setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


Here's the last photo I took of Comic Con 2017. A few people were still lined up under those white tents for Hall H even though the last Hall H panel had ended already. It is a nice shaded spot, anyway. It was around 4:30pm--I don't usually leave so late on Sunday but I felt like lingering this year, I really didn't want it to end. Normally I know better than to leave so late because the trolleys that are already packed like sardines throughout the Con are packed at the end like the contents of two cans of sardines crammed into one. With the heat, it was exactly like the bus scene from the beginning of Stray Dog, and I mean exactly like that--sweating people trying to stand nonchalantly with their heads in strangers' armpits. It occurred to me I was wearing a linen sport coat almost exactly like Toshiro Mifune's and that my camera was in the same pocket as the one the pick-pocket takes his pistol from. I thought about how much it would suck to lose my camera to-day. I'd have lost this photo of me with Gigi Edgley, for example.



It was really nice to meet her. I told her how much I loved her performance in Farscape, how I liked the physical mannerisms she came up with for her character, Chiana, an alien woman belonging to a race called the Nebari. She talked to me about how she didn't want to play a human woman wearing alien makeup and so she came up with alien mannerisms.

If you haven't seen Farscape and you like fantasy or sci-fi or just good television or movies, you'd be doing yourself a big favour checking it out.



Edgley and I talked about how much influence Farscape has had on modern television and movies, most obviously on Guardians of the Galaxy, which resembles Farscape a lot more than the comic it's based on. Chiana is one of my favourite characters in the history of television due in no small part to Edgley's performance so it was nice to meet her.

To-morrow I'll start making longer, proper entries about the Con. If I don't sleep all day. I can feel all four days catching up with me.

setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


As I'm writing this, reports are coming through about incidents in London. I hope it's not as bad as it sounds and I hope everyone comes through the day safely.

To-day's new Doctor Who, "The Lie of the Land", was the first truly bad episode of the season. Written by Toby Whithouse, it comes off as a disjointed version of 1984 modified for current events but without the insight and intellectual process to make such an endeavour worthwhile. Mostly, like so many one off episodes of the new series, it feels like too much crammed into too short a space, but the problem hurt this episode even more then most. Still, it did have some nice elements.

Spoilers after the screenshot.



For one thing, Peter Capaldi looked really good in this episode. I don't like to tell people to smile if they don't want to, I think people should be respected for having feelings other than happiness all the time and they shouldn't be forced to present a lie. But it is true, an honest smile does somehow make people more attractive, and that goes for Capaldi, it seems. I've always liked Capaldi, before he was the Doctor and in his whole tenure as the Doctor, but this is the first time I thought, "What a handsome fellow." I really like that frosted or frayed edge coat.



This scene, where Bill (Pearl Mackie) confronts the Doctor on the propaganda he's been contributing to for the Monks, is one of the main problems in the episode. The Doctor quite convincingly explains to Bill why working with the Monks is a good idea--with a rise of fascist figures like Trump who pursue paths of destruction, having the Monks in charge doesn't sound like it's all bad. Though it doesn't seem like Trump is rounding up and locking up dissenters like the woman at the beginning of the episode--though he has certainly talked about doing it. But after the Doctor made the argument pretty well that the Monks might be a benefit to humankind, it would have been nice for him to provide the counterargument once he'd revealed it as a ruse.



Referring to the psychic manipulations of the Monks as "fake news" also ties the story to current events. Are we to interpret the works of the Monks as one side of fake news or the other? Is it Putin influencing the election or the hysteria promoted by the likes of Huffington Post? Considering the Monks are set up as taking over the world from the fascists through mental manipulation seems to suggest it's meant to be like rigid left-wing ideology, pursuing crusades of identity politics at the cost of finding common ground. Maybe it's a nice thing that the Monks can be interpreted as either one. Mostly I just would have liked something more coherent.



I'm not as sure as I used to be that the Monks are related to the Cybermen somehow. But if they're not, then what is their story? Why do they look like rotting corpses? Did Missy (Michelle Gomez) really encounter them before and, if so, where? And did she learn anything about their origins or motives?



The scenes with Missy certainly were a highlight. Michelle Gomez continues to be a revelation.



It's true, making a people love you is more effective than making them fear you. Look what it did for Bill's mother. It would've been nice if the show had developed the Monks as seductive beings, had made you understand why people might be attracted to order and safety at the cost of free will. Maybe we'll have to wait for Bill's essay.

Twitter Sonnet #999

In lonely human snows the quarry turns.
Robotic barons blast the sort for sport.
Ephemeral revenge Tetsuro learns.
He leaves to find immortal metal's port.
A ticket came in long and tapered hand.
Her yellow willow hair's adrift in black.
In boots and coat he saw then Maetel stand.
Her spinning jewel unwinds the only track.
To Mars where love dissolved before the train.
To ice where irresolution sleeps.
To libraries where conmen stalk the lane.
To empty space where shattered crystal keeps.
And endless planets show an endless need.
All aliens have more than mouths to feed.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


To-day's new Doctor Who is called "The Pyramid at the End of the World" and I guess that's meant in the sense of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe--I wonder if the title was intended as a reference to former Doctor Who script editor Douglas Adams. It was a good episode in any case, written by Peter Harness and Steven Moffat, it put the protagonists through some moral dilemmas on a global scale featuring a very clever, effective villain.

Spoilers after the screenshot



I really, really love how the monks are offering aid only for complete consent. Though they do seem to be pretty picky and they may be their own worst enemies in this regard--but it's almost like a reply to the idea that Negan on Walking Dead can rule entirely through fear. The monks know, as the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) points out, fear is nowhere near as effective as love. But it's weirdly funny how totally inept the monks are at inspiring love. It's, forgive the phrase, blind luck that things work out their way.



I guess the Doctor just learned a lesson in how it can backfire when you don't tell your loved ones about your troubles. Though, to be fair, it would be hard to see this scenario coming and I'm still not sure how Bill's (Pearl Mackie) consent ends up handing over the whole world. But who knows how the monk's magic works.



I loved how the simulation turns out to be a bunch of threads, like these monks, who I still think are related to the Cybermen in some way, are the Furies. The idea of them only being able to take over by consent resonates with globalist politics, or the relationships the Orange President mentioned by Bill has with foreign powers. I assumed these episodes were filmed before the election but I guess not. Which means the simulation had the wrong U.S. president? Seems like a pretty big mistake for something that's supposed to be so eerily accurate.



"Pyramid at the End of the World" features the first major Chinese character, Xiaolian (Daphne Cheung), on Doctor Who since The Talons of Wang Chiang in 1977*. I'm not sure but I think Togo Igawa as the U.N. Secretary General may be the second Japanese character ever, after the Torchwood character Toshiko Sato's brief appearance in "Aliens of London" from 2005. My happiness at the appearance of such characters isn't so much a desire for political correctness but from the fact that I've always wanted Doctor Who to explore Earth as widely as the Doctor's supposed to have. This was part of the original concept of the show, after all, though I suppose it is cost prohibitive. I guess to-day's audiences aren't likely to accept the cardboard sets seen in the First Doctor's "Aztecs" serial. But since there's a mandate for diversity anyway in casting it would be nice if the show took it as an opportunity. This is an area where the audio plays have definitely outperformed the television series.

*Correction courtesy simon-on-the-river3 on Kinja: There was a Chinese character played by Burt Kwouk in 1982's Four to Doomsday and a Chinese actress, Ling Tai, in 1989's Battlefield. Hong Kong actor Yee Jee Tso was in the 1996 TV movie. That’s still not a whole lot.
setsuled: (Frog Leaf)


The pendulum swung the other way on the question of justified violence in last night's good new episode of The Expanse. Featuring some nice action, suspense, problem solving, and a cameo from Adam Savage, it also occurred to me that for a show that's not half as popular as The Walking Dead its special effects budget certainly seems a lot better, in that the effects actually support the story really well. I don't know, maybe animating a tiger is a lot more expensive than what we saw last night.



Spoilers after the screenshot



I only just realised it was the season finale. It really didn't feel like a season finale somehow. I guess that's why Naomi (Dominique Tipper) had that montage narration at the end. I would rather have had Bobbie (Frankie Adams) saving Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and Cotyar (Nick E. Tarabay) without the distance created between us and the scene by the narration. Still, it was all reasonably satisfying.

The episode was written by the writers of the novels the show was based on, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck (their collaborative pen name is James S.A. Corey), and veteran Star Trek writer Naren Shankar and I liked everyone brainstorming how to deal with the protomolecule soldier, that felt very Star Trek in a very good way. Amos (Wes Chatham) coming up with one solution and Prax (Terry Chen) coming up with another, better one after being inspired by his plants. That was right out of the old Star Trek: The Next Generation playbook.



Ever since I saw Samuel L. Jackson, in talking about Get Out, criticise the tendency to cast British actors over American actors under the belief that British actors are better trained, I have to admit . . . generally I've been noticing how the American actors aren't as well trained. This doesn't include exceptional performers like Thomas Jane, who I'm missing more and more, but the rank and file like Wes Chatham and Steven Strait. Aside from Aghdashloo, no-one on the show of any nationality has what might be called star quality but the British, Australian, and New Zealander actors seem to have a greater repertoire of facial expressions and vocal intonations to draw on. I guess with Amos it at least makes sense since he's supposed be emotionally numb. But Nick E. Tarabay was particularly bad last night as Avasarala's injured right hand man, Aghdashloo having to carry almost all the emotional weight of his possible betrayal with her reaction shots. She is equal to the task, though, more so than Steven Strait reacting to Dominque Tipper at the end. I can almost hear the actor thinking, "Do I switch on Good Holden or Evil Holden?"



Evil Holden seems to have more of a southern accent. I wonder if Steven Strait and Andrew Lincoln spent a lot of time watching De Niro in Scorsese's remake of Cape Fear.



Before it got diluted by the narration at the end, I was really enjoying Bobbie's segment, though, as much as I do like Frankie Adams, I wish she'd move more like a soldier. But considering all this show does manage to do maybe I shouldn't quibble.

setsuled: (Skull Tree)


Most people don't see any drawbacks in trying to cure cancer, many don't consider the process might produce a new species of rapidly multiplying slime creature that sucks all bone matter from human bodies with its proboscis. For the edification of the scientific community and sober contemplation of the general public 1966's Island of Terror presents the possible nightmare resulting from what many presume is a perfectly innocent and noble endeavour. This Terence Fisher movie starring Peter Cushing not produced by Hammer actually features a moralising coda warning the viewer against the dangers of science gone to far. You have to love such sincerity. Less charming is the film's misogyny but the film's mainly enjoyable for its odd succession of cosy, chatty scenes and Cushing in a very affable mode.



After establishing a super high tech lab hidden on a small island off Ireland's east coast, the film becomes a mystery unravelled in scenes of people going to visit other people who in turn go to visit yet more people with their own questions. This sort of relay of concern is kicked off when one of the villagers on the island visits the constable (Sam Kydd) complaining that her husband is three hours late getting home and he's not at the pub. The constable investigates and finds the man's body turned into a squishy, rubbery mass.



So he pays a visit to Dr. Landers (Eddie Byrne) who is confounded after doing an autopsy of the boneless body. So Dr. Landers goes to England to pay a visit to Dr. Stanley (Cushing), one of the leading men in his field.



Stanley doesn't know what to make of it so the two of them go and pay a visit to Dr. West (Edward Judd) who's even more of a leading man in this field it seems. He's also a sort of knock-off James Bond, trading corny sex jokes with a beautiful woman named Toni (Carole Gray) who's wearing only a shirt.



This was the only truly insufferable part of the movie. To get to the island on short notice, Toni offers her rich father's helicopter on the condition, imposed with a mischievous smirk, that she be allowed to come along. Throughout the film, she insists on joining the men for every adventure and then panics and cries and fouls up everything every single time. It occurs to me the wrong way to write women might be exactly the right way to write children.



By contrast nearly all the men are uncannily cool throughout the film, which is sort of fun. I liked the cosy, relaxed vibe of Peter Cushing and Edward Judd poring over notes in an inn after finding a massacre of boneless scientists at that lab. It's a little while before they meet the creatures.



It's not the most inspiring special effect--not quite having as much fascinating weirdness as the creatures in movies like Fiend Without a Face to make up for being unconvincing but they are pretty fun. I liked how they seemed to slowly secrete spaghetti whenever one creature divided to become two.



Twitter Sonnet #984

Pineapple juice adorns the leaden brick.
The vault's computer dust's too full to-day.
As runners tread like graves they'll slowly stick.
In thoughts triangles pin a bad delay.
In batt'ry temples acid sips the scalp.
Condemned for plastic hair the men retreat.
Repeating slogans captured Pez for help.
The webs of wardrobe finalise the street.
A bubbling counterfeit collects a car.
Divested hands compose an itch to sleep.
A fading laugh obliged the comic's bar.
In radios the signal carries deep.
Forgiving paws disrupt the leaves outside.
When phones make ghosts our hearts'll coincide.
setsuled: (Default)


Last night's new episode of The Expanse, "The Monster and the Rocket", was another refreshing example of the show moving away from the trend in the best television shows of the past few years, like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, to focus on ruthless protagonists. This was a story about how doing the stone cold, destructive thing is sometimes the wrong choice.

Spoilers after the screenshot



Holden (Steven Strait) really seems to be losing himself going after that guy without a spacesuit. Meanwhile, Naomi (Dominique Tipper) has to tranquillise Amos (Wes Chatham) so he can't stop her from trying to save half an unruly mob. A more cynical writer would've had Naomi torn to pieces when she opened that door, it was a nice thing to see the group actually calm down and organise so the half of them who could leave, could leave. It's nice to see a show with some faith in human nature.



That doesn't make Errinwright's (Shawn Doyle) reversion to villainy any less satisfying. I'm looking forward to seeing how the stand off on Mao's ship resolves next week.



I knew Bobbie (Frankie Adams) was going to accompany Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) to the meeting with Mao and I wondered how the writers were going to justify it. It shows how much I like the show that I don't mind the explanation that Avarsarala's bringing her along so she can't be a bargaining chip. Bobbie's a little too valuable to be risked on a mission like this but, okay, I liked watching her stuff herself with cucumber sandwiches. Not since The Importance of Being Earnest have cucumber sandwiches been so memorably employed.



Twitter Sonnet #982

In tangerine the tie invests in sand.
The soil swirls about the bones of trees.
In faces sipped through needle straws we stand.
Electric blue we burned the skies and seas.
A quarter claimed accustomed tallies late.
Allowed inside the froth, a river loops.
No chance the gum in orbs'll yet abate.
Between the eyes the beaks align the coops.
A paper bird aligned with stars of wind.
In tattered canvas gowns the cops relaxed.
The guards reviewed the Martian tourists pinned.
Additional ink stains were quickly faxed.
The dimes between the pennies picked the ace.
Exposed in glass the car'll run the race.

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