Sunday, May 28, 2017

Doctor Who: The Pyramid at the End of the World

As he did last season with a tension-packed Zygon two-parter, writer Peter Harness (with Steven Moffat taking a co-writing credit) again sets out to nearly destroy planet Earth, and again he skillfully takes us on a paranoid, politically-charged ride. Last time it was UNIT at the forefront of the battle; this time its three major world powers. Picking up in the real world from where we left off in the horrific simulation last week, the Monks invade Earth for real, but first they need our permission … and they set out to get it by offering to save us from ourselves.

In the fictitious country of Turmezistan (originally conceived for the aforementioned Zygon storyline), three massive armies — American, Russian, and Chinese — are in a standoff. In the midst of the tension, a 5,000-year-old pyramid appears out of nowhere, throwing all parties involved into a tailspin. The Doctor is needed in his capacity as president of the Earth, and apparently the simplest way to find him is through Bill, who’s on her date with Penny when troops, followed by the Secretary General of the UN (Togo Igawa, Eyes Wide Shut), burst into her apartment. Bill is on the radar of governments now. Meanwhile in the TARDIS, the Doctor plucks notes on his guitar and grimly ponders the future.

The Doctor: “The end of your life has already begun. There is a last place you will ever go, a last door you will ever walk through, a last sight you will ever see, and every step you ever take is moving you closer. The end of the world is a billion billion tiny moments, and somewhere, unnoticed, in silence or in darkness, it has already begun.”

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Graphic courtesy of Design by Stuart Manning

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Doctor Who: Extremis

As most Doctor Who fans know, we’re rapidly approaching the end of Steven Moffat’s era. There’s no question his showrunning tenure has been a divisive one, but at least here in the States, it was on his watch that the show attained such immense popularity. He has scripted more stories and filled more minutes than any other writer in the show’s history. (Due to the classic series’ serialized format, though, he hasn’t written the most episodes.) You’d think he’d have run out of ideas by now, but as “Extremis” proves, that’s hardly the case. If the previous five episodes nestled you into a comfort zone of sorts, “Extremis” aims to knock you flat on your back. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Moffat’s greatest strength is his unpredictability.

First, let’s talk vault, which is perhaps the only predictable aspect of “Extremis.” Presumably, Missy (Michelle Gomez) is inside. I say presumably only because we never see the Doctor open it and view Missy on the inside, despite the chronicling of the events that led up to her imprisonment and a blind Doctor in the present whispering to Missy from outside the vault. However, this wraparound tale tells of events “a long time ago” (in the show’s timeline, seemingly some time after the events of “The Husbands of River Song”), in which Missy has been condemned to execution by an unnamed race who developed the technology to destroy a Time Lord for good. But why Missy? Why now? What has she done? These questions go unanswered, so while we’re given the answer to who’s in the vault, that answer gives way to a whole new batch of questions.

Read the rest of this recap by clicking here and visiting Vulture.

Graphic courtesy Design by Stuart Manning

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Doctor Who: Oxygen

The Doctor: “Space … the final frontier. Final because it wants to kill us. Sometimes we forget that, start taking it all for granted — the suits, the ships, the little bubbles of safety — as they protect us from the void. But the void is always waiting.”

Beginning with that darkly tongue-in-cheek voice over, the pre-credits sequence of “Oxygen” is quintessential Doctor Who. Two bodies eerily tumble through space. A massive space station is revealed. Both surrounded by the void and working outside, Ellie (Katie Brayben) confesses to Ivan (Kieran Bew): If they manage to escape their current predicament, she wants to have a baby with him. Unfortunately, there’s a com error and Ivan will never hear Ellie’s dream. Moments later, she’s attacked and killed by the two previously seen bodies, now upright and hulking forward. Is Ivan next? Cue credits. That mixture of the intimate alongside the vast and shocking is Doctor Who at its best.

Jamie Mathieson writes great, thought-provoking Doctor Who and “Oxygen” is no exception. Here he has crafted a story about greed and selfishness, explored in two ways: The first is corporate and the second is personal, and there are consequences for both. Further, the production team steps up to the plate and delivers gorgeous imagery to complement the intense script.

Read the rest of this recap by clicking here and visiting Vulture.

Graphic courtesy Design by Stuart Manning

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Doctor Who: Knock Knock

In this week’s episode of Doctor Who, Bill and her college peeps — Harry (Colin Ryan), Paul (Ben Presley, Galavant), Felicity (Alice Hewkin), Shireen (Mandeep Dhillon), and Pavel (Bart Suavek) — hunt for a place to live. The digs they check out are too pricey or too noisy or too cramped. Out of nowhere appears a strange old man (the always reliable David Suchet) offering them a place beyond their wildest dreams. If nothing else, “Knock Knock” might teach youngsters that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. After the sextet sign a contract, Pavel moves in first and it doesn’t take long for him to disappear into his room (damn near literally) after spinning a tune on his turntable.

In perhaps the episode’s only smart gag, Bill enlists the Doctor’s help with moving. He materializes the TARDIS around her stack of boxes and rematerializes outside the creaky old house. Even the Doctor is impressed by its size, but he senses something in those creaks. Bill introduces the Doctor to her friends as her grandfather. (He begs, “Father, at least. Please!”) As the scenario progresses, Bill becomes more and more embarrassed by the Doctor’s presence, ultimately ushering him off the premises, and it was here where “Knock Knock” started losing me.

Read the rest of this recap by clicking here and visiting Vulture.

Graphic courtesy Design by Stuart Manning