setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


If the next Doctor is not a woman, Steven Moffat has done a good job making the people who avoid casting a woman look like massive dicks. That's a little flip but it's true and one of the takeaways from the bittersweet season finale of Doctor Who that aired to-day. If one thinks a bit about the plot, there are a lot of things that don't make sense but the thematic stuff is so good I kind of don't care. "The Doctor Falls" brings a new dimension to the season long focus on mentalities that regard other people as less then human to justify subjugation or murder, the most interesting thread in the episode relating to gender and even gender dysphoria.

Spoilers after the screenshot



I really didn't find John Simm half as annoying as he was under Russell T. Davies, maybe because now he's channelling Delgado and Ainsley so much, but also here he's working as a nice representation of resistance to the idea of a female Doctor along with empathy and femininity in general.

The Master: "Do as she says? Is the future going to be all girl?"

The Doctor: "We can only hope."

This seems a pretty loud and clear way of Moffat saying, yes, the next Doctor ought to be a woman. Moffat also uses Simm's Master to bully Bill (Pearl Mackie) on her gender, the above exchange arising from a subtle reconfiguring of the Cybermen, as a concept, to a socially enforced gender construct. The way Missy (Michelle Gomez) awkwardly apologises to the Master for calling Bill "her" is part of Missy perfectly being placed as the transition point, the people caught in an old fashioned view of gender realising that recognising someone's gender identity is truly more natural than trying to force one on them. Missy really has learned empathy, or gotten back in touch with it.



The episode is both about the experience of not being taken as what one sees oneself as and also about the pain involved in change. It's painful for Missy to face that she's not the Master anymore, it's painful for the Master to contemplate his future, and it's painful for the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) to contemplate change again as he begins the process of regeneration.



Capaldi, it needs hardly be said, is magnificent in this episode, in big and small moments. His discomfort when trying to explain to Bill what's happened to her is so nicely layered with sadness and empathy. This episode actually invokes that word and the Doctor even mentions Donald Trump, making it clear that this season long theme has very much been motivated by the world's current political climate. It leads to a really fitting modification of the Third Doctor's phrase, "Where there's life there's hope" to "Where there's tears there's hope."



I loved the fact that Twelve gets to offer someone a jelly baby (he offered one in a cigarette case in his first season, like the Fourth in Face of Evil, but this time he was actually able to say it). I like it because, really, more Doctors should do it, there's no reason it should be so married to the Fourth--the Second was actually the first to do it--and I also liked it because it was like the Doctor taking the line back from Simm's Master who used it in one of his Russell T. Davies episodes.



Nardole (Matt Lucas) had a couple nice moments and his goodbye was good though it mostly made me wish more time had been taken to develop him over the season to earn his protestations about being likely to sell children on the black market.



One could say Bill's resolution is very much like Clara's only taken a step further--like Clara, Bill has died and been reborn and has gone off with another woman to have adventures, only Bill's relationship is explicitly romantic. And really sweet. I wish there'd been more build up of a relationship with Heather (Stephanie Hyam) but her appearance and the role in the resolution was so cool I'm willing to accept it. Now they're both water and, as Heather tells Bill directly, change has become for them something easy and fun.

I wonder if the appearance of David Bradley at the end was prompted by leaked set photos from the Christmas special. It made me curious to see how this unfolds, in any case. Bradley isn't that much like Hartnell but at least he's a good actor.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


Ahead of to-morrow's new Doctor Who, I decided to revisit Survival, the 1989 serial written by Rona Munro, who also wrote to-morrow's new episode, making her the only writer from the classic series to be hired to write for the relaunched series. Survival also happens to be the final story of the classic series, not a terribly good way to go, I always thought, though watching it again this past week I do find it's better than I remembered. This was only the second time I'd watched it through--although the Seventh Doctor's third season is rightly gaining a reputation as being one of the finest seasons of the series, I'd say it's mainly for the two middle serials, Ghost Light and Curse of Fenric. As much as I like King Arthur and Jean Marsh, I struggled to get through Battlefield the couple times I've tried rewatching it. And Survival, well. Survival has this:



I know what you're thinking. "He hates Furries!" Now, I fully believe that people who call themselves Furries should be recognised as having the same rights and privileges as any average citizen. But I'm never going to be able to take seriously the cereal box, generic brand Loony Tunes aesthetic. Sometimes people just have bad taste.

Anyway, though Rona Munro did not invoke the term "Furry", possibly being unaware of the subculture at the time, Wikipedia quotes her from a 2007 interview as also being unhappy with the creature design of the cheetah people:

[They] should have just had cheetah eyes and a very faint pigmentation round of cheetah spots, and big canine teeth. And in fact, I think the actors that were cast, from what I was told, were doing all this wonderful expressive facial work, and then these 'Puss In Boots' things were dropped on them – and so then you can't see what they're doing under there. Particularly Karra and Ace, there were whole amazing scenes between them and for me, that was supposed to be my lesbian subtext – and you can't see it!



I certainly didn't pick up on any lesbian subtext, though considering that's Lisa Bowerman, later to play Bernice Summerfield in the audio plays, I'd certainly like to've seen it. I wonder if there was much thought into actually making Ace a lesbian behind the scenes--and I was already thinking that Bill was in part modelled on Ace.



Oof, I don't think there was ever a period in Earth's history when that lapel wouldn't have been laughed it. I guess they were going for Puritan but, no, it's not working.

I also didn't like to rewatch Survival because it was a story featuring the Master, a character I always thought was the show's weakest point. Until Missy came along, that is--I love Missy. Call me a sexist, if you will. Call me a Furry hating misandrist. Whatever, I can take it. Well, I also thought Derek Jacobi brought something interesting to the role.

I liked aspects of Master episodes, particularly the ones with Robert Delgado. I think the little doll in Terror of the Autons is effectively creepy in spite of, or maybe even because of, the old effects. And I like the sword fight in The Sea Devils. But mostly I always thought the Master was two dimensional and boring and when the writing got really bad in the Fifth Doctor era the Master got the brunt of it. I always thought it would have been interesting if they used the opportunity of the Master inhabiting the body of Nyssa's father to create some dramatic situations for her but it seems it wasn't until the audio plays that anyone thought of this, after Anthony Ainley could no longer reprise the role.



I do like the demonic puppet cats in Survival. Even though they're not supposed to look like puppets, I guess--they do look fucked up as hell. I also enjoy watching Sylvester McCoy trying to trap one.



My favourite part of Survival, though, is Perivale, particularly in the first episode of the serial. It all feels oddly authentic. I love Ace running into her friend with the cup on the street, I love the Doctor in the shop buying cat food and the two guys working there.



It's like the Doctor meeting Dante and Randal from Clerks. I love how real that shop feels. The third episode also has some good locations--I really love how you can see the poverty in the public housing Ace and the Doctor visit.



It's kind of a quietly radical moment. It emphasises the story's central themes, too, the idea of the "survival of the fittest." The Doctor demonstrates how it's not always smart strategically to show off strength when the Cheetah people seem not to want to attack someone who isn't moving. But we also see how cruel the philosophy is when applied to economics. One could draw a line between this and Ace falling for the Soviet soldier in Curse of Fenric and see a real bold lean to the left on the show, subtler and better developed than the previous season's Happiness Patrol.

Anyway, I find myself looking forward to seeing what Rona Munro's come up with for to-morrow.
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: (Default)


What if the world is secretly controlled by aliens and the only one who can see them is a cheesy guy with a mullet? I'm not sure if the characters in John Carpenter's 1988 film They Live are poorly developed or are calculated to subvert heteronormative expectations without its stars or studio getting wise. The Sci-Fi concept is nice, its best distinction from something like Invasion of the Body Snatchers is the daring to incorporate economic class, though this has had the unfortunate effect of the movie being co-opted by the alt-right, prompting John Carpenter himself to speak out recently against anti-Semitic interpretations of the film. I don't think the movie espouses bigotry, I do think it's a bit muddled. Its cheesy 80s action charm sits a bit oddly with the implicit ideology of its concept.

I don't like to foist a sexual identity on people or movies. I think of the Ani DiFranco song "In or Out"--"their eyes are all asking are you in, or are you out and I think, oh man, what is this about?" On the other hand, the movie makes a lot more sense if you assume Roddy Piper's John Nada and Keith David's Frank Armitage are in love.



The movie has the least interesting John Carpenter soundtrack I've heard--most of the time we hear the same three notes on guitar played repeatedly as we watch Nada walk around town, trying to get work or wandering. He finally catches a break with a construction crew though he's discouraged when it's mentioned that it's a union job, at which point the camera cuts to a group of Hispanic workers chatting.



Which seemed like it was playing on a right wing fear of Mexican-American labour unions. But maybe not since Nada does get the job and starts working shirtless, his improbable physique scoped out by Keith David's character Frank.




Nada needs a place to stay so he follows Frank to the shanty town where Frank lives across the street from a church. Frank later mentions having a wife and kids but we never see them. After Nada discovers the magic glasses that lets him see the aliens pretending to be humans, the film has its most perplexing scene when Nada and Frank get into a prolonged, five minute brawl.



It's a good fight scene, obviously Piper's in familiar territory. But it doesn't make any sense. All Nada wanted was for Frank to wear the glasses and the fight erupts when Frank repeatedly refuses to do so. On Wikipedia, Carpenter is quoted as comparing it to the brawl between John Wayne and Victor McLaglen at the end of The Quiet Man. That fight was not a fight to the death and was designed as a way for two characters to work out their issues in a form of cultural subconscious hyper-masculine communication. These issues built over the whole movie having to do with tradition and pride--Wayne's character trying to buy land that McLaglen's felt was his by right, the issue further complicated by Wayne's relationship with McLaglen's sister and--well, you can go watch The Quiet Man. You should, it's a great movie. But Frank and Nada had nothing like that. They basically just seem friendly, if a little brisk, when suddenly Nada, who's anxious about the whole world apparently being taken over by aliens, puts everything aside to grapple with Frank, who apparently just can't put on a pair of fucking glasses.



When Frank finally puts on the glasses--seeing how things truly are--the two check into a cheap hotel room together, although they had to live in a shanty town before, and Nada says sarcastically, "Ain't love grand?" and starts telling Frank about how he was abused as a child. I am quite certain I'm not the first person to comment on what this seems like--I haven't even mentioned how encouragements to procreate through relationships with the opposite sex are part of the sinister subliminal messages Nada is able to see. The only female character is played by the sinister looking Meg Foster (most notable, to me, for playing the casino cashier in the new Twin Peaks).



Like I said, I don't like to impose a sexual identity on anyone, but how does any of this make sense if Nada and Frank aren't discovering a physical love for each other? Either way, Frank is oddly underdeveloped. If the two really are meant to be taken as being in love, it would have been nice if the film explored it more directly.

Aside from the political allegory, the film seems to be well-known for Roddy Piper's line about how he's "here to chew bubblegum and kick ass and I'm all out of bubblegum." The bullshitting humour in this reflects the humour found in much of the film, its irony never quite meshing with the ghoulish beings taking over the world and the real threat this presents. Maybe the discord is supposed to be there, though--it's supposed to be discomforting that aliens and Meg Foster are crashing the bubblegum party.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


This week's exceptionally existential new Doctor Who, "Extremis", tackled the meaning of individual endeavour in a potentially meaningless world. Last week, the show tackled capitalism and this week has gone on to religion, using the Catholic Church as a context but addressing the more universal function of belief. It turned out to be a really lovely episode and featured possibly the most profound statement ever conceived about Super Mario Brothers.

Spoilers after the screenshot



I was saying to a friend of mine a few months ago, Professor Peter Herman at SDSU, that some piece of dystopian fiction seemed prophetic now that Trump is in office and Professor Herman replied, "Everything bad seems prophetic now." I thought of this watching "Extremis", in the scene where Bill (Peal Mackie) finds the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) sitting alone in the White House Oval Office with the corpse of a president who's just killed himself.



Of course, this whole season of Doctor Who was recorded before last year's U.S. election and even if the makers of the show knew who was going to be president they likely desired to avoid any of the attendant trouble in suggesting someone very like the actual president committed suicide. That's probably why the president on the show resembles neither Trump or Clinton, a nondescript white man with black hair. Though the level of intellectual contemplation suggested as a motive for suicide would also rule out Trump. But the story of a world where the truth can't be known because of the sophistication of the lies that shape apparent reality, paired with a portrayal of the U.S. government, couldn't fail to seem like an apt reflection of current affairs.



Which makes the Doctor's solution all the more resonant, the beautifully delivered concept of virtue without hope--reminding me of the line from Aragorn in Return of the King, about "valour without renown." It would be easy to compare "Extremis" to The Matrix but its idea is much more humanistic than a story about a regular guy who ends up being the Chosen One--in this episode, the Doctor discovers he isn't even really the Doctor, in fact not even a real person, and he presents the argument that it doesn't matter because he's defined by his actions. This is also not an idea new to this story--not new to television or even new to Doctor Who but it was beautifully delivered here. I particularly liked the pairing of it with the Catholic Church, emphasising the nature of the question as being an ancient preoccupation of the human mind worth exploring again and again. The bad times which prompt such questions and make them seem particularly crucial, after all, keep popping up.



I loved how the Doctor's epiphany at the climax came in the form of words spoken to him by Missy (Michelle Gomez) when she was in fact repeating words he'd spoken to her. It's even better because we know she probably doesn't mean them, forcing us to analyse the value in the words themselves--there's no hope she believes in deeds done with promise of "no hope."



The Doctor's blindness was another perfect device for this story, the idea of this blind man trying to read a deadly book called "the truth" being a clever metaphorical portrayal of what the process of seeking truth might be--and Capaldi does such a beautiful job allowing the despair to come through which he's fighting against.



Pearl Mackie continues to be good but this episode particularly drew my attention to Matt Lucas. I knew he could be funny but here he was also excellent delivering some straight forward sincere stuff. His dread approaching the edge of the projectors was great.



And I'm going to make a prediction right now--I think these hooded guys are the Cybermen. It makes sense that they'd be the ones to create a vast simulation of Earth--which isn't too far from the idea of Mondas being an alternate Earth. It looks like they're going to be in next week's episode, too, presumably outside the simulation but I still feel pretty strongly we're seeing Mondasians. To those who don't understand why the original Mondasian Cybermen are scarier, imagine those Cybermen look like this but with a thin cloth mask.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


One thing's for sure, the Guardians of the Galaxy movies aren't among the many modern films that use a dull, blue and amber colour palette. In 2017's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, director James Gunn uses every colour in the rainbow, and then some, but manages to keep the riot of colour, characters, and effects in a tight enough bundle to make a very entertaining water balloon of enthusiastic post-modern affection.



My favourite parts of the film were the conversations between Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff). It seems the filmmakers sought to pair one big-hearted, simple-minded character with another, which doesn't seem like a concept that would have legs, yet their conversation about beauty was oddly thought provoking, despite the obvious joke in Drax's assertion that beautiful people can't trust anyone. Now the two seem to be on the path to a relationship in which physical repulsion is agreed on as a desirable concept. It's not exactly like Peter (Chris Pratt) compulsively talking about David Hasselhoff at the end of the film in order to mute some of the big emotional notes, but the landscape Mantis and Drax have created has something like the enthusiastically ironic appreciation for pop culture references that pervade much of the film in that there's a pursuit for earnest feeling through the destabilising of signifiers. I've been at university too long.



I was really jazzed to see Ben Browder's cameo. After seeing the first film, I noted how much it owes to the great Sci-Fi television series Browder starred, Farscape, in terms of tone. It seemed James Gunn was acknowledging the influence with this cameo, and I dig it. With Browder putting on that English accent, it seemed like Crichton posing as Peacekeeper.



When the first movie came out, I remember people commenting on how refreshing it was that Gamora (Zoe Saldana) didn't end up becoming Peter's love interest, which generally made me wonder if these people were watching the same movie I was. It seemed abundantly clear that they were intended to have an unspoken attraction, but I guess we needed this movie with Peter directly stating to Gamora than they shared an unspoken mutual attraction. This movie did a better job of having Gamora seem attracted to Peter, though--she can actually be seen checking him out early on. And is it really so strange? To quote John Cleese in Monty Python's Meaning of Life, what's wrong with a kiss? I've been disappointed by the lack of romance in the new Star Wars films and television series, I'm glad this apparently isn't something Disney's mandated for all its properties.



I still don't find Gamora all that interesting. Nebula (Karen Gillan) was a lot more fun and I enjoyed watching her try to sort her feelings out. It's a shame Gillan has to shave her head for these films, though, her hair is so fantastic. If Paul Goddard were the Farscape cameo the two could commiserate.

I read James Gunn made a point of making sure the movie passed the Bechdel Test many times. But he must have misunderstood the test, which requires that two or more named female characters have a conversation where they don't talk about a man. The Bechdel Test website can only find one brief instance in the film that passes and it's actually a conversation in which Peter, Drax, and Rocket (Bradley Cooper) take part.

Personally, I don't care if a movie passes the Bechdel test or not. As even proponents of the test have pointed out, there are many movies that don't pass while still having great female characters and many movies that do pass while lacking good female characters. But I'm a little intrigued that Gunn was so keen to pass the test but still managed to botch it almost completely. Oh, well. It happens to all of us.



The main plot of the film involves Peter's quest for a father figure with Kurt Russell's character, Ego, and Michael Rooker's Yondu being the contenders. The story explicitly involves creation and hierarchy. The movie begins with the crew doing a job for a race of beings who look down on everyone else for their belief in their own perfection, a concept which becomes a more serious concern for Peter later in the film. Again, this goes back to a digestion of the fundamental artistic motive of the film which celebrates a group of misfits and older movies and television series--like Farscape and Star Wars--that featured similar small groups butting heads with powerful beings and governments. One could look at Peter as Prince Hal choosing between the father figures King Henry IV and the morally weaker Falstaff. Though Yondu turns out to be a little too principled to be a genuine Falstaff. But the film is clearly happy to celebrate the fact that it's not the first to present a hero choosing between being a ruler or an ordinary mortal. Of course, no-one in this film is really an ordinary mortal, but still.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


I can think of few worthier targets for evisceration nowadays than capitalism. So to-day's new episode of Doctor Who, "Oxygen", filled me with much more glee than it might have in happier times. Written by Jamie Mathieson, who's quickly become one of the show's strongest writers since his first script for the show in 2014, delivers a deliciously sinister and timely premise with terrific atmosphere and character.

Spoilers after the screenshot



Poor Bill (Pearl Mackie) had a rough episode. But the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) giving her his helmet was one of those old fashioned lovely moments of heroism that still seem to work now and then. And now he's blind, too--still blind at the end of the episode, confirmed by the latest awkwardly looped piece of dialogue; "I'm still blind!" There is someone, I don't know who, responsible for these dopey insertions, usually at the end of episodes under the apparent belief that no-one's going to be able to put things together from the Doctor saying he can't look at Nardole. Hell, I started getting the idea when he kept the glasses on just a bit longer than seemed natural. If that still wasn't enough, there was the trailer for next week, after all.



Though, again, I mainly loved this episode. I do like to get my complaints out of the way first, generally speaking, but aside from that looped dialogue the only other thing that slightly bothered me was the banter about racism. It really does feel like there's a directive at work to discuss race as often as possible this season. Which is fine, but having the racism tables turned on Bill, so to speak, wasn't especially amusing or interesting.



But those suits. What a perfect concept--and that subtle joke I almost missed at the end--"It's the suits!" said the Doctor and I thought, "Yes, we know it's the suits--oh! Not those suits, the suits like the white collar bosses!" This works as a great follow up to "Thin Ice" where we saw the cutthroat capitalist in the 19th century. Now here's the invisible ruthless capitalist of the future, so gone over to machines that we never even see a flesh and bone villain. Just robots carting around the flesh and bone of the victims.



A suit you have to pay for every breath of oxygen, in a space station designed not to be hospitable to anyone not paying for that oxygen. You have to make money so you can pay money or you die. What a great reconfiguring of the intimate, personal impact of capitalism. I'm glad kids are watching this show because this is a great way to get them thinking about the world they're in. This is what good Science Fiction and Fantasy does.



The atmosphere of the story was great, I loved the slow build up as the characters discovered clues. I loved Nardole (Matt Lucas) who evidently needs oxygen. His pleas to the Doctor that they go back to the TARDIS were delivered just right. I loved the references to 2001: A Space Odyssey--the wonderful black void of space instead of thick star clusters at the beginning and the red eyes on the suits that are dead ringers for HAL.



Ever since the show's relaunch in 2005, there's been a compulsion to make the Doctor a Christ figure, something I don't always enjoy. This season I like it. The speech in "Thin Ice" which seems to be based on Matthew 25:40 ("Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.") and now we have the Doctor undermining capitalism by giving and sacrificing without thought of recompense. This is good stuff, especially with a lot of other fantasy fiction encouraging people to be ruthless and selfish. And I'm so going to miss Capaldi when he's gone, especially considering the latest casting rumours.

Twitter Sonnet #992

The air pump showed the bird to ev'ry church.
Escaping lace displayed a petal cloud.
Descending now is heaven in the lurch.
A spinning sink describes a certain shroud.
In pebbles sifted from the foam she scried.
Awoken, Dover's Venus faintly sighs.
Important, aimless gulls together guide.
The infinite revealed encompassed eyes.
Beneath the capes of sod magicians grow.
Elapsing time appears beneath the lid.
At speed conveying notes the molluscs know.
Inquiring horns relax and raise the bid.
The thinning helmet held but little cash.
An ancient concert pin defines the sash.
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.

Profile

setsuled: (Default)
setsuled

July 2017

S M T W T F S
       1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23242526272829
3031     

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Jul. 23rd, 2017 10:49 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios