Sunday, 31 March 2013

Doctor Who: The Bells of Saint John

“Run, you clever boy, and remember!”

If you’re visiting my blog for the first time since the last episode of Doctor Who or you have never viewed my blog before, welcome. This is where I review TV, films and such like, but I use the word “review” in its loosest possible sense. Expect many digressions, especially when it comes to Doctor Who, and especially especially when it comes to wondering whatever the hell the Moff is up to.

In a sense, this is a typically light and fluffy opening episode, and a good jumping on point for new viewers, much as RTD used to do. This being the Moff, however, it is also at the same time a fast-paced modern thriller, a semi-romantic comedy worthy of the creator of Coupling in the interaction between the Doctor and Clara, and seeding an awful lot of stuff for the rest of the season and the fiftieth anniversary. This blog entry will be mainly bibbling on about the latter of these.

Basically, this is an excitingly excellent and well cool bit of entertainment with a great baddie in Celia Imrie, loads of action and fantastic usage of modern London as a setting. As my girlfriend remarked, this may be the first time that The Shard has been used like this as a landmark. But it’s also re-establishing the programme for new viewers, introducing Matt Smith as the Doctor in such a way as to gently ease the new viewer in to his habits and personality. It helps here that he needs to introduce himself, for the third time, to yet another version of Clara/Oswin/whatever name she has to be using. Jenna-Louise Coleman is bloody good here, again, this time using her native Lancashire accent and a modern idiom, but recognisably the same personality, plopped in to a different life.

The Moff, being the Moff, gives us an uber scary concept plucked from everyday life, in this case WiFi. In fact, this isn’t the only familiar Moffat motif we have here; the concept of human minds being uploaded on to a hard-drive harks back to Silence in the Library, while the TARDIS phone ringing is a nostalgic reminder of his first ever Who script, as well as an excuse for the rather cool title.

Let’s just get it out of the way: this was bloody good. Now we can get on with the speculation. I couldn’t help noticing that the Doctor rather tended to draw attention to the fact that he rather likes the phrase “Doctor Who?”, which is a rather obvious piece of foreshadowing. I also couldn’t help noticing a novel written by a certain Amy Williams! It was a nice subtle tribute to her. Similarly nice was the reference to the real life police box at Earls Court.

Other little things include Clara’s diary, in which she has changed her age every year except when she was twenty-three. This is most probably going to be significant later in the season. I also noticed that the script did not identify the “woman” who first got Clara to ring the Doctor about the internet. The villain, of course, is still The Great Intelligence, a nice subtle shout out to the Troughton years, with a certain actor returning after the Christmas special.

Oh, and the Spoonheads are a typically scary monster in a horribly imaginative way, while the concept of underlings being controlled by means of an equalizer for such things as obedience, intelligence, and the like it utter genius.

I mustn’t forget, of course, that the TARDIS interior has had a suitably nostalgic makeover, looking rather like it did in the 70’s mixed with the last version. I love the roundels and the retro yet modern console with grindstones above, decorated with Gallifreyan text. We also have a new theme tune and title sequence, which, for the first time since 1989, at last shows the Doctor’s face! The new, Hubble Space Telescope influenced starscapes look awesome! This is the greatest title sequence ever, except for the uber-weird Hartnell version, obviously.

Yeah, basically this rules. One interesting final point, though. The Moff may have done a bit of a Robert Holmes in including a rather unsubtle vegetarian message, comparing the baddies’ treatment of the free range humans to a humane abattoir.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Dollhouse: A Spy in the House of Love

“Don’t be so Vanilla!”

I can’t remember the last “episode of the week”. Stuff keeps happening. Dollhouse won’t stay still. I’m excited out of my pants! SOoOoOoO much happens in this episode. We discover that Dominic is a naughty boy and deserves to be hit with Echo’s bullwhip. Although, I must confess, DeWitt’s actual punishment for him seems rather on the horrible side. So that’s what the attic is for!

DeWitt, of course, has herself been rather naughty. She’s been using Victor for her own pleasure, which throws a rather different and rather fascinating light on her character. DeWitt may be cold for much of the time, but she’s human. She has desires, she has values, and she seems to be very lonely, as those at the top so often are.

The structure of this episode, in which we see events from different perspectives and numerous sequences are shown more than once, is extremely clever. The fact that this is a whodunit makes is suspiciously likely that Rashomon is an influence. Intriguingly, our sleuth is none other than Echo herself! Even more intriguingly, she volunteers to be programmed, knowing exactly what Topher’s equipment is going to do to her! The episode ends with DeWitt holding her in awe. Echo is clearly no ordinary active. Is this really sustainable?

The tale of Ballard also gets much hugeness in this episode, as November/Mellie suddenly changes program and tells him that she is an undercover active sent to spy on him, and has been for months! What is Ballard going to do with this information? To be continued, I’m sure.

The episode ends with a fascinating exchange between Dominic and Echo. He’s about to be erased, but one last thing amuses him. “One day,” he says, “you’ll be erasing them.” Boyd Langton replaces Dominic, and Echo has a new handler. I wonder what he’s like?

Grimm: Three Coins and a Fuchsbau

“Very large sausages!”

This one, for once, is based on a tale collected by the Brothers Grimm: a Norwegian tale called The Master Thief. It is also an arc heavy episode, though, concerning three mysterious coins which, One Ring style, give their wielder enormous desire to possess them. It is interesting that the Captain, jealously guarding the coins in his own possession, has a strange dream in which he stands on a balcony in front of adoring crowds like a fascist dictator. Interestingly, he goes on to make a speech which sounds suspiciously like the rhetoric of a dictator. The icing on the cake comes at the end as we see footage of Hitler, his oratory seemingly boosted by the three coins. Oh, and he’s a blutbad. If this is ever developed, it will be EPIC!

That isn’t the only awesome thing that happens, arc-wise, in this rather awesome episode. Nick comes across the former fiancé of his Aunt Marie as a suspect in his investigations. Awkward or what? This mysterious individual gives us a potted history of these coins, from Archaic Greece to the present day. The coins certainly have power over both Hank and the Captain, who both visibly tussle over possession at one point. The Captain retains possession of the coins, which can’t be good. He even has a very serious sounding telephone conversation about them. In French, no less.

 The coins end up in Nick’s possession, and this, I assure you, is the first time I’ve thought of him as being like the elderly Bilbo Baggins, except that he has three coins, not just ONE RING! I fear corruption may be around the corner. Or not. Bring on the next episode. I have no idea what is going on, but I’m enjoying the ride.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Plugging My Girlfriend's Blog...

Btw, here's another film review blog from my very lovely girlfriend:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Into the Woods

“I’m only sleeping over here so Buffy and Riley can boink!”

Joyce is okay, as we knew she would be. That doesn’t stop everyone worrying, though, and it doesn’t stop it becoming ever more obvious that Buffy is not confiding in Riley. She hasn’t even cried in front of him. After Joyce has her successful surgery, they have a romantic night together. He makes love to her, she has sex with him and Spike does his voyeur thing while chain smoking. But when Riley discreetly leaves for his vampire brothel, Spike takes the opportunity to drop his rival in it and take Buffy to the premises. She is not pleased.

Conveniently, it is this episode in which Graham and his squad of soldiers offer Riley a job, far away in Belize, giving him a convenient exit from the series. The way the episode plays out is heart breaking, though. Buffy and Riley have a stand up row in which everything is aired and Riley resolves to leave. It’s only when Xander, a true friend, has a deep chat with Buffy that she realises the root of everything: to her, he has just been a convenient rebound shag, whereas to him, she is the love of his life. He could be the love of her life if only she wanted it. She realises too late and, in a moment of maximum drama, he flies off in a helicopter, not seeing her running towards him. I didn’t cry. Honest.

There are funny bits in this episode- I love the bit where Buffy and Joyce use bible study as a metaphor for sex! But this one’s a right weepy. Now that Riley is out of the way, what will Spike do?

Angel: The Trial

“You’ve been reading too much Anne Rice

This episode is evil. I love it. The trials may be a bit of a cliché; in fact, they’re even an Angel cliché, given the number of times that this has popped up. But this is different. I love the butler with his unflappable attitude to the nastiness, and the twist is deliciously evil. Angel goes through hell and yet it’s all for nothing. Darla has already had a second chance, so she doesn’t get a third. I laughed out loud.

We have another interesting flashback showing Angelus and Darla once again afraid of the mysterious Holtz. Watch this space. But the episode primarily concerns the revelation that Darla is dying of the same syphilis as her previous life. This, in itself, is an evil twist. As if things couldn’t get any more evil, the episode ends with Darla accepting her fate and realising that Angel loves her and is only refusing to sire her because he cares for her soul. Finally she has closure. Deliciously, it is at this point that Wolfram and Hart, those rascals, send in Drusilla to once again turn her into a soulless vampire. As I say EVIL!