Doctor Who – Last Christmas review

Some thoughts on yesterday’s Christmas special episode of Doctor Who, Last Christmas.

As always spoilers.

The episode opens with Clara being wakened up by noises on the roof. She investigates and finds Santa Claus and some comedy elves larking around with a crashed sleigh. The Doctor appears and tells Clara to come with him in the Tardis.

I’ve kind of shortened my description of that sequence down as much as I could. I thought this episode was going to be excruciating with comedy Santa and comedy elves. I had low expectations for the episode at this point.

The Tardis arrives at a scientific research base in the Arctic. Some personnel are lying in the medical area with facehuggers on their faces. A girl called Shona is trying to get through the lab without thinking of the facehuggers. The Doctor and Clara appear. The facehuggers attack everyone. Santa turns up to save the day.

More comedy Santa stuff ensues. My hopes for the episode plummet.

And then it gets interesting. You see the facehuggers are actually “dream crabs” and they basically suck your brains out but give you the anaesthetic of a nice dream as they do so. One of them gets Clara who has the fantasy of a perfect Christmas with the deceased Danny Pink. The Doctor’s attempts to get her to wake up are nicely manifested by blackboards appearing in her house telling her she is dying.

The Doctor enters her dream and tells her that she knows it’s not real. Dream Danny also tells Clara she needs to wake up.

Back on the base the Doctor remembers that they were all attacked by the crabs in the medical bay but have no memory of escaping. He gets the four base personnel to each read the first word on a given page of the base manual. They all read different words. This was a brilliant little bit of the episode. So they are all dreaming.

He gets them all to wake up. Then as he and Clara are leaving the base the Doctor realises there are four manuals for four personnel but there are the other crew lying in the medical bay. He runs back in. It’s all still a dream. The crew aren’t even scientists. They are all just random dreamers who were attacked by the crab thing. Ah, it’s inception! Brilliant.

Santa returns (but it’s ok as it’s just dream Santa) who will take them all back home in his sleigh. As each person wakes up they disappear from the sleigh.

A word about Shona. She wakes up in her flat with her Christmas “to do” list. It contains some movies to watch, namely Alien, The Thing From Another World and Miracle on 34th Street. Brilliant. Her dream was influencing what they others experience. How very Philip K Dick.

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Eventually the Doctor disappears and it’s just Clara and Santa and Clara doesn’t want to wake up.

The Doctor wakes up on some volcanic planet or other and runs into the Tardis to get to Clara. He appears at her houses and runs in. He does the sonic screwdriver thing to get the last crab off her face. And Clara is old! It’s 62 years later. She and the Doctor never traveled together again and never saw each other again. Bloody hell, it was the most heartbreaking thing. Damn, I’ve something in my eye… Is that how Clara leaves? Bloody hell…

Then Santa appears again. The Doctor wakes up again. Another dream within a dream. He rushes back again and wakes up Clara. And she’s young Clara again. Bloody Moffat…

So even with the awful Santa comedy stuff I give this episode 10 out of 10. Because the Santa comedy stuff actually works in the context of Shona’s list of movies to watch. This is a very well constructed little tale. Yes, it has unavoidable Alien influences, but they just reference the movie Alien and get on with it. Yes it’s Inception, and I’m ok with that. A Christmas Day episode of a kids science fiction show doing Inception! What’s not to like?

A final word on Shona as played by Faye Marsay. Looking at the forums she was a bit of a crowd-pleaser and lots of folk would like to see her return. Count me along them.

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Star Trek Starships Collection – USS Grissom

Previously on this blog I had posted photos of some models from the Star Trek Starships Collection as I received them. Well, I had more or less given up doing that. However the new USS Grissom has arrived and it has prompted me to take a few photos of it.

The USS Grissom was a new starship design in Star Trek III The Search for Spock back in 1984. It was one of a number of new ships designed for that movie along with the USS Excelsior, Spacedock and the Klingon Bird of Prey.

The Grissom was principally a science vessel and we see it early in the movie exploring the new Genesis planet that was created at the end of The Wrath of Khan.

The new model of the ship is impressively large. This series of models has the scale jumping all over the place due to a “fit the box” attitude and the shape of the Grissom allows for the box to be filled quite nicely.

This is in contrast to the USS Excelsior model which is tiny. The Excelsior should be a much bigger ship than the Grissom but the Grissom model dwarfs it. I’ve included a comparison photo of the Grissom along with the Excelsior and the USS Reliant from Star Trek II.

Thankfully the makers of these models have finally come up with stands that can hold the model in place without it falling off. In comparison the stand for the USS Reliant is desperately bad and is unable to hold the ship in place for even a few seconds. It may not look like it in the photo below but my Reliant model is broken from numerous crashes.

On to the photos…

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Godzilla Equals Disappointment

Another quick movie review while I’m here.

Ok, I watched the new version of Godzilla on blu ray. It was not high on my want-to-see list but I thought I’d give it a go.

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I was disappointed to be honest. Here’s a quick summary of the plot:

Basically there’s Godzilla and then there’s two weird looking things that aren’t Godzilla. All are too powerful for humans to fight so the token Japanese scientist says leave them to fight each other. So the only thing for the humans to do is try to defuse the nuclear bomb they started ticking.

That actually is the plot right there.

Ok, so at least I can watch the destruction as the monsters fight?

Actually no, because the majority of the monsters fighting or monsters destroying cities either (a) happens offscreen or (b) is fought at night with the lights out.

So you either see (a) some “aftermath” shots of Las Vegas destroyed for example or (b) you just see murky outlines of cgi creatures in cgi smoke head-butting or whatever.

And then Godzilla beats the weird looking things by firing bad breath at them. Seriously. I am not making that up. Godzilla has atomic-powered bad breath.

The one good bit was the Halo jump which was used in the first trailer. It had the spooky music that Kubrick used for 2001. It provided a much needed sequence that was atmospheric and cinematic. The rest of the movie was very “meh” in comparison. It almost makes me think that sequence was directed and edited by a different production team.

You know, I’ve not mentioned the cast. There’s no point as they don’t actually do anything. Nothing they do makes a damn bit of difference to the story.

It’s not a terrible movie. It’s just very boring. And dark. I don’t mean thematically dark either, I mean dark in the visual sense. Did I mention they turned the lights out?

300 Rise of an Empire review

I’ve finally watched 300: Rise of an Empire on Blu Ray, a movie I’ve wanted to see for a while. I must say I enjoyed it a lot, perhaps even more than I thought I would given the mediocre rating many reviewers gave it.

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The movie is not so much a sequel to the original 300 but is part prequel, part parallel-quel and part epilogue. It is set more or less at the same time as the first movie but with a larger scale and principally deals with a number of sea battles. Apparently it is based on a not-yet-published Frank Miller graphic novel.

The movie begins with a prologue featuring the Battle of Marathon which was in 490 BC where we see Greek hero Themistocles repel a Persian invasion. Then the rest of the movie covers the three-day Battle of Artemisium followed by the Battle of Salamis which both occurred in 480 BC (around the time of the Battle of Thermopylae which was covered in the first 300 movie). So this one nicely fills in the blanks of what was happening off screen in the first movie.

The highlight of the new movie for me is Eva Green. She plays Artemesia, a Greek-born woman who was raised by the Persians and has reached the rank of general. Eva is great. No one can glare like Eva. No one can drum her fingers which as much contempt and derision as Eva can. She steals the show and makes me keen to watch the other Frank Miller sequel she appears in, namely Sin City 2.

(In case you’re wondering, yes, Eva does reveal her ample top bits. To be more precise it happens on the evening between day two and day three of the Battle of Artemisium. I expect it’s in recorded in Herodotus’s History of the Greek-Persian war somewhere.)

Lena Heady returns from the first movie as Queen Gorgo who was the wife of the Gerard Butler character from the first movie. Perhaps busy with Game of Thrones duties this time out she doesn’t appear too much but pops up at different points and also provides some narration duties.

Some Australian actor called Sullivan Stapleton plays the main Greek character Themistocles who like many of the other characters is based on an historical figure.

As a nice spin off the movie has got me interested in reading about the Greek-Persian wars of the fifth century BC. That’s a sentence I never thought I would write. Anyway I know next to nothing about them and will be looking for a suitable book to improve my knowledge.

Also I need to go back and watch the first movie again because it’s been years since I have seen it.