Much Ado About Nothing

Oct
05

Review of The Wedding of River Song
Warning:  This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.

While I will admit that I rather enjoyed (most of) the Series Six finale, and there were plenty of moments that felt epic, when you stop and think about it for a while, not much really got resolved. Moffat is a master at smoke-and-mirrors scriptwriting, like last year when the universe got "rebooted," yet we didn't learn anything about why the TARDIS blew up in the first place. In fact, we still don't know the answer to that particular little puzzle.

Now we do have the answers to a couple of big questions: no, the Doctor didn't really die on that beach (was anyone surprised by that?); and yes, River Song is his wife. Sort of. Actually, that wasn't clearly answered, either, thank-you-very-much. I can't imagine the Doctor actually taking that kind of thing seriously (especially since it was clearly used as a device to gain River's cooperation). Perhaps that's why they did a handfasting ceremony instead of an actual wedding. Are they really "married"? How binding/lasting is a handfast marriage? How did the Time Lords (does the Doctor) view such an interpersonal contract? Frankly, I was terribly disappointed to see these two get "married"; not only does it go counter to how I think of the Doctor, but it made River's story overly predictable ("Of course she's the Doctor's wife! What else could she possibly be to him?" Yuck.). My own personal canon will look on this as a non-binding contract-of-convenience, and leave it at that.

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"Closing" in on the Reveal

Sep
28

Review of Closing Time
Warning:  This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.

On the surface, Closing Time is a light-hearted, family-oriented romp leading us into the series finale. I, for one, don't believe it. I think it's highly unlikely that the production team would use something so utterly fluffy to head into the final stretch of the series, especially with all the portents of doom we've been getting since The Impossible Astronaut aired back in April.

It doesn't even take very thorough digging to see there's way more than the top-layer story here. The whole thing is very "meta." Here are just a few examples of how it references previous episodes:

  • Opening: much like Rose, the shop girls close up, then find danger in a dark part of the shop.
  • The Doctor visiting Craig: "Doctor's Reward," anyone?
  • Another baby: could there be any more babies (or kids) in this series? (Will the Doctor's cot reappear next week, or next series?)
  • "Stop noticing; just go": did he learn nothing from Bowie Base One?
  • "You always win! You always survive!": Obviously, this references the fans' view of the Doctor. The lovely, not-quite-weepy expression of the Doctor's reaction is supposed to help convince us that's not going to happen again this time. (Sorry, Mr. Moffat; protest all you like, but no one's buying it.)
  • "He needs someone": Donna told him so. But did he listen? Noooooo. And where did it get him? Hello, Eleven!
  • "Oh, please. Just give me this.": Seems we've heard this somewhere before...
  • Impossible Astronaut continuity: he nicks the blue envelopes from Sophie and gets a Stetson from Craig.
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Labyrinthine Clues

Sep
21

Review of The God Complex
Warning:  This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.

Perhaps it's the fact that it was originally intended to be part of Series 5 instead of Series 6, but for some reason The God Complex has had a whole lot of hype. All sorts of superlatives were used, and somehow it was supposed to be something to which we all really looked forward. Having seen it, I can't say that I didn't enjoy the episode, but it certainly wasn't All That. To begin, there were some important ways in which it was quite derivative.

I had really mixed feelings, for example, about Rita. Overall, I loved her (nearly as much as the Doctor did), but you really know from the get-go that we're not taking on a new Companion (even if poor Amy doesn't when the Doctor pretends to "fire" her). Which, of course, means she's another Astrid Peth - perfect Companion material doomed to die heroically/horribly. Personally, I'd rather not invest emotional capital where the investment is sure to fail. That makes it hard to engage as fully in the episode as it might deserve.

More blatantly, though, it takes a page straight out of The Curse of Fenric. The climactic scene with Amy is a perfect rehash of how the Doctor has to ruin poor Ace's faith in him in the earlier story, and for effectively the same reason (though it's actually done much more gently here). Although I do like the way it sort of references the previous episode by turning Amy Pond: the Girl Who Waited into Amy Williams: the Girl Who Stopped Waiting, there's no hiding the fact that the major plot point came straight out of Fenric.

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Like Night and Day

Sep
18

Review of Day of the Daleks (#60)
DVD Release Date:  13 Sep 11
Original Air Date:  01 - 22 Jan 1972
Doctor/Companion:  Three, Jo Grant
Stars:  Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning
Preceding StoryThe Dæmons (Three, Jo)
Succeeding Story:  The Curse of Peladon (Three, Jo)

To start Three's third season, the production team was looking for some sort of hook to draw in viewers. The resulting story became the first of Three's encounters with the Daleks, who returned after a nearly five-year absence (about half the show's run, at that point). The viewing public loved it (more than 10 million people watched), and yet it’s often had a bad rap since for its less-than-stellar execution. Enter the DVD era.

If ever there was an embodiment of a fan’s obsessive love for this show, it's the Special Edition of Day of the Daleks. Aside from a plethora of good extras, there's an entirely separate version of the story to watch, with updated effects and even new footage spliced seamlessly into the original material (SE). Unless you're the type of person who really enjoys the ambience and historical context of bad production values, I really recommend starting with the SE (disk 2). However, if you don't watch any of the original (disk 1), you'll never appreciate just how much it has been improved (I recommend episodes 2 and 4 for comparison, or just episode 4, if you want to whittle it down to the bare minimum).

The differences are striking. The original Dalek voices in particular are almost painful to listen to, and the final battle comes across as quite weak. However, once new voices were substituted (they're now done by Nick Briggs, the voice of the Daleks since post-Hiatus production began), light bolt effects were added to the ray gun battles, and a bit of post-production magic was performed on the battle scenes, the story comes across quite well, even by more modern standards. What particularly impressed me was the fact that these "upgrades" were all done with techniques and equipment available in the early '70s, to keep everything true to what might have been done at the time, had there been more money available.

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Kicking Ass and Waiting Games

Sep
14

Review of The Girl Who Waited
Warning:  This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.

With a few jarring-moment exceptions, I was able to enjoy this episode as it was intended - an emotional look into Amy's character and into her relationship with Rory (again). It starts out very contrived, with Amy and Rory both breaking Rule Number Whatever: Don't Wander Off and making some dumb moves (e.g., telling Amy to "push the button" instead of specifying, or not asking Rory in return, "which one, idiot?"). Then we get the somewhat ridiculous excuse to strand the Doctor in the TARDIS ("Germ 7" is loose, and only affects two-hearted species? That's the best you've got?) so that they can shoot Doctor and Companion material separately a la "The Lodger" (they even go so far as to have a TARDIS-to-planet comm link in the same way).

Once the crew officially splits up, though (and why is Amy so sanguine about letting them fly off to "rescue" her, knowing the vagaries of the TARDIS?), everything steps up a notch. Along with the handbots becoming increasingly creepy and unintentionally (on their part) threatening, we get a few humorous moments as Amy gets oriented (like the available ride "authentically modeled on the famous Warp Speed Death Ride at Disneyland-Clom"), and the beautiful scenery of the Gardens to ease us into the main story.

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