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Well, that wasn't so bad. I was all set to hate "Empress of Mars", the new episode of Doctor Who, written by Mark Gatiss, whose scripts are usually thoroughly lousy. Maybe he worked hard after his episode last season, "Sleep No More", was a new low even for him. Maybe "Lie of the Land" was so bad that even a Mark Gatiss episode looks good by comparison. Or maybe Mark Gatiss was just born to write Ice Warrior stories as it was "Cold War", the other Mark Gatiss episode I didn't hate, which last featured an Ice Warrior. Mind you, there's still plenty about "Empress of Mars" that doesn't make sense.

Spoilers after the screenshot



If there was any doubt that the writing staff this season were focusing on issues of race and colonial hubris it's certainly gone now. I like the fact that it wasn't a matter of simply making all the British colonisers bad and the Ice Warriors good or vice versa. Though Catchlove (Ferdinand Kingsley) was a pretty lame villain, his motivations generally seemed to be just to do the wrong thing regardless of whether or not it made sense even for a villain. What possible reason was there to keep the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) from examining the sarcophagus? The psychic paper really let the Doctor down this time.



The movie references in the episode were funny. I enjoyed the reference to The Vikings--that is a good movie, by the way--and it was kind of funny seeing it turned about on Bill (Pearl Mackie) when she didn't recognise a reference to Robinson Crusoe. Sadly, I didn't think that was far-fetched. Having just recently read Michel Tournier's Friday for a class, a post-modern revisionist take on Daniel Defoe's original 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe, I can say a fair number of college aged students have never heard of the story.



The absurdity of turning an Ice Warrior into a domestic servant--is it a story point that doesn't make sense or is it a credibly senseless act of arrogant colonialism? Well, I guess the episode won me over because I want to say the latter. Still, I couldn't help thinking, "It's the old Ice Warrior in a china shop, isn't it?"

I loved the appearance of Alpha Centauri at the end. I think the idea must have been to bridge the cultural differences of the Ice Warriors in the Second Doctor stories with the more reasonable ones we met in the Third Doctor era. The tense political situation in the episode was even a bit reminiscent of the Peladon stories.



By far my favourite part of the episode, though, was the stuff with Missy (Michelle Gomez) at the end. I so, so want to see these two make out.
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Apparently 20th Century Fox has declared this Alien Day (I guess because of LV-426, the planet from the original Alien where the ship and creatures were discovered--to-day is April 26, or 4.26). To celebrate, they've released a short starring Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender:



I'm not sure if any of this is footage that will be included in Alien Covenant. It seems like the sequel one would have expected from the end of Prometheus--Elizabeth Shaw and David developing a new relationship as they track down the homeworld of the Engineers. I would've liked to have seen that movie, the one Ridley Scott probably planned before bullshit criticism made him second guess himself. None of the criticisms about Prometheus have held up--I've gone over why before as have other people, this video's pretty comprehensive, though if you're still clinging to a belief that Prometheus doesn't make sense, I suppose you probably can't be reached at this point.

Poor Elizabeth Shaw, I wonder what else happened to make her warm to David. Maybe she was just going out of her mind with loneliness. I'd sure have loved a movie about Noomi Rapace going all Robinson Crusoe, except crazier, on a ship designed by H.R. Giger. But there's no way that would be a mainstream film.

I first heard of Alien Day last night, or early morning, when I saw Mark Gatiss tweet a few seconds after I checked Twitter: "It's #AlienDay ! When is #PrometheusApologyDay?" I thought about tweeting at him, "What about #SleepNoMoreApologyDay" or a reference to one of the other beyond mediocre episodes of Doctor Who or Sherlock he's written but figured at least a few hundred people would be tweeting variations of that at him and, looking now, I see I was right. There's a guy who really should not be throwing stones, but I suppose it would be more surprising to learn he's perfectly aware of what a bad writer he usually is.

Jonathan Demme passed away to-day--I don't have enough to say about him for a whole post but I felt like I should say a few things. I haven't seen Silence of the Lambs in over twenty years but I remember liking it--the same goes for Melvin and Howard. I hated Beloved so much so it was only recently I finally managed to read a Toni Morrison book (Sula) and discover she actually is a genius. I might blame the film version of Beloved's failings more on Oprah Winfrey than on Demme, though. I remember being moved by Philadelphia but, again, I haven't seen it in forever. The only Demme that's fresh enough in my memory is his first feature film as a director, the 1974 exploitation film Caged Heat which I wrote about in 2015. It does remain an entertaining Women in Prison film and works in a nice robbery plot. Rainbeaux Smith, nude, kicking the door in solitary confinement, is still cute and oddly funny.

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