Once Upon Time Season 6 Review

  • Series Title: Once Upon a Time
  • Season: 6
  • Episodes: 22
  • Discs: 5
  • Network: ABC
  • Cast: Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin, Lana Parilla, Josh Dallas, Jared Gilmore, Robert Carlyle, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Sean McGuire, Rebecca Mader
  • Format: Widescreen, Color, DVD

I put off watching Once Upon a Time Season 6 for a very long time. I haven’t really been watching it as it airs for several seasons, and after Season 5 I think it just left a very bad taste in my mouth. However, season 6 was excellent! It was brilliant! And it was a return to the first season or two of Once Upon a Time. The season is not split into two distinct halves, but once more is a single story told over the entire season, with a unifying theme.

Season 6 of Once Upon a Time really does play out as a planned final season. The Land of Untold Stories and Aladdin are important influences, but this isn’t like seasons 5, 4 or 3 where there are two distinct plots in two distinct halves of the season. Rather, the arc plot is The Final Battle. There are also a lot of call backs to season 1 of Once Upon a Time. This season was so well-done and so circular back to the beginning (and perfectly done as well) that it makes you want to watch the entire series again. In that way, even though it’s television, is resembles a good novel.

The first episode of the season is extremely confusing, so much so, that I double-checked my DVD case to make sure I hadn’t accidentally grabbed the wrong disc. However, the second episode provides some much-needed exposition and from that moment the story flies along. The characters from “The Land of Lost Stories” arrive in Storybrooke, including Regina’s evil half, The Evil Queen, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. There are some episodic tales of the Lost Stories characters where we learn that the characters who go to the Land of Lost Stories are the characters who didn’t get their happy endings – not because they were “evil” or “villains” but simply due to bad luck, or the actions of someone else. It other words, Lost Stories, are both depressing stories – and more like real life.

Regina’s evil half also is transported over to Storybrooke – where she does cause a lot of havoc. However, all our characters have grown and matured over the years – so now they no longer fall for the Evil Queens manipulations and tricks. They might briefly fall for it – but give someone a chance to think and they realize, “hey, two Reginas – that’s not the Regina she’s pretending to be”.  Meanwhile, Dr. Jekyll works with the town, and we learn the details of his story (it involves a woman named Mary – his love, whom he can barely speak to, who’s fridged – we think). Yeah, it’s that story again, but Once Upon a Time does give it a bit of spin. It turns out it was Dr. Jekyll who, albeit accidentally, kills Mary – and as he’s unable to deal with what he’s done, he blames Hyde. When Jekyll is killed – Hyde also disappears.  Regina discovers that if she gets hurt or if the Evil Queen is hurt – so is the other, and this extends to death – if they kill the Evil Queen she will die too. Regina briefly toys with the idea of committing suicide to stop the Evil Queen – but is talked out of it by the people around her.

Meanwhile, Belle is pregnant with Rumple’s child. Rumple goes to the land of Morpheus to wake her (Belle having been under a sleeping curse from last season). In the dream realm, he meets Morpheus, Gideon, their child. Gideon convinces Belle to not trust Rumple. Belle wakes – and tells Rumple she wants nothing to do with him, and she won’t let him near their child. Poor Rumple – all he wants is  second chance at a family. Rumble expresses anger and resentment at “the fairies” (such as Blue Fairy etc) but at first we don’t know why.  We learn the missing piece of his story. Belle is serving in his castle when Rumple brings her a baby to care for – a baby without a name. Belle is confused and angered by this, reading Rumple’s contract with the parents. Rumple takes the child to the Black Fairy who takes children, babies, away to a place where they will be tortured. Rumple doesn’t want to turn over babies to the Black Fairy but he has no choice. And we find out the Black Fairy is Rumple’s mother, who gave him up, without giving him a name. Rumple ended-up in the care of his father, who names him Rumpelstiltskin. His father blames him for losing Fiona, his mother. But Fiona had read a book of prophecy which was “good news/bad news” – her son was destined to be “the Savior” – and the Savior always dies. Fiona studies fairy lore, tricks Belle into translating an spell for her, and turns herself into a fairy. She starts developing the Dark Curse – the same curse the Evil Queen would cast on the Enchanted Forest to send everyone to Maine (the Land Without Magic). Blue Fairy and Tiger Lily (from Neverland – which we briefly revisit) try to stop Fiona. But Fiona takes a pair of shears, Shears of Fate that can separate a person from their destiny. Fiona cuts the ribbon that links baby Rumple to his destiny as a hero. This single act turns her into the Black Fairy, and creates the Rumple that we know. The Black Fairy then steals children. Children Rumple gets for her. These children end up in her realm where they are tortured and made miserable.

Meanwhile, Belle’s pregnant, and the Evil Queen slips her a potion to speed-up her pregnancy. Belle jumps to the conclusion that Rumple did this to her. She again swears she won’t be with Rumple – and she won’t let Rumple have anything to do with her child. But she names the child, Gideon, as in her dream, names his godparents, and then – hands the child over to the Blue Fairy to watch over, which of course was precisely what Rumple didn’t want to happen. Blue has good intentions, but she is unable to stop the Black Fairy who takes the child to a land where time passes differently. From this point on it appears Gideon will be destined to kill Emma, the Savior.

Meanwhile, Zelena, the Wicked Witch is raising her daughter. She tries living with Regina, but the two just cannot get along under the same roof, so she moves out to her own farmhouse. Regina still blames Zelena for the death of Robin Hood. She even gets upset when Zelena tells her she had a feather from Robin for her, but she lost it. However, getting a little distance works. Zelena slowly learns, she slowly improves herself, and like Regina, she learns to leave aside “being Wicked” for the sake of a child, in this case – her daughter. Towards the end of the season, Zelena tries to prove herself by taking on the Black Fairy alone. This doesn’t work and makes things worse for the town. But she learns her lesson and she and Regina work together.

Lana Parrilla is brilliant in a dual role here. her Evil Queen really brings back the first season when Regina was truly evil. But, she’s our Regina deep inside – and Regina shows her that. In the end, Regina realizes she cannot kill her “evil half” – she takes on some of the darkness from the Evil Queen’s heart – and gives her some of her light. And she then uses one of the wishes from the genie of the lamp (now Aladdin) to send the Evil Queen someplace where she can get her second chance. She’s sent to the Enchanted Forest – to meet Robin Hood.

The Aladdin plot is very brief – we meet Aladdin, and Jasmine, see Jafar, the mystical city of Agrabah, and even the flying carpet. We briefly see Ariel the Mermaid again. We find out Aladdin is the “diamond in the rough” and the Savior of Agrabah. And for no good reason whatsoever, the actor playing him – plays him with a Cockney accent, even though he’s born and raised as a street rat in Agrabah. Yes, that makes no sense whatsoever. With the characters from the books of lost stories in Storybrooke, Aladdin and Jasmine arrive in Storybrooke. But their storyline is not long (really no more than a few episodes), it’s integrated into the rest of the storyline because the wishes are useful but a double-edged sword (never has “be careful what you wish for” been more important). But in the end, the wishes are a plot device, and, like the tales of lost stories – it’s a brief part of the season, not the focus, like when Once Upon a Time did Frozen.

From the first episode of the season, Emma is finding her hand shaking, and she gets visions of the future, a future where she dies. She goes to see Dr. Hopper (Jiminy Cricket), who is in several episodes (he also counsels Capt. Hook a few times). With the Evil Queen back in the enchanted forest, Hyde dead, the Aladdin and Lost Stories plots wrapped up, the rest of the season focuses more and more on the Final Battle. Though, Aladdin and Jasmine are present until nearly the end.

The relationship between Captain Hook and Emma heats up. Even with some interference by August (Pinocchio), Hook gets some advice from Dr. Hopper, and decides he will propose to Emma. Being an old-fashioned guy, he first asks David’s permission, even with the secret in his past. David grants his permission for Hook to marry Emma after Hook proves himself. Hook decides to come clean with Emma about his secret and then propose (because he doesn’t want to do anything to break them up later like hiding things). When he shows up at the house where he and Emma live together, she proposes to him having found the ring. So he doesn’t tell her. But he feels conflicted. He talks to Dr. Hopper and Nemo (of the submarine fame – he showed up with the lost stories characters), and decides to be honest with Emma. But he goes to say goodbye to Nemo and his brother who is on the Nautilus crew – and the sub sinks anyway – sent to another realm. Moreover, Hook is cursed to never return to Emma. Emma thinks Hook left voluntarily, but eventually learns the truth when Ariel lends Hook a shellphone. Emma hears Hook’s message but can’t reply and have him hear it. Gideon uses the tears of a Savior to control her and enact this curse.

But Hook makes it back, he and Emma marry, and just as the wedding finishes and everyone is celebrating, the clock tower strikes six – and the Dark Fairy dust is released cursing the town. The call back of Leroy (Grumpy) being the one to announce this curse, just as in the Enchanted Forest, he announced the coming of the Dark Curse is beautiful.

With the Dark Fairy Dust cast – everyone is returned to the other Realms. Henry wakes in Storybrooke, where everyone is only their “real world” counter parts. Moreover, the Dark Fairy is mayor, acting as Henry’s “mother” and has Emma in the local insane asylum. The belief in fairy tales is said to be Henry’s delusion. As Emma loses her faith and belief – the realms crumble and disappear. Emma’s last battle is a battle of faith. And it appears she loses, when she burns the fairy tale book, Once Upon a Time, and returns to Boston. She even gets a call from her old job offering her a skip to catch. But she finds in her bag, a book – a storybook written by Henry (remember, Henry is the Author), as she sees the pages with images from the serious showing herself doing various things, she gets an idea and returns to Storybrooke. Emma’s belief starts to lift the curse – and she remembers more about the stories as she learns to believe again. In Storybrooke, we now get the scene, at night, in the rain, we’ve seen so many times, as Gideon and Emma fight. But Emma is in a holding pattern – she knows that killing Gideon will make her dark, but if he kills her, the battle is over.

Yet, everyone has forgotten about Gold – Rumple – the Black Fairy tries to manipulate him one last time and experiences epic fail. He kills her, turning her to dust. Rumple and Belle run to the underground tunnels. And it is Rumple, who finally fulfills his destiny, finding Gideon’s heart, doing the right thing, and launching a counter-curse that makes everything right again. Gold is, at the end, the savior. Gideon once more becomes a baby to be raised by Belle and Rumple. The last episode ends with a montage of everyone in Storybrooke being happy at Granny’s – Emma and Hook together, Zelena with her child, Regina is happy, the Charmings have their son, Neal, and Snow is a teacher. Emma is sheriff, with Hook at her side. Everyone is happy – and end, at a dinner table, everyone together, to live “happily ever after”.

Oh, and that little girl bringing the book, Once Upon a Time, to the real world? She knocks on the door of now grown, 28-year-old Henry Mills, and tells him, she’s his daughter.

Before we get into the implications of all this, the penultimate episode of Season 6 of Once Upon a Time is The Musical episode – which is absolutely brilliant. It’s integrated into the overall storyline of the season, it starts in the Enchanted forest, the theme of the “song in your heart” carries over into Storybrooke where Emma has her own song and the last song of the musical is very joyful, and the music is perfect, and just what you’d expect for each of the characters. It really is just how a musical episode should be done and it works perfectly.

OK, back to season 6, because there is a lot to discuss. Starting at the end – by showing Emma who she is by writing her in to a book – Henry creates Emma as a storybook character. Now, granted, her parents are Snow White and Prince Charming and she’s co-parenting with the Evil Queen, but still, one thing that made Once Upon a Time work for six seasons was that is was grounded in “reality” through the character of Emma. That she is now a storybook character as much as her parents, both gives her a happy ending (and the last montage is incredibly joyful) but it’s a bit artificial too – very much like a romance novel. Still, I did love it. I wanted to see happy endings for these characters, including Gold and Belle – and we got it.

Second, with all the mentions of “The Final Battle”, I kept thinking of CS Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia. Fortunately we didn’t go quite down that route. But even though Emma isn’t killed in the final battle, she is changed, and it’s her “final battle” because she won’t have to fight again, thought someone else will – the baton will be passed.

This season was brilliant, especially the musical (one of the best musical episodes I’ve seen), but I don’t think I will watch season 7, which is a soft re-boot with a new cast. I tried Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, and didn’t care for it. And season 7 has been moved to a Friday night death slot, so it’s on it’s way to cancellation. But as a way to go out, you can’t beat season 6 – it truly was brilliant. it ws acted brilliantly, it looks gorgeous (rain and mist and snow – with Winter reflecting the darkness of the story, pure perfection), there are callbacks to the first season, everything works. I truly loved it, and I don’t know why I delayed so long in watching.

My Review of Once Upon a Time Season 5.

My Review of Once Upon a Time Season 4.

 

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Doctor Who – The Enemy of the World Review (Spoilers)

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Enemy of the World
  • Story #: 40
  • Episodes: 6 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 1
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 12/23/1967 – 01/27/1968
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Deborah Watling
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“Oh, you’re a Doctor…” – Astrid
“Not of any medical significance.” – The Doctor
“Doctor of law? Philosophy?” – Astrid
“Which law? Whose philosophy?” – The Doctor

“Years ago, Doctor, when one country wanted to invade another – it set about attacking the confidence of that country, throwing it into confusion, making it weak – and then it was ripe for takeover.” – Kent

“It’s sad, really, isn’t it? People spend all their time making nice things and other people come along and break them.” – The Doctor

“The Enemy of the World” is a tense, taut political thriller. It’s easily watchable in one go, though because of my schedule I did watch it in two parts (1-3 one night and 4-6 the next day). There’s no monsters here (other than those of the human variety), no alien invasions, no cults or sickness or viruses. It’s just about people and politics – and it’s absolutely fascinating. It also has a very strong guest cast, especially the women (Fariah – pronounced with three syllables – FAIR-REE-ah, not like Farrah Fawcett) and Astrid. But all the characters, good and evil, those “simply following orders” and those fighting back in an repressive, fascist regime, are well-drawn and well-rounded characters.

The Doctor, Jaime and Victoria land in the TARDIS on the seaside, and the Doctor immediately runs into the ocean for a dip – which Jaime and Victoria think is a bit nuts. The Doctor is attacked, a case of mistaken identity, and rescued by Astrid in her helicopter. The three are taken to Kent, the leader of the resistance against Salamander – the dictator who leads the world. Kent and Astrid insist Salamander is evil and corrupt – and he’s trying to take control of the world. The Doctor is unsure, and unwilling to involve himself in local politics (no really!). He insists on proof. Astrid remarks on the Doctor’s uncanny resemblance to Salamander (this is Troughton in a dual role), and wants him to use that to their advantage to get the evidence they need – not only to convince the Doctor, but to convince the world to do something about Salamander.

The Doctor is somewhat forced to at least try to get more information. Jaime and Victoria are sent to the Central European Zone to sneak in and get information by going undercover. Kent and Astrid provide travel documents and passage. Astrid even goes with the two to help them with the travel and to assist with getting them in. Jaime goes in and “saves” Salamander from a “bomb” – actually a clever deception organized by Astrid. Jaime gets a job as a guard and Victoria is sent to the kitchen.

The leader of the Central European Zone is Denes – and Salamander tells him that a disaster will hit his region – he can’t help it, but he can help if Denes turns total control over to him. Denes refuses – stating he wants to investigate further, doubting there will be a disaster. Extinct volcanoes erupt in the region, killing millions. Salamander has Denes arrested. He offers Fedorin his job, but also blackmails him with a file. Salamander will control Fedorin. He then orders Fedorin to kill Denes. Meanwhile, in the kitchens, Victoria meets a crusty, Cockney chef who complains about everything. She goes to bring Denes his meal, and there’s a distraction while Fariah, Salamander’s food taster, gets the hidden file on Fedorin. Fedorin goes to poison the food once it arrives again – but he can’t do it. He reports to Salamander. Salamander kills him then claims it was “suicide”.

Jaime, Victoria, and Fariah escape and meet-up with Astrid. They make it back to Kent’s with the file – and meet the Doctor. Unfortunately, Salamander’s troops are on their tail. they split up to escape, Fariah has the file – Fariah is shot in the back by Benik’s guards (the head of security at the Research Center) and the file taken.

Kent and Astrid become more insistent that the Doctor impersonate Salamander. Learning Jaime and Victoria were taken prisoner to the Research Center during the escape – the Doctor agrees to go in to get more information and release his two young friends.

Meanwhile, Salamander locks himself in the “records room” of the research center. He takes a single-person elevator/subway car to an underground bunker. There are a group of scientists in the bunker, one of whom, Colin, is getting desperate to see the surface. Salamander brings new food stores, but tells the scientists they can’t return to the surface due to the devastation from “the war”. He then orders them to continue causing the natural disasters. Swann, the scientist leader, though, finds an up-to-date newspaper that makes him very suspicious of Salamander’s version of events. He confronts Salamander, who agrees to take him to the surface to see for himself (after some very unconvincing attempts to explain away the newspaper Swann found). Once they are in some tunnels by the food store – Salamander tries to kill Swann. Swann wanders off towards the surface, and he’s found by Astrid. Although he eventually dies from his injuries he tells her about “the others”.

Meanwhile, the Doctor is now getting some help from Bruce, the World Security Advisor, who has his suspicions about Salamander – but doesn’t trust Kent at all. The Doctor convinces him he can play the part of Salamander by successfully doing so in front of Jaime and Victoria. He breaks back into character and asks Bruce to escort Jaime and Victoria safely out of the research center while he plays his part and gathers info. The Doctor discovers the research center is ordering three times the amount of food it should.

Benik gets suspicious when Salamander seems to be in two places at once. Astrid gets into the underground bunker via the tunnel – and the scientists at first fear her. When she proves the “radiation meter” is a complete fake, and explains the truth of it – they want to go to the surface, naturally. It’s a bit of a slow process. The Doctor confronts Kent – discovering he and Salamander were partners when a pair of scientists from the bunker arrive. Kent wants to take over from Salamander. There’s a fight, the bunker is blown-up, Kent’s killed, but Salamander escapes.

The Doctor says goodbye to Astrid, who now has plenty of evidence to discredit Salamander (and come clean about Kent) and have him arrested. The Doctor goes to join Jaime and Victoria at the TARDIS. Unfortunately, Salamander gets there first and non-verbally orders Jaime to fly the TARDIS. The Doctor arrives and the TARDIS takes off – Salamander gets the doors open and falls to his doom through them.

“The Enemy of the World” is a taut political epic that is ripe with applicability to our times as well. We instantly want to believe Kent and Astrid because, well, in part, it’s the type of thing that the Doctor tends to fall into (both in Classic and New Who). Astrid is also incredibly strong – not only in her convictions, but this woman flies a helicopter, she shoots guns, she defeats armed guards in hand-to-hand combat (rivaling Emma Peel as she does so) and she never once whines, cries, or complains. Even when she learns Kent, the man she’s presumably worked with to overthrow Salamander for years, has betrayed her she doesn’t stubbornly insist “he couldn’t do that” with the evidence in front of her, she metaphorically rolls up her sleeves and says, “Right, okay, so I’m in charge now, What next?” And she doesn’t get killed. Very importantly, this strong, brilliant woman doesn’t die.

Fariah, who is also Black, is also strong. She’s Salamander’s food taster (and probably his assistant as well), she says she hates him – probably more than Victoria or Jaime, yet the two times she’s pressed to explain why, she refuses, saying it doesn’t matter. There’s a whole ‘nother story there that we don’t see – which makes the world shown in “Enemy of the World” to seem real and lived-in. Yes, Salamander destroys people, good people like Fariah – and the details aren’t important. She, unfortunately, is killed. 😦

Kent at first seems like an overly enthusiastic rebel leader. He reminds me of Blake in Blake’s 7, and of course we’ve seen his type numerous times in Doctor Who in both Classic and New Who. But he doesn’t set off any alarm bells at first. When the Doctor discovers the truth – it’s a genuine surprise.

The rest of the characters don’t really fall into strict one-dimensional categories either. Bruce starts off as a black-wearing security chief, but as he learns more about Salamander (especially the deaths of Denes, Fedorin, and Fariah). he starts to question Salamander. But he equally doesn’t trust or like Kent. Ultimately, he decides he will make up his own mind if the Doctor can provide proof. In this, he is much like the Doctor who keeps telling Kent and Astrid not so much that he “can’t interfere” but he must be sure he knows what he’s doing if he does interfere.

Patrick Troughton is excellent in a dual role as The Doctor and Salamander. The scene where the Doctor is playing Salamander in front of Jaime and Victoria is particularly well-played and directed. Also, the set for Salamander’s record room, the transport tube, and the underground bunker is particularly impressive.

“Enemy of the World” is an excellent Doctor Who story and I highly, highly recommend it. This is the story that along with most of “Web of Fear” was recovered in 2013, for more about the recovery see, 9 Missing Doctor Who Episodes Found. The only minor disappointment in the DVD is that while Doctor Who DVDs usually come packed with special features, this one basically has none – the only extra is a trailer for ‘Web of Fear”, which was discovered at the same time. The film was cleaned up though and it looks great! I highly, highly recommend “Enemy of the World”.

 

Book Review – Doctor Who: Official Secrets

  • Title: Official Secrets
  • Author: Cavan Scott
  • Artists: Adriana Melo, Cris Bolson, Marco Lesko, Richard Starkings, Jimmy Betancourt
  • Line: 9th Doctor
  • Characters: Ninth Doctor, Rose Tyler, Captain Jack Harkness
  • Collection Date: 2017
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 01/28/2018

**Spoiler Alert** I really, really loved Official Secrets! Finally, a Ninth Doctor Titan Comics collection that really feels like Doctor Who. I’ve been collecting the Titan Comics Doctor Who graphic novels for awhile now, and while the first two Ninth Doctor volumes weren’t bad – they weren’t nearly as enjoyable or on point as, Official Secrets. The Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctor graphic novel series from Titan were all more in character than the first two Ninth Doctor volumes. But this one is wonderful!

Official Secrets feels very much like a Jon Pertwee or Tom Baker Era UNIT story. It starts with a woman running through the woods and getting attacked by monsters – only to be rescued by the Doctor , Rose, and Capt. Jack. They are tracking the gargoyle accidentally sent back in time in the last volume. Before long UNIT arrives with Dr. Harry Sullivan in charge. UNIT is at odds with Albion a for-profit military group who want to discredit UNIT, take over from them as the UK government’s “monster squad”, and to even start wars to increase their own profits.

Albion has kidnapped Alex Yaxley, who had been part of an experiment to use astro-projection to create ghost soldiers to fight in wars. The Doctor realizes that the monsters plaguing the local area resemble the monsters in a Japanese monster film magazine. And, they eventually figure out it is Yaxley’s son who is causing the monsters to appear by accidentally psychically projecting his nightmares. The Brigadier, Dr. Sullivan, UNIT, – with the Doctor and Rose who goes undercover at Albion to save Alex and help him escape also put a stop to the monsters, without harming the boy or his father. A UNIT soldier who appeared to be going on a tell-all television news magazine to blow the whistle on UNIT – instead blows the whistle on Albion, blaming them for everything.

Tara joins the TARDIS crew, despite Rose’s jealousy and the Doctor takes everyone to Brazil in the past. There they meet a slaver, whom the Doctor stops from beating his slave. A mermaid, from space, and her water-creature partner are living in the nearby river. The Doctor recognizes their species as space-born slavers. But these two are different – they believe enslaving other races, and destroying primitive planets is wrong – so they fled their home. Unfortunately, they are tracked by others from their race. The Doctor manages to rescue the pair, and defeat the ship trailing them – but not before the human slaver is kidnapped (and forced to become a slave).

The artwork in Official Secrets leaps off the page. It’s truly fantastic – and the panels are drawn in a way to draw the eye to read them in the correct order. Page after page of the art in this book is truly, truly remarkable.

The storyline is just plain fun. Both stories could be grim – a man kidnapped and forced to think-up monsters? A boy who’s nightmares literally come true? A human slaver who gets his just desserts? A mermaid from space? But instead its a rollicking good time. This book is just plain fun. It gets the feel of the UNIT years and characters just right (poor Harry – still gets no respect) and finally the Doctor, Rose and Capt. Jack are in character and interact with everything just fine. I simply loved this book, and it gets my highest recommendation.

Non-Fiction Book Review – Red, White and Who

  • Title: Red, White and Who the Story of Doctor Who in America
  • Authors: Steven Warren Hill, & Jennifer Adams Kelley, Nicholas Seidler, and Robert Warnock, with Janine Fennick and John Lavalie
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 01/23/2018

Red, White and Who was a book that I massively was looking forward to, from the moment I heard about it at Chicago TARDIS a Doctor Who convention. Every year I’d return to the con, only to find the book had been delayed. Now that it hs finally been published, I am very happy to report it does not disappoint.

Red, White and Who is a history book about Doctor Who in the US and Doctor Who fandom in the US. The majority of the book is also a fast and enjoyable read. I was a bit intimidated looking at a 700-plus-page book that even the author describes as a “history” – but it really was an enjoyable and fun read.

The history of Doctor Who in America goes back to the Peter Cushing film, Dr. Who and the Daleks being shown in drive-ins, often as part of a double or triple feature. The television series Doctor Who was first shown in the US in the 1970s when a small group of independent stations bought a syndication package of Jon Pertwee stories. In the early 1980s, Time-Life sold the series (early Tom Baker) to independent and PBS stations (adding the dreaded Da Silva intros along the way). But it wasn’t until LionHeart sold the series to PBS that it really took off in the US. And this book does an excellent job of explaining the history to some extent of PBS and how it works, as well as Doctor Who‘s history with PBS.

Reading this book is part discovery (I never knew that!) and a class reunion as I recognized names, events, etc. It’s a journey and a fascinating one!

The only part of the book I found to be a little less interesting was the information on New Who and the changes in fandom there. That almost could be a separate book – New Who fans live in a different world of streaming services and binge-watching DVDs. Which isn’t to say “Classic fandom” is better – neither is better, it’s just different.

The book includes a large number of appendices, some of which I read and others I only skimmed or flipped through, but they make the book a great resource and something that will probably live on my desk hutch rather than buried in my bookcases.

Red, White and Who is highly, highly recommended – especially to Doctor Who fans in other countries, it’s a cultural history, a highly entertaining read, and very enjoyable!

Full Disclosure: I acted as regional expert for this book – and communicated with the authors by email with what information I knew. I received an acknowledgement in the book – but no monetary compensation.

Doctor Who – The Ice Warriors Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Ice Warriors
  • Story #: 39
  • Episodes: 6 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 2
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 11/11/1967 – 12/16/1967
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Deborah Watling
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“Well, I’ll try and help you. But I do think you might try trusting human beings instead of computers.” – The Doctor
“I trust no one, Doctor, not any more. Human emotions are unreliable.” – Leader Clent

Parts 1, 4, 5, and 6 of “The Ice Warriors” are film/video, in other words, the original episodes (cleaned-up and restored for DVD release). Parts 3 and 4 are animation, with the original audio. The animation for this story is truly outstanding. Disc 1 has the entire story, all six parts including the animated episodes, with commentary and info text. Disc 2 has the special (extra) features.

This episode opens with a bang as the TARDIS lands horizontally right at the door of a scientific base and the Doctor, Jaime, and Victoria have to crawl out. They head inside and discover a group of scientists, computer techs, and the leader, who are working in “glacier containment” by using an Ioniser ray to selectively melt the advancing ice caps. They also work with computer control. The Earth is experiencing climate change – after drastically lowering atmospheric CO² levels, the Earth experienced a year without a Spring, and after a few years of confusion figured out the Earth had entered a second ice age.

The head technician is a woman, who is taken over from Penley, a scientist who left the base and joined the scavengers outside. The leader is Clent, who wavers from being strong-minded and fair, though with a bit of a grudge against Penley for leaving – to someone who nearly suffers a breakdown when asked to make a terribly important decision. Arden is another scientist who gets stuck with “Doctor and companion” minding. That is, he’s someone Clent can spare for a bit to run errands. The base is already understaffed because they are evacuating due to the advancing glaciers.

Two scientist-engineers checking the ice find a ice-entombed Ice Warrior. They bring it to the base med bay and accidentally wake it up. Also, the Ice Warriors ship and the rest of it’s crew are buried in the ice. The revitalized Warrior uses the same device to wake up his crew.

The conflict involves Clent and Ms. Garrett trying to figure out what to do about the glaciers (and the story goes along, the threat from the glaciers becomes even more dire) and what to do about the Ice Warriors. Clent basically wants to ignore the Ice Warriors, but unfortunately, they have a military bent and see Clent and his scientists as a threat. Once the Ice Warriors learn of the Ioniser, they can only see it as a weapon – either a weapon to be used against themselves or a weapon they can use against Clent and company. Clent really is more concerned about his Ioniser, computer control, and the glaciers than the Ice Warriors. The only time he becomes concerned is after the Doctor comes up with an equation to safely fix the worst of the glacier problem, and the computer confirms the equation, but Ms. Garrett realizes that if they use the ray and the spaceship is atomic-powered, it’s nuclear reactor could blow-up from the heat – and irradiate the area (killing everyone on the base as well). Clent, understandably, doesn’t want to accidentally set-off an atomic bomb, but is stuck between trying to stop the glaciers on one hand and the Ice Warriors on the other.

Victoria is quickly kidnapped by the Ice Warriors. She frees herself, but is unable to provide the information the base needs about the spaceship engines. She is from Victorian England – one wouldn’t expect her to be able to tell the difference between different types of spaceships!

Arden and Jaime head off to rescue Victoria, but Arden is shot dead by the Ice Warriors, and Jaime is at first knocked out – and then, once he finally gets some medical help, is paralyzed. This is temporary, of course. The Doctor does try to rescue Victoria and Jaime – he meets Penley and Jaime. For a short time Penley is working with a scavenger, Storr, but when Storr tries to volunteer to work with the Ice Warriors to stop the scientists – he’s killed by the Ice Warriors.

In the end, the Doctor is able to find out what type of power the Ice Warriors’ space ship uses, rescue Victoria, and momentarily disable the Ice Warriors with ammonia sulfate, which Victoria realises is a “stink bomb” but the Doctor knows will be a bit more irritating to the Mars-born Ice Warriors. The Doctor, Victoria, and Penley return to the base. The Doctor explains what type of power the ship has. Clent nearly breaks down trying to make a decision without the computer. Ms. Garrett also cannot go against the computer (who’s last command was “wait”; when fed the info about the spaceship’s power source it breaks down from a clash of logic), in the end it’s Penley who feeds in the equation to increase the Ioniser power. This melts the glacier and the Ice Warriors ship. The Warriors themselves die from the heat. The ship does not explode. The Doctor, Victoria, and a recovered Jaime leave in the TARDIS.

The Ice Warriors at six parts is a bit slow. However, the central moral quandary of going with the gut for a big win or relying on what proves to be an unreliable computer is interesting. It works. The Ice Warriors are a great design – very tall, and looking like upright-standing lizards with helmets. They have great voices that hiss everything they ssssay (sorry, couldn’t resist). The cast is excellent. Victoria spends a lot of time asking the Warrior to “let her go”, but the minute she does get free, she’s trying to get back to the base and to raise the base on a video communicator (which she manages to figure out). Poor Jaime, again, spends a lot of time in medical units. The set-up, with the glacier-containment base, and the Ioniser, which focuses the sun’s rays specifically, is different. Overall, I do like this story. As I said, it’s a bit slow in spots – but it’s a good tale.

Besides Ms. Garrett, who is the lead computer operator – there are other, unnamed, background women in the computer tech center. Clent is a at times frustrating leader – but he isn’t as obstitate as some that the Doctor has come across in his travels. Penley is a good man, who apparently got really frustrated with Clent and walked out – what happened between the two is never fully explained, but we can guess. Storr the scavenger is the only truly stupid character. His hatred of “science” and “scientists” seems to have no basis – and when he offers his service to the Ice Warriors he’s killed instead. Arden is the only other character killed, and a bit of a sacrificial lamb. At the end of the story every one else is alive, and the Ioniser operation is a rousing success – so this is not an “everyone dies” Doctor Who story. Highly recommended.

Note: I broke this in half and watched over two nights. Well, episodes 1-3 yesterday afternoon, and episodes 4-6 this morning. I do recommend doing that with some of the longer Doctor Who stories. I also really liked the animation in this one!

The Jewel in the Crown Review

  • Title:  Jewel in the Crown
  • Season: Complete Series
  • Episodes: 14
  • Discs: 5
  • Cast: Art Malik, Susan Wooldridge, Tim Pigott-Smith, Geraldine James, Charles Dance
  • Network:  ITV/Granada
  • DVD Format:  Standard, Color, DVD, R1, NTSC

Jewel in the Crown takes place in India from 1942 to 1947 (the year of India’s independence from the UK). It was also filmed “exclusively” in India. The people of India are Indians – therefore throughout this review when I refer to Indians I am referring to the people of India, and not using a pejorative term for Native Americans. Just clearing that up in advance. I bought this series on DVD because it is considered to be a classic, though I had not seen it before. the television series is based on the, “Raj Quartet” by Paul Scott. This may explain the somewhat disjointed nature of this series, because it definitely feels almost like three separate series based on the same theme, time period, and place.

The first two episodes feature Daphne Manners and Hari Kumar. Daphne lost her mother when she was young and recently lost her father and brother in the war [World War II]. So Daphne heads out to India to live with a friend of her aunt, whom she immediately calls “auntie”. The first thing her aunt does is throw a big party to introduce Daphne to everyone. At the party, Daphne meets Hari Kumar, an Indian who had lived in England since he was two, and had attended British schools, including Chillingborough. Daphne also meets Ronald Merrick an inspector in the local India police. Daphne goes on a date with Hari, then on a pity date with Merrick because he caught her with Hari. Merrick makes it clear to Daphne that he doesn’t approve of her mixing with the Indian natives (I won’t repeat his language.) Daphne is not impressed by Merrick or his racist language. She’s even less impressed when he tells her on their first and only date that he “quite thinks they should become engaged”.

However, Hari realizes he can’t have a relationship with a “white, English girl” and tries to avoid seeing Daphne. Daphne keeps trying to ignore this and everything around them. Hari takes Daphne to a Hindu temple at her request. It’s quite a foreign experience for her – and nothing is explained to the audience either, but Daphne isn’t completely freaked out either, to her credit. Again, she and Hari take a break – not seeing each other. Daphne busys herself working in the hospital and at the local mission (as a sort of candy striper or volunteer).

One night Daphne and Hari meet in an outdoor garden. Hari tries to get Daphne to promise to not see him again – but they soon fall into each others arms, and make love. However, they are jumped by a gang, and Daphne is raped, while, Hari is beat up. Daphne makes it to her aunt’s house. The police are called in, and Merrick arrests Hari and a group of his friends – none of whom had anything to do with it. Merrick interrogates, beats, and tortures Hari. Later, we learn he physically fondled him as well. And for much of the interrogation, Merrick keeps Hari naked. Later, he has Hari and the others thrown in jail under the Defense of India Act – which means no trial, no lawyer, and he’s essentially thrown in a hole and forgotten about. Daphne, meanwhile, discovers she’s pregnant. She goes off to another aunt, has the baby, and dies in childbirth. That’s the first two episodes (so they end with the main charcter dead, and the other in prison on trumped-up charges.) Merrick arrested Hari because he’s a racist and he’s jealous, and wanted Daphne for himself. He also massively exceeds his authority.

Next, we meet the Layton family, who are in the houseboat next to the aunt who’s now raising Daphne’s child. (We never really see the child, and the aunt appears briefly later.) Mildred “Millie” Layton is the head of the household, as her husband is in a German POW camp. She’s stuffy, rude, bigoted, and an alcoholic. No, she’s not very nice. Her eldest daughter, Sarah, works as some sort of aide for the military in India (we’re never told her title that I recall, though she gets promoted twice over the course of the series). The younger daughter, Susan, is engaged and preparing for her wedding to Captain Bingham. There’s also Aunt Fenny, Mildred’s sister, who’s as bigoted as her sister and a mean-spirited gossip. Barbie Batchelor and Mabel Layton are the two old biddies – they are kind-hearted, fast friends, and pretty much try to help any one they come across, especially in Barbie’s cse, the less fortunate. So, of course, Mildred hates them both, especially Barbie. Barbie had spent most of her life as a teacher for young, unfortunate, and even “untouchable” children in India at mission schools, but is now retired. When Mabel dies – Mildred chucks Barbie out in the street, even though she has plenty of extra space (an entire extra cottage). Fenny doesn’t help, spreading a rumor that the never-married spinster Barbie has an unnatural attraction towards women. This is false, of course. Fenny just figures it must be true of a woman who never married. Barbie briefly ends up at the vicarage, tries to return to the missions, and eventually dies as a result of a rickshaw accident. Much of her very late problems could have been avoided if Mildred and Fenny had been a bit more kind.

Susan, meanwhile, marries Teddie Bingham, and gets pregnant on her honeymoon. Bingham’s bunkmate at the army camp is Merrick, who talks his way in to the wedding as best man. After the honeymoon, Teddie is killed and Merrick injured seriously. Since the only version we see of Teddie’s death is what Merrick says, we don’t know if he was involved in causing Bingham’s death or not – but he does later marry Susan. When Susan hears her husband has died in the war, she gets quite hysterical – and doesn’t handle it well. She also goes into labor, seems overly concerned her child might not be “whole” and a few weeks later, attempts to kill the child, a boy. Luckily, the India nanny intervenes and rescues the child.

Sarah continues working for the army. She meets Guy Perron (Charles Dance) a nice bloke. We first see Guy meeting a political officer who had sat in on an interview with Hari Kumar, looking in to possible abuses by Merrick. However, the panel is scandalized by what Kumar says, and has the worst bits stricken from the record. Guy is an intelligence officer, who is told to check out a Maharanee’s party for loose lips that might cause problems for a number of military operations. He attends the party in a uniform of the “Army Education Corps” – his old job. We’re thinking that Guy is there to nail Merrick – alas, this never happens. Even when the political officer gives him the file on Hari Kumar and Merrick, with the option to act on it or destroy it – he burns it. Likewise, even though Sarah and Guy are an obvious pairing, and the two are attracted to each other (and she even sleeps with him) at the end of the series, they are ships that have passed in the night, each going their own way, with their own duties and lives.

Although India’s independence from British rule, and the internal strife in India (especially religious strife between Hindus and Muslems) is mentioned, especially in the later episodes set in 1945 (the end of the war) and 1947, the series doesn’t really get into the details. The division of India into India and Pakistan, and the process of folding independent(-ish) princely states into the new India, is mentioned and the focus of the last episode. However, most of the last episode involves a train trip – that turns into a massacre, where the train is stopped on the track and all Indians are attacked and killed, but the British on the same train are left alone. Since it’s Indians who organized and carried out the attack it’s pretty terrifying.

Overall, I found Jewel in the Crown to be a depressing and harsh series. There’s a lot of blatant racism – especially from characters like Merrick, Mildred, and Aunt Fenny. But the less racist and more accepting characters like Daphne, Sarah, and Guy also though they treat the Indians as human and form relationships with them, in the end, are all doomed. Sarah and Guy survive, but not together, and never find personal happiness or professional satisfaction. Also, although this series teaches a little bit about the end of British rule in India, in the end, it’s not terribly informative. It doesn’t sink as low as to suggest that India needed the British to rule it – but it also doesn’t seem to understand why India would want independence.

Overall, this was a slow-moving and depressing series. But the individual episodes do quickly draw you in, and you do care about the characters, it’s just heart-breaking to see horrible things happen to them.

Doctor Who – The Tomb of the Cybermen Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Tomb of the Cybermen
  • Story #: 37
  • Episodes: 4 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 1
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 9/02/1967 – 9/23/1967
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Deborah Watling
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“New race of Cybermen? But we’re humans, we’re not like you.” – Jaime
“You will be.” – Cyber Controller

“The Tomb of the Cybermen” is one of the very few Patrick Troughton stories that was sold to PBS in the 1980s. I saw in on PBS, albeit in movie format, I had a copy on VHS, and I bought the DVD when it was released. So I have seen this story a few times. But it is still quite the classic.

The story begins with the Doctor showing Victoria around the console room of the TARDIS, then he asks Jaime to show her to the wardrobe room to find more appropriate clothing. Victoria remarks that the TARDIS is quite big inside. Later, the TARDIS lands and the Doctor, Jaime, and Victoria meet an archaeological expedition led by Professor Perry and financed by Kaftan and Klieg. Perry remarks that the Cybermen “died out” but no one knows why they died out. Kaftan and Klieg insist one of the others on the expedition try to force the doors – and the man is electrocuted. The Doctor and TARDIS crew arrive. The one-time-use-only burglar alarm now deactivated, the Doctor, with help from Toberman gets the doors open. Inside they find they are definitely in a Cyberman location, as there are Cyberman illustrations everywhere. The crew starts to explore. Jaime and another two men find a weapons testing room, but unfortunately one of the men is shot in the back when Jaime accidentally triggers the weapons test. Others find a control board with a door leading below ground. The scientists and expedition members know the Cybermen will be below ground and it will be cold.

They expedition plans to return to their rocket for the night, and explore more the next day, only to have the captain of the rocket return with his co-pilot and report the rocket was sabotaged. Everyone now has no choice but to stay in the Cyberman installation.

The Doctor works out, partially, how to open the hatch to the lower level, and Klieg finishes the calculations and gets it open. Everyone but Victoria and Kaftan go below. Kaftan seals the hatch, which angers Victoria. When the pilot and co-pilot return again, she asks them to get it open. Meanwhile, everyone else is exploring below. They find the tombs of the Cybermen, which are storage facilities. Klieg turns on the power and revitalizes the Cybermen. They are released, including their controller.

Victoria manages to convince the pilot to open the door, everyone and the Cybermen go to the main level. But the Cybermen are run down and continuously need to be revitalized from an outside power source. Kaftan and Klieg try to use this to bargain with the Cybermen for power, it does not go well.

More or less, one by one, the expedition is killed, including first Klieg and later Kaftan. The Doctor with help from Klieg (who later dies) and Perry manages to seal the Cybermen back in their tombs. The pilot, Perry and Tobermen prepare to leave with the TARDIS crew, and the Doctor says he will seal off the installation, electrifying not only the door, but the control panel and the hatch to the lower level. But one of the thought dead Cybermen revitalizes. Toberman sacrifices himself to shut the door. In the end, only the pilot and Perry escape, as well as the TARDIS crew.

“The Tomb of the Cybermen” is a great story – the sets are incredible, very big and impressive-looking. This is one of those stories where one-by-one all the guest actors are killed off (Only Perry and the pilot survive, even the co-pilot is killed by a Cyberman). The villains, other than the Cybermen of course, are Klieg and the woman Kaftan. They are both rich, having financed the expedition together, and both want power and think the Cybermen will give it to them. This story features the Cyber-Controller, a Cyberman with a clear head covered in black vein-like designs who leads the Cybermen and both a miniature and full-sized Cybermats (which are adorable). The Cybermats are supposed to be scary and threatening, but I immediately wanted one because they are so cute! But the story is excellent, and has some truly well-designed and impressive sets, especially considering the budget.

Now on to the negatives. For no apparent reason the pilot and co-pilot are American – and have terrible accents. The pilot, especially, sounds just like John Wayne and I just wanted to slap him every time he opened his mouth. Plus he’s not that smart. Perry, on the other hand, is smarter than many other scientists or expedition leaders we’ve seen on Doctor Who. When the first expedition member is killed – he considers leaving, and is talked out of it by Klieg and Kaftan, especially after the Doctor shows up and opens the door to the Cybermen’s installation. When the second man dies, he orders everyone to leave. The only reason they don’t is Kaftan had Toberman sabotage the rocket when no one was looking. Since they can’t leave for 72 hours anyway, Perry agrees to continue their investigations. This shows remarkable common sense, and it’s not his fault the rest of his expedition dies.

Secondly, Toberman is Black and is introduced as Kaftan’s servant. He says very little, and is portrayed as being remarkably strong. Basically, he’s a “strongman” stereotype. This isn’t good, at all.

Overall, you have a villain that’s a woman, and her partner, Klieg (but it’s clear Kaftan and Klieg are equal partners).

Previously, when I’ve watched this episode the scene of the Cybermen being re-frozen in their Tombs always bothered me, because it’s painfully obvious they simply reversed the film. This time though I didn’t find it nearly so annoying!

Still, this is an excellent Patrick Troughton story and I highly recommend it.