Doctor Who Before the Flood Review

Normally when I write my reviews I always end up regurgitating what happened in the episode. And actually that’s not really what I want to do. I want to focus more on the stuff I did or didn’t like in an episode. So I’m going to try to do that with this review.

So in summary. This is part two of a two part story. Last time the Doctor traveled back in time without Clara, following which his “ghost” appeared to Clara implying that he had died. In this episode we see the events in the past (the 1980s I believe) and the future (22nd century) unfolding in tandem with the Doctor able to talk to Clara in the other time period. He gets a shock with the discovery that he has a “ghost” and eventually he faces the Fisher King whose technology was responsible.

At the start of the episode before the credits there was a scene with the Doctor talking directly to the audience. He’s describing the Bootstrap Paradox where s time-traveler goes back in time to meet Beethoven only to discover that the composer never existed. The time-traveler then has to copy out Beethoven’s music so it is not missing from history. So the paradox is, who composed the music?

While lots of Internet people were upset with this talking-to-audience development I kind of liked that sequence. At first I actually thought he was talking to the two guest companions who were with him and it was from their point of view. It also reminded me a bit of the start of the episode Listen where he does something similar. So I didn’t mind it at all.

The episode also incorporates a time loop with the Tardis going back in time about thirty minutes or so. I do love time loop stuff. I loved that the Doctor and the two “guests” had rematerialised just around the corner from their first iterations and we can see both sets of people at the same time. Also the second set get to observe the actions of the first set. I actually wish they did more of that kind of thing. I kind of hoped there would be more material with the second group following the events of the first group than there actually was.

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Later the Doctor meets and confronts the mysterious Fisher King who had been in the alien spaceship. At one point there was a moment where the Doctor was backing away from the alien towards the opened suspended animation pod thing. And I thought, “hang on a second…” I thought it would be fun if the doctor was in the pod in the future. And that is exactly what happened. So the Doctor ended up in the life pod thing and was under the water for a century and a bit until the crew of the base recover it.

Actually I really enjoyed how the events on the two different time periods linked together. The Doctor being in the pod for over a century sort of reminds me a little of the DeLorean in Back to the Future III, sitting in that abandoned mine from 1885 until 1955 waiting to be dug out.

(I think I once worked out that the DeLorean is in four different places at the same time in 1955 across all three BTTF movies. But that’s a topic for another post. Perhaps one to be written on 21 October 2015 perhaps…)

Some of the sequences set on the underwater base were very tense. I think my favourite bit was when the deaf crew-member Cass was walking down the corridor and we saw her point of view with a silent soundtrack. And behind her one of the ghosts appeared with an axe… And she can’t hear him! That was tense. I figured she might feel the vibrations of the axe dragging on the decking. This is what happened and the makers of the show depicted it with a little Daredevil homage, the outline of the axe appearing in negative. Although some internet people are annoyed with this as it implied that she had “superpowers”. Calm down, Internet people, it’s just a way to portray the vibrations.

And for once I cared a bit about the guest star folk and wanted them to survive. Must be good casting or good acting or both.

At the end of the episode we discover that the Doctor Ghost was not actually a ghost at all. Instead it was a clever hologram he created with the fore-knowledge of what it needed to do in the future.

I don’t think I worked out the Doctor Ghost was a hologram but I was pretty sure it was some alien transmission that the Doctor worked out how to send to Clara, like hacking into the Fisher King’s technology that created the ghosts. I guess hologram is easier to explain.

Anyway, it tied in nicely to the whole Bootstrap Paradox that they had gong on.

Yes, I really enjoyed those two episodes. And the added bonus of absolutely no Missy.

There. I’m not convinced that’s any more successful of describing the events of the episode. We’ll see if I do that again.

The 100 Season 2 on DVD

One of my favourite TV shows of the last few years, the surprisingly enjoyable and dark The 100, is coming out to buy on 12 October 2015. Or as I like to call it, Next Monday.

The season is available by itself in “Mount Weather” packaging.

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And there is also a combined season 1 & 2 box with cool artwork of Clarke in the Mount Weather isolation room as inspired by the season 1 cliffhanger.

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These are DVD releases, but I was convinced I had also seen listings for Blu Ray releases. Maybe I imagined it but either way I certainly can’t find them now. I’ll keep looking.

Doctor Who Under the Lake Review

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After all the Dalek-Davros-Missy shenanigans which probably stretched continuity to breaking point last week it’s nice to have a standalone adventure. And pleasingly this one harks back to the well-established Base Under Siege template that became a staple of the show back in the 1960s mainly during the Patrick Troughton years.

The crew of a twenty-second century underwater base located under a lake on the site of a flooded village have recovered something that looks like an alien spacecraft. As they investigate it a ghostly figure appears. It activates the engines of the ship which kills the base commander. Then the base commander appears as a second ghost.

The Tardis materialises on the base and the Doctor and Clara encounter the ghosts. There’s a nice bit of business with the ghosts attacking the Doctor and Clara with an axe and a harpoon gun that they can just about manage to hold despite being mostly incorporeal.

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The Doctor finds the other members of the base crew hiding out in a faraday cage, a room with electromagnetic interference. For some reason it prevents the ghosts from getting inside. Another interesting fact is that the ghosts only come out at night. “Night” being an artificial night from the day-night rhythm the base uses.

And somehow these ghosts are interacting with the technology of the base. They manage to turn “day” to “night” early and make an unexpected appearance which increases their number. Later the stakes are raised by the ghosts summoning a rescue sub to the base using morse code.

The Doctor notices that the ghosts appear to be trying to say something. He wants to catch them and there’s a pretty exciting sequence with the ghosts chasing different members of the crew through the corridors until they are cornered in the faraday cage room.

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There the doctor gets the lip-reading member of the crew to work out what the ghosts are saying. That clue leads him to recovering a life support pod that had been in the alien ship.

Towards the end of the episode the power fails and part of the base is flooded. The Doctor and Clara get cut off from each other. The Doctor decides to take the Tardis back in time to before the village was flooded to find out what happened with the alien ship and promises to come back for Clara.

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As the Tardifs dematerialises Clara sees a new ghost appears outside the base. It is of course the Doctor. It’s a great cliff-hanger, although it is slightly reminiscent of the one from series 4 in the Library two-parter. You know, “Donna Nobel has been saved.” That one.

Still, this was a very entertaining and gripping episode. Capaldi is on good form as a Doctor that is fascinated that ghosts might actually exist. Clara has to remind him not to say inappropriate things by producing a set of prompt cards so he can read “sorry for your loss” unconvincingly.

As with most of the stories in series 9 this is a two-parter and works well for having the cliff-hanger and the continuing mystery of what happened in the village before the flood.

Classic Thunderbirds Corgi Models

Apparently Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds is fifty years old today. And an email from Corgi landed in my inbox announcing some new die-cast models of the vehicles from the original show.

Thunderbirds 1 and 3 will make one set, Thunderbirds 2 and 4 will make a second set and finally Lady Penelope’s pink Rolls Royce FAB 1 will be available on its own.

Here are the official Corgi photos of the models.

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Dimensions…

Thunderbird 1 : 96 mm
Thunderbird 3 : 105 mm

Thunderbird 2 : 150 mm
Thunderbird 4 : 42 mm

FAB 1 : 148 mm

All the models will be out in January 2016 and each of the three sets will cost £19.99

Agent Carter Season 2 Hayley Atwell Poster

A poster image has appeared to promote Season 2 of Marvel’s TV show Agent Carter.

Which is an excuse for me to post a nice picture of Hayley Atwell.

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I could point out that season 2 arrives in 2016. Or that the action has now moved to Los Angeles. But really it’s all just about Hayley.

My work here is done.

I like Hayley. She’s pretty.

Doctor Who The Witch’s Familiar Review

And so on to part two of the season opener. To recap in the last episode lots of stuff happened that had very little to do with anything. And a dying Davros wanted to see the doctor.

The cliffhanger of course had Missy, Clara and the Tardis zapped by the Daleks. This episode wastes no time with any misdirection. Missy and Clara are safe and well outside the Dalek city. Missy explains that she programmed their time jumper bracelets to absorb Dalek weapons fire energy and teleport them away. Or something daft.

Missy and Clara make their way back into the Dalek City by going through the Dalek sewers, which are basically tunnels with lots of old used-up Dalek innards. I mean the actual living creature that lives in a Dalek machine. This will prove to be A Very Important Plot Point.

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Meanwhile the bulk of the episode deals with the Doctor and Davros. The Doctor is a bit miffed that Clara has been exterminated. For a while he is so miffed that he actually extracts Davros from his chair and drives around it in. Seriously. It’s in the episode.

But later when a recaptured Doctor reveals that Gallifrey wasn’t actually destroyed and is still out there somewhere Davros says he’s pleased for the Doctor because it means he’s no longer alone.

Huh?

And Davros uses his own eyes to see the Doctor. Yes, there are actually eyes in there somewhere which was kind of cool. And then the next thing you know the Doctor and Davros are all best buddies and sharing a joke. Well, Davros is dying, isn’t he? But it would be so nice to see the sunrise again with his own eyes…

The performances by Capaldi and whoever is in the Davros makeup do sell this very well, that these two old enemies could be possibly becoming friends.

The Doctor gives Davros a bit of his regeneration energy to help Davros see the sunrise. But it’s a trap! It’s all a trick and Davros is stealing the renegeration energy to feed his Daleks and turn them into some sort of regenerated Daleks.

But there’s a double-bluff type of thing going on. The Doctor is aware it’s a trick and he allows it to happen because he knows his regeneration energy will make the sewer Dalek creatures (remember the Important Plot Point) regenerate, and that will cause a Dalek sewer earthquake, or rather skaroquake.

Some of the stuff between the Doctor and Davros is actually very good but the highlight of the episode for me were a couple of very powerful scenes with Clara being convinced by Missy to get inside a Dalek shell in order to escort Missy as a “prisoner” through the Dalek city. I seem to recall this being done way back in the original Dalek serial so there’s a nice symmetry there. And of course the first time we met Clara (or “Oswin”) she turned out to have been turned into a Dalek without realising it.

Once Clara is inside the machine and connected up telepathically to the controls Missy puts Dalek Clara through her paces. She gets Clara to say “my name is Clara”. It comes out as “I am a Dalek”. And “I love you” becomes “exterminate”. It’s initially amusing and then becomes increasingly disturbing.

Near the end of the episode Dalek Clara and the Doctor meet. Of course he doesn’t know it’s Clara inside and Missy tells him it is actually the Dalek that killed Clara. The Doctor understandably wants to destroy this Dalek. A desperate Clara is trying to tell the Doctor it’s her inside the Dalek but ends up repeating “I am a Dalek, I am a Dalek”. Eventually Clara’s pleadings are translated as “mercy” which lets the Doctor know something is amiss. He helps extract Clara from the machine and with a full on Capaldi glower he tells Missy to run.

Of course it’s not wise to leave the Master on a planet full of Daleks. I’m sure this will come back to haunt him.

Oh, by the way the Tardis wasn’t destroyed in the last episode, it was just “dispersed” and the Doctor reassembles it using his sonic…. sunglasses…. Seriously. Face palm. Don’t go there.

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The Doctor muses about Clara’s Dalek being able to ask for mercy. How did that get in there? The Doctor then goes back in time and saves Kid Davros from the hand mines, telling him the importance of mercy.

So in summary this was a very strong episode that I enjoyed very much. Indeed much more than the messy shenanigans of the introductory part. The scenes with Clara in the Dalek are the stand-out scenes for me combining great writing and dramatic tension.

As a final note I keep reading that Missy is a “fan favourite”.

Really?

Ok, I’ll take your word for it…

Doctor Who The Magician’s Apprentice Review

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The good bit at the start

Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I was going to bother reviewing this episode of Doctor Who. Mainly because I couldn’t actually work out how I felt about it. Was it good? Was it bad? Was it mediocre? I still don’t know.

Bits of it were good. Some bits were actually very good. But there were other bits. Entertaining bits, to be sure. But the episode felt like someone had taken lots of bits, lots of scenes and stuck them together and said “here’s an episode”.

The problem is that this is part one of a two-part story and I suspect part two might be the part that has the actual, you know, story. Part one therefore is just a teaser. A teaser expanded to 45 minutes.

Spoilers follow.

The episode gets off to a terrific start. There is a war going on somewhere. It might be World War 1 except the biplanes are firing laser beams. A young boy runs into a minefield, except these mines are hand mines, i.e. hands that reach out and grab you by the leg and pull you into the ground. The Doctor appears and promises to help the boy escape. He asks the boy’s name…

“Davros,” says the boy.

Now, that’s just a brilliant opening!

And then it sort of goes downhill a bit.

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Guff

There’s some guff about the Doctor going missing and no one can find him and there’s this snake dude looking for him. Apparently it’s the Doctor’s last day alive. (Hang on, didn’t they do that in season six with the Eleventh Doctor getting shot in Utah?)

Clara is back to being badly-written smug-Clara and she is helping UNIT investigate why all the aircraft in Earth’s skies are frozen in place. As it turns out it’s actually for no reason, it’s just an excuse for Missy to turn up and be “zany” and “cool”.

Ah Missy. Apparently everyone just loves Missy! Oh look she’s just disintegrated some UNIT security men for a laugh! Yes audience, laugh along with that crazy, zany Missy, isn’t she hilarious!

Well I just sit and imagine the gravitas of Roger Delgado’s Master. And I shrug. It’s just not the same character at all.

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The brilliant Roger Delgado as the Master. Who isn’t appearing in this episode.

Then there’s some stuff with the Doctor in 1138 (AD or BC, I can’t remember) having a party on a tank and playing an electric guitar. Just because. Nothing to do with the plot. Just because.

Eventually the plot returns from its long walk and the snake guy takes the Doctor, Clara and Missy to meet Davros who apparently is dying. And the Doctor is ashamed.

And this is interesting because I wonder, is the Doctor ashamed that he didn’t try to save kid Davros and therefore created the evil megalomaniac somehow? Or is he ashamed that he did save Davros? So I am getting all engaged in the central moral dilemma of the episode.

We are never shown explicitly what happened in the minefield other than the strong suggestion that the Doctor abandoned kid Davros after learning his name. So this is interesting stuff. Plus they use a clip of Tom Baker from Genesis of the Daleks where he gives the famous speech about having the right to change history. (This is either a nice nod to the classic show dealing with the same moral dilemma or it’s hammering it home for a lazy modern audience. I can’t decide which.)

It turns out they have been taken to the Dalek world of Skaro. And we get to see lots of Daleks in a big room with some classic series Daleks mixed in. So that’s nice. And then the Daleks kill Missy, Clara and destroy the Tardis. Apparently.

Oh dear. So that’s Clara dead then?

Except you can be sure part two will hit the BIG GIANT RESET BUTTON (see any episode of Star Trek Voyager for details). So there is no sense of jeopardy. You know Clara and Missy and the Tardis will be back.

And hang on, wasn’t Davros destroyed in that David Tennant story from 2008 or whenever it was? How is he back? And where’s he been since?

I hope part two is brilliant and it makes me reassess part one. I do feel like I’m reviewing only half of the story. I mean I wouldn’t want to watch half of a movie and then review it saying “that was rubbish because there was no ending.”

But at the same time this is episodic television so each episode does need to stand on its own. And this episode was a bit of a mess. An entertaining mess, but still a mess. I do suspect that a one-part story has been stretched out to make two parts.

So as I said at the start I don’t know how I feel about this episode. Other than it had good bits and other bits and they were stuck together to last 45 minutes.

Agent Carter Season Finale

Last night the eighth and final episode of Agent Carter aired on UK television. I had hoped to write a post about each episode but instead this end of season post will have to suffice.

The previous episode ended with the Russian assassin “Dottie” deploying a stolen canister of a Stark mystery weapon in a movie theatre. The gas that came out of the canister caused all the moviegoers to kill each other.

In this final episode Howard Stark, played by Dominic Cooper, returns and explains that Leviathan have stolen his invention which was called Midnight Oil. It had originally been intended to keep soldiers operating without sleep. There was an unfortunate side effect in that it caused intense psychosis and all those infected ended up killing each other with their bare hands. The weapon had been used on a Russian battlefield in World War Two and now Leviathan are looking for revenge.

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Eventually the Leviathan people kidnap Stark and hypnotise him with the intention that he will fly his own plane and deploy the gas over Manhattan.

Peggy pursues Leviathan to Stark’s airplane hanger and we finally get the long-awaited showdown between Dottie and Peggy. Their fight sequence in the hanger kind of reminded me a little of the fights in the Bourne movies in the sense that they were using anything that came to hand. Peggy finally gets the upper hand and Dottie is thrown from a window. But of course later her “body” is gone with only bloody footprints remaining.

And at this point I’m going to interject the observation that I can be quite thick at times. It was only after watching the episode that I read that Dottie, played by Bridget Regan, is in effect a first generation Black Widow assassin created in the prototype of the Red Room. It’s blindingly obvious in hindsight. I guess the fact that she wasn’t wearing a black leather catsuit was too subtle for me. Oh well, maybe in season two…

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But back to this episode. I did like how the episode ended up with Peggy forced to talk to a hypnotised Howard Stark on the radio as he flew towards Manhattan. Of course this was a reprise of the end of the first Captain America movie where Peggy was tearfully talking to Steve Rogers as he crashed his plane in the Arctic.

If memory serves that scene from the movie was used as a flashback earlier in the season. And not only that: the start of this episode also used it on the Captain America radio play where it’s “Betty Carver” who talks to Captain America on the radio. There the static after the crash is recreated by a sound effects guy rubbing two pieces of paper together next to a microphone.

So I did find it a fitting place for the episode and the season to end up. Also I liked how Howard Stark’s hypnotic suggestion was portrayed. He sees himself standing in the Arctic next to his plane and Peggy appears with Captains America’s shield and asks him to save Steve.

After Stark’s Midnight Oil weapon has been recovered Peggy is rightly applauded by her male colleges when she walks back into the SSR office. This is in stark contrast (pun intended) with how she was treated as a glorified secretary at the start of the series. Then again when the politicians show up she gets none of the credit.

I’m actually skipping over a lot of other good stuff. Sousa tricking Dr Ivchenko. The friendship that has developed between Peggy and Jarvis. Jarvis giving Peggy the vial of Steve’s blood which she later pours into the river. Sousa trying to ask Peggy out. The list goes on.

The episode had a nice little “sting” at the end. It was kind of a post-credits scene only it wasn’t actually after the credits. The Russian hypnotist Dr. Ivchenko (played by Ralph Brown) in full Hannibal Lector gear is being put into a cell. A familiar voice speaks from the shadows and it is of course Toby Jones as Doctor Zola from both Captain America movies. This is a lovely little connection as of course we discover in Winter Soldier that Zola becomes integral in the post-war spread of Hydra’s tentacles. I found that to be a very satisfying link and one assumes season two of Agent Carter might just be exploring that.

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A word on Hayley Atwell. She’s brilliant. Whoever cast the role back in the first Captain America movie should be given a bonus because Peggy has become integral to the origin story of the Marvel Universe and I can’t think of anyone else who could possibly play the roll.

And you know what else? Watching this season has made me want to watch both Cap movies again.

I believe the series is coming out to buy in the USA in September. I hope a UK release will follow soon after.

Agent Carter Season One Steelbook

You know, I had meant to write a weekly post about each new episode of Marvel’s Agent Carter as it aired on Fox in the UK. However real life intervened.

Which is a pity as last week’s episode was particularly good with Peggy re-teaming with the Howling Commandoes to investigate a Leviathan base.

Anyway, the point of this post is to mention the good news that Zavvi in the UK is apparently going to release some sort of steelbook set of season one, I assume on Blu Ray.

No word yet on the release date or what the cover art will be.

Personally I would be very surprised if the cover art doesn’t include at least one of the following two Hayley Atwell-centric promotional images in some shape or form. I think the silhouette one would work particularly well.

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Edit. 11 September 2015

Agent Carter Season 1 is now available to preorder on Amazon UK and Zavvi for release on Monday 30 November 2015.

As expected the Zavvi edition is a steelbook.

Below are the covers and they are the two covers I thought would appear. First is the ordinary version fans see on on Amazon UK. Second is the Zavvi steelbook exclusive, although it says artwork Not final.

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Agent Carter episodes 2 and 3 musings

Ok, I managed not to write a post about episode two. So instead this post is not going to be a complete recap on episode two and three. Instead I’m just going to write some general musings about the two latest episodes.

Episode two did have an amusing little conceit where at various points in the episode the viewer gets to look in on the making of a very 1940s Captain America radio play. We see Peggy annoyed at how tacky and unrealistic the show is, although Jarvis seems to enjoy it. The joke pays off when Peggy goes to question the driver of the milk truck containing the stolen Stark weapon from the first episode. The visuals of her fight are set again the sound effects produced by the people on the radio show.

Episode three in particular included quite a great deal of Jarvis. In fact the show is quickly developing into the “Peggy and Jarvis Adventure Hour”. And it is amusing to me that two so very English characters are heading a very American show about the origin of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

We also get a little bit of back story about Jarvis when it is revealed that apparently he was accused of treason. Peggy later insists he tells her the details if she is to work with him. It turns out that, against orders, he used a forged document to get a Jewish woman to safety in the war. Stark used his influence to get Jarvis out of trouble. So this tells us about Jarvis’s character and also his loyalty to Stark.

At one point in episode 3 Peggy and Jarvis find a boat filled with Stark weapons. Peggy tells Jarvis to make an anonymous phone call to alert the SSR. His attempt at being American is a highlight of the episode.

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Lyndsy Fonseca as Angie. Borderline annoying, but I think it’s good acting.

Outside of the secret agent shenanigans we get to see Peggy move into a “women only” residence with her waitress pal Angie.

I have to say that Angie is borderline annoying and at this point it could go either way. If I didn’t know better I’d think the actress was just, well, annoying. But I’ve seen Lyndsy Fonseca in Nikita and she wasn’t annoying in that. In fact I grew quite fond of her character Alex. So I’m putting the annoyingness down to Lyndsy’s, well, good acting.

Throughout the two episodes we get hints about the organisation called Leviathan that employed the no-voicebox assassins. One surprise moment comes when a fellow agent of Peggy’s is assassinated along with a potential witness to the Stark theft, presumably by Leviathan agents. This will obviously have repercussions for Peggy’s secret missions as her SSR colleagues close in on her.

So I am continuing to enjoy the show. It’s the highlight of my weekend TV viewing.

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