Doctor Who – Spearhead from Space Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: Spearhead from Space
  • Story #: 51
  • Episodes: 4 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 1
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 01/03/1970 – 01/24/1970
  • Cast: Jon Pertwee, Caroline John, Nicholas Courtney
  • Format: Standard, Color, DVD, NTSC

“What are you a doctor of, by the way?” – Dr. Liz Shaw
“Practically everything, my dear.” – The Doctor

Spearhead from Space is known for its firsts and is almost what would now be termed a soft reboot of the series. It’s the first story filmed in color, and unusually for the series – the entire episode was shot on film and on location. At the end of the previous story, The War Games, the actor portraying the Doctor, Patrick Troughton left, as did his companions Zoë (Wendy Padbury) and Jamie (Frazer Hines), so as well as introducing a new Doctor, Spearhead from Space introduces a new companion, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, a scientist from Cambridge, and the Brigadier returns, still in charge of UNIT. Doctor Who will now be focused on Earth-bound invasion stories, set in the “near future” (something later forgot by the production team who seemed to assume the stories were contemporary to when they were made).

This story has the Doctor’s TARDIS arriving in a wood, the Doctor stumbling out, and collapsing. He’s brought to a nearby cottage hospital and is unconscious for much of episode one, and erratic for much for episode two. It isn’t until he takes a shower in the hospital and borrows some clothes that the Doctor seems to wake up – eventually working with Liz and the Brigadier to discover just what the mysterious landfall of meteorites and strange goings-on at Auton Plastics factory mean. The story develops somewhat slowly but fits together well, as bit by bit, UNIT, the Doctor, Liz, and other characters in the story, learn what is going on. UNIT’s radar station reports on the meteorites and the Brigadier tells Dr. Shaw a larger group landed earlier. Liz scoffs at the Brigadier using the word, “landed”.

Meanwhile, a poacher in the woods finds one of the “thunderballs” and buries it to hide it. UNIT is looking for the meteorites and finds the Doctor’s TARDIS. The Doctor is unconscious at the local cottage hospital. In episode 2, a salesman returns to his factory only to discover it mysteriously changed, his boss unreceptive to his hard work opening a new market in the US, and a letter of dismissal at his home. He later sneaks back into the factory and discovers an Auton who fires at him. Terrified out of his wits he runs out to the woods and into UNIT’s hands. One of the Brigadier’s men takes his statement. He later convinces the Brigadier something is wrong at the factory. Meanwhile, the poacher digs up his “thunderball” and transfers it to a metal box in his shed.

The alien in this story is the Nestene Consciousness, which has no form to speak of, only a hive mind stored in the hollow plastic-like balls that landed during the meteor shower. The Consciousness can animate plastic and co-opts the manager of a plastics factory. This story features story dummies breaking out of window displays, and plastic duplicates of General Scobie and other civil servants and military leaders. The salesman is instrumental in giving information to the Brigadier and UNIT that something is wrong at the factory – but he’s also killed by an Auton dummy. Eventually, his boss, the factory manager, who was under Channing’s control is also killed by the Autons. And when the Doctor and Liz construct a device to disrupt the signals animating the Auton mannequins and break up the Nestene Consciousness – Channing is revealed to be another Auton dummy. During the final attack, the device works fine on the basic Autons but doesn’t work on the Consciousness itself. The Doctor is attacked by tentacles coming out of a tank, and it’s Liz who, on her own must adjust the device until it works, which saves the Doctor and defeats the alien menace, so to speak.

They return to UNIT, and the Doctor bargains with the Brigadier, getting a job as scientific advisor to UNIT, with access to equipment and tools, plus essentials like clothing (since he borrowed his current outfit from the hospital) and a car (since he must return the borrowed red roadster he used in the episode). The Doctor gives the name of “Dr. John Smith” for his paperwork that will make him official on Earth.

Spearhead from Space starts off a new era for Doctor Who. It introduces Dr. Liz Shaw and changes the direction of the show. The cost savings of staying on Earth with contemporary settings, like offices, and 1970s London, were put into car chases, effects, large-scale practical attacks, and a grander scale for the stories. Spearhead from Space is almost like a pilot in introducing these ideas: there’s a chase scene with the Doctor in a wheelchair, UNIT makes an assault on the Auton Factory, the setting is meant to be slightly futuristic but since people still use corded phones (and pay phones at that) and in one scene all the reporters are male – there’s an old-fashioned quality to it too. But it definitely starts to establish the new rules and new patterns for the next three years. Pertwee would play the part for five years, but only regain the time and space traveling abilities of his TARDIS after the tenth-anniversary special, The Three Doctors. The story itself is a bit slow in spots, but the four-episode length helps it from being extremely slow. I liked that Liz actually saved the Doctor herself without any assistance, but I didn’t like that she gets no credit for this, not even a thank you from the Doctor. Still, this is a great place to start with when watching the Third Doctor, or even for starting to watch Classic Doctor Who.

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The Flash Season 4 Review

  • Series: The Flash
  • Season: 4
  • Episodes: 23
  • Discs: 5
  • Cast: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Carlos Valdes, Tom Cavanagh, Jesse L. Martin, Hartley Sawyer
  • Network:  CW (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Color, Widescreen

Season Four of The Flash opens with Barry having been trapped in the Speed Force for six months with Iris in charge of the new “Team Kid Flash”. But when Wally is challenged by a Samari who demands to see the Flash, Cisco quickly works out a way to get Barry out of the Speed Force without blowing up the city. However, he appears in Keystone not Central City and when he returns… a wave of dark matter hits a city bus full of people, creating new metahumans.

Wally leaves to find himself, and Barry returns to Iris, being the Flash, and working with Cisco (Vibe) and Caitlin (Killer Frost). At the beginning of the season, they are dealing with a sudden increase in new metahumans, who like always can be criminals, or heroes, or something in between. But before long, Barry realizes there is a new villain at work – someone who isn’t a Speedster. The Thinker is a Chessmaster – someone who plans everything and has been plotting events for three years. The Thinker gained powers during the particle accelerator accident but also was “cursed’ with an advanced and deadly form of ALS. Yet, as we discover – his planning predates the particle accelerator accident as does his sociopathic nature and utter hatred of humanity.

Clifford Devoe was a history professor at Oxford when he met and married a scientist Marlize, and the two relocated to Central City to take tenured positions. However, Devoe was angered by his students paying more attention to their phones that him and his lectures. He also insulted Marlize and her work when they met – and revealed his negative view of humanity. As the season progresses, Marlize changes from being completely complacent and even an aide to her husband’s work, to a manipulative and cold woman, to a victim – as she realizes her husband’s plans would hurt her too, and he doesn’t care. By the end of the season, it’s clear that Marlize is key to taking down The Thinker.

Wally leaves after Barry returns. Cecile discovers she’s pregnant and tells Joe West about this. She also gains temporary telepathic abilities during her pregnancy. One of the bus metas is Ralph Dibny, a private investigator who lost his position with the CCPD after Barry as a new CSI accused him of evidence tampering. After a certain amount of questioning from Barry and doubt from Ralph, he joins Team Flash as the Elongated Man – and adds a considerable amount of lightness to the team. Ralph is one of those characters who acts tough and even self-centered, but he has a good heart and cares considerably about stopping the bad guy. I liked Ralph and I hope he’s still on the show next season.

Many of the other bus metahumans are good people who have no idea what to do with their new abilities. Unfortunately, The Thinker’s plan includes killing each of the new metas in turn and absorbing their powers, as well as using their bodies. This leads Marlize to realize her husband isn’t a good person, though it takes her a while – and her discovery that he’s drugging her and manipulating her mind and memory before she starts to realize anything.

This set includes part 3 of the “Crisis on Earth X” crossover – which was pretty good but it’s without context since parts 1 and 4 are missing (they are on the Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow DVD sets presumably, which won’t be available until later in September). The first episode after the crossover has a “Did I miss something?” feel to it. And apparently, Iris and Barry are now married, finally. As I said in my review of Arrow Season 6, I really wish that Warner Brothers and the CW would do what the BBC does with the Doctor Who Christmas specials and put them out on DVD/Blu-ray immediately after the entire special airs. I would pay for a disc that includes the entire special – and still buy the season sets with that episode included in context on each series’ season set. It would be nice to have a movie version of the crossover special.

Despite all their setbacks, in the end, Team Flash, including Cecile, work together with secret weapon, Marlize, and defeat The Thinker, reversing his diabolical plan, as expected. However, this was a good season. Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man, one of DC’s lesser-known heroes, provides a sense of humor and fun – and also someone for Barry to train as a new hero. The Thinker isn’t a speedster, which was a different approach to a season-long villain, though I must admit I liked the “new meta of the week” episodes almost better than the ones focusing on figuring out what the Thinker’s plans were and how to stop him. The Thinker is a chessmaster, a planner, someone who can easily pull Barry’s strings. He’s also a diabolical psychopath – something held in reserve until his evil plan is finally revealed. Parts of this worked, whereas other parts really seemed like our characters being dumb for plot purposes (especially when Barry is set-up, accused of murder, found guilty, and sentenced to life in prison in the same cell as his father had occupied).

Overall, I enjoyed the season and I’m looking forward to watching season 5.

Read my review of The Flash Season 1.

Read my review of The Flash Season 2.

Read my review of The Flash Season 3.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Second Chances

  • Title: Second Chances
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: John Dorney
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Zoë, Jaime, Second Doctor
  • Cast: Wendy Padbury, Emily Pithon
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 08/22/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles audio Doctor Who Second Chances is the final volume in the Zoë series, which is now four titles total. The audio picks-up where the previous one left off, with Zoë in the clutches of The Company who want information from her – information on the Doctor, on Time Travel, and even on the Achromatics from Echoes of Grey. But whereas before Zoë had been reluctant to say anything, her interrogator, Kym, gets her talking pretty quickly this time.

Zoë tells Kym that the TARDIS landed on a space station. She the Doctor, and Jaime learned quickly that the station was one of a pair, and the sister-station, Apollo, had just broken up. But before the break-up, Artemis Station received a coded message. Zoë offers to decode the message. As she works, she realizes the full horror of the message – it’s a computer virus that can jump species and infect humans as well, through sync operators that plug physically into computers. She tries to block and contain the virus but is knocked out.

Back at the company’s stronghold, Kym returns and tells Zoë that the Apollo Station has been destroyed, but since she said Artemis Station was destroyed two days later, they can reach the station and stop the destruction. Zoë agrees. But when she gets to the station, she slowly realizes the truth. It was Kym who knocked her out in the station – allowing the virus to get loose. And it was the older Zoë herself who gave the injured younger Zoë a breather, stating it’s “standard issue”. It’s even Kym and Zoë who are locked in the shuttle that refuses to let anyone from the station on board – and then rips the station apart when leaving. But Zoë is able to send the virus to The Company’s computers – to utterly destroy the company, and then burn itself out before it does any more damage. Younger Zoë is rescued in space by the Doctor. Older Zoë is rescued by Jen, a former Company employee and the pilot of Kym’s shuttle, who tells Zoë she will use leftover Company technology to help her remember – no strings attached.

I enjoyed this story. It was good to have the Zoë Trilogy (Quadology?) finally wrapped up and with a satisfactory conclusion. I did find the story to be a bit predictable though. Still, the performances are excellent, and I liked the story. It is highly recommended. Do listen to the first three volumes first, however.

Read my review of volume one: Echoes of Grey.

Read my review of volume two: The Memory Cheats.

Read my review of volume three: The Uncertainty Principle.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

Click to order Second Chances on CD or Download.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Arrow Season 6 Review (Spoilers)

  • Series: Arrow
  • Season: 6
  • Episodes: 23
  • Discs: 5
  • Cast: Stephen Amell, David Ramsey, Emily Bett Rickards, Willa Holland, Echo Kellum, David Nykl, Paul Blackthorne, Michael Emerson, Kirk Acevedo
  • Network:  CW (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Color, Widescreen

Due to circumstances beyond my control I missed Arrow last year and as well as the rest of the CW DC shows, so the DVD release was my first chance to watch Season 6, and it was not good. I try to be positive in all my reviews, and I will keep to the attitude and promise here, but this past season of Arrow really shows the program’s age.

The season starts with everything status quo – Oliver is mayor of Star City and managing his new team as the Green Arrow. If you were wondering what happened on Lian Yu, the series gives you a few flashbacks and that’s it. Thea is in a coma – everyone else is fine, and the series doesn’t even mention that Malcolm gave his life to save Thea. We guess. Because she’s the only one who is still injured. Oliver’s one-time girlfriend, Samantha, and mother of his child is dead. With her dying breath, she asks Oliver to care for her McGuffin, oh sorry, I mean their mutual son William. Because, yes, this season, Oliver has a child. William starts out as an annoying and spoiled child, though to be fair, he just lost his mother and he’s been introduced to a new father who basically came from nowhere. However, Oliver, with Felicity’s help manages to get through to William, so the two at least seem to be close by the end of the season.

It’s Deja Vu all over again and once more a villain is introduced, who seems unstoppable – only to be completed defeated halfway through the season. And to make matters worse, Cayden James is killed in police custody. This reveals the “real villain” a drug pusher, mobster, and gang leader with ideas above his station. Ricardo Diaz is not a compelling villain – he’s the type of bad guy Oliver ate for lunch in Season 1. Plus, in the current climate – a Hispanic villain who personifies everything that racists claim about Hispanics is not exactly the best choice for a season-long villain. At least Cayden James was compelling (he reminded me of Felicity’s father, Noah Cutter, aka “The Calculator”, actually).

The other theme of the season is family. But in this case, it’s the breaking up of families. Cayden James manages to break up Oliver’s team. First Rene (“Wild Dog”) leaves after admitting he decided to be a witness against Oliver in his trial (Oh, did I forget to mention? Oliver is accused of being the Green Arrow and is due to be put on trial.) Rene was pressured to testify because he was told he’d never see his daughter Zoe again if he didn’t. Apparently, no one in Star City hs ever heard of witness tampering, because you simply cannot do that.

Cayden James briefly assembles his own powerhouse of bad guys that look like Star City’s own Legion of Doom, including: Black Siren (Laurel Lance from another Earth), Vigilante (who turn’s out to be Dinah Drake’s former police partner and boyfriend), Ricardo Diaz (introduced as a drug dealer and thug), and Anatoly Knyazev. As alluded to before – most of these characters will end-up dead as Diaz takes over from James as villain of the season. Diaz also brings in The Quadrant, four super-mobsters who allegedly control the entire country. He manages to kill one member of the Quadrant and his son for a seat at the table, and latter kills two more members – threatening the last remaining member.

Meanwhile, Quentin Lance attempts to convert Black Siren to being his Laurel. And she does at one point claim to be Laurel in the public eye – claiming she was held hostage for two years. Quentin’s love for his daughter is a two steps forward one step back situation, though in the end it seems Laurel is willing to go against Diaz and help her father.

In Oliver’s world, having exiled Rene, he does the same thing to Dinah when she decides to kill Black Siren for killing her boyfriend, Vigilante. Even Curtis gets fed-up and walks out. Wild Dog, Black Canary, and Mr. Terrific form their own superhero team. It’s cute, but they are the B team for sure. And when Felicity discovers that one reason they’ve had so much trouble all season is that the bunker was bugged, honestly, everyone should have come home. When Oliver is dosed with Vertigo and starts hallucinating, including seeing Adrian Chase, and imagining Felicity dumping him – it should have brought the team back together. And considering how badly Oliver’s been behaving during most of the season, the Vertigo seems to have been introduced far earlier than the episode stated it was. But alas, for plot reasons, though his team seems to understand a bit more – they don’t return. And even John Diggle has left to join Lyla at ARGUS.

Thea, who is missing for much of the season, eventually awakens from her coma, only for Nyssa al Ghul to show up with a warning: Athena has formed a new group – The Thanatos Guild, which wants Thea’s blood to lead them to a mysterious box and a map. Felicity describes the box as “the box from Hellraiser” which is the best pop-culture description on the show since a Lazarus Pit was described as a “magical jacuzzi”. By the end of the episode, not only has Team Arrow found the box, opened it, and figured out how to read the map that seems at first to be blank – but Thea, Nyssa, and Roy Harper who has suddenly arrived – leave, for good, on a mission to destroy what the map reveals – the last three remaining Lazurus Pits. The entire episode comes from nowhere and reads like a backdoor pilot, at least for a mini-series. And since I’ve come to really like Thea and I like Nyssa – it’s a mini-series I’d watch. But, really, the entire episode seems to be an excuse to get Thea off the show. This makes me sad.

Oliver and Felicity also apparently get married this season – for real. Though I say, “apparently” because their marriage was during the 4-series crossover event which is not included on the DVD set. The Arrow episode of the crossover is the only one included, so it more or less makes no sense. I look forward to watching the entire crossover – but I won’t see it until all three remaining CW shows are released on DVD in late August or even September. Warner Brothers/CW needs to do with the crossovers what the BBC does with the Doctor Who Christmas specials: release them on a separate disc within a few weeks after the special airs. Then they also need to include the episodes on the respective series box sets. I would gladly shell out money for a “movie version” of the crossover. I’d even buy it if they retroactively released each crossover to date – the crossover often feels a little out of continuity anyway, they are great stories, and like the comics the idea comes from – it’s the type of thing fans will pick-up as a collector’s item even if they aren’t normally interested in the individual title(s). Plus – more money, just saying. And yes, also put the crossover episode on each season set. I wouldn’t mind owning it twice, once in the series each story comes from, and once as a complete movie on DVD or even Blu-Ray.

Meanwhile, especially once Cayden James is out of the picture, Diaz consolidates power – he has Black Siren kill Vigilante, whom he’s figured out is an undercover double-agent. He extends his control over the police force, city hall and the DA’s office. Anyone who gets in his way, Diaz kills off as he consolidates power. But the problem with this plot is two-fold: first, Diaz is basically a mobster or gang boss – no more, no less. He doesn’t have the scary psychopathic planning laser focus as Adrian Chase from last season – yet the plot seems about the same as just last season. Diaz really is more like the type of two-bit hoods and connected yet corrupt business people and officials from Season 1. Also, but the entire story reminds me of the Batman graphic novel Dark Victory – which did a better job of showing a vigilante superhero new at his job cleaning up a corrupt city. For Green Arrow, for Oliver to step back, distance himself from everyone, and attempt to clean up Star City by himself? That simply makes no sense. It also destroys what Oliver has built and what makes him work as a hero: his team.

In the end, Oliver is tried for being the Green Arrow. Diaz has a corrupt judge in charge of the case, and a prosecuting attorney who while probably not corrupt will try every trick in the book to win her case. The best bit of the trial? Christopher Chase, the Human Target, showing up to save Oliver’s butt. After the trial the team starts to realize that they need to work together again. Oliver even loops in Diggle who brings in ARGUS. Oliver also manages to get Anatoly on his side. And yes, David Nykl is brilliant – and compelling as Anatoly. In the last two episodes, everybody works together. Even the FBI is brought in. The team gets Diaz’s list of corrupt officials, who are subsequently arrested by the FBI. But Diaz himself gets away – in one of those “they never found the body” moments. Quentin Lance is killed saving Laurel. Oliver also throws himself under the bus, bargaining for immunity for his entire team, by publicly admitting he’s the Green Arrow and being sent to prison by the FBI officer they have been working on. With Diaz loose and Oliver in prison – the entire season feels like a transitional one. We will have a Season 7, but it may be the last.

Read my Review of Arrow Season 3.

Read my Review of Arrow Season 4.

Read my Review of Arrow Season 5.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Dying Light

  • Title: The Dying Light
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Nick Wallace
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Second Doctor, Jamie McCrimmon, Zoë Heriot, Quadrigger Stoyn
  • Frazer Hines (Jamie, The Doctor), Wendy Padbury (Zoë), Terry Molloy (Stoyn)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 08/15/2018

The Companion Chronicles series by Big Finish usually has one or two performers only and is like a two-hander play. The Dying Light, however, has three performers, which makes this more like a traditional full-cast play, although Zoë gets very little to do. This is also the third audio play in the 50th Anniversary “Stoyn” Trilogy. The first audio play is The Beginning and the third is Luna Romana. I didn’t realize it was a trilogy when I purchased them separately, so I actually listened to Luna Romana first and then The Beginning and finally this one, but it still works without being too confusing.

The TARDIS with the Second Doctor, Jaime, and Zoë lands in a cave, and when they exit they find they are in a desert that looks like a sea from the heat shimmer, the sun is also a dying sun. However, the planet is not deserted and the TARDIS team soon find a large city called Sanctuary. The first person they meet is a scientist who is researching the local rock formations. The rock looks like granite but it’s very light, porous, and even buoyant. The Doctor gives the scientist a scanner. The scientist who doesn’t seem surprised at all at the TARDIS team’s sudden arrival, tells them where new arrivals should go. Following directions, they meet Catherine who explains more about Sanctuary. The Planet Provides is their motto, and she explains they have two types of storms here – sandstorms, which are dangerous because the sand can literally cut or blind you, so it’s best to stay under shelter until it passes, and the other kind of storm – that bring the ships. Sometimes small craft and other times other larger ships – but all are welcome at the Sanctuary. This explains why no one is surprised that the Doctor and his young companions have arrived. Catherine tells the Doctor that all faiths are welcome, and points to the flags of the different faiths. She brings him to a cave where food is grown and shows him a plant laden with pods that are filled with potable water. Then a storm comes and they see a ship crashing above – it passes the city and crashes into the sea. Catherine asks Jaime to join her and they rush to the rescue boats to rescue the passengers and crew of the ship. After the dramatic rescue, they find out that there’s been an accident – the scientist they met earlier has died, apparently falling off the cliffs where he was working. The Doctor is also brought to Stoyn who’s become a religious leader on Sanctuary. He has his priests bring the Doctor before him.

In part two, the Doctor and Stoyn square off against each other. First Stoyn insists the Doctor give him the TARDIS key. The Doctor does, but it doesn’t work for Stoyn because the Doctor’s set the TARDIS to never let Stoyn in. Stoyn decides to just take the TARDIS’s power so he can somehow return to Gallifrey. He tells Jaime that the Doctor was a god amongst gods but he left. As Stoyn’s attempts to steal power and power a beacon get started, the threatening sand storm grows worse and worse. The Doctor realizes, through some encounters that Jaime and Zoë have with alien creatures that seem to made of the same stone as the Sanctuary, that Sanctuary is a living entity – and it provides everything that those living in the Sanctuary need. Because the World Provides – they don’t need technology, and tech is actually an anathema to the world, which is treated as an infection. Even the crashing ships are there because Stoyn needs them to escape and the others need new people to survive – not to the point that Sanctuary is a Bermuda Triangle in Space of traffic hazards, but some of the people on Sanctuary need company. As Stoyn ignores the Doctor’s warnings and explanations – and tries to operate his newly constructed and powered beacon, the sandstorm worsens. Zoë points out the symbols on tapestries and similar ones on the tunnels in the temple. Jaime remembers that the scientist they meet earlier thought the city looked like the ship. The Doctor has the people Catherine’s brought to the temple for shelter moving the tapestries and the city becomes a ship under full sail. The Doctor also tells Stoyn he must destroy his power converters and beacon. Stoyn doesn’t listen but it blows-up, and Stoyn disappears. The Doctor, Jaime, and Zoë quietly leave in the TARDIS. The Doctor tells Jaime that the city and the planet have hundreds of years before the sun goes out.

I liked this story better than its predecessor, The Beginning, but Stoyn is still an annoying character. He’s angry, homesick, and a bit stupid – but he also blames the Doctor for everything and doesn’t really seem to understand anything that’s going on. He also doesn’t listen to the Doctor – when Jaime, and then Zoë mention the rock creatures that attacked them – Stoyn insists they are lying. When the Doctor explains something about the power Stoyn needs and cannot get from the TARDIS, which seems like common sense – again, Stoyn insists the Doctor is lying. And Stoyn blames the Doctor for being carried away from Gallifrey.

Zoë is criminally underused in this story, which is a pity – Sanctuary seems like the type of place she’d really like.

Frazer Hines does a brilliant job as Jaime as well as playing the Doctor.

Overall, a good story and I recommend it.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

Click to order The Dying Light on CD or Download.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Riverdale Season 2 Review (Spoilers)

  • Series Title: Riverdale
  • Season: Season 2
  • Episodes: 22
  • Discs: 4
  • Network: CW
  • Cast: KJ Apa, Lili Reinhart, Camila Mendes, Cole Sprouse, Madelaine Petsch, Ashleigh Murray, Marisol Nichols, Luke Perry
  • Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC, R1

Some Spoilers Below – be warned.

Riverdale Season 2 opens with the cliffhanger from the end of Season 1 with Fred Andrews getting shot at Pop’s. Archie runs to his father and also sees the man, a man in a Black Hood, who shot his father. Archie rushes to the hospital with his Dad. It’s a near thing, but Fred recovers. Shortly thereafter Ms. Grundy (Archie’s former music teacher) is murdered in Greendale, and Moose and Midge are attacked by a hooded man with a gun in Lover’s Lane, where they are also trying the new street drug, Jingle Jangle. The mystery for the season is: Who is the Black Hood? The mystery of who the Black Hood is is simply not as compelling as the mystery of Who Killed Jason Blossom? from last season. Not to say Season 2 is bad – it isn’t. This is still a well-crafted mystery show, but the first season had a tenser feel and a mystery that was more connected to the characters. About halfway through the season, the Black Hood, who has been tormenting Betty with sick phone calls, is caught. But Archie isn’t sure it’s the right man, because he saw the Black Hood’s eyes and he thinks he could identify him. But since Sheriff Keller shot the man in the back (while he was threatening Archie and Betty) the narrative is set.

The rest of the season focuses more on the characters and their dark emotions and secrets. Whereas season 1 showed us some really messed-up parents, season 2 shows us teenagers who haven’t fallen that far from the tree so to speak. Betty is especially becoming a dark character, but Archie isn’t the “all-American teenager” he appears to be – from briefly founding a vigilante group/protection league for students called, “The Red Circle”, to working for Veronica’s mobster father, Hiram Lodge – Archie is often just not a sweet kid, not by a long shot.

Meanwhile, Jughead is shipped off to the South Side of Riverdale, and it’s through him that we meet new characters, see new locations and form sympathies with people who are poorer than those on the “Northside” and who have fewer opportunities. In his new school, Southside High – a nightmare of a place with metal detectors on the doors, no doors in the restrooms, drugs, gangs, and violence, Jughead’s first priority is to get the school paper up and running again. Told by the teacher-sponsor to steer clear of drugs and gangs, Jughead plans on doing just that. But Toni Topaz, a girl in his father’s gang the Southside Serpents, gives him lay of the land and warns him that he needs to join the Serpents or a rival gang, the Ghoulies, will have him for lunch. Jughead resists briefly but then joins the Serpents. In the Serpents, he finds a home, a community, and as he tries to navigate this new and dangerous world, he also finds dangerous rivals in the gang, especially Tall Boy and the Serpent lawyer, or “Snake Charmer”, Penny.

Jughead shines throughout the season – his narration underlines many of the episodes, and episodes without it are somehow missing something. Jughead emerges as an artistic, romantic, and justice-seeking soul, despite his dark, sarcastic narration. Jughead believes in justice, justice for all, and even manages to see the good in the Serpents.

Unfortunately, another theme of the season is the Northside blaming every bad thing on the Serpents, including the Black Hood crimes (who turns out not to be a Serpent or even from the Southside – both of them). From Hiram Lodge’s business dealings to acquire Southside land, and even landmarks, at rock-bottom prices for a project that’s very hush-hush; to Betty’s mother’s tirades against the Southside in her paper, The Register, to the mayor and Riverdale principal attacking Southside tradition – it’s a virtual Civil War in Riverdale. And pretty much everything the more privileged Northsiders say about the Southside is proven false, but too late to stop Hiram’s plans.

Once we’ve met our Southside cast, and become familiar with its locations – things are shaken up. Southside High is closed so Hiram can buy the land dirt cheap, for, it turns out, building a prison. Jughead, Toni, and other Serpents are sent to Riverdale High. There’s an adjustment period, but when it looks like the Serpents will be transferred again to a school two hours away, Archie and Jughead rally the school to stand with the new students – who get to stay.

Season 2 of Riverdale was not as focused as Season 1 – some plotlines get dropped or resolved too quickly. The street drug Jingle Jangle is mentioned in the first episode, but other than a pair of kids getting high on the drug at Lover’s Lane while doing what one does at Lover’s Lane, and one wild party held by Veronica and an old friend of her’s Nick St. Clair – the drug isn’t much of an important plot. It doesn’t help that Jingle Jangle looks like Pixie Stix – and it’s eaten the same way. Nick is a jerk who tries to assault Veronica (and gets flattened for his trouble), then roofie’s Cheryl and tries to date rape her – only to be stopped by the Pussycats, led by Veronica and Josie. Jingle Jangle is made by a drug dealer called “The Sugarman” with ties to Clifford Blossom. But when the Black Hood sends Betty after him, she discovers his identity in one episode – so not much suspense there.

The kids have ups and downs in their relationships, but for the most part throughout the season, it’s Archie and Veronica and Betty and Jughead. Any issues tend to be temporary. At the very end of the season, we find out that Cheryl is a lesbian, who starts a relationship with Toni Topaz. I hope we see more of this relationship next season because the little we see crackles and it’s awesome. And yes, Cheryl’s horrible mother disapproves of her daughter’s sexuality. Penelope Blossom even tries to have it beat out of her, but Kevin and Veronica rescue Cheryl. (Their line? “Cheryl, We’re here to rescue you!”)

This season includes, “Carrie, the Musical”, which seems to fit the characters, though it also felt like an episode of Glee instead of Riverdale. But the episode ends with Midge getting killed, which gets everyone to realize they caught the wrong guy when it comes to the Black Hood. The end of the season is a wild ride to find out who the Black Hood is. Not saying who it was, though it wasn’t entirely a surprise, especially with hints that get dropped quickly. Also, a character I never quite trusted. And that’s all I’m saying about that.

Overall, I recommend Riverdale Season 2, but it’s not for younger viewers – there’s a lot of implied violence and sex (strong PG-13 levels, sometimes light R). I like Jughead’s narration. When our core characters – Jughead, Betty, Veronica, and Archie are together and not on the outs or fighting – it works. Some of the secondary characters: Cheryl, Josie, Kevin, and now Toni, round out the cast and add some needed diversity to the universe. I will definitely watch Season 3.

Read my review of Riverdale Season 1.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Beginning

  • Title: The Beginning
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Marc Platt
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Susan, First Doctor, Quadrigger Stoyn
  • Cast: Carole Ann Ford (Susan), Terry Molloy (Stoyn)
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 08/08/2018

I listened to The Beginning at the beginning of this week, but it was a good and enjoyable story in the Big Finish Companion Chronicles line, even if the details are a bit fuzzy now. The Beginning starts with the Doctor and Susan on the run on Gallifrey, they find a TARDIS in a repair/junk shop and leave. The Doctor and Susan are refugees, fleeing their home, because “their home is no longer their home”. Unfortunately, they aren’t the only ones on board their TARDIS – Quadrigger Stoyn, who is meant to be dismantling the TARDIS engines is also on board when the ship takes off. They discover this when the TARDIS makes a rather ungraceful landing. Stoyn is not the nicest person, and he clearly buys the Gallifreyan party line – whatever it is. The audio doesn’t make things crystal clear, but we can assume a few things: Gallifrey is now supporting isolationism, Stoyn and others have a negative, ethnocentric attitude towards “outsiders” and “aliens”, and although it isn’t stated outright – the Time Lords may even be racist in their attitudes towards others.

The TARDIS half materializes and half crashes on the Earth, but not the Earth we know – and aliens call Archayons are seeding Earth to make it a garden but with the precision of a formal English garden rather than the wildness of a forest. They are doing this from the moon apparently. At first, the Doctor hopes to obtain help from Stoyn (after all he should know how to fix their TARDIS), and a power source from the Archayons. But as it turns out, the Archayons are much darker than they appear, and Stoyn’s price is higher than the Doctor is willing to pay.

The second part begins with Susan waking in a lunar ambulance that is heading to Giant Leap base. She watches the First Contact video shown to her by her nurse, and wonders where her Grandfather is. She can hear his warnings in her head, but she doesn’t know where he is. The ambulance is attacked, the nurse and medical doctor are killed, but Susan finds her grandfather unharmed. They manage to warn Giant Leap base that the ambulance is infested with deadly parasites, but then they see Giant Leap base being attacked. The Blue Lightning clearly is an Archayon weapon. Somehow the Doctor and Susan get to the TARDIS and return to the Archayon base, which is now attacking Earth and the moonbase. Apparently, the Archayons are upset that their order has been upset by untamed life in the millions of years that they were frozen. Still, the Doctor and Susan manage to warn the Earth, which is well-prepared to attack back and even destroy the Archayons weapons and base. Stoyn, who has sided with the Archayons, is left behind and the Doctor and Susan leave in the TARDIS, which has a new power cell and is sort of working. They visit another planet.

This is a new and different take on how the Doctor and Susan left Gallifrey. I liked the idea of the two being refugees. The Archayons are unusual creatures – looking like glass peanuts, with the ability to flow together to form structures or do work, then flow apart as individual beings. However, in part two they become almost cardboard villains – so determined to not only seed life but orderly life they can’t see the forest for the trees. Stoyn, whom I also encountered in Luna Romana is a weird character – played by Terry “Davros” Molloy – he flips between government functionary to nearly radical “anti-alien” activist in a sense. He’s probably meant to suggest the type of people the Doctor and Susan are fleeing, but it feels off. When Classic Who visited Gallifrey, it was often shown to be a rather boring and stuffy place. But Gallifrey also seems to have an awful lot of corruption and political intrigue too. So in some aspects, the character of Quadrigger Stoyn doesn’t quite fit in with that. But then, The Beginning clearly indicates that something’s happened on Gallifrey – something serious enough that the Doctor and Susan are literally fleeing for their lives.

Recommended.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

Click the link to order The Beginning on CD or Download.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!