TV Review – Star Trek: Discovery – S01E08


You know, I just realized that this blog has become a bit limited in scope of late. Perhaps I should resume blogging about politics and the like.

Naw, fuck that. Let’s just keep picking on Discovery. It’s way less depressing.

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And Lt Tyler is pretty easy on the eyes.

 

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TV Review – Doctor Who – “Closing Time”


The Cybermen often feel like second-tier Doctor Who villains. They’re a bit more interesting than the daleks in many ways, but never rate as highly as the daleks do. True, they’re basically proto-Borg, but it’s important to remember that the very first time the Doctor dealt with them, it messed him up so badly he had to regenerate for the first time. The daleks couldn’t even pull that one off.

“Closing Time” features the return of the Cybermen. It also features the return of the Doctor’s roommate, Craig, previously seen in the series five episode “The Lodger”. Craig and his girlfriend have moved to a new place and now have a relentlessly cute baby that, according to the Doctor, calls himself Stormagedeon. Whether this is true or the Doctor just messing with Craig is up for discussion.

Anyhow, there’s a series of power outages happening in the area, and the Doctor eventually connects them to a Cybermat scuttling around. He investigates that, tries to work out just what the Cybermen are up to and gets a job in a department store. All of this while Craig tries his hardest to take care of his baby and keep up with what’s going on.

This episode worked very well. There were some nice bits of comedy and a real sense of dread when one character is about to be turned into a Cyberleader. I was doing a bit of eye-rolling at the eventual resolution, which even one of the characters seemed to complain about, but that’s ok. I could accept it.

What I found a little harder to accept, and what seemed a bit out of place, was a prolonged epilogue that showed River Song doing things. Clearly this is a lead-up to next week’s episode, but I feel it would have worked better put at the front of that story rather than at the end of this one.

Still, I really enjoyed this episode! Another winner from a series that has, thus far, been made of pure win.

TV Review – Doctor Who – “The Doctor’s Wife”


Yes, I skipped reviewing “Day of the Moon” and “Curse of the Black Spot”. For the record, both were pretty good!I loved the WTF moment at the end of “Day of the Moon” and was confused by the missing crewman at the end of “Curse of the Black Spot”, but otherwise these were dandy. I skipped them because I hadn’t intended to do reviews of every episode. I figured I’d do one again once an episode really caught my eye. So say hello to “The Doctor’s Wife”.

Yes, this is the episode written by Neil Gaiman.I’m not a huge fan of his. Some of what he’s done has been quite good and domse has just been… well, we can’t all score 100 on everything. So I figured his episode would be creepy, atmospheric, thick on odd dialogue and really interesting. If it was good, that would be a nice bonus.

Fortunately this episode was all the above, including good. It begins with the Doctor receiving a hypercube. If you’ve watched enough of the show, you’ll remember it’s been quite a while since we last saw one of those. It contains a distress signal from a Time Lord called the Corsair. Excited, the Doctor sets course for a bubble universe where he comes to believe many Time Lords might be hiding. There he meets Aunt, Uncle, Nephew and a very odd, possibly insane, woman. From there, things happen.

I really did rather like this episode. I’m sure some people will bitch about the title being misleading and possibly it was, but given the identity of one of the main characters, it seems quite apt to me. I also really loved the acting, particularly by the woman who plays Idris. She put me very much in mind of Romana, which is appropriate, I suppose. I also very much enjoyed seeing parts of the TARDIS we haven’t seen before, even if they weren’t much, and I did rather like seeing one part we’d seen quite a lot of back in the day, though it wasn’t quite as old as I’d hoped it would be.

Overall, I think this is one that might divide fans quite a bit. I liked it, but I can see why others might find it twee or obnoxious. But I really enjoyed it, and I’d like to see Gaiman do more of the show (as well as Stephen Fry and J K Rowling, both of whom were supposed to write for it at one point). Also, for the record, I’ve figured out what the last words of one of the characters meant, and anyone who wants to can ask me for my theory. I know you won’t. 😉

Next week, the Doctor gets to deal with some sort of body horror thing. Sounds fun!

TV Review – American Skins – Season One


And it ended not with a bang, not with a whimper, but with a shout.

Yes, season one, which could end up being the only season MTV airs of this show, has finished. Attentive readers may have noted that I was reviewing each episode as they aired. Well, eventually I stopped doing that cause I got sidetracked and didn’t feel like going back to catch up on what I’d missed. So I figured I’d wait until the season was over and give my views.

First, I didn’t hate it. I liked a lot of it, but there was a lot that really needed work. Several of the characters were more interesting than their UK counterparts (Caddie and Tea most notably), but there were many others that I just didn’t care for, Tony chief among them. What in the British version had been a character was ruthless, manipulative and very intelligent became in the American version a fairly whiny, petulant little boy who got cranky when he couldn’t hook up with the lesbian girl as often as he wanted. Most of the characters, though, I felt toward pretty much the same as I did with the UK characters. Michelle, Daisy, Stanley… none of them were notably different enough to really get my attention one way or the other as comparisons go and I suppose that’s an ok thing.

As for the stories, well… they were usually fairly good when they weren’t just adaptations of the UK stories. When the show went into original territory, like with Tea’s episode, it proved it could do a really good job. The adaptation episodes, especially the finale, just did not hold up, though the Canadian trip episode was original enough compared with the Russian counterpart that it still came out good.

Overall I liked this season enough to want to have a second one. MTV hasn’t said there will be one, and since they didn’t have the decency to end the season on a cliffhanger nearly as impressive as what they did with the first series in the UK, I’m inclined to doubt there will be. But there was one thing that they did do that amused me. In the British version series one ended with Tony getting hit by a bus and then this happened.

Some loved it, some hated it. I thought it was brilliant. The American version didn’t end with Tony getting hit by a bus, but at least they kept the musical climax, though not quite such a surreal one, and for the record the video here is flipped. I have no idea why.

There was a lot of good and bad in the American version. A second season would be nice, if they can build on the good and the original. But, well, if we don’t get season two, I won’t be too broken up over it.

Television Review – Doctor Who – “Vincent and the Doctor”


Go, van Gogh!

Vincent van Gogh was an artist of some renown, at least after he died. He painted some interesting works and, according to many, revolutionized the art world. He may have been one of the greatest painters that ever lived. He also, according to this story, saw an invisible monster and painted it.

Cue the theme music.

Our story begins with Amy and the Doctor wandering around the museum looking at a van Gogh exhibition. She’s happy to be there, though wondering why the Doctor is being so nice to her lately (we viewers know this is because of what happened last week). As they wander the canvases they notice an odd looking alien monster in the window of a church that van Gogh painted.

At that point there’s nothing to do but go back to Provence and find the man himself, which they do. Van Gogh, here played by Tony Curran, is a fascinating figure. In many ways he’s the ultimate troubled artist and Curran’s portrayal of him is so strong that you could easily picture this as a man who could paint something like The Starry Night and then kill himself not long after.

Anyhow, the town they are in is troubled by a series of odd murders, and van Gogh himself is troubled by visions of a strange, invisible monster. Feel free to insert insanity metaphors however you like. Eventually the Doctor is able to see the monster, which naturally turns out to be an alien. You know what likely happens after that, but what was really lovely was a scene that happened about five minutes before the end. I won’t go into details, but suffice to say that I love that the Doctor tried what he tried and I love the fact that it still didn’t work.

Really there was a lot that worked wonderfully about this episode and nothing that I can really think of that failed. Curran’s performance as van Gogh was exceptional, and I liked Bill Nighy’s brief appearances as a van Gogh expert at the museum. The set design was also excellent, and the location filming in Croatia really worked to the show’s benefit. Plus you gotta love the bit with The Starry Night. Also, the geek in me also really enjoyed seeing the brief shots of the First and Second Doctors. By my count we’ve had three references to the First this series and two to the Second. Not bad!

This really was one of the best stories this season, right up there with “The Time of Angels” and “Flesh and Stone”. It was written by noted comedy writer Richard Curtis, famous for such things as Black Adder. Steven Moffat was also best known as a comedy writer prior to working for this series. Perhaps they should hire more comedy writers. It seems to work well for them.

Television Review – Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal – Part One


Part one of Sky One’s latest adaptation of a Discworld novel has aired. It is based on the novel Going Postal, which is a favorite of many, including myself.

The novel, and the mini-series, tells the story of Moist von Lipwig, conman, hanged to within an inch of his life and then offered a chance to run the post office in Ankh-Morpork, which is basically out of business due to a new communications medium, the clacks. The clacks is basically a set of semaphore towers that go from Ankh-Morpork out to the rest of the world. It’s revolutionized communications, made a lot of people very rich and killed the post office.

Moist sets out to escape from the situation as quickly as possible and quickly captured by his parole officer, a golem named Pump 19. He then decides that as long as he’s running the post office, he might as well see if he can make some money from it. Before you know it, he’s delivered some mail, posed for some photographs and invented stamps.

There’s a lot of interesting layers to the story in the novel, and while a lot of those are carefully excised to fit the run-time for the TV show, some do remain and some are added, like a scene showing how Moist’s forging of bank bonds caused a major bank to collapse which in turn caused a big credit crisis and helped bring down the original owners of the clacks system.

The acting is excellent all around, and the sets look magnificent. Jeremy Irons and Joss Acklund, as the Patrician and Ridcully respectively, are both missed, but their replacements, particularly Charles Dance as the Patrician, work well enough. The actor playing Stanley looks exactly as I’d pictured him in my mind.

As for the story, well, aside from the fact that large parts of it are missing and some parts occur in a different order, it’s a solid story and much better executed than the ones in previous adaptations. It’s particularly better than the adaptation of The Color of Magic, which I never even bothered to finish. I think it’s also much more accessible than, say, Hogfather to someone who is unfamiliar with the series.

So, yes, I really liked it. Easily the best of the adaptations so far. Part two airs today in the UK on SkyOne! Can’t wait to see it!

Television Review – Doctor Who – “Cold Blooded”


Here’s part two of last week’s Silurian-based extravaganza! Does it live up to what we saw in part one? Well, sort of.

So far the current series of Doctor Who has been reasonably good. There were a few average episodes (“The Eleventh Hour”, “Victory of the Daleks”), two exceptional ones (“The Time of Angels” and “Flesh and Stone”), and a couple mediocre ones, which include, sadly, this episode.

Our story begins with a resolution to last week’s cliffhanger (such as it was). We then see a lot of little moments of Silurian politics, a conflict between the military and the scientists, humans behaving grandly and stupidly and some interesting set design.

This episode was… ok. The story was pretty basic and, at least to an extent, predictable. It was reasonably well-executed and all, but… I don’t know. It just seemed like there was something missing and I can’t put my finger on what it was. It wasn’t exactly bad or anything, it just wasn’t anything special. Also there was a major turn at the end that seemed to come out of nowhere and seemed rather pointless (though from what I hear possibly it might have a major payoff towards the end of this series).

So, yeah, nothing special. Hopefully next week will be better!