Exhale

Aug
27

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

The new Doctor has officially arrived, and I can release the anticipatory breath. My biggest fear was that Capaldi would not live up to all my expectations. That one, at least, I can put to rest.

As for the remainder of the episode... Well, let's just say the more things change, the more they stay the same.

It's a series opener, so we all knew before the list of titles, writers, and directors was released that this was going to be a Moffat story. I had my fingers crossed, but it came out true to form. On my first viewing, I really enjoyed it; certain details niggled at me, but I was able to ignore them and enjoy the ride. On second and later viewings, the flaws started to do more than niggle, and it became ever more difficult to enjoy certain scenes. That, for me, is the classic Moffat signature.

Before I go any further, let me be clear: I thought Capaldi's Twelve was bloody brilliant. I love him already. He was everything I hoped for (with the possible exception of some overly friendly chatting up of a lonely female T. rex), and I can't wait to see more of him.

Clara, however, was a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, she really stepped up her game, executing a very Doctor-ly bluff-calling when set against the Half-Face Man (more on that later) and standing up to Vastra. On the other, she—the Impossible Girl, who had saved the Doctor time and again in his many incarnations—couldn't get over the fact that he wasn't the same man anymore. On the whole, I think she came out net positive for me (her improvements outweighing the backsliding), and I'm hoping she continues to grow into a character I could miss.

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Confession #67: I Won't Be Sad to See the Back of Clara

Aug
20

This past weekend, just days before the first episode of Series Eight is to air, rumors started to surface that Companion actress Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald) would leave the show at the end of the series (specifically, at Christmas). Should the rumors prove true, Clara's departure comes sooner than I would have anticipated, but I can't honestly say I'll be sad to see her go.

That's not to say I actively dislike the character, and I certainly think Jenna has done well with what she's been given. I simply have never taken to her. As long as two years ago, before she even arrived on the scene, I was disinclined to enjoy Clara's turn in the TARDIS. As I pointed out at the time, she's yet another in a long line of 21st Century Brits to tag along with the Doctor, and it's getting tiresome.

Once she had a chance to show her personality, though, she... barely had one. No, that's not fair. Clara's got a personality; what she doesn't have is agency. The character's entire raison d'être is dependent on the well being of someone else ("I was born to save the Doctor"). From a narrative standpoint, she's only there—just like Amy was in Series Five—as a mystery for the Doctor to unravel (the Impossible Girl).

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Nu-View #20: Brave New Worlds

Aug
13

New Earth / Tooth and Claw (Series Two, Eps. 1-2; 2006)
Viewed 05 Aug 2014

Doctor/Companion: Ten, Rose Tyler
Stars: David Tennant, Billie Piper
Preceding Story: The Christmas Invasion (Ten, Rose)
Succeeding Story: School Reunion (Ten, Rose, Sarah Jane Smith)

    Our latest WhoFest was meant to be the first in my new home. The depressing fact that it wasn't (and that our move is rapidly receding into the realm of myth) was somewhat alleviated by jO's return to the fold after an extended absence.

    The early, jaunty Ten had been similarly absent from all of our Who viewing in recent years. "Look how young he looks!" exclaims jO. "When was this?"

    I remind the Ladies that Series Two went out in 2006, and jE summarizes our common reaction perfectly: "We're getting old."

    Old we may be, but at least we're not hanging onto our youth in sheer desperation like Cassandra. And she's a crafty one, redirecting Rose to her lair for her own nefarious purposes. "[Rose] knows she's not on Ward 26," observes jE. "Why doesn't she just get right back in the lift?" It's one of several plotting flaws we notice this evening.

    I found it interesting to realize how I always think of this story as having a lot of Zoë Wanamaker (Cassandra) in it, when she actually only plays the character for a few minutes. With all the body-swapping, even Sean Gallagher (Chip) spent nearly as much time as Cassandra as Wanamaker did. And, by the way, kudos to Gallagher; Chip was a physically awkward character to play, especially running through corridors with his arms straight down at his sides.

    But I digress. Comedic body-swaps aside, the supposed main storyline of the episode is about the mass of humanity that's been vat-grown to use as medical guinea pigs. The Matrix-y vibe of the endless rows of pods in the Intensive Care ward is stronger this time around than I've previously noted. Then another precognitive similarity stands out. Defending her order's actions, Novice Hame explains that these creatures aren't real people. "The Sisterhood grew its own flesh," she tells the Doctor. "That's all they are. Flesh." Why do I get the feeling Moffat found some inspiration in that moment?

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    Turn Turn Turn

    Aug
    06

    Review of Seasons of Fear (#30)
    Big Finish Release Date: March 2002
    Doctor/Companion: Eight, Charlotte "Charley" Pollard
    Stars: Paul McGann, India Fisher
    Preceding Story: The Chimes of Midnight (Eight, Charley)
    Succeeding Story: Embrace the Darkness (Eight, Charley)

    I'm not familiar with many of Paul Cornell's stories, but Father's Day and Human Nature / The Family of Blood are both interesting and nicely self-consistent narratives. Knowing that Cornell wrote this story with his wife Caroline Symcox therefore gave me an optimistic outlook.

    But despite the fact that it began with a direct continuation of the longer plotline centering on Charley's experiences—the impetus behind the choice of audios I'm currently consuming and reviewing—I was immediately put off by a stylistic decision by the writers. Rather than the usual "film with sound" format I'm accustomed to for an audio drama, we get a voiceover. The Doctor is narrating the events in retrospect, telling us about the first time he met a character who becomes integral to the plot of the entire play.

    Although the reason for this approach becomes clear some two hours later, at the end of the story, I personally found it distracting. I'd be rolling along with the narrative as the Doctor and Charley grappled with whatever setback currently faced them, and the Doctor's voice would roll in with exposition. It pulled me out of the story every time.

    Aside from that irritant, the story itself unfolds in typical, roundabout fashion. Something happens at the very beginning to send them haring off through time, getting embroiled in a good old-fashioned time paradox. I'll admit to having been led (purposely?) astray at the end of Part 1, when I thought we were getting a hint at the identity of the mysterious "masters" our antagonist served. However, what I thought I heard turned out not to have been what I heard at all, and that particular mystery didn't get resolved until the end of Part 3.

    I always love Paul McGann's characterization of the Doctor in these audios, and the writers have provided him with a couple of memorable lines to deliver with his own particular relish. Two, in particular, stand out in my mind.

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    Confession #66: I Need a TARDIS

    Jul
    30

    I know everybody talks about needing a TARDIS so they can do everything they want to get done in their busy lives. I've said that on many an occasion myself (though perhaps a Time-Turner like Hermione used in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban would be more appropriate for venues like Gallifrey One). Nothing new there.

    But I need a TARDIS for the storage space.

    Seriously—why can't I rent a storage locker that takes up 5'x10' in the building floor plan, but is actually the size of my house? Taking decades' worth of accumulated crap (some of it more crappy than others) and whittling it down into a space small enough to be transported 4 or 5 miles (~7 km) across town is a mighty endeavor. If I didn't have to worry about cramming it all into a volume the size of a single room (or even three), I'd be much less stressed out right now.

    And being able to store it all right in the vehicle that would haul it? Bonus!

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