Doctor Who – Into the Dalek

It’s nice to see that the second episode of the new season has kept some of the slower and more thoughtful pace from last weeks opener even thought were back to the 45 minute running time.

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In this instalment the Doctor rescues a soldier called Journey Blue from impending Dalek death. She insists the Doctor takes her back to her mothership and threatens to kill him if he doesn’t. Capaldi excels with the offhand way he makes her eventually say please before he complies. He takes her back to her hidden mothership where he discovers something unlikely, a ‘good’ Dalek. The crew of the ship want to shrink the Doctor down Fantastic Voyage style and inject him and a team of soldiers into the Dalek to fix some internal damage and then use the Dalek to help them exterminate the other attacking Daleks.

The Doctor pops pack to Earth to pick up Clara. She introduces herself as the doctors ‘career’. ‘She cares so I don’t have to,’ retorts the Doctor.

There’s a spooky little scene where the shrunken team are injected through the Dalek’s eye stalk and have to get through the blue glow of the eye which might be a fluid or a force field.

In conversation with the Dalek (whom the doctor has named ‘Rusty’) the Doctor discovers why the Dalek turned good: it witnessed the birth of a star amid the destruction caused by the Daleks. Rusty realised that the Daleks can never destroy life completely, that something will come back and that it was beautiful.

Later when the doctor fixes the problem, a radiation leak. Rusty revers to type and promises extermination. Rusty starts attacking the other humans on the ship while the Dalek invasion force arrives. The doctor angryly maintains that there can never be a good Dalek until Clara convinces him that he’s wrong.

The Doctor gets Clara to turn back on the censored memories in the Dalek’s memory core and he tries to get Rusty to remember the star. He also gives the Dalek his own memories but this has the unintended consequence of showing Rusty how much the Doctor hates the Daleks. Rusty is impressed by the Doctors hate but the Doctor is aghast. There must be something more he insists.

Meanwhile the Dalek invasion forces is moving through the ship and exterminating all around them. These sequences were very impressively done and felt very cinematic.

Rusty destroys the other Daleks and transmits a signal to the Dalek ship that the human ship is self destructing so they will break off the attack.

There are obviously some strong similarities with the episode Dalek from 2005 where the Ninth Doctor was forced to confront his own hate for the Daleks. It’s also nice to see some continuity going back to the very first episodes where the Doctor says he was running until he encounter the Daleks on Skaro for the first time.

Capaldi is impressive and we get a look at a slightly less touchy-freely Doctor here, for example his flippant reaction to the death of the soldiers in his miniaturised team. Plus he makes you say ‘please’.

Bond in Motion

(Sorry for the not-very-fantastic quality of the images. It was only a camera phone and the majority of the exhibits were in the basement with low lighting to enable movie clips to be played.)

On display were a number of cars and other vehicles from a large selection of Bond movies along with various props and models. Some of the vehicles from the older movies included the Rolls Royce from Goldfinger, the Little Nellie gyrocopter from You Only Live Twice, the submarine Lotus from The Spy Who Loved Me and the Aston Martin V8 from The Living Daylights.

The later movies were well represented with the Aston Martin DB5 from Goldeneye, the BMWs from Tomorrow Never Dies and The World is not Enough, the Aston Martin Vanquish and Jaguar from Die Another Day and two very badly smashed up Aston Martin DBS examples from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

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The London Film Museum in Covent Garden
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Ken Adam art of the Submarine Lotus
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Model of MI6 Headquarters
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Props from Casino Royale
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Aston Martin V8 from The Living Daylights
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Aston Martin DBS from Quantum of Solace
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Aston Martin DB5 from Goldeneye
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Aston Martin Vanquish from Die Another Day
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Rolls Royce from Goldfinger
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Lotus Esprit Submarine from The Spy Who Loved Me
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Ford Mustang from Diamonds are Forever
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Rolls Royce from A View to a Kill
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Mercury Cougar from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Doctor Who – Deep Breath

Last night Deep Breath, the first episode of Doctor Who featuring the Twelfth Doctor as played by Peter Capaldi, aired on BBC1. Here are my first thoughts on the episode. While I am not going to give a summary of the events of the action be warned that significant spoilers follow.

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The entirety of the episode took place in Victorian London with the new Doctor going through the after affects of regenerating. Madame Vastra’s gang turns up to lend support while Clara wonders what to make of the change to the Doctor. Is he even the same man anymore?

The episode is in the region of 80 minutes long so it is significantly longer than the standard 45 minutes. This means the story had time to breathe (if you excuse the pun on the episode title).

The biggest surprise was how less frenetically paced the episode was. In fact I would even describe the story as having a quite somber tone.

This slower pace allowed some nice character stuff that would probably be excised from a 45 minute episode. For example there’s an early scene where Vastra is trying to get to the bottom of Clara’s reluctance to accept the “new” doctor. Also there is a nice bit of business between a very confused Doctor and a man he encounters in an alley.

The episode’s villain is a clockwork man, a man who was once human and has had bits replaced with clockwork pieces and human spare parts. Or perhaps it was the other way around. Either way it produced the episode’s most important scene where Capaldi’s Doctor exchanges dialog with the clockwork man on the subject of a broom: If you replace the brush and then the handle do you still have the same broom asks the Doctor, telling the clockwork man that there’s nothing left of the original. And the obvious irony is that this applies to the Doctor equally as well as he has been “renewed” a dozen times.

And you know what, the episode was a bit dark. The main plot features the harvesting of people for their body parts, a balloon made of human skin, and some ambiguity about whether or not the Doctor pushed the clockwork man out of the door at the end.

A strong sequence had the Doctor and Clara getting trapped in the villain’s lair. There was a great scene where the Doctor and Clara realise that the other diners in a restaurant are not what they seem. It was a very well executed reveal. Later Clara got separated from the Doctor and had to fend for herself. Going unnoticed involved her holding her breath while the clockwork man was examining her for signs of life. It was a lovely tense little moment.

On the subject of Clara it has taken me a while to warm to her. For most of season 7 I honestly wasn’t a fan but she grew on me in The Day of the Doctor and The Time of the Doctor. Now, just between you and me, I’m actually becoming quite fond of her.

I suspect next week with the return of the 45 minute length there will be a return to the frenetic running around with less chance for subtly. But you never know.

At the end of the episode there was a surprise cameo from Matt Smith, on the verge of regenerating. He phoned Clara to basically ask her to stay with the “new” doctor to help him. This was was very nicely done and I’m fairly sure this scene was directed at the audience to say “give the new guy a chance.” I also thought Capladi was surprisingly vulnerable in those scenes, desperate for Clara to accept him as the Doctor.

Other notes…

I loved the little bit where Vastra spoke in a Scottish accent because the actress Neve Macintosh is of course Scottish. I remember her playing nurse Donna Rix in the BBC’s Bodies with her own accent.

Also worth mentioning is Sontaran Strax who continues to be the source of the funniest moments. There’s a great slapstick gag with a newspaper that put a smile on my face.

I think the new opening titles featuring clock face iconography and spinning cogs will take me a little while to get used to because the show has always done something with the time vortex since the early episodes but I am sure it will grow on me. Also the music was very different and that threw me a little bit, ironically since it’s probably the closest the new show has got to the old show’s theme since it returned in 2005.

In summary Deep Breath was a very enjoyable episode. The slower pace was very welcome and I hope they can do something like it again.

The 100 – first thoughts

I decided to give a new CW TV show called The 100 a go. On first glance it should appeal to me. It’s set in a post-nuclear holocaust future where Earth had been rendered uninhabitable. The only survivors of humanity live on an orbiting space station called the Ark. Some prisoners – the 100 of the title – are sent down to the surface of the planet to see if it is habitable again.

Now I must point out that I did have some reservations. The prisoners in question are what you would probably describe as “juvenile delinquents”. The images I had seen of the show presented lots of good looking young folk (who were supposed to be in their teens but the actors are probably in the late twenties). I caught a distinct whiff of love triangle plot developments just by looking at still images.

But I thought I’d try out the next episode that was broadcast on TV here in the UK on E4. It happened to be episode six but it quickly got me up to speed.

In this episode we got some flashbacks where a woman on the space station had a second child which was in contravention of a strict one child only law. She therefore had to keep the existence of the second child, a girl named Octavia, a secret and whenever anyone came to the living quarters the girl had to hide under the floor. The only other person who knew was the girl’s brother Bellamy. So the girl has to grow up within the same four walls and never meets anyone else. Eventually when she is 17 she ventured out and got caught.

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Marie Avgeropoulos (28) as Octavia (17)

Oh, and I should mention that if you break a law on the space station the punishment for adults is “floating” i.e. you’re ejected out of the airlock. This is the fate of Octavia’s mother.

Live on the space station is depicted in a suitably dystopian way. The rules are everything and a police force is there watching for any infraction. But the life support is failing which is why the kids are being sent to earth early.

Down on the planet I had to get up to speed with who these kids were. Sure enough there seemed to be a love triangle brewing between two girls and a boy. But honestly I was much more interested in the other storyline. Octavia had gone missing out in the forest and some other kids were looking for her. Then some mysterious marauding people appeared and started hunting the kids. A few of the kids got dispatched with traps of the spikey wooden stake variety.

Huh. I wasn’t expecting that.

I went back and started watching the earlier episodes I had missed. I assume this show is being marketed for a “young adult” demographic but it was surprisingly dark. I suppose I should not be surprised at this because the scenes on Earth reminded me a bit of The Hunger Games and that series is about as dark as you can get.

I do like the asides to the space station. As mentioned before there is a legal system of “you break a law, you get floated” but another interesting layer is the revelation that the life support system is failing. To make it through the next few months the authorities will have to cull their population by around 209. But this number goes up by ten for every day they delay a decision being made.

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Eliza Taylor (24) as Clarke (17)

This puts me in mind of a short story by Arthur C Clarke called Breaking Strain where two men on a spaceship have only enough oxygen for one to survive the trip and they have to decide what to do. I enjoy stories where physics cannot allow any leeway to morality. I wonder if the character of Clarke in this show is named in homage. The reason she is one of the prisoners is because she discovered the secret that the life support is failing. Oh, and I’ll mention that Paige Turco plays her mother on the station. I remember watching Paige back in NYPD Blue many years ago and I always liked her.

Also I want to mention the slightly clunky space station design. The Ark looks right somehow, like a space station should look. It looks functional and like something that man would be just about capable of building in the foreseeable future. I do like the rotating sections that are used to produce gravity, again referencing Clarke and Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey.

Watching the previous episodes also showed me the first days the kids spent on Earth. As soon as they get there two separate phisolphies form in classic Lord of the Flies territory. The blonde girl Clarke seems to be a natural leader. She wants the all to behave responsibly and organise an expedition to a promised cache of food. On the other hand Bellamy, who has accompanied his sister Octavia to the surface, pronounces there are no rules and they can do”whatever the hell we want”. As an added tension Octavia bonds with Clarke’s camp.

And there are lots of external threats. I’ve mentioned the “Grounders” who are the descendants of the humans who were stuck on Earth. They are prone to throw a spear through your chest if you stray into their territory. But there’s also mutated beasties and acid fog to ruin your day.

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Day ruined

(You know, I’m momentarily put in mind of that dreadful move After Earth that Will Smith made with his son where they crash on a future wild, mutated Earth. Don’t worry, The 100 is at least, well, 100 times better than that.)

So in summary this is a promising show with a surprising body count among the kids on the planet. I’ll be watching the first season to see where it goes.

Battlestar Galactica Vault preview

While browsing some online book shops today I made a discovery that immediately goes onto my “I will buy this” list. A new publication with the slightly unwieldy title Battlestar Galactica Vault: The Complete History of the Series, 1978-2012 by Paul Ruditis goes on sale on 23 October 2014, at least in the UK

Here’s the cover image, although I suppose it may be one of those “subject to change” deals…

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I believe that the same publishers put out the Alien Vault and Terminator Vault in recent years. Those were good quality publications with a generous selection of photos and accessible text about the making of the movies in those franchises. It’s worth mentioning that the Alien book concentrated on Ridley Scott’s first Alien movie and the Terminator book similarly concentrated on the two Terminator movies made by James Cameron. It will be interesting to see how this new book can squeeze in content on the 1978 series and the long running remake.

Heres the blurb…

JOURNEY BEHIND THE SCENES WITH THE SERIES’ CREATORS. For over thirty years, science-fiction fans have been enthralled by Battlestar Galactica and the captivating saga of humanity’s war with the chilling Cylons. From its innovative special effects to its controversial storylines, the franchise has fascinated generations of viewers.

Now, drawing on unique insights from the original producer, Glen A. Larson, and exclusive interviews with David Eick and Ronald D. Moore – creators of the series’ acclaimed reimagining – Battlestar Galactica Vault offers a complete visual history of the show’s evolution, from 1978’s ‘Saga of a Star World’ to spin-offs Caprica and Blood & Chrome.

Featured herein are concept artwork by legendary artist Ralph McQuarrie, annotated scripts and storyboards, candid behind-the-scenes photography, and ten meticulously reproduced pieces of memorabilia for readers to remove and examine.

Stunningly illustrated and fully authorised, Battlestar Galactica Vault is the ultimate celebration of a series that changed TV sci-fi forever.

So that’s ticking lots of boxes for me. It’s nice to see that in addition to coverage of the original show and the “reimagined” series there is to be content on the various spin-offs. One expects that it will probably cover Galactica 1980 as well – decide for yourself if that is good or bad! Hopefully the book will give some coverage on the Bryan Singer version of the series that had reached preproduction and was then cancelled around 2001.

And it’s great to see artist Ralph McQuarrie get a mention there. I’m hoping for some good sized reproductions of his art.

And a nice photo of Maren Jensen as Athena wouldn’t go amiss.

And shockingly 23 October is just a month and a half away.