Pop Culture Download: September 23, 2018

Pop Culture Download: September 23, 2018

 

(…and, really, since August 26. Let’s play catch-up!)

On the Docket

Veronica Mars is returning, this time to Hulu. – [TVLine]

CBS exec Les Moonves steps down after even more sexual assault allegations. – [New Yorker]

Burt Reynolds has died at the age of 82. – [THR]

Captain Marvel is on the cover of Entertainment Weekly… – [EW]

…with an interview… – [EW]

…and word that more female-centric Marvel films are coming… – [EW]

…and exclusive photographs/stills… – [EW]

…and a trailer! – [YouTube]

Star Trek: Discovery is bridging the first and second seasons with a project called Short Treks. – [StarTrek.com]

Disney CEO Bob Iger sat down with The Hollywood Reporter for a chat about Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and the Mouse House. – [THR]

Keith DeCandido continues the 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch: The Wolverine, LoganKick-Ass, Kick-Ass 2, and Iron Man. – [Tor]

Read More »

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Timestamp Special #10: Scream of the Shalka

Doctor Who: Scream of the Shalka
(6 episodes, 2003)

 

I wouldn’t trade Christopher Eccleston for the world, but this is an interesting case of what could have been for the Ninth Doctor.

After a rather upbeat opening sequence, the adventure begins a meteor strike near a volcano. Two nearby observers follow the meteor, their curiosity paid out with death. Elsewhere, the TARDIS materializes and a rather cross (and gothic) Ninth Doctor takes a look around. He’s there against his will and locked out of the TARDIS, so he has no choice but to explore.

He pops into local pub and meets Alison Cheney, a woman who is less scared than her peers to speak about whatever is going on in the area. The Doctor leaves, and Alison reassures someone in the shadows that they’re all being good. As the Doctor encounters a homeless woman and a lava statue, the Earth opens near Alison’s feet and swallows the TARDIS. Before the woman can shed any light on the mystery, a mysterious force kills her.

The Doctor is furious, and he tracks Alison to the home that she shares with her boyfriend Joe. The Time Lord questions her and discovers that the ground is the key. Alison shares what she knows while Joe denies everything: The aliens want the humans above ground to remain as quiet as possible. Within minutes, the floor bursts open and creatures scream into the room. The Doctor reflects the screams back at the creature, using the sound as a diversionary weapon to stage an escape. In a storage closet nearby, they improvise an explosion that destroys two of the creatures and stops the rumbling underground.

The Doctor attempts to leave, but his TARDIS is still missing, so he calls in UNIT. The Doctor explains that the creatures seem to be interested in the special volcanic rock and provides the UNIT commander with a map in exchange for their help in retrieving the TARDIS. They all descend into the caves, and the Doctor separates himself from the UNIT detachment to find the aliens without military interference.

Underground, the aliens attempt to take the TARDIS by force, but they find the Master standing at the console and are soon ejected from the capsule. So, they take another approach: They kidnap Alison. The Doctor arrives shortly thereafter and encounters Prime, war chief of the Shalka confederacy and leader of the aliens. Prime considers the humans to be primitive and subject to domination, and she calls the Doctor on his ploy to act dumb by taking advantage of his attachment to humanity, tipping his hand and forcing him to comply.

He leads Prime into the TARDIS and deactivates the Master, who turns out to be nothing more than an android security system almost like Antimony. Prime sees the Doctor as a primitive and kicks him out of the TARDIS, leading to a touching one-on-one between the Time Lord and Alison. Later, Prime forces the Doctor into a space-time wormhole (converted to a black hole for waste removal) that they have created. As he plummets into it, he uses his mobile phone to summon the TARDIS and eject the Shalka, who have since reactivated the Master-bot. Meanwhile, the Shalka have (mysteriously) returned Alison to the surface, but with a wound on her forehead and severe headache.

The Doctor overrides the Master-bot, whom he has programmed to always leave the Doctor’s young, human female friends behind, and materializes the TARDIS in the UNIT commander’s office. There he learns that Alison has survived and that UNIT has captured a Shalka after it was immobilized by pure oxygen. The Doctor takes the opportunity to analyze the Shalka, linking the rampant cases of laryngitis to the Shalka’s mental control. He also learns that the refugees from the town never made it to their shelters.

In the woods, all of the refugees are reunited and Alison discovers that her head wound is really a small Shalka under her skin. That Shalka forces the refugees (and similarly, around the world) to march. The Doctor and UNIT troops arrive in the TARDIS and confront Alison’s group, and the Doctor extracts the Shalka and stops the local conflict. When he recovers, he develops a plan with UNIT and explains the sore throats, which are the Shalka using the humans to emit subsonic screams in Earth’s atmosphere while they change the planet to suit their needs.

The Doctor and Alison (to Joe’s annoyance) leave to stop the threat. The Master, who cannot leave the TARDIS, stays behind as the Doctor and Alison confront Prime in the Shalka lair. They are confined, break free, and confront the Shalka as the Doctor swallows the mini-Shalka that was in Alison’s head. He bonds with it long enough understand their screams and engage in a sonic duel with the Shalka. He tricks Prime into standing near the wormhole, which he shifts to black hole-mode long enough to send Prime on a one-way trip to her doom.

With consent, he regurgitates the Shalka and reconnects it with Alison so she can shut down the slaves and Shalka worldwide. She succeeds, but he stops her just before the Shalka can be used to completely heal the planet because she cannot be allowed to wield that much power. After a brief exploration of the Doctor’s faults against his philosophies, the Time Lord invites her for tea on the TARDIS.

Alison and the Master-bot chat about how the Doctor would love to invite her to be his first living companion in a long time, but the Time Lord will not ask. His last companion was killed on the adventure that led to the Master’s consciousness being embedded in an android and the Doctor entering a self-imposed exile.

The Doctor escorts Alison back to Joe and UNIT, intent on saying goodbye. Alison decides to travel with the Doctor, and Joe reluctantly gives her his blessing.

And off they go.

 

This Doctor is very quippy and aggressive, bridging the Ninth and Tenth Doctors that we know from the revival era. He’s also reluctant to act and ready to die if need be, making me wonder what happened near the end of the Eighth Doctor’s life to drive him to this point. That does drive one question, though: Who or what locked the Doctor out of the TARDIS? Was it the Master-bot, was it the TARDIS in an

I would love to see more of this alternate Doctor.

Richard E. Grant (The Doctor) last appeared in The Curse of Fatal Death, and will appear again in the future. Similarly, we’ll see Sophie Okonedo (Alison), Derek Jacobi (The Master-bot), and David Tennant (uncredited as the Caretaker) again.

 

Before we get back on the regular timeline, we have one last stop to make with the Eighth Doctor.

 

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Shada (Eighth Doctor)

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

Debrief: Dragon Con 2018

Debrief: Dragon Con 2018
Atlanta, GA – August 30 through September 3, 2018

 

 

Dragon Con 2018 is in the books and, as always, it was a fantastic show. Crowds were a little lower this year, coming in at an estimated 80,000 against the anticipated 85,000. The vibe seemed a little off this year, but it still provided a chance to catch up with some friends and family.Read More »

Timestamp Special #9: The Curse of Fatal Death

Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death
(4 episodes, 1999)

 

Five Doctors in twenty minutes: That must be a record.

Starting off with a little backstory, this was shown as part of the 1999 Comic Relief Red Nose Day telethon. This comedic special starred Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean, Blackadder) as the ninth incarnation of the Doctor, Richard E. Grant (Scream of the Shalka, Logan) as the “quite handsome” tenth incarnation, Jim Broadbent (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Paddington) as the slapstick shy eleventh incarnation, Hugh Grant (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill) as the (not “quite”) handsome twelfth incarnation, and Joanna Lumley (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Sapphire & Steel) as the thirteenth incarnation.

Alongside all those Doctors, we also had Jonathan Pryce (Tomorrow Never Dies, Brazil) as an over-the-top version of the Master and Julia Sawalha (Absolutely Fabulous, Chicken Run) as companion (in more ways than one) Emma, and the adventure was penned by Steven Moffat, who would go on to Coupling before coming back to Doctor Who.

Got all that? There may be a quiz later.

On to the story…

After a revival of the Fourth Doctor’s title sequence, we watch as The Master chases the Doctor through the temporal vortex, maniacally blustering about his evil plan to kill the Doctor and spoiling the important parts through his inability to operate a speakerphone. The Doctor and his companion Emma meet the Master on Tersurus – the planet was previously inhabited by a race that was peace-loving, shunned because they communicated by passing gas through precision modulation, and were self-exterminated after they discovered fire – and of course the Master traps them by arriving early. The Doctor and Emma trade traps with the Master, each party having arrived earlier than the other. Emma interrupts the roundabout party with a revelation: The Doctor has found love with Emma and plans to retire, get married, and settle into domestic bliss.

The Master is disgusted, and he travels back in time to convince the castle’s architect to install a trap door to the sewers. The Doctor turns the tables again by going back even further to place the trap door under the Master. Before they can leave, an aged Master arrives (after three centuries trying to escape the sewer) with Daleks to exact his vengeance. The Doctor traps the Master in the sewers twice more, and a chase commences with the Daleks and an even more aged Master.

The Daleks capture the travelers for the Master (now rejuvenated by superior and firm Dalek technology), who has promised them the means to conquer the universe. Of course, the Daleks plan to exterminate the Master, and the Doctor informs the Master of this double-cross in Tersuran. The Daleks figure it out anyway and shoot the Doctor, who then regenerates from his ninth body into his tenth.

After a brief memory refresher, the Daleks ask the Doctor to stop the overload that they started, but a few crossed wires results in another regeneration, exchanging the tenth incarnation for the eleventh. Another short circuit causes another regeneration, and a residual discharge forces another (which needs a little prompting from Emma, the Master, and the Daleks).

In a moment of foreshadowing, the Doctor’s new body is female.

Unfortunately, Emma is not keen on marrying the Doctor in her new form, but the Master and the Doctor spark something special and walk off into the end credits together.

 

This was certainly funny (in the British comedy tradition of sex and bodily function humor) but not particularly deep. Honestly, there’s no particular need for depth since it’s played for laughs to spur donations. That’s the whole drive of Comic Relief after all.

The element of the Doctor finding romance is still a key element, but it’s hard to tell if Steven Moffat and company are spoofing the idea or trying to further it in the franchise. The continual ramping up of the Doctor’s sexuality in this twenty-minute segment points to the joke, but we certainly know what he’ll think of the concept in years to come.

And even though this was a BBC-authorized television production bridging the gap between the TV movie and the 2005 revival, I certainly disagree with his notion that this could have been a legitimate continuation of the franchise.

 

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Scream of the Shalka

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

Timestamp: Eighth Doctor Summary

Doctor Who: Eighth Doctor Summary

 

The Eighth Doctor was immense creative power in a limited television run.

Sure, he only had two outings on screen, but they were jam-packed with character – nearly polar opposites between the two, showcasing in a limited time just how much this Doctor experienced and how much it impacted him – and certainly piqued my interest in his further adventures.

The Eighth Doctor we saw in the television movie was fresh from regeneration and full of child-like wonder as he learned who he was. It was a follow-through from the Seventh Doctor (without the dark edges) and, for me, a welcome shift. It was a look into the Doctor’s soul, seeing the playful energy and wonder mixed with a strict determination to save the universe from evil. And that brief romantic streak? How much time to we have to discuss the Doctor and love?

Around the 50th anniversary, Craig Ferguson aired a Doctor Who episode of The Late, Late Show in which he summarized the franchise: “It’s all about the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism.” Time and time again, the Doctor has shown an emotional attachment – well beyond the analytical, well beyond the mission of simply defeating evil – to the people of Earth and the causes of justice and good. The Doctor brings light to the darkness, and I argue that love is but one of the ways that darkness is vanquished.

The Doctor is a student of human philosophy, and that philosophy throughout our history is replete with thoughts, discussions, and musings on love. The ancient Greeks, for example, identified five different types of love: Familial (storge), friendly (philia), romantic (eros), hospitality (xenia, also known as “guest love”), and divine (agape, such as devotion to a chosen deity or faith). Before the televised movie, the Doctor had exercised four of those five – the Doctor’s faith, and thus divine love, is to that of good triumphing over evil – and to understand the human condition it only made sense to understand the fifth as well.

As for arguments that we don’t need to see the Doctor in a sexual light, a commonality across philosophy is that romance can lead to sex, but does not need to pertain to sex. For the Doctor to find romantic (read: deep or passionate) love marks one step closer to understanding what the Doctor fights for.

The tragedy comes in the Eighth Doctor’s final adventure, and this is where the Eighth Doctor’s journey strikes me in parallel to that of Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars films. Both the Doctor and Anakin (before he became Darth Vader) were deeply compassionate people. Both characters maintained their ideals on compassion – “Compassion, which I would define as unconditional love, is essential to a Jedi’s life. So you might say, that we are encouraged to love.” – and the fight against evil, but both also succumbed to darker aspects in search of their goals.

Anakin saved Palpatine and embraced the Dark Side in order to learn forbidden knowledge to save Padmé (and was deceived in the process), and the Doctor embraced the warrior ways to stop the destruction of the universe. I’m not saying that the Doctor is about to slay an entire room of children with a lightsaber (or sonic screwdriver), but I know that war changes people. The callouses the Doctor develops from this point forward will be visible for some time.

This is science fiction reflecting the human condition. This is science fiction at its most powerful.

Now we watch the Doctor walk back from the brink: Intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism.

 

Following tradition…

The First Doctor was a wise grandfather, the Second a sly jester, the Third a secret agent scientist, the Fourth an inquisitive idealist, the Fifth an honorable humanitarian, the Sixth a squandered cynic, the Seventh a curious schemer…

…and the Eighth Doctor is a classical romantic.

 

Doctor Who: The Movie – 4
The Night of the Doctor –  5

Eighth Doctor’s Weighted Average Rating: 4.50

 

Ranking (by score)
1- Eighth (4.50)
2 – Third (4.00)
3 – Second (3.67)
4 – Fourth (3.67)
5 – Seventh (3.54)
6 – First (3.41)
7 – Fifth (3.20)
8 – Sixth (2.73)

Ranking (by character)
1 – Second Doctor
2 – Eighth Doctor
3 – Third Doctor
4 – Fourth Doctor
5 – Seventh Doctor
6 – First Doctor
7 – Fifth Doctor
8 – Sixth Doctor

 

From here, the project will make As noted before, the project will makes three more non-canon classic-era stops – The Curse of Fatal Death, Scream of the Shalka, and the Eighth Doctor’s version of Shada – before moving into the Ninth Doctor’s tenure (and the modern era) with Rose.

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Curse of the Fatal Death

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #161: The Night of the Doctor

Doctor Who: The Night of the Doctor
(1 episode, 2013)

 

The last plank bridging the classic and modern televised eras of Doctor Who.

A crippled spaceship careens through space, piloted by a woman named Cass who is bantering with the onboard computer for assistance. When she asks for help, the computer offers a doctor, and one arrives… but not the one she expected. The Eighth Doctor attempts to rescue her – she stayed with the ship when everyone else teleported away in panic, and I love that her reason for staying behind was that everyone else was screaming – but she rejects his help when she figures out that he is a Time Lord. She believes that he is part of the ongoing Time War and wants no part in it.

Cass locks the Doctor in the hold with his TARDIS and the ship crashes on the nearby planet. In a coincidence, the planet is Karn, home of the Sisterhood of Karn. Unfortunately, the crash killed everyone onboard, including the Doctor. And that would be the end of things if not for the Elixir of Life.

The sisters move the Doctor to an altar and restore his life for a mere four minutes. They offer him the chance to live again, to regenerate, because the Time War threatens the whole of reality without escape. They plead with him to fulfill his mission to help the people of the universe, offering a custom regeneration to suit the task: Fat or thin, young or old, man or woman, fast or strong, wise or angry. The Doctor chooses the form of a warrior to fight the battle, asking if the process will hurt. He takes comfort in knowing that it will.

He salutes the companions that we never get to see on screen – CharleyC’rizzLucieTamsin and Molly are all Big Finish audio companions – and drinks deep from the elixir. Almost instantly, he glows with explosive regeneration energy. Moments later, he dons Cass’s bandoleer and offers her a final farewell, gazing upon his new face in a distorted reflection: “Doctor, no more.”

 

This was a beautiful farewell for Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor, a fantastic 50th anniversary treat, and a nice way to tie the classic and modern eras together. I remember watching this when it first came out and gasping when he appeared on the screen. His humor still shines through even in the darkness of this short story.

It’s also a fantastic but tragic reminder of what war can do to even the most peaceful of people.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Eighth Doctor Summary

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Timestamp: Seventh Doctor Summary

Doctor Who: Seventh Doctor Summary

 

I’m going to miss this incarnation.

After the Sixth Doctor’s run, I was a bit worried about the future of the franchise. Even though the classic era technically ends with the Seventh Doctor, I’m glad that we got Sylvester McCoy in the role.

I could tell that things were going to be different from the jump when I was grinning ear-to-ear during Time and the Rani. Even though the stories varied wildly in quality and entertainment value, I feel like this incarnation’s run really struck gold with the combination of McCoy and Sophie Aldred’s Ace. Those two together was perfect chemistry, and I would love to see more of their adventures before the TV movie.

I’m seriously considering diving into the Virgin New Adventures at some point.

With the TV movie, we got to see the Seventh Doctor in what I call his early retirement years. He was still traveling the universe, but his console room was his living room, complete with record player, library, and jelly babies. He’s tackled the Cybermen, the Daleks, and the Master, and between the last two, even struck peace with one to help bring the other to justice.

Following tradition, if the First Doctor was a wise grandfather, the Second a sly jester, the Third a secret agent scientist, the Fourth an inquisitive idealist, the Fifth Doctor an honorable humanitarian, and the Sixth Doctor a squandered cynic, then the Seventh Doctor is a curious schemer.

 

Series 24 – 3.0
Series 25 – 2.5
Series 26 – 3.0
The Movie – 4.0

Seventh Doctor’s Weighted Average Rating: 3.54

 

Note that if I don’t count the TV movie in the mix, the average comes to 3.50, so it’s not that significant of a difference.

 

Ranking (by score)
1 – Third (4.00)
2 – Second (3.67)
2 – Fourth (3.67)
4 – Seventh (3.54)
5 – First (3.41)
6 – Fifth (3.20)
7 – Sixth (2.73)

Ranking (by character)
1 – Second Doctor
2 – Third Doctor
3 – Fourth Doctor
4 – Seventh Doctor
5 – First Doctor
6 – Fifth Doctor
7 – Sixth Doctor

 

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Night of the Doctor

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.