Friday, November 29, 2013

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1, Episode 9: Repairs

This week we get a little more back story on Melinda May (but not too much!) and another shout out to Thor: The Dark World, now playing at theaters everywhere. 

Thoughts (SPOILERS!)
• HAW! I knew May and Ward were hooking up! Last week they kind of left it up in the air as to did they or didn't they, and many around the interwebs said the two were just talking and working out their psychological problems. 

I knew that was hogwash and it looks like I was right. They're totally hooking up. I did figure it was just a one time thing though, but this episode suggests it's an ongoing relationship, so I didn't see that coming.

• This week the team investigates a woman who appears to have telekinetic powers, but Coulson and Fitzsimmons all poo poo that notion, saying that telekinesis doesn't exist and is downright impossible.

This isn't the first time the show's told us in no uncertain terms that it doesn't exist. Never mind that they've encountered space gods and people with super strength and subjects who can control magnetism or generate flame from their bodies-- mental powers are out of the question!

I don't understand the series' attitude toward telekinesis. Do they just not want to deal with it, or is this some kind of set up? Are they making the characters adamantly disbelieve in it, so they can all be shocked when someone comes along who really has it? Who knows.

• So Hannah Hutchins thinks she's possessed by a demon. In reality a lovesick co-worker named Tobias Ford sabotaged a particle accelerator so she'd have to inspect it, but it accidentally exploded and sent him bouncing between dimensions, like a ghost.

So this guy was sweet on Hutchins, and instead of maybe just telling her he liked her, or at the very least leaving her a secret admirer note, he risks an entire factor by throwing a wrench into a dangerous particle accelerator. Brilliant! 

• Speaking of Ford-- what was this other dimension he was bouncing to? He thinks it's Hell, and the glimpse Simmons gets of it certainly qualifies. Is it really Hell? The biblical fire and brimstone place? It also looks like it could be one of the Nine Realms we saw in Thor: The Dark World, which would be kind of cool and tie things together nicely. We'll probably never know.

At the end of the episode May talks Ford into "letting go," and he dematerializes. So where is he? Did he just turn into dust in the wind and float harmlessly away, or is he stuck in the Hell dimension forever, with only his giant monkey wrench for company? 

• This week we find out-- sort of-- why May's nickname is "The Cavalry" and why she acts all Spock-ish. Well, we sort of find out. As often happens on this show, we get a couple little details but not the entire story. Gotta drag the secrets out for as long as possible, because apparently the writers can't think of anything else to do with the characters once their secrets are all out.

• As the plane goes down, Coulson radios his call sign, which is "SHIELD 616." As all good comic readers know, in the Marvel Multiverse, Earth #616 is the one containing the main Marvel Universe. 

• A couple weeks ago in the F.Z.Z.T. episode, I marveled (ha!) at the fact that the Bus was sitting in the middle of the desert, with no runway in sight and nothing but sand for miles in every direction. There was no way in hell that giant plane could ever get up to take off speed in sand, and I wondered if it had some kind of VTOL function.

It looks like indeed it does! At the end of this episode we see the plane taking off vertically, without the need of a runway. Well done, guys! You read my blog, saw the error I pointed out, and rushed to correct it.

• At the end of the episode everyone but May is playing some Scrabble-like game, and as Simmons plays the word "aglet" they all call bullsh*t on her and say it's not a word.

Who the hell doesn't know what an aglet is? Do they still teach vocabulary words in school these days, or is that too passe?

Black Friday Death Pool Results

If you picked ZERO in this year's Black Friday Death Pool, congratulations! You win the pot! 

For all you players out there who predicted one or more people would be killed while fighting over cheap flat screen TV sets, better luck next year!

As for this year's Black Friday Serious Bodily Injury Pool, the count currently stands at EIGHT. If you picked eight in the pool, please come forward and claim your winnings.

Just a friendly reminder; don't forget to enter your death and injury guesses in next month's Day After Xmas Gift Return Debacle. Happy Shopping!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Walking Dead Season 4, Episode 7: Dead Weight

Again with an all-Governor episode this week. Remember when this show was about Rick and the people at the prison?

It's a bold move to spend this much time examining the show's main villain, and I applaud them for taking such a big chance. I'm just not sure it's necessary. At the end of last season the Governor lost everything and was bent on revenge against the prison folk. Now in these two episodes we see he wanders aimlessly for a while, gets a chance at redemption, fails, and is bent on revenge against the prison folk. He's right back where he started. So why bother with this storyline?

Then there's the fact that we only get sixteen episodes per season, so the Governor's story has to move along at a breakneck pace in order to squeeze it all in, which harms the pacing.

Thoughts (SPOILERS!)
• The Governor repeatedly calling Meghan "pumpkin" was creepier than any herd of walkers ever could be. 

• That tank is definitely an impressive and formidable weapon. But I'm wondering-- what do tanks run on? Gas? Propane? Special tank fuel? If it's something besides plain old gas, is there enough of it laying around? It'd be embarrassing if the Governor intended to use it to knock down the prison fence and it ran out of fuel halfway there.

• I can't believe Martinez took the Governor in, knowing what he knows about him. The writers try to gloss over this questionable bit of motivation by having Martinez say he'd have abandoned the Governor if he hadn't had other people with him.

It would have been more believable if Martinez had given them a hot meal and then sent them packing.

• Another example of the breakneck pace of these two episodes-- Tara meets a former army soldier named Alisha, and within the space of a day or two they're a couple. I guess there probably aren't a lot of lesbians around in the post apocalyptic world, so when two of them meet they gotta move fast.

• I didn't quite understand the whole mud pit full of zombies thing. Was that a natural occurrence or did Martinez put it there to restrict access to and from the camp? And if it was natural, wouldn't the mud eventually dry out and the walker's all escape?

• Martinez's walker pits don't make much sense either. I'm assuming he ordered them dug around the perimeter of the camp to trap zombies, but the one we see is pretty small and there's a ton of space all around it. In order to be effective it seems like they'd need to dig a continuous trench around the camp.

• I don't want to get too spoilery in reference to the comic book, but it does feature the Governor attacking the prison with a tank, and things don't go well for Tyreese. Let's hope things turn out better for the TV version of the character.

• The Governor, Mitch and Pete go on a supply run and see a small woodland camp of ten or fifteen survivors with lots of supplies. Mitch wants to steal their stuff, but Pete says no and they continue searching elsewhere. When they come back by the camp, they see everyone's been slaughtered and the supplies are gone. 

Mitch is livid and says he knew they should have raided the camp when they had the chance. If I was Mitch I'd have a bigger concern-- who the hell killed everyone in the camp? The Governor says it wasn't walkers, so that only leaves humans. I doubt anyone from the prison did it, so that means a third group is out there somewhere. A third group that isn't very nice.
• The Governor kills Pete because he's an indecisive leader. He then goes to Mitch-- Pete's  brother-- and tells him he killed him. Mitch gets over Pete's death in record time and pledges allegiance to the Governor. Another example of that unfortunate accelerated pace.

• The episode ends with the Governor lurking around outside the prison, and aiming his gun at an unsuspecting Michonne. 

I really don't think they'd kill off such a popular character, but you never know on this show. All I've got to say is if they kill her off after they finally figured out how to write her character, I'll personally fly to showrunner Scott Gimple's house, knock on his front door and punch him in the throat. And then I'll get mad!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I Am Spurious Yellow Update

I first wrote about this back in March, but it's time for an update.

First there was Monsters, Inc. Note the army of minions in yellow hazmat suits.

Then there was Despicable Me. These minions aren't wearing hazmat suits, but they're still yellow.

Then there was Escape From Planet Earth. Army. Yellow. Hazmat. Minions. I'm beginning to sense a pattern here...

And in theaters this very moment is Free Birds. Jesus Jetskiing Christ! Again with the army of minions in yellow hazmat suits! What the hell, Hollywood?

One could argue that the Despicable Me Minions are simply a coincidence, as they're an army of beings who just happen to have yellow skin.The Escape and Free Birds troops though are just plain old fashioned ripoffery...

Is there some show business law that says every computer animated kid's movie has to contain an army of yellow hazmat-suited minions? 

Did the same conceptual artist work on all these films? Does he bounce from studio to studio, designing armies of yellow minions before being fired and starting the cycle anew at another company?

Next year I fully expect to see a poster for Army Of Yellow Hazmat-Suited Minions: The Movie!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special: The Day Of The Doctor

At long last, the Doctor Who Fiftieth Anniversary Special is here! Broadcast five decades to the day after the very first episode originally aired on November 23, 1963. I bet nobody who caught the premiere back then ever dreamed they'd still be watching it fifty years later.

All in all it was a pretty good episode. Lots of nods to the past, and it's always fun to see various versions of the Doctor team up. For the record this is the fifth time the Doctor's teamed up with his past selves-- the previous gatherings occurred in The Three Doctors, The Five Doctors, The Two Doctors (not very original titles, are they?), Time Crash and now this special.

From the moment the Special was announced, many fans hoped and prayed for some sort of mega-adventure starring all twelve Doctors, similar to the various team up episodes of the past. While that would be amazing, there's no way in hell it was ever going to happen. It's just not possible or practical. The actors who played the first three Doctors have unfortunately passed away and the next four have aged almost beyond recognition. Add to that a grumpy actor who refuses to reprise the part, and it's pretty obvious to even the most hopeful fan that we were never going to get an all inclusive team up. Sad, but true.

There were lots of shout outs to Classic Doctor Who in the episode. The show opens with the original black and white title sequence and music, as a policeman walks past the I.M. Foreman scrap yard, exactly as the first episode did fifty years ago. We see Clara now has a job teaching at the Coal Hill School, which is where Susan Foreman, the Doctor's granddaughter, attended classes. The Coal Hill sign lists Ian Chesterton as the school governor. Ian was one of the First Doctor's original companions. And Clara rides past a clock that reads 5:16, a nod to the exact time the very first episode was broadcast fifty years ago.

In a similar vein, the access code for Captain Jack's Vortex Manipulator was 1716231163, which again is the exact time and date of the airing of the first episode. 1716 being military time for 5:16, 2311 is November 23rd (cause the Brits list the date before the month, dontcha know) and 63 for the year. And that's one to grow on!

In a very obvious shout out, Kate Lethbridge-Stewart's assistant Osgood is wearing an exact copy of the Fourth Doctor's iconic scarf. Lethbridge-Stewart has a line about "events that occurred in the 1970s or 1980s, depending on the dating protocol used." This is a reference to the Third Doctor era UNIT stories, which may or may not have taken place a few years in the future (from the time they were first broadcast, that is).

The Tenth Doctor's marriage to Elizabeth I was mentioned in The End Of Time and The Shakespeare Code. The Fall Of Arcadia was first mentioned in Doomsday. And of course the Tenth Doctor's line, "I don't want to go" were the last he uttered in that form in The End Of Time. The Moment, the ultimate doomsday weapon, was also mentioned in The End Of Time (that episode gets around!).

The Plot:
It would take ten or twelve thousand words to adequately describe the plot, so to put it as briefly as possible: 

The previously unseen and un-talked about War Doctor is the one who ended the Time War by destroying both the Daleks and the Time Lords. A time anomaly causes him to meet both the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. Together they search for a better way to end the Time War.

Thoughts (Spoilers!)
• OK, enough with all the The Blank Of The Doctor titles. The Name Of The Doctor, The Night Of The Doctor-- it's getting confusing. Not to mention a bit repetitive. 

And as if all that wasn't enough, this year's Christmas Special is titled The Time Of The Doctor! Oy gevalt! 

• After getting a call from the Doctor, Clara races across town on her motorcycle while wearing a short skirt. Can you wear a skirt on a motorcycle without giving everyone a good look at your drawers? I freely admit I have little or no experience in riding a motorcycle in a skirt, so I have no idea.

• As Clara rides her cycle into the TARDIS, we get another cool continuous shot of someone entering it from outside. I love these shots, and I'm glad they finally have the technology-- and the budget-- to pull them off. It's much more awesome than cutting from outside to inside. I hope they keep on doing them.

• I really didn't get the point of the whole "carrying the TARDIS through London by helicopter" scene. It felt more like a big publicity stunt dreamed up by the BBC rather than a necessary part of the plot. You could have cut out the entire sequence and it wouldn't have harmed the episode one bit.

• Apparently everything the Time Lords make is "dimensionally transcendental." The TARDIS, the Genesis Ark and now even Time Lord paintings are bigger on the inside than the outside. Must take them forever for them to pee with bladders that are bigger on the inside.

• The War Doctor steals the Moment, the ultimate doomsday weapon which he wants to use to end the Time War. The Moment is a conscious, sentient weapon and takes the form of Rose Tyler's "Bad Wolf" persona.

It was a nice way to bring back Rose without bringing her back (since she's supposed to be living in a parallel dimension), if that makes any sense.

By the way, is a conscious weapon that tries to talk you out of using it a good idea? What if you needed to use it in a hurry? What if your sensors detected a big ol' squadron of Dalek suicide bombers heading for your planet? You hurry and fire up the Moment so you can destroy the Daleks plummeting through your upper atmosphere, but then it starts asking you if you're really sure you want to do this, and are you worthy to use it, and then KABOOM! It's too late and you and your planet are gone.

• Zygons! We finally get to see Zygons again for the first time since 1975!

• The Doctor's solution to the Zygon problem-- to wipe everyone's minds so no one knows if they're human or alien so they'll write up a fair treaty-- is a real theory. A philosopher named John Rawls postulated that if you could somehow apply a "veil of ignorance" to a group of people so they didn't know if they were rich or poor, they'd opt to create a society in which you could live adequately in either case.

• When the three Doctors are imprisoned in the Tower Of London, they determine they could use their sonics to escape, but that it would take hundreds of years for the device to perform the calculations necessary to free them. The War Doctor notes that he began the calculations on his sonic, so it should have had four hundred years to work on the problem and be finished on the Eleventh Doctor's sonic (did you get all that?).

It's a cool idea at first glance, but there's one big problem with it. 

First of all I'm pretty sure I've seen the Doctor's sonic destroyed at least once in the past few seasons (I'm thinking it was blown up in Smith and Jones). Whoops! Does it download its ongoing calculations into its replacement? 

• When the War Doctor enters his battered TARDIS at the end of the episode, he immediately begins to regenerate. Unfortunately the camera cuts away right before we get to see his face morph into Christopher Eccleston's. 

Eccleston's stated his reasons for not wanting to return many times before, and he's entitled to his opinions and beliefs. It's just too bad he couldn't have set them aside for one day for the fans. His absence cast a bit of a pall over the episode.

So I'm assuming that this regeneration had to take place shortly before the episode Rose. In that story the Ninth Doctor passes a mirror and comments on his appearance. That seems like something you'd do right after your face changed, not months or years later. 

• Great confusion surrounds the matter of if and how the Doctor ages. In the mini episode Night Of The Doctor, the Eighth Doctor regenerates into the War Doctor, and when he looks at himself in a mirror, we see he resembles a young (well, young-ish) John Hurt. 

In this episode, the War Doctor has an aged and haggard appearance, and looks like he's in his seventies at least.

Compare that to the Eleventh Doctor. There's numerous evidence that suggests he's been in his current form for hundreds of years, yet he doesn't look a day over 30. 

So why does one version age dramatically while another stays untouched by time? Did the stress of the Time War prematurely age the War Doctor? Or did the Time War last for thousands of years?

• John Hurt did a great job as the War Doctor. I enjoyed when he seemed appalled by his "immature" future selves. A nod to fans who like the Classic Series more than the Modern one, maybe?

• When confronted by Elizabeth's men, the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors aim their sonics at the soldiers. The War Doctor scolds them and says, "They're screwdrivers! What are you planning to do, build a cabinet at them?" I'm betting that's a dig at the way the Classic sonic was pretty much just a screwdriver, while the Modern ones are more like magic wands.

• As the various Doctors converge on Gallifrey in their TARDISes, we get a (very brief) cameo by the Twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi! Note that he appeared in extreme closeup, showing nothing more than his face. I assume this was done because the production team hasn't decided on a costume for him at this point in time.

• So it looks like the forgotten War Doctor has now been made an official real Doctor. I guess that means everyone after him has to move up a notch. The Ninth Doctor is now the Tenth and so on. So Peter Capaldi will be playing the Thirteenth Doctor? It sure looks that way to me. 

• Doesn't the Doctor's new solution to ending the Time War-- by placing all of Gallifrey into a frozen painting-- tromp (with big muddy feet) all over the continuity of The End Of Time? In that episode we learned that while Gallifrey was destroyed, the Time Lords weren't really wiped out. They were placed in a Time Lock by their leader Rassilon and were trying to break out. At the end of the episode the Tenth Doctor, with the help of the Master, sealed them back in the Time Lock. Now though the planet wasn't destroyed, it's inside a painting. Are the Time Lords in the painting as well, or are they still Time Locked somewhere? My head's starting to hurt.

• The Doctor decides to make it his new mission to search for Gallifrey. That's all well and good I guess, but didn't The End Of Time and various other episodes show us that the Time Lords were pretty much a bunch of assholes? Why would he want to free them?

• At the end of the episode the Eleventh, or I guess Twelfth Doctor has a moment with the curator of the museum. The curator bears a striking resemblance to an older version of the Fourth Doctor. But he's just a plain old human... OR IS HE?

So there you go. The Fiftieth Anniversary Special. Looking forward to the Hundredth!

Dear Pringles, Please Stop Doing This

Dear Pringles (and or Kellogg's, who owns them), please stop doing this. 

Oh, I'm not talking about creating your weirdo flavors. Your Lime and Black Pepper flavored chips from last year were awesome and one of my all time favorite things to eat.

No, Pringles, I'm talking about this. The "Limited Time Only!" crap. What the hell? Why do you give us a new and delicious taste sensations, only to cruelly snatch them away from us a couple of months later? What kind of sadistic bastards do you have working there, Pringles? 

From now on, whenever I see one of your new flavors that's only going to be available for a limited time, I'm not even going to try it. What's the point? Why develop a fondness for it if I can't eat it from now on? 

You're a ruthless and harsh mistress, Pringles.

And really, Pringles? Cinnamon and Sugar flavor? Sugar? On our potato chips? Aren't there enough people riding mobility scooters up and down the snack aisle already?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Happy 50th Anniversary To Doctor Who!

Happy 50th Anniversary to Doctor Who! The show first premiered exactly fifty years ago today. Fifty years! Can you believe it! I'm betting the creators of the show never dreamed we'd still be watching new episodes half a century later.

Google even got into the spirit of the Anniversary with a special Doctor Who Google Doodle game! Very surprising, considering it's such a British institution. I guess the Doctor belongs to the world now.

Yahoo even got into the spirit of the day by adding a TARDIS to that stupid animated logo in the corner of their screen.

The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special premiered worldwide today. Look for my thoughts on it tomorrow, after I've had a chance to mull over it.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Kaiju Alert!

This week fishermen in Northeastern Canada found this freakish abomination in their nets. Fortunately one of the fishermen had the presence of mind to take a photo of it before his comrades killed it with fire.

The identity of the horrific aberration remained a mystery until a researcher with the Ocean Tracking Network identified it as a long-nosed chimaera, a rare fish that inhabits the sea at a normal depth of 6,000 feet.

Or so the media would have us believe.

All I know is it looks very familiar. I can't quite place where I've seen it before...

Oh yeah. Now I remember.

"Warning! Activity in the Rift! Kaiju Alert! Category 4. Codename: Knifehead!

Better fire up the Jaegers before it makes landfall.

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1, Episode 8: The Well

Hey, we got a really good episode this week! I liked this one a lot, mostly because we finally got an episode that contained some actual super hero trappings.

The promos have been screaming for weeks now that this episode is a direct tie-in to the current Marvel movie Thor: The Dark World, stopping just short of calling it Thor 2.5. Technically they weren't lying-- the episode begins with a few clips from the movie and then we see the S.H.I.E.L.D. team sifting through the wreckage caused by Thor and Malekith. But that's about it. There's lots of name dropping about Thor and Asgardians and space gods but no one from the movie actually shows up (we do meet an Asgardian though, but not the one we expect).

The episode was directed by Jonathan Frakes, Star Trek: The Next Generation's own Commander Will Riker. Frakes directed several ST:TNG episodes and has become a pretty decent director, one who understands the sci-fi/fantasy genre and is knowledgable about special effects. Maybe they ought to have him direct every episode from here on out.

Thoughts (Spoilers!)
• I realize I've been pretty critical about the lack of super stuff in past episodes. I understand that this series is taking a look at how normal everyday humans cope in a world of superheroes. I get it, really I do. But they've got to throw us a super bone once in a while, or else the series just becomes another iteration of CSI.

• Simmons has the exact same ring tone that I have, which was freaking me out. Every time her phone rang on screen I thought someone was calling me.

• Lots of dialog about how Asgardians are aliens, not gods, and how their technology isn't magic, it's just so advanced we can't yet understand it.

Marvel comics take this exact same view toward Thor and his world. The writers have obviously done their homework.

• Jakob and Petra (the duo who find the first piece of the Berserker Staff) were pretty lame villains. That seems to be par for the course for this show. They definitely need to work on their bad guys.

• Sorry, but I had to laugh at "Norse paganist hate group." Not those guys again! Every time there's a terrorist attack, one of those damn Norse paganist hate groups steps up and claims responsibility.

• OK, they got me-- I totally didn't suspect that doughy Dr. Randolph was an Asgardian until Ward tried to stab him. Nice touch that life story became myth and legend here on Earth.

One thing I don't quite buy though-- in the Thor films, Asgard looks like a pretty cool place. Spectacular scenery, beautiful architecture, amazing technology… why an Asgardian would want to live out their life here on our miserable planet? 

Yes, he said one reason he stayed here was because he met a lovely young French maid or something, but surely Earth women can't hold a candle to Asgardian super-babes. Plus doesn't he get tired of watching a succession of wives wither and die while he lives out his 5,000 year life span?

• I liked Randolph's snide comment that no, just because he's from Asgard doesn't mean he knows Thor. Reminded me of when white people think all blacks know one another.

• After Ward accidentally touches the Berserker Staff, it causes him to become surly and aggressive. When Skye tries to get him to open up to her, he snaps, "That's what you're here to do. Talk and talk and talk!" Tell it brother! We're not all as enamored of Skye as you are, wrtiers!

• I wonder what they'll do with the Berserker Staff? Will they use The Slingshot (from the 0-8-4 episode) to fling it into the Sun, or will they give it to Thor for safe keeping?

• Everybody's got a dark secret on this show (with the possible exception of FitzSimmons). Coulson suspects he was more seriously injured by Loki than he thought. Skye's some kind of spy, or is she? Something awful happened to May in the field and it still haunts her. And now we find out that Ward had some murky childhood trauma involving his brother. 

• May's fast becoming my favorite character on the show. Loved her bad-assery as she assembled the pieces of the Berserker Staff and expertly wielded it. More scenes like this, please.

• So, May and Ward, huh? At the end of the episode she nonchalantly invites him into her hotel room. Did they hook up? Or sit on the bed and talk about their various traumas while getting plastered? Or both?

Personally I vote for hooked up, but that's probably just because I've had a crush on Ming-Na Wen for years now.

• So it's pretty obvious at this point that Coulson is a Life Model Decoy. The viewers know it, the writers know it, the only ones who don't know it are the characters. 

I hope they're not going to drag out this mystery for the entire season, but it wouldn't surprise me if they did. Once it's revealed, the only other thing they could do with Coulson is deal with how he reacts to the fact that he's not real, and they'll no doubt want to save that arc for Season 2.

• I still think this would have been a perfect time for a cameo by Chris Hemsworth as Thor. It wouldn't even have had to be a lengthy scene; he could have just walked past Coulson and said, "Hey, how's it going, Son of Coul?"  Or they could have had Tom Hiddleston doing his awesome Owen Wilson impression. C'mon, Marvel!

What, he's so busy he couldn't spare an hour to shoot a ten second scene?

So when's Hasselhoff gonna pop up on this show?

Gluten, Schmuten!

I opened my medicine cabinet today and noticed this for the first time-- my Target brand ibuprofen is now Gluten Free!

Pshew! Thank the gods old and new! Now when I take a tiny little pill once every two months or so it'll no longer cause my insides to do cartwheels!

I'm no doctor, but it seems to me that if you're taking so many aspirins that you need to worry about gluten, you've probably got bigger problems than celiac disease.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Walking Dead Season 4, Episode 6: Live Bait

After five very intense episodes we finally get a breather, as all the regulars take the week off and the Governor fills in.

• I'm not quite sure how I feel about this episode. It was a nice break from the recent action filled and highly stressful episodes, as it had a slow, dreamlike quality that was somehow unsettling. It may have moved a bit too slowly though, bordering on the dull. 

I'll give them props for trying to give the Governor some extra depth here, as the comic book version was a terrible, mustache-twirling cardboard villain. But I think they're running the risk of humanizing him a bit too much. We should be terrified of him, not sympathizing with him.

• Considering this episode was a flashback and last week we saw the Governor staring ominously at the prison by himself, it's a good bet we shouldn't get too attached to his new companions.

• At the beginning of the episode Martinez and Fake Dhani Jones ditched the Governor in the middle of the night, proving they're two of the smartest people in the post apocalyptic world.

• So after being ditched the Governor goes back to Woodbury and burns it to the ground. Then he wanders aimlessly long enough to grow a long, bushy hobo beard. Then at the end of the episode he literally runs into Martinez again! 

How the hell did that happen? Did he walk in circles for six months? Or is there only one road in this area that everyone's forced to use?

• Funny how the walker population seems to respond to the needs of the script. When Daryl and his team were searching for medicine, they met up with a herd of walkers 10,000 strong that impeded their mission. In this episode the Governor stumbles down the street in a daze and fortunately only encounters one or two easily avoided zombies. And later when he's outside digging a grave there's nary a walker to be seen.

• The Governor meets the Chambler family, who just happen to have a little girl named Meghan who's the same age as his deceased daughter Penny. Did anyone in the audience NOT think he was eventually going to bond with Meghan and see her as a surrogate child?

• Lilly and Tara Chambler must be either very stupid or very desperate to let an obviously unstable hobo like the Governor into their apartment. 

• Not sure why the Governor felt the need to use an alias. Maybe he's trying to distance himself from his past. The "Brian Heriot" name he gives them is the same one he saw scrawled on the barn during his wanderings.

By the way, in the novel Rise Of The Governor we find out that his real name was "Brian Blake," and he took the name of his brother Philip after killing him. There's also a Tara and David Chalmers in that book. I guess this episode is kind of an alternate universe version of that story.

Any second I kept expecting one of them to say the wrong thing, causing him to snap and break their necks like twigs.

• "I didn't realize the end of the world would be so boring." Haw!

• The Governor goes upstairs to Bill Jenkins apartment. Inside he sees an empty wheelchair and two prosthetic legs on the floor. He finds the legless, zombified corpse of Jenkins in the tub. A couple of things here:

First of all, how the heck did Jenkins manage to crawl all the way across the room and get into the tub without help? Why not wheel himself over next to the tub, remove his legs and then just slide in?

Second, his undead body was lying in the tub with a gun in his hand. The implication is that he crawled into the tub before committing suicide. But wouldn't most people shoot themselves in the head? He wouldn't have turned into a zombie if he'd done so. I guess he must have shot himself in the chest.

• Meghan's grandpa David has lung cancer and needs pure oxygen to survive. I'm wondering how long an oxygen tank lasts? A day? A week? How long as David needed one? A month? How many tanks did they have stored in their apartment before they asked the Governor to bring them some more?

• Looks like the zombie virus is also a cure for cancer!

• The Governor teaches Meghan to play chess. As he explains the rules he tells her the pawns are the army and the king controls them all. Hmm… I'm not quite sure, but I think there might have been jusssst a subtle hint of symbolism there…

• I get that they may not have had much choice, but a lumbering delivery truck doesn't seem like the best choice of vehicle for the apocalypse. Aside from the fact that it promptly broke down, it seems like it wouldn't be very fast and could get stuck easily.

• As the Governor and Meghan flee the zombie herd, they fall into a freshly dug pit with perfectly smooth sides. Setting aside the skill it took to dig such an impressively geometric hole, why was it there? Was Martinez trapping walkers so he could have gladiator fights just like they used to do back in Woodbury? I guess we'll find out next week.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Overheard At Work: New Year's Eve

I work in a typical office, surrounded by many other workers in cubicles. Although I'm grateful to have a job I like, sometimes the vocal din from the surrounding coworkers is a bit overwhelming. Not to mention odd. Thank the gods old and new for headphones and Pandora.

The following is a 100% true actual conversation I Overheard At Work:
Woman: Just to be clear, New Year's Eve is December 31st this year, right?
Yes, as opposed to last year when it inexplicably cropped up on August 9th.

Night Of The Doctor

We're fast approaching the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who! Can you believe it? It's been fifty years since the character debuted on November 23, 1963. The show hasn't been running continuously since then-- it's taken a couple of multi-year breaks-- but it's still got to be some kind of record. 

The BBC is airing a sure to be awesome 50th Anniversary Special later this month, but the biggest and most surprising news occurred last week with the premiere of a prequel mini episode called Night Of The Doctor.

Warning! There are spoilers ahead. Go watch the mini episode before reading any further. Here's a link to it, or you can use the Google to find it for yourself.

Are you back? Good. So WOW! Paul McGann returns as the Eighth Doctor!!! Holy. Crap. What a jaw dropping surprise! Especially considering the fact that earlier in the year McGann was asked point blank if he was in the special and he said no. I suppose technically he wasn't lying-- this prequel episode isn't actually part of the Anniversary Special. Sneaky! How the hell they managed to keep his appearance a secret before it came out-- especially in this day and age when people constantly post photos of their lunch online-- is beyond me. I'm glad they were able to do it though!

Coincidentally this mini-episode premiered on McGann's birthday!

McGann played the Doctor onscreen exactly one time in the 1996 Fox TV Movie that tried (and failed) to both resurrect the series and introduce the character to the American public. The TV movie is pretty hit or miss-- well, actually it's more miss than hit-- but McGann did a great job as everyone's favorite Time Lord. I can say with all honesty that I never thought I'd see his version of the Doctor on screen again.

After watching this mini episode I want to see more of this Doctor! A lot more! I know there's not a chance in hell of it happening, but I wish they'd do some kind of flashback series starring him.

Let's take a look at the episode, eh? 

It begins in some undetermined time period, with a spaceship in distress. It's about to crash into the planet Karn, which is a name that should be familiar to long time fans.

Inside the ship is a woman named Cass, who's doing everything in her power to keep from crashing.

As her doomed ship flies by, we see it's being followed by a familiar blue box!

I couldn't help but notice that the TARDIS seems to have the little round "St. John's Ambulance" label on the door (the blurry white dot next to the white square in the middle of the doors). That label was on the TARDIS in the early days of the show but disappeared for decades and only recently popped up again when the Eleventh Doctor took over. The Eighth Doctor's TARDIS never had it. Whoops!

The ship's computer keeps trying to assess Cass' health, and she angrily tells it she's trying to send a distress signal, she doesn't need a doctor. Suddenly a voice from behind says, "I'm a doctor. But probably not the one you expected."

You can say that again! I just squealed like a little girl.

To quote Obi-Wan, "Now there's a name I haven't heard in a long time. A long time."

Say what you will about Steven Moffat and his writing skills, but one thing I've noticed-- he seems to excel at writing these short episodes. The Space and Time mini episodes he wrote a couple of years ago are some of my all time favorite moments in the history of Doctor Who. Maybe Moffat ought to ditch the full length episodes and stick to writing seven minute scripts.

The Doctor introduces himself and assesses the situation.

His costume here looks a lot like the one he wore in the TV movie back in 1996. Not an exact match, but pretty darn close, what with the dark green jacket and the vest (or waistcoat if you're from England) and the fob watch. I'm betting that was intentional.

His hair's a lot shorter though, thank Rassilon. I was never a fan of his long curly locks.

The Doctor and Cass race toward the back of the ship, because as he says, "The front crashes first!"

Suddenly a bulkhead closes, barring their way. The Doctor uses his sonic to open it.

Note that his sonic looks like the one used by the Fourth Doctor. I did a quick search online and I believe he used this same model in the TV movie. I could be wrong though.

After finally getting the bulkhead to open they continue down the hall and see a familiar sight. Seeing Cass' puzzlement, the Doctor says, "Don't worry, it's bigger on the inside."

See? No St. John's label. Oh well. Nobody's perfect.

This causes Cass to stop in her tracks. "What did you say? Bigger on the inside, is that what you said?"

"Yes," says the Doctor. "Come on, you'll love it."

Cass' reaction is unexpected as she says, "Is this a TARDIS?"

Wow, that was a surprise! Most people the Doctor meets have never heard of a TARDIS and have no idea what it is. 

Cass recoils in disgust and says, "Don't touch me." The Doctor realizes why she's acting this way and tells her he's not part of the War.

He's referring of course to the Time War, the massive universal conflict between the Time Lords and the Daleks. We've been hearing about the Time War ever since the series started up again in 2005, but so far we've gotten precious little detail about it. 

Cass' reaction is interesting, but totally understandable. The Time Lords are their war are literally destroying the universe-- no wonder she's not happy to meet one.

"You're a Time Lord," hisses Cass.

"Yes," says the Doctor, "but I'm one of the nice ones!"

But Cass doesn't want the Doctor's help. In fact she doesn't want his help so much that she seals herself behind the bulkhead. The Doctor says, "Look on the bright side, at least I'm not a Dalek!" "Who can tell the difference anymore?" says Cass.

It's not quite clear what she means by this. Does she mean that she considers both sides to be equally dangerous? Or are the Daleks disguising themselves as Time Lords (we've seen human looking Daleks in the past)?

The Doctor pleads for her to let him help.

She tells him, "Go back to your battlefield! You haven't finished yet. Some of the universe is still standing!"

The Doctor tells Cass he's not leaving with out her. She says, "Then you're gonna die right here. Best news all day!"

We then see Cass' ship (with the TARDIS and Doctor inside) crash into the surface of Karn.

Luckily for the Doctor and the future of the series, the Sisterhood Of Karn is watching. Ohila, leader of the Sisterhood, says, "And here he is at last. The man to end it all. My Sisters, the Doctor has returned to Karn."

Note that in the credits the Sisterhood's leader is named "Ohila." In The Brain Of Morbius, the episode in which the Sisterhood is first introduced, there's a character called "Ohica." Close, but I guess they're not supposed to be the same person.

We see the Doctor among the rubble, looking not mostly dead, but all dead.

A short time later the Doctor wakes, and shouts Cass' name.

Ohila tells him that Cass is almost certainly dead, because no one could survive the crash. "I did," says the Doctor. "No," says Ohila.

She tells him that the Sisterhood dragged him from the wreckage and restored him to life, but it's a temporary measure and he has a little under four minutes to live before he dies again real good.

"Four minutes?" says the Doctor. "That's ages. What if I get bored or need a television, a couple of books? Anyone for chess? Bring me knitting!"

This is my favorite part of the episode. It's such a "Doctor" thing to say! You can just tell he's trying to find an out somehow.

Ohila tells him that their Elixir Of Life can trigger his regeneration, which will restore him to more permanent life again. 

"Time Lord science is elevated here," she says. "On Karn the change doesn't have to be random. Fat or thin. Young or old. Man or woman."

"Why would you do this for me?" asks the Doctor, who has a point. "You have helped us in the past." says Ohila. "You were never big on gratitude." says the Doctor.

Ohila gets to the point. "The War between the Daleks and the Time Lords threatens all reality. You are the only hope left." The Doctor refuses to get involved in the war, saying he's, well, the Doctor.

He sees that Cass is truly dead. Ohila reminds him he has only a few minutes left, and begs him to reconsider. To choose his regeneration and put an end to the Time War. "I'd rather die," says the Doctor. "You're dead already," says Ohila. "How many more will you let join you? The universe stands on the brink. Will you let it fall?"

The Doctor picks up Cass' gun belt and looks at it. He makes his choice. "Warrior," he says. "I don't suppose there's any need for a Doctor any more. Make me a warrior now."

Ohila says, "I took the liberty of preparing this one myself."

Wow, manipulate much, Ohila?

The Doctor takes the Elixir and orders everyone out. "Will it hurt?" he asks. "Yes," says Ohila as she leaves. "Good," says the Doctor.

Before taking a drink, the Doctor says, "Charlie, C'Rizz, Lucie, Tamsin, Molly-- friends and companions I've known I salute you."

These are the names of the Eighth Doctor's companions in his various audio dramas, which apparently means the BBC just made them all canon! Cool!

The Doctor drinks the Elixir. A familar yellow glow begins streaming from his hands.

It soon spreads to the rest of his body.

He doubles over in pain as a familiar (to us) blinding flash envelops him.

Ohila stands by, waiting. Hey, I thought she was supposed to be in the other room while he regenerated?

She bends down and asks, "Is it done?"

The newly regenerated Doctor takes Cass' gun belt and straps it on. He looks into a mirror and surprise! He's turned into young John Hurt. "Doctor no more," he says. He's now the War Doctor. Kind of a clunky name, but what are you gonna do?

Pretty awesome, huh? So now we know how the Eighth Doctor regenerated into the War Doctor. Based on his relatively youthful appearance here and his haggard look at the end of last season, he must have been the War Doctor for a really long time. 

This mini episode also clarifies the numbering of the Doctors. At the end of last season when John Hurt was introduced as some sort of forgotten Doctor, everyone wondered if that meant the Ninth Doctor was really the Tenth, the Tenth the Eleventh and so on. I guess since he's not considered a real Doctor but a "War Doctor," the original numbering is still correct.

Most fans (including me) are assuming that the War Doctor is the one who ended the Time War by destroying both sides-- the Time Lords as well as the Daleks. I guess we'll find out for sure in a week.

By the way, the Sisterhood of Karn has appeared on the show before. They were in the 1976 episode The Brain Of Morbius. They're a female society dedicated to protecting the Sacred Flame, which they use to make the Elixir of Life.

Lastly, if the writers are smart, they'll use this episode as a way to get around the ridiculous "Twelve Regenerations Limit" that most fans just can't seem to let go of. Wayyyy back in the 1976 episode The Deadly Assassin there was a throwaway line about Time Lords only being able to regenerate twelve times. For some reason most fans insist on clinging to this little tidbit of info like grim death-- never mind that they gleefully ignore all kinds of other rules and laws the show's set forth over the years (like a person not being able to revisit their past). 

I honestly don't get it. If they abide by this rule then the show's gonna have to end after upcoming Doctor Peter Capaldi turns in his TARDIS keys. Is that what they want?

This mini episode is a way out of that trap. The Doctor was officially dead here and the Sisterhood brought him back to life and then offered him a special Elixir that would allow him to choose the form of his regeneration. The yellow regeneration glow effect had never appeared in the old series-- we never saw it until the Ninth Doctor regenerated into the Tenth. So they could say that the Sisterhood's elixir reset his regeneration clock and now he's got another twelve to go, or better yet, and unlimited supply. I hope they go with this explanation so we can set this silly idea to rest once and for all. 
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