The Best and Worst Companion Exits on Doctor Who

The Gallifrey One convention is coming up, and in the meanwhile, I’ve been watching a lot of Doctor Who. Companion exits are often a pretty big deal. Occasionally they just sort of wander off never to be sen again, but when they’re done correctly, they really leave a mark. I’m discounting those non-exits, and this list has nothing to do with how I feel about my characters. Just how they left the show.

Let’s start with the good ones.

Best:

5. Jo Grant Doesn’t Say Good-bye

Jo falls for a, surprise surprise, scientist, and is engaged before the end of her last serial. So that was a bit quick, but it’s easy to buy that she’s really happy. The Doctor reads the writing on the wall. He can’t bring her around on his adventures. She has a life to attend to and has outgrown her assistant role. The Doctor doesn’t like goodbyes, so while everyone is celebrating, the Doctor slips away. Jo, for her part, chooses not to dramatically chase after him and demand a proper farewell. They each know what the other would say. Bittersweet, but far from tragic.

4. River Song Goes on the Longest Date Ever

River is never a full-time proper companion, like the others on this list, but she spans 3 Doctors and is one of only a few to actually marry the Doctor. Technically, her story ends the first time we meet her, but her exit from the show happens in the Christmas special “The Husbands of River Song.” After watching the previous three companions die  in their last episodes, the idea of watching another companion meet their end was heartbreaking. But River’s story ended with her getting a 24 year long date with Capaldi’s Doctor, and the words “they lived happily ever after.” That’s about as good as a companion can hope for.

3. Ian and Barbara’s Adventures in Photosnaps

Ian and Barbara didn’t choose to go traveling with the Doctor. They were effectively kidnapped. And through that they taught the Doctor and learned from him and became friends. But it was never their choice to travel. So when they find a way to get back to Earth, they have no plan, don’t know what they’ll tell anyone, but know it’s time to leave the Doctor. They’re home. They’re together. They’re happy. We see them in a series of snapshots, which serves to show them running through the city. The last time we see them, they’re laughing, arms around each other.

2. Rose Tyler Doesn’t Hear the Way That Sentence Ends

I’m referring to Rose’s original ending here. Cause that’s really her exit as a companion. For a whole slew of people, this was the first time they’d had to say good-bye to a companion. And this was a traumatic scene. The Doctor’s only able to say see her through a projection (and has to burn up a sun in the process). Rose reaches for him, but he’s no more than air. She finally professes her love out loud, and all that’s left is for the Doctor to return the sentiment. But before managing to say it, the connection is broken. And Rose is left crying on a beach, forever separated from the Doctor (until she’s not).

1. Sarah Jane Smith Walks Home

While we’re on the subject of heart-wrenching endings, there’s Sarah. When she and the Doctor get in a fight, the best mate relationship that makes the two of them so comfortable together is shattered, but not out of character. Sarah storms off and the Doctor gets a call to return to Gallifrey. She comes storming back with all her things, bluffing that she’s going to leave. And he tells her, yeah, she is. Her heartbreak is palpable. It never fails to choke me up. Apparently, the actors rewrote this scene, and I can’t imagine it being done any better. It’s simple, but powerful.

Worst:

5. Bill Dies Repeatedly

I found the depiction of violence against Bill uncharacteristically graphic. Compare Clara’s death when the raven flies into her chest and vanishes with the gaping hole where Bill’s midsection used to be. To then put Bill in scene after scene depicting her fear and frustration, because she doesn’t know she’s been physically and mentally mutated, upset me. Considering the context of the the show, its audience, and its characters, we could’ve pulled way the hell back and still delivered an emotional and meaningful ending for Bill. But no. And then she died as a Cyberman. Sorry, but her running off into the stars with a girl she barely knew just didn’t cut it for me. I’m still pissed.

4. Susan Is Left Behind

Hartnell’s speech is great, but I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the Doctor leaves his granddaughter stranded in a Dalek-infested post-apocalyptic wasteland without any shoes. And it’s not her choice. She should come back as a vengeful villain.

3. Peri Dies…Maybe

This whole thing is just weird. But it takes place smack dab in the middle of “The Trial of a Time Lord,” so it was always gonna be weird. We hear abut Peri’s fate through the Doctor and other Time Lords’ distorted memories. She was, apparently bound and gagged by an evil slug monster. He then replaced her brain with his own in her body. So that’s bizarre and creepy. Of course, later in the serial the writer’s seemingly back-tracked and revealed that Peri hadn’t died. Instead, she had married a warrior, Yrcanos. But this feels entirely out of character. It seemed more an attempt at a quick fix to erase her death.

2. Jamie and Zoe Forget

For me, the worst way to write out a character is to take away their memories. In the case of Jamie and Zoe, the show makers were in a bit of a bind, having created two amazing, loyal characters who would never leave the Doctor. Not in their right minds. It’s hard enough seeing them say good-bye, but because the Time Lords are dicks, they also erase their memories, so they will only remember the first time they met the Doctor. This is awful for Jamie, since he’s arguably the best friend the Doctor had before or since, nor would he have any memory of Victoria or Zoe, and he was dropped back to his own time mid-battle. It’s terrible for Zoe, who lost all the character development she’d had over the season.

1. Donna’s Memory Is Erased

I had a hard time choosing who would get the top spot between the double-whammy of Jamie and Zoe losing their memories and Donna losing hers. I eventually went with Donna for one reason: the Doctor’s the one that does it to her. In order to save her, the Doctor has to erase ALL memory of himself from her mind. She understands that and is still screaming at him not to do it, making the whole situation feel very memory-rapey. At that point I think Donna (and I, as a member of the audience) would have preferred a noble death (if you’ll pardon the pun). It’s also difficult, because Donna never saw her own worth until she went traveling with the Doctor. She’s amazing and deserves to know that.

Advertisements
Posted in tv | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Wayward Sisters Come Home

We finally got to see the Wayward Sisters in action last week via their backdoor pilot on Supernatural. It had a lot of ground to cover, and if someone who wasn’t watching Supernatural to begin with tried to pick it up here, they’d probably be pretty damn confused. But that was because they didn’t back pedal and try to jam a bunch of already established backstory into one episode, which meant it got to jump straight to the action.

One of the most exciting things was seeing the six leads come together at long last. When we last left our heroes, Claire had struck out on her own, Donna was sheriffing, Patience had gone to warn Jody and Alex of a vision of Claire’s death, and Kaia was magically flung to the side of a road, while Sam and Dean were flung into what Kaia dubbed “The Bad Place.”

The episode opens with Claire showcasing some badassery, and I have to say, as the character I was most worried about them screwing up, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed her throughout the episode. She beats up some werewolves, then gets a call from Jody saying, ahem, “It’s Sam and Dean. They’re missing. They were on a hunting trip and I haven’t heard from them for a few days.” So, yeah, that was me you heard screaming on the night of the premier. But, like, in a good way. We’re in the Supernatural universe, and this is how the fun starts.

Claire agrees to go back to Jody and Alex, where she meets Patience. Claire seems suspicious of her at first. Maybe it’s that Patience is in her old room (then you shouldn’t have left Claire!), maybe it’s that she doesn’t believe Patience is psychic, as she claims, or maybe it’s that she fears Patience being a psychic will make Jody overprotective (Jody’s the exact right amount of protective, as far as I’m concerned).

Alex is working as a nurse at a nearby hospital, a hospital that happens to be treating Kaia, after she’s found by the road. Claire goes to Alex, trying to convince her to dig up information, when they discover Kaia. Claire and Kaia try to sneak out of the hospital when they’re attacked by a Bad Place monster. Unlike the vampires and werewolves we’ve seen the women fight before, these are new monsters. They kinda look like evil teenage mutant ninja turtles, but it’s fine. Just as it seems Kaia and Claire will be bested by the creature, Jody shows up to rescue them. Because she’s the best. Always.

Now that Jody’s collected all the girls, who are hellbent on saving “the boys,” she decides it wouldn’t hurt to get a little more back up, and she enlists the help of the upbeat neighboring sheriff, Donna Hanscum, who comes bearing all the gifts: weapons, the likes of which the girls have seen nothing before.

Do they all know how to use these weapons? Nope. Do they have time to learn? Hell no. They arm themselves anyway and head off to the rift where the Winchesters are. And the monsters.

Throughout the episode, Claire and Kaia have a few heart-to-hearts. They’re the two most troubled characters and are able to relate to one another. At one point, they have a scene very reminiscent of Jaws, in which they compare scars. If I didn’t know better, and I DON’T, I could see them setting up a queer romance between the two. What the ending of this episode means for that raises some questions, but I’ll get to that in a bit. The creators did promise diversity, and diversity stretches beyond race.

This is a subject that Supernatural has struggled with in the past, with gay characters either being the subject of ridicule or the butt of a joke. Even later, when some of these characters were given more depth, they landed squarely in the “bury your gays” trope trap (*cough” Charlie *cough*). This could be a step in the right direction. But this is all massive speculation.

This is still Supernatural,  so we also check in with Sam and Dean a few times, and for a couple of guys who’ve been tossed out of their own reality, they seem in reasonably good spirits. I got a couple legitimate chuckles from their exchanges and was glad that we were seeing ALL the characters at their best. Though they are beginning to worry about things like food sources, and there’s this mysterious figure they keep glimpsing, who goes on to tie them up and bang on this giant gorilla skull, like it’s a dinner gong.

The episode continues to be fast-paced and high-spirited with the girls stepping in to save Jody and Donna at one point and them all growing together as wonderful family unit, despite the fact that none of them are blood relatives. As an old friend once said, “family don’t end with blood.”

In the end, it’s Claire and Kaia who end up traveling into the Bad Place and finding Sam and Dean…

AND THEY DIDN’T HAVE THE DECENCY TO SHOW US A SINGLE DINOSAUR! WE KNOW THEY’RE THERE,WE SAW THE FOOTPRINT! WE HEARD THE ROAR! BUT DO WE SEE ANY?! NOOOOOO! INSTEAD THEY STICK A GIANT GORILLA IN THERE!

But I digress.

Just as Sam, Dean, Claire, and Kaia are escaping back to their own reality, the mysterious hooded figure reappears, flinging a dagger at Claire, but Kaia knocks her out of the way, getting stabbed herself. She’s going to die. She knows it, Claire knows it, but Claire seems to be thinking “well, she doesn’t have to die alone.” All the time, the hooded figure continues to approach them. Then Claire falls back through the rift and it closes up behind her, sealing off the dead Kaia and the hooded figure.

Claire’s an emotional wreck. Jody cradles her, where she lies on the floor, and Patience realizes what her vision meant. She had been seeing Kaia’s death and its fallout all along, not Claire’s. Would it have made a difference if she had known? Likely not. Both girls were going in knowing how slim the chances were of them coming out again.

Sam and Dean thank them all, they wouldn’t have lasted much longer in that place, remarking on the family the women are forming. Then they set out to look for their own. Jack and their mother are still trapped in yet another alternate reality, and they’ll likely need saving.

Claire vows to find the hooded figure responsible for Kaia’s death, whatever it takes. But in the end it looks like the figure may come to her. Another rift has opened up somewhere else, and the hooded figure steps through. The figure lowers the hood, revealing…

Okay, here’s the thing. If you’re anything like me, then you already had this pegged. In the other alternate reality, several characters, who were dead in the Winchesters world, were still running around. So I figured whoever was in that Kylo Ren cosplay was going to have a face we recognized, the figure seemed to be female, and if this is a storyline that carries into the spin-off, then the character would likely be someone from the episode, rather than the vast cannon of Supernatural characters. And the actress who played Kaia was supposed to be one of the regulars, but it sure seemed like Kaia was dead.

So when alternate reality Kaia lowered her hood, I did not have an “Oh, gasp. I’m so shocked it’s you” reaction. If that’s what they were going for, it didn’t work. But I still had an “Oh, shit” moment. She’s in our world, she’s on the move, and she’s killing characters we like.

Overall, I think this was a stellar episode. If nothing else, it was a great episode of Supernatural, but I think the CW would have to be crazy not to order a full season of Wayward Sisters. It had great ratings, and the social media presence was incredible. But let’s make it impossible for them not to order a season. Keep writing about it, keeping making art around it, tag it in your tweets, share this article (I’d appreciate that on a personal level), and share others like it.

The Wayward Sisters have all come home. Because that’s where the monsters are. And they’re gonna give ’em hell. I just hope we get to see it.

Posted in Fandom, tv | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top 10 Syd Barrett Songs (non-Pink Floyd)

Syd Barrett, with his nursery rhyme lyrics and rhythmic guitar strumming, was an unfortunate casualty on the road to rock and roll music as we know it. This isn’t to say he died as young as some of the other greats (though he wasn’t really old, dying at age 60), but he was unable to continue creating music after his mental illness (presumed to be schizophrenia) became unmanageable, and he was forced to part ways with the band he formed: Pink Floyd.

Unfortunately, he isn’t remembered as well as musicians like Hendrix, Morrison, and Joplin. But after forming Pink Floyd, and before he left our realm of “reason,” he released lesser mentioned solo material, all the while experimenting with what music could be. Since there weren’t any rules to rock music yet, he got to make a few.

And this is really just a starter kit. If you like these and aren’t familiar with his music, check out the rest of Madcap Laughs and Barrett. There are many great songs. But here are my top 10, in order of release.

Love You (Madcap Laughs)

The tinkling of the piano sounds like something out of a saloon in the wild west. It’s upbeat, while seeming effortless and maintaining its even rhythm.

The chorus employs every overused trope-y cutesy name. However, at one point, the official lyrics seem to be “ice cream, ‘scuze me,” but could just as easily be “I scream ‘scuze me’,” which I quite like, because at that point in the song he’s introducing or reintroducing himself to the person the song’s about.

You can just picture a guy either trying to get a girl’s attention from far away or even being close up and speaking much louder than he intended: “SCUZE ME! I’VE SEEN YOU LOOKING GOOD THE OTHER EVENING!” Like that.

And then: it just ends. All of a sudden. The instruments all simultaneously stopping on a pinpoint.

Here I Go (Madcap Laughs)

One of the more accessible tracks from Syd, “Here I Go” is fairly simple in its story, a love song with a bit of a twist ending. But, as almost always is the case with Barrett, there’s a little more to it than what’s on the surface.

The song actually becomes extremely meta when you realize it’s about the very song he’s playing. One of the lyrics refers to the song as “kinda catchy,” and that it definitely is. It’s just really fucking cute.

I think the stand out lyric is “so now you see my world is…” and then he doesn’t complete the thought, the next line being “because of this tune” of this tune.” Which is more accurate as to how people talk really, than a grand love song. If we could see him (and he weren’t playing a guitar), he’d be gesturing vaguely around.

Octopus (Madcap Laughs)/Clowns and Jugglers (Opel)

The reasons I’ve put two songs together like this is that there are two versions of the song on two different albums, each with its own virtues.

“Octopus” has a slightly harsher sound to it than many of Syd’s other songs. Quick short strokes and over-enunciated words, emphasizing “T” and “K” sounds. And in the chorus he really let’s himself wail, unafraid of the occasional voice crack.

“Clowns and Jugglers,” the latter version of the song, starts with a rattatat drumming, like toy soldiers, By the end, the sound becomes psychedelic.

All the song is really about is wandering around a carnival. And there’s this one ride that’s shaped like an octopus. Not so mad and non-sensical. Just a really good song. And another really good version of that song.

Feel (Madcap Laughs)

I probably wouldn’t have put “Feel” on the list on the merit of the song alone. But several tracks from Barrett’s albums include him talking to the guy recording him in the booth.

I kept checking to see if this was because I’d reached the bonus tracks (and he does a lot of talking on those), but nope! It was actually a regular song released that way on purpose. Cause, why not? Who says you can’t?

And I know he’s not the only or first person to do it, but I can think of several other songs since then that have a bit of talking, just left in there for ambience. They’re part of the songs, not only auditorily, but the way we think of them. The spoken words are as important as the lyrics or the music. And some of that wouldn’t have stuck around if it wasn’t for people like Syd doing weird shit on their albums.

Baby Lemonade (Barrett)

“Baby Lemonade” has an intro that work’s almost as its own tiny track. It’s a good way to start an album. That almost western twanging guitar is in there, starting the song off alone.

I heard it was Syd warming up, and attached by Gilmour, who was one of the album’s producers. It’s worth noting that both David Gilmour and Rick Wright played on Barrett’s albums.

When the rest of the instruments join in, the tone shifts. I think Syd’s saying a lot in the lyrics on this one.

It’s message, whatever it really is, isn’t cheery. It starts on a drab scene, and he’s comparing someone or something to clowns and suggesting a cold audience applauding at their antics, quite possibly commenting on his own experiences playing live music.  He seems frustrated and lonely, but it’s a great song.

Rats (Barrett)

Repetitive in both its music and its lyrics, “Rats” creates a sense of anxiety, an air of restlessness.

The lyrics that don’t repeat, seem like a stream of consciousness, and while love is mentioned several times in the former half of the song, it seems anything, but romantic. Rather the ending lyrics (the bit with the rats) seems more at the core of the song, which, of course, is more likely a metaphor for people feeling unneeded and unloved, simply trying to keep out of the way.

All the elements together create a hypnotic effect. Placing it between “Is It Obvious” and “Maisie,” makes the three tracks seem to work as part of a larger whole, the pace becoming slower and Syd’s voice getting lower. The guitar part playing during all three, while different, is similar enough to create an arc.

Effervescing Elephant (Barrett)

Jungle sounds set the scene for this track, and an upbeat tuba accompanies the song as a stand in for the ill-fated elephant. The track is less than 2 minutes long, and the music doesn’t start until 20 seconds in, and continues for 20 seconds after the song ends.

Of all Barrett’s songs, the lyrics to this one sound the most like they could be a children’s book. With wild animals, a Suess-esque rhyme scheme, sound effects, the afore mentioned tuba, and the jaunty tune, this track’s delightful.

It seems like it should have some sort of moral to it, but I can’t figure out what it would be, other than don’t be an elephant when there’s a tiger nearby. Though when you listen to the elephant sounds after knowing how the story turns out, it’s a little disturbing. That elephant sounds distressed.

Lanky, Pt. 1 (Opel)

Well, you can’t make a list of Syd Barrett songs and not include a track that’s purely 5+ minutes of instrumental only music. At points it’s reminiscent of “Interstellar Overdrive,” but with chimes and bongos.

The title of the track also tickles me. While it’s possible there was meant to be a follow up, it’s just as likely Barrett never intended a Lanky, Pt. 2. I wonder if the Kinks took a cue from that for their album titled Lola vs. Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One, which was never to have a sequel. Combine that with the fact the Lanky ends with the instruments seeming to sort of just peter out, almost as though the musicians all became distracted by something outside the studio and just sort of wandered off, and it really seems to suggest it ends in the middle.

Wouldn’t You Miss Me (Dark Globe) (Opel)

“Dark Globe” first appeared on Madcap Laughs, but when Opel was released, this track was titled “Wouldn’t You Miss Me (Dark Globe),” and I like this version better.

Not unlike “Octopus” and “Clowns and Jugglers,” the version of this track on Madcap Laughs is a little more manic sounding. There was clearly a theme he was going for on that album. The Opel tracks seem to be more mellow versions.

This particular selection hits me for certain lines that sound as though they’re almost prophetic, specifically “please lift a hand. I’m only a person” and “wouldn’t you miss me at all?”

Unfortunately, suffering from a disease that so little was known about at the time, he didn’t get that help. But he is missed.

Bob Dylan Blues (The Best of Syd Barrett: Wouldn’t You Miss Me?)

This song appears to have been written earlier than most of the others, though it wasn’t released on any of Syd’s albums (it was recorded while he was working on Barrett).

Syd, like many artists in the 60’s (and forever after), was greatly inspired by Bob Dylan. So, Barrett wrote a Bob Dylan song. And it’s really good. The lyrics are from Dylan’s perspective, and it showcases the folksy and bluesy style to Syd’s music that is sometimes overshadowed or overlooked by the rock and psychedelia he became famous for.

This song is pure charm and admiration. It would have been written not long before he formed Pink Floyd, and there’s a freshness and optimism to it that’s atypical of most of his music, but a very welcome turn. So maybe it’s actually a perfect note to end the list on.

Syd Barrett performing in 1964

Posted in Music | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

8 Stand Out Stories for the 12th Doctor

We have a new Doctor. But with each new Doctor comes the end of an era. And each era comes with incredible episodes. So I compiled a list of my own favorites. And a lot of what’s on here are likely not the ones you were expecting. But these are the 8 stories from the 12th Doctor’s era that made me want to run off on an adventure,  take on an army of monsters, or hide behind the couch.

In chronological order:

Listen

Oh, HELL no!

This is, arguably, the first time we see the real power of this incarnation of the Doctor. And it’s a little…scary. But scary is good in Doctor Who, and this isn’t the only scary story I’ve included on this list even.

It plays on a very common fear that many children have: there’s something under the bed. Even as an adult, and I’ve talked to many people who are the same, I never let my leg or arm hang over the side of the bed. And I sleep on a mattress atop a boxspring atop a bed shaped wood shelf. There couldn’t be anything under the bed. Yet, that’s the rule, you never hang a limb outside the bed. Something will grab you.

The twist ending with the childhood Doctor’s ankle being grabbed by Clara hiding under the bed was brilliant, the episode has some really nice timey-wimeyness, and it creates a lovely creepy atmosphere that sticks with you.

It lost a little favor with me as I was waiting for the episode to be the beginning of a search for Gallifrey story arc that we never got, but if I can keep that out of my mind, this episode, as a single, is a knockout.

Mummy on the Orient Express

Not sure if my distaste for Clara is exacerbated or alleviated by the fact she gets to wear this dress.

It’s trains and the 20’s and a mummy, but also it’s space and time travel with Queen covers, and if that’s not enough for you, then I don’t know what you could possibly want out of life.

Much in the way that I adore “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship,” this one just ticks all the right boxes. While I wouldn’t put it on the same level as “Listen,” as far as the scares go, I do think it’s got a cracking monster and people keep dying, so there’s a definite threat that will keep you hand-wringing. And the clock (which was an idea apparently added by Moffat, despite the episode being expertly crafted by Jamie Mathieson) was a great touch.

And, oh, how I wish Frank Skinner’s character could have left with the Doctor and Clara at the end. He could have made a great part-time companion. Just popping his head out beneath the TARDIS console, as he did repairs.

The costumes and sets are especially fun in this one. The blend of past and future, or maybe more accurately, the future’s take on the past, is really fun to see in action. Plus, there’s that “are you my mummy” call back.

Flatline

I’m very much not a Clara fan, but I was delighted by how much this episode delighted me. She’s joined by Rigsy (another great coulda-companioned, written again by Jamie Mathieson), while the Doctor is trapped in a rapidly shrinking TARDIS.

The Doctor is incapacitated for almost the whole of the episode. So Clara has to go do the investigating Doctor-y things with some instruction from the Doctor, while he tries to get the exterior of the TARDIS back to its original size. And Rigsy, who they meet early on in the story, basically has to play companion for them. I admit seeing the roles all switched around is a good bit of fun.

All the while, they’re in danger of these graffiti monsters catching them and turning them two dimensional, while the monsters themselves, become multi-dimensional. This leads to some really interesting shots, forcing director Douglas Mackinnon to get creative.

Of course, what people really remember, and why I love it so, are all the visual gags with the Doctor stuck in the tiny TARDIS, having to spider hand walk it around and everything, which succeeds at being properly funny.

The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar

The two parter nature of series 9 let’s the stories really take their time. Sometimes the stories feel long, but in this case there was enough going on to keep me interested, and it’s one of the better Dalek stories we’ve had in a good long while.

I’d argue we really get Missy, who I LOVE, at her best here. As evil and nasty and dangerous as ever, but absolutely necessary. And she’s not even the bad guy! No! We’ve got to deal with Davros, in the ultimate if-you-could-go-back-in-time-and-kill-Hitler-would-you allegory. Not the first time this was done on the show, but still very effective, with the Doctor forced to face little boy Davros and decide his fate.

The Doctor riding into a medieval arena on a tank, while playing electric guitar is probably the best re-introduction to a character ever (and a great way to signal “this ain’t your series 8 12th Doctor”).

My only disappointment was, when Missy stuffs Clara into the Dalek casing, I thought the narrative was gonna wrap around, so it turned out Clara became Oswin from “Asylum of the Daleks,” which turned out not to be case. But it doesn’t really track when you think about it, and it wasn’t the story being told.

The Woman Who Lived

If you’ve spent any time on my blog, you’ve probably pegged that I’m a Maisie Williams fan. So I was a little let down by “The Girl Who Died,” which both introduced her character and was written, in part, by Jamie Mathieson, who had never let me down before.

“The Woman Who Lived” really stands on it’s own. Though it’s set up as part 2, really it’s not connected to any of the episodes. Considering how important Williams’ character becomes, I’d have been curious to see “Girl” sprinkled in earlier in the season and “Woman” later. Anyway, point is, the episodes are totally different, and I love what they did with Williams in “The Woman Who Lived,” riding in like she’s Adam Ant in a music video.

It feels like a good old-fashioned “let’s go on an adventure” episode, the likes of which we hadn’t had in awhile, with Ashildr as the unmanageable companion. But there were also some real issues that went along with her immortality that were touched on.

Ashildr really gets a chance to arc in this episode, more than any of her others, and the Doctor gets the chance to make some puns, and they play just lovely opposite each other. The setting, the tone, the atmosphere, I just want to crawl into this episode and play awhile.

The Pilot

In which we are introduced to the infectiously enthusiastic Bill. If you don’t like her, put this post aside a moment, you seem to have misplaced your soul somewhere. She was the right companion at the right time.

Clara knew as much about the Doctor as anyone. Bill knew nothing about him. After two and a half seasons with the girl who had literally wandered around in the Doctor’s time stream, your zeal may start to waver. Seeing the 12th Doctor from a new perspective gave us yet another re-introduction. The 12th works as a professor at a university, giving him a place to show off, while keeping him grounded.

The student/teacher relationship that the two quickly form, while it was done with the 7th Doctor and Ace in the classic series, wasn’t something that the show had done anything with since it’s reboot. It works really well in contemporary times.

“The Pilot” is fast paced and has enough intrigue to keep you interested without making you want to claw your ears off with frustration. And we’re given the thread of Heather, who, while I wish she was further established over the series, is important in the finale.

Thin Ice

We get to visit regency era London, play at a carnival atop a frozen lake, and watch the Doctor punch a racist in the face! All in the course of a single episode! Bill’s excitement at her first real outing in the past is a big part of what makes this episode so joyous.

The Doctor is really in his element here, getting to show off his historical knowledge, while also having to use his detective skills. He eventually learns the “monster” is not so monstrous and gives it its freedom. Again, we’ve seen similar stories on the show before, but the execution of this one maybe works best of all. The Doctor even manages to set up some street urchins with a pretty hefty fund.

I love all the costumes in this episode. Obviously the main costumes that the Doctor and Bill wear throughout, but also the regency-era scuba gear they need when they go under the ice. It has an air of steampunk about it.

There’s also a lot of fun with the sonic screwdriver, which, now that it’s a screwdriver again, I found very enjoyable. Admittedly, it’s very sciency-wiency, but in a very entertaining and true to form science-fantasy way.

Oxygen

This is the other spookier episode on the list. Space suits that can control you, blind you, or kill you is properly chilling. It makes for the Doctor doing some really top-notch bluffing. Evil suits not enough? He may just blow himself up!

It’s a space set episode, which we hadn’t had in awhile and I think it was a nice place to slot it in. As much as I love the show jumping around in history, it’s cool to have these more science fiction feeling episodes in the middle of it, all technology gone wrong and evil corporations and running out of oxygen in space. The idea of oxygen, something so basic to human survival, being considered a commodity is the stuff of great dystopia.

This episode employs the stranded without the TARDIS situation. It’s the perfect set-up for a Monster in the House style story. The Doctor without his TARDIS is always a heartbreaking thing, and whenever they’re reunited, it feels like a huge triumph.

The episode opens with the Doctor saying “space, the final frontier,” and even I, who am not much of a trekkie, felt a little trill in my heart at the idea that the Doctor is a part of the same geeky fandoms that the fans are.

************************************************************************************

That’s my list! Bracing myself for the hate at not including “Heaven Sent,” but the truth of the matter is it just isn’t one of my favorites and it’s my list. So there. But really Peter Capaldi was magnificent, and it breaks my heart that he’s no longer the Doctor. Now I just have to wait for Jodie Whittaker to mend it.

Posted in tv | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Runaways: Thoughts on Episodes 1-5

Netflix has been getting a lot of attention from the series’ they’re doing with Marvel. After the success of 2 seasons of Daredevil, a season of Jessica Jones, and a season of Luke Cage, and even the, er, more lukewarm reception of Iron Fist, The Defenders, and The Punisher, they seemed to absolutely have the formula down for how to do a series about adult heroes (or antiheroes) in gritty contemporary America. But what if someone made a show about teenage Marvel heroes? That formula would have to be different. So Hulu decided to take a whack at it and picked up The Runaways.

I’ve read a good portion of the comic. My enjoyment of it was the reason I wanted to watch the show in the first place. I liked the source material. Of course, leading up to its premier there was a lot of muttering about how this or that looked too different from the comic. I don’t have a problem with things being changed. They absolutely have to be if you’re converting a media, so I decided to be cautiously optimistic, and I think that was 100% the right way to feel.

I don’t love Hulu’s The Runaways. I like it. There are a lot of things that I don’t like, but there are some really great things about it.

Whether, in your brain, you want to say the universe of this show and the universe of all the Netflix shows is the same, could essentially be left up to you. I’ll be clear, they have nothing to do with each other. Yet. And those shows are all set in New York. Runaways is set in LA. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I’m from LA. And I slightly resent New York for being considered America’s “it” city. Like, we’re always somehow seen as 2nd best, and that slightly needles at me. But the LA in The Runaways feels a little glossy in a way I don’t love. I get that it’s stylized. It’s a TV show about a comic, and most of the people in this show are ridiculously rich. Like insanely ridiculously rich. So maybe they can afford to somehow have a filter inserted in their retinas. I’m just saying, if the whole series looked like the credits sequence, I’d not being sticking around for the ensuing episode.

It’s a little more teen-angsty than is ideal for me. And there’s this whole thing about how Chase had a falling out with his Lacrosse buddies after he stopped them from raping Karolina, which, like, ugh. That’s not a thing from the original content and is clearly just there to say “look! Chase may act like a dick, but he’s a hero to root for.”

It follows the comic. And it completely strays from the comic.

All the characters got updated a little. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I think it especially worked for Gert. But, like, in the comic, my favorite character was Nico. And I still like her in this, but there’s this whole storyline about this dead sister that was invented for the show. And I get why they put her in there, but it just casts a dark angsty shadow over the whole series. And I thought this was supposed to be the light Marvel show.

One of the major differences is how much of the show focuses on the parents. In the comics, they quickly become the villains. They’re still villains here, but we’re shown quite a few of the events from their perspective. And the kids are less willing to believe that the parents are super evil and less anxious to…er…runaway. 5 episodes in and that hasn’t happened yet. It will, right? I mean, there’s the title to think of.

The parents are all given their own little plots. Alex’s father is an ex-convict, who married his lawyer, Nico’s parents are trapped in a loveless marriage and the father is having an affair with Chases’s mother, whose husband is physically and mentally abusive and played by James Marsters.

The problem is when I hear a young whippersnapper giving lip to James Marsters, I want to grab him by the lapels and yell, “first of all, he’s Spike! Second of all, he’s made out with John Barrowman! So sit down and shut up! You might learn a thing or two!”

Then there’s Karolina’s mother, who started a cult and has some disconcerting relationship with, like, Immortan Joe from Mad Max: Fury Road. And her husband’s sort of a well-meaning idiot, who doesn’t really know anything. Finally, there are Gert’s parents, who are also Molly’s adoptive parents. They’re just sort of quirky and entertaining and my favorite. And there’s that whole dinosaur thing. I’ll get to that in a bit. You got all that? Great. Moving on.

For the most part, characters and costumes are spot on. The most notable exception being Molly Hayes becoming Molly Hernandez, but I’m totally okay with it. As a matter of fact, I think Molly may be my favorite of the kids. She’s younger than the others and develops super strength (which coincides with her first getting her period. That’s right, kids. Menstruation gives you super powers), and she’s just really psyched about it. The others are happy about their abilities and weapons, as well, but they can’t control them in the same way, and they don’t have the same giddiness about it all, like Molly.

But the pacing! The pacing has GOT to pick up. That’s one of my major problems. Where we ended up by the end of episode 5 (which was great) needed to happen by episode 3, or even episode 2 if you really wanted a nice clip. That was really where all the stuff I’d been waiting for happened. The gang was all together. Their superpowers or super weapons were all revealed. The relationships with the parents were all heightened in one way or another. The time machine premise was finally named (meaning they finally were like “yeah, here’s the time machine”), and the future’s gonna be dire. And we actually got some good quality time with Old Lace. It was great. But we should have gotten there sooner.

So finally, let’s talk bout Old Lace. Cause honestly who the hell cares about literally anything else when there’s s goddamn dinosaur on the show? To be fair, the series actually does a good job about making you care about the anything else you have to watch to get to the goddamn dinosaur bits. They really buried the lead on Old Lace when they were first promoting the show. There was no mention of her or confirmation she’d appear, she was missing from all the photos…and then, that glorious teaser. It was only a moment and only at the very end, and it was only a salivating snout, but we had our dinosaur. Clever girl…

The way she’s used in the show, so far has been pretty great. There’s, of course, a big mysterious build up, and she pounces on Molly, but the scene between Old Lace, Molly, Gert, and the parents in episode 5 is exactly why I’m tuning in to this show. It also makes me wonder what other possibilities this could open up in future. Like, all my friends are probably sick of me saying this, but can we have a Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur series/movie now? It should be for a slightly younger audience, but bring me them dinos!

The other thing I really appreciate about Old Lace is that she’s not 100% CGI. They used practical effects for some of her scenes too. It seems like there’s something there. Because there’s really something there!

So there’s a lot in The Runaways I like. As I’m writing this. the 6th episode is already available, but I’m saving it. I like to watch them in little groups. If you’re on the fence, it may be worth checking out. Just be prepared. You need to give it a little time. Then it just may runaway with you. (Sorry.)

Posted in tv | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Running Commentary of “Home” (The X-Files)

Okay. I’m a massive fan of The X-Files, but when first watching the show all the way through, I skipped the episode “Home.” I was watching it with my mother and she didn’t want to sit through it again.  I also have a friend who stopped watching The X-Files after this episode, because she was so disturbed by it. On top of that, there are all these stories about how they wouldn’t rebroadcast it, about it being the first episode of the series to get a viewer discretion warning and TV-MA rating, and it all built up this kind of mystique in my head. But I decided to be brave and watch the episode (in the morning. Before work. With daylight. And total control over volume and playback). Let’s do this.

It’s a cute house, really. Bit of a fixer upper…

-Yikes. That opening is unsettling. Though nothing necessarily paranormal happened.

-Mulder is a child. Whenever they’re at a crime scene he has to play with the victim’s/suspect’s/witness’s stuff. Put the baseball down.

-Interesting. Mulder and Scully don’t have the same picture of an idyllic lifestyle.

-I can almost hear banjos dueling in the distance.

-Ew! Ew. Ew. You kept the dead baby on a tray in the fridge? With your food?! Eeeeew!

-Loving the Andy Griffith references.

-Always with the flirting.

-I’m expecting to hear a chainsaw revved up at any moment…

-But why does the Peacock family choose to live in the dark like that in the first place? Actually, to be fair, I usually keep the curtains drawn as long as possible. But I’ve not boarded up my windows yet. Yet.

-Mulder going into yoga poses to pick up the TV signal is a problem today’s kids won’t understand.

-Are the Peacocks wearing goth lipstick in the scene where they all pile into the car?

-“Maybe you don’t have to lock your doors around here.” There’s  a murderer on the loose, Mulder! How ’bout tonight we lock the door?!

-I’m terrified for Sheriff Andy.

-Yep. There he goes.

-Could they smell the wife? Cause I’d actually count a heightened sense of smell as a plus on the evolutionary track.

-I get that they’re inbred, but they’re also all incredibly deformed, which could just be a different thing. Like, do they ever address how long this family’s been like this? It couldn’t have been more than two generations, right? Also, they really remind me of something…

Buffy vampires. That’s what it is. They look like Buffy vampires.

These lovely gentlemen kill newborns.

-Ooooh, Deputy Barney’s out for blood.

-I don’t wanna know what happened to the chickens all those feathers belong to.

-Bye, Barney. But, like, obviously that was gonna happen.

-Maybe they should have more than 2 people handling the Monster House job. Though now I’m really hoping for some serious Home Alone antics.

-Ohmigod. Scully speaking Babe to the pigs. But, of course, that’s the command to herd sheep, not pigs. I presume that’s why it isn’t working.

-Yes! Indiana Jones house!

-Mulder’s reaction to the news about Elvis has me in stitches.

-Okay, so I had already heard about the mother under the bed, which makes this all…well, less surprising, I don’t know about less disturbing. Also, there are a lot of women being stowed under beds in this episode.

-“They’re such good boys.” They’re really not.

-WHY ARE THEY IMPERVIOUS TO BULLETS? And baseball bats for that matter?

-She’s not there…how…

-Just chilling in the trunk (no, I know what was actually happening in the trunk. They just had to cram a little more incest in the end).

-That seems risky though. What if he locked himself in and couldn’t get back out? I’ve never been locked in a car trunk before. How do you get out of a closed trunk?

-Aaaaand the song “Wonderful Wonderful” is effectively ruined for me now.

-Other than the fact that they’d been shot a dozen times before going down, which was never commented on, there was nothing supernatural about this case, and I don’t understand why Mulder and Scully were specifically assigned to it, and the audience subjected to it.

Okay. It actually wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. But I think a lot of that can be chalked up to the fact that I knew what it was about going in. And I knew that the limbless mother was under the bed. I had really built this one up in my brain, based on everything I heard about it, but I’m actually feeling pretty okay. Almost…I’m tempted to say underwhelmed, but that makes it sound like it wasn’t good. I’m not saying that. It’s a great episode. I was just expecting nightmares.

But no time to linger. I have a re-watch to finish before the new episodes come out in January.

Posted in tv | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Maleficent is Definitely 100% the Best Disney Villain

You know the movie Maleficent? Fuck that movie. Not because it’s a terrible movie. It’s not. I mean, it isn’t great, but it isn’t terrible. Maleficent, the movie, is basically the concept of Wicked (more the musical than the book) with the ending from Frozen tacked onto it. And, hey, Disney? You know that stunt you pulled where the crow turns into a dragon and Maleficent definitely doesn’t? YOU HAD ONE JOB! Turn Maleficent into a dragon at the end! And you couldn’t even do that right!

No, for this post, I’ll be looking at the animated film, Sleeping Beauty, from 1959. A movie whose villain stole the show in such a way, that Disney thought “gee, she’s popular. Wanna give her an origin story that fucks up the reason people like her?” (I’ll lay off now, but JEEZ. US.)

The reason that people are so taken with Maleficent is that she goes above and beyond the call of evil, and she enjoys it. Not that she goes around attacking random people, but if she feels you’ve wronged her, she will take her revenge. But not by going after you, by going after your loved ones.

What happens is, Maleficent makes everyone a little uneasy, so the king and queen have a baby and don’t invite Maleficent to the christening or baby party or whatever. Like she wouldn’t hear about that shit.

Fun fact: In the original fairy tale there were a bunch more fairies and they couldn’t invite them all cause they didn’t have enough golden plates. So the 13th fairy, the only one who didn’t get invited was like, “well curse you, and your stupid baby.” Maybe invite her and give her a silver plate next time? Not indicative of anything. I just think it’s funny. I’ve never not invited someone over because I didn’t have enough cutlery.

Oh, and you may have noticed that in the fairy tale, she was a fairy. That didn’t change in the adaptation. Kindly stop calling her a witch. I’m sure that’s not doing you any favors.

Anyway, of course she hears about the baby party, and of course she’s upset she didn’t get an invite. So she whooshes in (THAT ENTRANCE) and chats with the party guests and the king and queen. And they’re embarrassed, but Maleficent claims she fine with it. As a matter of fact she’s gonna give the baby a gift. Then PSYCH! She’s super pissed, she has been wronged, and as a punishment to the parents, she curses the kid, so she’ll die on her 16th birthday by pricking her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel. Admittedly a weird method of execution. Then she evil laughs and disappears. She’s clearly enjoying herself.

And another fairy’s like, “seems unfair to the kid, maybe she’ll just be a really deep sleeper if I enchant her.” So, yeah, Cruella wants to skin puppies, but Maleficent likes to curse babies. Babies that have done nothing to her. To settle a score with the parents.

Fast forward to Aurora (the baby from the baby party) being 15 years and 364 days old. Maleficent has her literal pig-headed henchmen looking for Aurora and they just can’t find her. Why? Cause ‘”they were looking for a baby.” As at the party, Maleficent laughs it off at first, giving her minions a false sense of security. Then she starts shooting crazy lightening at them all. She’s so good at being evil.

But Aurora is found, and it doesn’t matter that the king has burned all the spinning wheels, Maleficent just magic’s one up, puts Aurora in a trance, and Aurora pricks her finger. By the time the “good” fairies get there, it’s too late, and Maleficent does the most dramatic reveal of the dead princess in maybe all of cinematic history. Feel badly about yourselves, good fairies! Feel very very bad!

She also decides to kidnap Prince Phillip, Aurora’s betrothed, for good measure.

Side note on the subject of Prince Phillip: He’s the first Disney prince to don a personality. Up to this point, Disney had featured only 2 other princes in an animated feature. These are Snow White and the Seven Dwarves‘ prince, who is never mentioned by name in the film (apparently they retconned him the name Florian), and  “Prince Charming” from Cinderella. Neither have much screen time, nor many lines, but are meant to represent a happy ending for a put upon, soon to be princess. Sleeping Beauty went in a different direction. First off, Aurora’s already a princess, though she doesn’t know it. When she finds out she’s a princess, she thinks this will be a problem, because she likes Phillip and she has no reason to think he’s a prince. Phillip has even less reason to believe Aurora’s a princess, and if everyone had just been upfront from the beginning, it would have saved a LOT of trouble with this vengeful fairy. Ah, well. It may be better actually, because this is where Maleficent goes above and beyond the call of baddie.

So, anyway, Phillip’s personality is that of an arrogant dick. Oh, I never said it was a good personality, but it’s a personality nonetheless. He’s brash, he’s stubborn, he’s patronizing, and goddamn it, I still prefer him to the previous princes. At least, he’s interesting to watch. And this is actually important, because it makes Maleficent more evil, facing off with a more fully realized character. Now, unfortunately, this personality only lasts for the first half of the movie. He turns mute and cliche at the end, which is too bad. But at the point he’s captured, he’s a realized character.

Cat got your tongue? She took that gag off, dude.

Maleficent takes the captured prince home and proceeds to physically, emotionally, and psychologically torture him. Is it any wonder we all adore her so much?! As a villain, I mean. Great villain. When else has a Disney villain psychologically tortured the captured hero?

To refresh your memory, she throws Phillip in a dungeon,which is pretty basic bad guy fare, but she pays him little visits. During these visits she tells him stories about princes rescuing princesses and waking them with true love’s kiss. The narrative she tells is the happily ever after narrative that we are all waiting to have happen already. Here’s the nasty part, as she tells the story, she conjures visual images to go along with it. They show the story she’s telling, but in them Phillip is an old man, barely able to stay atop his horse, who is also incredibly old, struggling to walk towards the tower where Aurora sleeps, in her eternal youth and beauty. Maleficent absolutely intends to release Phillip. Just as soon as he’s actually dying of old age. Then he can wake up Aurora.

So, anyway, the goody-two shoes fairies show up to ruin everyone’s fun. They release our suddenly boring hero, and give him magic shit, which is absolutely one hundred percent the only reason he wins the fight. Phillip goes thundering toward Aurora’s tower on his trusty steed, while Maleficent’s up in another tower making weather, when she decides to create a literal barrier between Phillip and Aurora and magics up some wicked thorns. Phillip begins hacking away at them, and Maleficent’s like “this turd just won’t stahp!” But she’s got one more ace up her flared sleeve, and it’s a doozy.

SHE TURNS INTO A DRAGON.

That’s it. We’re done. Nothing can ever top that. Jafar’s giant cobra is the only thing close, but snakes are a thing. Dragon’s are mythological. That doesn’t slow her down for a moment. Oh, and Maleficent’s using her own damn magic.

There’s one teensy little thing that Maleficent is missing, that a lot of other Disney villains have. A song. This was before Disney started giving their baddies songs though, so it seems a little unfair to dock her for that.

So cursed babies, captured princes who are torture in all the ways, making lightning, conjuring thorns, and turning into a dragon. All while looking fashionable and balancing a green and purple motif (two colors I would not have thought go together). She’s the best at being bad.

Posted in film | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment