Wednesday, November 27, 2013

My Writing Is All, Like, Legitimate Now...

Hey all,

So, when you write a blog, you're always a little awed whenever anybody tells you they read it. You kind of figure you're going to be writing for yourself all the time. It's kind of insane to hear not only do people read your stuff, but some of them may actually like it.

So, it's with great pleasure, and  a little pride, that I can announce that I'm not a contributing writer for the web site Nerds Unchained. It's a new site that focuses on the world of comics, and I'll be writing reviews and possibly a few features for them. I'm really excited, they've got some great writers there, so please read their stuff too. You can't go wrong reading about great (and not-so-great) comics written by passionate people.

Here's the links to my first three reviews:

The Flash #25

All Star Western # 25

The Walking Dead #117

Friday, November 22, 2013

50 Years of Who - There's One Thing You Should Never Put in A Trap

Our celebration of 50 years of Doctor Who concludes with a classic clip from the Eleventh Doctor's era.

When Matt Smith was cast as David Tennant's successor there was some initial uproar from fans. Only 26, and a relative unknown, many took this as a sign that the series under new show runner Steven Moffat would take the show in teeny-bopper direction. Moffat shot back that Smith's take on the Doctor would silence all critics, describing the Eleventh Doctor as "bonkers" and praising Smith's ability to play an old man in young man's body.

When Smith's Doctor debuted, Moffat was proven entirely right. Smith immediately nailed the Doctor, creating a performance summed up by his assertion that he truly was "a madman with a box." Smith took his physicality for the Doctor from his favourite predecessor, Patrick Troughton, and used his own gift for physical comedy to give the Doctor a wild energy. His youth was never a factor for an instant, and the Eleventh Doctor's seeming flakiness cover up his wealth of experience.

Moffat also took the series away from the bombast and emotional spectacle of the Russell T Davies era, choosing instead to actually centre his arcs around time travel and multi-layered plotting. While at times it made some stories seem too complex for their own good, it also made time travel and its logistics the focus of the series in ways it had never been before. But, this was still Doctor Who, and it was still full of monsters, thrills and adventure. In the clip below, the Doctor faces off against the Weeping Angels, the most enduring monsters of the new series, and explains to them why going up against him is never healthy:

Tomorrow, November 23, 2013, my favourite TV show of all time turns 50 years old. It'll celebrate this momentous day with a live simulcast of a special episode, broadcast all over the world. That's something usually reserved for Superbowls and Oscar Nights. We'll see the Eleventh and Tenth Doctors team up to battle old foes, face old demons and friends, and Moffat asserts we'll see the series set up for the next 50 years ahead.

Not bad for a little show that started out in an obsolete studio with a tiny budget and big ideas.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

50 Years of Who - I Believe in Her!

After Christopher Eccelston departed at the end of a single series, the role of the Doctor was picked up with both hands by David Tennant. A lifelong fan of the show, Tennant took his excitement and exuberance for the series and channelled it into his interpretation of the Doctor, creating a Tenth Doctor who was among the most energetic and manic of all. But for all of his wit and exuberance, Tennant also highlighted the loneliness of the character, as well as the burden of his moral code. This was the most nakedly emotional Doctor yet, and the bond with Rose that had been building during the Ninth Doctor's era became a full-fledged love story during Tennant's era, though one that was never overtly acted upon. The Tenth Doctor's era was one of bigness; big threats, big emotions, and gigantic bombast, and a wonderfully big portrayal at its heart.

This more emotional approach to the character, combined with Tennant's great charm, drove the series to the heights of popularity, re-establishing it as a vital part of British culture, and opening the door to the global success it enjoys today.

In the clip below, Rose and the Doctor find themselves on an impossible planet, one that is a stable orbit around a black hole. They soon uncover the planet is actually an ancient prison, designed to hold the Beast, a powerful being that claims to be the basis for the Devil in all religions. Cut off from the TARDIS, the Doctor encounters the Best while Rose escapes in a rocket:

Back tomorrow with our final instalment!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

50 Years of Who - "Nice to Meet You, Rose! Run For Your Life!"

In 2005, nine years after the broadcast of the TV Movie, and sixteen years since the classic series went on"hiatus", Doctor Who returned to the BBC as an ongoing series.

The road back had been long and filled with detours. The hopes of fans had been kept alive during this period through original novels as published first by Virgin books and the ten by the BBC itself following the TV Movie. Also, a company called Big Finish productions, founded by fans, somehow got the license to produce original audio plays starring the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and eventually Eighth, Doctors and their companions. All of this ancillary media was well-done and enjoyable, but fans still longed to see new adventures on their television. Many thought it would never happen.

But then along came Russell T. Davies and Julie Gardner. Davies was celebrated television writer at this point, having created the original version of the groundbreaking Queer As Folk. Gardner was a producer and script editor who had recently been appointed to BBC Wales as Head of Drama. She immediately set to bringing back Doctor Who, and asked fellow fan Davies to head up the revival.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Women of Interest

Taraji P Henson as Person of
's Joss Carter
It's entirely possible that I could wind up sounding like a total ass in this post. So, allow me to preemptively apologize for any idiocy that may result. The reason for my apology is this; I'm a white male about to write about the state of women characters on television. Yeahhhhhh, I'm THAT guy.

I was thinking back to the 1990's the other day. I was just sitting in my car, lacing up my Air Jordans, checking my undercut in the mirror and putting in my cassette of Please, Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em and it occurred to me that the 1990's had probably more well-drawn, interesting female characters on TV than we do right now, twenty years later.

Don't believe me? Let's list a few shows from that decade with some iconic women characters: Roseanne, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, My So-Called Life, Daria, Homicide: Life on the Street, Ellen, The Powerpuff Girls (it counts), Xena. And, yeah, there was also Melrose Place, but at least there were options, and you didn't have to look hard.

Look, I know that people could comment below more than a few shows that feature great female characters; I know they're out there. But I'd like to talk about a show with some solid characters that maybe won't be one of the expected ones.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

"The Night of the Doctor" - Prequel to the 50th Anniversary Released!

Today the BBC released the prequel to the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special The Day of the Doctor. Feast your eyes on it below:

So, that was…pretty damn cool. The Eighth Doctor returns for the first time in 17 years, and it's awesome to see Paul McGann in action again. Also nice to have the John Hurt Doctor finally explained. Just over a week until the big day!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

50 Years of Who - Are You Any Good at Setting Alarm Clocks?

In 1996, after a seven year absence, Doctor Who returned to TV. In the seven years since the BBC put the series on hiatus, there had been numerous attempts to revive the series with varying degrees of fidelity to the source. I recall reading about a rumoured production that was to star Denzel Washington, for instance.

But producer Philip Segal would be the man to finally get a Doctor Who project off the ground as a TV movie produced by Universal Television for the Fox Channel in the US, with the BBC co-producing and showing the film in the UK. Rather than rebooting the franchise, Segal was adamant that it be a continuation of the classic series, a fact assured by Sylvester McCoy's return as the Seventh Doctor in the early minutes of the film. But this was also made as pilot for a proposed US-made television series, so it had the nearly impossible task of being made for long-time fans and first-time viewers. The result, it must be said, did not entirely work. It relied on mystifying continuity but also contained several changes to that continuity. It was a servant of two masters and therefore truly satisfied neither.

It had things that did work, chief among them some solid effects work and the wonderful performance of Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor. In the clip below we get a very good idea of what an ongoing TV series with this Doctor and his companion, Grace, would have been like. It's a real shame that, to date, this is McGann's only on-screen appearance in the role.

If anybody out there is curious to experience more of the Eighth Doctor, I wholeheartedly recommend the fantastic audio plays he's been doing for over ten years for Big Finish Productions.

See you soon for more of 50 years of Who!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

"The Day of the Doctor" Trailers Released!

Hi, all. I'll keep this one short. The Beeb has released a couple trailers for the 50th Anniversary Doctor Who special The Day of the Doctor. Check out the epic goodness below:

First the short TV trailer:

And here's the extendo-rama one:

Now the wait is even more excrutiating!

50 Years of Who - Every Great Decision Creates Ripples

After Colin Baker's unceremonious firing, Sylvester McCoy took over as the Seventh Doctor. Initially depicted as clown-like character, McCoy and new script editor Andrew Cartmel quickly began working to bring mystery and darker shadings back to the Doctor. Over his tenure, the Seventh Doctor morphed into a manipulative master-planner, not above deliberately misleading or keeping secrets from his allies to ensure victory. During this time, Cartmel also took a different approach to the role of the companion. Ace was a troubled young girl from 20th Century Perivale that the Doctor first encountered  on another planet in the far future. How she got there was a bit of a mystery, and in Season 26 there was an extended arc where the purpose of several stories was not just your standard adventure, but a deliberate attempt by the Doctor to help Ace move past her troubles and become a better person. This approach foreshadowed the more emotional tone the Doctor/Companion relationship would take on in future.

Sadly, with ever-decreasing episode counts to the seasons and ever-dwindling budgets and ratings, the 26th season of Doctor Who would be the last for the classic series, and Doctor Who would disappear from TV for seven years.

In the clip below, from Remembrance of the Daleks, we get a clip the perfectly encapsulates the melancholy and mysterious tone of the Seventh Doctor's era, where he questions the merits of his grand schemes:

And as an added bonus, here's the final scene from the final episode of the classic series:

See you soon for more classic Who!

Friday, November 8, 2013

"Thor - The Dark World Review", or Please, Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em!

L to R: Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth)
and unconvincing CGI sky. Are they even
With the recent announcement of its partnership with Netflix to create four new super-hero series, as well as the success of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and following its merger with Disney, it has to be said the Marvel Studios brand is now one of the most successful and well-known out there. I'm reminded of the feeling audiences used to have for Pixar. All you had to see was that logo with the desk lamp, and people said, "I'll go see that."

Marvel's latest big-screen release, Thor - The Dark World, isn't anywhere near as good as Pixar at its best. It's not even Marvel at its best. But it does have enough of the best qualities of the Marvel style to wind up being a fun time at the movies.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

50 Years of Who - Consumer Resistance

In 1984, Colin Baker (no relation to Tom) took over the role of the Doctor from the outgoing Peter Davison. Baker initially had tremendous enthusiasm for the role, wanting to outlast Tom Baker's seven year run as the Time Lord. Unfortunately, he was becoming the programme's leading man at the exact moment where the series entered its most troubled period, a period that would eventually see the series put on hiatus for decades.

After Davison's warm, vulnerable and relatable Fifth Doctor, producer John Nathan-Turner and Script Editor Eric Saward decided to make the character of the Sixth Doctor more off-putting, more challenging. He would hearken back to the irritable and irascible William Hartnell, and in many ways go even farther, with the plan being that Baker's Doctor mellow over time. In his first adventure, addled by a difficult regeneration, he actually attempts to strangle his companion Peri. It was a bold choice, and arguably the wrong one. Combined with Nathan-Turner's decision to dress the Doctor in a "tasteless" outfit, there was initially little for the viewer latch onto when it came to the Sixth Doctor.