Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

ALPHAS
Episode 1.11 “Original Sin”

A Review By Timothy Harvey

[All photos: Syfy]

When the DOD learns of a meeting of the leaders of Red Flag, Rosen and his Alphas join the assault, but things are not as they seem…

SPOILERS!

Well now… this changes… everything.

Next season should be quite interesting I think, and for those of us a little skeptical of lumping ALPHAS in the same shared universe as WAREHOUSE 13 and EUREKA, I’m pretty sure that we’ve just seen the proof that they’re not actually. Because “Original Sin” takes our Alphas very, very public, and exposes the governments knowledge of their existence to the wider world, and quite likely lands Rosen in prison.

But how did we get here?

We’ve had a very serialized first season here, with only a few episodes that didn’t have the Red Flag/DOD/Alphas storyline figuring heavily, and while I’ve really liked that, it has begged the question: What is it building to? I mean clearly something had to give… with Binghamton looming in the background, the team knew that their DOD minders were afraid of those with Alpha abilities, and the seemingly terrorist actions of Red Flag justified those fears to a point, even as the idea that it was a battle between good guys and bad guys took on some rather intriguing shades of grey. But how it was handled was quite interesting, because it makes sense that those who know about Alphas would be afraid of them.

Think about it. The idea of Superman is wonderful. But take away that powerful nobility, that selflessness, make him one of us? Yeah… that’s actually pretty scary. Bill? Super strength. He could kill a man very easily, frighteningly easy. Rachel? What secrets can you really keep from a woman who can see or hear or smell everything? Nina? She controls minds. Hicks? The perfect assassin, the one who never misses. And Gary? Gary may be the most powerful, the most dangerous of them all… It’s the fact that they are good people, or at least trying to be that keeps them from becoming Red Flag. But even there it’s not quite as clear-cut as one might think, as this episode makes clear.

From the beginning Red Flag’s agents have insisted that they are only doing what they’re doing in self-defense, against a world that fears them and a government that wants to control them. When we met Anna, we discovered that the face of the enemy was more sympathetic than we could think, and the way the Red Flag agents acted around each other… less like terrorists and more like, oh I don’t know, our team of Alphas? Here we find that there are divisions in the ranks, with many of the leaders of Red Flag, especially Anna, arguing that going public, exposing the Alpha Phenomenon, is the best thing for Alphas and regular humanity. But while Anna may lead much of Red Flag, it turns out that its founder has other plans. And for Anna and so many others, those plans are deadly.

It’s a real shame to see Anna die here, and the impact of that death is something I think we’re not done with. Gary, sweet Gary, finds her body and lashes out at the DOD agent in a display of anger unlike anything we’ve seen from him before. The scene of the assault on the Red Flag meeting is brutal and confused and essentially a massacre, and while the DOD views it as a success, the impact on the Alphas team is devastating. The knowledge that it all could have been avoided, that it was a set up by Stanton Parrish and that it cost many innocent lives drives home the fact that the team is asked over and over again to hunt down people just like them, and that for all their good intentions, lives are lost.

And who is Stanton Parrish? Last week they implied that the Alphas came out of Cold War experiments, and the fact that almost all of the Alphas we’ve seen are “young” enough to be the result of those experiments has lent credence to the idea. Here though, we find that long before the Cold War, there was an Alpha, perhaps the first one, walking the earth and making plans. Seemingly immortal and claiming perfect mind and body integration, Parrish is the one who fed the information to the DOD and caused the massacre at Highland Mills. His confrontation with Rosen is one of the best meetings of opposing forces I’ve seen in a while, with Rosen clearly at a disadvantage yet holding his own intellectually, and it’s clear that the downside to Parrish’s abilities is a lack of empathy, although his case that he is humanity is sadly somewhat true. Working in the shadows, planning for the war between Alphas and humanity he sees coming, he offers Rosen a Faustian bargain: work with me and I’ll answer all your questions about Alphas. The Why’s, the How’s, if only you’ll serve me…

Rosen’s answer and the revelation of why Rosen is so invested in the Alpha Phenomenon, and his speech before the congressional committee drive home that in a show about people with superhuman abilities, the main character is really the man among them who is has none. Yes, it’s an ensemble cast, yes, Gary is often the emotional heart of the show, but again and again, it’s Rosen who drives the stories, and here most of all. It makes perfect sense that his daughter is an Alpha, and in many ways, his work with the team is something like an attempt at redemption for the way he treated her. His estrangement from Dani, and the way he used her empathic ability to try to manipulate his wife to save his marriage, have led to his attempt to understand Alphas, all in a way to try to understand and relate to his daughter. That he reconnects to her here, without knowing that she is in league with Parrish can only lead to tragedy, but it also leads to the very nice scene where his speech throws Parrish’s plans awry, and Dani tells Parrish she warned him. Rosen’s admission that he is as manipulative as his revealed adversary gives the two an interesting contrast: Rosen does it to make a better world, but he’s not proud of it.

Rosen’s speech before the Congressional Committee is both representative of the problem the government has created for themselves, and the reason why Rosen may be the best hope for a peaceful future. Once again, the powers that be ask Rosen, the man they’ve put into the best position to give them answers, to tell them what to do, and yet again, they ignore what he has to tell them, trying to fit Alphas into their worldview instead of changing it. It’s the core conflict between Rosen and the DOD, and finally, Rosen has had enough. The events of this season, the massacre and it’s effects on his team, and his confrontation with Parrish have led him to do the one thing he’s always wanted to do, the one thing he thinks he can do to stop Parrish: He takes the Alpha Phenomenon public.

His speech is pretty impressive. From laying open the government’s treatment of Alphas at Binghamton, to exposing Stanton Parrish, to revealing the existence of Alphas to the world, his speech would have been a good one if only the committee had heard it. His ripping into the hypocrisy of the governments actions, his comparison of those actions to those of Red Flag’s and showing how they feed each other… that it’s broadcast live to the public changes everything, and Rosen knows going in that he’s likely headed for a cell. And yet he goes, trying to save the future. I’ve said it before, David Strathairn is a fantastic actor, and he proves it here.

A note about the broadcast. The camera pen transmits the hearing to Gary, who then transmits it out to the world, taking over the broadcast signals. We’ve seen Gary read the signals and use the data, but we’ve never seen him manipulate the signals before, and when you consider the scale here, it’s clear that Gary may be the most powerful Alpha we’ve seen. Consider how much our world depends on wireless signals. Now consider a man who can control those signals. Now be afraid…

So, here it ends this season. The Alphas are public. The world will never be the same. The next season can’t some soon enough.

>>>

[Official Show Site at Syfy]

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DOCTOR WHO
“Closing Time”

A Review By Timothy Harvey

With the Doctor’s time running out, he stops by Earth to see a friend and finds old enemies lurking beneath quiet city streets…

SPOILERS FOLLOW…

I kinda feel like the Grinch finding fault with “Closing Time”, considering how sweet-natured and funny it is, but I guess I’m just going to have to. Sigh.

First of all, while I love to see our universe’s Cybermen, I really think they were wasted here, and yes, yes, I know that they’re running on low power and such, but still. It was nice to see a Cybermat again, and the shots of the lone Cyberman were suitably creepy, but once we got down into the ship, all the tension seemed to evaporate. And yes, it’s sweet and happy and as a father I can cheer a bit for Craig overcoming the Cyber-conversion by the power of his love for his son, but, and it’s a big but, that’s not how it works. Well, that’s not how it’s worked before anyway, with Cybermen being pretty much mechanical bodies with human brains inside… ah to hell with it. That’s not really what this episode is about is it? The Cybermen are here to provide the bad guys, but it’s really about the Doctor isn’t it?

This season has been greatly about redefining the Doctor’s relationships, first with his mortality, then with the TARDIS itself, then with Rory and Amy, and most importantly, with himself. We’ve seen the Doctor realize how much he puts those he cares about in danger, and how his legacy is viewed by those in the wider universe. It’s been something of a dark picture, with words like “god complex” and “vain” figuring heavily, and while he really is just trying to help, it seem that the results have led to Madame Kovarian’s War and the birth of the Silence, all for the fear of the Doctor. Episodes like “The Girl Who Waited” have shown starkly the kind of terrible decisions the Doctor makes on a regular basis, and how monstrous they can seem when someone like Rory takes a hard look at them. Rory changed there, and it would be Amy who would set aside her hero-worship in “The God Complex”, and where the Doctor would decide that putting the people he cares about at risk, no matter how lonely he may be, wasn’t something he could accept anymore.

Picking up somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 years later, the Doctor finds himself one day out from the events of “The Impossible Astronaut”, and while we don’t have a lot of details, it seems to have been a full 200 years. Somewhere in there would be the bulk of his life with River Song, and while we’ve had hints (Jim the Fish anyone?), there’s little we know about this period of the Doctor’s life, aside from River calling it the best part of hers. The Doctor doesn’t appear to be thinking much of his happier past though, as he stops by to visit Craig Owens on what seems to be a farewell tour of sorts.

Finding Craig with new son in tow, the Doctor finds himself in the new position of having to be talked into investigating the mysterious power fluctuations. Feeling his years, feeling as though he’s doing more harm than good, the Doctor seems to want to walk away, but of course he can’t, because then he wouldn’t be the Doctor, would he? Craig’s innocent belief helps. Craig’s logic that staying close to the Doctor is the safest thing to do is somewhat flawed, but more often than not, it does turn out to be the case, and with young Alfie in tow, you can see how he’s think that. That Craig’s arc here is somewhat clichéd (frazzled new father in over his head trying to prove himself) and that it’s just another spin on his story from “The Lodger” is a little disappointing, but I suppose it’s too much to ask that he change too much. He wouldn’t, after all, be the foil for the Doctor that he is in these two episodes. There, of course, is much fun to have with Craig’s son Alfie, or “Stormageddon” as he prefers to be called, because of course, the Doctor speaks Baby, and of note is the somewhat revealing and funny “conversation” the Doctor has with him in the nursery.

Ok, I do have a couple of problems. One, while it’s cute that the Doctor can silence babies with a sound, his repeated use of it on adults is kind of insulting after a while. And the repeated use of the “partners/couple/companion” misunderstanding of the Doctor/Craig relationship as a gay couple is sort of beat into the ground. And the simple-minded/obliviousness of the clerks is… ah, it’s a comedy episode. Still.

The interesting moment for me this episode came with the “cameo” appearance of Amy and Rory, and the revelation that Amy has become somewhat famous as a model for a perfume campaign. Welllll… that’s what a lot of people seem to have come away with, but I think it’s rather something more. Let’s consider the poster the Doctor sees shall we? Lovely picture of Amy of course, but then there’s the name of the fragrance: Petrichor. It’s part of the psychic key the TARDIS gives Rory in the “The Doctor’s Wife”, and it’s described as the smell of dust after rain, and it seems highly unlikely that a perfume company would come up with something so specific to the Doctor on its own.

More likely, and the line “For the Girl Who’s Tired Of Waiting” backs this up, is that Amy created the fragrance, and far from being just a model, she’s created a business. With the idea that Amy and Rory deserve a life that doesn’t revolve around the Doctor being part of the reason he left them, it’s clear that they’ve built one, and a successful one at that. The Doctor holding back from going to them, the hiding from them, and his rueful expression when he realizes that Amy has moved on, show that 200 years or not, the Doctor still regrets what effect he’s had on the two.

If you didn’t enjoy last years “The Lodger”, or James Corden’s performance as Craig in it, you’re probably not going to appreciate this episode a whole lot. While I did, I do find it somewhat odd that the penultimate instalment of the season is something this slight, even though it gives us a counterpoint to the last two episodes. Craig quite sensibly tells the Doctor that the Cybermen would have woken up and began killing and converting people whether the Doctor was there or not, and that the fact that he is there mean that the Cybermen will be stopped. So yes, while the Doctor is responsible for putting his friends in danger, yes, he’s frightening to those in power and those who think he might try and stand in their way, and yes, his ego and vanity are responsible for much that is negative, the fact remains: Without the Doctor things would be much, much worse.

We have to discuss the coda here, where River Song is oddly reviewing paper records that don’t seem to have any real reason to exist, and Madame Kovarian and The Silence reveal that they still aren’t done with her. It’s good on one hand, because we need more evidence that thier investment of time, money and lives are worth it in their creation of Melody as a weapon, but it’s a little odd as well. She’s just become a Doctor you see, and now they’ve come for her? Hmmm. We do have the answer finally as to who was/is in the Astronaut suit, and there went my pet theory… I was leaning towards the Doctor himself.

So, funny, sweet, odd in its placement, “Closing Time” gives us a reminder that the Doctor is a force for good, even as he struggles with his own feelings on the subject. We also get a nice lead in for our season finale… now we wait. For the Death Of The Doctor, and the “The Wedding of River Song”.

[“Doctor Who” on the BBC web site]     [“Doctor Who” on BBC America]

ALPHAS
Episode 110 “The Unusual Suspects”

When evidence points to one of them being a traitor, Rosen and the Alphas find themselves in the custody of the DOD… at Binghamton.

SPOILERS.

Well, ask and ye shall receive. Last week I said I wanted more about Binghamton, and here we find the majority of our tale set there, and it’s… not as dramatic a facility as one might expect, but oddly, that’s what I liked about it. Sterile, utilitarian, and very much the government facility, Binghamton is what such a place likely would be. Of course we haven’t seen the heart of the place, where the worst of the Alphas are kept, the mysterious Building 7… layers. I like the way there are layers in this show.

Ok, let’s get this out of the way. The two Red Flag Alphas here display abilities we haven’t seen before, and while one seems to a touch that causes necrosis (more on that in a moment), it’s the other one, the shapeshifter, that makes me a touch unhappy. Why? Because up until this point, all the Alpha abilities have been, well, within the realm of possibility, and more or less conceivable in terms of human mind/body possibilities. But really folks, metamorphic abilities such as the Fake Rosen displayed are too much I think. Facial and vocal shifting aside, and that’s putting a LOT aside, bone structure, body mass, movement and probably even smell, these are things that would require someone to have almost complete control over their cells, and in the world ALPHAS has established? Highly unlikely.

This isn’t the X-MEN here, with Mystique and the like. This is a world where the Alpha abilities have come out of something akin to birth defects, and fall into a fairly, in context, limited range. I did like how he was in pain all the time which would make sense, although one would think that it would be much, much worse, but at the end when he shifted from Fake Rosen to Fake Gary in moments, I called foul. And that Rachel, who knows Rosen, and whose sensory abilities should be the first thing that saw through Fake Rosen, didn’t? The Shapeshifter has the same heartbeat as Rosen? He smells the same? He really sounds identical? Hmmph.  One hopes this isn’t a trend… the ALPHAS world is more interesting with more, relatively yes, believable powers.

And I do have to ask… if our other Red Flag Alpha can what, cause the tissue of others to die? It’s been pretty much established here it’s that no Alpha knows instinctively how to use or control their abilities when they first surface, and in some cases that wouldn’t be an issue, but if you can kill with a touch? Those early days would have produced a lot of bodies methinks.

But all that aside, what do we have here? Well, in a nicely edited opening, we look back at the moments that cast doubts on all of our Alphas potential for betrayal, and while some of them are pretty slim (Rachel having doubts about the wisdom of having security cells in the office? Huh?), it’s pretty telling that all of them appear to have that potential. And aside from the killing of one of the MK Ultra veterans, we jump right into the DOD taking out Rosen and the Alphas one by one. A really interesting and telling moment comes when the Tactical team fills Bill with almost a dozen tranq darts, and one of the agents, standing over Bill’s body, shoots him in the back and says “Alphas.”, with something pretty close to disdain. It’s another reminder that our heroes aren’t really trusted by the DOD, and are considered useful tools more than anything.

Our look inside Binghamton reveals cells that are sound proof and signal-proof, and according to Agent Nathan Clay, all around Alpha proof. The questioning Clay puts the team through ranges from the professional interactions with Rosen and Bill, the distrustful ones of Rachel, Nina and Hicks, to the confusing and funny of Gary’s, but Clay is clear: one of them betrayed them. And behind the cameras watching them is another Alpha, Eric, who reads faces for signs of deception, his ability making him a very effective lie detector. What also becomes clear over and over is that the Alphas have feared this, feared their DOD masters turning on them, and good reasons or not, this just confirms those fears. And the questioning reveals more: Gary is still in touch with Anna, the leader of Red Flag. To him it’s simple, Anna is his friend, despite what she does with Red Flag, and he really doesn’t see the problem. That this is going to be something of an issue now that it’s been revealed is obvious… one can’t see the DOD letting Gary keep chatting with the head of a superpowered terrorist organization.

When our Alphas manage to escape it seems a bit too easy, although the sequence is pretty cool, and with Clay keeping the DOD sharpshooters from taking the shots that would bring them down, it’s obvious that he’s letting them run. The warehouse and the arguments the team finds themselves in break open the mystery of the traitor, or so it seems. Tensions and accusations fly, and the revelations of a secret bank account that Hicks has makes him look suitably guilty, and when pressed he lashes out, striking Rosen and engaging in a pretty impressive fight with Bill. If you’ve been wondering what a fight between super-strength and super-reflexes looks like, then here you go. It’s pretty brutal sequence and they are pretty evenly matched, although any final answer on who would win is interrupted by the arrival of the DOD. And when Rosen takes Gary away as the DOD surrounds Hicks, Rachel finds that the blood on the floor isn’t Rosen’s, and they realize they’ve all been fooled.

There’s a good moment where we see Rosen awakening in the warehouse he’s been being held in, and we see the walls are covered with information about the team, and graphed photos of his own face. It’s some indication that the Shapshifter had to work to impersonate him, but again, it doesn’t explain how he can copy Gary later. Here we see the true goal of these Red Flag agents: destroy the MK ULTRA files and frame Rosen for the deaths of the old staff, but the arrival of the real Rosen stops the Fake Rosen from achieving their goals. Yes, we get the “I’m the real Rosen/No I am!” bit, but in a nice change from the usual cliché, the real Rosen has had hair cut, for some reason that isn’t exactly clear, and the Shapeshifter’s pain has reached the point where he can’t maintain Rosen’s appearance anymore. Here also we have the improbable Gary copy, but we also have Ryan Cartwright getting to use his natural British accent as the Shapeshifter, so I suppose it’s a tradeoff.

And then, when all is more or less right with the world, Bill’s heart gives out…

What this episode gives us is a good look at the relationship and lack of real trust that the DOD has for Alphas in general, and even their own “tame” ones. We see that they’ve thought long and hard about how to disable the teams abilities, and they efficiency with which they took them all out speaks to well planned operations. We knew this to some degree, with previous interactions with Clay making it clear he didn’t trust what they were telling him about Skylar, so it’s not that surprising that Clay would have though this through. What is somewhat surprising is Clay himself here, and in a positive way I really didn’t see coming. Yes, Clay doesn’t always think Rosen does things the right way, and yes, he doesn’t think that the Alphas should be running around as loosely supervised as they are, but he does respect Rosen. He is trying to do his job the best way he can, and when he takes the team down, he’s doing it to stop the mole the fastest and most efficient way he can. When he points out that if he hadn’t acted that way, Rosen would be dead and framed for murder, Rosen asks him if he thinks he should thank Clay for that, and he responds that he might, and he might think about what Red Flag will throw at him next. It was looking like Clay would be shaping up to be Rosen’s adversary in the DOD, and this episode plays on this quite a bit, but in the end, he’s just a man trying to do his job, keep his rather unruly charges safe, and serve his country against a new threat.

He also warms to the rather unlikely character of Eric Latrou, whose ability to read people has made him depressed and paranoid and something of a mess really. Using Eric to read the team, Clay actually opens up to him, revealing that he took this job to help his family, and when all is said and done. Clay rewards Eric by letting him out of Binghamton and arranging for him to work with Rosen, and while Clay would never be described as friendly exactly, he does seem to like Eric to some degree. That Eric is socially awkward is based partially on his ability… he can more or less tell when people are lying, and a lifetime of being unable to avoid all the little lies and deceptions of daily life has made his own interactions with people a little off. He also has something of a crush on Rachel, which is kind of cute, in an awkward way.

The big revelation here is the true nature of the illegal CIA program called  MKULTRA, known most for its psychological experiments in the 50’s and 60’s and it’s use of LSD on its subjects. With most of the records of the program destroyed in the 70’s, it’s been a favorite subject of conspiracy theories and fiction, and here it factors into the growing back story of the ALPHAS universe. With Red Flag killing the final members of the MKULTRA team that worked on Alphas and trying to destroy the records that Rosen has about those experiments, it draws a lot of attention to what Rosen and the DOD don’t know about the program. But it’s what we see at the very beginning of the episode that sparks the most interest, with the aged victim of the necrotic Alpha implying that Alphas as a whole are a result of the MKULTRA program. Interesting…

With only one episode left in the season, and Monday’s episode promising a full on assault by Red Flag, looking back I have to say this first season has been pretty impressive. It’s managed to avoid most of the pitfalls of TV superhero shows, and give us a decent range of characters who have some actual depth to them. It’s given us villains whose justifications aren’t completely unreasonable, and whose members we’ve met are often more sympathetic than we would expect. It’s created a world where the government isn’t treated like Big Brother or an incompetent bureaucracy, but full of people trying to deal with a situation that no one has any training for, because super powered people don’t exist… until they do. That those who have these unique abilities, these Alphas, may be the result of government experiments, well, it’s another layer of grey in a show that seems happy to spend time in shades of grey. I’m quite pleased with this show so far, and while it has had it’s missteps, it’s one of the better genre shows on tv, and I’m looking forward to the season finale and the next season.

>>>

[Official Show Site at Syfy]

ALPHAS
Episode 109 “Shadows”

A Review by Timothy Harvey

First of all, my apologies for missing last week and taking so long on this review. While life can get in the way, I still would rather have these out to you quicker than I’ve been able to lately. I shall try to do better. So, what happened last week that you need to know?

Well, there are a couple of things that have carried over, despite “A Short Time in Paradise” being essentially an “Alpha Of the Week” episode. First, Hicks and Nina, while under the mental influence of Jonas, bypass the courtship dance they’ve been going through and end up in bed together, leading to a mix of new intimacy and new barriers. Second, pacifist Dr. Rosen, in order to save the lives of those under Jonas’ sway, is forced to kill him, and deal with the dangerous realities of the life he leads as the leader of the Alphas. Also, Bill finds the effects of Jonas’ ability has suppressed his own, and suddenly he finds himself normal again. While the AOW episodes don’t advance the Red Flag/DOD storyline significantly, they do feed into it, and with “Shadows” we can definitely see that we won’t be leaving events like those behind.

A side note: The portrayal of Jonas by Garret Dillahunt was quite interesting I thought, and the way that the religious angle was handled was as well. It’s easy to have the “cult” leader be a monster or a charlatan, and we’ve seen that version of the character quite a bit, just as we do in real life. But also we have those who truly believe in their message, who truly believe that they are helping people, and those are the tragic cases. Jonas isn’t a monster, he’s a very damaged man with an ability that can bring people a kind of joy and a feeling of being connected to God. That it’s false and fatal isn’t his intent, and it’s the boy he never really grew out of, damaged by the effects his ability had on his own father filtered through his religious upbringing who can’t listen to reason and pushes events to their tragic conclusion.

Anyway. What about “Shadows”?

With the relationship with the DOD still tense and the growing threat of Red Flag, as well as Bill’s abilities still dormant, the evolution of the Alphas office continues with the addition of a high-tech holding cell, and a new “guest” to fill it: Dr. Gordon Kurn (Brent Spiner).

Kurn’s research and a suspected connection to Red Flag has led the DOD and the Alphas to his medical  practice and the revelation that as an obstetrician, he’s been introducing quite the interesting cocktail into the prenatal vitamin he gives his patients. Recognizing that companies are developing drugs that will decrease the number of Alphas born into the world, Kurn decides that he can do something about it, and has worked active DNA into his vitamins to increase the number of those born with special abilities. He’s also an Alpha himself: born blind, he uses sound waves to “see” the world around him, and can generate them around him as well.

His allegiance to Red Flag, and his insistence that Rosen and the DOD don’t really understand the organization at all lead to quite the interesting debate between the two men, and again raises the interesting question of just how “bad” Red Flag is. When Kurn insists that the encounters the Alphas have had with Red Flag were really with fringe elements, Rosen points out the the PLO, the IRA and the KKK have all used the “fringe element” excuse, and Kurn’s invitation to join them also falls on unreceptive ears. We still don’t know enough about Red Flag do we? What we do know isn’t reassuring, but we keep getting moments like we have here where Kurn insists that Red Flag wants a world where Alphas and normal humans live together in peace, just like Rosen does. The grey areas this show operates in are quite intriguing.

It’s interesting what they’ve done here. We’ve had Marcus Ayers, who sort of is a Magneto to Rosen’s Professor Xavier, and now again, we have Kurn, who also evokes that comparison, even more so when he reveals the full extent of his powers. Those sound waves he can generate? He can create vibrations with them, and the effects can cause burst capillaries on the low-end, on the high-end, threaten to bring the entire office building crashing down. While confined in the new holding cell and departing with Rosen, he’s been sending out those waves, and when he unleashes their full power, we get a scene a lot like the one in X-MEN 2, where Magneto escapes. Given the time, Kurns seems like one of the most powerful Alphas we’ve met so far, at least in terms of the level of destruction he’s capable of. That he hasn’t used his abilities in that way for Red Flag keeps the waters muddy, but when he does escape, he clearly has no problem using his powers to hurt others. I will say this though, while it makes sense to a point that Kurn can “see” with his echolocation, his being a doctor raises a fairly large question. How does he read?

It’s not only Kurn the Alphas find themselves dealing with this week, because someone else wants his research and they’ve sent their own Alpha after him. Moving through the office is a woman called Griffin (Rebecca Mader), who has the ability to move into the blind spot of those around them, effectively making her invisible. (The actual mechanism is a little sketchy, but under the circumstances, expecting Rosen to be able to figure out how every Alpha he meets within moments is a little much to ask, methinks.) Calling herself a Ronin, it’s a bit more accurate that she’s an agent for hire, and while she’s after Kurn’s research, taking him with her would mean a sizable bonus, and the Alphas are in her way. Quickly using her abilities to hack the computers and the security system, Griffin not only puts the Alphas under siege in their own office, but kidnaps Rachel, stabs Hicks and uses the system’s own lockdown to trap them. Only the timely escape of Rachel and the liberal application of a laptop to the back of Griffin’s head stops her from succeeding.

Of course when Kurn escapes, he’s not all that interested in being taken to Griffin’s employers, and when he goes after her, Bill finds himself forced to jump-start his dormant abilities to try and stop them both. That he doesn’t succeed and Griffin has the chance to kill Kurn leaves them at a stalemate, one only broken by Griffin fading away, but not before leaving Bill with a name and a warning: Stanton Parrish. That we have no idea who or what that is just adds another player to the mix, and just reinforces that there really aren’t just two sides in the developing world of ALPHAS. By my count there are at least 4, and again, the grays of good and evil, right and wrong that this show operates in are very interesting.

Our regulars get a lot to do here, from Rachel (Azita Ghanizada) getting to save everyone, Gary (Ryan Cartwright) finding the first key to seeing Griffin, and Rosen (David Strathairn) putting it all together and engaging our antagonists in debate, but it’s Bill (Malik Yoba), Hicks (Warren Christie) and Nina (Laura Mennell) who get the most character time. Bill is in an odd place. With his Alpha abilities dormant, he finds himself more comfortable and less irritated by the world around him, but also under pressure from Rosen and the DOD to find a way to restart them. When circumstances force him to try and do that, he’s less than thrilled that Rosen more or less makes the decision for him, although he understands. It’s a nice touch that they don’t just come right back, and that the trigger that finally causes them to return is when his emotional state reaches the point where his fight/flight response kicks in. And as always, his banter and teasing with Gary is one of the comedic highlights of the show.

Nina and Hicks also find themselves with Rosen making a decision for them. As their psychiatrist and their employer, he thinks their relationship is a bad idea, and while Nina agrees, it’s not for those reasons, it’s because her own romantic history is full of destroyed relationships. Hicks’ record isn’t any better, but he wants to try, and discounting Rosen entirely, he makes it clear that he thinks they have a chance together. When Griffin stabs him, Nina gives it away: she really does care about him, and by the end of the episode, they’re both clearly deciding to give it a chance. Of course this won’t make Rosen happy, and in the increasingly complicated world of the Alphas, such a relationship may be the cause of much pain to come…

I’m quite pleased that SyFy has picked ALPHAS up for a second season. The layers of the characters, the cross-purposes the DOD and the Alphas are finding themselves at more and more, those grey areas our “villains” keep operating in: it’s making for good storytelling. If they can keep this up, if our characters continue to grow and evolve as they have been, I think we have a wealth of stories to be told here. Now if we could just have a field trip to Binghamton…

[Official Show Site at Syfy]

“The God Complex”

A Review By Timothy Harvey

Spoilers Abound.

“An ancient creature… drenched in the blood of the innocent… drifting in space through an endless shifting maze… for such a creature… death would be a gift.”

And so we’ve come to the only logical place we could have. Since Steven Moffat began his run on the series, he’s been dismantling the god-like Doctor bit by bit. With Tennant’s 10th Doctor, we got the Angry Lonely God, and in episodes like “The Last Of The Time Lords” and “Forest of The Dead”, and especially in “The Waters of Mars”, we see the Doctor knows what his reputation is, and even begins to believe it himself. He’s become the arbiter of Time and Space, and all you have to do is look him up to see why you should run.

With the arrival of Matt Smith in “The Eleventh Hour”, the Doctor continues to bank on his reputation, and whether it’s the Atraxi or a fleet of every enemy he’s ever had, he used the legend that had grown up around him to his advantage, over and over. But as we moved into Smith’s second season, we begin to watch Moffat’s very critical look at the idea that the Doctor can’t be beaten, that his reputation and his actions have far more impact than he knows, and that his adventuring through time and space leaves a lot of damage behind. The 11th Doctor has been shown over and over to be fallible, and more importantly, he’s been shown to be aware of the mistakes he’s made… and of the darkness inside him. The Dream Lord from “Amy’s Choice”, the revelations of “A Good Man Goes To War”, and now this… simply put, Moffat and Smith have given us a Doctor who is faced over and over with the realities of what his impact on the universe is. It’s not always positive, and Smith does a wonderful job of portraying the age, the guilt, and the underlying self-hate the Doctor hides behind that often childlike sense of wonder and joy. The consequences of his travels weigh heavily on him, and it does seem fitting that as he heads to what appears to be his death, the Doctor reflects on the lives that have been sacrificed for him, the danger he puts those he cares about in, and the many times he’s failed to save the innocent.

Rather lengthy intro isn’t it? Well, those are the things we’re really talking about in “The God Complex”, another episode this series with a title specifically about one of our main characters. Sure, the TARDIS crew is trapped in a “building”, facing off against a creature that was once a “god”, so we have the double play on words, but it’s quite clear that it’s the Doctor who has the complex in question.

While at first “God Complex” looks like another stand-alone ep, it’s really quite clear that it’s part of the larger arc, especially when looking at Arthur Darvill’s Rory. When he tells Amy that he feels like he should notify Rita’s next of kin because of how much the Doctor likes her, watch his face. He’s not actually joking. When he talks about traveling with the Doctor in the past tense, and when he points out that most victories don’t involve saving the universe, you can see that he’s had enough. With everything that has happened this season, from the Doctor’s death, Melody/River to Older Amy, Rory has seen the dark side of travel in the TARDIS, and since he doesn’t share the hero-worship Amy has for the Doctor, it’s been Rory who has vocalized, especially in “The Girl Who Waited”, the very real consequences of it on those the Doctor calls his friends. Watch Matt Smith’s face when his Doctor talks to Rory too, and you can see that he knows exactly what Rory’s thinking.

Here also is the part where we have to discuss the elephant in the room. While I’ve really liked so much this season, and really felt that story-wise, character-wise and sheer wonder-wise Moffat and Co. have done beautifully, they really dropped the ball on how Rory and Amy have dealt with Melody/River. Because they haven’t. At all. It seems that we’re supposed to find the resolution of “Let’s Kill Hitler” and River’s path to becoming the person they know as the end of their quest to be reunited with their child. As a parent, as a viewer, that’s nonsense, and sure, we know that stuff happens between the episodes, but c’mon, really? One one hand I get it… DOCTOR WHO has always been episodic, but while this season has been arc heavy for a show that isn’t known for them, when you deal with fundamental issues like parenthood and family, you have to DEAL with them. If you set up big situations like the kidnapping of a child and turning her into a weapon, having that child become your crazy best friend isn’t actually a solution any parent would accept. With only two episodes left, and Amy and Rory only in one of them, it’s a big, bad, wrong hole in the story. And with one hand on the elephant, we turn to Amy.

I’ve said it before, the writers have NOT been kind to Karen Gillan’s Amy Pond this season. And with what she’s been through, that Amy isn’t a lot more like Older Amy, or pointing a gun at the Doctor like she did River and demanding answers seems surprising, but here we look hard at why she keeps putting her faith and trust in the Time Lord. There is hero worship, there is gratitude at being returned for, there is love and all those very human reactions to someone as wonderful and kind and magical as the Doctor. But she’s also holding onto all of those things despite the fact that the Doctor takes her into danger over and over, that she’s lost her child because of her traveling with him, that she’s watched Rory die more than once… for all that Amy is smart and bold and independent, when it comes to the Doctor she has a massive blind spot. And that almost, almost goes a long way to explaining her acceptance of losing the opportunity to raise Melody. Almost, but not enough.

What it does do is put her in danger again, and it takes the active breaking of that blind faith by the Doctor to save her from the Minotaur. That it happens in a room where 7 year old Amy waits in vain is great, but despite a wonderful performance by Smith, the scene seems too short, too simple, or maybe it’s because, just as we haven’t dealt with Melody’s loss, we don’t get the scene where Amy takes the Doctor to task for the way he has let her down. I personally like the distance between the two of them at the end when the Doctor leaves them behind, because it felt like two people who have severed a link between them, who have fundamentally altered the relationship they had. It’s uncomfortable when that happens, and there’s an awkwardness and a sadness that isn’t just about the Doctor leaving: It’s about the idea of the Doctor changing for Amy Pond.

“I brought them here. It was their choice, but offer a child a suitcase full of sweets and they’ll take it. Offer someone all of Time and Space and they’ll take that too. Which is why you shouldn’t.”

“I can’t save you from this, there’s nothing I can do to stop this. I stole your childhood and now I’ve led you by your hand to your death. And the worst thing is I knew, I knew this would happen. This is what always happens.”

“Forget your faith in me. I took you with me because I was vain. Because I wanted to be adored.”

“Look at you. The glorious Pond. The Girl Who Waited for Me. I’m not a hero. I really am just a madman in a box. And it’s time we saw each other as we really are… Amy Williams.”

Matt Smith’s performance here is fantastic… each of those quotes is delivered with a sadness and a sense of self-knowledge that we really haven’t seen before in the Doctor, at least not to this level. He knows what he’s done, he knows what he’s doing, and he knows that what he offers is irresistible. And that’s the problem. He’s brought Companion after Companion into the TARDIS and into harm’s way for centuries, and they all fall a little in love with the idea of the Doctor, that madman with a box, adventuring through the universe and beyond. But look at Adric, Katarina or Sara Kingdom. They died because they stepped into the TARDIS. Look at the way the Doctor has used his friends as weapons, or left them without a word. It IS what always happens, and he knows it. How many times has Rory died? How many times has Amy? Martha. Rose. Donna. River.

“What’s the alternative? Me standing over your grave? Over your broken body, over Rory’s body?”

The Doctor is lonely. But he knows. And on the way to his death, he’s going to save Amy and Rory one more time, by letting them go. Of course they’ll be back, but one hopes that we haven’t seen the last of this change in the relationship between the Doctor and Amy, so that Amy can be who she’s meant to be, not just The Girl Who Waited.

As for the rest of it… if you know David Walliams from LITTLE BRITAIN, then you may not recognize him here as Gibbis, a member of a race that uses surrender as a kind of weapon. He’s funny and darker than he appears, although the joke wears a touch thin. There’s also Dimitri Leonidas as Howie and Daniel Pirrie as Joe, both fine as fodder for the Minotaur, played by Spencer Wilding. The Minotaur is an interesting adversary by the way, eons old and wanting to die, but kept alive by the prison ship. Operating almost purely on instinct, it wants the Doctor to stop it, and it also sees some parallels between it’s life and the Doctor’s.

The hotel is very much Kubrick’s THE SHINING inspired, and looks fantastic, and the little reveals about the fears lurking in each room are quite fun. The fact that we don’t see what is in room 11, but hear the TARDIS’s Cloister Bell is intriguing… But the story itself has a few problems. The prison, floating through space and snatching up the faithful for the Minotaur’s food does look like a hotel for, um, what reason? And surely the race that imprisoned the Minotaur couldn’t be that much a bunch of right bastards to just let its prison float about and grab innocent people, right?

I’ve saved Amara Karan’s Rita for last here for a reason. Smart, intuitive, able to see through the Doctor and the one to point out his god complex. The first devout Muslim I can recall in the show since it returned, in this time of pointless Islamophobia, it’s really nice to see a character with those religious beliefs portrayed not as a fanatic or a danger, but as a good person. She thinks that the hotel may be Jahannam, the Islamic Hell, and finds herself a victim of the Minotaur, but not before the Doctor essentially offers her a place in the TARDIS. It’s a shame, I liked her and I think the addition of a religious woman from an eastern culture might have made for some interesting story possibilities, but like the Ninth Doctor and Lynda and the Tenth with Astrid, the Eleventh has met that potential Companion who dies before they get the chance. And I was a little angry alongside the Doctor when she didn’t fight harder to live.

So! A good episode, with some great and quite important character and arc developments, and the departure of Amy and Rory, well, until the season finale that is, with the only glaring flaw being the continued lack of real resolution to the emotional trauma Amy and Rory must have felt about Melody. Ah well. It’s still a great season of DOCTOR WHO.


[“Doctor Who” on the BBC web site]   [“Doctor Who” on BBC America]

“THE GIRL WHO WAITED”

A Review by Timothy Harvey

When the Doctor tries to take Amy and Rory to the No.2 Most Beautiful Planet in the Galaxy, the TARDIS crew finds themselves in the midst of a planetwide medical quarantine, with Amy on the wrong side of the line, and trapped in a faster timestream.

Wow.

There have been a LOT of good episodes this season, and some real big ideas and revelations, and most of it has been tied into the Death of the Doctor storyline, but it was one of the stand alone stories that is my current favorite of this run: “The Doctor’s Wife”. Neil Gaiman’s exploration of the love affair between a boy and his Box was pretty damn brilliant, and gorgeous to boot.

I now have a 2nd favorite episode.

Let me be perfectly clear, this is one of the best episodes of DOCTOR WHO since it’s returned to our screens six years ago. Like “The Doctor’s Wife” it examines a relationship, only this time it’s Amy and Rory’s, and like it, it looks at what the power of love means for them. And this episode, too, is gorgeous. It also takes a good long look at the Doctor in a way that is both true and unsettling.

I’m not going to give you a recap here, because this is an episode you have to watch. Leave aside the stunning production design, the lighting, the makeup and the effects, which are really, really good; it’s the story and the acting and the questions at the heart of it all that you have to watch. So if you want to go in completely fresh and see this the best way? Stop reading and watch it. Seriously.

SPOILERS!!!

OK, so if I’m not going to give an actual recap, what am I going to do? Well, first of all lets get the negative out of the way, because yes, it’s not a perfect episode. The premise of a medical quarantine that uses time to separate the sick from the healthy is really very interesting, and the idea of being able to watch your dying loved one have a full life in the 24 hours they have left is both truly kind and deeply sad. It is, unfortunately, a little hard to buy that every one of the 40,000 infected are all in their own separate timestreams… good God, think of the power and the processing requirements! And while the caretaker robots aren’t actually designed to be something to fight, no matter their adversarial nature here, they are apparently of pretty flimsy construction when the story requires it… painting canvas is not that effective a weapon. And that’s the quibbles. All of them. Seriously folks, that’s as bad as it gets.

Because writer Tom MacRae have given us something really good here. MacRae isn’t someone I expected this from to be honest, and that’s more my fault than his. I wasn’t much of a fan of the alternate universe Cybermen of his two-part story “Rise of the Cyberman/The Age of Steel”, and while I know that scripts change a lot in the course of filming, when I saw he wrote this episode, it didn’t make me all that excited. Mr. MacRae, I still don’t think much of those two episodes, but believe me, sir, the next time I see your name as the writer of anything, I will watch it.

Credit must also be given to director Nick Hurran, who is new to DOCTOR WHO, and especially to cinematographer Owen McPolin, who also shot “The Doctor’s Wife”, and if I could have him do the camera work for the entire series that would be just fine. The look of this episode falls squarely on the shoulders of McPolin and the production crew, and they do a truly excellent job.

What make this episode special is the hard look it takes at the love between Rory and Amy, and the consequences of travel with the Doctor upon that love. We’ve seen before what Rory’s love for Amy will lead him to do, from following her into the TARDIS in the first place, all the way to spending 2000 years waiting for her. We’ve seen him take on the universe to get his wife and child back, and if nothing else, we know Rory loves Amy. He’s grown immensely from the fairly feckless comic relief of “The Eleventh Hour”, and while he’s still funny as hell, Rory is a very three-demensional character.

Amy? Well, yes and no. She’s gone through a lot too, but essentially she’s stayed the same since we first met her. She’s still the strong willed, smart, sassy Scottish lass, and while we’ve seen some change with the pregnancy/Melody/River story, it hasn’t been much. And lately it’s been, and yes, it goes with the story arc, Amy needing rescuing a fair amount, with Rory being the one to save her as much as the Doctor. Here though… here we have a very different Amy than we’ve seen before.

“Rory, I love you. Now save me.”

In brief, when Amy is caught in the separate timestream of the Two Streams, 36 years have passed compared to the mere moments/hours of time Rory and the Doctor, and the years alone, constantly on the run from the HandBots, have hardened her into a bitter, angry woman. She’s built her own sonic screwdriver, hacked the computer system to aid her, and taken one of the HandBots for something resembling companionship. Feeling abandoned, her love for Rory and the Doctor has hardened into disdain for them both, and for the Doctor particularly, actual hatred.

“You told me to wait, and I did. A lifetime. You’ve got nothing to say to me.”

It’s quite the change from the Amy we’ve seen, to put it mildly. Physically Karen Gillan goes all out here, moving differently than young Amy, talking differently than young Amy, and yes, the excellent makeup helps, but it’s Gillan’s performance that makes older Amy work. Her anger, her bitterness, and most importantly her refusal to be saved by those she feels abandoned by, make or break the story, and Gillan gives her best work yet. We have to believe in this woman, this slightly mad, survive-at-all-costs woman, who would sacrifice her younger self to preserve her own life, for this to work, and that it does is a testament to the writing and her performance. When she’s playing against herself, old and young, it’s fantastic.

There’s a moment where the younger Amy reminds her older self of what it was like to fall in love with Rory, what that love means to them both, and it leads to this exchange:

“You’re asking me to defy destiny, causality, the nexus of time itself for a boy.”
“You’re Amy, he’s Rory, and oh yes, I am.”

Here we see what differentiates the two Amys, and it comes down to whom they put first. Young Amy asks “what about Rory”, and that she does shows how far the two are apart. Older Amy puts herself first, and you can see that she’s had to, but young Amy puts the man she loves, her husband, first. It’s an important moment, because while we have seen Rory do that for Amy over and over, we’ve rarely seen Amy return that level of sacrifice, and make no mistake… younger Amy is asking older Amy to sacrifice herself so that Rory can be reunited with her younger self. That the argument works only to a point is made clear moments later, when older Amy demands that the Doctor save both versions, because while she rediscovers her love for Rory, she quite simply doesn’t what to die.

“I don’t care that you got old. I care that we didn’t grow old together.”

Poor Rory. Last season it was “how can we kill Rory this week”, and if anything, he was the comic relief of the Doctor and Amy Show. Starting with “The Big Bang”, Rory became something far more, turning into a true Companion, and not just The Boy Who Follows Amy. From the Last Centurion of that episode to the Last Centurion of “A Good Man Goes To War”, Rory has asserted himself more and more, and proven again and again that nothing will keep him from being with the woman he loves, but here… here he has an almost impossible choice. Older Amy IS his Amy, damaged to be sure, but she is the woman he loves. It hurts that he didn’t get to grow older with her, and when the Doctor tells him they can still save the young Amy, obviously he’s going to try. And of course he’s going to try to save the older Amy too… he loves her. But the days of Rory just going along are over, and he’s even willing to have a yelling argument with older Amy, something we couldn’t have pictured when we first met him. And when he realizes that ultimately, the situation is the result of the Doctor’s way of doing things, and that it could have been avoided:

“This is your fault.”
“I’m so sorry, but Rory…”
“NO! This is YOUR FAULT! You, you should look at a history book once in a while, see if there’s an outbreak of plague or not!”
“That is not how I travel!”
“Then I DO NOT WANT TO TRAVEL WITH YOU!”

When the Doctor tells older Amy that there is a way to save both versions, things become even worse for Rory, because as we all know, the Doctor lies. Having promised him that he would save “thier” Amy, the Doctor is willing to do whatever it takes to get her back, and lying to his friends to achieve that goal is the least of it… because when Rory carries a tranquilized young Amy through the TARDIS’s doors, the Doctor slams them shut on the older one. The paradox would be too great to sustain, and so the Doctor does what he always does, and makes the terrible decision that has to be made. Only this time, Rory stands up to him and finds himself forced to make the decision, leading to another important line:

“This isn’t fair, you’re turning me into you!

Wracked with pain, torn apart by knowing that if he doesn’t let older Amy into the TARDIS she’ll die, Rory almost does it, but older Amy stops him. Realizing that she truly has forgotten how much he loves her, how much she loves him, she accepts that there can only be one Amy, and gives the days to the one who can grow old with Rory.

My daughter told me today that this scene at the TARDIS door is being compared on some message boards to the 10th Doctor/Rose scene on the beach. Rubbish. While it’s true, I’m not a huge Rose fan, and always thought that “love” story was out of character, that scene was about something else entirely. This feels far more real, and the emotion of this scene is far more powerful. Listen to Arthur Darville’s voice, look at his face throughout this entire episode, but especially here at the door, and you’ll see what I mean. I am a big Arthur Darville fan, and this episode he’s bloody brilliant.

This is a “Doctor Light” episode, and while it’s all about Amy and Rory, without the Doctor’s actions, the story wouldn’t have played out the way it did. Rory is both right and wrong to call the Doctor out on causing all of this, because yes, traveling with the Doctor is dangerous. For every wonderful moment of new worlds and adventures, there are horrible moments of terror and potential death, but ultimately Amy and Rory chose to travel in the TARDIS, and they chose knowing that. It doesn’t, however, make it any less true. It also brings to the fore again something that it’s been easy to forget but this season has been greatly about: The Doctor’s decisions are always made for the greater good, but there are consequences to them, and they are not always kind. The war against the Doctor by the forces of the Silence and thier allies are a result of the fear those decisions and actions have caused, and while they are on a much smaller scale here, it’s the same thing. The Doctor will save Amy, and if that means wiping older Amy out of existence, well, that’s what has to happen. But watch Matt Smith’s face when the Doctor slams the door on her. Watch his face when she’s screaming through the door that she trusted him. Watch his face when he makes Rory choose and when Rory asks him if he always knew that there could be only one Amy. And watch his face when Amy asks where her older self is. The Doctor knows, and has always known what he’s doing when he makes the decisions that shatter empires and wipe out timelines. And I think we’re seeing here the reason the Doctor doesn’t like himself very much.

Well, there was a lot more recap here than I planned, but it was hard to write about some of this, a lot of this, without it, so there it is. Again, just about a perfect episode, and again, one of the absolute best of the series. Writing, performances, direction, design and music: fantastic.

It isn’t simply a great DOCTOR WHO episode, it’s a great STORY.


Not with a bang, but with a… well, it’s better than a whimper, but only just.

With “The Blood Line”, we do get an ending, and it does wrap up the story and answer most of the questions, and overall it’s not a bad episode. For all the fuss and bother to get us here though, it’s an ending that lacks quite a bit, and if you’ve been dissatisfied with TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY so far, you’re probably not going to be overwhelmed.

So what happens? Well, our two Torchwood teams move into position at the polar ends of the Blessing, fighting their way into the Shanghai and Buenos Aires facilities, and confront the Families. There they get the answers of why and how the Miracle happened, defeat the villains, and save the world from the curse of immortality. The end.

Not thrilled by that summary? Well, it’s actually better than that, quite good in places, but after watching it all, I admit I was left with a definite sense of “Meh.” It really has been a “too little, too late” season for TORCHWOOD, and while they try to make this last episode big and grand and powerful, there are a few things that just make that impossible.

Let’s start with the Families and their plan. See, way back when, they saw the repeated resurrections of Jack, and while he escaped them, they kept large quantities of his blood and used them in their quest for immortality. Realizing that they would need more power than they currently had to make that happen, they moved into politics, the media and the financial worlds, gradually taking them over and preparing for the day when they would have the chance to rule the world and live forever. The discovery of the Blessing gave them the final piece they needed, and they used its unique properties to make humanity immortal so they could take over the world after the chaos collapsed society. Yes folks, the Families are James Bond villains.

I mean really, that’s it. The big plan? Watch the world burn, then step in and pick up the pieces and rule. Sorry, but isn’t that the plot of MOONRAKER and THE SPY WHO LOVED ME? I’m not saying that John Barrowman couldn’t play Bond, but is that really what we tuned in for? And as for the Blessing itself, we got a lot of “That’s what makes it magical” to try and cover for the fact that they never actually tell us what it is or how it manages to be apparently alive and still run through the molten center of the earth, and its apparent control of the morphic field of the Earth really just comes down to “because it does”.  That it somehow made humanity immortal to be “kind” also makes little sense, as does the whole damn premise because Jack’s blood isn’t what makes Jack immortal.

In DOCTOR WHO’s “The Parting of the Ways”, Rose Tyler uses the power of the Time Vortex to resurrect him, and leaves him a fixed point in time: while Jack can be killed, he will always come back to life, wounds healed and never aging. That’s what he is. What he’s not is a man carrying around immortal blood with its own unique properties that can be passed on to other people, and yet ignoring what he himself created, that’s what Russell T. Davies has given us here. The interaction between the Blessing and Jack’s blood and it’s creation of an immortal humanity makes no sense whatsoever, and less so that Jack would become mortal in response. It’s something that comes across purely as story mechanics, and when you have the character say, in this season, more than once, that there’s nothing special about Jack’s blood, and still the plot hinges on there being something special about Jack’s blood? Rubbish. And don’t get me started on Rex’s resurrection and new-found immortality because of a blood transfusion…

We do finally get a resolution to Oswald Danes’ arc, or rather, his complete lack of an arc. Oh they implied he was something of a changed man, for a moment or two, but here we have the unrepentant monster, the murdering pedophile, larger than life and twice as repugnant, and I just have to ask… what, exactly, was the point? Don’t get me wrong, I really think Bill Pullman has been excellent here, but it’s the character and his arc that just doesn’t work. From the world-wide celebrity that never made sense all the way to his human bomb exit, we’ve never really been given a reason to spend all this time with Danes, and we end without one. Was it to set up Jilly and bring her to the attention of the Families? Can’t be, since she already worked for PhiCorp, and that brings me to Lauren Ambrose, and I repeat the question, what was the point?

Her Jilly Kitzinger ultimately brought, um, what exactly to the show? Again, Ambrose performed great, and I liked a lot of the moments she was on camera, but in the end, she was just an unethical self-serving PR hack, and aside from the fight scene between her and Gwen here, I can’t see what point the character ultimately serves. And to make matters worse, we get an epilogue with her and Blond Family Lackey that teases that this was all a trial run. I don’t know, like Oswald, Jilly got a lot of set up for not a lot of payoff.

That’s actually a problem with the whole show by the way. After 9 episodes, the climax feels flat, and for such an earth shattering premise, the resolution is pretty banal. And no, let me add, no mention of the complete and utter collapse of society at the end, or any kind of political fallout for the leaders of the world who all jumped headfirst into fascistic territory. Not. One. Word.

Let me also take a moment to both praise and condemn the CIA in this episode. John De Lancie’s Director Shapiro returns, making the longest run of the American-Genre-Cameo brigade, and steals the scenes he’s in. That he gets the sendoff line he gets is pretty awesome, but at the same time, one has to ask how a building full of spies misses the “I’m-clearly-hiding-something” behavior of Marina Benedict’s Charlotte Wills, and it’s a little hard to believe that running a trace on the Families phones would be such a resource drain, budget cuts or not, considering what the CIA’s budget is in our world. It’s a nice explosion scene, but it really does seem like they were missing the extremely obvious, and surely the CIA has some protocols in place to track down moles. I mean, they are a spy agency after all.

Our Torchwood team is back, front and center here, and for the most part, Jack and Gwen get treated pretty well. Eve Myles gets to open the episode with a really nice speech about Gwen’s father, and for a character that has spent most of his airtime playing dead-ish, what she has to say brings him to life as a person the way nothing we’ve seen has. And it brings the actual stakes to the fore as well, acknowledging that saving the world from the Families means Gwen will be responsible for killing her dad. Her interactions with Jack feel like TORCHWOOD of old, and her beat down of Jilly was, as I said, fun to watch. Her being the one to kill Jack, because she knows he’s not a suicide, her commitment to the horrible yet necessary goal… I’m thinking that Gwen finally got to be Gwen here, and it’s a shame that she was, like Jack and the others, written so poorly this season.

The same holds true for Barrowman’s Jack Harkness. His speech to Danes about the glories of the universe and Oswald’s insignificant place in it is quite good indeed, as is his “death”, and while I doubt that anyone thought Jack would stay dead, the buildup was nicely dramatic. Jack gets to be the hero again, and like Gwen, seems like himself here. He has been written pretty well these last few episodes overall, but here he’s back in form.

Rex gets to finally show his humanity here, treating Esther like a real friend, and aside from his rather odd reaction to her being shot… ok, look. They all knew they could fail, they all knew that the Families could cause their true death, they knew the stakes, and while Rex reacting to Esther being shot should certainly have been one of horror and outrage, his questioning what to do seems out-of-place considering the fact that he and Jack were prepared to die to save the world. That Rex wouldn’t think that Esther would be prepared to make that sacrifice too doesn’t really make sense. Mekhi Phifer has had a sort of thankless task this season, playing such a ill-tempered man, but here he shows that Rex really does care, and it would have been nice to see more of that. Unfortunately, we got the magic blood solution to Rex surviving the return of death to the world, and that seems something of both a cheat and a contrived resolution.

Oh poor Esther. We’ve watched her be somewhat useless and then grow into a pretty good field agent, and if we had her family subplot handled clumsily overall, we did get enough of her character developed into something real that by the end her death had some weight. That we got some resolution with her funeral at the end was nice, even if the appearance of her sister and her nieces avoids the question of their mental illness. I’ve liked Alexa Havins’ performance throughout the series, finding fault with the writing but not what she’s done with it, and while I don’t have any problem with main characters dying if they are written out well, I did hate to see her be the one to go, especially after losing Arlene Tur’s Vera.

There were other good moments, as well as other bad… Good was the time Rhys and Sgt. Andy spent with Gwen’s father and the nameless Category One girl, and Rhys’ talk with Gwen. Also good was the air of superiority the two Family Big Bads displayed, but bad was the “Talking Villain Syndrome” they both had, and the rather arbitrary midnight deadline to blow up the entrances to the Blessing. Again, very James Bond, and the story suffered for it. Bad also was the pace of things, because while it was better than a lot of the other episodes, that’s not saying much, and here too it was very uneven.

So, it’s over, and despite having a truly horrific premise and vast potential, this season seems like a LOT of wasted opportunity and filler. I think there was a really solid 6 episode story here, but at 10 it just dragged on. I think we spent a LOT of time with characters we didn’t need to, and worst of all, we had villains who ultimately had a fairly dull reason and over-complicated plan. I wonder if TORCHWOOD will be back to be honest… the reviews have not been kind and the ratings haven’t been much to get excited about, so we shall see. Let’s just hope Mr. Davies is listening and it’s better next time.