Tag Archives: Asylum of the Daleks

Doctor Who Season 7 (part deux)

DOCTOR WHO SERIES 7BLast weekend, the seventh season (series) of Doctor Who came to a fun, but terribly confusing end.

Let me first say something about Clara Oswin Oswald, the Doctor’s new companion.

Clara OswaldI love her.  I love that she is incredibly smart, I love that she is a mystery, I think she’s awesome.

On the other hand, I think they put a lot more effort into personifying her character before she actually became the companion.  They showed how smart (and brave) she was in The Asylum of the Daleks, and also proved herself funny and strong in the Snowmen.  I loved her in both of those episodes.  But she had the unfortunate habit of dying all the time.

Since she became the actual companion, I feel like the writers have done less to make her unique and exceptional. She takes a backseat a lot of the time, just going along with the Doctor like any other companion.  There are a few exceptions, but she seems more passive now that she’s with him than she did before.  Step it up, writers!

So, let’s discuss the episodes that were in this half of the season:

The aforementioned episode The Snowmen was a Christmas special that I really enjoyed.  One of several in the last 1-2 years taking place in Victorian England, so that makes me immeasurably happy.  I thought it was creepy, Christmas-y, and lots of fun.  Everything a Doctor Who Christmas special should be.

When the season started up properly again, it began with The Bells of St. John. This is our first look at modern-day Clara, an orphan who lives with a friend of the family and looks after his children. Ignoring the ridiculous scene of the Doctor riding a motorcycle up the Shard, I liked this episode.  This is also the episode where Clara is the most independent and suspicious, not yet under the thrall of the Doctor (as all companions eventually do fall under it, I can’t blame her when she does, but I still like it when people don’t automatically fall at his feet. I mean, how would you feel if a strange man showed up at your door in a monk’s outfit and wanted to come in?

In other news, I really like his new outfit:

Dr Who new costumeVery Victorian. I kept expecting him to say something about waistcoats (vests) being cool, but it never came up.  Was that just a Doctor & Amy thing?  If so, I will miss the hats.

The next episode was The Rings of Akhaten, where Clara and the Doctor wander into a scene from that short story, The Lottery.  A sacrifice to the gods to prevent massacre of the planet, etc., etc. I thought this episode was the weakest of this (half of the) season.  Partially, I was really irritated by the premise.  Fine, this god wants memories to feed on, to keep it asleep.  The Doctor has 800+ years of memories, but a 23-year-old girl’s memories are more valuable?  In some ways I can kind of comprehend that the memories of a younger person are more…intense, because we feel things intensely when we’re young and we are more numb to emotions as we age, but the Doctor still has a bulk amount of memories. There’s no way hers are more valuable than his.  His whole planet was destroyed, his whole race.  He’s seen companions taken away by death and by time. He’s changed the world.  I’m sorry, but that leaf is not that important. He is more important.

Cold War was the next episode.  Not one of my favorites. I think I’m in the minority there, because a lot of people really liked it.  I think the difference is that, having never seen the old Doctor Who episodes, I have never before encountered the Ice Warriors.  I’ve never seen anything before Christopher Eccleston, so they just have no meaning for me within the larger canon. And this episode as a whole seemed to lack some tension for me–which is a ludicrous thing to say, since it was a time and a place where any second could bring about world-ending nuclear war.

Next came Hide, which I really liked. It was very spooky, and I sort of love it when the Doctor saves a hideous monster as readily as he saves a human.  It’s like watching someone carefully transport a spider out of the house and into a nice new home.  Plus, everyone gets to live and be happy at the end. Bonus–Emma, the psychic, was played by Jessica Raine, better known (to me) as Jenny from Call the Midwife.

I also loved Journey to the Center of the Tardis, where we finally get to see some of the other rooms inside the ship. I would live in the library, except for small breaks to visit the swimming pool. If I wasn’t being pursued by some sort of lava monster. What I really didn’t like about the episode is the Doctor yelling at Clara to try to discover who she is. I also wasn’t fond on those moments being ‘reset’ and Clara losing the memories of what she saw in the library.  I would pay so much money to get a look at that book…

The Crimson Horror was my favorite episode of this series.  Back in Victorian England!  The Doctor even gives us an adorable Yorkshire accent! On the other hand, that leech thing was the most foul slimy monstrosity I’ve seen in a long time. Yuck Yuck Yuck. I liked seeing the vulnerability of the Doctor, and loved Rachael Stirling (from The Bletchley Circle) as Ada, acting alongside her real-life mother as the heinous Mrs. Gillyflower.  There was something very Dickensian about Sweetville–the obsession with Christian morality, the gated community somewhat like a work house, the darkness in general. The only part of this episode I disliked was the end. Clara returns to her real timeline and the two kids she lives with have discovered pictures of her in different times.  Okay, so these kids just happened to both come across pictures of her in various places and times, during the short period she’s been traveling?  I find this pretty ludicrous, considering we’ve seen fans of the Doctor before who have a really hard time finding photos of him. Plus, I knew it meant the kids would be more important in future, and I really prefer not to have other people travel with the Doctor. I think it should be one companion only–Rory was the only exception, and these kids are not Rory. And I don’t like kids in general, so there’s that.

As I expected, the next episode had the kids going along with The Doctor and Clara, to the best amusement park in all of space and time…now disused and looking like something out of a Scooby Doo episode. Nightmare in Silver sees the return of the heavily upgraded Cybermen, to a point of being nearly unbeatable foes.  This episode had some problems–I wasn’t wild about the Doctor vs CyberDoctor scenes, and the kids were annoying for the first 10 minutes and then nearly inanimate for the rest. The salvation of this episode was Warwick Davis. I love Warwick Davis.  He was great in this, and I could have lived with a lot more screen time for him.  And a lot less for the kids.

Lastly, we have the finale. The Name of the Doctor. It was not as climactic (for me) as some of the finales have been, such as Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways.  Still, it had some epic ideas behind it. We see where the Doctor’s grave is, we see River again (!), and we find out why Clara is ‘the impossible girl’.  It makes sense, too, if you don’t think into it very deeply.  Just wade your feet in the logic, then move on. Closer scrutiny will leave you cross-eyed.

I particularly loved the scenes where Clara encounters past incarnations of the Doctor, even though I am woefully ignorant about who is who. I can pick out Tom Baker, and that’s about it. Still, it was cool and Clara got to wear great costumes.

The big deal with this episode is the end.  John Hurt shows up and he embodies the Doctor when he is not the Doctor?  Huh?  Reading rumors online, I’m lead to believe John Hurt will represent the Doctor during the interregnum, between the end of Doctor #8’s short run in the ’90s and the beginning of the current incarnation of the show, with Christopher Eccleston.  The period of the Great Time War, when Gallifrey was destroyed and the time lords with it.  John Hurt will personify the Doctor when he had to do horrible un-Doctor-like things to win the war.  I guess? That’s all rumor, so we’ll see…in November.

Overall, this half of the season was much better than the previous (in my opinion).  I had fun watching almost every episode, and there were good moments in each of them.  I think Clara is a much-needed breath of fresh air. I hope they keep giving her opportunities to be very clever and very strong, rather than letting her just follow the Doctor’s lead.

I cannot wait until the fall and we get all the 50th Anniversary celebrations and guest stars.  It’s going to be a long 6 months.

Doctor Who Series 7 (part 1)

The (half) series finale of Doctor Who aired in the US last night.  I am finding it difficult to gather my thoughts about this one, partially because I swear to god the damn thing just came back on. FIVE episodes? I don’t think it can possibly count as a season (or even half a season) if all the episodes took place during the same month.  I do not like this half season now and half season in January thing.  It didn’t used to be like this. There were usually episodes in April, May, and then there would be a break for the summer, and then it would come back in fall. Right?  I’m confused by this schedule. Also, normally there are 6 or 7 episodes before the long break. Five barely feels like enough.  But, okay, I can’t do anything about their scheduling decisions. I assume things didn’t air in Spring-Summer because of the Diamond Jubilee and then the Olympics.  It doesn’t make me happy about waiting until Christmas for more, but moving on!
I have to say I really wasn’t that impressed with this season, which makes me sad.  I love Doctor Who, but for whatever reasons these episodes didn’t have the same quality as the previous seasons.  Excuse me while I ramble, Virginia Woolf-style, about this meh season.

Asylum of the Daleks– This one was a pretty bad start to the year. Why would the Daleks have an asylum for their crazies? They have never had a problem with destroying weaker members of their species in the past.  Also, I saw the twist coming quite early on.  Well, maybe not early, but well before it was actually revealed.  And the Rory and Amy problems are getting old. They love each other, but …even though Amy shows again and again that she loves Rory, I still find it hard to believe. Maybe it’s because her chemistry with the Doctor is much more potent than hers with Rory. Which is crazy, because I think Rory is adorable, especially this season when he doesn’t have a ridiculous pony tail or whatever.  But when Amy looks at the Doctor, you can see light in her eyes, and it’s just not there when she looks at Rory. Maybe it’s just because the only time we see them together it’s when one or both of them are near death. They are always fighting or not together, and then the Doctor fixes all their marriage problems within one 48 minute episode. Pfft.

Also, the Doctor is really violent in this episode! I know they keep pushing the fact that he shouldn’t travel alone, but jeez!

Dinosaurs on a Spaceship– I had really high hopes for this episodes. Dinosaurs are cute, two people from Harry Potter are in it. What more could I ask for? Well, I could ask them not to kill off my favorite dinosaur.  Also, it just was…meh. Maybe I should re-title this review “Meh”.  I loved Mr. Weasley (Mark Williams) as Rory’s dad, and found that to be totally believable.  On the other hand, I’m never going to like a big game hunter, and think he should have been punched in the face for killing defenseless animals as a career. That’s just me, though.  And probably the animals are on my side, but I digress.  I just found that, once again, it didn’t have as much of an emotional impact as I thought.  Am I growing cold-hearted and cruel in my old age or something?  I’m starting to think maybe it was the music.  You know how music can trigger emotions in you? I’m wondering if the music was different in this season and it kept me from having the connection.  Also the pacing was a bit too quick, which meant that by the time it occurred to me to start caring about someone or something, they were usually dead or the episode was over.  Doctor Who is always a fast-paced show, though, so it seems odd that this would just bother me now.  I really don’t know what it is.

A Town Called Mercy– This one is more or less a blur. I like the Doctor with his Stetson back on, but that’s about it.  I think this was the weakest of the episodes, perhaps because I didn’t really care for anyone in it. We didn’t even learn the names of anyone, except for the sheriff and the evil doctor.  I also remember the Doctor has guns. What’s with the violence this season?

Similarly, I hardly remember anything about The Power of Three, except for the corny final line about cubed…oh wait, now I remember.  I think this story had a ton of potential. It’s always amusing when the Doctor has to stay in one place for very long. To be patient.  Because he is, essentially, a 10-year-old boy inside. And they did show that, but once again it wasn’t as funny as I felt like it should have been. I sort of would have enjoyed some bits about the Doctor not cleaning up his dirty dishes or something. Something to make it seem like he was really living there, and they were almost a family.  Plus the plot seemed mostly unexplained.  Okay, the cubes are observing us and infiltrating our homes, etc.  Why did some of them play music, or take blood, or trigger emotions? It either doesn’t make sense or wasn’t explained well enough for me to get it. Maybe true Whovians know the back story of the villain for this episode, and perhaps that makes it easier.  On the other hand, in the past the show would at least ensure the plot made sense for those who hadn’t been watching Doctor Who for 40 years.

And The Angels Take Manhattan? *sigh*  I am scared to death of the weeping angels, I will freely admit that. They scare me more than every other DW villain combined. Every episode with them has been awesome.  And this was the last episode with Rory and Amy, this was really important.  I’d like to say I liked it.  I do think it was the best episode of the season.  But…it should have been better.  Rory and Amy (especially Amy) have been so important.  As important as Rose, I think.  And they have been on the show for quite a while now. I wanted to see them go out in epic fashion, and I wanted to see them happy.  What will happen to Mr. Weasley now, waiting for them to come home?

And the Doctor this episode was sort of awful.  He had a tantrum, he acted like a child. He was no help with River, and Amy and Rory had to save themselves. The Doctor couldn’t do anything. He just wasn’t on his game. He wasn’t himself.  He acted like a petulant child. Normally he acts like an excited child, but this was just…not fun. Not helpful.  Rory and Amy and even River were able to be adults. The Doctor wasn’t, and that bothered me. He seemed really fallible, and not in a way that you want.

I think I would have been okay if I had just seen Rory and Amy together, maybe in some 30’s clothes with jobs or a puppy or something.  A life together.  Instead, it seemed a lot like Back to the Future III. You get a last letter/farewell, you can see the gravestone that says they lived long lives together, but that’s it. You want to go back and see for yourselves. It feels rushed and incomplete. Which is how it would feel for the Doctor, of course, so maybe it’s a conscious decision, but as an audience you want some sense of closure.

Also, one thing is driving me fucking crazy: How did River get the book back to Amy to publish if it’s impossible to get in to that time vortex again? And if she could get in with her vortex manipulator, why couldn’t she just get them back out? Or at least she and the Doctor could go back to see them periodically?

Am I alone in this? I don’t think I am, but you never know.  Here’s hoping the next half of the season is much better!

Upcoming British TV

You may have noticed, if you’re one of the 3 people who regularly read this blog, that content about British TV has been lacking lately.  That’s natural, given that it is summer and there isn’t much of anything new on.  But fall is approaching fast and there are a lot of good shows coming back, and a lot of new shows that look awesome.  So here’s a primer on what to expect over the coming months on TV.

Doctor Who premiered last Saturday, and another episode was just on last night.  I have grown to really love 11, though I still prefer 10 and probably always will consider him the best Doctor ever.  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, skip this bit as you are not a Whovian and won’t particularly care.

I have to say that these last two episodes have seemed rather lackluster to me.  There were some plot holes in the Asylum of the Daleks, and I saw the twist coming fairly early on.  Dinosaurs on a Spaceship was a bit better, and I love Mr. Weasley as Rory’s dad.  Something just seems off with both episodes so far, and I can’t tell if it’s the show or it’s me.  I suspect, however, that it is not me.  They’ve jumped right in as though there’s been no gap, and I could have done with a bit of a slow submersion.  I do love Karen Gillan, though, and she has been awesome as always.  I think it’s the writing or the direction to blame, but I”m having trouble putting my finger on why or how.  It’s almost like the episodes start too quickly and keep going too quickly for you to be emotionally invested.  And then they’re over, and you still aren’t particularly invested.  It’s missing some of the emotional scenes that you find in other episodes, and so far there hasn’t been anything particularly scary.  A bunch of rusty old Daleks and Filch? After the weeping angels, it takes a lot to scare me anymore, but they’re not even trying!

So why is this on my list of what to look forward to this fall? Because it’s Doctor Who! I will continue to watch it, and hopefully it will get better.

Downton Abbey

There are two trailers out right now for the third season. This one:

And this one (which I prefer):

Maggie Smith is divine.  And Shirley MacLaine as the American grandmother? Wonderful. I cannot wait to see those two in action together.

Okay so here is the big problem with Downton Abbey, and I cannot believe that in the 21st century it has come down to this.  On ITV in the UK, it premieres this month. Next week, I believe.  When will it be on PBS? January.

January?! This is ridiculous.  Why cant the studios just get together and decide to air it at the same time? Or shortly after?  As far as I know, there is no legal way for Americans to get their hands on the show before it airs on PBS or comes out on DVD (which might happen first, to be honest).  I would honestly pay to watch it, but I don’t think there is a way to do so.  Whose idea was that? I realize that ITV can’t broadcast here, and they are a British only channel, but this is ridiculous.  I suppose now I know how it feels for Brits who want to watch the latest episodes of our shows. But honestly, there should be a way to get it through iTunes or something. I am honestly not going to wait until January. I refuse.

And a similar thing is happening with Parade’s End.

This was actually a joint venture between BBC and HBO, which means they have equal rights to air it (in my non-expert legal opinion).  This aired during August in the UK (I only know about it because I caught the last 20 minutes of one of the episodes while I was in London).  HBO hasn’t even announced an air date for the US.  BLARGH. Why do they do this to me?

In case you haven’t heard of it either, let me describe.  This was originally four novels by Ford Maddox Ford, and has been adapted into this mini-series, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall.  The plot revolves around a wealthy couple, and it is set in the early 20th century, so there are naturally comparisons with Downton Abbey. The husband is sent off to fight in the trenches in WWI.  There’s a love triangle somewhere in there. I didn’t want to read much else because I don’t want to spoil the fun of actually watching it.  If that ever happens.

So, will anything actually be on soon for us unlucky Americans?  Yes! Thank god.

   Judging by the press photos, this one is about women who ride around on bikes in matching outfits.  Okay, actually, it’s titled Call the Midwife and I am quite excited about it, despite being horrified by the idea of childbirth and by the presence of nuns.

The show centers around a group of midwives in 1950s Britain, and it was a huge hit there. Smashed all sorts of ratings records.  It even beat Downton Abbey in the ratings. So, I’m definitely going to give it a try.  It airs on PBS, starting September 30th.

Richard Hammond’s Crash Course is also returning this fall (October 15th).  It appears they have abandoned the need to associate him with vehicles, and the show has devolved into him simply encountering as many ridiculous and possibly embarrassing Americans as possible.  There is, thought, a really cute trailer.

Another one coming down the pipeline this fall:

Spies of Warsaw

This is another period piece, a WWII-era drama set in Poland (obviously). It stars David Tennant, and that’s about all I had to know before I decided to watch it.  No firm release date yet, that I can find. I believe it comes on when The Hour and other Dramaville programming returns, which would be November, I think.

So it’s set to be another year of British cultural imports.  I do want to add, however, that as much as I joke about being forced to wait for a long time to watch British shows, I am just joking. Of course I hate the waiting, and I don’t see a need for it when we’re perfectly capable of downloading everything anyway.  But as I learned on my trip to London last month, the TV in England is really terrible.  What? What am I saying?! This is a blog about British TV, among other things, so how could I be committing such blasphemy?  I never had a TV when I lived in London, so I had little experience with it.  At my hotel, though, we did have a TV. I didn’t sit down to watch it at any point, but before bed or in the morning I would switch it on, and I was shocked by what I found.  There are only 10-20 channels, and some of them are only available at certain times of the day.  They play a lot of American programming, from old episodes of sitcoms (Frasier of all things) to really terrible American movies that wouldn’t even be shown here (Bowfinger…really?).  Then there seems to be some sort of 24-hour Big Brother channel.  Mix that in with Coronation Street and East Enders, which seem to be less slick and less attractive versions of our soaps, and that’s about all of your choices. Of course, there’s always BBC news, right?  They do news incredibly well there. But, you soon realize that it runs on a 10- or 15-minute loop, especially in the morning.  It’s not fun. If I lived there, I don’t think I’d bother having a TV at all.  So when I complain about having to wait for these mini-series, I do not mean to imply that I would rather switch places with them. They have to wait a long time for our shows as well, and well, we just have a lot more options here. Plus, no TV tax here, always a bonus. So, take the complaining with a grain of salt, and everyone let’s try to be patient, and pretend we aren’t illegally downloading these things. We certainly wouldn’t do that.