Sunday, 26 June 2011

News: Close to Miracle Day

With this series of Doctor Who stuck on the back burner for three months, the BBC aren't letting up on the Whoniverse. Come 8th July we get a brand new series of Torchwood, the confused Who spinoff, this time made hand-in-hand with US Company Starz. This means that we'll have a few American cast members, but most of all I'm wondering about how the completely different American attitude to drama will affect Torchwood, whose plots have often been convaluted or silly. Even last year's excellent, week-long powerhouse Children of Earth had some key flaws, and I'm not sure if Starz is going to fix any of that.
     But I wouldn't be a decent critic (cough) if I was biased beforehand, so expect regular reviews of Torchwood: Miracle Day from 8/7/11 onwards.

Thanks.

EDIT: Turns out the UK transmission date is the 14th, six days after the US.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Review: Being Human 1.4

Mitchell guides Lauren away from Bernie.
"We're deluding ourselves, here. Thinking we could ever be accepted by normal human beings."

I know what you're thinking, reader. This is a Brian Dooley script, the man who brought the world BDSM vampire orgies in a 9:00 slot on BBC Three. This review is going to be one of the most biased I've ever done, right? Right? Well, Dooley certainly has his problems, but a good reviewer approaches his media with fresh eyes. Not that looking on it with fresh eyes improves this episode in any way...
   Mitchell gets focus for a change, this time showing a caring side. After a cold-open monologue talking about self-identity, he protects a child, Bernie, from bullies. Father figure absent, the boy's mother allows Mitchell to take him bowling and take him to see films. While they're interrupted once by Lauren, who's singing the praises of the vampire world, everything is going swimmingly. In an attempt to show Bernie the wisdom of Laurel and Hardy, Bernie accidentally picks up Lauren's Vampire Porn and the resulting furore has Mitchell and George branded "peedos". Annie and George are appropriately pissed at Mitchell for even keeping the DVD. When Bernie tries to visit the house, a mob tries to kill Mitchell, but when the boy is knocked down by a car Mitchell helps him get to hospital. Mitchell tells his mother about vampires and promises that he can save her little boy - as long as she lets Mitchell turn him into a vampire. And... well... she does so. Creepy. Anyway, we wave goodbye to  and we never hear from him again. Pissed off at Humans, Mitchell heads back to the Mortuary and announces he's rejoining the Vampire Masterplan.
     It's nice that Mitchell gets a starring role again, but Bernie, like most child characters in low-budget dramas, is twee and annoying. The character's end felt unnecessary and it would have made a much bigger statement to have the boy simply die; not because of any malice on my part, but because it would make more sense considering what Mitchell does next.
     George meanwhile is worrying about whether Nina won't like him now he isn't sexing her up with the power of the moon, but she soon admits that she's glad that he wants to take it slow and be romantic. However, after the mob starts their assault, George tries to break it of with Nina, taking into consideration the risk he's putting her in with his lycanthropothy. She isn't having it, and turns up outside his egg-stained door. She assumes that he's a peadophile, but he explains that there's other stuff going on. She storms off. After Bernie is hit, George seeks out Nina's comfort, where she reveals to him her "secret" - she has horriffic burns on her stomach from when she was a child.
Mitchell tries to hold back his hunger for blood.
     George took more of a back seat this week, and that helped his character a bit, but it had a few good moments for the fast- developing Nina too. Annie meanwhile felt like a footnote, her main moments coming during a visit by Owen, where she became a poltergeist and started unintentionally destroying things. At the end, she destroyed her photos of Owen and mvoed on, becoming more powerful in the process as well as visible to everyone. This is a key part of her character and it sets the scene for the penultimate episode, which forms part of the finale.
     For George and Annie, this week's episode felt straight on target, while Mitchell seems to have missed by a few inches or so. On the whole it wasn't in any way unpleasant, but there were little problems here or there that stained the copy-book, making a watchable episode a litle more irritating. And yes, while it isn't as blatantly terrible as Dooley's later contribution, there are still the seeds of things to come (vampires' adverse sexual behaviours, a teenage vampire). It needed a quick buff to get rid of the creases, one that I hope will be apparrent as the first series' finale roles upon us.

Thanks.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Review: Doctor Who 6.7: A Good Man Goes To War

I'm sure that "late" doesn't cut it.
    A Good Man Goes To War is burdoned with a dual purpose - a climax to not only the clumsy arc of this demi-series, but also to the story of River Song and questions surrounding her identity. Maybe it's a bit of a cop-out to say so, but I'm really quite tired at this point - the show was always better as independant stories with tenuous links at best, so each story could be marked on their own merits. When the show turns over to this overly serialised nature, it makes viewing (and reviewing) more difficult.
     Amy's baby having been born and named Melody, Amy awaits her rescuers in a future human base known as Demon's Run. The Doctor appears to the Cybermen (only a cameo, unfortunately), a Silurian (and her maid) and a Sontaran. As the soldiers, belonging to the 51st Century Church from all the way back in S5, ready ot fight the Doctor, we're shown The Headless Monks, a mysterious race of robed warriors. The army is being controlled by Madame Kovarian, who appeared throughout this demi-series, and by Colonel Manton. As the Colonel gives a speech to the troops revealing the literal nature of the Headless Monks, The Doctor appears and inflicts his Silurian army, with the help of his Sontaran friend, Silurian Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh) and her maid Jenny (Catrin Stewart, Misfits) - the subjects of a sly cunnilingus joke - and trader Dorium. A motley menagerie of cameos and guest characters, this episode notably feels a lot more flashy and expensive than the rest of the series.
     The Doctor and Vastra look at Melody's DNA, discovering that because she was conceived in the TARDIS she got partial Time Lord DNA. Before they can think further, the Headlessmonks slaughter quite a few people, wnader off again and then it is revealed that Amy's baby is a 'Ganger as well and thus the real baby has been taken by Kovarian, off to Earth in the 1960s. Disheartened, a previously reluctant River Song pops in and gives an undeserved rant about how dangerous the Doctor is, before telling him her true identity - she's the Time Lord offspring of Amy and Rory.
    And I, like many others, didn't see this as much of a surprise. It had been rather obvious for a while, and the name Melody Pond in itself was enough for most perceptive viewers to work it out. Moffat advertised this cliffhanger as "gamechanging" - really? I'm not convinced.
Amy monologues.
    AGMGTW wasn't in any league bad, but it felt very fluffy and stuffed full of grandiose proclamations in lieu of any plot. What reason is there for bringing back such unconnected monsters for the sake of a few flash sequences? Was it to throw the Spoiler-Hounds off the scent? Whatever the reason, it turned this episode into something more aesthetic and Lowest Common Denomintor, despite the otherwise complex themes that the demi-series has been working with up until now. The episode depreciates on rewatching, when the adrenaline from the initital runthrough passes in favur of sly cynicism.
     I enjoyed the episode on a base level. It just disappointed on so many others.

Thanks.

P.S. No, Let's not Kill Hitler...

Friday, 10 June 2011

Review: Doctor Who 6.5-6: The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People

The Doctor, Amy and Rory accept a friend's sacrifice.
Unlike many overseas viewers, my reason for a late review of this two parter is for more personal reasons, mainly to do with my work schedule for School. Regardless to say it's been a while since I've have to chance to look upon the episodes with fresh eyes.
     Many would say that so far Series Six has either been one of the best ever made or suffering from issues to do with Moffat's general style of series-writing. I am hesitant to say so, but I've been in the middle; I've enjoyed the episodes but there's some underlying problems that might spoil my enjoyment if I think about them for too long. The Flesh Two-parter is an example of a story that divides opinion, and for very good reason. The rest of the series (keep getting tempted to call it a season because of the whole Summer-Autumn fiasco) so far has been quite extraordinary, boundary-stretching Who, and at times this story feels a little too close to formula for the standard we've been given.
     Set in a 22nd Century Acid Factory (built out of an old castle on an island, for whatever reason. The reason that they're mining acid isn't explained either), the Doctor arrives with an agenda, interested in the site's use of "Flesh" technology - living biomatter that can be programmed into any state and controlled, like vehicles, by the workers in the factory. If a worker gets injured or killed, a new body (or 'ganger in these terms, short for doppelganger) can be made right away. The workers in the factory are shy Jennifer (Sarah Smart, Five Days), doting father Jimmy (Mark Bonnar, Psychoville), cheeky Buzzer (Marshall Lancaster, Life On Mars/Ashes to Ashes), quiet Dicken (Leon Vickers) and leader Gleaves (Raquel Cassidy, Lead Balloon). They're all pretty one-note.
     As they arrive, a solar storm hits the factory. While The Doctor manages to prevent most of the system damage, the storm severs the links between the 'gangers and their hosts, leaving a set of clones with identical memories. The Doctor insists that these clones are equal to humans in every way in terms of rights, even when the two sides want to kill each other. Meanwhile, Rory takes a shine to who he thinks is Jennifer, who is in fact a 'ganger and the one most insistent on killing everyone.
Ganger!Doctor in his half-state.
     Real Cleaves is freaked out and kills 'Ganger Buzzer, leading to the two sides being "at war." The cliffhanger of the first episode has a clone of The Doctor appear, he having touched the raw material earlier on.
    The Rebel Flesh sets up its concepts interestingly enough, but the pace feels rather slow when set against the past few weeks and it takes a while to get used to. The idea itself, of biological clones, is certainly not new, but ex-Life On Mars writer Matthew Graham examines the moral dilemmas in a way unlike, say, Chris Chibnall's story last year. The comparison is justified - both stories feature The Doctor holing up with a group of humans angry at a species who they share their world with, both written by an ex-Life On Mars writer. Graham has some stigma here, having produced the fan-reviled Fear Her in 2006, but I like that particularly story and I think Graham has a better grasp of character, something which makes his characters a little more real (no pun intended) than Chibnall.
     We return from the cliffhanger with Ganger!Doctor reacting badly to having to clone an eleventh body, having him quote Doctors 1,2,3,4 and 10. He stabilises, and The Doctor "introduces" him as his exact equal, despite any biological difference; the only difference in Amy's mind is their shoes, of which the Real!Doctor had to change. Regardless, the humans remain suspicious and when the group ventures out, Ganger!Doctor is left with the 'Gangers. In the interim, however, a somewhat prejudiced Amy slips to the 'ganger about The Doctor's death back in The Impossible Astronaut. The ganger is angry because he can feel the suffering of the Flesh - it remains partially alive through the deaths of its hosts and "rejected" Gangers are left to rot.
Amy keeps herself firmly with the Humans.
     Wandering about, Jennifer (now most definitely a Ganger, as the real Jennifer died a while back) uses Rory to help her destabilises the factory's coolant systems, which will eventually cause it to explode. Both the Gangers and Humans catch on, the Gangers using the Humans' security codes to call for help. Jennifer arrives with Rory, but the Ganger!Doctor has already been humanising his colleagues by exploiting their main character traits and Jennifer is left to fight alone.
     Ganger!Jimmy tries to save his real self but he dies; the same with Dicken, and both are allowed to resume their original's lives. The Tardis falls through into the factory from the outside world just as The Doctor and Ganger!Cleaves discover that Jenniffer has turned into a massive monster. Everyone meets up, and The Doctor reveals that he and his ganger switched shoes, and that Ganger!Doctor was him all along, proving to Amy that she can't tell them apart. Gangers Doctor and Cleaves decide to stay behind and stop the Jenn-Monster while the rest go off their their specific destinations.
     Now; the devisive cliffhanger. In a lead into next week, it's revealed that The Doctor's reason for visiting the Flesh was to exmine the technology based on his core suspicion that Amy is in fact a Ganger being controlled from elsewhere - a theory confirmed when The Doctor dissolves Amy and she wakes up in a birthing chamber, 9 months pregnant and the woman in the eye patch telling her that she's ready to pop.
     Fan reaction to the cliffhanger was, in my opinion, exaggerated - the cliffhanger's shock appeal works on the first viewing but feels somewhat of an inevitable burdon on the second time-around. It builds up the Semi-finale well, but other than that the end feels tacked on and not fluidic.
     So; my final verdict? Well, the story didn't feel as powerful as the rest of the series but it kept the same tone and feeling as well as containing potent writing and a series of ideas not only capitvating but well-presented for what they were. Fundamentally, the main aversion of type was the avoidance of cringe-comedy clone moments - the clones managed to create serious drama instead of "hilarious" exploits. Not what I expected, at all, but in most ways better, and worth my time if only as good entertainment before the semi-finale.

Thanks.

P.S. A Good Man Goes To War coming some time soon.