The Eleventh Doctor Met The Beatles Apparently!

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Promo Shot For Red Dwarf X Making the Rounds!

Outcasts (2011) Episode 1

I was strolling through Netflix’s new release list for streaming movies, and noticed that the eight part BBC science fiction drama Outcasts had been added. I originally heard about this particular show by way of commercials for BBC America’s weekend sci-fi block, but never got around to watching it for some reason. To be honest another new show called Bedlam sort of scared me away from the block for a while. This program is definitely closer to “hard science fiction” than the material I usually look at on here, in that it has very little “fantasy” elements in it. The story centers around a colony on Planet Carpathia, a planet five years travel time from Earth. The residents of Carpathia, mostly located in a settlement called Forthaven, escaped Earth to run away from a pending nuclear holocaust.

While I’m not familiar with a lot of the cast of this show, I did recognize a few people. Within the first few minutes we meet Cass Cromwell, as played by Daniel Mays. Mays also played Jim Keats in Ashes to Ashes and Alex in A Doctor Who episode called “Night Terrors”. I also recognized Liam Cunningham who plays President Richard Tate from tons of movies and TV shows, I think most recently from Harry Brown.  Cunningham is also in Games of Thrones, but I haven’t seen any of that show to vouch for how substantial his role is.

My first impression of Outcasts is that it is cut from the same cloth as far more popular shows like Battlestar Galactica (2004), Stargate Universe (2009), and even Earth 2 (1994) in that it relies far much more on drama than the actual science fiction elements involved. One episode in, and this show could have honestly been set on Earth with very little difference in the plot. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that it’s a bit drab (in both setting and plot), but it’s pretty close to how I feel.

My first problem is that the planet is a bit uninspired; it’s basically just a desert-like mountainous region somewhere (I think they filmed in South Africa). Nothing really jumps out and says *ALIEN PLANET!* Even guys behind shows with terrible budgets such as Hyperdrive had the sense to make the sky red or something. I know I have dealt with things like the endless Canadian deciduous forest planets in Stargate SG1, or the many rock quarry planets in the old Doctor Who, but at least they had creepy aliens in them to suspend disbelief. The production on this show basically stuck some plasma screen TV’s in a few rooms of a desert colony, and BOOM –finished.

If episode one is any indication, this show is going to be depressing. It pulls no punches at all with people going crazy, people getting killed, and a multitude of other bleak situations. I wasn’t a fan of the recent Battlestar Galactica for this very reason, and really hope that this isn’t the norm from here on out. While the show has promise, I feel that this introductory episode tried way too hard to be as dramatic as it could be, as if it saw all the dramatic elements from other shows and decided to use them all at once. This episode introduced too many characters at once, did a poor job of fleshing out the world, and sandbags the viewer with enough bad stuff to make one of those sad Sarah McLaughlin commercials look tame. I’m going to hang in there, and watch more, but Outcasts really needs to kick it up a notch.

A Look at Doctor Who / Star Trek Assimilation 2 Issue 3!

Random Doctor Who References in American TV Shows

Rugrats: The 1990’s Nickelodeon classic needed something – genocidal killer mutants!

Family Guy – As far as I know there have been at least three references in Family Guy of something related to Doctor Who, the first was when Brian mentions that since marijuana has been legalized in Quahog, “Doctor Who ratings are through the roof”. Another brief reference involves Peter naming an owl “Doctor Hoo”. The best example of this is in the very first Star Wars special that they did. As the crew jumps into hyperspace, one can see the fourth Doctor theme through the window to which Peter suggests that “Hyperspace is weird!”

Simpsons – Matt Groening is a big fan of Tom Baker Era Doctor Who, so it’s really no surprise that The Doctor Shows up constantly!

Futurama – And the tradition carries over in his other show as well.

South Park – Fairly recently, South Park did an episode featuring a German Comedy Robot named “Funnybot”. Of course Funnybot is in fact a parody of a Dalek!

Star Trek – One could write a book about Doctor Who references in Star Trek and even vice versa. One of the oddest took place in a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode entitled “The Neutral Zone”. In the episode, the crew comes face to face with survivors from an ancient cryoship. One of the thawed folks, Clare Raymond, is scanned so that her lineage can be seen. It seems she is descended from William Hartnell, Tom Baker, Colin Baker, and Even Kermit T. Frog!

Saturday Night Live –The season 30 episode starring Paris Hilton had a treat for all the Doctor Who fans out there. Sadly Paris Hilton, of all people, donned a Tom Baker-esque scarf and contributed to a new phone sex line for nerds including Star Trek, Harry Potter, and World of Warcraft ladies. To be honest, even with a Doctor Who scarf, Ms. Hilton is just about as sexy as a brick to me.

 

Speaking of Tardises in DC Comics Cartoons…

…or is that Tardii? I’m not sure what the plural is 😛

Yesterday, I posted about the cameo of a red Tardis-like police box in an episode of New Teen Titans, but it doesn’t end there. Someone pointed out that the Justice League uses a blue police box to gain access to their secret hideout in Young Justice as well! It seems that somebody at Cartoon Network must be a fan!

Check out this Vague Doctor Who Reference in New Teen Titans

Cartoon Network has recently started a “DC Nation” block  on Saturday mornings consisting of Young Justice and a Green Lantern Animated Series cartoon. Between the shows, they usually show a handful of “shorts” including a new series based on the Teen Titans show of nearly ten years ago. Earlier today, Doctor Who fans were treated to this short featuring a villain called Mad Mod using something we might recognize:

Enjoy!:

Note: That isn’t the whole short sadly.

 

Update: DC likes Police Boxes!

Doctor Who: Minuet in Hell

Minuet_in_Hell_cover

Synopsis

“The twenty-first century has just begun, and Malebolgia is enjoying its status as the newest state in America. After his successful involvement with Scotland’s devolution, Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart has been invited over to Malebolgia to offer some of his experiences and expertise.

 There he encounters the charismatic Brigham Elisha Dashwood III, an evangelical statesman running for Governor who may not be quite as clean-cut and wholesome as he makes out. One of Dashwood’s other roles in society is as patron of a new medical institute, concentrating on curing the ills of the human mind. One of the patients there interests the Brigadier – someone who claims he travels through space and time in something called a TARDIS.

 Charley, however, has more than a few problems of her own. Amnesiac, she is working as a hostess at the local chapter of the Hell Fire Club, populated by local dignitaries who have summoned forth the demon Marchosias. And the leader of the Club? None other than Dashwood, who seems determined to achieve congressional power by the most malevolent means at his disposal…”

A few months ago I mentioned that there were two serials that I did not finish; the first was The Apocalypse Element, a serial that I think I fell asleep during the first time I tried to listen to it. And now we have the second one – and this one was rough. The story is great, the sound design is great, the brigadier is also great; so what went wrong? This serial takes place in America, vaguely set to be in the “Bible Belt” somewhere, in this part of the country most people have very little accent – so much that this part of the country is usually referred to as having a “general American accent”. Like “BBC English” this is the version of the language spoken in many TV shows and movies. I’m bringing this up because this play employs what I like to call “old prospector English” a variant in our language not heard since the film The Apple Dumpling Gang graced our screens all those years ago.

Dear England: I know you guys hate how many Americans talk like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins when doing bad community theater renditions of your manner of speaking, but talking like you crawled from a “Wild West” themed historical park is not good revenge.

After hearing Mark Gatiss do this exact thing in The Mutant Phase, it makes me wonder if this is a common misconception on that side of the world. Morgan Deare is the chief perpetrator here as he fleshed his character, Senator Waldo Pickering, out in this very manner. After hearing a whole string of “Jed Clmapett-isms” I turned to play off.

Well, I’d like you guys to know that I got over it and ploughed my way through the play once again. Waldo tried very hard, but I was not broken this time. I was strong and persevered through the terror. Upon completion I figured out that this play was actually very good, if not one of the best ones conceptually that they’ve done. It takes on very mature subject matter in a way far more fitting of what I feel is typical Doctor Who. Some of the Virgin New Adventures stories (plays or books) try to do the same thing (Adult Doctor Who), but end up with foul language, sex, body horror, drug use and other things more in line with an episode Torchwood. Instead of resorting to shock, this play talks about religious extremism, far right politics, and other topics usually left out of the show. Really, the only risqué thing in the entire drama is the fact that Charley is forced to be a serving girl in the Hellfire Club, and is too naive to realize that she is basically supposed to be a prostitute. The play doesn’t dwell on this, and by the time we realize this, she’s already out of there.

While, not the best episode for me, mainly due to the accents, I will say that this is one of the better plays that Big Finish has done, and a real step up from the previous play. Paul MGgann does a great job, especially when he is questioning who he really is due to having amnesia for a while. And let’s not forget that The Brigadier is here in his full glory, meeting the Eighth Doctor for the first time. All these positives tip this to the plus side for me, and I’m glad I listened again.

Doctor Who: The Stones of Venice

The_Stones_of_Venice_cover

Synopsis

“The Doctor and Charley decide to take a well-deserved break from the monotony of being chased, shot at and generally suffering anti-social behavior at the hands of others. And so they end up in Venice, well into Charley’s future, as the great city prepares to sink beneath the water for the last time…

Which would be a momentous, if rather dispiriting, event to witness in itself. However, the machinations of a love-sick aristocrat, a proud art historian and a rabid High Priest of a really quite dodgy cult combine to make Venice’s swansong a night to remember. And then there’s the rebellion by the web-footed amphibious underclass, the mystery of a disappearing corpse and the truth behind a curse going back further than curses usually do. The Doctor and Charley are forced to wonder just what they have got themselves involved with this time…”

Thestonesofvenice

I’ve really been enjoying these Eighth Doctor adventures from Big Finish so far, and was excited to dive into another one. This play is slightly surreal in both setting and plot. While it exists in the far-flung future, the characters and things happening in and around Venice make it seem as if it could have honestly been a historical episode. There are Dukes and Duchesses, art dealers and religious cults wandering the streets – all of these scream “medieval period piece” to me. This oddness in setting makes for a serial that revels in atmosphere and characterization over the story itself.

We basically have a group that wants Venice to Sink, another than does not, and a religious cult that believes a long-lost Duchess holds the keys to salvation. These three groups run around and talk to each other for four episodes, and not much else happens. This simple story is kept this way because the author wanted to build an engrossing mystery, but there is one problem. The story is really quite simple, and many will figure out the big M. Night Shyamalan-styled twist at the beginning of episode one. For me, this would be like watching (or reading) a Hercule Poirot mystery knowing the killer from page one. No matter what sort of swerves and red-herrings come our way, it just isn’t that exciting.

I’d say that this is the weakest of the Paul McGann episodes so far, and there is a great explanation for this. When Big Finish did these audios, they actually recorded a few of them at the same time. While we got “Storm Warning” as a smashing introduction to Charley and a great re-introduction to the Eighth Doctor, this was actually the first one recorded. I’m not saying that those portrayals are bad, but they are a bit more subdued than earlier episodes. Keeping this in mind, the episode is a success and an entertaining listen based on the setting alone, although it fails to meet the standards of its predecessors.

On Vampires….

Doctor Who: Frontier in Space

I recently had the pleasure of picking up a ton of Pertwee era Doctor Who episodes via a sale Columbia House was running. Well I guess it wasn’t really my choice, as I nearly let my subscription lapse, but I was going to go for these anyway. Last week I did a write-up for Invasion of the Dinosaurs, and this week I’ll be taking a look at the two parts of the “Dalek War” boxed set. First up we have Frontier in Space, starring he Doctor as played by Jon Pertwee, Jo Grant played by Katy Manning, and The Master portrayed by Roger Delgado.

The Master has been a Doctor Who character that I both love and hate at different times. Sometimes he can be pretty lousy, relying on unrealistic plans reminiscent of your typical Saturday morning cartoon villain. Just like any incompetent James Bond villain, he tells the Doctor his plan, leaves him in a deadly situation, then leaves just enough time to be foiled ten minutes later. Occasionally, we do get the other side of the master, the one that’s actually good.

Frontier in Space doesn’t have the bombastic silliness of the 1980’s Master, but a character that seems to be actually evil, even realistically evil. In the real world, there are very few crazed dictators bent on world domination, but there are a lot of bad people out there. Take war profiteers for instance; any listen to world news lately shows that there is a growing industry for people to go down to Africa and help cause civil unrest. The worse the situation, the more these people can make in bribes, weapon sales, and any other illicit activity. These are the true evil folks in the world – and this is the exact archetype the Master fills in this Doctor Who story.

Rather than being the “main villain” in Frontier in space The Master exists as an agent egging on the two warring sides – The Humans and the Draconians. He uses a hypnosis device to cause confusion as to whether both sides are disregarding a peace pact and starting acts of war. Reports have come in that various ships are being ransacked in a de-militarized zone. In fact, neither the Draconians nor Humans are doing any of this, as it is really a third race, the Orgons doing all the bad deeds. As one can immediately tell, this plot has more to do with a political thriller than your typical epic war episode of today. The plot relies very much on diplomatic dialog between the leaders of all groups, and how they mistrust each other.

Remember that scene where the Doctor got captured? Which one?

Sadly, this isn’t a great episode for the Doctor and Jo, as they spend basically the whole time being locked up in some way. First they materialize on an Earth based spaceship, and are immediately thought to be Draconian spies. They break out and are put back into holding countless times from then on, thus making this episode slightly boring for the most part. While I enjoy having The Master have some intelligent maneuvering in the foreground, I would have liked the Doctor in a less vulnerable position for these six episodes. That’s another problem – six episodes is a bit too much, and seems to have padded out the episode. Had it been a “four-parter”, I think I would have been more engaged in all the arrests and imprisonments.

Any quibbles I might have with the actual serial are definitely outweighed by the great special features held within. This DVD contains the third Doctor iteration of a recurring DVD feature called “Stripped for Action” where they look at the Doctor Who related comic books of the time. Also included is a solid “making of” feature, and one almost unwatchable piece called “Perfect Scenario: Lost Frontier”. This “mockumentary” is designed to resemble a futuristic TV magazine program talking about the episode. Why people, hundreds of years in the future, would be concerned with an ancient TV program to better understand their time is beyond me and really pushes this to absurd levels. This unnecessary bookending makes this feature VERY campy, and ruins any credibility it could have had without all the fluff. I hated when it started talking about 70’s fashion pretending to be from the future, the irony being that this very documentary was doing the same thing that was being ridiculed. I’m not sure if this has been on any other DVDs, or is planned for future ones, but I’ll be skipping it for now on if I run across it!

I can't wait until we dress like this in the future!

Finally, This DVD has some material on Roger Delgado that makes the package. In my opinion, there has been no match whatsoever for Roger Delgado as The Master in the entire run of Doctor Who ever since his untimely death in 1973. Ainley was decent in the role, but relied too much on over the top “mustache twirling”, John Simm had a similar problem with his portrayal, and Eric Roberts….let’s just forget about Eric Roberts, as he definitely doesn’t hold a candle to Delgado! This DVD stands as a sort of memorial to him, as this was sadly his final episode as he died in a car crash whilst filming a feature film in Turkey. Before I even started the DVD, I made sure I switched on “The Master”, one of the special features included on the disk.

The documentary includes a sit-down interview with his wife and other people close to Roger and really paints him as the exact opposite of his on-screen persona. I know this is a cliché whilst doing documentaries for deceased actors that played villains, but it’s nice to see how Delgado acted out in public, and adds to the sadness that he passed on the top of his game.

While the story was a bit padded for my tastes, this is still a solid DVD to own, and I’m really excited to see the second part of the set, Planet of the Daleks.

A for Andromeda (2006)

I first heard about A for Andromeda in an unlikely, although not surprising, place. I had never heard of the original 1961 television series for two reasons, first, one can blame the fact that I am American and was born in 1982, secondly, one can look to the loss of most of the original program via the old BBC “who gives a crap” archival policy on filmed material. This was the very same policy that destroyed countless old Doctor Who episodes and many other historically important shows. There was a Documentary on a DVD set called Lost in Time, in which orphaned Doctor Who episodes were pulled together so that they could be released in some way. This documentary filled me in on this “junking” situation and mentioned more things lost forever, including a show called A for Andromeda, touted as being one of the first BBC science fiction programs. I must have gone to Wikipedia or some such, as I had quickly discovered that a remake was out there….and here we are.

The serial opens with a “zooming in on the earth” shot eerily similar to the one from Rose, a 2005 episode of the resurrected Doctor Who. This shot was re-used on that show, and its spinoffs, countless times in the last few years; this really makes me wonder if the BBC had to keep using it for some reason. Like maybe the BBC spent a ton of money for it and needed to make ends meet by using it hundreds of times? Maybe a test group rated it the best part of the program so that drove its implementation on every show? I think it’ll be one of the great mysteries of our time.

Much like 2005’s Quatermass Experiment (which I need to review as well), A for Andromeda has an inexpensive look and feel, and yet stays away from a “cheap” appearance. Shows like Hyperdrive go the opposite route and try to look “BIG!” on a budget, and end up looking incredibly dated and cheap in the process. The use of “shaky cams” and small sets gives it a far less cinematic vibe than Doctor Who, but makes each scene interesting. In many cases the camera is right in the middle of dialog, as if you are somehow part of a conversation taking place. This makes the production remind me of an independent film, and makes it more charming in many ways. If you’re one of those people reading this and asking “why should I watch a six-year-old TV special that looks like an indie film?” there might be something of interest here. The main character, John Fleming, is played by none other than a pre-muscular Tom Hardy. It’s almost comical seeing him play a scrawny scientist considering his “tough guy” roles he has been getting lately. This show really proves that he is a very versatile actor, and could easily become a superstar in the future.

The story of A for Andromeda follows a group of scientists that discover a microwave signal coming from the Andromeda Galaxy. Once decoded, this signal is turned into a computer program that could be a huge breakthrough for all mankind – or be its undoing. The plot is a fairly hard science fiction (as in scientifically sound) story without all the bells and whistles that decorate many modern productions. Most British science fiction relies on concepts and dialog rather than sheer spectacle, and I believe this very program is a good case for this distinction between British sci-fi and US sci-fi. While this story is one of the productions biggest strengths, it is also a huge fault in the grand scheme of things.

Hard sci-fi relies on realistic takes on the genre, so one would imagine dialog and concepts that show great care in “keeping it real”. Instead we get material in a similar vein to all those procedural crime dramas on U.S. TV. A scientist pounds on the keyboard, says some technobabble, and *boom* something amazing happens that is truly unrealistic to modern science. It is in this way that while A for Andromeda tries to be “hard sci-fi” it’s really more of a drama – Like sci-fi for the CSI crowd.

I really liked this show despite its over-simplification of things, and it’s resemblance to a type of TV that I really do not enjoy. The acting is great, the direction is good considering the budget, and the actors involved all do a great job. For me, the highlight really was seeing Tom Hardy playing something different from a gangster or assassin, and fans of his should really check this out.

Site Update 4/12/12

I removed some of the redundant pages, like the one that had a list of Doctor Who reviews, in exchange for the picture based menu on the right sidebar. Hopefully things will be much easier to narrow down by show, especially once I start to fill it up more!

Doctor Who: Invasion of the Dinosaurs

“Where is everyone? The third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and Sarah Jane (Elisabeth Sladen) find London nearly deserted after dinosaurs return to terrorize the earth. Racing against time, the Doctor unmasks top-level conspirators, just before they kidnap Sarah Jane.”

For years I’d heard that Invasion of the Dinosaurs was nearly unwatchable by quite a few people; usually because of the special effects. The CSO (green screen) effects are often cited as being atrocious, the dinosaurs are said to be bad sock puppets, and the whole thing is always shrugged off as a total mess. I only recently got to watch this story on DVD and I have to say – it’s not that bad. In fact, I think it may be one of my favorite Pertwee era stories! I think this serial may be the victim of the often misguided fan smear effect. If enough fans figuratively crap on something, enough to where it gets said to be “the worst..” of anything, many folks go into it with all kinds of baggage that keeps them from liking it.

I know that I may be in the minority of fans, in that I hadn’t seen this episode prior to it entering my DVD tray, but the special effects didn’t bother me at all. In fact I’ve seen much worse in later 1980’s episodes; ones that are lauded in a total opposite way that Invasion of the Dinosaurs is shot down. I’ll agree that the puppets of the dinosaurs aren’t anything special, but the creatures themselves aren’t even the focus of the show. In fact, they are barely in it for their name to be so prominently placed in the title!

The reasons in which I like this serial are many, and it all begins with the general mood within. When the Doctor and Sarah Jane arrive in London, presumably to drop Sarah Jane off, they soon realize that something is amiss. The streets are vacant, debris is strewn about, and there seems to be a great military presence. They soon find out that martial law has been declared, and they end up on the wrong side of it. Being a huge fan of post-apocalyptic stories, I loved the scenes involving the deserted London. The fact that the director woke up at 4AM to film these scenes (illegally!) was a great thing to find out about in the special features, and this detail really sets the scene for the story. In my reviews for Survivors, I talked about the disturbing sense one gets when they see such a sight, especially if there is a noticeable landmark in it. This worked in Survivors, Day of the Triffids, I am Legend, and many other bits on film and TV to the same effect – isolation, desperation, and terror.

We also have U.N.I.T. playing a prominent role; including a furthering of the “fall from Grace” that we have been slowly witnessing Yates succumb to. It was cool to see The Brigadier in a role as a “politician” of sorts instead of the “Doctor’s yes man” that he appears to be in some other stories. The way he deals with General Finch is nothing sort of great. At first he goes along with his superior, assuming that he knows what is right, only to discover that the Doctor was right all along. We get to see the rare “badass brig” in this situation, and it is truly awesome. U.N.I.T. combined with Sarah Jane is basically one of my favorite “companion teams” and I truly enjoy them all when they appear.

Since this is really Sarah Jane’s real episode as a “companion”, it was good to see her get a good portion of the episode to do her own thing. Her side-story involves the second half of a zany conspiracy the bad guys are hatching that involves opening holes in time (where the dinosaurs are coming from) and bringing back a “golden age” to which a group of “astronauts” are involved. Since Sarah Jane does her job of snooping around a bit too well, she finds herself kidnapped and placed with these “astronauts” onboard a spaceship that will help start this new “golden age”. These two stories seem not to fit together, but are the two complimentary halves to the overall bad-guy plan going on, and it’s nice to see a story with enough room to flesh it completely out.

Overall, I loved this story, and felt the DVD is a nice package. It comes packed with a nice offering of special features including one about Sarah Jane, one about the special effects, one showing deleted scenes, and your typical “then and now” stuff. Aside from this, the DVD also has commentary track, but I’m not really into listening to those to be honest. Despite a bit of mediocre color restoration on episode one, This DVD is a solid package, and a great addition to any collection. That is unless one is too immature for bad CSO and sloppy Dino-puppets.

Cover for Star Trek/Doctor Who Assimilation 2 Issue 2

The June comic solicitations from IDW are out, and we have a VERY AWESOME cover to feast our eyes upon:

 

Star Trek TNG/Doctor Who: Assimilation2 #2 (of 8) [32 pages • $3.99]
Scott & David Tipton with Tony Lee (w)J.K. Woodward (a) • Woodward, Mark Buckingham (c)
The two greatest science-fiction properties of all time cross over for the first time in history, in STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION/DOCTOR WHO: ASSIMILATION2! When the Federation’s most terrifying enemy strikes an unholy alliance with one of the Doctor’s most hated antagonists, the result is devastation on a cosmic scale! Geronimo? Make it so!

Doctor Who: The Crooked World

A book by Steve Lyons

From the Back Cover:

The people of the Crooked World lead an idyllic existence.

Take Streaky Bacon, for example. This jovial farmer wants nothing more from life than a huge blunderbuss, with which he can blast away at his crop-stealing nemesis. And then there’s Angel Falls, a racing driver with a string of victories to her name. Sure, her trusted guardian might occasionally put on a mask and menace her for her prize money, but that’s just life, right? And for Jasper the cat, nothing could be more pleasant than a nice, long nap in his kitchen — so long as that darn mouse doesn’t jam his tail into the plug socket again.

But somebody is about to shatter all those lives. Somebody is about to change everything — and it’s possible that no one on the Crooked World will ever be happy again.

The Doctor’s TARDIS is about to arrive. And when it does… That’s all folks!”

When I first got back into Doctor Who, I realized that the place I worked had a very small section of the BBC Eighth Doctor Adventures (EDA) books tucked away deep inside the science fiction area. I honestly wasn’t too impressed with the covers to most of these as they all had some generic clip-art cover vaguely based on a theme in the book. I know they always say “don’t judge a book by its cover”, which is nice and all, but some of the EDAs just looked bland. One had a grungy looking camera in the dirt, one had a rose in another unrelated pile of dirt, and one had a generic nuclear symbol on the front. I’m not sure if the BBC just needed some cheap covers, or if there was some sort of rights issue involved with using an image of Paul McGann, but many of these did not catch my eye. One book, however, did catch my eye based solely on the ridiculous nature of its cover – a cartoon version of the Eighth Doctor placed next to a series of cartoon birds, pigs, and other weird creatures. I had to get it.

To be honest, this book feels very much like a cross-over fan fiction that somebody would toss together in their spare time. Any story that places itself in a world populated with rights free fake versions of famous cartoon characters has to be a joke right? I mean we obviously have analogues to Scooby Doo, Tom and Jerry, and Penelope Pitstop among others. This goes far above your normal “Brain of Morbius is basically Frankenstein” homage to an utter pastiche of the 1960’s cartoon era. They seemed to do this a lot in these books seeing as I remember one that was basically a James Bond story within the same line.

So, I guess you’re assuming that I hated this book – well actually I really liked it, and not just in a guilty pleasure sort of way. Steve Lyons starts out with your typical zany hijinks found in these cartoons, but the mere presence of the Doctor and his companions changes everything. Lyons slowly leaks in details that show the “crooked world” is falling apart. We first see this in the opening moments of the novel. A character named Streaky Bacon (imagine a cross between Elmer Fudd and Porky Pig) is desperately trying to keep a bird called the “Whatchamacalit” from destroying his garden again…like he does every day. The Doctor steps out of the Tardis only to get a chest full of hot buckshot. He crumples over bleeding to death as the cartoon characters do nothing. You see, in their world all one has to do is wait for the ambulance to show up and the victims are immediately, and somewhat magically, cured. This doesn’t happen at all, and it really haunts the pig. He usually gets away with inconsequential violence because nobody actually gets hurt. In a VERY dark turn he tries to punish himself in some way, due to a lack of understanding by the local sheriff, and attempts to commit suicide – only to have the gun do a cartoony backfire and not hurt him.

When I read that passage, my mind basically crapped it’s pants – here I was thinking that this was going to be a funny ”let’s mock old cartoons” affair, and what I got was a disturbing ode to the darker side of the values taught in said cartoons. Pretty soon all characters are guilt ridden wrecks based on their realization that their whole existence is so messed up. Riots are breaking out everywhere, and nobody is safe.

My only problem with the book is what happens at the end. I won’t spoil the ending at all, but I will say that it’s both VERY powerful, and a bit of a cop-out as it comes a bit out of left field. This isn’t helped out at all, by a Doctor that essentially takes a card from Captain Kirk and says “screw the prime directive!” but I guess that’s par for the course for a character such as The Doctor.

I need to finish reading all those bland covered books I bought “back in the day”; but for now I’ll hold onto the fact that The Crooked World is my favorite EDA (so far) despite the fact that I basically bought it because it made me laugh conceptually. What I ended up with was a very dark, and thought-provoking read. I really need to stop this whole book cover judging business!

Attack the Block (2011)

 

As much as I like big budget sci-fi films, there has been a sad trend lately where they all have to cost hundreds of millions of dollars with no substance, and many fall by this fact. In the case of John Carter of Mars, Disney set it up so that it would have to gross over 600 million smackaroos just to break even (!), a fact that makes me mad and reminds me that these Hollywood folks have no idea what they are doing. It’s no wonder that some of the better, more talented directors of our time have had to deal with smaller budgets in foreign markets and as a result have come up with better films.  Recently we had District 9 from South Africa, District B-13 from France (neither are related ..lol), and a new movie (for me) called Attack The Block from Great Britain. These films struck me as far more endearing than a lot of recent big budget Hollywood sci-fi films in that they did not rely on cookie cutter action heroes, and looked a lot “cooler”, more vibrant, and more expensive than their Hollywood brethren.

Since I mentioned atypical heroes, nothing can get less “mainstream” than a gang of juvenile delinquents. And no I don’t mean the whitewashed leather jacket and cigarette smoking kind of delinquent found in many 90’s teen movies trying to be edgy (or the Fonze); we’re talking foul-mouthed criminals that deal drugs and get in fights. In fact, we first find our group of protagonists engaging in a mugging at knife point! In no way does the film try to glamorize this fact, or lessen the fact they these are generally bad people, and this becomes a big plot point in the film. This mugging is broken up by an alien crashing into a nearby car, to which our gang of reckless heroes kicks it’s skull in. what they don’t know is that their arrogant display of faux invincibility has brought repercussions that they couldn’t dream of. In their quest to make a ton of money selling the dead alien, they have unwittingly brought an alien invasion to their council tower block.

This plot set up vaguely reminds me of the initial set up for the immensely popular anime film Akira, in which a biker gang composed of drug dealers ends up saving the world. This always seems to work better for me than your normal action plot in that it has built-in character development. Why waste time coming up with a way to have your chiseled jawed dopey eyed action hero fall from grace, when you can have your heroes literally start out at the bottom of the barrel. Our main character Moses, as played by John Boyega, is struggling to avoid falling into the traps of organized crime within his community. He’s getting increasingly into worse activities like drug dealing via the local self-styled “boss” of the flats Hi-Hatz. He feels bad about trying to mug the aforementioned nurse Sam, and we follow the character as he “grows up” and realizes that there are always effects for the things you do.

Aside from the plot, Attack the Block succeeds in having a good-looking alien menace to contend with. Instead of human-like creatures we have a race of gorilla-wolf monstrosities with no eyes, glowing teeth, and shaggy black hair. The animalistic nature of these creatures coupled with the few gory scenes of people getting ripped out throats makes these guys fairly intimidating. Good thing our rag-tag gang of misfits has a ton of “teenager weapons” like Katanas bought off the internet, illegal fireworks, and super-soakers filled with gasoline.

Last, but not least, we can’t forget the great job in directing that Joe Cornish did. It was amazing to realize that this was actually his first big film, although he did help write the very awesome Tintin movie last year. Nothing is wasted in the direction, and it doesn’t feel padded out at all. The flashy up-tempo style reminds me a bit of other UK directors like Edgar Wright and Guy Ritchie, but not so derivative that it seems like a copy. If Cornish decides to revisit this movie, I would love to see a sequel, as it ends in a sufficient manner to end the narrative, but leaves it open to more alien killing “badassery.”

Bottom Line: this has been on Starz lately here in the U.S., check it out!

Here’s a trailer from Youtube:

College Humor Hits One Out of the Park With This Doctor Who RPG Parody

Ever wonder what season 5-6 of Doctor Who would look like as a 16 bit role playing game? Look no further!

(Click link below)

Doctor Who RPG

Doctor Who – The Apocalypse Element

A few weeks ago I mentioned that for whatever reason, I had failed to finish two of the Big Finish audio plays that I listened to way back when I originally ran through the first thirty or so. In the case of the Apocalypse Element, it had to do with the fact that I initially listened to these before I went to bed, and found this one really boring as I fell asleep during it. On a second listen, I realized that I didn’t recall much of the story (thus assuming that I did in fact doze off a bit) but I don’t believe I ever listened to the whole thing! While there were a few problems, I’m glad I gave this a second shot, as it is a solid drama, and another great example of why the sixth Doctor really works if the writing is really good.

“When the planet Archetryx is threatened by a Dalek assault squad, the Doctor and Evelyn become embroiled in an ever-deepening mystery. What has become of President Romana, missing for twenty years? What lurks in the vast gravity wells of Archetryx? What is the secret of the ancient element the Daleks are synthesising – and how does Gallifrey feature in the plans?

The Doctor finds that if his oldest enemies cannot conquer the universe they will watch it go up in flames…”

It’s easy to dismiss this drama as nothing more than pure act of fanwank, as it basically exists to fill in plotholes ravaging the Doctor Who canon for years. I honestly think that this view isn’t very fair at all.

First of all, this play contains the first Big Finish, and more specific, Doctor Who appearance of Lalla Ward since her departure in the TV serial Warriors Gate. This Romana is different from the Romana that we are used to; she’s been imprisoned for the last twenty years, and it’s not evident if she’ totally trustworthy after her ordeal. Ward does a great job showing a more emotional and even fractured side to Romana, a far cry from her chipper know-it-all personality from the show. I may be in the minority, but I never did like Romana in some of her appearances with Tom Baker. This is because I dislike companions that constantly try to outsmart the Doctor. Much like Adric, Romana always knew everything and came across like a jerk sometimes. Don’t forget that she was there when the show was slowly turning into the “Tom Baker comedy hour” so we had The Doctor being a goof, followed by Romana rolling her eyes in each episode.

So yeah, about those plothole fillers – we have many occurrences where this drama attempts to “fix things” that may not have made sense in the show. To be honest, this can be a bit too much at times, and almost seems like the writer had an agenda with the story (I’ll fix all the problems!). These problems that are “fixed” in the play include the use of a human retinal pattern being used specifically without explanation to open the “Eye of Harmony” from the 1996 TV movie. This agenda clutters the story of the play, and makes it obvious that too much is going on. We have the return of Romana, the Daleks Invading Gallifrey, the Daleks eradicating another planet, a zany Dalek scheme etc. It would have worked better if it was longer.

Doctor Who – The Apocalypse Element is a good drama albeit one that tries to do far too much. While the story is exciting, it seems a bit cluttered with returning characters, subplots, and various other problems. With its problems, I honestly enjoyed the play, and continue on my Colin Baker reconciliation tour!