Monday, 29 April 2013

Doctor Who: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS

“Don’t get in a spaceship with a madman!”

Interesting one, this. It seems to have divided opinion. No one thinks it’s awful and, to be clear, it certainly isn’t. But people are either enthusiastic or relatively lukewarm. I’m afraid I’m one of the latter.

It isn’t that the story itself is anything less than excellent. Much as I dislike reset buttons, this time it is earned and I liked the twist that the strange lava-like creatures were possible future version of everyone on board, consumed by the Eye of Harmony in the heart of the TARDIS. The reset button was used well, allowing Clara not only to learn about the time war but also the Doctor’s name (story arc alert!), while the Doctor gets to ask Clara the question he’s been longing to ask only to be told that she’s just Clara! She has no idea that she has ever lived before. Steve Thompson gets to have his cake and eat it, as all this is said without consequences for anyone but the viewer.

Also impressive is that the chief antagonist in this episode is not some dastardly, moustache- twirling baddie but simply three soulless brothers just out for a profit. They have so little poetry in their souls that they take sibling bullying to a new level, making the younger brother think he’s an android

What makes me question the episode a little, and it’s a tendency much seen of late, is that there’s an awful lot of fanwank here. I know it’s the fiftieth anniversary year, but is the general viewer really going to be interested in lines spoken by original companions Susan and Ian in the very first episode, or in sequences which are clearly a remake of the last episode of The Invasion of Time? Still, it’s good to see the library and the swimming pool. I was also impressed with the clever trick of allowing the same section of corridor to look different by the judicious use of lighting to tint the scenes in red or blue. Arguably, the fact that the corridors recall the Daleks' city from way back when is intentional.

Aside from the obvious arc stuff, it’s tempting to see the stuff with the star in The Rings of Akhaten as foreshadowing the climax of this episode. One thing I’m not sure of is whether the dislike the TARDIS holds towards Clara is explained; surely it was not only Clara who was fated to turn in to a lava beast? Another little niggle concerns the book detailing the history of the time war: if both the Daleks and the Time Lords were made extinct, or near as, who exactly was left to write it?!

I enjoyed it, I really did. And I’m enjoying this half of the season. I’m just beginning to worry a little that things are angled slightly to far towards the fans and not enough towards the general viewer.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Angel: Happy Anniversary

“What’s today, Thursday? Tomorrow night the world’s going to end. Thought you might like to know”.

This is a story of the week and a very unusual episode, being essentially a piece of sci-fi in a supernatural series. It somehow works, partly because there are some demon cultists to tie the episode to the show’s natural genre and partly because the theme is so affecting: Gene is so distraught at overhearing that his girlfriend is going to dump him on their one year anniversary that he freezes time around them while they fornicate rather boringly. I mean, Gene doesn’t even let her have her orgasm before freezing them!!!

The plot is rather neat, perhaps, but it’s rather nifty in a Twilight Zone sort of way, and a two hander between Angel and the Host allows us to develop the relationship between them. The Host, being a natural judge of character, is the perfect person to diagnose Angel. His point is that Angel has stopped caring, stopped helping the helpless and started to punish the guilty instead. He no longer cares about the consequences, including those for his friends.

Meanwhile, Angel’s former friends get themselves a case, courtesy of Wesley’s rich girlfriend Virginia, which nabs them a lot of money and allows Wesley to look cool by doing that Hercule Poirot thing where he gets all the suspects together and reveals who did it. I wanna do that one day!

Angel’s case concludes with a philosophical conversation with the Host and a contrite Gene, a positive move as Angel seems to be connecting to someone. His former friends’ case concludes with loads of cash and a massive party. Interestingly, though, they are still using the name Angel Investigations.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Blood Ties

“I wasn’t lurkin’, I was standing about… Whole different vibe!”

It’s Buffy’s twentieth birthday, and we all know nothing bad ever happens on Buffy’s birthday! Also, Dawn is wearing a t-shirt with “little miss drama” on it, which in no way implies any major explosions! Oh, and the Scoobies are currently digesting the news that Glory is a god. All is clearly going to be sweetness and light.

The core of the episode consists of Dawn, a hormone-ridden fourteen year old girl, having a major teenage existential crisis, involving the destruction of her entire bedroom, tears, tantrums and all that. While there’s a certain amount of metaphor here, most teenage girls do not suddenly realise that they are a kind of mystical key which has only been in existence for six months and around which reality has shifted to give her a real existence and history. That’s a lot to deal with at fourteen.

This is a very arcy episode indeed, culminating in a very brave Dawn having a long and dangerous conversation with Glory. Oh Yeah…… BEN IS GLORY!!!!! WTF?!?!?!??!!?

Spike is continuing with his habit of standing outside of Buffy’s house smoking and stalking. The dynamic between him and Dawn is fascinating: he’s the only one who doesn’t speak to her as an authority figure, and Buffy doesn’t like this at all. Interestingly, Spike is the only person whose attitude to Dawn does not change. Typically of this show, it is only extreme peril that reconciles Dawn with Buffy and everybody.

Aside from the obvious revelations, we learn some more things in this episode. Glory has limited powers while in human form, and only retains what sanity she has by taking it from others, as we have constantly seen throughout the season. She’s only defeated by being teleported (another example of Willow becoming worryingly dependent on magic), and it’s hard to see how the Scoobies can possibly win at this point.

Angel: Blood Money

“It’s actually kind of fun when you know the rules. I mean, you know there aren’t any.”

This is an interesting period of the season, with Angel having adventures separately from the gang. They continue to tread water in setting up their agency, something which seemed to be established last time. Angel, meanwhile, continues his single minded pursuit of Wolfram and Hart plus a certain two vampire ladies.

We start with Wesley and Gunn playing risk at Cordelia’s, doing nothing. The gang has no plan, no office, nothing. But they succeed magnificently against a conveniently off-screen baddie and end up with a new office, albeit one that isn’t as posh as the Hyperion. So much for them. They’re comic relief in this episode.

As far as Angel is concerned, his new attitude is challenged when he comes face to face with Anne, who has changed many times since we first met her in Buffy. Her latest persona is that of a single minded charity worker, who cares deeply about the homeless children to whom she is dedicated, to the exclusion of all else. She cares not that Wolfram and Hart will be taking 95% of the cash from the charity ball they arranged. Nor does she give a monkeys that this may be used for deeply nefarious purposes. For her, nothing exists beyond the cause. Her social conscience may be myopic, but at least she has one. Angel has no social conscience at all right now.

Angel’s scheme may be clever, cool, and knocked down Wolfram and Hart a peg or two, but it is deeply cynical. Angel doesn’t even bother to expose them, knowing that this will be covered up, and he wishes to do nothing more than rattle them a bit. Still, at least he’s sufficiently affected by Anne’s scolding to hand over the money to her, which she gladly accepts despite the literal blood on it. That’s single mindedness for you! This episode contrasts single mindedness in the cause of others (Anne) and single mindedness for selfish purposes (Angel), and it’s clear which is morally better.

Of course, we get more competition between Lilah and Lindsay, ending in an interesting bit of information from their new boss, that Angel is a “major player” in the forthcoming apocalypse. The prophecies do not detail what side he is due to be on, so our evil lawyer friends seek to darken his soul, seemingly with some success. Lilah and Lindsay, they will be reassured to know, are just expendable foot soldiers in this cause. This may be something of an episode of the week, but there is a lot of arcy stuff going on in the background.  

Friday, 26 April 2013

Grimm: The Kiss

“Cheapskate didn’t know how close she came to getting her throat ripped out!”

“So sweet!”

The cliffhanger reprise is a bit of a cheat, I have to say. The baddie doesn’t attack Nick after all and, after much impressive looking fighting, Nick and his mother kill it. For the rest of the episode, though, Nick has to deal with the repercussions as he is arrested by the FBI. Usually, he manages to avoid this sort of situation, but as two FBI agents have died it’s more awkward this time. In fact, both homicides which he investigates in this episode were perpetrated by his mother, who seems to have a short temper. It’s interesting, though, that the Captain is so protective of Nick. Also interesting is that his mother now knows that there is a Prince in Portland.

This time, relations between Nick’s mother and the Monroe/Rosalie combo are less awkward. Speaking of Monroe and Rosalie, it’s getting increasingly obvious that they rather like each other. I see another season arc developing here. There’s also another phone call between the Captain and that European brother of his, in that swanky CGI castle nonetheless. Is this another arc?

It’s interesting how predominant European affairs have been in the show of late. I wonder if this is a sign of things to come. I certainly think we’ll see Nick’s mother again, especially considering the rather naughty manner of her exit. First of all, though, we have yet another cliffhanger. Juliette has been kissed by her Prince, but there’s a price. She can’t remember Nick at all. That’s a cruel way to end, for the audience as much as for Nick!