Doctor Who Episode Review – Deep Breath

  • Series Title:  Doctor Who
  • Story Title: Deep Breath
  • Story Number: Series 8, Episode 1
  • Original Air Date: August 23, 2014
  • Cast: Peter Capaldi as The Doctor, Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald, with Neve McIntosh as Madame Vastra, Catrin Stewart as Jenny Flint, and Dan Starkey as Strax

“I am alone. The world, which shook under my feet, and the trees and the sky, have gone. And I am alone now… The world bites now, and the world is grey, and I am alone.” – The Doctor (Peter Capaldi)

“But he is the Doctor. He has walked the universe for centuries untold, he has seen the stars fall to dust.” – Madame Vastra

“I wasn’t. I didn’t need to. That was me talking. You can’t see me, Can you? You look at me and you can’t see me. Do you have any idea what that’s like? I’m not on the phone, I’m right in front of you. Please, just… just see me.” – The Doctor (Peter Capaldi)

I remember, just barely, watching “Deep Breath” in the movie theater for the premiere. And, of course, watching it and the rest of the season on BBC America and later still on DVD. See my review of Doctor Who Series 8. But I’ve decided to re-watch Peter Calpaldi’s Doctor Who from the beginning. If you have been reading my Patrick Troughton Era reviews, this means I very well may skip “The War Games” but I did review the rest of his stories that are available on DVD. Anyway, I have seen series 9 and 10 on BBC America, but not watched them on DVD so those reviews will be forthcoming eventually. What is amazing about “Deep Breath” is that although it in much more subtle than the Matt Smith era, it does set up themes that will be returned to over and over throughout the Peter Capaldi Era.

The opening of “Deep Breath” is in essence merely a McGuffin. As cool and as incongruous as a dinosaur in Victorian London in the Thames is, and as silly as said dinosaur vomiting up the TARDIS which caused it to be transported, that is merely a McGuffin – the dinosaur bursts into flames immediately upon the Doctor promising to save it. This leads the Doctor and the Paternoster Gang to investigate a series of similar murders, which leads to the Doctor discovering a restaurant of clockwork people, which is really an ancient spaceship.

This spaceship is the S.S. Marie Antoinette, sister-ship to the Madame de Pompadour, which the audience knows from the David Tennant episode, “The Girl in the Fireplace”. So the audience knows about it’s clockwork occupants who replace parts with human (and in this case, dinosaur) parts. The Doctor, however, keeps insisting that he can’t quite remember why it is so familiar.

My the themes of identity and obsessions with endings and even death link this story with the entire Peter Capaldi Era. From Clara not recognizing the Docor, not seeing him as the Doctor, and being freaked out that he regenerated, he’s “renewed”, but his “face has lines” and “he’s old”, to the “broom speech” where the Doctor is ostensibly talking about the droid leader, but he could easily be talking about himself. When he’s “translating” for the dinosaur who is so alone, the Doctor could be talking about himself as well. And in the last scene between the Doctor and Clara, he practically begs her to “see him”. Capaldi’s years as the Doctor would feature many more references to both the Doctor’s great age, and his almost being ready to give up because he’s fought for so long. This is what is very good about this episode – it introduces a theme, which will be returned too again and again, not so much in Series 8, but usually at least once a season during the Capaldi years. And even his final Christmas special is as much about whether or not he will regenerate as anything else.

However, independent of the season and the era, even though it looks very good, the plot of “Deep Breath” isn’t that impressive. The opening gambit with the dinosaur is used more as an elaborate joke and then as a McGuffin to introduce the real plot as anything else. I actually felt bad about the dinosaur exploding, but it’s a sign of bad writing as well. How do you get rid of the extraneous character who’s only purpose was to get your characters together so they can solve the mystery? Why making that character yet another victim in the series of crimes. Goodbye, dinosaur.

But worse, the central plot is lifted straight from “The Girl in the Fireplace”. Even the Doctor remarks that droids using human parts, a hidden spaceship that crashed eons ago and is looking to return home “the long way around”, and the name of the ship, S.S. Marie Antoinette, sister-ship to the Madame de Pompadour, sounds familiar. And for anyone watching, unless they never saw “The Girl in the Fireplace” – it does sound familiar – it’s the same plot. Steven Moffat is literally stealing from himself. And this isn’t the first time he does it – Amy Pond’s entire characterization and her arc plot are identical to Reinette in “The Girl in the Fireplace”, from first seeing her as a child, to Reinette/Amy’s steady belief that the Doctor will always be there for her (something Clara also does in “Deep Breath”). Moffat doesn’t so much write original stories, as re-write his most popular ones over and over again, changing only the character and maybe the setting. This something often found in genre writing such as mysteries or romantic suspense. It works for awhile, but sooner or later as a reader, one realizes it’s the same story over and over and over again.

Still, having re-watched Patrick Troughton’s Era on DVD, I’m excited about re-watching the Peter Capaldi era again.

 

Advertisements

Doctor Who – The Seeds of Death Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Seeds of Death
  • Story #: 48
  • Episodes: 6 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 2
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 01/25/1969 – 03/01/1969
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“Your leader will be angry if you kill me. I’m a genius!” – The Doctor

“How do you propose getting it to the launch pad without T-mat?” – Eldred
“Just so happens I found a petrol car in a motor museum.” – Ms. Kelly
“Really? What make?” – Eldred
“I have no idea but it has four wheels and it goes.” – Ms. Kelly

“The Seeds of Death” is one of my favorite Patrick Troughton stories, and I actually like it better than the first Ice Warriors story. For a six-parter it moves at a good clip too, in large part due to the various locations – and the computer voice commenting on the world situation makes the story feel like it’s on a larger scale, not the normal base under siege. There are a few issues with the T-mat system, but that’s part of the whole point.

The first episode largely introduces T-mat and the situation, there’s the female controller, Miss Kelly, who’s about to do a shift change sending an ill-fated controller to take over from Fewsham, who is known for making minor mistakes. Miss Kelly states one day Fewsham will make a major mistake – boy is she correct! The new controller for the day is almost immediately killed by an Ice Warrior on the moon control station for T-mat, another technician is also killed, Fewsham decides to save his own skin by throwing in with the Ice Warriors, and Phipps escapes and ends-up in the solar store. Meanwhile on Earth, all T-mat deliveries have stopped, causing food shortages, chaos, and disorder (this gets worse as the story goes on – at first there’s just great concern over the lack of deliveries).

The Doctor, Zoë, and Jaime land in the TARDIS in a rocket and space transportation museum. They meet the museum owner – an old rocket scientist. Kelly and her boss arrive, and try to convince the museum owner, Eldred, to help. The Doctor finds out about the issues with T-mat, which Kelly and her boss know isn’t working but they can’t communicate with the moon station to find out why. The Doctor proposes going in person to the moon to investigate. With Eldred’s help they get a rocket ready and the Doctor, Zoë, and Jaime head to the moon. The communications break down immediately.

On the moon, Phipps uses flare from the solar power generator to attack an Ice Warrior, it works for him but unfortunately knocks out the automatic homing beam for landing the rocket. Fortunately for all concerned, Phipps also tries to make radio contact with anyone, raises the rocket on short-range transmission and is able to set up a homing beacon.

After the Doctor lands he goes to find out what’s going on, but Jaime and Zoë stay in the ship to check things out and make repairs. Unfortunately, the rocket’s engines are burnt out and can’t be repaired – it’s useless. The Doctor and company will need to return by T-mat. Jaime tells Phipps that the Ice Warriors are vulnerable to heat. Phipps has already discovered bright solar power can be used as a weapon against the Ice Warriors. The Doctor is captured by the Ice Warriors. He discovers they are sending deadly seed pods to Earth by T-mat (and is knocked out). Once T-mat is working, Kelly and some technicians arrive. Fewsham tells her that the controller went crazy and started killing everyone. Kelly doesn’t really believe it, but the Ice Warriors are in hiding.

Very soon after, Kelly meets up with Zoë, Jaime, and Phipps, and finds out the truth and that Fewsham is in league with the Ice Warriors. She also learns the Doctor’s been kidnapped. Jaime lets Kelly know the Ice Warriors are vulnerable to heat. They want to rescue the Doctor and get the heat turned up. Turning up the heating is a bit more complex than it sounds – the control is in main control with the Ice Warriors – Phipps tries to sneak in but can’t make it through the last grate. Zoë insists on trying and succeeds, with the Ice Warriors temporarily incapacitated by the heat. T-mat though is working and sending deadly seeds to earth. One kills one of the technicians in the London control office and reports come in by communications computer of deaths in other T-mat control offices. Not only that but the seeds expel a deadly foam that is causing a plant blight and absorbing the oxygen. All the deaths are from severe oxygen depletion. This, on top of the starvation and disruptions caused by T-mat not working to transport food and supplies.

Jaime and Phipps get the heat going and rescue the Doctor whom the Ice Warriors wanted to send into space. On Earth a minister shows up at T-mat control, complaining about the “unbelievable” report – he soon believes it as first the Doctor, Zoë, and Jaime are sent back to the Earth station and then Miss Kelly arrives, but Fewsham doesn’t follow as he said he would. Ice Warriors are sent by T-mat and attack guards, but seem to have a single goal – to get to the Weather Control station.

The fungus (foam) and seeds are becoming a real problem, and the Doctor examines it, finding it to be organic and absorbing oxygen – threatening to make the atmosphere so thin humans couldn’t live, but it would be like the surface of Mars. The Doctor also discovers the fungus can be destroyed with simple water. He sends Zoë and Jaime to tell the commander about this. Unfortunately, he’s in a meeting with Ms. Kelly and the Minister, and the computer refuses to put the call through. Zoë decides to find the weather control herself, and Jaime comes along. They make it through the foam and to weather control, but find everyone there is dead and an Ice Warrior is on patrol preventing access to the now broken machine. There’s a bit of hiding from the Ice Warrior.

Back at control, the Doctor talks to Miss Kelly and the controller, and they get a video message from the moon – which includes the homing signal for the Ice Warrior fleet, and info on their plans. Fewsham finally grows a spine, but the Ice Warrior realizes what he’s doing. Still the Doctor realizes they can put the signal on a telecom satellite and use it to draw the Ice Warrior fleet into orbit around the sun. Meanwhile, the Doctor asks about progress on getting rid of the fungus – only to discover the commander and Ms. Kelly never got the message because they were in a meeting. He also realizes Zoë and Jaime must have gone to weather control themselves. He runs off to rescue them. The Doctor is trapped at the door by the fungus. Jaime draws off the Ice Warrior and Zoë lets him in. They manage to use a solar weapon against the Ice Warrior and the Doctor gets the weather machine to make rain. The Doctor also makes one final trip to the moon where he disables the Ice Warrior homing beacon there – so the fleet will follow the other one into the sun, which it does. The Doctor also tells the Ice Warriors he’s figured out how to stop the fungus.

Back on Earth Eldred tries to convince Ms. Kelly that they need a secondary transport system as well as T-mat. Miss Kelly and the controller want T-mat controlled from Earth. The Doctor and the TARDIS crew head back to the museum and leave.

I like “Seeds of Death” – for a six parter it moves fast. Yes, the fungus is dish soap bubbles, but seriously – they did the same thing for the web/fungus in “Web of Fear” and it’s a bit more threatening here where it bubbles up to swallow people, plus there’s the whole “absorbing oxygen” thing that makes it seem deadly. Also, the first episode shows us how T-mat works, the issues of late shipments, Kelly’s professionalism, and Fewsham’s bad reputation – so when the Doctor arrives we’re actually ahead of him in terms of what is going on. This is Doctor Who showing not telling and it’s more effective.

The Ice Warriors are also held back and we only see parts, a hand, a weapon, legs and feet. Even once we know who they are, when some of the Warriors get to Earth we just see legs and huge feet stomping through the forest. This is effective, and a good way to build suspense.

T-mat is an interesting system, and the entire point of the story is no system is perfect, so secondary systems, over rides, and methods to fix things are needed. Half the story could have been told with no alien invasion at all. When the Ice Warriors do invade they hit a thinly-manned station on the moon, which is easily taken over. Fewsham isn’t the typical “guy working with the invaders” – he doesn’t have any plans to get rich, or to obtain power, or anything – he’s simply a coward out to save his own skin. And from the first episode, we know he isn’t trusted by his co-workers anyway.

This story has some brilliant direction, and a competent woman in T-mat Controller Kelly. The Ice Warrior costumes are less blocky. I highly recommend this story.

The six part story with commentary and info text is on Disc One, and the special features are on Disc Two.

Thunderbirds Are Go Series 2 Volume 2 Review

  • Series Title: Thunderbirds Are Go
  • Season: Series 2 Vol. 2
  • Episodes: 12
  • Discs: 2
  • Network: ITV
  • Cast: Rasmus Hardiker, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, David Menkin, Kayvan Novak, Rosamund Pike, David Graham, Sandra Dickinson, Angel Coulby
  • Format: Widescreen, Color, DVD (R2, PAL)

Thunderbirds Are Go is an excellent and fun series. This volume goes back to the format of International Rescue (IR) doing what they do best – rescue people from impossible situations. There are few episodes that focus on a single character but the rest involve all or at least three of the main characters. The first story in the collection, “Volcano”, gives Brains a chance to shine. The plot, inspired by the Icelandic volcano eruptions, also features a scientist who has become a bit of a laughing-stock, constantly warning International Rescue and the nearby resort that the volcano was “going to blow”. But this time, as Brains discovers – he’s right. It’s a great rescue. “Grandma Tourismo” as the title suggests, has Grandma Tracy and Virgil working together on a windstorm rescue in the desert. It’s actually a great episode – and gives us a little background into the older Tracy family members (it was Grandma Tracy who taught Jeff how to fly). Many of the episodes focus on rescues with heart-pumping action, and good characterization of both our regulars and the guest star characters.

Whereas the previous volume put most of the emphasis on The Mechanic and the Hood, this volume only has a few stories where they even appear. The Mechanic is trying to escape the Hood’s control, in any way possible, Brains and the GDF promise to help the Mechanic escape being controlled. But in the final minutes of the last episode, the Hood manages to escape custody again.

I highly, highly, highly recommend this series, including this volume for all ages. The stories are full of action and the characters are great. The Tracys dedicate themselves to helping people in impossible situations, and put human life over anything and everything else. They aren’t there to save things or infrastructure but people, it’s just what the Tracys do – they help.

Read Thunderbirds Are Go Series 2 Volume 1 Review
Read my Thunderbirds Are Go Series 1 Volume 2 Review
Read my Thunderbirds Are Go Series 1 Volume 1 Review
Original Gerry Anderson Thunderbirds Information

Book Review – Double Shot

  • Title: Double Shot
  • Author: Diane Mott Davidson
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 02/19/2018

I really enjoyed Chopping Spree by the same author but was disappointed by Catering to Nobody which I read years ago. Unfortunately, the first half of this book reminds me of the later not the former. The first half of this book, especially the opening chapters have Goldy Schultz, caterer and amateur detective making a lot of stupid mistakes for plot reasons. The book starts with her heading to her new catering building, the Roundhouse, for a catering event, as she’s walking from her van to the door, she’s attacked, run down by someone on foot, and hit on the head. To her credit she calls the police right away to report the attack.

Now, if you had been attacked at your place of business – would you (a) sit and wait calmly for the police to arrive, (b) call your best friend for help, (c) call your insurance company, (d) go into your business – shoot up the place yourself, and then “clean up” destroying all evidence of the attack? Well, guess what our protagonist does. Hint: she acts like a dingbat. Yep, she calls her friend, then cleans up all the evidence of the attack – all the spoiled food, the broken glass, the mice – every thing.

This is monumentally stupid. As a business owner – she must have insurance on her building and equipment. If she doesn’t, she’s extremely dumb and naive. Also, she may have to carry the equivalent of malpractice insurance – what if she serves food to someone and they are allergic to it and they sue her? But no… Goldy decides to call her best friend, Marla, who arrives before the police (because apparently her little community of Aspen Meadow has the world’s slowest police department), and the two go inside – where they discover tons of damage. Everything in the cooler is spoiled because the cooler was turned off. Bags of mice are on the floor. Dishes and such are broken. Does she call her insurance company? Start taking pictures with her cell phone or a camera? Go back outside and wait for the cops? No – Goldy shoots at the mice with her handgun, then cleans the place up. She throws out all the spoiled food, disposes of the broken glass, lets the mice outside, and drops her gun in her unlocked van. Doesn’t this woman have insurance? Doesn’t she know you need to document damage if you want to make an insurance claim?

Goldy pushes through and puts together an improv catering event since all her prepared food is gone. The catering event goes reasonable well, but her ex-husband, released from jail on a technicality or something, harasses her outside, demanding she bring her son, Arch, for visitation outside the planned time and threatening her. Course, Goldy takes this to mean everyone will think less of her , so she agrees with her ex-husband’s demands.

When Goldy goes to drop off her son, though, her ex never answers the door. Goldy goes to check the garage and finds him dead. The rest of the novel is a standard mystery. There are plenty of clues and red herrings. Goldy is actually picked up by the police and questioned in the murder. This actually makes a certain amount of sense on the part of the police, especially given Goldy’s stupid actions earlier.

Double Shot rests on a series of family connections, old secrets, and rivalries. That part of the book works. The looming threat of forest fires permeates the rest of the novel. This “Checkov’s fire” does and does not actually get realized fully (the conclusion is set during the fire – but the fire never threatens Goldy’s home or place of business). And, unfortunately, nearly every detail of how forest fires in the US are fought is out-and-out wrong. For one thing, if the forest is in a National Forest US Forest Service fire fighters will be fighting that fire. They are paid Federal employees (with their own families, children, and bills) not volunteers. If the fire is on State land, most Western states have their own Fire Service (I know California does). But throughout the story, Ms. Davidson refers to the fire fighters on the Federal Wildlife Preserve as, “local volunteers from Aspen Meadow”. That’s not how it works. Even if a local department works on a fire, they will work with state and federal agencies. That is what an Interagency Fire Agency is for. But enough ranting, just because I have experience in supporting fire fighters as an admin/IT Tech…

Getting back to the book, Goldy and Marla precede to investigate – to clear Goldy, and to figure out who did them the favor of offing their ex. The perpetrator is an expert at laying false clues, exposing secrets, and throwing blame in a number of different directions. I liked that part of the book. I liked it a lot. If only the story had just picked up about 50 pages from where it did and followed that storyline, it would have been a five-star book. I’m not going to spoil who the killer is or why – because that is the best part of the book. The last few chapters of the book, as Goldy puts it together and tracks down a killer are well done. I hope that future Goldy Bear Culinary Mysteries are like Chopping Spree and not like this one.

To sum up, things I didn’t like about Double Shot: the protagonist, Gold Schultz, who is now married to a police officer and has solved mysteries for twelve books now, apparently has no idea how to act when victim of a crime herself, doesn’t bother to document damage to her business, never calls her insurance company, and thinks the best way to dispose of mice is to shoot them with a .38 handgun. Yeah, that will work. There are other issues – one of the secrets uncovered is a major crime that no one reported at the time, that essentially ruined the lives of several people in the novel, and seriously, exposing the person responsible for the crime, especially as there were witnesses, is a better solution than murder. One of the mustache-twirling villains of the book is a county health inspector, who acts in a very unprofessional and illegal manner, but who also, at one point grabs Goldy and hits her. That’s assault. This character did it in front of witnesses. Not only can Goldy have him fired – she can have him arrested. Government employees cannot go around beating up caterers. That’s just not how it works. The forest fire in the background really adds to the atmosphere of the story, but I truly wish the author had bothered to do at least some research – because she got everything wrong. Fires in National Forests are fought by the US Forest Service firefighters – some of the best in the world. Fires on state lands are fought by state fire services. Even local fire departments are usually professionals, not volunteers. The fire fighting methods weren’t detailed enough or really correct. But on the positive side, once the book gets in to the mystery it moves at a fast clip. the descriptions of food in this book are mouth-watering, it reminds me of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novels in that respect. Here’s hoping the next one is better.

Doctor Who – The Krotons Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Krotons
  • Story #: 47
  • Episodes: 4 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 1
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 12/28/1968 – 01/18/1969
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“This is the most advanced machine, perhaps he can’t answer the questions.” – Gond Leader
“Of course he can, the Doctor’s almost as clever as I am.” – Zoë

“It is not patriotism to lead people to a war they cannot win.” – Gong Leader

The Doctor and his companions, Jaime and Zoë, land in the TARDIS on an alien planet. They step outside and Jaime immediately notes the smell of bad eggs, while Zoë realizes there is sulfur in the air. They explore a bit anyway and find a city and then a building, but the Doctor realizes immediately that it is a machine not a building. They see a man stumble out of the machine but he is immediately gassed and killed. A few minutes later a woman stumbles out, the TARDIS crew block the gas jets for a few moments and pull the girl free, but she is catatonic. They make their way to the Gond city, and the woman is given treatment but stays catatonic until the last episode.

The Gonds are a primative people, with no weapons. They make regular sacrifices to the Krotons, when called upon. The most intelligent, clever, and successful men and women are sent to live with the Krotons. But some of the people rebel at this status quo, especially the woman’s boyfriend who begs her not to submit to the Krotons (she does, and is rescued by the Doctor and company). Eons ago, the Krotons arrived and during the war that followed, they caused poisonous rain to fall on the planet, creating the Wasteland (where the TARDIS lands). Since the Gonds have lived within their city, being taught by teaching machines. But the machines and their knowledge is supplied by the Krotons. The Gonds themselves are starting to realize there are major gaps in their knowledge but they no way to fill those gaps themselves.

The Doctor tries to help the woman, Vana, who is comatose for much of the story, but remarks he’s not a medical doctor. Zoë tries out the teaching machine, gets double the score of even the best Gond, and is immediately called to join the Krotons. The Doctor also passes the teaching machine exams, so he is called and can accompany Zoë into the Krotons’ machine. Inside the machine, the mental power of the Doctor and Zoë is converted to energy and used to reconstruct the Krotons who are crystalline aliens (they look like big robots though). Zoë realizes they are using the mental power of the Gonds for energy. She asks why they don’t set the Gonds free afterwards (since this process doesn’t actually harm the person they get the energy from) and the Krotons are actually confused – they are simply disposing of the waste.

Jaime meanwhile, who had been watching over Vana, returns to the teaching hall, and upon learning the Doctor and Zoë are inside the Kroton machine, breaks into it. He later breaks out.

One of the Gonds challenges the Gong Leader as well as the Gong head scientist to attack and destroy the Krotons – saying they can attack with slings and fireballs. The Doctor has the Gonds make sulfuric acid after analysing the Kroton’s structure and crystal slurry in the TARDIS. (He escapes, does his analysis and then goes back to the scientist.) Another Gond suggests knocking out the pillars that support the Kroton machine from below (forgetting that it would destroy the entire hall.) The military attack is doomed to failure but doesn’t really get started, and the destruction of one pillar only makes the entire situation worse for the Gonds. But the Doctor has Jaime work with the scientist to make gallons of sulfuric acid. When Zoë and the Doctor go back into the Krotons machine, it’s Jaime who leads an attack. Zoë dumps the sample of sulfuric acid and other components into the Krotons slurry tank, while Jaime attacks the Kroton machine with the acid. Between the two attacks, the Krotons are defeated, the Doctor and Zoë escape, and the Gond Leader, having shown his idea worked rather than the pointless military attack, wins the respect of his people. The Gonds decide to develop their own science. The Doctor and company leave in the TARDIS.

I had seen “The Krotons” on PBS, and when I purchased the DVD, but I could remember nothing about it when I went to re-watch it. After several five and six-part episodes and the eight-part “The Invasion”, going back to a traditional 4-part Doctor Who actually felt a little short. But this is actually a pretty good story – the villains are not your traditional evil invaders – they are simply so alien they don’t understand organic life. In essence, they are treating the Gonds the way people treat metal, or wood, or stone – as a resource to be used. And the Gonds aren’t your traditional “stupid natives” – they aren’t that advanced, but even before the Doctor’s arrival, some are questioning the status quo. This story has some thought behind it.

Zoë is wearing a really awful plastic-looking bolero jacket over an incredibly short skirt. I know it was the 1960s and the mini was in, but come on – if you can’t sit down, the skirt is too short. There are several edits and shots of Zoë from the hips up where it’s obvious that if you saw her legs you’d also see her panties. Honestly, I own tunics and one tunic-style sweater with a longer hem than that mini-dress she’s wearing, it’s truly ridiculous. Compare the length of Jaime’s longer kilt, and you’ll see what I mean. And of course, as always in the Troughton serials, no one remarks on the strange clothes all three of the TARDIS crew are wearing.

But other than some bad wardrobe choices, “The Krotons” is a good, “typical” Doctor Who story – it won’t win any rewards or sit at the top of any “Best in Who” lists, but it’s an interesting culture, interesting aliens, some good sets, and some nice set pieces (some of the Kroton machinery and labs are pretty cool). I recommend this story.

 

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 Harington, 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 hall 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, Ramsay Snow Bolton. However, just as all seems lost, the Knights of the Vale, led by Petyr Littlefinger Baelish, 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 Ramsay 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”. Ramsay also feds his step-mother and baby brother to his dogs. Not only is Ramsay’s army defeated by the Stark troops and the Army of the Vale, and not only is Ramsay humiliated by Jon Snow in single combat, but Sansa – in just about the most just and fitting way possible, destroys Ramsay 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, Drogon. 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 Ironborn 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 Ramsay. 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.

 

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.