Doctor Who Hell Bent Review

Ok, this is it, the grand finale. The Doctor has escaped his imprisonment in the confession dial and is back on Gallifrey.

It turns out that Gallifrey has been hiding in the far future near the end of the universe. Rassilon is still in charge but he doesn’t look like Timothy Dalton any more.

The Doctor goes to that barn that we saw in the 50th anniversary story The Day of the Doctor and last year’s episode Listen. He gets some Gallifreyean bods to side with him and ousts Rassilon.

He then tells the Gallireayan bods that Clara knows about the hybrid. They are so keen to learn about the hybrid that they use a little time door thing to extract Clara out of her time stream just at the moment before her death. This is only a temporary situation as they intend to put Clara back again so they time stream doesn’t get messed up because her death is a fixed point in time.

But of course the whole thing is a ploy by the Doctor to save Clara. It’s why he spent 4.5 billion years in the confession dial. At one point she asks why he wanted to save her so badly. “I had a duty of care,” growls Capladi.

The Doctor and Clara escape the Time Lords in a stolen Tardis. The lovely thing is that the interior of the Tardis is an accurate replica of the William Hartnell Tardis interior. And it looks smashing. It was a real pleasure to spend a good chunk of the episode in that old Tardis console room. Apparently it was repurposed from the one in An Adventure in Space and Time.

It occurs to me that this episode is basically Doctor Who does Star Trek III The Search for Spock. In that movie the crew of the Enterprise were willing to go to any lengths to save their friend from death and so does the Doctor here.

Eventually the Doctor realises that his friendship for Clara has caused him to go to extremely unwise lengths and resolves to wipe her memories of himself. But then he decides to make it more fair and programs the little memory wiping device so it has a 50% chance of wiping his own memory instead.

And that’s what happens. He forgets Clara.

The episode is book-ended with scenes in a diner where Clara is posing as a waitress. She’s doesn’t let on she knows the Doctor and he explains to this apparent stranger that he knows he had adventures with a friend called Clara but not what she looked like or sounded like.

At the end of the episode it is revealed that the diner is the other stolen Tardis and Clara and Arya from Game of Thrones head off for their own adventures.

In a strange way nothing much actually happened in this episode. But it’s not a bad episode at all. It’s fun to finally return to Gallifrey after all this time with the added irony with the Doctor stealing yet another Tardis and running away once again.

I was convinced that Clara would be back.

Added bonus: no Missy.

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.

IMG_1204.JPG
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.

IMG_1203.JPG
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.

IMG_1202.JPG
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…

IMG_1185-0.JPG

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.

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Box Set

This is nice.

20140725-211232-76352746.jpg

A new “limited edition” box set of just about all the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary content has just been revealed. And that’s a lot.

The main features are The Name of the Doctor, The Night of the Doctor, The Day of the Doctor and The Time of the Doctor.

‘Name’ was the last episode of season 7 which teased John Hurt as a mysterious new Doctor in the closing moments.

‘Night’ was the surprise minisode that gave us the welcome return of Paul McGann in the role of the Eighth Doctor after his only appearance in the 1996 TV movie. Personally speaking although it was only six or seven minutes long it was a big highlight of the anniversary week and I watched that thing endlessly on the iPlayer in the run up to the anniversary special itself.

‘Day’ was the anniversary special that aired on Saturday 23 November 2013 and stared Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor, David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor and John Hurt as the “War Doctor”.

And finally “Time” was the Christmas special that ended with the regeneration of Matt Smith into the new Twelfth Doctor played Peter Capaldi.

But that’s not all. We also get the excellent dramatisation of William Hartnall’s time on the show in the Mark Gatiss written An Adventure in Space and Time.

And we also get the surprise anniversary extra of The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot which was written by Peter Davison and stared nearly everyone involved in the show.

And also in there is the BBC Proms Doctor Who special and the Brian Cox hosted Science of Doctor Who. And probably other stuff as well.

The packaging is nice. There seems to be four separate disk cases, each featuring a different Doctor. It’s nice to see Paul McGann getting a prominent display and effectively equal billing with the other three anniversary Doctors.

At the top of the post is the blu ray packaging and at the bottom is the DVD version.

20140725-211232-76352818.jpg

The box sets are released on 8 September 2014.

Star Trek Starships Collection 25 USS Prometheus

It seems like ages since I last did a post on the Star Trek Starships Collection. Probably because it has been ages. In the meantime my subscription has continued with two new models arriving every four weeks.

I still have grumbles with the quality of the build and usually find something ‘wonky’ to criticise on the models I receive. However the detailed paint schemes are well done. Also the makers have thankfully made the fit of the ships on the stands slightly more secure.

So here’s a few photos of issue 25, the USS Prometheus which originally appeared in Star Trek Voyager. If my memory is correct the Prometheus was an advanced Federation prototype that the Romulans took over and the holographic Doctor was somehow transmitted onto the ship to save the day.

There was some gimmick about the ship being able to split into three pieces. This model is not designed to do that but I’m sure if you knock it off the stand hard enough it will split apart just fine.

On to the photos…

20140713-125109-46269647.jpg

20140713-125109-46269468.jpg

20140713-125109-46269277.jpg

20140713-125109-46269830.jpg

20140713-125110-46270006.jpg

Licence to Kill at 25

20140626-202304.jpg

It’s a bit of a shock to realise that Licence to Kill is now 25 years old. Back in the summer of 1989 it was the 16th official Bond movie and the second to feature Timothy Dalton after his debut in 1987’s The Living Daylights. His arrival in the role marked a change of direction for the series towards a more gritty and realistic version of Bond, especially in comparison to some of the excesses of the Roger Moore movies. At the time I recall some resistance to Dalton in the role but it’s interesting to look back from the vantage point of the Daniel Craig era to see the change of direction that the Dalton movies provided.

In any case I enjoyed Licence to Kill very much when I first saw it in the cinema in 1989. That was a memorable summer for me because I was prompted to start hunting out the Ian Fleming novels. (My first purchase was Dr No. I found a 1964 Pan paperback edition that informed the reader that Sean Connery was now making the third Bond movie based on Goldfinger. That 25 year old paperback seemed like an impossibly ancient document to me at the time so it is even more of a shock to realise that exactly another 25 years have passed since then!)

Licence to Kill is actually a departure from the usual Bond story template. Bond is on holiday in Florida and acting as best man at the wedding of his old pal Felix Leiter who now works for the DEA. He helps Felix capture Central American drug lord Sanchez. After Sanchez escapes he kills Felix’s wife and feeds Felix to a shark. Bond discovers the badly injured Felix and vows revenge.

20140626-202907.jpg

So for the first time Bond goes rogue. It’s been done a few times since. Pierce Brosnan went rogue to investigate his capture by the North Koreans in Die Another Day. And Daniel Craig seems to have gone rogue in all of his movies to date. However in all the above cases M seemed to be giving tacit approval to the whole “going rogue thing” to see what information Bond could uncover.

But in LTK Dalton’s Bond is willing to throw away his career to go after the people who maimed Felix. We had seen a hint of this Bond in the previous movie when he refused to shoot a supposed KGB sniper. Bond’s bureaucratic companion threatened to tell M that Bond disobeyed his orders. “Stuff my orders! I only kill professionals. That girl didn’t know one end of a rifle from the other. Tell M what you want, if he fires me I’ll thank him for it.” This was a glimpse at the Ian Fleming Bond character that movie audiences saw little off prior to Dalton’s arrival.

Another satisfying feature of LTK is the inclusion of a good chunk of the novel Live and Let Die. That book had been very loosely adapted as the move of the same name. One sequence they didn’t include in that movie was later adapted for another Roger Moore movie, For Your Eyes Only. Another scene that was omitted was eventually used for Licence to Kill. In the novel Bond discovers Felix badly injured after he has been fed to the shark. He reads a chilling message written on a slip of paper: “He disagreed with something that ate him”. Bond then goes to the location where he believes this happened and confronts the man responsible. Tables are turned and the villain suffers the same fate as Felix. This sequence of events became a big chunk of the early part of LTK.

20140626-202200.jpg

Notably Felix in Licence to Kill is played by David Hedison who had played the same part in Live and Let Die 16 years earlier. I believe this is the first time that an actor returned to play Felix prior to Jeffrey Wright taking on the role in the Daniel Craig movies.

On first release much was made of LTK being a more violent Bond movie. While it was a little tougher in nature than previous Bonds it was probably less violent than many other movies out that summer such as Lethal Weapon 2, which I believe also had a 15 rating. I wonder what critics of the perceived violence then would have made of the torture scene in the 12A rated Casino Royale 17 years later.

As well as being a rogue agent Dalton’s Bond is portrayed as being perhaps a little bit too obsessed with revenge to the point that his judgement is impaired. Bond’s attempted assassination of Sanchez ends up spoiling an operation by Hong Kong narcotics agents and in turn it gets them killed. He also spots main Bond girl Pam Bouvier apparently in cahoots with Sanchez henchman Killifer, although again Bond gets the wrong end of the stick; she’s actually working for the CIA in an attempt to get back Sanchez’s stinger missiles. Still, it leads to a dramatic scene where Bond pushes Pam down on a bed and points a gun in her face.

20140626-202038.jpg

A word on Carey Lowell as Bond girl Pam. Her character is a former CIA agent and pilot who now works with Felix infiltrating Sanchez’s operation. Pam is the prime example of the most capable of Bond girls, perfectly able to take care of herself and is as likely to rescue Bond as the other way around. A humorous moment comes when they meet in a bar. Bond tells her to expect trouble from some goons. She asks if he is armed and he shows her his Walter PPK. She tuts and reveals her pump action shotgun hidden under the table.

In the 1980s there had largely been a move away from the megalomaniac Bond villans towards some slightly more realistic characters. This culminated with drug lord Sanchez who I feel is a totally plausible character. I can certainly believe that there are or were influential men like him who had the resources to essentially control a country, here the fictional Isthmus City.

Bond’s revenge is quite clever. After killing the narcotics agents Sanchez finds an injured Bond, clearly their prisoner. Bond is able to use this to his advantage and claim to be on Sanchez’s side. This allows him to infiltrate Sanchez’s organisation and plant doubts in Sanchez’s mind about the loyalty of his henchmen.

On re-watching the movie in more recent years I did start to wonder at how quickly Sanchez believes Bond’s insinuations that his own people can’t be trusted. Sanchez is quick to turn on Krest, Killifer and Truman-Lodge. Then I realised that Fleming always gave his villains a physical flaw. Here the movie-makers have given Sanchez a character flaw. We learn early on that loyalty is more important to Sanchez than money. This works both ways and the slightest sliver of doubt is enough for Sanchez to exact retribution. Also Bond plants the stolen drug money on the Wavekrest for Sanchez to find. This leads to Sanchez dispatching Krest in a nasty manner in the decompression chamber. And this results in one of the movie’s darkly funniest lines. When asked what they should do with the blood-splattered money Sanchez turns and says simply “launder it”.

While darker than normal the movie is not without it’s moments of humour, many of which come via the welcome inclusion of Desmond Llewellyn’s Q. It was wonderful to see Llewellyn’s Q finally get such a large role in a Bond movie after being in the series since 1963. Normally he just turns up to provide the gadget and do little else. But here Q is thrilled to be on a mission helping Bond and ironically we see him giving his own gadgets some rough treatment in defiance of his own rules.

Sanchez is played by Robert Davi who has played a number of bad guys in movies over the years, perhaps most notably in the 1986 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Raw Deal. He has a number of henchmen, one of which is Milton Krest, played sleazily by Anthony Zerbe. (The Krest character actually comes from an Ian Fleming short story.) Also of note is the young Benicio del Toro who plays Dario. He gets a memorable line when he tells the soon to be shark food Felix “don’t worry, we gave her a nice honeymoon!”

Towards the end of the movie Sanchez and Dario finally unmask Bond as the person responsible for their recent troubles. There is a gripping scene where they put Bond on a conveyer belt that is part of a mechanism that is used to pulverise cocaine. Sanchez seems content to leave Bond to his fate but Bond is desperate to buy time and continues to verbally probe for another weak point, hoping to plant one more seed of doubt in Sanchez’s mind.

20140626-202821.jpg

The movie climaxes with an impressive tanker truck chase. Sanchez has millions of dollars of drugs hidden in the gasoline of four trucks and Bond sees an opportunity to cause some mayhem. One by one Bond elimates each truck until there is only one left. It’s great to see what can be achieved with old-school movie making and special effects. The Bond movies always did things for real in the old days and nowadays I wonder what CGI would be end up being thrown at the sequence.

20140626-202950.jpg

Satisfyingly it comes down to a gasoline-soaked confrontation between a bloodied Bond and a machete-wielding Sanchez. “I could have given you everything!” yells Sanchez. “Don’t you want to know why?” asks Bond who produces the cigarette lighter that Felix and Della give him at their wedding. Cue crispy Sanchez.

After the conclusion of the movie I was already looking forward to the third Dalton entry in the series. All being well Bond 17 would have been due out in the summer of 1991.

Alas it was not to be. Legal wrangles interfered and the next Bond was delayed until 1995. The six year gap remains the longest in the history of the series. And when Bond returned he looked a lot like Pierce Brosnan and Timothy Dalton was all but forgotten. As it turned out Goldeneye was a favourite of mine but I can’t help wondering… What if?

Star Trek III The Search for Spock at thirty

I find it hard to believe that Star Trek III The Search for Spock is 30 years old this year. The movie arrived in cinemas in the summer of 1984, two years after Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan. TWOK arguably remains the best of the Star Trek movies and consequentlyTSFS probably gets hidden in its shadow a bit.

The movie’s main purpose was to sort out all the cards that were flung up into the air by the previous entry in the series, most notably the death of Mister Spock, but also the implications of existence of the Genesis Device.
20140608-175256.jpg
Finally we got the Klingons as the main villain in a Star Trek movie. They had of course made an appearance at the start of Star Trek The Motion Picture but it was really just a guest star slot. And their only appearance in TWOK was by reusing some effects shots from the first movie. Christopher “Doc Brown” Lloyd is the main Klingon commander although I have read that director Leonard Nimoy wanted Edward James Olmos (the future Commander Adama in the Battlestar Galactica reboot) as his first choice.

I always thought that Industrial Light and Magic did some outstanding effects work in this movie. TWOK remains impressive, especially with the Mutara Nebula battle sequence, but TSFS has some wonderfully crisp model work. For example there’s the early scene featuring the Enterprise returning to Earth and the shot of it approaching space dock. (By the way I always loved the reaction shots of the personnel looking through the window as they catch sight of the damaged Enterprise.)

20140608-173945.jpg

The model makers at ILM were kept busy with this movie as they had to produce the new Klingon Bird of Prey, the USS Excelsior, the USS Grissom plus the interior and exterior of Space Dock.

The sequence depicting the crew stealing the Enterprise is a highlight of the movie in terms of writing, humour, effects work and James Horner’s music. I remember I could not quite believe that Scotty told the Excelsior turbo-lift “up yer shaft!”

But after the Enterprise is stolen the mood of the movie turns darker. Kirk is forced to take his jury-rigged ship into battle and faces an opponent who is willing to kill Kirk’s son David just to make a point.

Which leads us to the last card Kirk holds: the destruction of the Enterprise. Nowadays we are used to the idea of many ships called Enterprise so the thought of the current one being destroyed does not have the same impact. But this was THE Enterprise, the original from the tv show, albeit modified for the movies. As Scotty would say “no bloody A, B, C or D”.

20140608-173935.jpg

And Kirk’s choice to destroy it encapsulates the whole point of the movie: you can’t get something for nothing. If you want Spock back there has to be a heavy price paid. Here Kirk looses not only his ship but also his son.

(Which is the main problem I have with the most recent Star Trek movie Star Trek Into Darkness. Here the makers hit on the idea of repeating the death scene at the end of TWOK but switching Kirk for Spock. Fine, but they need to bring back Kirk. How do they achieve this? They use Khan’s magic blood to resurrect Kirk. Let me repeat that: Khan’s. Magic. Blood. I’m sorry, but that’s just lazy, lazy, lazy writing.)

There are some very nice dialog references that link the movie strongly with TWOK. In the previous movie Spock famously says “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” In this movie when reborn Spock asks Kirk why he came back Kirk replies “because the needs of the one outweighed the needs of the many.” Also there’s a nice little reference to the Kobyashi Maru setting sail for the promised land.

Deforest Kelly as Bones gets some of the best lines. For example as the Vulcan Katra ritual is about to get underway he is told it is dangerous. “Hell of a time to tell me,” growls McCoy as only Deforest Kelly could.

The movie has its flaws. The exterior scenes on Genesis are clearly shot indoors, although that always has seemed appropriate to me given how many alien planets in the original show were ‘indoor’ planets too. Also the Excelsior bridge set seems a bit minimal.

And there is what I have always thought was a major plot hole. Kirk and friends steal the Enterprise to go and get Spock’s body at the Genesis planet, but do they even need it for the Katra ritual? And how can they know that it is even there?

20140608-175309.jpg

James Horner returned to do the music and as a result there is another strong link with TWOK. In a way it’s a pity Horner didn’t go The Voyage Home as then all three parts of the “trilogy” would have that linkage. Another moment where music and visuals are perfectly matches comes near the end of the movie when the “borrowed” Klingon Bird of Prey arrives at Vulcan.

Someone who didn’t return from TWOK was Kirstie Alley as Saavik. For whatever reason the part was recast and we got Robin Curtis played Saavik in TSFS and also briefly in the next movie.

On a personal note I remember seeing the lobby cards for TSFS outside a cinema on Dublin’s O’Connell Street during the summer of 1984 when there for a few days holiday. The movie didn’t open for another few weeks but every time I walked past the lobby cards I would go over to subject them to another examination. One card in particular sticks in my mind. It was a photo of David and Saavik walking through some greenery. By that point I think I must had read the novelisation of the movie as I incorrectly thought that photo was of a scene where they returned to the Genesis cave inside the Regula asteroid. As it turned out that sequence was an “only in the novel” scene that was not in the movie. So the photo in question was from the Genesis planet itself.

20140608-174000.jpg

Which brings me neatly to the novelisation. At some point I had picked up the new adaptation by Vonda McIntyre and devoured it quite quickly. I distinctly remember reading the book late at night in bed and getting to the bit where Kirk starts entering the destruct codes on the Enterprise bridge. I was struck with a feeling of disbelief and shock at what was happening. Surely not! Not the Enterprise!

I eventually did get to see the movie but not in the cinema. I had to wait for the VHS rental. Since then I’ve owned copies on VHS, Region 1 DVD, Region 2 DVD and now a blu ray. Wrath of Khan remains my favourite Star Trek movie, but Search for Spock is not far behind.

20140608-173953.jpg

Hot Toys Black Widow figure from Winter Soldier

I thought I’d stick up a few photos of the next sixth-scale Black Widow figure from Hot Toys. This one is from Captain America The Winter Soldier and will be the third one they have done with Scarlett Johansson’s likeness.

hot1 hot2 hot3

It looks like a pretty amazing figure but it needs to be as it costs in the region of £150! It’s an impressive likeness of Scarlett although she looks slightly spaced out.

As far as I know the figure is coming out towards the end of 2014. So get saving.

X-Men Days of Future Past – thoughts on the timeline changes

Previously I posted a fairly non-spoiler review of X-Men Days of Future Past (hereafter referred to as DOFP). Now I’m going to discuss the implications of the new timeline that the movie results in. This post will include spoilers so be warned if you have not yet seen the movie.

As a bit of background its worth outlining the events of the six previous X-Men and Wolverine movies.

In 2000 the first X-Men movie (X1) came out starring Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan and Hugh Jackman. It was followed by X-Men 2 (X2) and X-Men The Last Stand (X3) which formed a kind of trilogy. Then came X-Men Origins Wolverine which is set before all the other three movies and goes up to the point where Wolverine looses his memory. A bullet to the head will tend to do that.

(Please note that I am one of only five people on the planet who actually likes the flawed The Last Stand, especially because of what I call The Scene In The House.)

Next up was 2011s X-Men First Class with a new cast featuring James McAvoy as young Professor X, Michael Fassbender as young Magneto and Jennifer Lawrence as young Mystique. The movie was mainly set in 1962.

Then another Wolverine movie titled The Wolverine followed in 2013 but was set after all the others. We can date it as it references the death of Jean Grey as depicted in X3.

Finally we have the new movie which switches back and forth between 1973 and 2023. The continuity of the movies more or less works although there are a few contradictions. For example in X1 Professor X tells Logan that he met Magneto when he was 17 which is contradicted by First Class. Also in the same movie he says Magneto helped him build Cerebro but we see Beast build it in First Class. Also in X1 Professor X is surprised that Magneto can block his telepathy with his helmet but we see Magneto acquire the helmet from Sebastian Shaw in First Class.

20140528-220706.jpg

At the end of First Class we see Professor X injured and paralysed. This initially seemed to contradict the “twenty years ago” Professor X walking with Magneto to go and meet young Jean Grey at the start of X3. We also see a Patrick Stewart type Professor X standing by his helicopter at the end of Wolverine Origins. However both of these inconsistencies can now be explained if we accept the serum Professor X uses to walk in DOFP.

Two more observations. A present-day “Trask” appears in X3 but he’s a black man of average height. In DOFP Trask is now working on sentinels in the 1970s and is a white man of considerably shorter stature. And Olivia Williams appeared as Moira McTaggart in X3 when she was in her late thirties while Rose Byrne appeared as the same character in First Class while in her early thirties, although those two movies were set decades apart. Let’s pretend they were mother and daughter.

So with that background established it’s on to the timeline discussion.

DOFP begins with a depiction of an apocalyptic future in 2023 where sentinel robots hunt for mutants and destroy them. In an attempt to change history Professor X sends back future Wolverine’s mind to younger Wolverine’s body in 1973. This is a pivotal moment in history as it is Mystique’s assassination of Bolivar Trask that prompts the development of the deadly future sentinels.

Professor X wants to stop Mystique from killing Trask and eventually he is successful. The future changes and Wolverine wakes up back in 2023 but finds everything has changed. He is back in the mansion and his fellow team members are teaching the mutant kids.

But here’s the thing… If he had just seen Iceman, Colossus, Kitty, Rogue, Storm and Beast then one would assume that the status quo has been reset as these characters were all alive and well at the end of X3. But in addition to those characters Logan is shocked to see first Jean and then Scott alive and well. Both of these characters died in X3 so it is a surprise to the audience as well as to Logan.

Now, in the comics dead characters come back all the time so one might assume that the same thing has happened between The Wolverine and DOFP. But I don’t think that’s what has happened as we may have expected to see them in the apocalyptic future scenes.

Also The Wolverine had a number of scenes with Logan and Jean’s “ghost” where he is mourning her. They might be dreams or maybe there is a bit of the Phoenix force at work, but either way it is a reminder she is dead.

20140528-215550.jpg

Also in DOFP Logan lets young Professor X mind meld, sorry, read his mind, and the first thing Professor X sees is Jean’s death at the hands, sorry, claws, of Logan.

20140528-215601.jpg

I think the intention of these scenes is to reinforce the fact that she is dead and stayed dead. So when we see her and Scott at the end of the new movie it means that history has been fundamentally changed. Everything from 1973 onwards is now on a different path and the events of X1 onwards no longer happen in the same way. 1973 Logan has his bone claws and has no memory of working with Professor X to stop mystique. One assumes he will eventually get captured by the Weapon X program and get his adamantium skeleton and claws again. One can also assume that Professor X and Magneto will continue to clash.

However it is now possible that Mystique will not become the cold-hearted killer from the original movies. After all they have that nice Jennifer Lawrence from Hunger Games playing her. So I guess they will want to make her more of a conflicted hero/antihero who ultimately is good, kind of like Wolverine himself actually.

20140528-215536.jpg

Back in 2023 Logan wakes up with the memories of his own timeline. For example he remembers Jean’s death so he is surprised to see her. I’m not exactly sure why he would keep his memories and not get reset like everyone else. I guess you could explain that his mind and memories were safe in 1973 when history was being changed so when his mind snaps back to 2023 the old memories are there. But never mind because it’s a lovely sequence as we get to follow Logan as he walks through the mansion and see all the familiar faces. And yes, apparently that is Kelsey Grammer in beast makeup for those few seconds.

So what does this mean? Well it means that in true JJ Abrams Star Trek reboot style that there now is a blank slate for the movie makers to do whatever they want. Apparently the next ‘First Class’ movie will be set in the 1980s. And they can go ahead and set movies in the ‘80s, ‘90s or 2000s and do their own thing. They can recruit new or old members of the team as they see fit and not worry about continuity.

Personally I am hoping for the original five X-Men to be on the team, namely Beast, Iceman, Angel, Cyclops and Jean. One might expect the makers to recast younger actors as Cyclops and Jean. And as much as I love James Marsden as Scott and Famke Janssen as Jean I would like to see their younger selves joining the X-Men for the first time as teenagers or young twenty-somethings.

Also I suppose the possibility is there that an ‘old’ X-Men movie could also be made with Patrick Stewart as Professor X, Jean, Scott, Storm, Wolverine, etc. But I doubt it. I think they will stick with the ‘First Class’ cast from now on. I mean, it can’t have been cheap to pay for Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones all to appear in the same movie. And to pay for the Quicksilver scene. And Magneto levitating a sports stadium. And Blink’s portals.

Still, I’ll happily be proved wrong.

1 2 3 19