A review of Big Finish audio drama no. 22
Written by Jonathan Morris
Directed by Gary Russell
Music, Sound Design and Post Production by Alistair Lock
WOW! It’s been a while since I reviewed a Big Finish audio adventure, or any audio drama for that matter. For a few years, I was listening to these constantly, actually I was re-listening for review purposes, and I sort of let them slip a tad. For a little while, listening to stuff like this was kind of hard due to a promotion at work. I was previously blessed with over nine hours of work time to fill with podcasts, audio dramas, and radio – but this got hard when I became a supervisor. Suddenly I had a radio to listen for, and constant questions to answer. Now I’ve balanced this out, and plan to review an audio drama once a week! That’s right! Check back every week for another new edition.
This week, I’ll be time-traveling back to 2001 and the infancy of Big Finish. This is a review of the twenty-second audio drama produced by these guys, starring none other than Colin Baker as The Doctor and Maggie Stables as Evelyn Smythe, his audio companion. Bloodtide follows on from a previous audio drama that I reviewed a few years back, The Apocalypse Element, and sees The Doctor and Evelyn coming face to face with a big historical figure – Charles Darwin. Just like any other historical Doctor Who story, the trip isn’t exactly a pleasure trip for our dynamic duo.
In the Ecuadoran settlement of Baquerizo Moreno, there has been some bad stuff going on. The Doctor and Evelyn attempt to have a normal meeting with a young Charles Darwin, circa his Beagle days, only to start learning about all sorts of horrific stuff happening there. Baquerizo Moreno is an Ecuadoran penal colony, so one can imagine that there are tales of barbaric atrocities going on. Something is different here, however, there are rumors that prisoners have been mysteriously disappearing from locked prison cells, A local fisherman has been driven insane by something he saw in the caves, and the Governor seems sort of suspicious.
Of course, everything can be chalked up to appearances by the nefarious Silurians, recently awakened from millions of years of slumber. At the beginning of the episode, we actually saw a flashback to the dying days of the Silurian Empire. The planet was dying, oceans were foul, and many animals were going extinct. The Silurians are preparing to place themselves into suspended animation, but one man is not welcome. A Silurian scientist, S’Rel Tulok, is banished to wander the Earth along with the reason he’s in trouble – genetically modified primates that he altered to be more intelligent. As one can imagine, this is the birth of the human race.
As you can imagine, this isn’t the modern Madame Vastra brand of Silurians we’ve been used to seeing in the current run of the TV series. These are the classic iteration as seen in Pertwee episodes complete with the hissing voice and all. The Silurians are a great audio villain, because they were sort of cheesy until they got revamped a few years back. Without seeing the unmoving mask and other shoddy special effects, the listeners imagination is left to run wild and create quite the formidable foe. This is especially true when the drama re-introduces The Myrka, a monster that never lived up to it’s hype in the actual show. Instead of a rough guy in a rubber suit caliber monster, we are treated to something more like Godzilla – a stature that seems to be the original idea behind the Myrka.
Once again, I am reminded why I love Evelyn Smythe so much in these audio adventures, she’s not the center of the Doctor’s love-life since she is older and is written as an equal of sorts. I LOVE older companions, I wish there would be more in the actual show! She does do a bit of the annoying stuff that companions tend to do when they meet a historical figure (i.e. trying to lead them into coming up with a future theory while they are there, or helping them along), but she isn’t as bad as Rose trying to get Queen Victoria to say “I am not amused!” Maggie Stables has done the role five other times up to this point, and so far she has yet to do a bad job.
I have said many times, that I really enjoy the “softer” version of The Sixth Doctor in these audio dramas. It really shows that Colin Baker is a great actor and was “screwed” during the production of the actual show. While I do enjoy the moral ambiguity his Doctor had, sometimes it was a bit much, often resorting to murders followed by witty one-liners ala James Bond. Audio Colin Baker could be my favorite Doctor if future episodes keep this quality.
The supporting cast was very good, with the only blemish being the shrill voice of Greta in the first episode (she improves vastly afterward). The Ecuadoran characters have suspect accents, like any other Big Finish audio with exotic characters, but since I am not from South America, I’m not going to pretend I am the authority on this. This adventure stars Miles Richardson as Charles Darwin, George Telfer as Captain Fitzroy, Daniel Hogarth as Tulok, Julian Harries as Governor Lawson, Helen Goldwyn as Shvak, Jane Goddard as Greta, Jez Fielder as both Emilio and Lokan, and finally Rob Shearman and William Johnson as The Myrka.
The Historical accuracy of this episode comes into question a bit for me, mainly because this adventure goes to great lengths to paint the picture that Charles Darwin became a devout atheist due to revelations attained on the island. With the premise of the episode being based on evolution and such, I can sense an agenda here to a degree, and unfortunately words are placed in Darwin’s mouth that he would have never said at the age he was here. Darwin is one of those figures that has become so “fetishized” that I’m not surprised this was in there, but a bit disappointed. Darwin was fairly religious into his middle age, but slowly edged towards agnosticism in his golden years. If anything, the revelation of the creation of mankind would have simplified his life, because he often struggled to reconcile his views with that of his upbringing, looking for ways to prove his theories tied in with God. Finding out that man was created by lizard people millions of years ago would have just lead to one conclusion: the Silurians are God(s).
In conclusion, I really enjoyed this episode despite the political tightrope walking in the plot. Being somewhat religious myself, and a history buff, I just get annoyed when science fiction tries to hammer an atheist subplot into stuff unnecessarily. The highpoint for me really was the Myrka attack, and how Big Finish was able to take a questionable monster and re-inject it with a bit of monstrosity and power. Maybe one of these days Big Finish will make a drama about The Supreme Dalek’s pet from The Dalek Invasion of Earth, and make it cooler than a guy wrapped in paper and vines.
Fun fact of the day:
“According to a report in Variety, published on 6 November 1956, a nine-year old boy died of a ruptured artery at a cinema in Oak Park, Illinois during a showing of this double bill. The Guinness Book of Records subsequently recorded the incident as the only known case of an audience member dying of fright while watching a horror film.”
Deep Breath Hits No 1 At US Box Office!
“Soumya Sriraman, BBC Worldwide North America’s EVP Home Entertainment and Licensing, says “Doctor Who continues to grow in the U.S. and it is thrilling to see the fans come out for the theatrical screening experience as we’ve embarked on new adventures with Peter Capaldi as the Doctor. We’ve enjoyed partnering with Fathom Events and our accomplishment in the box office is a testament to the successful collaboration between our two companies.””
Project Hieroglyph: Fighting society’s dystopian future
“Just glancing at this week’s movie listings, those in the US can see humans battling super apes for world domination, a gang of Marvel misfits fighting against the universe’s certain doom, or a young boy tasked with keeping all memories of a society that has done away with individuality.”
Revealed! The covers of our GQ Men Of The Year issue (Peter Capaldi gets a cover)
“On 2 September it was the hottest ticket in town, but if you couldn’t make it to the ceremony itself you can now catch up on all the winners in this year’s issue celebrating the GQ Men Of The Year Awards 2014, in association with Hugo Boss. From the Beatle who’s been promoting peace and love for five decades, as well as the rogue British hotshoe shaking up Formula 1 to a sci-fi double-hitter of in the form of Doctor Who’s Peter Capaldi and Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch, you’ll find interviews and shoots with 22 incredibly influential men – and one perpetually intriguing woman – on the bleeding edge of now.”
American Doctor Who fans befuddled by Capaldi’s accent: ‘He should be called Doctor What!?’
“While the 12th Doctor may have been thrilled about his development, it turns out that some of the show’s fans are not. As Capaldi made his debut, the internet’s complaint registry (aka Twitter) was quickly filled with the grumbles of fans struggling to understand the new Doctor’s new accent.”
Steven Moffat Talks Peter Capaldi’s Doctor Who Costume
“Showrunner Steven Moffat has spoken exclusively to SFX about the new series of Doctor Who, launching next month on BBC One. And he tells us that new star Peter Capaldi had a major input into just what the well-dressed Time Lord is wearing this aeon…”
If you woke up tomorrow, and your internet looked like this, what would you do? Imagine all your favorite websites taking forever to load, while you get annoying notifications from your ISP suggesting you switch to one of their approved “Fast Lane” sites.Think about what we would lose: all the weird, alternative, interesting, and enlightening stuff that makes the Internet so much cooler than mainstream Cable TV. What if the only news sites you could reliably connect to were the ones that had deals with companies like Comcast and Verizon?
On September 10th, just a few days before the FCC’s comment deadline, public interest organizations are issuing an open, international call for websites and internet users to unite for an “Internet Slowdown” to show the world what the web would be like if Team Cable gets their way and trashes net neutrality. Net neutrality is hard to explain, so our hope is that this action will help SHOW the world what’s really at stake if we lose the open Internet.
If you’ve got a website, blog or tumblr, get the code to join the #InternetSlowdown here:
Everyone else, here’s a quick list of things you can do to help spread the word about the slowdown.
Get creative! Don’t let us tell you what to do. See you on the net September 10th!
via Battle For The Net.
“No castles, no damsels in distress, no such thing as Robin Hood!”
Here we are at that very moment in just about every season of Doctor Who, post-2005, where The Doctor asks his companion what they would like to see in order to “show off” his time traveling capabilities. Clara, knowing that The Doctor would write the whole thing off as nonsense, decides that she would love to meet the fabled outlaw hero, Robin Hood. Robin Hood is one of those “historical figures” that always makes things hard in shows dealing with time travel because nobody actually knows if he existed or not.
Much in the same way that folks have been searching for the “real King Arthur” for centuries, Robin Hood has been assumed to be probable, but most-likely a myth. This ordeal is played up as a main plot point for this episode from the get-go as The Doctor does not believe that they will actually meet anyone, and when faced with someone that meets the Robin Hood description, basically assumes he’s a charlatan, robot, hologram, shapeshifter etc.
Mark Gatiss decided to pen this script in a farcical way that I know most hard-line fans hate. Just go to any review site and look up episodes like Love and Monsters, The Crimson Horror, or even The Gunfighters – the episodes that are less than serious are very dividing, some will love them, and others will absolutely hate them. Take a character such as Strax, for instance, I love the guy, but the general “fandom” of Doctor Who, if podcasts can be believed, HATE him.
This silly tone of near-comedy in Robot of Sherwood is directly at odds with the previous two episodes and how dark they actually were. This may be my biggest complaint with this episode as it almost doesn’t feel like it “fits” with the previous two. It’s almost like a leftover Tennant or Smith script slightly changed for Capaldi. That isn’t to say it’s bad or anything, but I’ll explain what I liked and didn’t like.
The highlight of this episode, for me at least, was the banter between Robin Hood (as played by Tom Riley) and The Doctor. Since he’s convinced that Robin is in some way false, The Doctor is not willing to give him any slack on anything he does. Every quip, bit of banter, or boisterous laugh that he exhales is met with derision and anger. Here is an example of one such exchange:
“Robin Hood: Whatever it is, you bony rascal, I’m afraid I’m must relieve you of it.
The Doctor: It’s my property. That’s what it is.
Robin Hood: Don’t you know all property is theft to Robin Hood?
The Doctor: You can’t be serious.
Robin Hood: I am many things, sir, but I am never that. Robin Hood laughs in the face of all! Ah ha ha ha haaaa!
The Doctor: Do people ever punch you in the face when you do that?
Robin Hood: Not as yet!
The Doctor: Lucky I’m here then, isn’t it?”
This becomes the most humorous in the often re-created archery contest scene where Robin Hood sneaks in with a disguise calling himself “Tom the Tinker”. The worn out scene where Robin splits an arrow with another arrow plays out like it has in just about every adaptation of the story, then it gets sillier. The Doctor, irritated by the smug arrogance of Mr. Hood, uses his archery skills to split these two arrows a third time, Robin counters with another, and so on, until The Doctor just blows up the entire target with his Sonic Screwdriver.
Tom Riley basically uses every contemporary Robin Hood trope used since Errol Flynn donned the green tights to create one of the most irritating heroes of all time. He’s so boisterous and arrogant that he’s essentially Lord Flashheart from the Blackadder series. He’s one of those characters that the hero of our story despises, but everyone else thinks he awesome at everything he does.
It will come as no surprise that the villain in this episode is none other than the Sheriff of Nottingham himself, as played by Ben Miller channeling his best Roger Delgado impression. I actually liked him in the role, even though he really didn’t challenge anything at all. He’s just as much of a bastard as one would expect, and has an army of alien robots at his side to do his dirty work. Alien robots? Did I forget to mention that Sherwood Castle is discovered to be some sort of crashed spaceship, and in classic Doctor Who fashion, these aliens have tricked the Sheriff into helping them hoard gold to fix said spaceship? It’s pretty silly, but it works.
It’s in the actual plot of this episode that I have some problems. Much in the same way that Gatiss wrote a plotline into Victory of the Daleks wherein our heroes convinced a robot that he wasn’t a robot to stop a bomb from exploding, this episode involves the “bad-guy” space ship not having enough gold to escape The Earth’s atmosphere (it’s engine uses gold somehow), and Robin Hood shooting gold into the ship to make it fly away then explode. It’s cool when you see it, but as one thinks about what they just saw, it falls apart. If it wasn’t for the fact that this episode doesn’t take itself seriously I’d be concerned that Mark Gatiss rarely knows how to finish most of the scripts he has written. I really like Mark Gatiss episodes, but he needs to smooth some rough corners if he is ever going to take the reins from Steven Moffat like everyone assumes.
No Missy appearance this week, but the thread binding it all together was that the robots crashed on Earth while searching for “The Promised Land”, which viewers might remember was the reason the clockwork droids ended up on Earth in Deep Breath….curiouser and curiouser…
All in all, this was a fun episode. Most of it made no sense under scrutiny, but as a farce it did it’s job. It does a good job of poking fun at the Robin Hood mythos and showing that most of our myths we hold as a society are probably based in some truth from the past. The Doctor starts the episode out, set in his ways, very closed-minded, then realizes that he doesn’t always have all of the answers. Join me again next week as we take a look at an episode sure to make me scared of my bed in addition to the dark, angel statues, and kids wearing gas masks.
Hey everyone! Yeah, its actually Sunday, so I’m a day late with my news roundup. Work was rough and yadda yadda….all that matters is that it’s up now! We have a Doctor Who heavy edition of Saturday Links, full of reviews and other little tidbits. If you have a news snippet that you think I might be interested in, feel few to pop me a message, I might just use it!
IN MY NOT SO HUMBLE OPINION – DOCTOR WHO REVIEWS: DEEP BREATH AND INTO THE DALEK
“Following on from his transformation at the end of “The Time of the Doctor,” our resident Time Lord is understandably discombobulated. He is quickly put to bed in Vastra & Jenny’s house, while Clara attempts to process what, exactly has occurred.”
Sourcerer – Doctor Who Series 8, Episode 2 Review: “Into the Dalek”
“Journey is part of the Combined Galactic Resistance, on board a hidden hospital ship, the Aristotle. Her commander and uncle, Morgan Blue (Michael Smiley), shows the Doctor a captured, injured Dalek. The Doctor is disgusted by it, but becomes intrigued when the Dalek says “All Daleks must be destroyed!””
“Showrunner Steven Moffat has made it clear that he’s already making plans for at least some ofDoctor Who‘s episodes in 2015 — but speculation as to who might replace him continues to spread. And one surprising candidate has seemed to fuel the speculation, with a series of confusing tweets.”
‘Doctor Who’ Up In Week 3 On BBC1; Episode Is Latest To Be Edited For Content
“Doctor Who returned for the third episode of Season 8 last night with 5.22M viewers for a 25.4 share from 7:30-8:15 PM UK time on BBC One. That was 20,000 up on last week, according to the overnights. Last Saturday’s episode was down 1.59M on the August 23 S8 debut that introduced Peter Capaldi as the 12th Time Lord. Last night’s episode again had a 15-minute overlap with ITV’s X Factor UK which was also up compared to last week.”
From ‘Doctor Who’ to ‘The Leftovers,’ TV tries to regenerate the hero
“The corrupt cop. The principled drug pusher. The avenging serial killer. The vengeful peacekeeper. The romantic vampire. The heartless doctor. Television has been rotten with ironic or immoral protagonists for most of the new century, though the drama they’ve produced has often been golden.”
‘Doctor Who’ beheading scene edited out following Isis killings
“The BBC has revealed changes were made to the third episode of the new season of Doctor Who “out of respect” for journalists Stephen Sotloff and James Foley. Video footage of their executions was released.”
Actually, society needs dystopian sci-fi more than ever
“But Solana’s accusation that an influx of dystopian science fiction as guilty of somehow exacerbating this fear is troubling. Dystopian fiction mimics what it actually feels like to be in the world, so if it ends up scaring people, well, that’s because the world is scary.”
Echopraxia scores ‘diamond cutter’ on the sci-fi hardness scale
“There’s hard sci-fi and then there’s the likes of Peter Watts’ Echopraxia, a book that should come with its own scientific reference library to aid reading. Usually, being a fan of science-heavy writing and having a smattering of real-world knowledge is enough to unlock a hard sci-fi world – you just kind of lean back and let the science wash over you. You might only understand one in every five concepts, but you glean enough to work out what’s going on in general.”
and finally, this blast from the past:
“This is Clara. Not my assistant, she’s ah, some other word. [...] Yeah. My carer. She cares so I don’t have to.”
At first glance, Into The Dalek could be seen as an homage to 2005’s Dalek in many ways. The episode centers around a military confiscation of a wounded Dalek, The Doctor being brought in to examine it, and it’s eventual rampage through a base. Luckily, this similarity isn’t the case for the most part as Into The Dalek goes off into it’s own direction almost immediately, and is a whole different affair than the Rob Shearman classic.
Rather than existing as a tired “base under siege” story, we get something that harkens back to 1966’s Fantastic Voyage, a film where a crew of scientists shrink themselves down and enter a human body; except this time it ain’t no human! Inventive things like this are my favorite sort of Dalek stories, as we’ve seen all of the Dalek tropes hundreds of times each to a point where nothing is new. I’ll hand it to Steven Moffat, after this and Asylum of the Daleks, he can sure write a solid Dalek epiosde.
After accidentally ditching Clara in Glasgow during a “coffee run” The Doctor finds himself in the middle of a war between one of his oldest foes, The Daleks, and a human outpost. He ends up on the bridge of a haggard military ship with a new secret weapon – a captured Dalek. Bound in chains, this Dalek (or “Rusty” as The Doctor dubs him) seems different. Sure it’s a genocidal killing machine hell-bent on universal domination, but this one seems to hate one thing more than any other – his own race. If only the crew of the Aristotle, a former hospital ship locked into battle with the Dalek Empire, can figure out what makes the heretical “Rusty” tick, perhaps they can end the war for good. With this in mind, they do what any reasonable military squad would do – shrink themselves down and adventure into the beast itself!
So far, Peter Capaldi is doing an awesome job portraying everyone’s favorite space hobo, and the main selling point for me is a return to his more emotionally distant state. He gets chastised many times for being a bit too callous when faced with the deaths of seemingly unimportant characters, showing that to him the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few – a direct callback to the Hartnell era. At one point, a soldier causes a flood of Dalek “antibodies” to swarm the party, the Doctor tosses a device to him and urges him to swallow it as fast as he can. When he does the Dalek spheres immediately kill him. When everyone gets mad, the Doctor has to acknowledge that the man was already dead, and The Doctor bought everyone else time. This is a far cry from the Tennant-era teary-eyed doctor apologizing every time something went wrong.
The “carer” quote that I placed above is a good nod at this newly re-discovered saltiness, and Clara seems to be there to keep The Doctor from being a self-absorbed jerk to everyone. When he says that Clara “is his carer” I don’t see it as simply wanting to do whatever he wants with no regard to others, Clara is there to ground him. Instead of existing as a convenient Deus Ex Machina as with her previous season, she has evolved into something more.
Her character development has accelerated in these last two episodes, and she’s finally shaping up to be something special. While Capaldi definitely has a “fatherly” vibe to himself, I wouldn’t say that he acts as her father figure. In many ways, I’d even suggest that he’s almost more childlike that he was in previous incarnations.
The Doctor once again brings us to one of the themes this year, his questioning whether he’s a “good man” or not. While Deep Breath reveled in his moral ambiguity and questions of unscrupulous things he may or may not have done, this episode is a bit more weary. In many ways it reminds me of season one’s Ninth Doctor trying to recover from all of the bad things he thought he did in the time war, but instead of survivor guilt he seems to be saddled with the feeling that he’s always doing bad things and hurting people.
Since he recently undid the thing that ultimately made him feel the worst (the destruction of his people) and lived 900 years in a wonderland where he was beloved by many (The Town of Christmas) one would wonder why he isn’t a bit happier. Could he be worried that’s he’s going down the same path that so many of his former Timelord acquaintances went down? Could we see a return to the sheer arrogance of The Doctor we saw in Waters of Mars?
On a slight side-note: Capaldi also gets all of the best lines in the episode, my personal favorite being a quip regarding the “shrinking machine”: “Fantastic idea for a movie. Terrible idea for a proctologist.”
This episode sees the inclusion of a character that I hope becomes the second companion this year – Danny Pink as played by Samuel Anderson. It’s immediately apparent that Pink is going to be Clara’s love interest this season, seeing as The Doctor is now off the table. A former soldier with a dark past, Pink could be the sort of action man that I’ve been wanting since John Barrowman left the show years ago. Danny Pink’s secret obviously involves his accidental killing of a civilian or something similar, as we see hints that he didn’t come back in one piece after his fighting.
With the Doctor’s assertion that “he hates soldiers”, I can see there will be some sort of sparks flying this year. While I liked Rory during the Eleventh Doctor era, he was usually emasculated for comic relief ala Mickey Smith a lot of the time. Since The Doctor shouldn’t have that whole jealous love-triangle thing going on, I hope they can get on as friends. Strong male companions are about as rare as strong female characters in about every other show, and I hope this season puts an end to that!
I refrained from discussing another supporting cast member in my last review aside from a tiny sentence, but here we go – Who is Missy!? Michelle Gomez plays this new character that, while not specifically shown to be evil, comes across like a dark Mary Poppins. So far, she has plucked two characters from certain doom (at the hands or suggestion of The Doctor) and taken them to a place called “Heaven”. I have no idea what her motive is at this point, but it’s fun speculating on who she is. Everything is pointing to her being a fellow renegade Timelordess, but the real question is – who? Could she be the Rani? The Master (Mistress)?, or a totally new character? For right now all I can say is that she’s creepy, and I hope we see more of her this season.
Before we close out today’s review, I’d like to touch on the direction of this episode. Ben Wheatley seems like one of the many Doctor Who directors that can really make an episode look far more polished than other similar shows. His use of blue-lighting, slow motion for action sequences, and pyrotechnics really made this feel like a movie in certain places. Hopefully Mr. Wheatley does more work for the show, as both episodes so far have looked great.
My only real quibble is that the sound mixer has once again allowed the soundtrack to overcome some of the dialog in certain scenes, a problem that has been plaguing the show for years. I blame the fact that everyone is expected to have huge home theater systems in 2014, and those of this that do not are simply out of luck.
All in all, this was another solid episode – nothing classic by any means, but another fine example of what the show can offer. I was happy to see some familiar faces in there, like Michael Smiley from Spaced and The World’s End, showing that this show has some of the best supporting casts out there. I can’t wait to see Danny Pink in action, and hope The Doctor treats him better than other male companions as of late, we don’t need another Mickey! Here’s to the next episode Robot of Sherwood, and to more of this solid season!
Settle down folks! “An American View” hasn’t suddenly shifted into a smut site or anything, although I predict that this article title will bring lots of the WRONG sort of internet traffic here. No worries, I just decided to take another plunge into the fine world of public domain BBC TV stuff by Nigel Kneale (as found on YouTube)! This week, we’re taking a look at the audaciously named TV movie The Year of the Sex Olympics, part of an anthology show called Theatre 625. Theatre 625 had some big hits including a remake of Kneale’s 1954 teleplay of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four in 1965. The Year of the Sex Olympics is particularly notable because it basically predicts our current media culture and the advent of reality television.
With an opening card proclaiming “Sooner than you think” one can see that Nigel Kneale was really worried about the issues lampooned here. Kneale had to have seen the advent of lowest common denominator programming like so-called “reality TV”, but I can’t find any articles or interviews with him on the issue of a TV genre that he accidentally created all those years ago. His death, in 2006, did bring some comments from others about it, such as the following snippet of a Guardian interview by Mark Gatiss (The League of Gentlemen, Clone, Doctor Who, Sherlock): “When Big Brother began on Channel 4 in 2000, I took a principled stand against it. “Don’t they know what they’re doing?” I screamed at the TV. “It’s The Year of the Sex Olympics! Nigel Kneale was right!””
Kneale was apparently influenced to create The Year of the Sex Olympics due to his own concerns about overpopulation, the counterculture of the 1960s, and the societal effects of television. To most, this comes as no surprise as Kneale can be seen as a “cranky old man” that saw anything youth-related as evil in some way. To put this on perspective, Kneale was the very same man that cast “hippies” as the antagonists of his fourth Quatermass serial (something I will review soon) and routinely made it seem like anyone under the age of forty was in some way morally deficient in his writings.
This isn’t a bad thing by any means, just a sign of the times. Britain was in turmoil during this time, and many of the “Greatest Generation” (using an American term) had no idea why “Baby-Boomers” were always so pissed off. I’m part of “Generation Y”, and routinely get irritated with my parent’s generation and how they treat us, and reading up on stuff like this makes me see that they had it the very same way.
The Year of the Sex Olympics depicts a world of the future where a small elite class (people called Hi-Drives) control the media and government. In order to keep power, these Hi-Drives keep the lower classes (Low-Drives) docile by broadcasting a constant stream of “entertainment” designed specifically to remove any ambition to act and to relieve all stress. Essentially, the Hi-Drives pull this off by concentrating on constant and total immersion into a world of reality TV. This includes mind-numbing programs including one baffling example involving rotund men with no shirts on hurling whipped cream at each-other, and various themed “sex shows” that masquerade as sports and arts, but are really just pornography.
One Hi-Drive, Nat Mender (Tony Vogel), believes that the media should be used to educate the low-drives, and not simply allow them to rot away. He has become disillusioned by his peers and society itself due to social norms forbidding him from having any real connection to his lover Deanie (Suzanne Neve) or his own daughter, Keten (Lesley Roach). For a while, Nat’s “boss”, Co-Ordinator Ugo Priest (Leonard Rossiter), tries a lot of different things to illicit new responses from his audience, one of which being old-fashioned slapstick comedy. Anything seen as traditional or old-fashioned is generally frowned upon by this society, so this doesn’t go over well. After the accidental death of a renegade artist gets a massive audience response of laughter due to it being broadcast live on-air, Ugo Priest decides to commission a new style of entertainment: reality television.
The flagship show in this initiative is called “The Live Life Show”, and stars Nat’s family. They have been stranded on a remote Scottish island while the low-drive audience watches. This is pretty monotonous and boring until “reality” gets “spiced up” by Lasar Opie (Brian Cox), Nat’s former co-worker and one of the big-wigs that runs a lot of the TV production. The producers introduce a psychopath named Grels (George Murcell) to the island, and lets him loose on a murderous rampage.
Some of the Hi-Drives such as one named Misch are incredibly annoying, showing how awful their society is in the grand scheme of things. This isn’t annoying in the “this actor sucks” sort of way, but the “man, these characters are horrible people” sort of way. Their language has degenerated into a juvenile mixture of jumbled sentences full of missing words and slang, and constant whining. Anything that isn’t in some way pleasurable gets an awful response usually involving a temper tantrum.
Comparing these people to something modern is easy, as she reminds me of some of the inhabitants of “the Capital” in the Hunger Games series based on their complete separation from reality and vapid personalities. It’s like someone took the trashy, almost mindless essence of your modern “famous for being famous” “celeb-utant” like Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian and ramped it up to an insane degree.
A great example of their speech patterns happens to be one of the first scenes in the show itself, and has Misch utter the following, as she is the host of the most popular sex show, Sportsex:
“Here we go again, bubbies and coddies! Comfy and cosy are you all? Tonight, we got lots of real super-king talent for you all, so keep your eyes with us! Stay looking! First we got those two top lovers, Cara Little and Stewart Tenderleigh! Hello there, Stewart and Cara! Been on this show a jumbo lot of times. Winners of the Kama Sutra Prize last year. Now in training for the Sex Olympics.”
One thing of note that could be both good or bad depending on how you look at it, is that this serial is in black and white. This is due to the color versions being lost like many TV programs of the time due to “junking”. One can see that everyone is wearing seizure-inducing colorful patterned clothes and heavy bodypaint in such high quantities that the whole thing would probably look laughably outdated and silly. I feel that this sort of ”masks” the garishness of the future clothes to the point where they aren’t so bad. On one hand the show is incomplete, on the other it seems more “important” this way, somehow.
One can watch The Year of the Sex Olympics and immediately feel bad, because an over-the-top fear that a man had in the sixties has basically come true. Most television watchers consume shows just like Live Life Show on a daily basis, with the same camera angles, boring dialog, and manufactured turmoil to “spice” the reality up a bit. It’s an almost eye-opening experience to watch this, and really shows you how far our culture has been diluted in some ways. I’m not going to go for the hyperbolic statement that we are the Hi-Drives and Low-Drives, but it’s pretty close. People speak in annoying short-hand “text speak”, dress like Lady Gaga, and gawk at the exploits of those more wealthy than ourselves. Just give it a few years and we’ll have shows about fat guys that throw whipped cream at each other.
“Look at the eyebrows! These are attack eyebrows! You could take bottle tops off with these! They’re cross, crosser than the rest of my face. They’re independently cross. They probably want to cede from my face and set up their own independent state of eyebrows!”
It’s been a long eight months since the newly-born Twelfth Doctor mused about his new kidneys. Eight months where I had to recover from what was most likely a Doctor Who overload during the 50th anniversary celebrations. So here we are, summer 2014, and I don’t know about you guys – but I’m glad my favorite TV show is back! I’m especially glad that the recent trend of having short seasons, split seasons, and other things that generally make me (and a lot of other fans) feel like we’re getting ripped off has ended. We’re in for a full, uninterrupted , 13 episode season this time around, and I couldn’t be happier.
The story of Deep Breath takes us back to Victorian England where everyone is amazed, and somewhat terrified, by the presence of a real-life Tyrannosaurus Rex in the middle of London. The Paternoster Gang (Strax, Jenny, and Vastra) are about to get to their crime fighting on, when a familiar blue police box is expelled from the maw of the mighty beast. Faced with a giant monster on the loose, a possible serial killer, spontaneous human combustions, and a version of The Doctor who isn’t really feeling like himself, it looks pretty bleak for our heroes.
Being the first episode of a new series, and the introductory episode for a new Doctor, I was actually surprised at the way Deep Breath unfolded on our screens. The episode opens with the aforementioned T-Rex attack, something that is typical “premiere episode” fare. A lot of times, we have had season openers that go crazy with special effects and spectacle to gear us up for the rest of the season, much in the same way US television pilot episodes are a bit more “flashy” than the rest of the show. This episode starts that way, but slowly evolves into somewhat of a character piece that we usually do not see until around mid-season. I bet this slower pace put off some fans, but I personally found it a bit refreshing. My main concern with a lot of current Doctor Who is that the episodes sometimes feel constrained by the timeslot, running time, and a general lack of “breathing room”. With an episode title like “Deep Breath”, this breathing room seems built into the DNA of the episode itself.
Clara is given room to really show her personality, which is amazing because her story-arc in season seven had the potential to doom her as some sort of a gimmick-companion if she never matured past it. It’s almost like Steven Moffat listened to some of the criticism he has been given of late, regarding his writing of female characters, and gave them most of an episode to shine. The Paternoster Gang is given quite a bit of screen time, with Vastra and Jenny’s relationship dynamic getting aired out a little more than usual.
This did come across sort of silly at times because a lot of it seems to be both of them constantly re-affirming to the audience that they were in fact married, just in case the subtlety of a lesbian inter-species marriage was too ambiguous for the audience to comprehend. I can just imagine some guy sitting in front of his TV completely baffled and exclaiming “wait, so these two women are MARRIED!!! what what WHAT!” That aside, I really enjoyed seeing this interaction between the two of them. Strax is basically there as comic relief like usual, and although he does the same jokes in every episode he is in, I love them each time.
Most importantly, this episode showed us the usual overly-manic side to The Doctor that always makes these introductions a bit unpredictable. His “regeneration sickness” played out much in the same way that the Sixth Doctor’s did in his first outing. Well, minus that whole “trying to kill the companion” business. There are moments where one really wonders if The Doctor is about to turn evil or something, but I think that’s because we’re so used to the more touchy-feely, less-alien versions of the doctor since 2005. Capaldi’s Doctor, once he mellows out, is definitely a throwback to a previous time with the moral ambiguity of Hartnell’s First Doctor and a dash of Fourth Doctor showing through the most.
Hartnell had those moments where he was hardly what anyone would call a “good guy” a stark contrast to the recent “Space jesus” archetype that David Tennant’s Doctor especially had. One can recall the often referenced incident from the first serial where he was about to crush a caveman’s skull with a boulder simply because he was slowing the party down. This anti-hero tendency is revisited here in spades. Capaldi’s Doctor has a moment where is is left with a conundrum: in order to defeat his foes he has to either A) commit an act of murder or B) convince the villain that he has nothing to live for an “off” himself. Both are horrible choices, and The Doctor lays out the fact that he’s “hardwired” not to preform option A, but will do anything to protect Earth if he needs to.
When the deed actually happens, it happens off camera, with us only seeing the aftermath. The question ends up being: “did he do it?!” This hammers home the “theme” from the trailers, that went out earlier this summer, where The Doctor was asking the audience whether he was a good man or not, somehow I think this will pop up more this season. All-in-all Capaldi has already hit it out of the park for me, because a combination of Hartnell and Baker just happens to be a combination of my long-time favorite versions of the character.
The Doctor had some great interaction with Clara this time around, and to me it almost seems like Clara and Twelve will “work” the best together, better than Clara and Eleven. One scene in particular involved the dynamic duo meeting in an Italian restaurant that hides a horrible secret. Clara is angry at The Doctor because he left her “high and dry” and seemingly went into great lengths to come up with a contrived puzzle for her to solve to find him. The Doctor says that the person that did the puzzle was an egotistical power hungry lunatic, which Clara takes as an apology, but it soon becomes clear that he is under the impression that she placed the ad, and is actually talking about her! There is also a joke in the scene where he tries to lie about where he got his new coat, one that reeks of all manner of horrible gutter smells that a typical Victorian homeless man would have. He almost makes it seem like he stole it from someone as he sheepishly answers her questions.
The all-important villain to this episode is somewhat surprising to me, because it marks the return of a “monster” that I felt was surely just a one-off, in the clockwork service droids last seen in The Girl in the Fireplace. That previous episode showed the droids actively looking for parts to repair their ship after the S.S. Madame du Pompadour was damaged. In desperation, they eventually killed the entire crew and used human flesh for the repairs, then went even more “crazy”. Somehow they got it in their clockwork noggins that the actual brain of their ship’s namesake would repair their ship. Deep Breath shows an even more dangerous version of these droids that seemingly survived “crashing” on mesozoic Earth after yet another failed voyage of a 51st century time ship, this time the S.S. Marie Antoinette.
The droids have spent millions of years repairing themselves to the point that they have created their own religion and have lost all sight of their original purpose. The “leader” of this group speaks of “The Promised Land”, but seems confused as to what that actually means and how he is to attain his goal to go there, seemingly his plan is to simply survive by killing innocent people until it just shows up. Basically they have become “reverse-Cybermen” in that they are trying to keep themselves alive by grafting human parts onto their original machine bodies. The Doctor makes an apt remark about a hypothetical broom where one might replace the handle, then later replace the broom’s head. He questions whether this is in fact the original broom at all, in reference the the constant replaced parts used by these droids.
I really enjoyed Deep Breath, and although it had an odd pacing and seemed a bit “talky” it was one of the better opening episodes since the show came back. I honestly wish they would just make the episodes an hour long even though the U.S. Market would flip out due to our stupid 42 minute run-time rules. My only real complaint with the episode is that the initial set-up involving the Paternoster Gang investigating cases of spontaneous human combustion was overshadowed by the T-Rex attack so much that it made the whole thing seem tacked on. I’m not sure if it’s because the subject matter is fairly disturbing for a family audience, or that the episode was already pretty long, but it simply felt like a loose end. Next week, we have a new Dalek episode to look forward to, so check back soon to see what I though of Into the Dalek.
P.S. “Missy” better be The Rani, I know she probably isn’t but having another renegade Timelord would be AWESOME!!
Why fans can’t wait for Doctor Who Extra
Described as ‘much more than a ‘making of’ show’, Doctor Who Extra will be comprised of twelve ten-minute programmes. It follows in the footsteps of Doctor Who Confidential, the much-loved and much-missed behind-the-scenes series which aired on BBC Three from 2005 until 2011.
‘Doctor Who’ companion Jenna-Louise Coleman leaving the show at Christmas?
“The conversations about Jenna’s exit have started, and a plan is in place which is being ironed out,” says the source. “By the time she leaves she will be one of the longest-standing companions ever. She has been absolutely brilliant in the role, but everyone agrees it is a part that should change after a period.”
Robin Williams’s final film performance may have to be axed
“Simon Pegg, its star, tells me: “I’m not sure Robin had completed doing his voice in the movie. He was doing the voice of my dog and I hope that he had completed it because it would be a real shame not to have him in it. And of course there will be a degree of sadness there, but the work he did do would have been done with his usual verve and brilliance.””
‘The Quatermass Experiment’ Dated for Blu-ray
“In an early announcement to retailers, Kino will be releasing ‘The Quatermass Experiment’ on Blu-ray on December 2.”
Wonder no longer, I have your nightmare fuel right here!
Fleet Street goes sci-fi: Daily Express’s starring role in The Day The Earth Caught Fire
“An apocalyptic science fiction film showing the world overheating and society thrown into turmoil is about to be released. But this is no modern commentary on global warming and war – the film was originally shown in 1961. The Day The Earth Caught Fire, a pioneering production and scathing indictment on Cold War posturing, has been rescued from the archives and digitally restored for public release….”
Best sci-fi books round-up: Where imaginations run wild
According to The Independent “Science fiction and fantasy is a broad church, and many who preach its tenets might not be wholly aware that they are doing so.”
‘Tractor Beams’ Are No Longer Science Fiction
“Tractor beams – invisible tethers which pull space ships into cargo bays through no definable mechanism or physical law – are the latter. Or they were. Researchers at the Australian National University say they have developed what amounts to a tractor beam which is capable of pulling objects using 3D wave currents. “
Peter Capaldi Discusses Matt Smith’s Final Day on Set
Peter Capaldi describes his first visit to the TARDIS set and what it was like to take over the role from Matt Smith.
Red Dwarf XI Confirmed at Convention
“A big update came during the Sci-Fi Scarborough convention on Saturday a Red Dwarf panel comprised of Chris Barrie, Danny John-Jules and Robert Llewellyn confirmed the news. John-Jules said that shooting is scheduled to get under-way in October 2014 with a view to being aired on Dave in Autumn 2015.”
Image from Doctor Who: Carnival of Monsters
If you have a funny image that would make a great edition of The Monday Meme, feel free to send it to my Tumblr, Facebook, or email it to me! Links for these options are located in the links at the top of the page! Don’t be surprised to see it on here someday!
It’s been a funny few weeks in Doctor Who fandom! First we had some long-awaited trailers finally hit the airwaves, then the “leaks” happened. It seems somebody figured out how to access BBC worldwide servers in Florida, and discovered scripts and a few “screener” episodes left unsecured. Don’t worry folks, I don’t plan on downloading the leaked Peter Capaldi episodes, much less writing about them, mainly because they aren’t full episodes and have no special effects (or so I’ve heard). There was one time where my willpower wasn’t as strong, and I immediately remember what the Doctor Who community was going through almost NINE years ago (it doesn’t seem like that long ago). Take a walk down memory lane with me, as we discuss Rose, as the first in a series of “backlog reviews” to fill in my review catalog.
Way back in 2004, I joined a now defunct Doctor Who message board to fulfill a nostalgia trip I was having. As a small child, I absolutely LOVED Doctor Who. It ran on my local PBS station late at night, and I always looked forward to staying up late with my mom and watching one of the most exciting TV shows I had ever seen at the time. This eventually faded, as PBS stopped airing the show around 1990 and Star Trek: The Next Generation became “my thing”. It wasn’t until college when I started seeing tapes of various episodes coming into my college retail job, that I thought “hey, I miss that show!”. I started renting DVDs and joined this message board to see if the show was still continuing in some way. I had no idea that there were audio dramas, comics, books, and all the other material that populated the “wilderness years”. Then I learned it was coming back!
Flash forward to 2005, and I find myself downloading a “leaked” copy of Rose on Bittorrent. As I recall, I excitedly woke my (now) wife up at some alarming time like 8:00 am on a Saturday (I’m a night owl) and basically forced her to watch it with me. I had secretly found out about it the night before, and wanted to surprise her. It was like Christmas morning for a small child, I simply could not wait any longer to dig into my presents. The leak of Rose, The very first Christopher Eccleston episode of the show, was one of those things that I suspect everyone on that forum did secretly, then pretended they did not online. I have no regrets for doing it as I ended up getting even more excited for the show’s return, and downloaded all the rest of the episodes. This was before the show was airing in America, before it was one of the more popular nerdy fandoms over here.
With Doctor Who coming back, there was a lot of pressure on the show to perform. Not too far from 2005, the whole idea of the show was something of a laughing stock after it was unceremoniously divorced from the BBC airwaves. Rose had two things that it absolutely HAD to get right for the show to succeed. Firstly, it had to introduce a new sidekick character, a person we would be viewing the show through. He/She had to be good enough to attract the old fans back to the show, and attempt to gain new fans – namely the criminally overlooked female market. Some might say that such a character isn’t wholly necessary, but I disagree. The Doctor NEEDS someone to talk with, teach, learn from etc. Secondly, and more importantly, Rose had to re-introduce the concept of The Doctor himself to a whole new generation of TV viewers, many of which were probably not even alive when the show was yanked off the air in the late 1980’s!
Rose is essentially a second part of a two-parter that we do not see the beginning of. When we join up with Rose herself, she is going about her typical day at a retail clothing store, only to find something strange going on. She notices an army of walking plastic mannequins in the stores basement, and is almost attacked if it wasn’t for the appearance of a strange man calling himself “The Doctor”. It seems that something bad is going on regarding the window shop dummies, and he needs to blow something up on the roof to stop them. Rose escapes just in time, only to see life explode right in front of her eyes, as The Doctor presumably destroys her workplace. From here on, Rose is left with what we can see is an unsatisfying life. Her boyfriend would rather be at the pub watching a game than spending time with her, and her mother is somewhat classless and controlling. Rose perhaps puts it best herself: “I’ve got no A-Levels, no job, no future…” The only bit of excitement left is attempting to figure out exactly who this “Doctor” is, and why he’s doing the things he’s doing.
As a character, Rose is fairly atypical for the female lead in Doctor Who (up to that time) , and in many ways she isn’t all that similar to those that came before her. Both are from lower-class upbringings, and both have the “street smarts” that some of the other, more refined companions may have lacked. That isn’t to say all previous companions were the often-stereotyped “screaming girl that gets in trouble/twists her ankle”, but he large majority ended up that way. Unlike Ace, Leela, or even The Brigadier, she isn’t a warrior by any means, but she’s determined and brave. She feels like she has nothing to live for, so being with The Doctor is her escape.
I recall being less than enthusiastic about Billie Piper‘s casting, as she was presented to me as “The UK’s answer to Britney Spears” according to various message boards and magazines. To me, she sounds like any other 90’s pop singer that was trying to copy the popular vibe of the Spice Girls and failed at it. She reeked of “stunt casting” and that sort of thing never usually works out very well here in America. Many TV shows make a habit out of jamming popular singers into cameo roles that they have no business taking part in, Justin Bieber comes to mind for one of the more egregious examples. At least for me, this fear was put to rest pretty early on in Rose, as I felt the character was something refreshing to the show, and Piper was doing an adequate, if not pretty good job portraying the character.
Rose is joined by a few characters that aren’t really companions, (at least not yet) but exist to keep her grounded on Earth in some capacity. Not only does this give The Doctor and Rose a group of recurring characters to work with, but it helps explain why his adventures had a tendency towards taking place in London rather than the other nearly infinite amount of places he could have been traveling. One will immediately look back to Jon Pertwee‘s tenure on the show for an older example of this, but in the case of the 2005 series of the show, I can only assume that budgetary limitations were the main reason behind this. In the case of Rose, these characters are a bit different from agents of a military organization that The Doctor is working for, because it’s Rose’s own family we get to see a lot of. Camille Coduri plays Jackie Tyler, Rose’s own mother, and Noel Clarke plays her somewhat estranged boyfriend Mickey.
There isn’t really a whole lot of big special effect showcases in this episode to write home about, and the few instances of computer generated effects or creature make-up we do see is somewhat average at best. Things like the Auton costumes (the aforementioned mannequins) are hard to be wowed over because it’s just a guy in a mask walking like he’s made of plastic. The Nestene consciousness is a blob of CGI in a pool, and things like a fake Mickey that pop up are decent, but not great. Later episodes in this season have amazing special effects, so it seems the production staff kept it reigned in a bit for this first outing.
The only issue that I have always had with Rose is it’s tendency towards childish slapstick. Being ever so close to the eighth season of the show as of this writing, looking back at this first season is sort of jarring. Once David Tennant really got a few seasons in the can, and especially with Matt Smith, the show itself took a far more serious turn. That isn’t to say this season is “fluffy”, it’s just a bit weird in tone. One can see that Russell T. Davis was attempting to play all of his cards to see what stuck, and that means we get some “kiddy stuff” occasionally.
One scene in particular is pretty rough, and it’s an infamous one involving Mickey being eaten by a sentient trashcan. It seems the Autons place a possessed garbage bin at the front lines in their battle with The Doctor, and it decides to eat Rose’s boyfriend to gather intel. This already sounds dumb on paper, but it gets worse when the whole thing is punctuated by a cartoonish “burping sound” once Mickey enters the bin. Luckily, the second half of this season finds a better balance between comedy and drama.
Earlier I compared Rose to a Jon Pertwee episode, and there are many reasons I get this vibe and keep making such comparisons. First and foremost, this episode stars the villainous Autons. The Autons are a race of living plastic creatures, last seen in a few Pertwee episodes and most notably his very first serial Spearhead from Space. I think the Autons worked better in the 70’s as a commentary on commercialism, but it’s cool seeing them once again so many years later.
Rose is basically nothing more than an average episode of Doctor Who, but it is elevated quite a bit, as it is arguably the most important “average episode” produced since An Unearthly Child. I don’t actually like using this episode to introduce folks to the show due to it’s all over the place tone, and almost embarrassing trash can scene, but it still holds a warm place in my heart. I will always remember waking up early, only to watch a pirated copy of a leaked episode of the show, as stupid as that sounds. I have a better memory of this than other things that folks are expected to remember vividly, things like watching Star Wars for the first time. Nine years on, Rose is still one of my favorite episodes of this new series.
Notice how I didn’t even mention Chris Eccleston’s portrayal as The Doctor? Check back next time, and I’ll chime in when I’m talking about The End of the World!
“The Doctor has regenerated and now Clara has to deal with the fact that her best friend appears to have changed completely…Meanwhile, the newly regenerated Time Lord must face a terrifying monster as the Twelfth Doctor’s era begins in dramatic style!”
Did you miss Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary theatrical run last winter? Well, it looks like you have another chance to watch out favorite time lord on the big screen. BBC and Fathom events just announced another partnership starting on Saturday, August 23. That night, there will be 12 theatrical events in 12 cities at 12 am / midnight to celebrate the launch of the new season.
Apparently a long-run theatrical edition of Capaldi’s first foray into the Tardis, Deep Breath, with bonus footage will be shown. Reports are vague, but I’d imagine it will have featurettes like last time. If you don’t live in one of those 12 bigger cities, the episode rolls out a few days later with two showings at 7:00pm and 9:30pm (local time). The event will be presented in more than 550 select movie theaters around the country through Fathom’s Digital Broadcast Network.
“Deep Breath,” is a pulse-racing adventure through Victorian London. Directed by Ben Wheatley and written by Steven Moffat, the episode stars Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, Jenna Coleman as his companion Clara Oswald, Neve McIntosh as Madame Vastra, Catrin Stewart as Jenny Flint and Dan Starkey as Strax.”
For more information, check out Fathom’s event page HERE
To read my theater experience from last Winter, click HERE