Monday, June 12, 2017

Doctor Who: Empress of Mars

Back in season seven, Mark Gatiss reintroduced classic Doctor Who villains the Ice Warriors in “Cold War,” an episode I was gaga over. A big part of my love revolved around its infusion of ’80s nuclear paranoia, which at the time seemed something of a distant memory. My, how just a few years can see us tumbling backward. “Empress of Mars,” which is in no way a sequel to “Cold War” (indeed, it takes place a hundred years before its predecessor), is another score for Gatiss, and enough so that we must forgive him for last season’s dire “Sleep No More.” “Empress” is a sleek tale of honor, loyalty, and redemption told through the filter of science-fiction mavericks such as Burroughs, Verne, and Wells.

The action kicks off in the present day at NASA, which the Doctor, Bill, and Nardole have infiltrated seemingly for no other reason than because they can. A probe called the Valkyrie is sending back images from a previously unseen area of the planet, and the first one shocks everyone in the room: It’s a landscape across which is written “God Save the Queen.” The Doctor wastes no time taking his posse to the planet, albeit in 1881, which is when the TARDIS says the message was created. (Must be a handy new feature that we’ll likely never see again.) They materialize underground in an elaborate cave system, replete with oxygen, which the Doctor credits the “indigenous Martians” with engineering.

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

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Doctor Who: The Lie of the Land

The opening montage of “The Lie of the Land,” presented as an alternate history lesson narrated by the Doctor, is disturbingly effective. The Monks have insinuated themselves into our memories to the point that humanity believes they’ve been guiding and helping us since we first wiggled out of the oceans and sprouted legs. The video is intercut with imagery of an average family broken apart by fascist troops who haul off the mother for spreading subversive propaganda. A horrified Bill observes the proceedings, seemingly one of the few who’s awake. Monuments to the Monks decorate the landscape of the planet. The grinning Doctor looking directly at the camera, which closes out the sequence, makes for a queasy stomach.

The Doctor: “So relax. Do as you’re told. Your future is taken care of.”

It’s been six months since the Monks took over, and Bill is living a life of seeming solitude. (Where’s her foster mother?) There’s a clear struggle between knowing the truth and accepting the lie, and seemingly the easiest way for her to keep her head straight is to have imaginary conversations with her deceased mother, as her “father” is currently displaying dubious morality. Despite all of the videos the Doctor recorded that appear to prove otherwise, she hangs on to the belief that he’s got a plan and will save the planet.

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

Graphic courtesy Design by Stuart Manning