Doom Patrol Season 1 Review

  • Series Title: Doom Patrol
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 15
  • Discs: 3 (Blu-ray)
  • Network: DC Universe (Warner Brothers)
  • Cast: Alan Tudyk, Diane Guerrero, April Bowlby, Matt Bomer, Timothy Dalton, Brendan Fraser, Joivan Wade, Phil Morris
  • DVD: Widescreen Blu-Ray (R1, NTSC)

This review contains spoilers for the first season of Doom Patrol.

Doom Patrol is weird, wonderful, strange, and extremely good – and it’s not your same old-same old superhero show. It’s a deeply psychological show that aims to really show what mental illness is like for the people that have it, which is a vastly different approach to a superhero show. Nevermind being screw-ups, the Doom Patrol is doomed to never be successful.

The pilot and first episode of Doom Patrol are narrated by Mr. Nobody, whom it turns out is the villain. His narration pops-up occasionally throughout the series, especially in the Penultimate Patrol and the finale. Each episode of the series also is the “blank Patrol” or the “something Patrol”. Also, the Chief, played by Timothy Dalton, is kidnapped by Mr. Nobody in those first few episodes, so the Doom Patrol are trying to find and rescue their chief, who we do see occasionally in the series – including a flashback episode that somewhat explains why Niles Calder is interested in the unusual in the first place.

The characters are:

“Crazy Jane” – she has 64 multiple personalities, each with their own special abilities. The personalities exist in the “underground” a place we visit once. Jane is the primary. Everyone calls Jane by her name of Jane, though her birth name is possibly “Kay Challis” we learn later. Other personalities include: Hammerhead – a foul-mouthed, angry, extremely strong woman (in the underground she is bald and a punk); Baby Doll – with pigtails, and a giggly manner she’s both sweet and annoying in equal manner; Penny Farthing – a young British Cockney girl who’s purpose is to run; Silver Tongue – when she speaks her words appear in copper letters which she can then use as a weapon; and The Secretary – who we only see in the Underground, a stern woman, with severe dress and hair, but she seems to be in charge of keeping Jane’s head together – organizing the personalities and preventing further harm from coming to Jane.

Cliff Steele (Robotman) – a race car driver, who is in a horrible accident. The Chief transplants his brain into a robot body. At first we, the audience, like Cliff think he was in an accident on the race track. But he avoids that, then is a normal traffic accident late at night. The accident kills his wife, and he thinks his daughter too, but later he discovers she survived. Cliff had been raised in an abusive home, and he and his wife fought constantly and both had constant affairs.

Rita Farr (Elasti-girl) – A movie actress in the 1950s, she complains about a “disfigured” cameraman then falls through a wooden pier into an African river, where some strange substance enters her. Now her skin and form aren’t solid and she has little to no control of the situation. We usually see Rita losing control of her form by her face drooping or her legs turning into a goopy mess.

Larry Trainer (Negative Man) – A test pilot in the late 50s/early 60s – Larry is testing a new plane when an extra-terrestrial creature enters the plane. He crashes – and is rushed to a secret government facility. He is extremely radioactive and has to wear special bandages to prevent harm to others (he discovers this when he accidentally kills all the doctors and nurses at the first hospital he’s taken to). The creature inside him can leave, but when the Energy Spirit leaves, Larry is knocked out cold. Larry is also gay but hides it from nearly everyone.

Vic Stone (Cyborg) – He’s been Cyborg for an unspecified amount of time, but ends-up joining the Doom Patrol due to complications. He’s a friend of the Chief but has a complicated relationship with his father, Dr. Silas Stone, whom he doesn’t quite trust.

All of these characters face serious mental issues. Jane is the most obvious – her multiple personality disorder was caused by abuse – and the meta abilities were caused by the same agency that got their kidnapped Larry, giving her some sort of injection. At times Jane is the most normal of the group.

Rita’s ability is a visualization of body dysmorphia. As an actress, especially from the 1950s, her looks were her livelihood – and we often see Rita checking her makeup in a compact, or sitting in front of a makeup mirror. As we learn more about her, we find out she was also a victim of the “casting couch” – forced to provide “favors” to get roles. Rita Farr isn’t even her real name, but her stage name – further complicating how she sees herself.

Larry cannot accept he is gay. He has a wife and children, a job in the military as a test pilot, and pretty much has faked his entire life to create an appearance of “being normal”. He’ll have the occasional affair or fling with a man but cannot commit or even admit who he really is. Through the season, we see Larry slowly grow to accept who he really is.

Cliff is the son of an abusive father, who becomes abusive and a womanizer as an adult. But he also, despite the bravado, is close to accepting his faults and becoming a better person.

Even Mr. Nobody has only one talent – to manipulate people (and he manipulates all of the Doom Patrol, even the Chief, throughout the season). He has ideas about weapons and such that he thinks will gain him membership in the Brotherhood of Evil, but his lack of follow-through gets him fired instead, and his wife leaves him.

Vic Stone is still coming to terms with being Cyborg and is deeply distrustful of his father. He’s trying to find his own place in the world.

Besides Mr. Nobody, the villain of the piece is The Bureau of Normalcy – a “secret government agency” that both Larry and Niles (the Chief) had worked for at one time. The Bureau seeks to lock-up, study, turn into weapons, or just out and out destroy anything that isn’t “normal”.

Doom Patrol is visually stunning, weird, wonderful, and a must-see. Highly recommended.

Book Review – The Infamous Duchess

  • Title: The Infamous Duchess
  • Series: Diamonds in the Rough
  • Author: Sophie Barnes
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 1/12/2020

**Spoiler Alert** I enjoy good historical fiction, but I’ve never really read that much Regency Romance – it all seemed so predictable: boy meets girl or girl meets boy, they are perfect for each other but have issues, those issues get resolved, and in the end, they end up together. Sigh. But, when you think about it – a lot of genre fiction as a certain formula to it – the detective solves the crime, the superheroes defeat the villain, etc. etc. so dismissing something as genre shouldn’t be the “insult” it often is. Besides I really enjoyed reading The Infamous Duchess and it even got me out of my funk from the holidays, work, and the weather crashing in on me at the same time. So a book that I liked that made me feel better? In my book, that’s a good thing.

Viola Cartwright, Duchess of Tremaine – wasn’t always a Duchess or even a member of the Aristocracy and therein lies her problem. The daughter of a doctor who was a private physician to a Duke and his family, Viola grew up in the Duke’s household but not really a part of it. She became friends with the Duke’s son, but then he took advantage of her when she was 16 – an event Viola has blamed herself for years. Fortunately, the elderly Duke of Tremaine isn’t the cad his son is – he sends his son off to a British colony in Africa or someplace and marries Viola, making her a Duchess. He also changes his will to leave everything to Viola, because he’s become estranged from his family, especially his son.

Once the elderly Duke dies, Viola buys a small house for herself, sharing it with two former prostitutes she met through her good works and charity. However, unlike many others of her class – she doesn’t look down on the unfortunate women, but genuinely wants to help them and she becomes friends with them. But her main project is a hospital to help London’s poor. She starts the hospital, hires the staff, and works as a nurse (her father had trained her as a doctor but because she’s a woman she is not able to attend university to get an official degree and certification). Fortunately, the main doctor at her hospital, Florian Lowell, judges Viola by her abilities, not her gender – which is part of why Viola hired him. As the story opens, Viola’s hospital is doing well enough that she’s able to open a second location, a day spa, modeled on the health spas in Bath, where the rich can go to be pampered and looked after. The spa is meant to provide income for the hospital so it can be self-sufficient instead of depending on donations.

The story opens with Florian’s brother, Henry Lowell, being brought in after a duel. Henry is a notorious rake – yet Viola and Henry get along well from the very beginning. He’s kind to her and realizes she’s been hurt in the past, whereas from the beginning, Viola notices that Henry seems to be kinder, more preceptive, and less of a cad than rumor would lead her to believe. Besides Viola knows firsthand how vicious and unfounded the rumors of bored aristocrats can be. Once Henry is released from her hospital, she and he run into each other over and over again – often with good results. Meanwhile, Florian and his wife head to Paris for a long-deserved and planned vacation.

But every story needs a villain, and in The Infamous Duchess that villain is Robert, now Duke of Tremaine, who failed to become successful in whatever colony his father banished him to, and who’s wife died there under mysterious circumstances. Also, Henry had known Robert at school, and they had been friends (something Viola finds disturbing) though their friendship had cooled over the years. Robert returns to London, threatens to take Viola to court and demands his inheritance back. Told the money was invested in the charity hospital and the spa – Robert coldly tells Viola, he’ll just take the hospital from her then and sell it.

Robert not only gets himself a barrister who specializes in “getting back” inheritances – but the two also bribe a judge to rule in his favor. Henry helps Viola to obtain a good barrister and looks into Robert’s past – remembering a scandal that Robert had roughed-up a “lady of the evening”. He also finds considerable proof that Robert probably returned and killed a young woman in St Giles – a notorious slum. Despite sympathetic police, testimony from another lower-class woman, and information from the dead girl’s parents that she wasn’t a prostitute – the police refuse to prosecute a Duke when all they have are “rumors” and the testimony of “unsavory” people (including a gangland boss). The judge in Viola’s case won’t even let her present the information that Robert may have killed someone. Henry also attempts to get information about the death of Robert’s wife – but the evidence that he killed her and bribed a corrupt cop to get away with it arrives too late to save Viola.

Viola and Henry, meanwhile, have become close – and married, which should have protected Viola’s assets, since by the laws of the time they became her husband’s property. However, the judge still rules for Robert and takes the hospital from Viola. It’s quickly sold. But the person who bought it is the gangland boss who feels indebted to Henry for trying to get justice for the girl Robert killed and to Viola for building a hospital to help London’s poor in the first place. He returns the hospital to Viola as a gift, so the hospital belongs to her husband, Henry, now. It’s not clear if Robert was able to take a controlling interest in the spa or not because the other main investor is Florian, Henry’s brother and the surgeon at Viola’s hospital.

With the hospital safe, Henry and Viola honeymoon in Paris for a month. They return and Robert bursts in on them, attacking Henry and nearly killing him. Viola shoots Robert in self-defense but fails to kill him. Both Henry and Robert end up at Viola’s hospital and both survive their injuries. Now, however, Robert has attempted to kill Henry – who is now a Viscount and due to become an Earl when his father passes. Attempted murder of an Earl’s son is considered much more serious than the deaths of two women – and finally, Robert is sentenced to death. No mention is made of what happens to the money and property he took from Viola or even who would inherit his title.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Infamous Duchess. It was a fun, light read, but it was nice to read something knowing it would all work out in the end and that the book would have a happy ending. But the story also had a nice mix of traditionally romantic scenes: Viola and Henry dancing at the opening of her day spa, their trip to the seaside, with more action-oriented scenes – Viola meeting Henry when he shows up on Florian’s operating table, a second duel at dawn between Henry and Robert, Henry’s investigation into the truth about Robert – that frustratingly, they can’t use against him. It’s a great story, and it was enjoyable to read. It also appears to be part of a series, with brief references to “difficulties” in Florian and his wife getting together and a hint that the gangland boss with a heart of gold would get his story next. Recommended.

Young Justice Season 3 Review

  • Series Title: Young Justice – Outsiders
  • Season: 3
  • Episodes: 26
  • Discs: 4
  • Network: DC Universe (Warner Brothers)
  • Cast: Jesse McCartney, Danica McKellar, Nolan North, Khary Payton, Stephanie Lemelin, Zehra Fazal, Troy Baker, Jason Marsden, Greg Cipes, Alyson Stoner, Mae Whitman, Zeno Robinson, Tara Strong, Bryton James, Jason Spisak
  • DVD: Widescreen Blu-Ray (R1, NTSC)

Young Justice is an excellent series about the younger superheroes and protegees of the major heroes in the DC Universe – don’t call them sidekicks. The show had two popular and critically acclaimed seasons on Cartoon Network before being abruptly canceled because rumor said the show didn’t “sell enough toys”. Fans set out to bring the show back, and it finally arrived on DC Comics’ new streaming service DC Universe.

The new season is just as good as the previous ones – and gets back to the feel of the first season, with references to The Light, Vandal Savage, Darkseid, and even War World (which is now under the control of Savage). But many of the episodes concentrate on the characters – and what it means to be a teenager, especially a teen with superpowers. Starting in Markovia, where Nightwing hopes to break up a meta-trafficking ring including a lab to “activate” the metagene, the operation doesn’t go to plan. The King and Queen of Markovia who have opened the border to refugees from the rogue state of Qurac and announced an anti-trafficking initiative are murdered. Their second son agrees to have his metagene activated so he can protect Markovia. Their oldest son takes over but is under the control of his general – a conservative Xenophobe who wishes to exile the protected refugees and not only turns a blind eye to meta-human trafficking but was behind the lab in the first place (in collusion with Lex Luthor and the Light). The older brother exiles his younger brother. Also, their younger sister, Tara has been kidnapped and is still missing. She also is a meta. Brion, the younger brother, now a Meta, eventually using the code name Geo-Force, joins the team.

Next, the team of young heroes is contacted by Orion of the New Gods because something is happening on his home planet of New Genesis. The team discovers that someone is impersonating Orion and other New Gods and intimidating the “bugs” who live on the surface of New Genesis. Forager, one of these bugs helps the Young Justice team and joins them, in part because he can’t stay on New Genesis – it’s too dangerous.

Also, joining the team, a young girl, named Violet, whom one of the team sees dropped in a pit with other dead teenagers but she isn’t dead. It isn’t quite evident immediately what Violet’s powers are. She has a Halo around herself (thus her superhero name of “Halo”), can make shields and defensive weapons. She also cannot die, as her healing powers bring her back. Eventually, it’s discovered she is fused with a Motherbox from New Genesis and she can make Boom Tubes.

The season alters between episodes about the various characters – checking in on characters from previous seasons, and also developing the new characters. Violet’s character takes several episodes to develop – we know some things about her immediately, but not everything. Fred Bugg/Forager is a marvelous character and a bit more complicated than he seems at times. Prince Brion/Geo-Force spends a lot of time insisting the team find his missing sister, Tara, but when they do – it becomes very complicated since she’s under the abusive thumb of Slade Wilson. Brion is also exiled from his own country. This season also introduces Victor Stone – Cyborg, who is having a very hard time adjusting to his new identity. The season also opens with Batman withdrawing from the Justice League in protest to Lex Luthor’s restrictions on the League placed through his role as president of the United Nations. Batman takes several people with him to form “Batman Inc.” Jefferson Pierce, Black Lightning, retires at the same time after thinking he killed a teenager who had been turned into a Meta. Nightwing takes Black Lightning under his wing, no pun intended, and he joins the Team unofficially.

Batman Inc. isn’t really seen, but it’s clear they are manipulating events, behind the scenes to give the Young Justice team good publicity (which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t) and to battle The Light and G Gordon Godfrey – a tabloid television journalist who’s a real pain.

Halfway through the season, once Tara is rescued and reunited with her brother, and Cyborg joins the team but is still learning how to control his powers that come from a Fatherbox, Beast Boy proposes a new direction for the Young Justice team. Calling themselves “Outsiders” – they are to generate good publicity for all metas, including young meta teens who have been rescued from meta trafficking and are being housed in the Justice League’s Teen Center. Beast Boy’s day job is playing “Commander Tork” on “Space Trek 3016” produced by GW Goode Studios run by Gretchen “Granny” Goode. Early in the season, the Young Justice team discovers the Virtual Reality goggles her company is producing are being used to tempt young potential meta children and teens away to be kidnapped by traffickers. Later, they discover “Gretchen” is none other than Granny Goodness from  Apokolips. Beast Boy is in charge of the positive image campaign and social media for the Outsiders.

At this point, there are multiple teams: the traditional Young Justice covert ops team, the Outsiders public PR team, and Batman’s Batman Inc. undercover team. It’s not clearly spelled out who is on what team, and there is overlap – but the show now has much more intrigue and covert operations feel to it, much like the first season. This doesn’t overshadow the character relationships though, which are really what makes Young Justice special. The series also has an extremely large cast, with pretty much any and all DC characters appearing at least once. The core for season three though is: Nightwing, Superboy, Tigress (Artemis Crock), Violet, Brion, and Forager, Beast Boy (Garfield Logan), Will Harper, Cyborg, M’Gann, El Dorado, Impulse (Bart Allen), Static, Wonder Girl, and Terra (Princess Tara).

I highly recommend Young Justice as a whole and Season 3 in particular. It is a series that is complex and multi-layered and you do need to watch each season in order to really catch everything that is happening and all the connections and characters. Seasons 1 and 2 are on my re-watch list at which point I will need to see this a second time. Highly recommended.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Molten Heart

  • Title: Molten Heart
  • Series: BBC Books New Series Doctor Who Adventures
  • Author: Una McCormack
  • Characters: Thirteenth Doctor, Yaz, Ryan, Graham
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/30/2019

**Spoiler alert**

Molten Heart is an achingly beautiful book. The planet where the Doctor and her companions happen to land is beautiful, and home to a unique society of living rocks. The story opens with the Doctor and her companions, Graham, Ryan, and Yaz landing the TARDIS – they are in a bubble inside the crust of a planet. There are gemstones and semi-precious stones in abundance, but something seems off. Ryan and Graham are nearly killed by a sudden super-heated geyser of water and steam and the group meets Ash – a living rock, and one of the people who live in Diamond City, though she is more of an explorer than the very much stay at home types of her home city. It turns out her father, Basalt was a scientist – and a scientist who is very concerned about their home. He did studies and experiments in his library and workshop but the leadership of Diamond City ignored him. Finally, in desperation, he set out on a mission to find out more about the sudden cracks in the sky, the geysers, why the Ocean dried up, etc.

After learning about this from Ash and a friend of Basalt’s named Quartz, the group hides as much of Basalt’s research as possible, then sets off to follow him. Fairly early on in the trip, there’s another surprise geyser and the group is separated into two groups – the Doctor, Ryan, and Ash continue to follow Basalt’s trail whereas Quartz, Yaz and Graham return in secret to Diamond City. The Doctor manages to warn Yaz not to trust Quartz.

In Diamond City, Yaz and Graham meet a group of Basalt’s “friends” but many of them don’t quite trust the travelers and see them as proof of Basalt’s “heresy” instead, so they are turned over to the Greenwatch – the secret police directly controlled by Emerald, the leader of Diamond City. Yaz tried to explain to Emerald she was from another planet but that the Doctor was there to help, but Emerald refuses to listen and locks her up. Fortunately, one of the people at the initial meeting, Onyx, does believe Yaz and helps her and Graham get out of jail.

Meanwhile, The Doctor, Ryan, and Ash follow her father’s trail – it’s beautiful, exciting and weird, the type of fantasy-science adventure we don’t often see in Doctor Who more similar to Jules Verne or JRR Tolkein than the show, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. You have canoeing on a lava river, giant mushroom forests, all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff. Eventually, they find Basalt and the remains of an extraterrestrial mining colony – which is stressing the crust of the planet and threatening the entire civilization. Basalt and his small company of companions are trying to stop the crack, because if it continues the entire world will flood, but they aren’t having much luck against such a huge problem. The Doctor goes to the surface of the planet only to discover the entire operation is automatic, and even the machines were built automatically by nanomachines. She turns off the drilling equipment but triggers a series of defense satellites, which start firing at the planet. Then she contacts the people responsible – only to discover an inexperienced staffer on his second day who has no idea what to do. The Doctor talks him through making some good decisions. Ryan also gets to play an almost video game of shooting the unarmed satellites out of the sky. Needless to say, Ryan loves it.

The Doctor also uses to alien telecom equipment first to reach Yaz and Graham, but later to address Emerald – and when she discovers Emerald had declared Basalt a heretic who’s “science” was causing the disasters (by this time an entire “colony” or suburb had been destroyed when a crack in the sky let in deadly seawater), the Doctor address all the people in Diamond City, showing them the truth about their Bubble World, the aliens who had started mining operations, and how even with shutting everything down – Basalt would need help fixing the existing damage. Emerald has a hard time admitting her mistakes – but she does, and the Doctor uses the TARDIS to transport more rock people to the crack to help fix it. Ryan also suggests reversing the nanobots to take apart machinery and fill in the miner’s tunnels, which they do.

With everything on its way to being fixed, and Basalt being rescued – as well as seeing the surface of his own planet for the first time, briefly, the Doctor and her fam leave.

Molten Heart is a beautiful story – the rock people and their city is gorgeous, their society makes sense (it’s small and insular and in general no one wants to explore – very much the small English village or even small, American town), and even though the message about how the climate is changing and it threatens everyone and everything if something isn’t done – well the message is there but I didn’t feel it was too overbearing. Emerald isn’t evil, just a bit misguided in how she approaches a challenge. Her fear of “panic” if people know the danger is overblown of course, once the Doctor tells everyone the truth and asks for help for Basalt – she gets even more help than she needs and everyone pitches in to help shore up the cracked ceiling and prevent seawater getting in and killing the rock people and destroying their city. (The salt water acts like acid and dissolves the rock people instantly.) Even the aliens who set up the mining are more lazy and inefficient than outright evil – the planet seemed uninhabited. (The guy the Doctor contacts is almost laughable and adorable at the same time – it’s his *second day* and he has no idea how to handle a crisis, much less the Doctor!) I highly recommend this novel, it’s one of the best Doctor Who stories I’ve read in a long time!