Monday, November 30, 2009

My Review of Doctor Who's: "The War Games"

Written by Terrance Dicks And Malcolm Hulke
Directed by David Maloney

The Doctor (to the Time Lords): “All these evils that I have fought while you have done nothing but observe. True, I am guilty of interference, just as you are guilty of failing to use your powers to help those in need.”

Given that we’re virtually a month away from the regeneration of a certain Time Lord during the Christmas period, I thought it was high to get up and review a certain story I should’ve done months ago that also exits a certain much loved Doctor.

In the old series, anything over eight episodes was extraordinary and had to be made of the right stuff to justify such length. For the most part, I think the ten episodes that make up this story certainly justify their length even if the sceptic in me wonders if perhaps less should’ve been assigned to the Second Doctor’s departure tale.

For the first nine episode it seems to be one long continuous story with the final episode almost serving as a rather biting epilogue. How thematic that time interference would be the heart of this story and a major thing that would end up signing the Second Doctor’s warrant?

When The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe landed in 1917, it was an interesting time. Given that this episode aired in 1969, it would’ve still been very recent history and perhaps uncomfortable viewing for the general public at the time. It’s also in this time period that things immediately don’t appear to be what they seem.

We’re not through the first episode where the nasty General Smythe seems to have convinced everyone that The Doctor is worthy of execution and that Jamie and Zoe are traitors/deserters. The only people who actually side with The Doctor and company are Carstairs and Lady Jennifer and both of them are brilliant.

For me, they’re the sort of guest characters who I wish had appeared in later stories but sadly they never did. Thankfully they are both in the majority of the episodes together, though they’re usually in two different groups. Lady Jennifer found herself mostly being captured with Jamie during the American Civil War and Carstairs was largely with The Doctor and Zoe when he wasn’t being programmed all the time.

The main plot of this story was certainly interesting – a malicious unknown alien race trapping various people in Time Zones and making them believe that they’re fighting their own wars. 1917, US Civil War, 30 Years War, Crimean War, Romans all seem to get featured and bring with them a series of different characters.

Unfortunately in all of these wars, we’re seemingly lumbered with Smythe type of characters who keep duping their unaware soldiers into fighting all the time. This is usually when they’re not trying to kill The Doctor and company. The scenes are usually good but there are times too many of them and they become a bit predictable and annoying in places.

As for the aliens, we never learn their identity but their motives seemed fairly obvious anyways – power. Using humans as a means to an end and ultimately trying to find the right kinds of people to process. It’s not particularly original but it’s appalling enough to get The Doctor’s back up and rightly it does.

While that doesn’t really sound all that inspirational, the more enjoyable elements of this story come in the War Chief. At least two years before The Master ever became a regular fixture in The Doctor’s life, the War Chief had the potential to make for a charismatic shadow self rival to The Doctor.

He’s certainly a lot more enjoyable and engaging than the irritating Security Chief (talk about suffering from little man syndrome) and his interplay with several characters in this story is one of the reasons why I’d consider it a favourite of mine.

After all, he went out of his way to ensure that The Doctor didn’t come to any harm and he even offered him a part in ruling the universe. Plus every argument between him and the Security Chief that we had to listen to (and there was many of them), I was on his side. Why was that?

Of course there are some characters so good that they don’t make it. The Security Chief waited for the right opportunity to try and get the War Chief out of the picture and a certain recording helped with that. On the plus side, while we lost the War Chief, at least the Security Chief died before him. Now there was a character I really was glad to see the back off.

With both Chiefs essentially dead, the only bad guy actually standing in the end was the War Lord. He was certainly a vicious piece of work, wasn’t he? Even the Time Lords had to torture him to speak up and in the end, the dematerialisation was much deserved. As for sending everyone back to their own times, there was a price to pay.

The first six seasons of this series always made allusions to The Doctor being a deserter in his own way. He wanted to explore while his people were happy to stand back. He made a few decent attempts to escape with Jamie and Zoe in the last episode and the Time Lords stopped him without hesitation.

The last ten minutes of this story are the best. Jamie and Zoe being sent to their own times and only remembering their first encounter with The Doctor was sad and on the same level as Donna Noble’s exit. The Doctor’s forced regeneration however was harrowing to watch. For that alone, it’s no wonder he ran away from his own people. Now he’s exiled to Earth for the time being. I hope UNIT have a vacancy for him.

Also in “The War Games”

All the episodes, except maybe the seventh opened with a set of explosions to emphasis the war backdrop into the story.

Lady Jennifer: “Funny about those people. They don’t look like spies.”
Carstairs: “Spies never do. Don’t envy them if they are. General Smythe can be ruthless.”

We saw brief glimpses of Daleks, Cybermen, Ice Warriors, Quarks and Yeti when The Doctor was attempting to defend himself.

Jamie: “Hey, you haven’t even asked me anything.”
General Smythe: “There’s nothing to ask you, you’re a deserter.”

Zoe: “Who else would have space time machines like the TARDIS?”
The Doctor: “Well there is an answer to that but I hope, I just hope -”
Zoe: “What?”

Not once in this entire episode is either the War Lord’s species named or The Doctor and War Chief’s home planet. We’d have to wait another five years for that one.

Jamie (to US soldier): “You realise that we’ve saved your life?”
Lady Jennifer: “I don’t think he’s gonna be grateful. We’re lucky they didn’t kill all three of us.”

War Chief (to Security Chief): “When I came to your people I was promised efficiency and co-operation. Without the knowledge I have, this complete venture would be impossible.”

This was the last story for the Second Doctor, 1960s and for the series to be mainly in black and white.

Security Chief: “I have the situation under control, War Lord. It’s only a matter of time before they are recaptured.”
War Lord: “Then I hope that time is on your side.”

War Chief: “Stealing a TARDIS. Oh, I’m not criticising you. We are two of a kind.”
The Doctor: “We most certainly aren’t.”

The Doctor’s face appearing at all sides was interesting as he started the regeneration process certainly made it look traumatic. One day, Doctor you will look very young.

Jamie: “I won’t forget you, you know.”
The Doctor: “I won’t forget you. Now don’t go blundering into too much trouble.”
Jamie: “You’re a fine one to talk.”
The Doctor: “Goodbye Zoe.”
Zoe: “Goodbye Doctor. Will we ever see you again?”
The Doctor: “Again? Zoe, you and I know time is relative, isn’t it?”

The Doctor (as he regenerates): “Is this some sort of joke? I refuse to be treated – what are you doing? You’re making me giddy. No, you can’t do this to me. No, no, no, no, no.”

This came out on DVD in July 2009 with a commentary from Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury, Philip Madoc, Jane Sherwin, Graham Weston, Terrance Dicks and Derrick Sherwin. The Regeneration feature is wonderful.

As regeneration stories go, “The War Games” does set up a high standard that at least one other really usurps. It’s a wonderful parting story for Patrick Troughton, brimmed with excellent characterisation and sublime moments.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

My Review of Doctor Who's: "Dreamland"

Written by Phil Ford
Directed by Gary Russell

Stark: “You just helped me save the world.”
The Doctor: “For the first time in 900 years, why does that feel like bad news?”

You wait seven months just to get one Doctor Who special and then another one shoots out almost from nowhere. I know this has been talked about for ages now but it’s been so long coming, I almost can’t believe it’s here.

Compared to “The Waters Of Mars”, this is thankfully something of a light affair and the second time the new series has tackled a story in animation. Is it better than “The Infinity Quest”? Yes, for the most it is.

Companion wise, we’ve got both Cassie Rice, a 1950’s waitress and Native American Jimmy Stalkingwolf and they’re both good help to The Doctor and for this story in general. Cassie’s a sceptic when it comes to aliens. The Doctor’s with her and Jimmy for less than two minutes and the scepticism is definitely knocked right out of her.

Because of the format, the pacing is certainly faster here. Mr Dread the robot wants the ionic fusion bar and when The Doctor and company refuse to hand it over, he’s not best pleased. Then we got our first introduction to a Viperox. Cassie also did some initial screaming that harkens to certain companions of old.

It doesn’t take much to realise that along with the Viperox, you’d get the US government involved. In the 1950s there was Area 51 or Dreamland as this episode is called and The Doctor is excited enough to go in there.

I’m not sure I would be. The Doctor’s had enough experience to know that government types have the immediate reaction to either kill, imprison or in this case, attempt to erase his memories. In those circumstances the last thing you’d want is to be escorted into Dreamland by Stark and his men.

What can you say about Stark that probably hasn’t been said before? Nothing! He’s a typical hot headed Colonel who wants to arm himself against Russia and because of that he’s in alliance with Viperox. Of course the Viperox themselves, mostly vocalised through Lord Azlok have their own agenda too.

When Jimmy got captured by a group of Viperox, Azlok revealed that he wasn’t interested in the Earth. If anything there was a common enemy that him and Stark had together. This could’ve been an interesting angle but as soon as The Doctor, Cassie and Jimmy saw the Queen giving birth to so many eggs that was another thing to debunk.

As for the enemy, there is where some of the substance for this story lay. We had poor Seruba Velax locked away in Dreamland and her husband, Rivesh Mantilax being protected by the wonderful (but all too briefly seen) Night Eagle and his people. It was also Night Eagle’s skills with arrows that put Mr Dread briefly out of commission as well.

A husband and wife desperate to reunite each other, believing the other was dead certainly helped giving “Dreamland” a bit of emotional substance. It was also the pursuit of Rivesh that revealed Azlok’s plan to use a weapon capable of killing an entire species. Now The Doctor is never going to take to that, would he?

Playing on a fixed point in time standard, The Doctor might have been determined to have stopped Azlok from destroying the Earth with newly hatched Viperox but he had to fight everyone in a way to ensure that the Viperox weren’t killed. Mainly because in the future they’re supposed to be a peace loving race. Interesting idea.

Using the weapon that wasn’t really an ionic fusion bar to try and drive them out instead was innovative, I’ll give you that. It’s a pity that The Doctor wasn’t so considerate of laws in his previous on screen adventure.

It also came as no real shock to the system when Stark actually helped The Doctor towards the last third of the story, nor was it shocking to see that Cassie and Jimmy have seemingly become an item as well. If you wanted a feel good ending to a story, this had one.

Also in “Dreamland”

This was broken down into six episodes that could be seen on the Red Button service. It also airs on BBC2 from December 5th at 10am.

The Doctor: “The smell of fast food in the desert air. The perfume of America.”
Cassie: “Hey are you British or something?”
The Doctor: “Something, that’s definitely me.”

The credits read for David Tennant and Georgia Moffett, who voiced Cassie Rice. Her American accent was fine with me.

Stark (to Cassie): “You don’t have to worry ma’am.”
The Doctor: “Oh, why’s that?”
Stark: “Because you’re gonna forget everything you’ve seen. You’re gonna forget everything.”

Azlok (to Jimmy): “Who is this man you call The Doctor?”
The Doctor: “Oh now that would be me.”

Lisa Bowerman who voiced Seruba Velax is best known for her role as Seventh Doctor companion Bernice Summerfield as well as Karra from “Survival”.

The Doctor (to Cassie/Jimmy, re Viperox Queen): “I don’t think she’s amused. I have this effect royalty. Run!”

Stark: “The Reds are sitting on a thousand nukes and everyone of them has Uncle Sam’s name on them.”
Night Eagle: “The Russians will never fire them. They know as well as anyone that would be the end of the world.”

There was a deliberate homage to Indiana Jones with the mine cart chase halfway through this story as well as mentions to Aliens and Die Hard.

The Doctor (to Stark): “Two problems with the Viperox, Colonel – you can’t trust them and they have very good hearing.”

The Doctor: “No-one has the right to destroy an entire species.”
Cassie: “Doctor, they destroy my town.”

Seruba and Rivesh were the most clich├ęd looking of aliens we’ve seen. I guess for the story backdrop though it sort of worked.

Azlok: “Your day will come, Doctor.”
The Doctor: “Yeah, so they say.”

Chronology: Is this based before or after “The Waters Of Mars”?

In the last couple of weeks, I was mixed about this animated special but now after having seen it as a whole, “Dreamland” was an enjoyable enough story. A lot lighter but that’s probably a good thing, given the darkness of “The End Of Time” two part story that has yet to air.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

My Review of True Blood's 2x02: "Keep This Party Going"

Written by Brian Buckner
Directed by Michael Lehmann

Pam: “Oh, Eric. You don’t do humble well.”
Eric (re Godric): “I was not being humble. This happens to be true.”

As if we needed this episode to drill home the fact that Eric and modesty are two things that don’t mix. Still, at least he’s aware of the fact that he lacks in the humble department. Self-awareness is a good thing.

Even Lafayette knows a thing or two about being aware of his own nature. Not many people would be comfortable in admitting that they have a low moral compass. One of Lafayette’s later exchanges is that he’s aware of this particular shortcoming and tried to use it to his advantage.

It seemed that the idea of being made into a vampire is far more appealing than being kept prisoner by one or shot by an idiotic employee. Since we last saw her, Ginger is still as dumb as ever and can certainly scream the house down for good measure. If I were Lafayette, I probably would’ve strangled her, gunshot wound or not.

Lafayette’s captivity isn’t a particular plot that can be continuously dragged out. I mean it’s interesting that he has a serious storyline and is getting screen time with the likes of Eric, Pam and Chow but there’s only so much of this that can last before it gets old. Either Lafayette’s about be a dead man in one way or another or Eric is going to have to let him go.

Lafayette to his credit did make two decent attempts of trying to escape. Both times he was subdued by an employee. He also knew how to try and talk his way out of it by trying to use his sexual prowess with Eric and company. With all of them biting on Lafayette, it’s hard to tell what’ll happen next but I don’t think he’s going to be killed that’s for sure.

Another interesting part of Lafayette’s captivity was Eric mentioning Godric. I’ve read “Living Dead In Dallas” so I do know that he’s a vital character and his disappearance will inevitably play a bigger part in later episodes. Lafayette’s lack of information didn’t help Eric and neither did Bill.

Then again, what the hell did Eric expect? He knew damn well that Bill is possessive of Sookie (not an endearing character trait), so he should’ve expected Bill trying to stone block him from using Sookie’s little gift to find Godric. Then again, maybe Eric should’ve also been man enough to go and ask Sookie himself without goading Bill. It would’ve saved some precious time.

Bill certainly had his hands full in this episode. Last week, Sookie looked nearly ready to ditch him after the Uncle Bartlett reveal and this week the two of them were going on about make up sex and arguing over how to deal with Jessica. She’s a teenage girl. I’d rather stick my hands in nuclear waste than deal with one of them. I’m joking by the way. These hands will not be touching radioactive waste at all.

Five episodes in since her debut and Jessica works for me. She might be a brat but she’s a fun one and god knows Bill could do with someone other than Sookie to be worried about. More importantly, she actually seemed to get on better with Sookie in this episode than in the previous one.

When Sookie was feeling guilty about her part in Jessica’s turning as a vampire, Jessica seemed to forgive her rather quickly. It might have also helped that Sookie was there for Jessica when the girl wasn’t coping with not being able to see her family. It was also Sookie’s comforting words that led to a bad idea on her part as well.

Sookie talked about being in her grandmother’s room as a way of grieving. Jessica took that to the next step by persuading Sookie to drive her to her parents. Sookie shouldn’t have done that but she still did and the fact that she was surprised that Jessica decided to interact with her family made me laugh. How the hell could she have not seen that coming?

The meeting with the family was always going to turn sour. Past episodes alluded to the fact that Jessica had a strict upbringing and when her father turned on her, she went to kill him. If it hadn’t been for Bill’s intervention, she most definitely would’ve. Bill warned Sookie that Jessica was a time bomb and without meaning to, Sookie did set her off. Bad Sookie.

Of course the creepiest thing in this episode was the ease Bill seemed to have glamouring Eden into letting him into the Hambry household. It looked like Bill was about to kill Jessica’s father but I don’t think he will. However he was incredibly furious with Jessica and Sookie and that’s going to make the next episode more interesting because of it. Bill can certainly be scary when he’s mad.

Similarly scary are those Fellowship Of The Sun crowd. Don’t be fooled by their bus songs, Christian pop singers, role playing and flag games because this lot are fucking nuts. All you have to do is look at Sarah Newlin’s porcelain smile and realise that something is not right with her.

When Jason got a little too into the role playing session on stage, Sarah didn’t exactly hide her excitement. Actually there was a few times throughout the episode where she was perving over Jason and I doubt it’ll be long before the two of them are actually at it. If Steve Newlin hates vampires so much, I don’t think he’s going to be particularly happy with Jason copping off with his wife.

As for the little rivalry between Jason and Luke, that was something I didn’t actually expect. Luke went from wanting to be bunk mates with Jason to viewing him as a threat. I’m hoping that the more Jason interacts with these Fellowship freaks that he’ll realise that they’re probably more dangerous than any vampire out there. Jason has to get smart at some point, yes?

Speaking of smart, is Tara’s budding relationship with Eggs a rational thing for her? Evidence would suggest not in spite of the fact that there’s actually some good chemistry between the pair of them. Given how much Eggs seems to be in Maryann’s clutches, it’s hard to actually trust him, even if his feelings for Tara do seem to be sincere.

As for Maryann, the episodes keep passing and she keeps intriguing me more and more. Michelle Forbes is absolutely brilliant in this role and can I just say – how bloody hungry is Maryann? Take her to an all you can eat buffet and she’d put Homer Simpson to shame. Even I couldn’t polish off that amount of food.

The interplay between her and Sam is wonderful. The more he tried to get rid of her, the more she turned the tables on him. He asked her to leave Merlotte’s; she ate most of his food. He threatened her; she pulled the whammy and turned him into dog form. Sam, you’re going to have to up the ante because this one’s dangerous.

Especially given the fact that not only can she turn Sam into doggy form whenever the mood takes her but she’s pretty good at starting orgies as well. The only person she might not be able to pull that stuff on would naturally be Sookie and given their brief interaction, I think both Sookie and Maryann are aware that something’s off with the other.

Also in “Keep This Party Going”

It seems vampires can change their appearance to a degree. Eric’s hair is thankfully shorter and looking all the better for it.

Sookie: “Another first.”
Bill: “What do you mean?”
Sookie: “We’ve never had make up sex before.”
Bill: “How does it compare to ‘you thought I was dead sex?’”

Lafayette used one of Royce’s bones to break through his own restraints. After Bill’s glamour of Eden, that might be the second creepiest scene of this episode.

Tara (to Eggs): “When it comes to men, I’ve got a history with the cart out in front so long the horse can’t see it. So now I’m trying to get it right.”

Sam: “You’re late.”
Tara: “Sorry.”
Maryann: “Am I in time?”

We found out in this episode that Egg’s done time in prison for drugs, assault and robbery. He’s been a busy boy.

Maryann (re Sookie): “I see what you mean, Tara. She’s an old soul, isn’t she?”

Jessica: “I just saw my parents on TV.”
Sookie: “Oh, I’m sorry.”
Jessica: “I finally get why they never wanted me to watch it in the first place. It’s horrible.”

It was nice that Sookie asked Tara to move in with her and financially, it does make sense as well. Plus we saw Jason thinking about Amy/Eddie, Daphne’s incompetent and Arlene and Terry have their sweet moments. And a store assistant thought Eric and Bill were a couple.

Eric: “We made a deal, your human and I. That if I didn’t kill anyone she would work for me as often as I like. You remember that don’t you?”
Bill: “Taking her across state lines is a far cry from taking her to Fangtasia for the evening.”
Eric: “I’m only asking your permission out of respect. If I want her, I can simply take her. Is no your final answer?”
Bill: “It is.”
Eric: “Poorly played Bill.”

Maryann: “Abracadabra Sam. What I just did to you, I can do anytime, anywhere, so unless you want your customers to know your little secret you better think twice before you ever threaten me again. Do we understand each other?”

Standout music: “Keep This Party Going” by the B-52’s and “Jesus Asked Me Out Today” by Amanda and the God Rockets for comedy effect.

Jessica: “Go ahead, Daddy, get your belt but this time, I’ll be ready.”

Chronology: Takes place from where “Nothing But The Blood” left off.

“Keep This Party Going” certainly lived up to its title if we look at the craziness Maryann caused in Merlotte’s but overall, I’m liking this season. So far, no second season slump that has affected recent shows and hopefully there’s none to come.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Monday, November 23, 2009

It's Not That Quiet In The Country (Reality TV/Soap Blog)

One of my goals for this blogspot by 2010 is to be even more eclectic than usual. Reasons for this vary. I want the blog to be accessible as possible for everyone, even though the main theme is always going to be television related. Plus it will give me more to go on and it means I can cover stuff such as reality TV and soaps, which I do watch from time to time in an objective manner. Don't worry, I'll still be reviewing the usual shows and doing spoilers blogs as well.

If I tried ignoring I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, I'd probably have to try and literally bury myself underground in order to successfully accomplish that. That's not going to happen. The latest series hasn't exactly been much to gush about. In fact for the last eight days, it was more The Katie Price Show rather than anything else, with Miss Price enduring all the bushtucker trials as she finally realised that the public simply don't take to her. I'm not gonna lie - I can't stand Katie Price and generally think she's a Grade A moron whose constant yapping about every fucking thing she does is beyond irritating but even I felt a little sorry for her. Just a little and not enough to feel sad when she fled the camp. Mainly because that'll be another thing she won't shut up about for a good week and a half.

Prior to going onto I'm A Celebrity, Price went on Chelsea Lately, a pretty tacky talk show with a somewhat irritating but amusing host, Chelsea Handler. The show wasn't exactly her greatest moment either. As you can see here ...

Every week on The X-Factor, I feel a sense of apathy growing in the room. As Simon Cowell protests to high heaven how much he supposedly hates, Irish duo John and Edward (or Jedward as they're known by), I get the urge to scream, 'liar' at the screen.

I'm under no delusions when it comes to The X-Factor in the sense that I'm aware of it's catered for popularity than musical talent. Jedward may be devoid in talents, despite being nice enough lads but they have been generating a lot more press for this show than their fellow contestants so there was little doubt that there would be some controversy upon their exit last night.

Personally I don't see the big deal. Even if by some weird fluke that they had actually won the bloody thing, would they realistically have a career with longevity? No! Stranger things might have happened but Jedward getting the boot after weeks of enduring boos from a clearly childish crowd is hardly shock of the century. If this had been an actual singing contest, they would've never made it as far as they did. I don't have anything against the lads but maybe it's time that the judges actually took the show seriously instead of treating proceedings in the farcical manner they've been doing for some time now

What is with soaps and gay storylines? For ages you can go without any and then you're attacked by many? Not that that's always a bad thing but 2009 wise, let's er see ...

Home And Away: Charlie, who was bisexual for five seconds before hooking up with the deathly dull Angelo. Now tends to mostly whine. A lot.
Fair City: Yvonne/Connie, not much plot there, even with the former's pregnancy. Plus Troy disappeared as quickly as he debuted.
Hollyoaks: Um, some bisexual plots with Kris/Ravi and the whole Lydia/Sarah/Zoe mess that's now involving Charlotte. Slightly better.
Coronation Street: Sean trying and failing to woo Leon, who in turn fancied Jason, who won Mr Gay Weatherfield, despite his heterosexuality. Hardly riveting.
EastEnders: Christian/Syed, which even without the Muslim aspect of the storyline should be really interesting. Except it's not. I feel a bit sympathetic towards Christian but Syed's doing very little that makes me think he's worth pursuing. Some of the upcoming Christmas spoilers with them and Amira suggest their relationship will be outed in the usual manner and will play a backburner to the 'Who Killed Archie?' plot line.
Doctors: Um, dishy Simon and the American guy, Todd but that didn't last long mind. Still both were exceptionally cute though.

Emmerdale meanwhile started the year by reuniting and exiting Paul and Johnny rather quickly as well as reawakening Debbie/Jasmine. Only then poor Jasmine went to jail for caving in the brains of a rapist police officer and Debbie hooked up with a bloke so bland that not even the revelation of him engaged to Charity was enough to ignite excitement into him.
Funnily enough from next month onwards, it seems that wayward Aaron Dingle (Danny Miller) tries to snog his only mate Adam Barton (Adam Thomas), despite spending most of the time pursuing Adam's sister, Holly (Sophie Powles).
In terms of gay stories, Emmerdale do usually have a better track record and perhaps this is one that might not peter out so quickly if we're lucky.
Also someone on YouTube compiled as many Aaron/Adam scenes as they could muster. See here ...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

My Review of The Sarah Jane Adventures 3x06: "The Gift"

Written by Rupert Laight
Directed by Alice Troughton

Clyde (upon being covered in Blathereen guts): “Why does this always happen to me?”

When it comes to finales, I won’t lie – I wanted something else. Anything else. Instead we got the Slitheen for five minutes and the Blathereen for the rest of the story. The phrase ‘mixed bag’ definitely seemed appropriate for this story.

The opening sequences had the gang chasing a young boy. Already this was a clue that he wasn’t human. As soon as it was mentioned that the boy had a matter compressor that was the second clue that he wasn’t human. To be honest if the trailers hadn’t spoiled it, I would’ve thought he was some other life form.

Instead the mystery angle was up reasonably quick when the boy’s assistant got out of his guise and revealed himself to be a Slitheen. Aren’t child Slitheen more annoying than their adult counterparts? This one certainly was. In terms of plans, it was another let’s crush Earth and make a profit spiel.

The only difference this time around is that Sarah Jane didn’t save the day. No, that honour went to husband and wife duo, Tree and Leaf who took out their rivals. Certainly a way to introduce the Blathereen but even their seeming act of nobility didn’t quell the gang’s suspicions of them.

Come on, why should we trust the Blathereen? Apart from the fact they’re orange, they look exactly like the Slitheen and they did come across as being a bit too good to be true. Rani seemed to be the only member of the team who was quick to embrace them. It could show recklessness on her part but I sort of got why she was eager to trust them.

Without their intervention, the Slitheen child might have killed Rani and the Blathereen themselves did apologise at great lengths to the gang for the Slitheen crimes committed on Earth. They even offered to come to dinner, which ended up having Clyde to use his culinary skills.

The dinner scene was certainly one of the funniest moments on the show this season. I think this is one of the first times we’ve seen an alien of their ilk chowing down on tomato soup and shepherd’s pie instead of something meatier. It still didn’t stop Clyde from making a few snarky comments though.

Of course the main reason why the Blathereen wanted to attend dinner with the gang was to give them Rackweed. Apparently it was the miracle plant, able to quell famines and the like. Sarah Jane did muse about the fact that aliens bearing gifts rarely turned out well but it didn’t stop her from accepting the gift no less.

I guess the disappointing thing about this story is the gift itself. There was no way that the Rackweed plant was going to be a benevolent offering. It would have to be something sinister and it also had to be something clever enough to even dupe Mr Smith as well. It also didn’t take long to spread either.

In less than a day, it seemed to spread all the way throughout London without Sarah Jane even making it public. Worse than that, it also began infecting people at random. Luke notably was the one who we saw suffer the worst from the plant’s effect, succumbing to the point of near death as well.

It gave Tommy Knight some good scenes to play off with Elisabeth Sladen but as bad as Luke’s predicament was, I never felt that we were actually going to lose him. I’m also glad we didn’t either. But I did find a more ruthless side to Sarah Jane far more interesting than the arrogance The Doctor displayed last Sunday in “The Waters Of Mars”.

When she was on the Blathereen spaceship, I actually wanted her to kill them on the spot. After all minutes before she landed on their ship, they openly ridiculed her stupidity for trusting them. They even managed to briefly turn the tables on her by keeping her captive for a few minutes.

The story did reveal two interesting things. One that the Blathereen had a bit of Slitheen in them and that they were ten times worse than their cousins and two, their addiction to the Rackweed. Seeing them chomp on the stuff was less funny, more grotesque but even they acknowledged that a planet filled with Rackweed would be too much for them.

It seems that the inhabitants from that planet are all just desperate to make money any way they can. Sadly in spite of all the danger surrounding them, that fact almost diminishes the carnage that ensued as a result of the story. Sarah Jane’s trapped on a ship, Luke’s near death and Clyde, Rani and K9 are trapped in the school with Rackweed after them. It doesn’t look.

The solution however of all the noise destroying the Rackweed was a little random though. However it did pay off when such noise also caused the deaths of both Tree and Leaf. Who would’ve thought that farting to death would pop up on this show? Not the most glorious of villain demises, now is it?

As for the end of the story, I thought the picnic scene was touching if a little twee. It’s been an interesting year for this show with the cast certainly more and more grounded into their respective roles. We had moments of Clyde’s silliness for trying to use K9 to cheat in a test, Sarah Jane fears of losing Luke and the snarky factor between K9 and Mr Smith. However for the next season, can we please have the Trickster?

Also in “The Gift”

The opening scene played a little similar to the trailer of the interactive game that was around during the promoting of Season 3.

Rani (re Slitheen): “How do we find him?”
Clyde: “We’d need a bloodhound.”
Sarah Jane: “Oh, why didn’t I think of that?”

This finale was scripted by a new writer, Rupert Laight. I wonder if he’ll be back next season.

Slitheen: “Sarah Jane Smith, how predictable.”
Sarah Jane: “I prefer reliable. Now I won’t ask you again, switch it off.”
Slitheen: “No chance.”

Clyde: “Look at me, cooking for the enemy.”
Sarah Jane: “I didn’t know you could cook, Clyde.”
Clyde: “I’m a man of many talents and it’s only shepherd’s pie. Mum taught me.”

The Blathereen have previously appeared in the Doctor Who book, “The Monster Inside”. This is their only TV appearance so far.

Tree: “Imagine the fame and the glory.”
Sarah Jane: “I’m not too bothered about the fame thing. We do what we do to help the world.”

Mr Smith: “I was going to thank you. A break from the dog is most needed.”
Clyde: “Bit annoying is he?”
Mr Smith: “I couldn’t possibly comment.”

I loved the little shout out to Perivale in this story. I’ll take my Seventh Doctor/Ace references where I can get them.

Rani: “Do you know what cynical means?”
Clyde: “I call it being realistic.”

Rani: “You’re actually going to go through with this, aren’t you? Cheating on a test, you’ve no morals at all.”
Clyde: “Oh and that’s why you love me.”
Rani: “Dream on, Clyde, dream on.”

Once again, both Gita and Haresh were absent from proceedings. So much for them getting bigger roles this season. And Tree was voiced by Simon Callow.

Tree (re Sarah Jane): “You have to feel sorry for her.”
Leaf: “Why? She took the Rackweed because she wanted glory. Same reason they always do. Get their ugly faces in the paper.”

Sarah Jane (re Slitheen): “You’re as bad as they are.”
Leaf: “For that remark we won’t kill you. We’ll keep you alive to watch your beloved planet Earth die and then we’ll kill you.”

The third season is due for DVD release in January 2010. Hopefully there’ll be no delays for it either.

As a finale goes, “The Gift” is a mixed bag. I can’t help but wonder if with some tweaking whether or not “The Wedding Of Sarah Jane Smith” would’ve been the better way to have ended the season. Still the Blathereen weren’t that bad and the character moments were nice as usual and here’s hoping for a fourth season. The show definitely deserves it.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Friday, November 20, 2009

That Man Is Dead (Doctor Who Christmas 2009/Season 5 Spoilers)

It's been five days since the last spoiler blog. That's what happens when things get interesting.

First promotional picture for The End Of Time with Wilfred Mott (Bernard Cribbins), The Doctor (David Tennant) and The Master (John Simm). One word - brilliant!

Outgoing Doctor (David Tennant) in one of the silliest things that the Doctor has ever worn. Tonight's preview for The End Of Time Part 1 (originally rumoured to be The Last Days Of Planet Earth, which sounds a little better if not strictly true) aired tonight. Some pointers.

- When you're summoned, it's usually best not to take a detour, especially when you're getting stuff about your song ending and someone knocking four times. No wonder Ood Sigma wasn't in the mood for the Doctor's jesting.

- The Ood we saw in the trailer is the Elder Ood. They've advanced in the last 100 years and have bad dreams. Nice to see that this alarmed the Doctor.

- 'That man is dead?' Doctor, you ever learn? Every time you bleat on about something or someone being dead, they usually show up and prove you wrong. Like the Master laughing maniacally in the shared dream thing with the Ood there.

- They are returning? Has to be the Time Lords. Now is the perfect them to reintroduce them en masse, isn't it?

- I wanted some Donna in those scenes (they were four and five). Still, only 35 days to go.

The clip can be seen here ...

Meanwhile some more Season 5 filming photos have shown up. Hey, I'm in heavy looking forward to Eleventh Doctor/Amy Pond mode while coming to terms with Tenth Doctor's imminent departure. I'm a bit weird in that way.

Rory (Arthur Darvill) and Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) head into a lovely red mini. From some of the rumours I've read, Rory's a recurring character in the fifth season. I think he's also Amy's boyfriend/brother.

Rory and Amy share an embrace. Well danger can be a clear motivator for getting close to a companion.
It may be sunny in November but clearly The Doctor (Matt Smith) is feeling a bit cold himself. From the pictures taken today by the usual suspects (thank you, Alun Vega and the Willows for making me aware), this is the touching up bit of the first episode.

A bit of a rear shot from the newest actor to play The Doctor. Just cause. Hey, we if we get to see Amy in mini-skirts, it's only fair we see The Doctor from behind. There's been some rumours about the titles of the episodes. One of the titles rumoured for the first one is supposed to be The Eleventh Hour, which is a little anvilicious for my liking. Then again by early January, all the main titles should start leaking anyways.

More can be seen here ...

Filming video can be seen here ...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Who Didn't See This Coming?

Getting caught up in other kinds of stuff, I neglected to address the cancellation of Dollhouse. I wish I could say it was a shock to the system but it isn't. It's a shame though, because Season 2 was showing an increase in quality and there are plenty of other things that FOX could bin instead.

Now that the show is gone, what are Joss Whedon's options? I can think of a few.

- Try taking the series to another station. Albeit a smaller one than FOX and even they might not be interested. Dollhouse is pretty out there as series go. Though SyFy are a likely choice.
- Movie it? It worked for Firefly mainly but I can't see studios fighting over themselves to bring this series to the big screen.
- Concentrate on the Buffy comics. 2010 will finally see Season 8 end and I'm pretty sure we'll get spoilers about Season 9 as well.
- Do another TV series. Preferably not on FOX.

What are other people's opinions on the Dollhouse situation? Were FOX right to pull the plug or has Joss Whedon been shafted by the wretched station once again?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Darkness Only Heralds One Thing (Doctor Who Christmas 2009 Spoilers)

If you haven't seen The Waters Of Mars, do not read ahead. Massive Christmas spoilers and the like.

Well, wasn't that something else?

The Doctor thought he was victorious, Adelaide shot herself and he began the slow realisation that death was coming his way. In forty days time, we will see the first part of The End Of Time, the story that will usher out the Tenth Doctor and judging by the trailer, it won't be pleasant.

Friends Reunited: Wilfred Mott (Bernard Cribbins) meets The Doctor (David Tennant) and learns that his hero is going to die. Having Wilfred as the main companion for the finale is a stroke of genius. I can't think of a more deserving candidate. Oh, wait a minute.

She Has Returned: Did anyone really think for a second that Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) wouldn't show up in the finale? She's rumoured not to be the only one reappearing but outside of Wilfred, I'm pretty sure her role is rather crucial. If that phone call is anything to go by, then it looks like Donna's getting a trip down memory lane.

My Name Is: The Master (John Simm). No smart suits or sleak brown hair. A dark blond look and hoodies, almost like a male Rose. Kidding! It will be interesting to see exactly what he's got in store for the universe. It's been rumoured that the Time Lords are returning in these specials. Would certainly be thematic for The Doctor.

Bad Dreams: Ood Sigma is definitely the harbinger of death. His role in these specials seems to be warning The Doctor of imminent regeneration as more spoilerish photos back at the start of the year have shown. Here he looks like he's in a white robe.

If The Doctor can have his companions, then surely The Master can still have his? Lucy Saxon (Alexandria Moen) clearly can't get enough of her psychotic husband and whatever trouble he's bringing, you can guarantee that Lucy won't be an innocent bystander in the matter.
Joshua Naismith (David Harewood). Who exactly is this bloke? We know he has a book called 'Fighting The Future' and that parts of it are triggering Donna's memories. It's also pretty clear that he's aligned with The Master as well.

Remember a scene of this episode will appear on Children In Need, between 8pm and 8.30pm on BBC1 from November 20th. The first part of this story is due on Christmas Day. Time has yet to be confirmed.

The End Of Time Part 1 Trailer:

My Review of Doctor Who's 4x16: "The Waters Of Mars"

Written by Russell T. Davies And Phil Ford
Directed by Graeme Harper

The Doctor (to Adelaide): “It’s taken me all these years to realise that the laws of time are mine and they will obey me.”

Those are the kind of words that only a man who knows death is upon him could say. That being said, no-one should ever utter those kinds of words and the actions of The Doctor in this story alone prove why.

In the last two specials, we’ve had Cybermen in Victorian London as well as Tritovores and the Swarm in a ravaged planet. Here, we’ve got a planet that we actually know of only too well and a storyline that mostly attempts to be more tangible in terms of reality that Doctor Who has arguably ever done.

Mars, the red planet, the inspiration of a David Bowie song and in recent years, also reported to have water on it. If anything you could almost wonder why the writers have waited until now to tackle a story. As soon as The Doctor touched base on the red planet, trouble was always going to be looming behind him.

A harmless robot named Gadget didn’t waste much time in arresting him and as soon as The Doctor met the crew of Bowie Base One, he had to do some talking to win over Adelaide. His usual snarky behaviour about guns aside, credit had to have been given to Adelaide. She might have been suspicious of him but evidently not enough to blast him into the middle of next week. That probably took some patience on her part.

Keeping with the classy casting, Lindsay Duncan was an interesting choice for the role of Adelaide. On paper and from some of the descriptions we’d gotten over the last few months, Adelaide was supposed to be one of the cleverest companions that The Doctor had travelled with.

Also from the trailer that aired at the end of “Planet Of The Dead” back in April, we also saw that she was tough as nails. Adelaide certainly deserved the adulation bestowed on her by the writers and even by The Doctor. After all, hers is the only crew that are currently living on Mars and they seem to be doing a good job of it.

They’ve got a stable enough base, are able to keep birds and thanks to Maggie and Andy, also seemed to be able to grow carrot. Mars might not be the place to make a life for yourself but it certainly was working for Adelaide. Then The Doctor had to show up and everything else had to go down the drain.

Okay, it’s not exactly The Doctor’s fault for the chaos that happened on Mars but it would’ve been weird if Adelaide’s crew didn’t at least entertain the thought, given his unexpected arrival. Ed was even trying to get The Doctor to admit at one point that he was some sort of spy while Maggie was trying to speculate what nationality he was from. Given the lack of contact that they’ve had with other people, I don’t blame them.

As for the trouble element of the episode, when you make such a big deal about the fact that there is water of Mars, naturally this would have to become the source of the problem. It also happened rather quickly into the episode. One minute Andy was gushing about his carrots, the next his skin broke, water was dripping from him and he became something called the Flood.

It seemed that for the most part of this episode, the transformations were happening at different times with the crew members. Maggie got infected straight after Andy but it was Tarak who changed quickly. It was also him and Andy that started chasing both The Doctor and Adelaide without a thought to spare.

Maggie’s transformation was something more complex. Stuck in sick bay, Yuri started talking about his family and where he lived and Maggie began asking the right questions. If previous trailers hadn’t spoiled it, I still would’ve guessed that when Maggie was probing Yuri about his hometown’s water that she had become the Flood.

The surprising thing from that exchange was the fact that Yuri didn’t become the fourth Flood victim there and then. Then again, it did seem too obvious and given the loss count of this episode, Yuri was one of the luckier ones. Too bad that the rest of his comrades didn’t really follow suit.

Ed for example was Adelaide’s second in command and their relationship seemed pretty tense at best. I know for the most part that it made sense for Adelaide to treat Ed with the same icy reserve as the rest of the crew but he was trying to help and I think she could’ve handled it a little better.

After all, we could thank him for trying to get the shuttle working in order to get everyone off Mars on Adelaide’s command. Out of everyone, I almost expected him to survive the Flood but instead of allowing himself to be taken over, he blew himself and the shuttle to smithereens. I wish I could say that that was the only time someone in this episode had to end their lives in quite a drastic way.

Roman was also another unfortunate victim but his transformation came after Steffi’s traumatic turn into a Flood creature. The best thing about this story was the fact that a lot of the crew on Bowie Base One seemed to stand out a little more compared to other stories. Roman was the man behind Gadget and Steffi was also a rather tragic character in her own right. The scene where she’s transforming is pretty painful to watch.

The Flood themselves were interesting enough villains. Largely spewing water got them out of having proper dialogue with The Doctor and Adelaide in the end. Plus their origins were a little ambiguous as well. That certainly helped with the mystique factor of them.

However the painful thing about this episode in general is the knowledge The Doctor has. He knows that Bowie Base One is a fixed point in time and that everyone is meant to die. His first reaction when realising who Adelaide and her crew are is to leg it. He had at least a few good opportunities before everything really went to hell to get out of there. I hare to say but he should’ve taken them.

The Doctor did himself no favours with being cryptic as well. When you know that someone’s going to die and the laws of time cannot be broken in order to save, it’s probably not a brilliant idea to give the unfortunate people the biggest of inklings of being aware of their demises. Even Adelaide didn’t need to know her smarts to twig that The Doctor knew more than he was letting on. He was practically spelling it out for her.

The fixed point in time idea was something that “The Fires Of Pompeii” touched on. Donna persuaded The Doctor to save Evelina and her family and he did, with reservation. Nothing happened as a result. Maybe it was because of this that The Doctor finally decided that he could do whatever he wanted when it came to the time lines.

After all, Adelaide is certainly an inspiring character. Her past encounter with a Dalek and how the creature inspired her to travel to the stars was hard not to be moved by. The fact that the horrific events of “The Stolen Earth”/“Journey’s End” could make her want to do something so wonderful was brilliant. And then there was the tying in of how her death would inspire her granddaughter to go further in the universe.

It’s because of this that The Doctor made a fatal error. Earlier on, Adelaide begged The Doctor to find a way for her to live, to spare her crew. She was even close to her own salvation until the Flood destroyed the shuttle. But even Adelaide realised that the laws of time couldn’t be tampered with.

When The Doctor came back to save her, her reaction was to tell him to leave. Adelaide knew what The Doctor was attempting to do was wrong. Even throwing the fact that he was the last of his kind and the four times a knocking wasn’t enough to dissuade. In fact there wasn’t a single person who thanked The Doctor.

Landing back on Earth, Gadget broke down, Mia freaked out and legged it and Yuri swiftly followed her. When it came to Adelaide, what really brought everything crashing down around her was The Doctor’s arrogance about changing a fixed point. The way he demanded that someone thank him was enough to make me want to punch him.

David Tennant played the last couple of scenes in this story brilliantly. If it wasn’t obvious before that The Doctor’s song was coming to an end, then this certainly made it abundantly. Adelaide rightfully tore The Doctor to shreds about what he had done but it wasn’t until she had to correct his mistake did he realise that she was right.

There are times on this show when I’m glad that something is concealed. I think Adelaide shooting herself inside her house where it couldn’t be seen was just as effective than if she had done it in front of The Doctor’s face. It’s depressing that in order to keep history consistent, Adelaide was forced to end her life voluntarily, even if that had been the original course of action she would’ve taken on Mars.

Seeing The Doctor’s reaction added to the intensity of the moment. For all the talk he had of being the Time Lord Victorious, Adelaide’s death was a big reality check for him. Then there was the sight of Ood Sigma. If ever there was a suitable harbinger of death, then the creature that told The Doctor his song was ending was the best way of doing it. Christmas is most definitely not going to be a bed of roses for The Doctor, that’s a guarantee.

Also in “The Waters Of Mars”

This is the second episode of the new series to have a co-written effort. Then again, because of this, Phil Ford can now say that he’s written for all three shows. Good for him. Lindsay Duncan’s name was also in the credits for this episode.

The Doctor (re gun): “But you could hurt someone with that thing. Just put it down.”
Adelaide: “Oh, you’d like that.”
The Doctor: “Can you find me someone who wouldn’t?”

I read somewhere that Adelaide almost went by the name of Grace. I think one is more than fine fans.

The Doctor (to the crew): “I’m sorry with all of my hearts but this is one of those rare times when I don’t have a choice.”

The Doctor: “That’s the Adelaide Brooke I’ve always wanted to meet. The woman with starlight in her soul.”

I liked the design of Gadget, deliberately scrapped together and the moment where Roman’s being electrocuted as a result of The Doctor’s upgrade is probably the funniest moment in the episode.

Adelaide: “Are you the Doctor or the janitor?”
The Doctor: “I don’t know, sounds like me. Maintenance man of the universe.”

Adelaide: “I thought you hated robots.”
The Doctor: “I do.”

The earliest trailer we got for this episode, post April was back in July as a result of Comic-Con.

The Doctor: “Water is patient, Adelaide. Water justs waits. When it’s done the cliff tops, the mountains, the whole of the world, water always wins.”

Adelaide (re Dalek): “It simply went away. I swore that night I would follow it.”
The Doctor: “But not for revenge?”
Adelaide: “What would be the point of that?”

Despite a lot of rumours, this episode did not feature the Ice Warriors but there was the strong implication that they trapped the Flood in a glacier on Mars.

Adelaide: “Why won’t you help, Doctor, if you know all this, why can’t you change it?”
The Doctor: “I can’t.”

Ed (to Adelaide): “You never could forgive me. See you later.”

This episode had an “In Memory” tribute to the recently deceased Barry Letts. I love this show for honouring past producers.

Adelaide: "It can't be stopped. Don't die with us."
The Doctor: “No, because someone told me, just recently, they said I was gonna die. They said he would knock four times and I think I know what that means and it doesn’t mean right here, right now ‘cause I don’t hear anyone knocking, do you?”

The Doctor (to Adelaide): “We’re not just fighting the Flood, we’re fighting time itself and I’m gonna win.”

A DVD for this episode and all of the specials (including “The Next Doctor”) is due for a January 2010 release.

Adelaide: “Is there nothing you can’t do?”
The Doctor: “Not anymore.”

The Doctor (to Ood Sigma): “I’ve gone too far. Is this it, my death? Is it time?”

The trailer showed the Master, Lucy, Donna, Wilfred, Joshua Naismith, Ood Sigma, alluded to nightmares and went under “The End Of Time”. A preview scene can be seen on Children In Need, BBC1 at 8pm from November 20th.

Given it’s unfortunate position, “The Waters Of Mars” not only turned out to be better than the previous episode but it was amazing. Devastating, highlighting a real beginning of the end feel that we’ve had to be accustomed with for the past year. Thank goodness we only have to wait a month for the next special. I don’t think I would be able to wait any longer for it.

Rating: 10 out of 10.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

My Review of The Sarah Jane Adventures 3x05: "Mona Lisa's Revenge"

Written by Phil Ford
Directed by Joss Agnew

Mona Lisa (to Luke): “I’ve just had five centuries hanging on a wall, sugar. What is it you think I want? It’s time I had a bit of fun and I think I’ll start with a bit of target practice.”

They say that you should never meet your heroes because they’ll only end up disappointing you. If that’s really the case, then a suddenly made flesh Mona Lisa really does one worse, doesn’t she? I never knew the object of Leonardo’s painting was such a psychopath until this story surfaced.

Flown in from the Louvre, Mona Lisa’s arrival was going to generate much attention. If Doctor Who can give us Dickens, Shakespeare and Agatha Christie, then building an alien related story around the Mona Lisa was always going to be a walk in the park. In a way it painted a very different picture behind the famous lady.

Of course Mona Lisa coming to life from her painting had to involve the gang, so Clyde winning a competition to see Mona Lisa was a good way of getting them right into the action. Let’s just say that Clyde’s artistic talents are a big part of this story. After all, he drew Sontaran blasters on his own prize winner and Lisa certainly had fun using one of them at her disposal.

Suranne Jones, mostly known for her role of Karen McDonald in Coronation Street was an interesting choice for the title role. Certainly not what I would’ve envisioned for the role but it worked out very well. Provided you put your pedantry about the real Mona Lisa aside and switched your brain off.

In some ways, watching her in action as Lisa was like watching her Corrie alter-ego all over again. Lisa might have boasted about being the classiest woman around but she certainly didn’t act that way through the whole story. Even in the 1500s they must have had ladette culture.

Still her allure was enough to get Lionel Harding mostly trying to appeal to her better nature. This story wouldn’t have been complete without at least one person gushing over the Mona Lisa and Lionel was the very fellow who worshipped the painting and the woman come to life as a result.

It meant because of his worship that he chose to ignore Sarah Jane’s warning about Miss Trupp’s awful fate being bound in a painting. It was also the same fate that befell Sarah Jane and pretty much everyone else as well as a result. Well, Lisa did need something other than a Sontaran blaster at her disposal, didn’t she?

So, apart from escaping a painting, where else could they have gone with the character? It seemed that the writer Phil Ford wanted to strive for a bit of an emotional arc. That meant Lisa wanting to release her brother from the painting that he had been trapped in. If you think that underneath it all, there’s a touching story here, look again.

Not only was Lisa utterly clueless about what her alleged brother actually looked like but it turned out very fast that the mysterious was also something of a sociopath. As if one nutcase wasn’t enough, this story was going to throw two into the mix. At this point, even Harding was beginning to realise that Lisa’s release from her painting was a bad thing.

Discontent with the fact that she was trapped in the museum itself, releasing her brother was going to be the best revenge she could get. After all, he went by the name of the Abomination, apparently drove people insane who gazed upon and once released would burn the world. It was also due to their connection and both of them being in the same building that she was able to get free in the first place.

With Sarah Jane mostly out of the loop, it was up to the kids to save the day with this one. Mona Lisa herself delighted in taunting Luke about his mother being trapped in a painting and she also wasted no time in releasing the Dark Rider to try and keep them out of the way.

The macguffin of the story however lay in the Chinese lock the story was under. When Luke agreed to help Lisa get her brother after Harding smashed the lock, the plan seemed obvious enough. Clyde drew a new lock; Mona Lisa brought it to life and inadvertently K9 along with it. K9 destroyed the Abomination and Mona Lisa found herself going back into her painting.

There was an air of simplicity to it but it was effective enough. Mona Lisa went from being affronted by the idea of being living art (Harding’s original offer) to seeing it as the lesser of two evils. I guess the moral of the tale here was that some things really are best left to where they originally were.

As a concept Mona Lisa did work. She was evil enough to drive the story, had a fairly original take on wanting to be reunited with a lost family member and Suranne Jones, despite being a bit OTT in places really seemed to have a lot of fun with the role.

As for Harding, I actually felt a little sorry for the bloke. He wasn’t a terrible person, just blinded by his appreciation of the Mona Lisa but at the same time, I did think it was a smart idea for Miss Trupp to tell him off for the way he treated her. That was something that he needed to hear, even if he did do the right thing in the end.

The other part of this story then fell into Luke and Sarah Jane. For the first time we saw Luke act like a real teenage with his argument with Sarah Jane. We also saw Sarah Jane beginning to realise that he’s growing up and like other teenagers, was definitely prone to being a bit lazy from time to time.

Rani’s part in this story by comparison fell a little short. Not very much happened with her at all but there were some moments with Clyde. There was definitely something rather telling with the way he talked to Luke and Rani about drawing for company and even Haresh were forced to admit that Clyde had talent.

Also in “Mona Lisa’s Revenge”

Clyde’s picture contained three scantily clad girls with Sontaran blasters. Not my thing but I can see why it would appeal to others.

Luke: “I don’t know what you want from me. You say you’re trying to give me a normal life but when I act like a real teenager, you want me to be perfect again. The way the Bane made me.”
Sarah Jane: “I’m sorry you feel like that.”
Luke: “So am I.”

There’s a wonderful reference to “Planet Of The Dead” where Harding commented about the cup of Athelstan. I guess the cops never did catch up with Christina and her flying bus.

Phyllis: “Do you know how lucky you are? Lionel worships you. If only he looked at me with the same eyes.”
Mona Lisa: “Oh, quit your moaning love. Do us all a favour.”

Rani: “Good cover story.”
Luke: “No, I really need the loo.”
Rani: “Oh, well like Dad said, be quick.”

One of the things that was promised this season was Haresh and Gita getting more to do but apart from their Judoon encounter, they’ve been pretty underused this season.

Mona Lisa: “Seems like no-one wants you around, Sezza, not even your son.”
Sarah Jane: “What?”
Mona Lisa: “Heard him talking before. He’d like you to keep your nose out. So would I.”

Luke (re Sarah Jane): “What have you done to her?”
Mona Lisa: “Do you not like it? I know art’s meant to be subjective but I think she looks pretty as a picture. Well, most pictures.”

The alien element of Mona Lisa’s appearance seemed to be paints derived from the rocks were from a meteorite.

Lionel: “Can’t you appreciate the wonder of what’s happened today?”
Clyde: “Can’t you appreciate that she’s nuts?”
Mona Lisa: “I’m standing right here, boys.”

Lionel: “I’ve been a fool.”
Mona Lisa: “Well I could’ve told you that any day. Now give me the puzzle.”

Lizo Mzimba was a guest star in the first part of this episode. And I liked Sarah Jane’s reaction when Mr Smith was reading Miss Trupp’s personal ad.

Mona Lisa: “You know, Clydey, this Sultana blaster -”
Rani: “I think you mean Sontaran.”
Mona Lisa: “Whatever.”

Mona Lisa: “I can’t go back into that frame, I won’t.”
Luke: “You’ve got no choice.”
Mona Lisa (to Lionel): “Please. That room you promised me, a living work of art, that’s what you said, I’ll do it. I’ll do anything if you let me stay here. If you let me live.”

Chronology: None was exactly specified in this story, was there?

“Mona Lisa’s Revenge” seems to have divided some online posters. I choose to look at it as a bit of silly fun. Not the best use of an historical character as such but definitely a fun, frothy story. I just hope the finale can be just as good.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Friday, November 13, 2009

My Review of "Angels In America"

Written by Tony Kushner
Directed by Mike Nichols

Prior: “I’m almost done. The fountain’s not flowing now; they turn it off in the winter, ice in the pipes. But in the summer it’s a sight to see. I want to be around to see it. I plan to be. I hope to be. This disease will be the end of many of us, but not nearly all, and the dead will be commemorated and will struggle on with the living, and we are not going away. We won’t die secret deaths anymore. The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come.”

Quite a lengthy speech but it’s certainly one of many memorable ones from this play. A play that 18 years after its debut became one of the most successful and engaging mini-series that HBO have ever produced. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour and grab a copy.

Angels In America is primarily as gay themed as you can get. On one hand you have Prior and Louis, a couple who’ve been together for the last four years but whose world are turned upside down when Prior finds out that he has AIDS. Louis’s ultimate response is to abandon his lover and take with a new one.

That leads to our second couple, Harper and Joe. From the offset their marriage is on thin ice with her erratic behaviour and his distancing from her. Learning that he’s gay and deeply closeted will shock very little people but his self-loathing and hypocrisy is ultimately the ending of both his marriage and his dalliance with Louis as well.

The other main gay character in the frame is Roy Cohen. One of the most ruthless men on the planet, he also suffers from AIDS (like Prior) and is deeply closeted about his sexual identity (like Joe from the start). His ending is the one resulting in death, haunted by the nice Ethel, who he had sent to the electric chair.

In between these stories, is also the arrival of the Angel. She’s the one that convinced Prior that he was a prophet of some kind, though it’s sort of disappointing that he doesn’t really get to realise that out. Though there is a moment within both plays were he got to see heaven, so things weren’t all bad.

One of the strongest things about this story is the characters. They’re all as fucked as you can get and for some reason, it’s great to see that neither Harper/Joe nor Prior/Louis actually reconcile. Some relationships are meant to be shipped but the two prominent ones in this story aren’t those of relationships. It also that every character is believable, regardless of how you might feel about them.

Some of the other characters in this story flourish brilliantly as well. While Harper is actually the character I empathised with (apart from Louis), I also immensely enjoyed Joe’s rather repressed mother, Hannah and Prior’s flamboyant friend, Belize who certainly provided moral support for his pals and wonderfully pithy dialogue all the through.

In terms of sexual content, there isn’t actually a lot to speak of. Joe got at least two sex scenes with both Louis and Harper and the Angel herself had sex with both Prior and Hannah. Now that was weird to watch. Then again, this was a polemic double play with a strong message in regards to AIDS back in the 1980’s, a message that still holds relevance today.

- This was made into a mini-series in 2003, with Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, Mary Louise-Parker, Jeffrey Wright, Al Pacino and Justin Kirk tackling the main roles.
- Between plays and mini-series, there isn’t much in the way of changes. I think some scenes were a little skimmed but that’s all.
- The plays themselves went under the titles of “Millennium Approaches” and “Perestroika”.
- Jeffrey Wright is one of the few actors to have played the character of Belize both on stage in 1993 and on screen in 2003.

Touching on a lot of important themes, “Angels In America” certainly made great use of its six hour running. Also with a powerhouse cast, it’s no wonder that this is one of the most highly regarded pieces of work.

Rating: 10 out of 10.

Something To Look Forward To (Skins Season 4 Spoilers)

Reasons why I love Afterellen all the more.

It seems that the fourth season of Skins is still being filmed and while it's unlikely that I'll ever care about Cook/Effy/Freddie triangle of boredom, the writers are certainly showing some happy Emily/Naomi action.

The girls share a moment in bed, minus the sex part. Not that the show won't give viewers some girl on girl material. But clearly there's some calmer moments with them this year.

And some snogging between them as well. Their relationship is pretty out in the open. It's only having to deal with the reaction from Emily's parents, especially the mother seeing as Katie has approved them.

Mexican hats, beards and tequillas. More party time on the only show that shows teenagers being genuinely hedonistic at times.

Season 4 debuts on E4 from January 21st 2010 and will have eight episodes. More pictures can be seen here ....

Season 4 Trailer:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My Review of Dollhouse's 2x04: "Belonging"

Written by Jed Whedon And Maurissa Tanchereon
Directed by Jonathan Frakes

Nolan: “I have offered you everything. What else do you want?”
Priya: “I wanna walk out the damn door.”

If this show doesn’t make it to a third season, then this is without a doubt going to be one of the most discussed episodes this show has pulled since “Epitaph One” to be honest. Last season we got hints of Sierra’s back story. This episode went one better by detailing the entire thing.

So, Sierra prior to her life in the Dollhouse was a nice girl named Priya who tried to resist the advances of wealthy Nolan. You can see why. Nolan might be a good looking man and loaded but he’s also a deeply horrible man and this story highlighted beyond doubt that some people really do deserve to have their ass handed to them.

Nolan realised quickly that he couldn’t buy Priya and he tried his best on that one. Even getting her to paint something for an art show wasn’t helping. Heck, not even Echo and Victor could try and get Priya into fancying Nolan. Actually putting Victor in proximity of Priya was a big mistake for Nolan.

It sucks fancying someone who doesn’t feel the same way but to completely destroy that person’s life because they refused your advances is unbelievable. Viewers hated Nolan when he debuted in “Needs”. Now that hate just tripled and intensified all the more.

Priya made it clear that nothing would get her into bed with Nolan. Of course this episode would have to open with Sierra in Nolan’s arms, believing that he was the perfect man for her. Another reminder of how horrific the Dollhouse is.

I did wonder how Nolan exactly got the right to be able to sign Priya up for the Dollhouse. It turned out that all he had to do was drug her up so badly that she was institutionalised and the likes of Topher would believe that he was giving a mentally unbalanced woman a better life. Yeah, Topher not the brightest button, is he?

Funnily enough, we have Echo to thank for a lot of this episode. In spite of the fact that she’s underused in the story, she did show Topher one of Sierra’s pictures that alluded to the bad man. In some ways, there were two bad men to speak of. Nolan doesn’t have to be explained but Topher was bad for not looking at everything properly.

It was only when he went through Sierra/Priya’s scans again that he realised that she was drugged. In a lot of the ways, this episode was to be proof that in spite of viewing the Actives as toys, there’s a part of Topher that actually gives a shit about them as people. It’s good to know. Better was his intent to try and remedy the situation.

Alerting Boyd to it was one thing, involving Adelle was another. Granted she overheard the exchange but even Adelle was disgusted by the lengths that Nolan went to keep Priya as his love slave. Was Nolan right to lambast Adelle as a hypocrite? Was Matthew Harding, the Rossum guy? Yes and no!

Working in the Dollhouse is a degrading business because we’ve seen that the majority of the Actives were often coerced or plain forced into signing up, so on that level, Adelle might not have a lot of moral high ground. However, the fact that Harding elected to do nothing but force Adelle to hand over Priya to Nolan forever was cold.

Seeing Topher and Adelle argue over the decision made for some of the best TV from the series. Both of them raised points about protocol and each other but the idea of Priya being trapped with Nolan forever was an unbearable idea in of itself.

Because of that it wasn’t surprising that Topher did some tampering of his own. Making Priya remember everything about her last year was supposed to be his way to help her and atone himself. Sadly, like some of the well intentioned plans, something had to do horribly wrong.

In a realistic world, I wouldn’t waste a second grieving over someone like Nolan. Even when Priya stabbed him, it was in self-defence and it horrified her. This was after seeing him knocking her into next week when she was finally able to stand up to him. Goodbye Nolan, you won’t be missed.

As for Boyd and Topher, it was their job to help cover the mess. Something tells me that burning the body aside in sulphuric acid won’t be enough. There will be some long term consequences to what just happened with Nolan. Even Adelle herself didn’t seem convinced when Boyd told her that Nolan skipped the country.

As for the final scenes with Priya and Topher, choosing to forget might be the best thing for her now. Until Echo’s plan goes into motion, she’s still stuck in the Dollhouse but at least one joyful thing came out of this story – her and Victor.

We know that they love each other and the writers and actors have made it hard for viewers not to love them as a couple and this episode proved why. Victor’s devotion to her (he tried to get rid of the black paint) and Sierra realising how he felt for her (after Priya taunted Nolan about her love for Victor) was just delightful.

Echo on the other hand, if Boyd can catch up with you trying to stir things in the Dollhouse, then soon enough someone else will to. Luckily for us, Boyd is actually on her side and even gave her an All Access card. He also might have a valid point about Echo causing a storm also.

Also in “Belonging”

We had a Season 2 episode of Angel, which was also called “Belonging”. This was obviously better.

Sierra (re black): “I don’t like this colour though.”
Victor: “Why do you use it?”
Sierra: “It’s always here.”

Matthew Harding, the Rossum guy was played by Keith Carradine. I have a feeling we’ll see him again this season.

Victor (re black paint): “Is this wrong?”
Echo: “No, it’s good. You’re taking charge. You’re taking matters into your own hands.”
Victor: “They’re in my shirt.”

Matthew: “What are we already?”
Adelle: “We’re not slave merchants.”

Because of this episode, we got to hear Dichen Lachman more in her native tongue, with the writers acknowledges that Priya is Australian.

Adelle (to Topher, re Sierra): “You have always thought of people as playthings. This is not a judgement, you’ve always taken care of your toys but you’re going to have to let this one go.”

Topher: “Do you know where you are?”
Priya: “I’m in hell.”
Topher: “You’re in Los Angeles but I can understand the mix up.”

In the UK, Sci-Fi will air the remaining episodes of Season 2 in January.

Echo (to Boyd): “I don’t care. Something bad is coming, like a storm and I want everyone to wake up.”

Priya (to Nolan, re Victor): “I love him so much more than I hate you.”

This is the first episode not to feature Paul and to be fair, it works perfectly well without him.

Topher (re Priya): “I was just trying to help her and now she’s ruined.”
Boyd: “You had a moral dilemma. Your first and it didn’t go well.”
Topher: “Priya does not belong in the Dollhouse.”
Boyd: “She does now.”

Priya (re Victor): “I love him, is that real?”
Topher: “Yes, it’s real. He loves you back.”

Chronology: A year since “Ghost”, according to the flashbacks we saw in this episode.

Without a doubt the best episode from the series. “Belonging” is just wonderful storytelling, brimmed with shocking and discussion worthy moments and sublime performances from Dichen Lachman, Vincent Ventressa and Fran Kanz.

Rating: 10 out of 10.

My Review of Buffy The Vampire Slayer's 8x30: "Retreat Part 5"

Written by Jane Espenson
Artwork by Georges Jeanty

Buffy: “The goddesses. They’re not on our side.”
Willow: “What? We – they --”
Buffy: “They’re not on anyone’s side, they’re killers and we’re not getting our powers back. We didn’t bring help. We brought death.”

And this is how you make a dire situation ten times worse – summon three unhinged goddesses who’ll happily kill everything and anything in their way. Goddesses are clearly never going to be a benevolent force on this show. Buffy just made her outcome even worse than she already had inadvertently done.

At first it did look like everything was moving in their favour. The goddesses arrived and started despatching most of Twilight’s soldiers. Then it started in on the slayers as well. As allies went, the goddesses were a very poor choice.

I knew there was going to be consequences for the slayers surrendering their power to the Earth but this was just devastating. Completely powerless, they were barely able to defend themselves from both Twilight and the goddesses and in the end, the most predictable of outcome happened – they lost.

The last scene with the majority of them being rounded up proved that sometimes, the villains do win. Twilight effectively just waited for the dust to settle to snare the survivors and what he plans to do with them is something we won’t be finding out until the New Year.

Twilight’s motives in this one were strange enough, I’ll grant you. He was pretty unfazed when he realised that Riley had double crossed him and while he’s probably tiring of Amy and Warren’s constant bickering, he was also perfectly happy to walk away and let them squabble amongst themselves like a bunch of children.

Then there was sacrificing his soldiers. That didn’t sit too well with the commander guy that was begging Twilight to let him pull his men out of the fight. But at the same time, was it shocking that Twilight was interested in seeing what the goddesses could do to the men? Not for one second.

That might end up coming back to haunt Twilight in future issues. If he’s too willing to sacrifice his men on a whim then I can see the soldiers turning on him. Twilight might be clever but he’s also been dependent on the government as well as Amy, Warren and Riley to pull off some of his schemes so far. What happens when one of them decides that they don’t really need Twilight in order to best Buffy once and for all?

Speaking of someone not being needed, Warren really was made to feel like the Zeppo of the bunch in this issue, wasn’t it? I absolutely loved Amy for her sheer belittlement of Warren, who’s out and out misogyny underlines a little man syndrome if ever there was one. He really is threatened that Amy is cleverer than him and not mightily impressed with her constantly reminding him that she’s his skin.

I’m hoping by the end of this comic season that Warren is permanently killed off because although there was the initial shock of his return earlier on in the series, the writers haven’t actually utilised him all that much and it’s pretty apparent in this issue alone that Twilight and Amy see him as neither use, nor ornament as well. Plus, no-one would actually miss Warren either, so there’s another valid reason why Amy should finish what Willow started.

She already perceptively pointed out that Warren’s plan of tricking Andrew at the start of this arc was ridiculous. It was ridiculous, in the same way that Warren attempting to undermine Twilight when the latter realised that Riley was working for Buffy all along. I guess we should’ve seen that coming. I’m glad that Riley isn’t a bad guy.

That being said, Riley didn’t fare all that much better in the story either. Like Bay, he’s alive but also seriously injured and at this point in time, probably captured as well. He had some nice little moments with Buffy and the gang but even during his time undercover, he still wasn’t able to come up with anything to help the gang stop Twilight.

However the biggest talking point of the entire story are the goddesses. Seemingly because of them, everyone is still powerless and that’s something that Twilight is going to delight in no doubt but the strangest moment was when one of them grabbed Buffy and then dropped her to the ground without a second thought.

By rights, Buffy should’ve been dead from this. Instead she rose from the snow and watched as the goddesses continued their rampage through Tibet. Thinking about it, this probably means that Buffy now has everyone’s powers to boot, including Willow’s. Sucks for everyone else, but will Buffy be able to mentally handle all of that power surging through her?

Also in “Retreat Part 5”

Adam Hughes cover for this issue is gorgeous. Buffy in a blizzard, which got added into the issue itself for good measure.

Warren: “It didn’t have to get to this point. I was working on Andrew. He was buying it. If you’d let me continue -”
Amy: “Your whole plan didn’t even make sense – The First tempted him before, not you, and you are no The First.”
Warren: “But the whole we-are-as-gods thing was totally getting to him! I mean, just look out there! Gods are a big deal.”

The fact that Amy knows that The First tempted Andrew as Warren was a good indicator that she did have ties to it in Season Seven.

Bayaarma: “They shouldn’t have come here.”
Oz: “Who? Buffy and everyone? Or the goddesses?”
Bayaarma: “We gave them everything.”

Amy: “Buffy’s in that jeep. Where’s she going?”
Warren: “Why don’t I have binoculars?”
Twilight: “The goddesses almost killed them.”

Maybe it was due to the severity of what was going on, but Buffy was less agitated with Xander in this issue.

Bayaarma (re goddesses): “It’s been too long since we shared the surface with them. They don’t recognise the ones who feed them.”
Kennedy: “Are we going to get our powers back?”
Faith: “No.”

Buffy: “Hang on.”
Riley: “People always say that when someone’s hurt really badly, but I don’t think it helps.”

Dark Horses are doing some one shots with Dr Horrible and Sugar Shock for all you Joss Whedon fans out there.

Amy: “Shut up, Warren.”
Warren: “Stop cutting me down!”
Twilight: “We can’t trust anyone anymore. Tell me -”
Warren: “You’re the least supportive girlfriend ever!”
Amy: “I’m your skin.”
Warren: “Oh, you always have to go there!”

Buffy (re being able to fly): “What the hell?!”

Next issue, a one shot called “Willow” is due out on December 23rd.

As arcs end, this one is definitely something of a traditional cliff hanger. “Retreat Part 5” does move beautifully and it’s certainly the best issue from the entire arc. But I’m hoping that by this time 2010, all of the events leading up to this will pay off spectacularly.

Rating: 9 out of 10.