Game of Thrones Season 6 Review

  • Series Title: Game of Thrones
  • Season: 6
  • Episodes: 10
  • Discs: 4
  • Network:  HBO
  • Cast: Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harrington, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Nikolaj Caster-Waldau, John Bradley, Aidan Gillen, Gwendoline Christie, Jerome Flynn, Julian Glover, Jonathan Pryce, Diana Rigg
  • Format: Widescreen, Color, Blu-Ray, NTSC

Season 5 of Game of Thrones really was The Season Terrible Things happen to all the women. Season 6? The women get their revenge. Revenge has always been a strong theme and a strong motivator in Game of Thrones, but in Season 6 watching many of our favorite women get their sweet revenge is fun. Very fun.

Arya Stark is now a blind beggar on the streets of Bravos. The unnamed girl from the Facemen Men Assassins shows up to attack her, day after day, even through she is blind. She bests the girl once, and returns to the House of Black and White where her sight is restored. But still she cannot kill the actress, and thus she is in trouble. She makes plans to leave Bravos and is stabbed by the Nameless girl. With no one to help her, she turns to the actress who she refused to kill on orders. The actress takes her in and heals her, but the Nameless Girl arrives and kills the actress. Arya runs, but also leads the girl into a cave. She recovers her sword, needle, and then cuts the only candle that brings light to the cave. We do not see or hear the fight, but we do see that Arya has placed the girl’s face in the room of faces. She tells her Nameless Assasin friend that she is in no uncertain terms not No One but Arya Stark of Winterfell and she is going home. Arya also kills Walder Frey’s boys, feeds them to Walder Frey in a pie, and then kills him. This after Frey had shown himself to be quite nasty to the Blackfish of the Tullys and to Jaime Lannister.

The season opens with Sansa and Theon alive and running through the woods around Winterfell. They are set upon by Bolton men and rescued by Brienne of Tarth and Podrick. Brienne offers Sansa her service, and this time Sansa accepts. With oaths sworn, Theon decides to leave for the Iron Islands and Sansa, Podrick and Brienne head north. They reach Castle Black and Sansa convinces Jon Snow they need to take back Winterfell. Jon raises an army of Wildlings and men loyal to House Stark – but it doesn’t seem to be enough. The army arrives at a plain before Winterfell, near where Stannis was defeated. Despite Jon’s discussion of strategy with Ser Davos Seaworth, the Red Lady priestess, Sansa, and the new leader of the Wildings – the next day on the battlefield, Jon is provoked in to a massive mistake by the psychopath, Ramsey Snow Bolton. However, just as all seems lost, the Knights of the Vale, led by Petyr Littlefinger, arrive and the battle is won for House Stark. The Bolton banners fall at Winterfell, the Stark banners are raised, and Sansa and Jon seem to be co-ruling as the lead family of the North. All the Northern families pledge loyalty to the Starks (except some, like the Freys who have already pledged to House Lannister – we have seen what that got them eventually).

It should be noted that not only did Ramsey treat Sansa truly horribly, but he murdered his father, in front of an witness, and ordered that it be said he was, “poisoned by our enemies”. Ramsey also feds his step-mother and baby brother to his dogs. Not only is Ramsey’s army defeated by the Stark troops and the Army of the Vale, and not only is Ramsey humiliated by Jon Snow in single combat, but Sansa – in just about the most just and fitting way possible, destroys Ramsey by feeding him to his own dogs.

Cersei, humilated in the previous season by the High Sparrow, is sent to house arrest in the Red Keep. Margaery, after nearly a year (or more) in the cells of the Sept of Baylor, confesses her sins, but protects her brother. The Lannisters and Tyrells unite an army to attack the Sept and prevent Margery from undergoing the same humiliation as Cersei. But Tommen arrives at the Sept, having made a deal with the High Sparrow. Margaery is released, having simply given lip service to her repentance. She precedes to have the King’s ear, and has him banish trial by combat, which means Cersei will suffer an actual trial by seven septons. Margaery has Loras confess his crimes, being assured he’ll get a deal (he will lose his title and lands, but gain his life, albeit in exile. No doubt Margaery had plans to rescue him from his exile eventually.) But after Loras confesses, and the High Sparrow assures him he will have his deal – everyone notices that Cersei isn’t there. Margaery realises something is horribly wrong. But the Faith Militant and the High Sparrow refuse to let her or anyone else out. Cersai has her “Little Birds” blow up the Sept with wildfire. Tommen commits suicide in sorrow for Margaery. Cersai in the last scene of the season – takes the Iron Throne, becoming Queen Cersai, First of Her Name.

Daenerys, is captured by the Dothraki, and taken to the compound that is home to the widows of Khals. She rallies the women, and when the Khals convene to decide her fate, insulting and sexually humiliating her in the process, she grabs the burning braziers in the hut of the khal leaders. Grabbing the burning hot metal in her bare hands, she thrusts them down – and the hut burns. Daenerys emerges unburnt and unharmed from the hut. After this display, the Dothraki follow her. As the trek back to Meereen is long, Daenerys goes ahead, alone, and returns astride her dragon, Dragon. She gives the pep talk of her life, and gets a huge khalasar of fighting troops who agree to cross the Great Salt Sea on Wooden Horses and fight for her. Later, just as the slavers return to attack Meereen, Daenerys defeats the slavers in a display of Dragon Power.

Yara of the Iron Born discovers her uncle killed her father. Theon returns, but declares himself loyal to Yara and supports her claim. Yara makes a claim for the Salt Throne with Theon’s support. She has support but Euron, her uncle, blocks her claim. She, Theon, and as many loyal men they can gather leave and make their way to Essos. In a brilliant piece of diplomacy, Yara and Daenerys make an alliance – Yara will provide the ships and sailors, Daenerys will provide the army. Daenerys will place Yara on the Salt Throne and guarantee the Iron Islands independence. Yara will stop the pirating, raiding, and looting of mainland Westros.

Daenerys names Tyrion Lannister her Hand of the Queen. Tyrion had become a trusted advisor over the last year and a half. Daenerys, Tyrion, Varys – who had gone on a secret mission but returns, Missandei (her translator and aide), and Grey Worm stand on a ship, under the Fire and Blood dragon banner and head for Westros. Yara and Theon join them, under the banner of the Drowned God for the Iron Born.

Varys’ mission was to meet with Ellaria Sand of Dorne and Olenna of House Tyrell to arrange an alliance. We don’t hear the results of his arrangement, but he survived to return to Daenerys and get on a ship that is part of the invasion fleet.

Even Princess Shireen sees some justice, as Ser Davos finds the stag toy he made for her in the remains of a pyre, challenges the Red Woman priestess, and has her banished from Winterfell.

And young Lady Mormont of Bear Island, who committed 62 men to Jon and Sansa’s forces, is the first to declare loyalty to House Stark and is a bit of a badass as well.

So the women, at this point are winning – and an alliance between Daenerys, Yara, Dorne, Tyrell and House Stark would be awesome (and would soundly defeat the Lannisters). Cersei has, at long last, obtained the Iron Throne for herself, but she has possibly made a few enemies along the way (the sept was quite full when it was blown-up).

But the families are losing out and disappearing. House Baratheon is gone: Robert, Renly, Stannis are all dead – as is Stannis’ wife and child. The three “Baratheon’ children (actually the product of the Cersei/Jaime relationship) – Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen are all dead. As far as we know, only Jaime and Cersei are left. The Starks aren’t doing that much better. Only Jon, Sansa, and Arya remain. Bran is alive, but the Three-Eyed Raven. Rickon is dead, killed by Ramsey. The Boltons are all dead as well. Arya kills Walder Frey and his boys.

The Land of Westros may well be experiencing the Year of the Woman – if all goes well.

My Review of Season 5 of Game of Thrones.

My Review of Season 4 of Game of Thrones.

I was unable to watch season 7 when it aired on HBO, but I have the Blu-Ray box set so a review will be coming soon.

 

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Doctor Who – The Invasion Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Invasion
  • Story #: 46
  • Episodes: 8 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 2
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 11/02/1968 – 12/21/1968
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury, Nicholas Courtney, John Levene
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“He’s a ruthless man, without moral or principles, his object is to get complete control of the electronics industry of the world.” – Professor Watkins describing Vaughn

“Now all I need is my cameras from the house and I’m all set.” – Isobel
“Now wait a minute, this is hardly a job for you.” – The Brigadier
“Why ever not?” – Isobel
“Well, you’re a young woman. This is a job for my men.” – The Brigadier
“Of all the bigoted, anti-feminist, cretinist remarks.” – Isobel
“This is no job for a girl like you. Now that’s final!” – The Brigadier
“Oh, you men!” – Isobel

“I’m sorry, Doctor, but I think those crazy kids have gone off to the sewers to get photographs of the Cybermen!” – the Brigadier

“The Invasion” is eight half-hour parts, spread over two DVDs (parts 1-4 on DVD 1 and parts 5-8 on DVD 2), and it feels really long. Parts 1 and 4 are animation and the rest are the original film/video. There is some very nice monochrome animation here, especially the shading. This story brings back Col. Lethbridge-Stewart, now Brigadier, and introduces Sgt. Benton and UNIT. The titular invasion is the Cybermen, working for Tobias Vaughn of International Electromatics.

Although “The Invasion” is long, and at times a bit clunky (there is a lot of our team getting split up, captured, escaping, comparing notes etc) what the story seems to be, more than anything, is a pilot for the early Jon Pertwee years when the Doctor is stranded on Earth and working for UNIT to stop alien invasions and plots week after week. That’s not a bad thing, or a criticism – but the long length, the modern-day on Earth setting, the invading force, the human in league with aliens – all of that will become very, very familiar in future years (and even in modern New Who it’s a pattern that’s followed occasionally).

The TARDIS is in space on the Dark Side of the Moon when a missile nearly hits forcing the Doctor to materialize – he does, and finds out he is on Earth, in “The Community” a network of factories, living quarters, hospitals and stores, where everything is owned by International Electromatics. Anyone not working for “The Company” is exiled. And the company’s security forces use lethal force against anyone they perceive is breaking company rules, regulations or policies. The Doctor and TARDIS crew are smuggled off corporation property, by a man we learn much, much, much later is an undercover UNIT operative. Although the Doctor doesn’t realise it, the man who helped him is killed by IE security troopers. The Doctor and company then catch a lift to London.

In London, they go to Professor Travers’ house hoping to replace or repair some damaged TARDIS components, only to meet Isobel, a flighty photgrapher. Isobel’s uncle is Professor Watkins, a friend of Travers’ (who has moved to the US). Isobel states both that she thinks her uncle could help, and that he’s working for IE and she hasn’t seen him for a while. Zoë poses as a model for Isobel and the Doctor and Jaime head to International Electromatics to find Professor Watkins. And thus begins a very long story.

The first four episodes are really focused on IE – who are they? Who is their mysterious manager-controller, Vaughn? Just what are they doing? And are they more than an autocratic electronics firm? The Doctor and Jaime meet Vaughn and the Doctor senses something is wrong with him. They meet Professor Watkins, and also run in to the Brigadier and UNIT – who are also investigating IE (it seems people go in but never come out, or they come out oddly changed). But because the Doctor and Jaime run in to UNIT they are away for a long time. Zoë and Isobel decide to try to find out what is going on themselves – and Zoë feeds an impossible equation to the reception computer, causing it to blow up. they are arrested by Vaughn’s private troopers and locked up. In episode 4, the Brigadier organizes a helicopter and the Doctor and Jaime perform a daring rescue. This is one of the animated episodes, unfortunately, but it’s still impressive. It’s also Jaime who discovers some crates in the warehouse on IE property actually contain Cybermen!

The second half of the story is a Cybermen story. Vaughn is working with the Cybermen, but plans on betraying him, leaving himself sole dictator of the entire world. The Cybermen have a ship in space, capable of launching ships and bombs at the Earth. They also have a hidden army in Vaughn’s facilities. But also, for some reason, they are planning on using mind control to take over Earth. They have a beam that can debilitate and control people that is amplified by the micro circuitry in all of International Electromatics products. So episodes 5-8 are really an elaborate chess game between Vaughn and the Cybermen on the one side, and the Doctor and UNIT on the other. UNIT is able to conveniently order attacks (such as one on a prison convoy that frees Professor Watkins), and work with other nations (they have the Russians launch missiles to destroy the Cyber fleet and later knock out a massive cyber bomb and the Cyberman mother ship.)

Some aspects of this story are impressive: the helicopter rescue, the Cybermen walking down the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the fight in the sewers. But others really show the show’s lack of money (Isobel and Zoë are jailed by IE and disappear for a few episodes; Jaime is injured during the fight in the tunnels with the Cybermen – and does the same thing, etc.), the UNIT men discuss attacking the IE convey, later we see Vaughn’s head security goon reporting the attack and that UNIT made off with Watkins, and we see him reuniting with Isobel – but we don’t see the attack itself. But in a way, we don’t need to – your mind fills in the gaps, and Doctor Who shows it’s stylistic roots in British theatre.

“The Invasion” is a good story, but like most Doctor Who episodes that are longer than six parts, it just feels long, and like it needed a good once over by the editor’s pen. If it was tightened-up to even six episodes instead of eight – it would be a great episode. The animation for parts one and four is good, and I think this is one of the first if not the first story to be released on DVD with animation reconstructing the original episodes that were missing. Recommended.

Both disc 1 and disc 2 have special features as well as the actual episodes.

Game of Thrones Season 5 Review

  • Series Title: Game of Thrones
  • Season: 5
  • Episodes: 10
  • Discs: 4
  • Network:  HBO
  • Cast: Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harrington, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Nikolaj Caster-Waldau, Iain Glen, John Bradley, Aidan Gillen, Gwendoline Christie, Jerome Flynn, Julian Glover, Jonathan Pryce, Diana Rigg
  • Format: Widescreen, Color, Blu-Ray, NTSC

I watched Game of Thrones season 5 when it aired on HBO, and bought the series on Blu-ray when it came out (for the special features), but I delayed re-watching it because it is a very difficult season to watch. I actually now have acquired seasons 6 and 7 on Blu-ray as well, which I will watch and review in due course. But season 5 is just hard – all of the main female characters suffer greatly and this is the season that caused the feminist fan website, The Mary Sue, to drop coverage of the show. However, having seen season 6, it does make this season a little bit easier to bear.

Season 5 opens with Arya Stark going to Bravos and to the House of Black and White, she seeks to become “no one”, to learn the secrets of being a faceless assassin. She’s first forced to merely clean the floors. She sees desperate people come to the House for healing, but only find death. She throws away her clothes and her money, but hides her sword, Needle, even though she’s told to dispose of it to become “no one”. She sees a father come in with his daughter, and convinces the daughter she will be healed if she drinks the water from the pool in the main hall. Later, she washes the girl’s body. Arya learns that the faces of the dead line huge pillars in a room in the House. She is given an assignment to pretend to sell cockles and mussels, but really she’s to spy on a man who holds ship masters in a life debt. While doing this she runs in to a man she knows from Westros, who takes and terrorizes the youngest prostitutes he can find in a brothel. She kills this man instead of the one she was assigned. This gets her in a lot of trouble. One of the faceless men takes poison and collapses, wearing the face of her friend – but it is a false face, Arya pulls several faces off the corpse, sees her own, and becomes blind.

Daenerys, meanwhile, discovers that being a successful ruler in Meereen is a lot more difficult than conquering the three cities she conquered previously. She closed the fighting pits, where slaves were forced to fight to the death. This angers the people. One of her advisors pleads with her to re-open the pits to appease the people, but she continually refuses. A group of rebels, the masked “Sons of the Harpy” attack and kill many of the Unsullied and another of Daenerys’ advisors. Daernerys tries to make a show of force, by planning to put one of the murderers on trial instead of executing him outright. One of the former slaves sneaks in to the prison and kills him while he awaits trial. Daernerys executes the man for murder, even though she probably would have executed the other man after his trial anyway. In an attempt to reduce the tensions in Meereen, Daenerys’ opens the fighting pits again, but to free men only. They are still matches to the death, however. She also agrees to make a political marriage to one of the Masters. Daenerys, Tyrion, Ser Mormont, Missandei (her translator and aide), and her lover/advisor attend the fights in the Great Pit – but the Sons of the Harpy attack, killing many in the crowds, and anyone around. Daenerys escapes on her big, black dragon, Drogon. She finds herself in the wilderness, with an injured dragon. Missandei and Tyrion stay in the palace to try to hold Meereen together, while Ser Mormont and Daenerys’ lover go to find her.

Jon Snow is promoted to Lord Commander of the Knight’s Watch, much to the dismay of some of the more conservative and angry members of the Watch. He leads an expedition to Hard Home to bring the Wildings to safety south of the Wall. They are attacked by the army of the dead and White Walkers. When he returns, Jon ends up sending Sam, Gilly, and baby Sam to the Citadel so Sam can become a Maester. This after Gilly was attacked and nearly raped by two men of the Night’s Watch. Jon is stabbed to death by Night’s Watchmen who were angry members of the Night’s Watch died on the expedition to Hard Home.

Stannis attempts to get anyone to help him attack and re-take Winterfell from the Boltons. Everyone refuses – the Wildings, Jon, other members of the Night’s Watch etc. Stannis also continually faces desertion of his men, especially the sellswords. The Red Lady and Mistress of the Lord of Light convinces him to make a terrible sacrifice to ensure his victory. Stannis reluctantly agrees and burns his own daughter, the Princess Shireen, at the stake. As a result, more of his troops desert, and his wife, who was cruel to her daughter anyway, kills herself. Stannis is routed at Winterfell, his troops killed or run off. He’s found by Brianne of Tarth, who kills him.

Littlefinger arranges for Sansa to marry Ramsey Bolton. Ramsey is, of course, a very sadistic person, who treats her horribly, and even rapes her. Sansa tries to escape once, and the woman helping her is flayed alive. Sansa does find out from Theon (“Reek”) that her brothers, Bran and Rickon, weren’t killed after all, but Theon doesn’t know where they are. Sansa places a light in the tower window, the signal for escape, but Brianne doesn’t see it because she’s off killing Stannis. Sansa and Theon jump from the battlements of Winterfell, and we don’t see the result.

Cersei sends Jaime to Dorne to recover their daughter, Myrcella. Jaime finds her and discovers she’s really in love with Prince Trystane. The leader in Dorne allows the two to return to King’s Landing to marry, but Myrcella is poisoned and dies.

Cersei speaks to the High Sparrow and has him re-enact the Faith Militant. She thinks she can use the Faith Militant to harass Margaery and Loras Tyrell. However, she didn’t expect to also find herself imprisoned, and later, after spending several weeks (or even months) in religious prison to face a walk of shame, naked, her hair sheared off, where she is insulted, stoned, and spat upon.

This season sees a lot of bad stuff happen to the women of the show. Shireen and Myrcella are complete innocents and good people who are killed in other people’s plots. Cersei’s “walk of shame” is hard to watch, and I found myself feeling sorry for her despite all the terrible things she’s done. Arya and Sansa are in percarious positions. And Daenerys seems to be in as bad as or worse a position than before she conquered Meereen and the other cities in Slaver’s Bay. This is a tough watch. But it doesn’t mean one should give up. Season 5 and 6 were both ordered by HBO at the same time, so in a sense, episode 10 of season 5 is really the middle of a 20-episode season. And season 6 has some great things that happen. But enough about that. Overall, this is still a recommended show that is worth watching.

Please also see my review of Game of Thrones Season 4.

Doctor Who – The Mind Robber Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Mind Robber
  • Story #: 45
  • Episodes: 5 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 1
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 09/14/1968 – 10/12/1968
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“Well, there is an emergency unit but I can’t possibly use that.” – The Doctor
“But this is an emergency!” – Zoë
“But it moves the TARDIS out of the Time/Space Dimension! Out of reality!” – The Doctor
“Well, fine, reality’s getting too hot anyway!” – Jaime

“Presumably we’ve landed. So why isn’t the scanner showing anything?” – Zoë
“Well, because, well, we’re nowhere. It’s as simple as that.” – The Doctor

“Oh, a strip cartoon of the year 2000!” – The Doctor
“But you’ve been in the year 2000, haven’t you?” – Zoë
“Yes, but I hardly had time to follow the strip cartoons.” – The Doctor
“But you had better start following this one, he’s halfway up that cliff.” – Zoë

“The Mind Robber” has long been one of my favorite Patrick Troughton Doctor Who stories and one that I often recommend, because it is just so imaginative. At the end of the previous story (“The Dominators”) the TARDIS is about to be covered by lava from an exploding volcano. And of course, when the Doctor tries to dematerialize – the TARDIS doesn’t cooperate. He uses the emergency unit.

The first episode of the 5-part story, “The Mind Robber” only uses the TARDIS set, a white room, and a few robots who will be seen later. But it just goes to show how much you can do with an imaginative script and good acting, even without sets, really. After the emergency unit is used, the TARDIS is somewhat stuck – Jaime sees Scotland on the scanner and Zoë sees the city. The Doctor warns them not to go out while he checks the power, but seeing home is too much of a temptation. The two young companions do leave the TARDIS and encounter a white room, where they soon become lost in disorienting mist. The Doctor calls them back, but they can’t find the TARDIS. The Doctor is in a mental battle with the same force that tempted his companions outside. He leaves the TARDIS to find Zoë and Jaime – and the TARDIS is all white, as are Jaime and Zoë’s costumes. The Doctor returns to the TARDIS but everything is weird – the TARDIS explodes. Zoë, and Jaime as well, are stretched out on the slowly spinning, falling TARDIS console.

The Doctor and his companions are now in the Land of Fiction, though they don’t realize it at first. They start off in a maze of words and are soon encountering various characters from literature and are required to pass a number of tests (solving riddles and games and such). Toy soldiers seem to be the guardians of the place and Gulliver (of Gulliver’s travels) keeps showing up and creating a distraction.

The Doctor and TARDIS crew are charged by a unicorn (like in Jaime’s earlier dream) and when they shout that unicorns don’t exist – it freezes. They find a creepy stone house, where the first shot is through a spider’s web. Here they find a ball of twine and a maze. This leads to the heart of the maze and a minotaur, which is only seen in shadow. Again, the Doctor and Zoë use “it doesn’t exist” to stop the minotaur.

Jaime meanwhile meets Rapunzel and climbs her hair into the control room where a ticker-tape machine spits out a description of what the Doctor and Zoë are doing – which is running in to Medusa. However, rather than following “the script” and killing Medusa with a sword that has just appeared, the Doctor uses a mirror and Medusa is again turned in to stone. The Doctor and Zoë then encounter the Krakus, a strip cartoon character. Zoë fights him, flipping him over her shoulder five times, and then forces him to submit – he then becomes her servant, helping with difficult tasks. The Doctor and Zoë reach the control room where Jaime is, but Zoë is startled and runs out of the room, setting off alarms. The white robots arrive to take the Doctor to the Master.

The Doctor meets the author. This land has a library of all known works of fiction, and a master brain which needs the creative power, intelligence, and imagination of an author. The current author is getting a bit old and the master-brain wants to replace him with the Doctor. There is quite the battle between the Doctor and the Author. They conjure up various fictional characters (Cyrano de Bergerac, d’Artagnan the musketeer, Blackbeard the pirate, Sir Lancelot etc.) The Doctor has to avoid putting himself in the story because he will become fiction, but he has the Karkus fight for him and other fictional characters. The Author turns Jaime and Zoë into fiction, but the Doctor finally manages to release them. Zoë overloads the computer, and the Doctor orders the robots to destroy the computer. The Doctor rescues the Author, the screen fills with mist and smoke, and the TARDIS reassembles.

“The Mind Robber” is a witty and intelligent script that plays to the imagination. Not only is this a story set in The Land of Fiction – but the sets tend to be fairly minimalistic until later in the story, even then although the stone cottage is impressive, as is the control room and the liar of the Author and the Master-Brain, it’s still not the completely fleshed out alien landscape one would expect – but that works in the story’s favor as the Doctor and his companions encounter various fictional characters, creepy children, white robots, and robotic toy soldiers. Everything plays out like a play with minimal set dressing and because of the imaginative plot – it works. This story also has a clever and quotable script. Highly recommended.

Doctor Who – The Dominators Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Dominators
  • Story #: 44
  • Episodes: 5 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 1
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 08/10/1968 – 09/07/1968
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“You wanted to destroy. Unnecessary destruction is wasteful.” – Dominator

“Dominators do not seek assistance. What we want – we take.” – Dominator

“Medical kit? Oh – it’s surprising what you can do with a few simple chemicals and a little ingenuity.” – The Doctor

I must admit I wasn’t really looking forward to re-watching this story, but it wasn’t quite as bad as I remembered. The story opens with a group of very interesting traditional-looking UFOs approaching a planet. One of the UFOs lands and the two beings inside, the Dominators, remark they have finished absorbing the radiation from the planet below. Meanwhile, a more traditional type of ship approaches the nearby “Island of Death”. The people on the ship are young thrill seekers. They crash into the Island, survive, are shocked to discover the island is no longer registering radioactivity – though it’s very lucky for them that it isn’t, and the young people are cut down by the Dominators. Their ship is also destroyed.

The TARDIS lands and the Doctor tells Zoë and Jaime they are on Dulkis, a completely peaceful world occupied by total pacifists. Unfortunately, The TARDIS didn’t land in the capital but on the radioactive Island home to a museum of war and weapons – the only place on the planet that weapons exist.

The Dominators order their Quarks to set-up drilling.

As the TARDIS crew examines the museum they are found by some people – Dulcian students and their professor. They are forcibly decontaminated, before the Dulcians realize they are not radioactive in the first place. The professor jumps to the conclusion that it takes 170 years for radioactivity to completely disappear – and doesn’t believe their could be any other explanation. When Cully, the leader of the ill-fated thrilling adventure tour shows up, they figure that the Doctor and company are his charges – remarking the existence of life on other planets has been disproven.

The Doctor and Jaime leave the education and research center, and run into the Dominators and their robot servants, the Quarks. They are taken into the spaceship, examined and tested. Only Jaime is physically examined and the Dominators assume the Doctor is the same. The Doctor also intentionally flunks the intelligent tests.

The Dulcian professor and students send first Cully and Zoë to the capital and then the Doctor and Jaime who have escaped the Dominators. The leader of the Dulcians and his council are completely useless, not believing the TARDIS crew are from another world, unwilling to investigate the Island because what they say can’t be true, and even the emergency coordinator is stubbornly unwilling to accept any new information or to check on the story that Cully and the TARDIS crew tell them.

The TARDIS crew returns to the Island. The students and the professor have been captured by the Dominators and forced to work as slaves, clearing the area near the former research/education station for drilling. One of the Dominators had ordered the Quarks to destroy the building and his commander had become upset with him for wasting energy. The one Dominator also keeps wanting to destroy the Dulcians on the Island, while the other insists on using them as slave labor to spare using the Quarks which are low on power. The two argue about this. Often.

The Dominators argue with each other a lot, and eventually argue so much in front of the Doctor and Jaime that they reveal the plot. They plan on drilling through the Dulkis’s crust, which will cause a volcanic eruption. But they are also drilling a bore hole to drop a nuclear device in which will destroy the planet and create a lot of radioactive material which they can then mine for power. They also determine the Dulcians are unsuited to being a slave labor force and plan to destroy them with their planet.

The students on the Island, the Doctor, Jaime, and Zoë discover this plot. The Dulcian students had discovered an old underground bomb shelter from the days of the testing – and have used it as hidden shelter throughout much of the story. The TARDIS crew decides what they must do is dig a cross tunnel to the bore hole and catch the seed device and deactivate it. This will take a little time, so Jaime and Cully are sent out to distract and destroy the Quarks and slow down or stop the drilling. Jaime, since he was free and returned to the Island with Cully, has been running a campaign of harassing the Quarks and destroying as many as he can with unique weapons, like boulders.

The plan more or less succeeds – the Doctor catches the nuclear seed device, but cannot deprogram it because it’s sealed – so he sneaks it on the Dominators spacecraft (which blows-up in the atmosphere). Unfortunately, the drilling had started a local volcanic eruption. The TARDIS crew barely make it inside the TARDIS ahead of the lava.

“The Dominators” has some very silly costumes. The Dominators costumes look like the lightweight plastic blow-up loungers one has in a pool. The Quarks are more cute than threatening, though the ray gun effect at the beginning is truly horrific. However, the Dominator Commander is determined to not kill anybody, not out of altruism but more because he doesn’t want to waste energy. His subordinate would rather just destroy everything. Their bickering leads to their downfall, but is also really annoying (as is their shouts of “destroy, destroy, total destruction”). The Dominators are a bit laughable. The plot is actually horrific – destroying an entire occupied planet, simply for energy?

The Dulcians are rather unbelievable too. OK, so they are total pacifists who have outlawed war and all weapons. I can actually buy that – but when they are threatened, it seems strange they would rather debate about it than take some sort of action. The Doctor warns the council of the dangers from the Dominators, but the council refuses to believe that the Doctor, Zoë, and Jaime are from another world, and they refuse to believe the Dominators intend them harm, since they won’t harm anyone else. Yet, you would think it was obvious that the TARDIS crew weren’t from Dulkis, since they are all brunette and everyone on Dulkis is blonde. And even the Dominators with their scans figure out their are two groups on the planet. Also, doesn’t Dulkis have some way of keeping track of people? You’d think they realise Jaime, Zoë, and the Doctor aren’t locals.

So this isn’t one of my favorite Troughton stories, and I’d give it probably a 2 or 3 out of 5. But the Domintor plan is horrifying and the story does actually move along fairly fast, so there is that. And it’s good to see the TARDIS crew of the Doctor, Jaime, and Zoë – my favorites of the Second Doctor’s companions.

 

Doctor Who – The Web of Fear Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Web of Fear
  • Story #: 41
  • Episodes: 6 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 1
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 02/03/1968 – 03/09/1968
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Deborah Watling, Nicholas Courtney
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“Web of Fear”, like “Enemy of the World” is one of two stories that was found in 2013, but whereas “The Enemy of the World” was even better than expected, “Web of Fear” is somewhat disappointing. Episodes 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 are the original black and white film/video episodes. Episode 3 is a telesnap reconstruction. There are no special features on the disc, except a trailer for “The Enemy of the World”. However, the film and video were beautifully restored and the episodes do look really good.

The story opens where we left off at the end of “The Enemy of the World”, with the TARDIS door open. Jaime is able to force the doors shut. Victoria shows off her new outfit, which looks awful – she looks like a Native American “princess”, complete with beads, the outfit is distracting throughout the story because it doesn’t fit at all with her character. Jaime points out the flashing light indicating the TARDIS has landed, but the Doctor insists they are still in flight. Victoria later points out the same thing. Checking the scanner the Doctor finds that the TARDIS is hovering in space. It’s caught by some sort of web. The Doctor frees the TARDIS with some gadgetry and they land.

The TARDIS crew exits the TARDIS and discovers they are in a subway tunnel (the London underground) but everything seems to be abandoned and even the electricity in the rails is turned off. Jaime and Victoria head one way and the Doctor heads a different way. Jaime and Victoria are picked up by some soldiers, taken to HQ and interrogated. When asked if there is anyone else in the tunnels, Jaime insists there isn’t – so the soldiers blow-up the tunnels, but the explosion never goes off.

Jaime insists the Doctor was in the tunnels as soon as he hears about the planned demolition. Soldiers are sent to look for the Doctor. Meanwhile, Professor Travers and his daughter, Anne, arrive. Victoria recognizes the Professor immediately from their previous adventure in Tibet. Travers soon recognizes her and Jaime as well, though he’s surprised they are no older (the previous adventure was in 1935 – 40 years ago, meaning this adventure actually takes place in 1975), Travers concludes the Doctor was telling the truth about being able to travel in time.

The Doctor meets Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart in the tunnels (a character we will come to know as the Brigadier) and they return to HQ, athough, along the way, several of the soldiers die.

From here on in “Web of Fear” gets a little confusing – the Doctor doesn’t take over or even make suggestions for defeating “the menace”. The soldiers go back and forth from the tunnels to HQ to the tunnels – with more men dying each time. The fungus or web that the Yeti create with pyramid-shaped hand guns advances down the tunnels, trapping the soldiers and everyone else in HQ. By episode 6, even HQ is engulfed in the stuff. After they are trapped by the fungus, Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart learns that the Doctor has a craft and he can get everyone out – but the TARDIS is stuck at Covent Garden. The Colonel leads the rest of the soldiers above ground, in an attempt to get the TARDIS from the other side. They are all annihilated by the Yeti. While the colonel leads his fruitless mission, the Doctor also heads above ground to a store house to get electronic parts. The soldier guarding him is killed. The Doctor makes it back to the lab.

The Yeti kidnap Professor Travers and Victoria, and deliver an ultimatum to the few survivors – turn over the Doctor in 20 minutes, or else. The Doctor and Anne Travers, a scientist work on getting the control box and sphere working so that they can control a Yeti (they succeed, but tell Col. Lethbridge-Stewart they failed, since he could be working for the Intelligence).

Again, various parties head into the tunnels – to scout, to try and find Victoria and Travers, etc. They meet Evans – a Welsh soldier who had been the driver of an ill-fated truckload of munitions (the soldiers were killed and the supplies destroyed by the Yeti). Evans, who first appears in the first or second episode, is portrayed as dumb and a coward. Every chance he gets he tries to run off – only to get lost and turn-up again. They also encounter Staff Sgt. Arnold, a good man and a good soldier, presumed lost in the mission to recover the Doctor’s TARDIS. Finally, they encounter Chorley, a journalist, who had run off at some point – only to get lost in the tunnels. Anne and the Doctor are able to take control of a Yeti but don’t tell anyone. The Doctor gives the control microphone to Jaime.

Everyone goes to the Yeti’s hideout at Piccadilly Circus. Anne is happy to see her father is unharmed, and Jaime is glad to see Victoria is all right. The Doctor agrees to give himself up, and gets in the Intelligence’s machine which will drain his brain. Jaime however uses the microphone to send the Yeti he controls in and attacks the other Yeti, then destroys the Intelligence’s machine.

The Doctor is genuinely upset though, he had reversed the settings on the machine, so instead of it draining him, he would drain the Intelligence. Further, he knows the Intelligence will escape, and again be formless cloud in space. The TARDIS crew leaves – heading through the tunnels to the TARDIS.

“Web of Fear” is a bit disappointing. The Yeti, though not as roly-poly as in the surviving footage from “The Abominable Snowmen” are still not that threatening, with a rolling gait that seems to be very slow. Their attacks are not precise either, and often, the soldiers appear to be throwing themselves at the Yeti rather than actually being caught. Most of the plot involves various people going from the HQ to the tunnels on pointless missions and then either dying or going back to HQ having accomplished nothing. When the Colonel leads the mission above ground, not only is it pointless because everyone dies – but one really has to wonder why he took the risk in the first place. Yes, the few survivors needed to escape – but why not just lead everyone above ground and run like heck? Instead, the Colonel instantly believes the Doctor has a time-space craft that will rescue them all so he risks everything and every one to get to it. Later on, when the Brigadier had known the Doctor for years and several regenerations, this would have made sense – but it makes no sense when they have just met.

Most of the extra characters die in this story, especially the soldiers, though Anne, Travers, Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart, Chorley, and Evans survive. Staff Sgt. Arnold had died on that earlier mission, when they encounter him it’s only his corpse, animated by the Intelligence. When the Intelligence speaks through Professor Travers, a communication box, and finally Arnold – it is spooky, but this story doesn’t have the tension of a “who is working with the Intelligence” plot it should. People mention it, but it doesn’t feel like a real threat or as paranoid as it should.

Overall, “Web of Fear” is a pretty standard story, I’d give it a 3 out of 5. It’s not helped by a telesnap-only reconstruction in the middle. With 5 out of 6 episodes of the story remaining, it’s a good candidate for animated reconstruction, and it might improve the story a bit (Part 3 is very confusing.) I don’t normally re-buy things I own, but if a special edition came out with animation and special features, I would purchase it.

 

Everyone’s Doing a Musical – What Makes it a Good One?

The Musical episode. Something that sets many a fan’s teeth on edge. Or, something that is eagerly anticipated. But what makes a musical episode good? And what makes the inevitable songfest not so good?

First some good musical episodes: Buffy: the Musical – the one that started it all, or at least made it easier for genre television shows to do musical episodes. Once Upon a Time the Musical Episode – they didn’t miss a step or a beat with this one. Batman the Brave and the Bold “Mayhem of the Music Meister”. And a bad musical episode: The Flash “Duet”.

First, the musical episode should be integrated into the show – it should fit with the show it is in. Batman The Brave and the Bold‘s musical episode works because it is just like any other episode of that show – in animation style, it the way that the plot works, in the almost stylistic way the plot unfolds – it’s just like any other episode. Plus the villain, the Music Meister uses music to control people, so it makes sense that it would be a musical episode.

Once Upon a Time also fits their musical episode in to both the season-long arc and the typical style of the show. The musical episode opens in the Enchanted Forest with a scene that looks like a live-action interpretation of Disney’s Snow White. As the story moves along, the musical and tempo become more modern, to fit with the style of the show. The last two songs take place in Storybrooke, as we see Emma use her song, and a finale.

To be honest, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen Buffy the Musical, and I’m more familiar with the soundtrack to the musical than the television episode itself. However, like Once Upon a Time, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a character wakes up and suddenly is singing. And, as the characters in Once Upon a Time also briefly do – in Buffy the characters try to figure out why they are suddenly singing. But in Buffy it’s a demon that uses “truth in song” to get the characters to be honest – yet also breaks them apart. In Once Upon a Time, the singing is caused by a wish on a star (and fairy magic) but it brings the characters closer together.

Not only does the musical episode need to be integrated into the plot, but the songs need to fit the characters. Every musical episode I’ve seen tends to be character-based. There may be a number or two that is used to resolve or fix the plot, but the big numbers are used to illustrate character. Once Upon a Time, in the tradition of the great “sung” musicals (where every line is sung, including plot) uses songs to advance the plot as well as giving major characters a song just for them. This is different than a musical such as Meet Me in St. Louis where the songs tell you what a character is feeling but not who they are. When Julie Garland sings “The Trolley Song”, we know she’s in love. When Zelena sings, “Wicked Always Wins” we know she believes she will beat her sister and be better than her.

Finally, it helps if the music and the songs are original. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Once Upon a Time, Batman: The Brave and the Bold – they all have original music written for the characters and the plot. Once could have used existing Disney songs – but they did not, and the musical is better for it. It’s possible to write, edit, direct, and choreograph a good musical with existing music (such as Moulin Rouge), especially for television, new music wins out.

So my single example of a bad television musical is The Flash “Duet”.  Oddly enough, the villain in “Duet” is the Music Meister, the same villain from Batman: the Brave and the Bold. But unlike in the animated series, where the episode is like any other episode, except for the music – in The Flash, Barry and Supergirl (Kara) are knocked unconscious by the Music Meister, and sent to a fantasy world, where they meet other members of the cast, who are other people. Guess what? We don’t care about these other people. It’s like Barry Allen had a bad nightmare where he was trapped in the cast of Guys and Dolls or West Side Story, with Supergirl along for the ride for in essence, no good reason. I mean,don’t get me wrong, I like Kara, and she and Barry have good chemistry, but I really don’t think sending the two to dreamland worked as a plot device. Second, instead of causing havoc and controlling people, the Music Meister seems to think he’s cupid – because the entire point of the episode is to get Kara back together with Mon-el and to get Barry back together with Iris. To me, the only song that really works in the entire story is when Barry sings “Run to You” to Iris and proposes to her. Because yes, not only is “Duet” set in a fantasy world – none of the music is original except “Run to You” which Barry sings to Iris in the real world! Honestly, if they’d had Music Meister controlling people, making them sing, and do what he wants (Can you see the Rouges like Captain Cold singing?) and kept the story in Central City like normal, it would have worked better.

So there you go – some opinions about how to do and how not to do a musical episode. What do you think? Do you like musical episodes? Why or why not? What are some of your favorites? Please respond in the comments.