone before. I would’ve chalked it up as an imperfect, but actually pretty good, episode with a nice emotional core to it and a sweet, touching ending. But no. Like so many other works of fiction such as A.I. – Artificial Intelligence, Nowhere, and many others. But that’s not what happens. It doesn’t end. It keeps on going.

*sigh* Prepare yourselves, dear readers, for I can barely force myself to type out what happens next.

Trust me, you <em>do not</em> want him to turn that thing around!

Trust me, you do not want him to turn that thing around!

See, we hear the voice of Ursula from off-camera, talking to Elton. It turns out the Doctor wasn’t able to save her, but was able to, somehow, reconstitute her DNA with his sonic screwdriver (a bit of whatever tech if I’ve ever seen it). Her DNA is mixed in with a paving stone (which I am 100% sure is impossible), and this turns her into a talking paving stone, complete with a face, makeup and, yes, still glasses. No visible ears, but she somehow hears everything anyhow. Then it gets even uglier as Elton makes an allusion to the two of them having “a bit of a love-life”.

Argh! DAMN YOU, DAVIES!

Argh! DAMN YOU, DAVIES!

Oh, almighty Zarquon, did we really need this? Did we really need an oral sex joke on Doctor Who? Yes, ten out of ten for being modern and edgy, but minus several million for appropriateness.

Further, what the hell is up with this paving stone business? How does she breathe? How does she eat and (ulp), excrete? And why would anyone want to exist as a bit of talking paving stone? I’d ask Elton to get a sledgehammer and be done with it.

This ending really, truly kills the story. We didn’t need to see Ursula revived as a paving stone, that’s just stupid. Upon seeing that, we really did not need an oral sex joke. This just pisses me off! It takes what was, at one point, a decent, if not great, story that had a wonderful potential ending and totally ass-rapes it leaving it as a stinking pile of yuck.

New Who has done some wonderful episodes. The aforementioned “Blink” is one of the best bits of science fiction out there. Hell, even this series of the show had a few total winners, like “School Reunion” (cause who doesn’t like seeing Sarah Jane and K-9?), and the really great “The Girl in the Fireplace”, but then it also had this stinking pile sitting in the middle the schedule like a lead weight on a sheet, dragging down everything around it. Argh, I could’ve written a better episode than this in my sleep!

The good news it that Russell T Davies is leaving the show. Hopefully once he’s gone we’ll move past a lot of the stupid, juvenile humor that’s permeated the show since its return. One can hope anyhow.

Next time, on “The Worst of Doctor Who“, the Doctor meets… the Doctor! Yes, friends, it’s “The Two Doctors“! Brace for unpleasantness and food!

The Worst of Doctor Who – The Doctor Who Movie


CAST OF CHARACTERS:

7th_Doctor

The 7th Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) – Enjoy the roughly five lines he gets, cause he’s not around long. On the plus side they brought him back for the show so we got a proper regeneration, but on the negative side, they killed him off quickly and stupidly.

8th_Doctor

The 8th Doctor (Paul McGann) – The one and only TV appearance by this Doctor who later went on to do several of the so-called “Audio Adventures” for Big Finish. Currently the Doctor with the largest number of stories. He’s the only thing that keeps this movie from true awfulness.

Grace

Grace Holloway (Daphne Ashbrook) – A Puccini-loving cardiac surgeon called in to examine the Doctor’s heart(s) after an irregular heartbeat is detected. She’s just as exciting as that description makes her sound. She also gets to kiss the Doctor, thus setting the bar for such companions as Rose Tyler and Captain Jack!

Chang_Lee

Chang Lee (Yee Jee Tso) – A Chinese-American gang member who winds up having a rather disturbingly close relationship with the Master. Slash fiction writers, get your word processing software ready, cause the challenge here is not reading anything into it!

The_Master

The Master (Eric Roberts) – After a great portrayal by Roger Delgado and an ok one by Anthony Ainley, we have… this. Possibly – no, certainly – the gayest Master ever seen on screen. Yes, even more gay than John Simms’ version.

The movie simply called Doctor Who, but known to many fans as “The 8th Doctor Movie”, “The Enemy Within” or simply, “That gawdawful American piece of crap,” occupies an odd place in the history of Doctor Who.

The original series went off the air in 1989, with the 7th Doctor and Ace having beaten the Master and walking off together. The new series, which features the 9th, 10th and soon, 11th, Doctors didn’t begin airing until 2005.

The Doctor Who movie, which aired on Fox in the United States, was broadcast in 1996, so it falls almost directly between the old series and the new. It features elements of both and certain things which are unique to itself. It’s something of an odd-duck to the rest of the show, being neither the old series or the new, and while it isn’t without its charms, it has many, many failings.

Those failings mostly center around the storyline. See, the obvious thing to do with this story, especially as it was directed at an audience who largely had never even heard of, much less seen, Doctor Who, would be to include an accessible villain. Someone out there thought the Master was a good choice, and I guess he was ok, but nothing special. The Daleks or Cybermen would’ve been much more interesting.

To make matters worse, most of the characters behave like idiots, it’s pointlessly set on New Year’s Eve, 1999, the Master is extremely gay, and the eventual resolution to the storyline is very confusing as well as containing a massive deus ex machina, which really drags things down. There are good things, of course, like the 8th Doctor and some of the throwaways to the fans, but for the most part, the story really drags down the movie.

BTW: For those who want to see this movie, well, you’re outta luck if you live in North America. Due to rights issues, it hasn’t had a region one DVD release and probably never will. The good news is that if you have a region-free DVD player or a DVD ROM with VLC Player installed, you can buy a copy from Amazon.co.uk. With shipping, it only cost me about $11, which isn’t too bad.

Anyhow, on with the show!

Title

We begin with a shot of Skaro. For those of you who thought it had been destroyed at the end of “Remembrance of the Daleks“, think again. A voice over by the 8th Doctor informs us that the Master was captured by the Daleks who executed him (apparently in a helium environment, judging by how high-pitched their voices are as they say “EXTERMINATE!”). The Master’s final request was to have his remains brought to his and the Doctor’s home planet of Gallifrey. The Time Lord acquiesced and the Doctor picked up the box with the Master’s remains to bring them back home.

The daleks make ready to remove the Master from his original packaging.

Not even to the opening credits and we have several problems. First, the planet of Skaro was, as I mentioned, destroyed in a previous episode. Ok, so maybe this takes place before that, I don’t know; that’s part of the joys of time travel, I suppose. It makes up for sloppy continuity.

Also, the Dalek voices are really high-pitched here. No exaggeration. It sounds like they’ve got Alvin and the Chipmunks driving them. From what I recall in the commentary the director of the movie did the voices. I’m not clear why, but one would think they could processed them to sound, you know, menacing instead of hilarious.

Third, why would the Daleks give the Master a final request and then relay it to Gallifrey? The Daleks aren’t the most loveable, huggable species in the universe. Most likely they would’ve captured him, gloated a little and then killed him without letting him make any last wishes.

Fourth, why would the Time Lords agree to this request? Surely they’d know it was a trap. Ok, perhaps they wanted to get rid of the Doctor by sending him there, but come on.

Fifth, why wouldn’t the Daleks simply blast the Doctor as soon as the TARDIS landed? Showing restraint is not something they are widely known for.

Sixth why would the Doctor agree to do this, and then not make sure he had the box in his sight at all times? The Doctor isn’t stupid; he would’ve known the Master would find a way to come back.

Seventh, why wasn’t this a trap by the Daleks? It’s exactly the kind of thing they would have done.

So, basically, in the first minute of the movie we’ve managed to see seven rather stupid mistakes that are guaranteed to annoy most of the fans of the original series. Well done! It’s seldom a movie manages that many problems. That’s one stupid mistake about every eight seconds! I am impressed.

On the plus side, they did at least reference the Daleks, however poorly, and they showed the Master having cheetah eyes, which makes sense given the events of “Survival“, the last original series episode. That’s about the only success in this scene, though.

Now we move onto the opening credits, which should look familiar to anyone who has watched the new series, since they are quite similar. I must say, the opening titles are nicely done and they kept the original series theme, which really kicked ass! Perhaps they might be getting back on track with the fans at this point?

As the credits clear off, we see the TARDIS spinning through space, looking all CGI and kind of cool. Inside we see an interior that bears a great deal of similarity to the new series interior and none at all to the original series. I actually like this interior; it’s very roomy, spacious and rather cool looking, as well as not being quite as confused looking as the new series version. Plus it comes with a record player. Because the Doctor loves his vinyl!

Not shown screen: The TARDIS' 8-track player, Betamax, Neo Geo Pocket and hand-cranked telephone.

Also in the TARDIS we see, hooray!, Sylvester McCoy as the 7th Doctor! I always liked the 7th Doctor, especially once he was teamed up with Ace. He got some of the worst stories (“Ghost Light“, “Greatest Show in the Galaxy”, “Doctor Who: Delta and the Bannermen“, “The Happiness Patrol”, “Paradise Towers”… when it comes to doing a recap of his episodes, I’m spoiled for choice), but he was always entertaining on screen and he and Ace worked wonderfully together. Ace is sadly missing in this story, but so is the Doctor’s question mark sweater and question mark umbrella, so that’s a reasonable trade-off.

The Doctor takes what’s left of the Master, which apparently fits inside a small box, locks it up next to some candles (?), and then retires to the console room to listen to some jazz and read The Time Machine, by writer and former TARDIS passenger, H G Wells.

Ah, but all is not well on the TARDIS as we quickly learn! There’s a faint shaking, some noise and then the Doctor’s teacup falls onto the floor, breaking into a thousand pieces and allowing me to create what I call “The Praxis Teacup Rule”. This rule stipulates that anytime you see a teacup (or coffee cup), suddenly fall over and break, it means trouble’s a brewin’! Examples include this and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (a favorite of mine).The vibrating water cup in Jurassic Park is similar.

The box holding the Master breaks open and out oozes some slime. Yes, the Master is apparently now one of the Founders. He oozes along the ground until he reaches the TARDIS control console, causing a malfunction (I know that’s what it is, since there’s a sign saying “Critical Timing Malfunction”). The Doctor reacts and tries to get the TARDIS to land so he can figure out what’s going on. He also gets to look shocked, surprised, nervous, and scared when he sees the Master’s empty box.

I've had problems with that in the past. Thinking about baseball helps.

Down on Earth meantime, we focus on three Chinese-American boys who are running from someone/something and my heart skips a beat. Oh, my. My, my, my. Yee Jee Tso as Chang Lee. Goodness, he’s quite hot. Looking at this fellow, I might have to kick Adric to the curb. Sorry, math-boy, but Chang Lee’s got it goin’ on!

Chang Lee and his redshirt pals hop a fence, and shoot at a car that’s chasing them. Their bullets make sparks (like fictional bullets do), but cause no real harm. The people in the car drive off. Chang and his buddies celebrate, and some bad guys pop up from behind some boxes to shoot them.

Now, hang on, here. Chang and his buddies were apparently up to something and running from someone in a car. That someone knew they would hop a fence and hide in this one particular alleyway, so that someone had armed men wait for them to shoot at them. Ok, maybe it’s a place Chang and the boys always hide, but I’m still not buying it.

Anyhow, the other two boys get shot (and presumably killed, though Chang seems supremely disinterested in them), and Chang’s about to get his ticket punched when the TARDIS materializes between him and the bad guys. The bad guys kindly wait until it’s done arriving, and then shoot the hell out of it. As soon as they stop, the Doctor walks out, gets shot in the shoulder and falls over.

Argh, did the writers never watch the show?! The Doctor a: would have heard the bullets hitting the TARDIS and b: would have looked at the monitor to see what was happening and c: not walked out into gunfire! This really ticks me off. This is very out of character for the Doctor and such a stupid way to have killed off a beloved character. I mean, yes, he didn’t die right here, but the way he does die is even stupider, so I’m really trying to pretend it doesn’t happen.

Alas, we must move on. Chang Lee comes up to the injured Doctor and tries to comfort him as the Doctor tries to warn him about what appears to be Master-ooze coming out of the TARDIS’ keyhole. The Doctor passes out as Chang Lee says he’ll get help. We hear sirens in the background, and it turns out to be the police. They summon an ambulance, which shows up along with a fire crew. The paramedics start to work on the Doctor and check the injured/dead gang members as the police question Chang Lee. Once they find out he has a gun, they take him into custody and haul him downtown for questioning.

Actually, no, my mistake. None of this actually happens. What really happens is the sirens are one single ambulance which Chang gets into along with the Doctor. They then drive off and we see the paramedic inside is the one and only Eric Roberts.

Ah, Eric Roberts. Famous to the world for such amazing roles as… uhm… well, I think he played one of the suitors in a TV version of The Odyssey, right? And probably some other things. Oh, yes, he was in The Dark Knight. Beyond that? I don’t know, I can’t think of anything and I’m too lazy to look on IMDB. Besides, it’s more fun to push him around here as someone with no talent who turns in a crappy performance in a b-grade sci-fi, made-for-TV movie. It’s not fair, but it’s fun!

In the ambulance, Roberts’ character, Bruce, hands Chang some forms. Chang refuses to sign them and Bruce implies that if he doesn’t, the Doctor won’t get treated. Really? That’s really how it works in a gunshot case?

We arrive at the hospital and they all get out, as the Master ooze gets in. The police are of course waiting to question the Doctor as a gunshot victim and Chang as the only witness to the shooting and- oh, wait. No, they aren’t. Instead everyone just goes inside the hospital.

Back in the ambulance we see Odo – excuse me, the Master ooze- as it slimes around, looking vaguely snake-like and reminding me of a Doctor Who villain called the Mara. Sadly, I don’t think they were going for a reference here; I think they just wanted to have some cool CGI effects.

The Doctor’s shoulder injury is treated (as are a couple bullet wounds in his legs), but the attending physician notices the Doctor’s heart-beat is very irregular. X-rays reveal what appears to be two hearts. Well, that can’t be right! So they call their heart specialist, Dr Grace Halloway. You can bet the only heart she can’t fix… is her own (aw…). What doesn’t get mentioned in this medical stuff is that the Doctor also has a body temperature of 68 degrees, but I think that’s one of those things, like the respiratory bypass system, that exists only when the writers want it to.

Grace was attending a Puccini opera with her boyfriend who is one of those movie boyfriends that’s a total prick and gets entirely bent out of shape that his on-call, doctor girlfriend has to rush off in the middle of an opera to save someone’s life. Right. He winds up leaving her right after this, making it quite clear that there must’ve been deep relationship issues and he was just looking for an excuse.

There’s a lovely, slow motion scene of Grace in her opera gear running into the hospital to the strains of Puccini. It’s a little surreal and actually rather cool. Sadly, it’s pretty much the end of cool for this movie.

Grace gets gowned up and gets the Doctor on the table. He tries to tell her he’s not human and to basically stop what she’s doing. Understandably she doesn’t listen and has him knocked out. He wakes up a couple times, and probably wishes the writers had remembered the respiratory bypass system I just mentioned, but then finally is knocked out.

Grace starts poking around with a cardiac probe while up above we see the hospital administrator and some other people, presumably benefactors, watching. What these people are doing here on December 30, 1999, I’ll never know. Sure, it’s not New Year’s Eve yet, but it will be soon, and I strongly doubt any hospital administration stuff gets done during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. It’s quite clear that this scene exists only to give us a chance to later have a scene where Grace’s boss gets to be a prick to her.

Anyhow, Grace is poking around with the probe. She quickly gets lost (since he has two hearts), and the Doctor starts to flatline. They try to revive him, the admin guy gives her a pissed-off look, and the Doctor dies on the operating table. So after a death that makes Tasha Yar’s look meaningful, that’s it for the Seventh Doctor. Sic transit Septimanus Doctorus. Grace stomps around, demanding to see the Doctor’s x-rays.

In the next scene, Chang, who has apparently been kicking around the hospital for the last couple hours, is woken up by a nurse. He’s brought to Grace who tells him the operation was a success, but the Doctor died. He grabs the Doctor’s bag of swag, tries to bluff Grace, and then goes running out of her office. She shouts for security and tries to stop him, but to no avail. He even runs right past a security guard who completely ignores him! Very nice.

To the left we see a security guard, apparently on his coffee break.

To the left we see a security guard, apparently on his coffee break.

Meantime, we pay a visit to la maison de Bruce, where we find Bruce sleeping next to his rather unhappy wife. As he snoozes and snores, the Master ooze turns into something like a cobra (?!), which oozes along the floor until it oozes into Bruce’s mouth. This apparently kills Bruce but on the plus side, stops him from snoring. His wife smiles, turns over and goes to sleep, unaware that hubby is now possessed by the Mara- er… the Master.

Back at the hospital, we go to the morgue where McCoy practices corpsing. The morgue attendant makes the kind of off-color, gallows humor required of anyone in such a role in a movie like this and stuffs the Doctor into a very large walk-in fridge (??!!) that the morgue has. Now I’d always thought dead people were put into drawers, but no, apparently not. Apparently they’re stuffed, gurney and all, into a walk-in fridge. Okee-dokee.

The attendant goes to sit back and watch a movie and eat some popcorn (rather like I do at work when not writing snarky recaps). He appears to be watching 1931’s Frankenstein, though some of the clips might be from the far superior Bride of Frankenstein. Both are properties owned by Universal, who also made this movie. Nice.

We transpose between the movie and the locker, where the Doctor’s arms spasmed in such a way as to move them from the sides of his body, out of the top of the sheet covering him and then back down to his sides again, but not until after they’d drawn the sheet back from his face. Obviously this was a ham-handed effort at making sure we see the Doctor’s face for the upcoming regeneration. I have to believe there’s better ways to have done this.

Morphing happens and the Doctor sits up, his eyes at a level where light shines in on them, apparently from a slit carved into the opening of the door, or something like that. When we see the door, no such slit exists, but whatever. He then begins pounding on the inside of the fridge, scaring the bejesus out of the morgue attendant. Eventually he pounds so hard that he leaves indentations in the steel, and the door is knocked off its hinges (???!!!///111… oh, crap. I just broke the shift key). The morgue attending pulls some “KOMEDY!” faces and then faints.

Ok, now, I know what you’re gonna say: How did the Doctor turn into Superman? How is he able to bash through steel and break down a door suddenly?

Super Doctor!

Super Doctor!

Believe it or not, I haven’t that much of a problem with that. It’s been established before that when the Doctor regenerates, weird shit sometimes happens. When the 10th Doctor regenerated, a Sycorax cut off one of his hands, but he grew a new one quickly, so I can accept that, in this case, the Doctor ended up with super-strength for a few seconds.

What I don’t really understand is the morgue attendant fainting. Clearly this happens because the script calls for it and no real rational reason. If I were in such a situation and saw something like this happen, I’d assume that the guy who was put in there wasn’t actually dead, and now has come back to file a malpractice suit. Ok, knocking down a steel door might fill me with a bit of surprise, but I still don’t think I’d overact like this guy and faint. I’d probably nicely ask the superguy what I can do to help him in hopes he didn’t hurt me.

The newly-regenerated (and super strong), Doctor staggers out of the morgue and into… some weird area of the hospital. It looks like it’s a place that’s been damaged by a storm or something, but there’s what appears to be some repair equipment. That would make sense if the place was damaged, but there’s also lots of mirrors and a bouquet of flowers on the floor, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. You’d think if they were going to repair the place, they’d clean up a bit first.

Either way, the Doctor staggers about some more, finds some mirror shards, looks into them and screams unto the heavens, “Who… am… I?!” Ah, post-regenerative amnesia. Nothing like an old plot cliché.

Across town meantime, the Master is sitting up in his new body and… oh, lord… there’s no way I can describe what this looks like. Just take a look at the pic below.

Master Spooge

Now it’s time for a Caption Contest! What’s the best caption for this pic?

A: Sadly, the Master’s forays into gay porn ended messily.

B: You think pink eye is bad? Try green eye!

C: I told you to warn me before you did that!

D: Make your own caption! Win cash and prizes! (not really)

You know, I make a lot of gay jokes in my recaps. Let me make it perfectly clear: I’m bi with a preference towards other guys. I have no problems with gay sex or gay people. But, damn, these recaps I’ve done, and this one in particular… I mean, it’s just so hard to restrain when they practically beg, beg for gay jokes!

Oh, well. Moving on.

Bruce’s wife wakes up to see the Master posing in front of a window. She makes some comments about how wonderful he is now, he agrees and then kills her, and I really start to miss the Delgado version of the Master.

Back at the hospital, the administrator turns up and bitches at Grace for daring to lose a patient, since as we all know, the only good doctor is one with a 100% success rate. He then takes the x-rays of the Doctor’s chest and burns them (?), saying that no one need be aware of Grace’s failings. He’s apparently doing this so he doesn’t have to discipline her and that it’s important to do this so the hospital will stay open, but that doesn’t make any real since. I mean, contrary to my joke, even the best doctor occasionally lose patients. It happens. Doctor House loses patience all the time (rim shot), and I fail to see how losing one patient under bizarre circumstances would cause the hospital to close down.

All this does is, of course, piss off Grace to the point where she says she’s resigning. We see her gather up her things, and then she gets into an elevator and the Doctor (having stolen someone’s Bill Hickok costume. Yes, there’s a costume party planned at the hospital. Possibly to welcome the visiting benefactors?) , who’s been waiting in the… er… waiting room… follows her. He makes a couple comments about Puccini. She blows him off (no, not that way, you sickos! This isn’t the Master we’re talking about!), and goes into the parking lot. The Doctor talks to her as she’s loading up her SUV, she tells him to bug off and then she notices he seems to have disappeared. She gets into the SUV and, of course, the Doctor is in the back seat.

Wearing a scarf got Tom Baker seven years on the show, you say? I bet without a scarf I can do ten!

Now we saw Grace loading up the back of the SUV a few seconds ago. She was looking directly inside when the Doctor did his little vanishing act, yet she somehow didn’t see him opening up the back door and climbing inside, nor did she feel the vehicle shake as this happened. Argh! It’s little shit like this that makes me really dislike this film.

Back inside the SUV, the Doctor talks at Grace for a few seconds and then, to her amazement, pulls out the cardiac probe. He casually mentions that he has two hearts and then, with him screaming at her to drive, she eventually drives off, taking him straight to her house. Yes, just the thing I might do under those circumstances (not really).

The Master hasn’t been lazing about this time, no sir! He’s down at the hospital creeping out a nurse by peeling off a fingernail while asking about the Doctor. Turns out everyone thinks the body has been stolen. He asks where the Doctor’s things are. She says Chang took them, the Master says, “Ah, yes. The Asian child,” and I cringe, trying not to picture the Master at a meeting of the Non-Aryan Master’s Boy-Lust Association, or NAMBLA.

No, not the National Association of Marlon Brando Look-Alikes. I'm with the other NAMBLA.

Grace and the Doctor arrive at her place. She quickly determines that, yes, he has two hearts, which as we all know is something humans don’t generally have. This still doesn’t help her to later believe that the Doctor is not, in fact, human. I have no problem with skepticism; I’m a big-time skeptic myself. But come on. This is like Scully refusing to believe in aliens and stuff despite all the things she’s seen with Mulder.

The Doctor talks about regeneration and Grace gets all butt-hurt about him treating her like a child when he talks about holding back death. He makes some cryptic remark about her dreaming of holding back death when she was a child, and she seems amazed, though I’m sure many children have a wish to stop people from dying once they become aware of the concept.

Chang meantime has been exploring the Doctor’s bag of holding. Inside he finds several things, including the sonic screwdriver and a pocket watch, which I’m sure will come in handy for both the Doctor and the Master in later years.

Chang also finds the TARDIS key, which he uses to go inside the TARDIS. He has the ususal, “It’s bigger on the inside!” moments that everyone has, and then as he wanders about inside, he finds the Master.

Dramatic Door Opening 101, with your professor, Chang Lee.

Wait, what? The Master? How the hell did he get into the TARDIS? I mean, he’s the Doctor’s mortal enemy and since the TARDIS is at least partly sentient, so it wouldn’t have let him inside voluntarily, and the Master didn’t have a key, how did he get inside? Ok, maybe he used the key the Doctor cleverly has hidden on the police box sign, but that isn’t explained, and it’s a big plot hole.

Oh, well. The Master hypnotizes Chang and takes the Doctor’s swag bag. Lee protests this thievery and the Master pins him down on the console, looking for all the world like he’s ready to show Lee the sonic screwdriver’s extra settings.

Chang Lee, after the Master shows him his sonic screwdriver.

Chang Lee, after the Master shows him his sonic screwdriver.

The Master spins a tale about how evil the Doctor is and how he stole the Master’s body as the Doctor and Grace go for a walk. During this walk the Doctor’s memories return, including life on Gallifrey. He gets so excited about this that he plants a nice kiss on Grace.

Some fans have a problem with that kiss, and I’ll admit, it bugged me at first, too. The Doctor’s relationship with his companions is always chaste, and the closest he came in the old series to getting any was when he shared a cup of erotic cocoa with an Aztec woman. True, in the new series the 9th and 10th Doctors both kiss Rose a few times (during those rare moments when she’s not getting all weepy), and the 9th Doctor even snogged Captain Jack. Given those events, the couple kisses here are no big deal. Plus I figured the Doctor was just caught up in the moment.

Back in the TARDIS the Master has managed to open the Eye of Harmony, which I think is supposed to be the power source for the TARDIS. It’s probably similar to the power source that zapped Rose at the end of the first season of new Who, especially given what it does later.

The Eye projects an image of the 7th Doctor and then shows the 8th. The Master mentions how young the Doctor looks and I flash back to my NAMLBA joke. It’s also at this point that the Master sees the Doctor’s retinal pattern and mentions that the Doctor is half human.

Wow. Well, that’s an unnecessary revelation. It’s possible that the Master was wrong or making a joke but the Doctor makes the same revelation himself later in the episode. Many fans have tried to retcon this and explain away the apparent “fact” of the Doctor’s species. Me, I just ignore it and pretend it never happened, rather like I try to do with the Bush presidency (those eight years were a coma-dream on my part, dammit!).

The Doctor apparently senses that the Eye of Harmony is open and that it’s going to destroy the entire world (?). He tries to convince Grace of this and his alienness, but she’s not buying it and runs off in a panic. Why she isn’t buying any of this is quite beyond me, but she even goes to the length of calling for an ambulance to take the Doctor to a bed in the local loony bin. She then seems him walk through the glass of her door and asks for two beds. Ho-ho. KOMEDY!

The Master and Chang hear the call for the ambulance and figure they should go pick up Grace and the Doctor. They arrive, the Doctor announces that he has to get to this place where there’s an atomic clock that has some MacGuffin he needs to power his TARDIS. Everyone piles into the ambulance… which promptly gets stuck in a traffic jam. Caused by a truck. That’s spilled live chickens onto the road. Cause, you know, on New Year’s Eve, 1999, people were transporting live poultry in large numbers into San Francisco.

The Master, who had gotten in a couple clever lines showing what the character could’ve been had they tried, loses his sunglasses at one point, revealing his evil green eyes. The Doctor reacts and tries to get out as the Master spooges onto Grace, leading to our next caption contest!

Master Spooge 2

A: This is why I gargle with soda after doing that.

B: There’s something wrong with this new toothpaste…

C: Dammit, Chang! For the second time, warn me before you do that!

D: Submit your own caption! Same prizes as before!

The Doctor and Grace go running off and they come across a motorcycle cop. The Doctor distracts the cop, grabs his gun and holds against himself, threatening to shoot unless the cop gives them his keys. This is actually a nice touch and perfectly in keeping with the way the Doctor behaves. They get the keys and go riding off, the ambulance giving chase.

Didn't they do basically this same thing in Blazing Saddles?

They manage to elude pursuit and end up at the place where the atomic clock is located. There’s some KOMEDY! Exposition, I vaguely zone out and then pay attention again when the Doctor steals the clock part he needs and escapes with Grace after hitting a fire alarm. This alarm causes everyone at the reception for the clock dedication to run out panicking and screaming.

Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve been in buildings, like office buildings, where an unexpected fire-drill occurs. What happens in these situations in real life is everyone looks vaguely at each other, ignores the rules about not grabbing any personal things, grabs their personal things and walks out. People don’t panic, scream or otherwise act like morons. Only in movies does this happen. Sure, perhaps if there were actual flames and smoke what happens in this film might be realistic, but there’s not, so it isn’t.

The Doctor and Grace make it back to the TARDIS where, for some reason, once they have the doors open, a bike cop, screaming about how he has no brakes, rides his bike inside, turns it around and comes back out again. This serves no purpose whatsoever and is amazingly distracting.

Grace and the Doctor wander inside. The Doctor starts to work on the TARDIS and is doing a good job until Grace thwacks him in the face with a large tool (no, not that large tool. The Master isn’t on screen right now!), knocking him out. The camera pans up and, oh, look, she’s been possessed by the black oil. How cute.

Meantime, on the set of <em>X-Files: Killing the Franchise</em>...

Meantime, on the set of X-Files: Killing the Franchise...

The Doctor wakes up in the Cloister Room tied to a gurney. I didn’t mention it before, but I actually rather like the design of the Cloister Room, as well as the use of the Cloister Bell, which is a nice call-back to the original series. The leaves blowing about and the CIG bats are a bit much, but otherwise the room looks cool.

There’s some mild exposition and… oh, dear, lord. If you think the Master looked gay in my spooge-a-riffic screen caps, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

It's raining men! Halleluiah, it's raining men! Amen!

It's raining men! Halleluiah, it's raining men! Amen!

Yeah, he looks just that dreadful. Jesus Christ, what the hell were the producers thinking here? Was this a game of, “Let’s see how gay we can get?” I mean, the producer of the new series is/was Russell T Davies, who is actually gay, and he made a show less gay than this! Hell, even longtime Who producer John Nathan Turner was openly gay and even he wasn’t as gay as this program! This version of the Master makes Bill Kaulitz look butch! Who, you ask? He’s the lead singer of Tokio Hotel and very, very gay (though he says he’s straight). Check this vid:

The Master is gayer than this. He’s also gayer than this:

Well, ok, maybe the Master is slightly less gay than that… anyhow.

The Doctor gets a crown of thorns put onto him (seriously), and gets into a position not dissimilar to crucifixion. He tries to convince Chang that the Master has been lying to him, and Chang is all like “nosway!” until the Master screws up and is proving to be lying. Chang calls him on it, so the Master breaks the kid’s neck and another great romance goes down the tubes.

Chang and the Master get ready for the big NAMBLA convention in Ohio!

Chang and the Master get ready for the big NAMBLA convention in Ohio!

The Master turns off Grace’s black-eye blues long enough to make her look into the Eye of Harmony which can somehow only be controlled by a human, which makes sense when talking about a piece of alien technology. Kind of like how alien spacecraft can be brought down using a virus written on a Macintosh. Yes, that’s right, Independence Day , I’m calling you out!

The Master starts stealing the Doctor’s lives as Grace goes up to rescue the Doctor. He gets free, the transference stops, Gloria Swans – er… the Master – throws Grace to her death and he and the Doctor go mano e mano. Eventually the Master flies (?!) at the Doctor who knocks him into the Eye of Harmony where he is killed forever (or until the screenwriters need him again).

The Doctor reverses the polarity of the neutron flow so the TARDIS can travel back in time and prevent all this from happening (which violates some laws of time, I’m sure, but it’s never mentioned). As he does this, the TARDIS brings Chang and Grace back to life. This makes me wonder if the two of them are as immortal as Captain Jack.

Everyone returns to their normal place. The Doctor gives Chang some cryptic warning about not being around during Christmas of 2000. Chang appears to understand this and goes running off. The Doctor then has some hearts-to-heart moments with Grace, she decides she doesn’t want to come with him. He basically goes, “Whatever, I’ve got Rose Tyler to look forward to,” and leaves, thus ending one of the more painful and confusing 90 minute blocks in Doctor Who history.

He looks pleased now, but that's because he hasn't met the Slitheen yet.

Like I said at the outset, there’s a lot to like about this movie. It has some nice continuity moments, I liked the TARDIS interior, it felt a lot more expansive since it was confined to quarries, Chang Lee was really cute and it introduced us to the 8th Doctor who has since gone on to be many people’s favorite.

But it also had the gayest Master ever, huge plot holes, a lot of things that just don’t make any logical sense and some very, very cringeworthy moments.

But it did act as a nice bridge between the old and the new. Watching the movie now, after seeing four seasons and a couple movies of the 9th and 10th Doctors, I can see how there are a few things from this movie (like the more expansive feel and the TARDIS interior), that turn up in the new series. Plus it kept the series going throughout the late 1990’s by giving us a new Doctor and an excuse for audio adventures with the 5th, 6th and 7th Doctors (hell, even the 4th Doctor, Tom Baker, is finally doing an audio adventure to be released in September! Yay!).

The BBC apparently considers this movie to be a part of canonical Doctor Who, which is good, since it introduces the 8th Doctor. He’s shown in a couple scenes in the new series, which is kind of nice. In my dreams I’d like to see them bring him back for a flashback episode taking place right after the Time War and ending with him regenerating into the 9th Doctor, but I’m not holding my breath.

I can’t hate this movie, but I also really don’t like it all that much. One of my friends who loves Doctor Who has said that it’s not any worse than what the new series does on a regular basis and sadly, that’s true. It wasn’t bad, but it should’ve been much, much better.

Next time on The Worst of Doctor Who… uh… I don’t know yet. Probably the Hartnell masterpiece, “The Web Planet”. Stay tuned…