The Monday Meme: It’s Like All My Favorite Stuff Rolled Into One!!

Deadpool / Doctor Who Mashup
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The Tripods: (1984) Chateau Ricordeau, France, July 2089

Will and Eloise from 1984's Tripods
Will and Eloise – destined for marriage?

(AKA Season 1, Episode 6)

We pretty much established how much of a jerk a new character referred to as “Duc De Sarlat” was in the last review, and that only gets worse here. In the previous episode, Will ended up rescuing Eloise from certain death while they took a romantic boat ride in a nearby pond. We previously learned that Eloise was betrothed to the aforementioned Duke, despite the fact that he was not getting on well with her parents. At the end of the last episode, Eloise’s father basically offers his daughter’s hand in marriage to Will, something that can’t make are old buddy from Sarlat very happy. With a fine greeting of “I should have left you in the woods” directed at Will, this assumption proves to be very true.

Aside from the occasional run-in with ridiculous man-babies, Will is acclimating to life in the chateau. He is studying French, watching fencing tournaments, and learning of the arts. Not a day goes by where he isn’t sinking deeper and deeper into the life of a nobleman, something that concerns his friends greatly. Beanpole and Henry plan to leave the chateau as quickly as they can, and feel that Will is now anchored down and unable to leave with them. Will assumes that Eloise will possibly leave with them if he can only persuade her enough. This mindset enrages Henry, who not only appears to be a bit jealous, but concerned for their mission and Will’s well-being as a whole.

Duc De Sarlat and Will from BBC's The Tripods from 1984
The Duc De Sarlat in all his annoying glory.

 It is at this point that things start to unravel in a big way. Will suffers veiled death threats from Sarlat, accusations and distrust from his own friends, and the appearance of Tripods in and around the festival grounds. The only real reason that the crew was hanging around after Will got better is a tournament that The Chateau is hosting, but they had no idea Tripods would be there. Henry and Beanpole decide that all of the bad things are not worth it and leave early with a few maps Will has copied for them. Left alone and depressed he finally confides in Eloise and tells her the real truth as to why the boys were traveling, and where they plan on going. She seems very concerned, almost mortified by what she hears from Will. This is the very first time we see her without her trademarked head-wrap and Will notices something is wrong. Eloise has a shiny metal triangle under her hairline – she is already capped.

Will and his friends drinking champange in 1984's tripods
Will and Co. Living The good life at the Chateau

Another strong episode of this “Chateau arc” leaves the viewer feeling really bad for Will. As the credits roll, one can see that Will has hit rock-bottom. He gambled the mission at hand on the love of a girl he just met, and realizes that he must leave her as well. Henry comes across childish and bitter,in this episode, a fact that is only offset by the very level-headed Beanpole – always there to cool things down. While I liked this episode, it will be good to see the end of this arc, as the show could really lose momentum if they stick around much longer. Seeing the lone sentinel-like Tripod at the festival grounds reassures us that this is in fact a science fiction show and not a period romance drama. So here’s to the festival, and to Will hopefully finding a way out of this mess – next time on Tripods.

Eloise is capped from BBC Tripods 1984
Eloise is already Capped!

“Say Who Again…I double dare ya!”

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Orphan Black (2013) Episode 1


What happens when the American arm of a UK-based media giant makes a show in Canada for an American cable station? A show like Orphan Black is born! Until recently, I wouldn’t have considered myself a fan of an “urban thriller” show such as this. I can’t say I enjoyed Dollhouse, Alias, or even Nikita. There have been, however, a few shows that technically fit this mold that I’ve loved this year. Utopia, Arrow, and now Orphan Black. It seems that these guys can layer a science fiction or comic sheen onto just about any genre and I’ll dig it – case and point is my disdain for procedural police dramas and my love for Life on Mars.

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BBC America has been on a roll lately with all of these well-received original shows. I’m a late comer to the show like so many, and only heard about it through the huge avalanche of critical praise this summer. When people like Patton Oswalt go out on an Emmy nomination campaign for a show, I knew something was up. Here he is giving props to the star of the show, Tatiana Maslany, via twitter:

She absolutely deserves an Emmy […] There’s just no argument to it. Not a nomination. AN EMMY. An. EMMY.”

I was intrigued after watching a trailer and a few interviews via The Nerdist a few months ago, but the show somehow slipped my mind, but this endorsement settled it; I had to watch this. Not having cable has made it to where I am painfully slow on discovering new shows sometimes. That is until today.

Orphan Black follows the misadventures of a young woman named Sarah. After witnessing a woman’s suicide in a subway terminal, Sarah assumes the strangers identity. You see, Sarah isn’t really a great person. She is an orphan, and has slipped into a life of drugs and other vices in a country that isn’t her native land. This would be hard unless the person in question was identical to Sarah in every way, and she is….well, was.  Expecting to solve all her problems by cleaning out the dead woman’s savings, Sarah is instead thrust into a mysterious conspiracy of epic proportions. As Sarah searches for answers, things just get crazier and crazier.

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It’s really no mystery that the conspiracy involved with this show is the fact that Sarah is just one of many clones, as they hyped the fact up in all the press stuff I’ve read. Tatiana Maslany does a fine job pulling off what is essentially many multiple roles per episode. Sarah Manning is the principle character, a street-wise British ex-patriate living in the vague Canadian-ish-American city that the show takes place in. We all know it’s actually Canada, but the production team has left it really vague for some reason. When she adopts the dead woman’s life, she has to change completely in accent, mannerisms, and temperament. It seems that the woman, Elizabeth Childs, was a troubled native police detective, and quite different than Sarah. We also see Katja Obinger, a German clone, although she isn’t around very long. One can see why Tatiana Maslany is getting all of these acting nods, as she is sometimes acting against herself in many scenes and is able to pull of very different characters with none of them blending together. This is only episode one, I can only imagine what is coming up.

Another nod goes to a young actor named Jordan Gavaris as Felix Dawkins, Sarah’s flamboyant foster brother and sole confidant. For an actor that has only been in something like three shows, Gavaris seems like a pro here. and to be honest I was amazed to find out that he was not actually British and was Canadian. He pulls off a camp “posh” accent fairly well here. Felix also acts as the comic relief of the show in many scenes. One in particular that made me chuckle was when he commandeered a phone at a local bar, only to get reprimanded by the bartender. To get his way, he shouts something like “do not snap towels at me Bobbi, I had a very traumatic childhood.” There is worry that Felix will become nothing more than a sassy one-liner machine, but so far his character is well-done.

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I will say that I was somewhat surprised at how raunchy the show was considering it not being part of HBO or something. there is quite a bit of brief nudity in a few scenes, but nothing like a show such as True Blood, this isn’t a “Skinimax” porn, and it wasn’t gratuitous at all.

So far, so good for Orphan Black. While this pilot episode only scratches the surface with the plot, what is here is plenty to keep the viewer guessing and build suspense. I’m glad I started watching this and recommend it to everyone that didn’t give it a chance at first. Yes, the hype is justified and BBC America has hit another one out of the park.

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Related articles

How To Watch British Television in America

An easy guide on how to watch all this stuff I keep yammering on about!

We live in a very interesting time for entertainment consumers. Gone are the days of only having a small selection of television channels to watch on any given day. First, the home video and DVD markets opened the floodgates on older and far more obscure programming to watch. This was followed by internet streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and those dreaded Peer to Peer and bittorrent clients. No longer is the consumer shackled to the whims of a TV executive or commercial entity. For the most part, barriers are falling and e can watch what we want, when we want,how we want.

This blog covers one particular type of media – UK science fiction and other “genre” programming. A lot of the stuff I cover is readily available to Americans on pay services or home video releases, but what I want to do is give a general overview on how I watch all this stuff. Don’t fret if you are a reader that doesn’t live in the U.S., most of these tips can help you out as well no matter what country you live in.

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Look for one of these on the back of your DVDs

Region Codes, and how to bypass them.

As many science fiction fans may have noticed – shows licensed from UK companies such as Doctor Who cost about twice or even three times more than most U.S. television shows. This can be particularly bad if you are on a budget and don’t want to break the bank. Yes, a few of these shows are available on Netflix (e.g.Red Dwarf, Doctor Who, and Day of the Triffids) but some shows that I plan on eventually getting such as the Tripods or Blakes 7 will probably never come out here or be released on a streaming device. You can obviously download things and burn them, or watch programs on your computer, but if you are like me, this choice is never as good as watching a good quality image whilst sitting in a comfy chair. This is where region-free DVD players some in.

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this is what happens when you try to play a disk on the wrong player (Photo credit: williac)

So what are DVD regions? They are an archaic policy adopted by home media companies decades ago to promote policies such as price discrimination, disallow reverse importation, and control costs with staggered release dates. For example, in America a company can get away with selling a seven year old season of Doctor Who for around $79.99 due to the niche market and limited exposure. In the United Kingdom this would be ludicrous, and as such, it is much cheaper. Anyone in their right mind, when confronted with such a price difference, would just order these DVDs from England. This is what they are trying to stop. America is called “region 1” and the UK is “region 2” so neither can easily watch each others home media very easily. If you pop a foreign DVD into your personal DVD player it will have an error message, this is the same with personal computers,game systems and just about everything else that would make you happy. Here are maps of the DVD regions and Blu-Ray regions. 

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DVD Regions
Blu-Ray Regions
Blu-Ray Regions

My recommendation to anyone that may decide to watch some harder to find UK shows is to do one of the following two things:

Region-Free DVD Players
Region-Free DVD Players are big business in some countries(Photo credit: Hikosaemon)

1) Cheap Method: It’s a little known secret that most, if not all cheap Chinese-made DVD players are actually region-free, and have their region locks installed via software within the factory. In the past I used to get DVD players from Digix or Coby for around 20-30 dollars. These players were pretty crappy for the most part, and honestly aren’t worth it unless you can’t swing what I will post on option 2. I remember having this one particular model of Coby DVD player that would work fine until around the six month mark, *boom* – broken. The trick to using one of these is to do a little research. Websites like DVD Help have listings of DVD players and whether they can be region hacked or not. Most of these are simple to hack, as a numerical code on the DVD remote usually does the trick.

2) Best Method – depending on how much one wants to spend, visiting a site like Region Free DVD is the best option. Tired of dealing with cheap players, I plunked down 100 dollars for a Toshiba regionless HDMI up-scaling DVD player, and will never look back. Not only is the picture better in just about every way, but the player itself is tailored for wide screen TVs and widescreen media, like most UK TV.

The reason I recommend getting one of these players is pretty self explanatory with the numbers. Here are the prices and availability of one show Life on Mars, and its spin-off/sequel Ashes to Ashes.

Amazon.com

LOM Season 1: $49.99-$79.00

LOM Season 2: $49.99-$79.00

A2A S1: Not released

A2A S2: Not released

A2A S3:Nor released

Total $100.00+ for 2 seasons, Ashes to Ashes not even announced for release as far as I know.

Ashes to Ashes (TV series)
Ashes to Ashes (TV series) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Amazon.co.uk

(as of today’s exchange rates)

LOM Season 1: $15.00

LOM Season 2: $15.00

A2A S1: $15.00

A2A S2: $15.00

A2A S3: $20.00

Total $80.00 for 5 seasons, all episodes complete, there are also combo packs of all three Ashes to Ashes seasons, and both Life on Mars seasons that could bring the price down even more. 

And now you can see why I do this, and shipping isn’t bad either – maybe 8 bucks for most DVD orders to reach the U.S. If you don’t care to get a new DVD or Blu-Ray player, there are also computer programs that disable region codes on PCs. Technically you can watch foreign DVDs on there as it does allow for a VERY limited amount of region swaps, but be careful. If you keep switching regions, it will eventually permanently lock into one. Most computers can be toggled around six times before this happens. 

But lets say you don’t care about actually owning these shows, is there a way to watch these on TV or on your computer? Why yes there is!

Cable TV Alternatives

Image representing Netflix as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

There are three major streaming services in the U.S.: Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. These three companies have become my lifeline lately, as I decided to “cut the cord” a few years back, and drop my cable subscription. Needless extra channels and ever-increasing prices were getting to be a headache,and I’m glad there was an alternative to cable and satellite. While there is a bit of cross-over, all three companies have their strengths and weaknesses in price and availability. In a general sense, Netflix is better for movies, Hulu is better for TV, and Amazon Prime is like a weird cousin of both – having VERY popular TV shows and movies, but less of them.

Hulu
Hulu (Photo credit: Evan Hamilton)

Netflix gets big props for having licenses for some of the bigger shows like Doctor Who and Top gear. With the latter, they even have all of the 20+ seasons (minus the first) all ready to marathon. Hulu has been bringing quite a few UK comedies and dramas over as “Hulu Exclusives” such as Rev. and Whites as of late. Other shows like Moone Boy, Misfits, and Pramface have been getting quite a bit of traction on there as well, bringing what could be considered “more obscure” shows to a new audience. Amazon Prime is the oddity here. They have some huge shows like Downton Abbey and things like Sarah Jane Adventures as well as next day purchase options for the NEW episodes of big shows. This year, I spent 2 bucks a pop for Doctor Who series 7, something that I could have pirated, but chose not to.

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Considering that my monthly cable bill used to run some $120, these companies are awesome. Hulu is $7.99 per month, as is Netflix, and Amazon Prime is $79.99 yearly. There are other perks for the Amazon subscription including free two day shipping on everything, so if you are a heavy Amazon user, I don’t know why you wouldn’t use this service.

Public Broadcasting Service
Public Broadcasting Service (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kickin’ it Oldschool

For our penultimate section I decided to bring up regular old TV, whether it be network, cable, or satellite. This is not my preferred method of watching UK TV, but it will definitely do in a pinch. For years, the Public Broadcasting Service has helped many an Anglophile get their fix. I grew up watching comedies like Keeping Up Appearances, Mr. Bean, and Monty Python just to name a few. My local PBS station still runs a Saturday block of UK TV all sponsored by some very passionate fans. Some of the videotapes they use look pretty bad now, but if you haven’t seen the show digitally remastered you will be none-the-wiser. Some PBS stations even run shows like Doctor Who and Red Dwarf, so keep an eye on the schedule. Outside of that, cable providers have a decent amount of UK TV, especially if you have BBC America on your cable plan. The problem with “regular TV” is that most US TV execs love to remake everything that is popular rather than airing the original.

bittorrent

“By other means”

I won’t lie, I sometimes obtain TV episodes from the internet. Whether it be a bit-torrent client or YouTube,if one is internet savvy enough pretty much anything is obtainable online. For older shows that are out of print on DVD and impossible to legally obtain over here, I have ventured onto torrent sites quite often. be warned, this is NOT legal at worst and kind of a  gray area at best, and could land you in trouble. I would never download a Hollywood film or adult film using these sorts of programs, as shady litigation “honey pots” are out there to tempt people into breaking the law. Another option is using proxy servers or streaming sites to access UK-only TV providers. I haven’t really dabbled with this, and have no real opinion on the use of these programs or the results.

So there you go fellow anglophiles, I hope this helps you navigate the wondrous world of British television much easier, and gives you some new stuff to watch. If you have any questions on show availability, or tips on how to watch something, please feel free to ask, as I may be able to help.

The Doctor Just Loves His Hats

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The Tripods: (1984) Chateau Ricordeau, France, July 2089

(A.K.A. Season 1 episode 5)

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The last scene of the fourth episode of The Tripods seemed to spell out certain doom for our rag-tag group of wandering runaways. Will was seriously injured in a run-in with Parisian vagrants, and was having trouble staying conscious. The boys narrowly escaped the situation, only to find themselves being surrounded by men on horseback while Will lay motionless in the mud. Considering all the trouble with The Blackguards (The Human Tripod enforcers) I immediately assumed that they had been tracked down and were in some serious trouble. This was of course a typical cliffhanger ending for this show, and things turned out better than expected.

Speaking of the cliffhangers, I mentioned that they were great in a previous review, but didn’t really elaborate why. Many shows do these sorts of endings, and it seems like BBC science fiction especially loved this trope. What really sets these apart, is that the characters are almost always in some sort of horrendous peril at the end of any given episode. Since my wife and I have been “marathoning” these episodes, it’s really hard for us to stop watching as we want to know what happens next.

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So anyway, Will wakes up with his wounds cleaned up and dressed in a comfortable bed. A French girl named Eloise explains that her family discovered the trio whilst hunting for wild boar on their land. Eloise’s family is definitely one of great wealth considering the size and grandeur of Chateau Ricordeau, the clothing worn by everyone, and the fact that they have servants. Will is initially horrified that he possibly blurted out their intentions on finding The White Mountains, or that they are wanted fugitives from a Blackguard prison. Thankfully this did not happen, and the French aristocrats all assume they are simply travelers. Beanpole points out that these are not “ordinary people” as they did not turn them in, in fact they seem to see value in young people having a sense of adventure, odd for ‘capped” citizens.

While the Duke and Duchess of the Chateau seem pretty decent in many ways, we are introduced to a real “winner” of a character named Duc De Sarlat. Much in the same way that King Joffrey is the most hated character in Game of Thrones, Duc De Sarlat is immediately a total A-hole. Robin Langford does a great job of portraying a character that seems not only pretentious, conniving, and backstabbing all at the same time, just by standing there making a sour face. He just has one of those faces, like he would be the guy at a party that likes to one-up everyone else, or drive a fake Ferrari covered in Axe body Spray. When told that everyone shall be speaking English to make the buys feel at home, D-bag De Sarlat basically throws a fit and makes himself look like some kind of man-baby. When he is put in his place, he acts even more ridiculously and tries to turn them in to the local authorities, and thus reveals that they are all uncapped. Truly a great minor antagonist, I wouldn’t say he’s truly a main villain, but pretty close.

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The first real tension between the boys starts to spring up in this episode. It’s almost immediately evident that Will has fallen in love with Eloise, and has diverted his attention from the task at hand. Henry and Beanpole want to leave as soon as they can, but Will is reluctant. The Chateau is his chance of not only living the life of an aristocrat, but falling in love. He obviously has not thought out his plans, because staying here would result in his “capping” and Eloise has been betrothed to Duc De Sarlat.

Episode five isn’t the most action-packed of the episodes we’ve seen so far. In fact, it nearly lacks any shimmer of science fiction, and as such resembles a period drama. While it does lack in excitement, this episode does a solid job of moving the characters along. Will has always been an impulsive character; thinking with his heart rather than his brain. This episode really showcases this fact, and I loved the tension that ensued from his actions. And with the Duke and Duchess basically giving him the right to marry Eloise in return for a kind deed (saving her life), things are only going to get worse.

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Obligatory purchase links:

The Tripods: Series 1 & 2 [Regions 2 & 4]

The White Mountains

The City of Gold and Lead

The Pool of Fire

When the Tripods Came

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People That Whine About Science Fiction Being Too Political Are Media Puppets

Today I have decided to sidestep my narrow focus on British science fiction to discuss something that caught my attention relating to the genre of science fiction in general. My wife and I saw Neill Blomkamp‘s sophomore film, the visceral and gritty Elysium today. We both came away enjoying the film quite a bit; not in the Avengers sort of way where you want to high-five everyone after the movie and punch the air in happiness, but the more sombre “holy crap that was good, but also depressing” sort of way. This was what happened when we watched District 9 a few years ago, a film that lead to us discussing apartheid south Africa, something that really would not have happened had the film not taken our emotions hostage for two hours. When I got home, I decided to check the box office gross Elysium had, as well at critic reviews to gauge whether it is doing well or not. It did top the box office, and gained generally positive reviews, but the negative reviews the movie was getting are quite puzzling. People that don’t enjoy the film aren’t hating it because of the gore, the foul language, or the shaky-cam action scenes, but because it challenges their political beliefs in some way.

Take, for example a few of these little gems taken from a popular critic aggregation site, Rotten Tomatoes:

elysium-reviews

And here we have some choice quotes from some online reviews:

“Particularly towards the end, the political messages are just so overt, I don’t know how you can watch it without thinking of current events and connecting the dots that the director obviously intended to connect,” – Big Hollywood’s Christian Toto.

“It’s not just hypocritical to say this movie isn’t political, it’s hilarious,” – Dan Gainor, VP of Business and Culture at the Media Research Center.

 Elysium advances one of the more openly socialist political agendas of any Hollywood movie in memory.” – Variety Magazine review.

Those that have yet to see this film, might be wondering what all the hubub is about. Elysium tells the story of a future Earth that is so overpopulated and crime-ridden that the well-to-do upper class citizens have fled the planet Entirely. They all have decided to live in a space colony well away from the stench of the poor surface dwellers; the ultimate gated community, if you will. The citizens of Elysium have jumped so far technologically (in a sharp contrast to Earth’s urban decay) that they can afford to have no illnesses whatsoever due to the creation of a machine that can heal everything. This has caused black market operations to spring up promising illegal trips to Elysium, usually taken up by ill people trying to cure terminal illnesses. Since the majority of the plot has a vague notion of how everyone should have access to medical care, and that policies on illegal immigration are too tough, TV pundits and conservative bloggers alike have pulled out their pitchforks in protest. 

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The thing that really bothers me about this mindset is that science fiction has ALWAYS been about taking social issues to their breaking point to illustrate the ills of our society as a cautionary tale. It’s not like Neill Blomkamp woke up a few years ago, and realized that nobody has ever talked about politics in film. These media-types have an ulterior motive here, as nobody can be so stupid than to think that science fiction has never been like this. One of the earliest modern science fiction epics, The Time Machine was essentially H.G. Wells‘ commentary on British social classes and social Darwinism. That was only the beginning, authors like Robert Heinlein promoted either fascism or communism depending on the story, George Orwell warned of the road to totalitarianism, and Ayn Rand promoted Objectivism. All very different political strains, all either championed or demonized depending on what the authors intent was.

To me, something like Elysium is only ruffling these conservative feathers because of the ridiculous political climate we live in and the 24 hour news cycle. When you have media stunts such as a left and right leaning media conglomerates claiming outrage at every turn, these people would love if we just watched paint dry all day, as to not put “bad ideas” in our heads or offend someone. I always find it ironic when commentators claim a subversive piece of literature or film is damaging society as is usually their viewpoint that the film is directly satirizing.

In Closing I leave you with a quote from Philip K. Dick on the media: 

“Because today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups… So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.”

 

Anime Doctor Who

Continuing The Peter Capaldi Discussion

Earlier this week I posted an article entitled “The Twelfth Doctor & Why I’m Sick of Nerd In-Fighting” which seemed to incite some awesome discussion on my feed. Thanks for checking that out everyone! A fellow American of the nerd persuasion named Ben Herman wrote an awesome follow up to my blog post that everyone should read called “Old vs new: fan wars and Doctor Who“. And While you’re there check his other stuff out like an ongoing retrospective of David Quinn’s take on Marvel’s sorcerer supreme in “David Quinn’s Doctor Strange, part one“. It’s one of those blogs that I ALWAYS enjoy reading, and I think any reader of this site would enjoy it as well!

 

 

The Twelfth Doctor & Why I’m Sick of Nerd In-Fighting

Before I slip into full-on rant mode, let’s get have a brief history lesson that pertains to the issue at hand. In the mid-nineteenth century one particular group of abolitionists came up with an ingenious idea: since slave liberation seemed unlikely in America on an economic and political basis, was it feasible to re-locate freed slaves in Western Africa? You know the old saying “out of sight, out of mind” right? That’s basically the idea here. This was a two pronged attack: on one hand the slaves were being freed, which made the abolitionists feel good about themselves and their devotion to God. And if the Blacks were free, the largely evangelical movement didn’t have to actually socialize with these newly freed persons of color. They could keep white society and help set up a separate but equal colony far, far away. This group, The American Colonization Society (ACS) helped over 13,000 former slaves travel across the ocean to create new lives for themselves in a new country dubbed “Liberia”. The main problem that faced many of these “Americo-Liberians”, as they were now called, is that many were not African, and if they were, they were so far removed from their former culture that they simply could not relate to tribesmen on the interior of the country. This lead to a massive division where a lot of these former slaves saw themselves as more educated, more civilized, and simply “better” than the locals, leading to the creation of a leadership class that existed until the 1980’s.

So what does this African history lesson have to do with Doctor Who? I think the idea behind this event has a lot of ramifications in nerd culture at the moment, and I believe we ALL can learn a very important lesson here. Formerly marginalized “nerds” are being forced to mingle with people that they see as inferior, and are treating them like garbage as a result. In a way, the formerly oppressed have become the oppressors and I’m really sick and tired of it. Just because someone got picked on in school, doesn’t give them the right to strive for the very power used against them. This has been brewing for a while, but there is starting to be a real elitist attitude blemishing nerd culture. Some people are weary of, if not downright antagonistic to, any “newcomers” to their hobby of choice. Whether it be comics, TV shows, cartoons, or in this case Doctor Who, these people have invested so much time that they feel the need to protect their baby from the marauding barbarians.

 The opening shots in this asinine “war” seemed to be a fairly misogynistic blog post from last year. The post in question, which I have placed below, is by veteran comic creator Tony Harris. Harris had problems with what he perceived to be “fake geek girls” at conventions, a type of woman that Harris suggests is there to either seduce or “cock-tease” unsuspecting geek guys. I could elaborate more, but you can read it yourself:

tony-harris-rant

I have been asked my opinion on this for a while, and I kept mostly quiet because internet crusaders made a huge deal out of the situation, and I have a tendency to stay out of giant internet fights. Also I DO NOT share the popular opinion of many nerds, and welcome anyone to do anything they want, and participate in anything they want to. My opinion is that Harris clouded what could have been a decent post about people dressing scantily at conventions with a ton of misogynistic garbage. As somewhat of an egalitarian on gender roles, I find his mindset terrible. It all boils down to this:

“Attractive women at cons are not really nerds, they are just trying to hurt you.”

“These girls are not fans of whatever they are pretending to be.”

“I should get more attention at cons because I make comics.”

“P.S. These girls are only hot at cons, in real life I bet they are ugly.”

 Without reading too much into this rant, one can see the bitter ball of hate that sits in the belly of many a nerd fan. After this was posted, many women were incredibly mad at Harris. He seemed unready to accept the gigantic backlash he got afterward, and tried to back-peddle a bit. He did have his supporters though, as it’s not like Harris came up with this all on his own. There is a real problem with folks attacking “fake fans” whatever the hell that means.

This finally brings me to Doctor Who, and the recent announcement of Peter Capaldi taking over the role from a departing Matt Smith.

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For the better part of a decade now, the lead actors in Doctor Who have been on the relatively young side. Long time fans will know that this is a new trend for the show as a whole, but for some new fans this is the ONLY reference they have. This shift to a younger demographic helped bring one type of fan into the Doctor Who family that seemed elusive for years – young women. Many young women have become fans of the show because they were initially attracted to the main actors, then got into the fun of the program itself. This is exactly what the production team wanted to happen, and it worked very well. In no time at all, the show’s fans went from a small inclusive crowd to a worldwide audience including casual fans of all ages.

For this next example, let’s try to think like a teenage girl, and if you are a teenage girl- BONUS! So imagine if you will, having a crush on this actor that you really like then he announces that he’s leaving the show. Even though you fell in love with the guy before him, you were really starting to like this new guy, and he’s already leaving. You’ve sat down to watch them announce the successor and someone as old as your grandfather comes walking out!

This puts The Doctor way outside the romantic comfort zone for many of these fans. Thus the reason for videos like this:

In the video above, a girl that is obviously a huge fan of the show ends up less than happy about the choice of Peter Capaldi. I’ll agree that the video seems superficial, and the girl seems rather annoying, but let’s go deeper. The video is almost besides the point, as my real problem lies with all of the “real fans” that feel the need to be nasty to a young girl for “being fake”.

“Bye Fangirls! WHO don’t need you! Go listen to bieberand STFU”

“Back to Loose Women and X-Factor for you, slattern. You have “squee’d” your last.”

“Im surprised she wasnt fatter. Good job being superficial kid!”

…And it just goes on and on.

This video was circulated quite a bit over the weekend, and the “fake geek girl” crusade finally made it’s way into Doctor Who fandom. My question is: since when did we need to prove how much of a nerd we are to gain “street cred” with stuff like TV shows? Are we supposed to collect merit badges now, or are we simply measuring the size of our nerd genitalia here? I honestly see no difference here to what happened when Matt Smith was announced for the role in 2009. Many old-timer fans were furious that someone so young was offered the role, facetiously suggesting that the Twelfth Doctor was going to be ten years old. Some stormed off and claimed to never watch the show again because of such a decision. Fans like me may have said: “good riddance  to them, as they are just as annoying as the video above. 

So what if someone hasn’t seen 50 years of a TV show, does that mean they can’t enjoy it? Maybe they enjoy it for a different reason than you. Just because somebody chooses to express their love for a show doing something like writing erotic fan fiction about it, that doesn’t make them part of some subservient class under the almighty uber-nerd class you you obviously are part of. If they are a “fake fan” then they will simply disappear when the next big thing comes along, why would they hang around something they hate?

We, as nerds, need to GROW UP. We need to realize that things like science fiction, and comic books, and movies based on comic books have all gone mainstream. That thing that you are a fan of? Millions of new people like it as well, and that doesn’t mean that they are any less fans because of it. Some may not memorize random trivia related to the show, some may even concentrate on something you could care less about like wearing costumes from the show, but they are still fans. There are not “fake nerd girls” trying to destroy the lives of nerdy guys, because that sounds utterly ridiculous when said out loud. Yeah that cheerleader may have made your life hell in high school, but what if you both like Batman movies? Doctor Who? Comics? Maybe we should strive for common ground, and not perpetuate stupid John Hughes movie high school class structures into adulthood, it just makes us all look bad.

Snickers Commercial

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Doctor Who: The Adventure Games Episode 2 – Review

Note: The following is a mirror of a video game review that I did a few years ago when I worked for VGchartz. Just in case something happens on that site, I don’t want to lose it.

 My typical TV viewing routine during many a summertime Sunday night involves watching my favorite show, Doctor Who. Sadly as of last week I noticed that a void was now slammed into my life. The truth was that I had no new Doctor Whoepisodes to watch until around Christmas time because the season finale had just aired. Gladly, the BBC was there for me once again with the second of four interactive Doctor Who episodes. Doctor Who – The Adventure games. Episode 2.  Blood of the Cybermen is the second adventure and begins with a man working in an arctic base fleeing from an unseen menace on a snowmobile. The man, mumbling to himself about unspeakable horrors, flashes back to what caused the problems: an excavated Cyberman arm.

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The Cybermen are quite possibly the TV show’s most recognizable villains after the Daleks, who we saw in the last game about a month ago. For those who do not know, the Cybermen are a race of androids that have began to travel the stars in search of bodies that they can assimilate into their race. What began as a measure to stop the death of their kind became a true horror. Blood of the Cybermen captures the villains in all their terrifying glory, complete with all of their signature voices, sound effects, and catchphrases such as “you will be like us…”. Before any Star Trek aficionado points out the similarity to ‘the Borg’, a similar villain from the Star Trek TV show and films, the Cybermen came first – 1966 to be precise.

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I’m not too sure when the game takes place in relation to the TV show, but it’s pretty safe to say that it’s an unaired adventure set sometimes before the show’s finale. It stars Matt Smith as the Doctor and Karen Gillan as Amy, his companion. Both perform all of the voices and such for their characters. The Doctor is up to all the quirky hijinx that fans of the show are used to, including a section of dialog where the Doctor claims that he taught Elvis Presley how to play the guitar, albeit very badly. The rest of the story involves the Doctor, Amy, and a few new friends as they try to stop the Cybermen from taking over the aforementioned arctic research facility.

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The core gameplay is typical adventure game fare, with the player controlling the Doctor and Amy as they investigate their surroundings. You use the mouse or the direction keys to walk around, a left mouse click to investigate glowing objects, and “I” to bring up your inventory. This game has a bit more variety than the first from the get-go as some puzzles force you to work in tandem with your assistant. For instance, right at the beginning of the game you are given a rope that you must throw to Amy to tie to a snowmobile wench. When doing this the game switches viewpoints from the Doctor to Amy then back. While the first game did a bit of this, it was never to solve one puzzle together, and was more of a “tag-team” affair, as one character would go off and fetch random stuff whilst the other was busy. The system is implemented better here.

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As with the first game, the Doctor doesn’t actually carry a gun or any other weapon, so fending off enemies is pretty tricky. The developers handle this well by making use of a Metal Gear-esque sneaking style that comes up any time you get near an enemy. The Doctor automatically crouches down, and you are given an indicator in the shape of a caution symbol. If the symbol is green, you are mostly fine, but the closer to red the indicator goes the closer you are to getting killed. The sneaking sections in the second game are much better than many of those found in the first; the enemy A.I. seems to both be better and harder to stump. When sneaking past the Daleks in the first game, many were planted around like un-moving sentries that you could simply run behind. The Cyberslaves, which are Cybermen that have been only partially “Cyberized”, move around like zombies, and as such move their line of site around. This, and their way of walking around corridors, makes them a much more formidable enemy.

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This sneak mode has been coupled with a lot more climbing and exploring, thanks to the arctic cave setting which takes up a portion of the game, and so gives it a Tomb Raider vibe. There is even a portion fairly early on where you have to make it across a melting ice flow; one wrong step and it’s an icy grave for the Doctor. This makes portions of the game much more interactive and plays like a platformer game. 

The puzzles have also been overhauled. More specifically, there’s increased variety to the ones you’re given. This game only recycles one puzzle from the first game, that being one where you re-wire something that is broken. Other than that, the game contains a handful of new puzzles. They aren’t hard, but they’re challenging enough to break up the gameplay and still keep it interesting. One problem I had with the first game was a puzzle where you had to drag an icon through an electrified maze. The first time, this puzzle was fun, but after three times I was done with electrified maze puzzles. In this game, not only do you have to match the radio waves of a signal to stun an enemy, but you have to create an antivirus. Pretty cool stuff if you ask me, and far more varied.

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On the graphical side of things, we are once again faced with the following dilemma: the game is free (in the U.K.), so compared to other free games such as flash based puzzles games, Blood of the Cybermen blows most of them away. On the flipside, the game is no graphical wonder – even on the highest settings the game is fairly reminiscent of an original Xbox game or possibly a low-end Wii game. On the plus side, many of the environments in the game are much larger than the first game, such as the crashed Cyber-ship, and really show off the scope of this game. The graphics are a mixed bag – some places, like the crash, look amazing, while others look on the sub-par side.

Musically the game is awesome and has the sound production values of a larger, much more expensive game. This was brought to my attention, not because the music is overpowering, but because it keeps the player energized as the game progresses. There are some intense moments in the later parts of the game when you are being pursued by an army of Cybermen, and the music escalates to show you how close to being killed you are; not bad for a free game.

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As with the first game, Doctor Who – The Adventure games. Episode 2: Blood of the Cybermen is a great game for the price. The game is only a few hours long, but that helps pace the game out so that it’s like an interactive episode of the show. As of right this moment the game has still yet to be announced for the U.S., despite the official website proclaiming that they would be available in “early July”. Time will tell if that ever gets fixed, but one can assume that they will pop up later this month, after the initial run of Season five ends. All in all, you really can’t find a better Doctor Who game out there. While the graphics are a bit hit or miss, they are average at least for a game of this scope, and there are plenty of things for completionists to find.

Doctor Who- The Adventure Games Episode 1 -City of the Daleks – Review

Note: The following is a re-publish of a video game review that I did in 2010 ago when I worked for VGchartz. Just in case something happens on that site, I don’t want to lose it, and figured my blog would be an awesome place to share it.Since this time, all of the games were released in the U.S. for a small fee, if you run a Google search, you should find them pretty easily.

For those that do not know, a little sci-fi show from the UK called Doctor Who has become a media phenomenon and a popular television program in many countries. Doctor Who even holds a handful of Guinness world records including one for most successful science-fiction series, one for the longest running magazine based on a TV show, and longest running science fiction show. You would think that with a pedigree of that ilk, the show would have entered the realm of videogames more often, but aside from a recent Top Trumps game and a few PC games released in the 1980’s not much has been done with the franchise.

Recently BBC revealed that it was in talks with a few major publishers to bring a few top BBC properties to our consoles, and Doctor Who would be one of the first. The Production staff for the new show got in contact with Broken Sword creator Charles Cecil and Sheffield-based studio Sumo Digital to make Doctor Who: The Adventure Games. The series is a four part episodic adventure game, released for free in the UK, with a US release forthcoming.

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The first of this four part adventure has all of the content you would expect from a doctor who episode, and in fact even has the iconic title sequence and theme song there to remind us that this is essentially a standalone episode of the show. The story revolves around the Doctor as played by Matt Smith, and his assistant Amy, as played by Karen Gillan, landing in 1963. The Doctor suggests that they go see the Beatles or another activity of the time, but finds that something is not right. It appears that the ever-so-popular adversaries for the Doctor, the Daleks, have landed there at some point and re-written time. It’s up to the Doctor and Amy to unravel the catastrophe and hopefully prevent the ramafications of human enslavement under the regime of the metallic marauders.

The core gameplay is typical adventure game fare with the player controlling the Doctor and Amy as they investigate their surroundings. You use either the mouse or the direction keys to walk around, left mouse click to investigate glowing objects, and “I” to bring up your inventory. A lot of the puzzles are pretty simple, leading me to believe that this game was mostly meant for the younger fans of the show, but any inherent “easiness” is not indicative of the game being childish or condescending as some children’s games are.

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The children’s aspect of the game is re-enforced by the inclusion of “fun facts” where you click on a point of interest such as a fallen bus stop sign, and there suddenly pops up a history of red double decker busses. This is done in a way much similar to the lore found in the Metroid Prime games. While this does make the game somewhat educational, it doesn’t hammer you over the head, and these segments can be skipped if you are adverse to the idea of learning anything while you play a game.

Since the Doctor doesn’t actually carry a gun or any other weapon, fending off of enemies is pretty tricky: Doctor isn’t exactly Rambo. The developers handle this well by making use of a Metal Gear-esque sneaking style that comes up any time you get near an enemy. The Doctor automatically crouches down, and you are given an indicator in the shape of a caution symbol. If the symbol is green, you are mostly fine, but the closer to red the indicator goes, the closer you are to getting killed. Luckily if you do die, the game resumes at the last checkpoint that you made it to. The last real gameplay type you’ll have to deal with are occasional puzzles including a “drag the item through a maze without touching the walls” segment. These aren’t too challenging, and they keep you busy throughout the game.

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On the graphical front I wasn’t expecting a whole lot to be honest considering the price tag, but was pleasantly surprised that the game looked somewhat like an original Xbox game, or possibly even a Wii game. The animation is sometimes inconsistent with a few places looking far better than others, giving a somewhat rushed appearance. Some of the motions are a bit jerky, but I’ve seen worse mishaps on console games with a much larger budget. The game has an almost cell shaded appearance which really helps any sort of graphical inadequacy as it gives a more cartoony look. The mannerisms and facial features of the actors involved is flawless, a feat that was achieved by the use of a new type of rotoscoping to map the real life actors’ movements onto their 3d models.

The sound direction in the game is done fairly well, and contains a lot of spoken dialog. This really helps the pacing of the game, and again reiterates the belief that this game was intended to be as much like an episode of the show as possible. In the background there is also have music that I assume was composed for the show, which adds both tension and wonder.

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For the most part, Doctor Who: The Adventure Games Episode 1: City of the Daleks is a great game for the price, which for UK players is nothing (well technically you guys paid for it with the license fee). As long as the US price is reasonable upon release, let’s say maybe 5 dollars, it’ll be good as well. While not a technical achievement, it stands head and shoulders above any other free game based on a TV show that I’ve played, and is probably the best Doctor Who game ever made. The developers did a great job using what I imagine was a miniscule budget, and made something that was reasonably enjoyable. The game lasts a few hours, and will keep you busy if you decide to collect everything, and mess around. Sadly, we don’t get much of a “next time” trailer (if you will), but rumor has it that the second game will contain the iconic villians: The Cybermen.

Doctor Who Live: The Next Doctor (2013) A recap

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When Matt Smith became The Doctor way back in 2009, there really wasn’t a whole lot of fanfare. This was made more abundantly clear on my side of the big pond as the show had yet to hit the current levels of promotion that it achieves over here. As I recall, some promo images were snapped and Matt recorded a short video interview and that was that. This time around, the BBC has gone all out with a live TV program simulcast around the world. With the nature of Doctor Who Live: The Next Doctor pretty much existing to introduce us to the new actor, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot of substance. And that my friends is what we got here: some fluff with a cool interview at the end. I decided to write up a brief synopsis for those unable to watch the show, and despite the fact that everyone suddenly knows who Peter Capaldi is, his relationship to the show may be foggy for some fans.

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Doctor Who Live: The Next Doctor was presented as a sort of late night talk show in a similar vein to either the Graham Norton Show or the old BBC Jonathan Ross Show. The presenter for the evening was Zoe Ball, someone that I’m unfamiliar with. A quick trip to Wikipedia land reveals that she hosts things like dancing shows over in the UK, a fact that means I will immediately forget who she is after typing this. Ball did her best job of hyping the crowd up and keeping everyone relatively excited as she and the audience watched video clips with selected celebrity guests. These guests included Peter Davison, Liza Tarbuck, Bernard Cribbins, Rufus Hound, and Daniel Roche. We also got to see brief glimpses of video recordings of Steven Moffat and Bonnie Langford as well as other cast members from the past, too bad these clips were short and were similar to VH1 “I Love the 80’s” shows.

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The audience was basically silent for this whole thing until the very end, forcing guests to go for cheap pops in order to make the audience cheer. Rufus Hound went as far as to mention England to get a cheap audience reaction, the same thing rock musicians do at a concert to get the crowd going. I’m not saying this was bad or anything, but aside from Bernard Cribbins and peter Davison, I have no idea why some of these guests were chosen. One decent bit from the whole video clips montage was a Matt Smith interview where he talks about his departure from the show, and gives some kind advice to the new guy.

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There was a tense moment where we saw the new actor’s hand as he waited for the cue to go onstage,and then the tension was relieved as Peter Capaldi walked out. Capaldi discussed his love for the show, and trying to win over the audience. They reminded fans that he has been on both Doctor Who and Torchwood at different times, and that he once wrote a letter to a newspaper about the show as a teenager. Look’s like we’re in good hands, folks Capaldi is awesome.
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To be honest this show was sort of unnecessary and seemed sort of thrown together. It is cool seeing a show I love getting this much attention though, as it was a mere 4-5 years ago that I had to defend it’s existence to a co-worker that insisted nobody had heard of it, and there was no way more people watched it than Lost, his contender for “greatest sci-fi show ever”. Last time I checked, Lost didn’t have vapid talk shows discussing casting choices did it? I claim the win!

If you guys want to check this interview out, here it is:

And The New Doctor is…

Doctor_Who_peter-capaldiPeter Capaldi!

 

Doctor Who: The 12th Doctor Trailer

The Tripods: (1984) France, July 2089

(A.K.A. Season 1 episode 4)

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Remember those last three episodes of Tripods where Will and Henry didn’t do a whole lot? They can almost be seen as an introduction to this episode – the one where the show really kicks into overdrive. When we last left the boys, they had escaped a Blackguard prison and were set to be capped as punishment for their crimes against the Tripod overlords. Having met a young Frenchman named Jean-Paul (now referred top as Bean Pole) they are now free to explore France on their quest to find the mysterious White Mountains where men are said to live free.

This is the part where I’m going to gush about the post-apocalyptic nature of this episode. For those that have followed my blog for a while, you know that I am utterly fascinated by that particular facet of science fiction and usually enjoy anything in the genre. All I need to see is a few deserted streets or a destroyed national monument,and I’m sold on whatever is going on nine times out of ten. For this particular episode, Paris is standing in as the ruined city in question and I feel that it is realized fairly well. Since most of this show is filmed outside, all one really needs are a few ratty buildings and some garbage on a deserted street to get a pretty solid effect, but the production team went the extra mile to CGI some torn up monuments in the mix.

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The special effects team did a great job of realizing the destroyed buildings and other scenes of urban decay. They obviously used some sort of Matte paintings for the effects, but the results are pretty awesome. In fact, they look far better than a lot of the special effects I’ve seen in other science fiction shows of the time, leading me to believe that this show had a decent enough budget or a really talented director.

The climax of the episode finds the boys exploring a deserted shopping center where they gather up supplies such as cooking equipment and weapons such as grenades. The boys are ignorant to the world that existed before the Tripods, so things like cars, guns and other weapons of war are a mystery to them. This nearly results in tragedy as they fire off an old machine gun and a grenade that they find, barely escaping the damage. Finding these “goose eggs” does prove to be fairly useful later in the show, but for now the boys question holding onto them as they seem far too dangerous to possess.

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We get to see one of our first glimpses of Vagrants driven mad by the capping process, and how they live as insane barbarians out for blood. The group that Ozymandias, the man that taught them of the White Mountains, was part of seemed like a sad group of beggars, while this group is more like something out of a Mad Max movie. They also sort of look like extras from a post-punk music video of the time, I wouldn’t be surprised if A Flock of Seagulls were to make a cameo based on the make-up and hair used on the actors.

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One awesome scene in this episode is one where we learn a bit about they back-stories of the boys, namely that Bean Pole has been an orphan since he was an infant, something that he shares with Henry. Bean Pole grew up being taken care of by an Inn Keeper since his only remaining family, an aunt and uncle, could not care for him. He was fascinated at a young age by science, discovering via balloon that warm air rises and cold air sinks as a small boy. He then went on to become something of an inventor, creating his own homemade eyeglasses and other items as a result. He is most fascinated by steam, and since little technology exists in this world, machines made of steam would be amazing feats of engineering.

One of the more humorous things to happen in the episode occurs when they are gathering equipment up for their journey. When faced with a seemingly infinite stream of things that would be awesome to have on a long journey, the boys create new outfits from discarded clothing found all over the mall. This was filmed in the eighties, so this scene may not have been as preposterous then, but the outfits they create are a sight to behold. I’m not sure if Will’s amazing head wear or Henry’s shirt with garish letting that spells out “Oui” is better, but I know that I’m sad they don’t wear this stuff for the rest of the show.

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This was easily the best episode of The Tripods presented so far, mainly due to the action and real danger involved in the journey they boys took through Paris. As I stated before, this episode has great special effects considering the fact that it is from the 1980’s and has a BBC TV budget. Usually shows at this time had spaceships made of hair dryers and other cheap props all filmed in a tiny non-air conditioned set. This is almost in a similar scope to something on an American network at the time, just with grainier cameras.

 

Obligatory purchase links:

The Tripods: Series 1 & 2 [Regions 2 & 4]

The White Mountains

The City of Gold and Lead

The Pool of Fire

When the Tripods Came

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So Who Does the Internet Think the Next Doctor Will be?

Here we go folks, it’s now less than 24 hours until the BBC is set to announce the twelfth incarnation of everyone’s favorite time traveling madman. Speculation on the possibilities has been running rampant since basically one day after Matt Smith took the mantle in 2009, but when we are so close to the actual day of reckoning, it seems like we may have more of an idea now. While some of these rumors strike me as nothing more than the Sun’s attempt to get people to buy newspapers “We reveal the next Doctor!”, others strike me as wishful thinking. So here we go, I’ve rounded up the top six rumored Doctors.

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Ben Daniels

Media companies like The Radio Times and The Mirror seem to be convinced that Ben Daniels, most recently featured in Netflix’s House of Cards, is a shoe-in for the role. Their speculation seems to all boil down to the coy manner in which he reacted to a question about his possible involvement. Apparently not flat-out denying something means that you are going to be in the show.

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Peter Capaldi

There has been a recent trend of industry insiders making bets on things they have inside information on, and profiting on it. WWE has recently had a handful of Pay-Per-View outcomes spoiled by this as media outlets all start leaking who is the bookie’s darling mere minutes before something happens. Peter Capaldi has sky-rocketed to such status today, as he has become the odds-on favorite on many online betting sites. Known for his foul-mouthed role in The Thick of It, could he be the next Doctor?

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Andrew Scott –

Many people have been looking at other actors that Steven Moffat has worked with in the past to try and figure out if he’d use someone he has already worked with. While it seems that rumors of the involvement of Benedict Cumberbatch are completely false, a new name has come out of nowhere – Andrew Scott. Well known for playing Moffat’s Moriarty in the beloved BBC adaptation Sherlock, Scott would be awesome, but part of me thinks the whole thing is wishful thinking by Moffat fans.

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Rory Kinnear

Mere minutes after Matt Smith announced his imminent departure from the show, hundreds of articles popped up with one potential replacement seemingly chosen – Rory Kinnear. Known for his roles in the last few James Bond films, Kinnear has the perfect profile that producers usually go for: known actor, but not too big. I feel that the almost immediate appearance of his name on the list points to a red herring, but time will tell.

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Chris O’Dowd

One of my friends brought this intriguing choice to my attention earlier today – Chris O’Dowd of The IT Crowd fame. He has been slowly moving up the rankings as everyone’s favorite lovable Irish guy ever since he appeared in Bridesmaids, Girls, and Moone Boy. I’d love to see O’Dowd actually, and maybe we could see a Richard Ayoade cameo?

Billie_Piper-doctor-who Billie Piper

Seriously guys? There is stunt casting,and then there is this monstrosity of a rumor. I’m not one of those guys that thinks the character of The Doctor could never be played by someone of a different gender or ethnicity, but having an actress that played one of the most beloved companions play the character would be terrible. Especially, considering Rose being confirmed as appearing in the 50th anniversary special, I think the odds of this happening are pretty slim.

The Tomorrow People (1973) the Slaves of Jedikiah

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Before we get to our regularly scheduled review, I’d like to drag out my soapbox for a minute. When did the term “family television” turn into something meaning “shows about annoying affluent kids being sassy”? It’s like every show on the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon has devolved into that sort of thing. I remember a golden age of “family television” that wasn’t exclusively designed for pre-pubescent teen girls; an age when one could watch those aforementioned channels for hours and not get immediately irritated or feel like you are being talked down to. They had comedy shows, family shows, cartoons, and even skit shows, plus they would take the occasional chance and bring something over from another country. Nickelodeon excelled at this, and I remember really enjoying one show in particular. I recall them doing some sort of action related programming block, and really digging
The Tomorrow People. Usually science fiction for a youth audience is relegated to being full of juvenile humor or written for tiny children here in the States, so I was completely blown away by the way the show was written. It wasn’t until much later that I discovered that the 1990’s show I enjoyed was actually a re-boot of a much older show, one that I began watching for the very first time recently.

The Tomorrow People tells the story of the next chapter in human evolution – Homo Superior. These are people born of normal humans, but possessing telekinesis, teleportation, and other psychic abilities that make them far apart from normal society. As a trade-off for such abilities, The Tomorrow People can’t willingly kill others, and have to stay safe using non-lethal weaponry – this is a shame because they seem to be targeted by some very bad people. In a sort of X-Men meets Torchwood amalgamation, we come to learn that The Tomorrow People live in a secret base under the Thames and actively look for others like themselves to help and protect. When someone realizes that they are Homo-Superior they go through a process of great mental strain and bodily stress called “breaking out”.

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This first serial, consisting of five episodes, is an introduction to how The Tomorrow People operate through the eyes of Stephen, the newest recruit. Stephen was an ordinary boy until he suddenly collapsed in a crowded street after school. No sooner than that, all sorts of bizarre things start going down including attempted kidnappings by a duo of bumbling Cockney thugs, talking computers, robots, and even aliens. The other Tomorrow People step in to attempt to help him through this ordeal and keep him safe while he gains control over his powers. At first Stephen is skeptical of the whole situation, and especially that he’d be of any use to these seemingly magical children, but that soon changes. In a manner very similar to how the character Gargamel obsesses over the Smurfs, a man named Jedikiah apparently has been obsessing over the existence of people with telepathic powers on Earth. He sends the thugs out to capture Stephen when he is most vulnerable because he needs psychics for some nefarious reason.

The Tomorrow People themselves were portrayed by Nicholas Young as John, Sammie Winmill as Carol, Stephen Salmon as Kenny, and Peter Vaughan-Clarke as Stephen. As with many child actors of this time, many of the cast members rarely worked past the 1970’s so I can’t say “this guy later went on to be in some huge movie when he was older”, but a few of them did reprise their roles recently in audio drama form through Big Finish. My hat really goes off to Francis De Wolff, who portrayed the diabolical Jedikiah. He’s one of those actors that looks evil by simply existing. His face shape, facial hair, manner of speech, and just about every other thing he does makes him come across cartoonishly villainous. I mean that in the best of ways though, as his role reminded me a lot of the way Roger Delgado played the Master in Doctor Who, another man that was born to play baddies.

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Unlike some other things that I’ve reviewed recently, The Tomorrow People is VERY dated to the 1970’s. The haircuts, clothes, graphics, music and just about everything else just screams the decade it was produced. This is by no means a bad thing for me, but it could hurt the show for someone that is inclined to dislike things from the past. Some films and TV are essentially timeless despite the age, and this is not one of those programs. I’m no political correctness commando, but there is a bit of old-school sexism in the show that was so blatant that it made my wife and I both laugh. Take, for instance, a scene where Carol is not allowed to go on an adventure with the guys because she was a girl and presumably weaker than the guys. Despite that, I will give a nod to the producers for having multiple ethnicities represented in the cast, something that is good for a kid’s show, especially in the seventies.

This show has one of the coolest opening titles that I’ve seen in a while. Like everything else in the seventies, the opening is like a drug induced fever dream in the mind of a new-age thinker. Check it out here:

My only real gripe for this first serial is the manner in which the show attempted to educate the viewer and the introduction of the main villain. After a fairly strong first few episodes, the show suddenly introduces an alien threat to the mix. This is handled in a fairly blasé way, as if the whole idea of aliens coming to Earth is fairly common-place. This is coincidentally the exact same time a blundered educational attempt falls in our laps. I’m all for learning in every show, but suddenly telling the story of Homer’s The Odyssey, and more specifically the part about the Cyclops, to explain away the fact that there was suddenly a green alien with one eye standing there seems amateur at best. Perhaps leaving the mystery of who the actual villain was could have been built up a tad more rather than suddenly blurting out “oh yeah, aliens did it” like that Ancient Aliens guy.

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Despite the dated nature of the material, I enjoyed The Tomorrow People a lot. There were a few snickers with a goofy cheap costume, or an absurd leap of logic, but I have to tell myself that this was intended to be a children’s show. And compared with other children’s shows The Tomorrow People definitely deserves its status as a classic and I can’t wait to watch more.

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