Posts Tagged ‘Television’

“The Walking Dead”
Season 2, Episode 1 – “What Lies Ahead”

A Review By Timothy Harvey, Dustin Adair and Curtis Smith

Creepy_Curtis Curtis Smith
@scifi4me I Hope this season of The Walking dead has even less zombies
than the first. #thewalkingdead 16 Oct

Timothy: Hi folks! Dustin Adair (Dustin and Molly: Reviews For Humans) and I had a chance to sit down with Curtis Smith and some other friends and watch the season premiere of AMC’s “The Walking Dead”, and we  have a few thoughts on this first episode of the second season. What follows is Dustin and my recap/commentary, punctuated by the Tweets Curtis sent out during the show. There be Spoilers here, and we make no promises about appropriateness and coherency. You have been warned…

Creepy_Curtis Curtis Smith
Season 2, GOBLINS? @SCIFI4ME #THEWALKINGDEAD 16 Oct

I suppose we should start at the beginning, where we have a series of clips from season1, bringing us up to speed in a nice little video recap, followed by, um… another recap. Rick (Andrew Lincoln), sits atop a building in zombie infested Atlanta, broadcasting on his radio to Morgan (remember him? ALLLLLLL the way back in the first episode), and telling him, well, about what we just watched in the recap. And telling him, and telling him and, good lord, this is going on forever, and it’s awful. The writing is terrible and it’s just dragging on… not the best way to start things…

Creepy_Curtis Curtis Smith
Still no goblins @scifi4me #thewalkingdead 16 Oct

Creepy_Curtis Curtis Smith
First rule of zombie etiquette. Wait for a moment of jubilation and
move in. @scifi4me #thewalkingdead 16 Oct

Dustin: But what are you gonna do? This is TV, and sometimes it sucks. But it doesn’t suck for long as Rick dismounts the roof and joins the rest of the cast under some trees… you know I think the cast as a whole needs a name. Something like Team Zombie or Upset Nation or whatever. Something snappy. Anyway. Rick, his lovely bug-eyed wife Lori, and Adorable Moppet Carl mount up in their SUV with crazy mom Carol and Sophia (more on Sophia later).

Creepy_Curtis Curtis Smith
I’m not sure one Asian guy in the group constitutes racial diversity.
@scifi4me #thewalkingdead #affirmativeaction 16 Oct

Team Zombie heads on down head on down the road. Or the Highway. With Daryl n his Boss Hog; Glenn, T-Dog (really, show? One black character and his name is T-Dog?) Andrea, and the old guy.. I’m thinking his name is… Randy? In the RV and Rick, Lori, Carl, Carol and Sofia in the SUV. Shane is somewhere in there, too. But in my opinion, Shane should have died at the end of last season. So the less said about him, the better.

The exodus from Atlanta goes pretty well until they run into a traffic jam that is Literally dead in the road.

Creepy_Curtis Curtis Smith
If I don’t get a goblin soon, I’m going to start thinking there’s only
zombies in this show. @scifi4me #thewalkingdead 16 Oct

Timothy: Well, I do think you have to note the exchange between Andrea and Shane, sorta bonding over guns, ’cause that will come back later… and the old guy is Dale, driving the RV. Yeah, the traffic jam is a pretty effective visual. It’s something this show does well, giving us dramatic scenes of the devastation left behind by the rise of the Undead. And when the radiator hose blows on the RV, our band of survivors finds themselves in a pretty damn big junk yard, so they set out to find a new hose. They also start searching the abandoned cars for stuff they can use and more gas, although Lori feels like they’re grave-robbing.

Of course, since the show is called “The Walking Dead”, the discovery of water and other useful things is cut short by the appearance of a LOT of zombies, making their way through the wrecked and abandoned cars.

Creepy_Curtis Curtis Smith
Where did he learn to eviscerate stuff? I mean really. @scifi4me #thewalkingdead 16 Oct

Dustin: And by a lot, we mean A LOT. According to “The Talking Dead” – the talk show hosted by Chris Hardwick, which comes on after “The Walking Dead” – there were 150 extras in full zombie makeup (and shoes) used in that sequence. Also used in that sequence? Silence. The entire main cast had to find places to hide in the quietest ways possible so under cars they all go. The humans hiding in terrified quiet as the zombies pass literally inches by. It was very powerful.

Creepy_Curtis Curtis Smith
Never mind. Dustin just reminded me the black dude is still with us.
@scifi4me #thewalkingdead #affirmativeaction 16 Oct

The only thing that I had a problem with here was T-Dog. Ugh, every time I write that, I can feel Rosa Parks rolling over in her grave. Anyway… T-Dog, instead of hiding under a car, for some reason, decides to make a run for it. In his convoluted attempt to escape, he ends up cutting his arm pretty badly. SO he limps. Bleeding and pouring blood and bleeding all over the place, and tries to find a place to hide. He is finally saved by formerly racist Daryl, who throws him to the ground, and lumps a dead body on top of him and himself. The zombies shamble by without so much a noticing them.

SO who is getting noticed? Sophia. See, Sophia makes a noise or passes gas or something, I forget, and draws the attention of a couple of zombies. The creatures go after her and end up chasing her off the highway and into the woods.

Creepy_Curtis Curtis Smith
Sophia is sooooo zombie chum. @scifi4me #thewalkingdead 16 Oct

Rick, ever the dutiful hero, heads after her.

Timothy: Zombie shoes. Zombie flip flops… seriously? There’s a zombie in FLIP FLOPS? Anyway… yeah, it’s nice to see Daryl being more than the stereotype he so easily could have been, but it’s been sort of a sudden change, hasn’t it? Not a complaint so much as an observation… maybe it’ll be fleshed out more later.

Meanwhile, back in the RV, Andrea finds herself trapped in the bathroom, disassembled gun in hand, while a zombie tries to get through perhaps the worst door in the world to try and keep anything out. Dale drops a screwdriver down through the skylight, and she does away with it. Lots of blood shooting out of the zombie’s head though, and awfully red blood at that. Shouldn’t it all have pooled to the extremities and be browner? Ah well, it looks cool anyway.

Creepy_Curtis Curtis Smith
The called that group a zombies a herd. Why not hoard? Or a murder of
zombies? @scifi4me #thewalkingdead 16 Oct

Sophia, as it happens, makes the mistake of scooting out from under the car before all the zombies have gone (although I like your version better). Rick hides her down by the river and tells her to head back to the others as he leads the zombies away, but after going all Rambo on them, he returns to find her missing… DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNN!!!!

Creepy_Curtis Curtis Smith
GAWD kids ruin everything. @scifi4me #thewalkingdead 16 Oct

Dustin: So basically the rest of the episode is spent looking for her while Rick wrestles with the guilt of losing her and Crazy Mom Carol blames him. Finally the whole Team Zombie ends up tromping through the woods, looking for Sophia.

Okay I have to stop. Can I just say that this is supposed to be the SEASON PREMIERE!! And they spend 90 minutes wandering around the woods. It’s annoying. This whole episode is superfluous.

Creepy_Curtis Curtis Smith
Where’s your savior now, zombies? #thewalkingdead #atheism 16 Oct

Timothy: Well, I wouldn’t say completely superfluous. We did get a nice bit where Andrea ripped into Dale for basically blackmailing her into living, and Lori got to smack down the gang for expecting Rick to lead them, and then bitching about his decisions all the time. Plus we got a pretty dramatic ending, but yeah, when the majority of the episode is a bunch of people tromping around the woods? Disappointing.

Creepy_Curtis Curtis Smith
Is it that hard to believe that a woman can handle a gun? @scifi4me
#thewalkingdead 16 Oct

But that’s the problem this show had last season too, isn’t it? When it’s good, it’s really good. When it’s not, well, it’s just disappointing. Here’s hoping we get out of the woods, literally and figuratively, next week.

Creepy_Curtis Curtis Smith
The thing that really bugs me about zombies, is that they are ALL
hungry. They’re never horny. @scifi4me #thewalkingdead 16 Oct

Creepy_Curtis Curtis Smith
Take off your hat when talking to zombie jesus. #thewalkingdead #catholosism 16 Oct

Dustin: And we did get the great image of Carl being shot in the woods, which did happen in the comics. If it were up to me, there would be more great moments like that. Stuff that the people who watch this show because of the comics can point to and say “SEE!!” Stuff like Carl being shot help, but I want a little more. I want Andrea to stop being such a whiner all the time and learn to be bad ass. I want Glenn to do more than stand around being adorable. I want Shane to DIE. It’s a simple dream. Maybe this season will provide it.

Creepy_Curtis Curtis Smith
And that’s why I hate deer so much. They kill children. @scifi4me
#thewalkingdead 16 Oct

Creepy_Curtis Curtis Smith
Wouldn’t it be cool if Bill Murray did a cameo as himself in this
show? @scifi4me #thewalkingdead 16 Oct

[Official Show Site at AMC]   [Mr. Smith on Twitter]   [Mr. Harvey on Twitter]   [Dustin on Twitter]

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DOCTOR WHO
“The Wedding of River Song”

A Review By Timothy Harvey

As the Doctor’s time runs out, he finds there is one thing standing between him and his death, the woman who is programmed to kill him, the woman who loves him, the woman who may just destroy the universe: River Song.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

Wow. This review… this review required going back and watching the entire season again. Twice. It involved watching “The Wedding…” 5 times, with a 6th playing as I type this. It has led me to two conclusions: first, that Matt Smith truly has made the Doctor his own, and is one of the best of the many truly wonderful actors to play the part, and second, young River Song is one hot mess.

Good god. Let’s be clear, I really like the character of River Song, and Alex Kingston is an actress I can watch read a phone book. The River of “Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead”, of “The Pandorica Opens” and “The Big Bang”, of “The Impossible Astronaut” and “Day of the Moon”: Wonderful. The River of “Let’s Kill Hitler” and “The Wedding of River Song”? Good god, can we never see her again? Please?

Ok, to be fair, River in those two episodes is meant to be a young River, for all intents and purposes the equivalent of teen/20-ish years old, especially if she develops like Time Lords seem to do. More than once in the show’s long history, the Doctor has implied that the first hundred years or so are the Gallifreyans childhood, and while he may have been joking, from the evidence of those last two episodes, River is clearly far from an adult, and certainly not the strong, independent, equal she will become. Consider this little piece of dialogue from Amy and River in “The Impossible Astronaut”:

“River, we can’t just let him die, we have to stop it! How can you be ok with this?”

“The Doctor’s death doesn’t frighten me, nor does my own. There’s a far worse day coming for me.”

Now consider this exchange between River and the Doctor from “The Wedding of River Song”:

“I can’t let you die, without knowing you are loved! By so many and so much, and by no one more than me!”

“River, you and I, we know what this means. You and I, we are ground zero of an explosion that will engulf all reality. Billions on billions will suffer and die!”

I’ll suffer, if I have to kill you.”

More than every living thing in the Universe?”

“Yes.”

Sound like a teenager’s view of love to anyone else? Nothing else mattering but being together?

Blarg. One hopes that from here on out we’ve seen the last of Young River, because she’s one screwed up Chickie. The Adult River is something wonderful and cool, the Young River nearly destroyed the entire bleeding Universe for love of one man, something that is more or less the opposite of what the Doctor believes in. When he says he’s embarrassed by her, it plays like he’s trying to goad her out of the lovesick fangirl she’s being, because here, that obsessive love is going to destroy everything the Doctor fights for. And that she turns on a dime and lets him have his way seems as much “Oh Joy! I get to be Mrs. Doctor!” as the revealtion that he’s got a plan. Driving this view home is the end, where Adult River visits Amy and Rory, and she acts, oh I don’t know, like a grown up and not a teenager. Please Mr. Moffat, more of Adult River, because we’ve had our visit with her early days and we all know how she came to be and please please please can we never come back? Mrs. Robinson yes, fangirl no.

Whew. Little rant there. So, what about the rest of it all? Well, the good news is that for about 70% of the episode we get some pretty cool timey-wimey-ness, and for the most part, answers to this season’s questions. The Doctor comes up with a plan to avoid his death, Amy gets to have her revenge on Madame Kovarian, and Rory gets to continue to be a badass, and while we’re there, those parts are very cool. In reverse order then…

As I’ve written a few times before, Rory has really developed A LOT throughout his time in the TARDIS, from being the hapless boyfriend to being The Boy Who Waited, to being the kind of man who makes terrible necessary decisions because they have to be made. Even in this alternate timeline, he’s become the soldier out of necessity and stands beside Amy, although neither of them are aware of their relationship in the real reality. Well, not initially anyway, but events will make that clear to them both, and the moment when the Silence break down the door and call him The Man Who Dies And Dies Again, and Amy saves him is one we’ve waited for. But it’s before that, when the EyeDrives are having their terrible effect, when Rory refuses to remove his because he won’t be able to fight the Silence without it? He stands there, one man in terrible agony, one man against an army of the Silence, because someone has to. Bravo Rory.

As for Amy Pond, again, I’ve written much about how she’s been treated this season, and here we get the strong, in control Amy that she deserves to be, AND we get a reaction to losing her baby! Bonus! Of course it’s still not the reaction we should have seen, with Amy losing her damn daughter to the Silence, but yes, it’s what we’re going to get. And it’s not so bad in fact… on their way to join the Doctor and River, Amy and Rory walk past the captive Madame Kovarian, reeling from the EyeDrive assault, and we get this:

“A..Amy… help me.”

“You took my baby from me, and hurt her. And now she’s all grown up and she’s fine, but I’ll never see my baby again.”

“But you’ll still save me though… because he would. A.. and you’d never do anything to disappoint your pre-precious Doctor”

“The Doctor is very precious to me, you’re right, but do you know what else he is, Madame Kovarian? Not here. River Song didn’t get it all from you… sweetie.”

It’s controlled, but it’s fury, and for the first time, Amy Pond willingly takes a life. And it’s something she is conflicted about, even when the timeline is restored, because she still remembers. Would that we had seen even this much over the loss of Melody, but alas. Still, it’s something, as is her real joy when River reveals that the Doctor found a way to cheat death.

For, of course, he does, and it’s pretty elegant, if not fraught with a pretty big “Wait, what?” Using the Teselecta, he goes to his death in a Doctor suit, which takes the fatal blows, and the regeneration we start to see was, um, special effects? And when his friends burned his body, it um… damnit! Right, here’s some of the 30% Just Doesn’t Work. So the Doctor is inside the ship, which has configured itself to look like him. Fine. But we saw the Doctor start to regenerate, which, ok, let’s go with the FX explanation. Dodgy, but ok. But they burned the body. They. Burned. The. Body. Ok, little Doctor, little TARDIS, they slip away fine. But the ship is still there, and somehow I doubt a) it’s going to be destroyed by fire, and b) considering how important it is to River that the Doctor’s body be safe from his enemies, that she wouldn’t wait until the fire consumed it all. Sigh.

While we’re on things that don’t work… ok, the suit was controlling River, and she was only able to discharge the weapons early, creating the new, and doomed, timeline. But in the original timeline she failed, and so the suit did the work. So why, oh why, was River necessary at all? I’ve seen it suggested that somehow River’s Time Lord/human DNA helped lock the fixed moment in time down even more, but there’s nothing in the episode to suggest that, and well, it didn’t work did it? If the suit just needed someone to be in it, why not just anyone? Why River?

What did work there, and what was important, is that the Doctor knew that River wouldn’t remember committing his murder, that the Silence would wipe her memory. So we get around our little question of River’s reaction to his death, by seeing that it was a true reaction. It must have been terrible knowing that she was serving a prison sentence for killing him, but not remembering how or when, and it explains her “Of course not”, when her bullets fail to bring the Astronaut down… she couldn’t stop it because she didn’t stop it. And she didn’t know that the Doctor survived, because he didn’t tell her that he did, until they were in the alternate timeline… remember that the Doctor spent 200 years traveling before he brought his friends to America, and in there, lived his life with River. Apparently quite a bit of it while she was still in prison, so one assumes that she agreed with his desire to slip into the shadows… and yes, I know that the following video tells a different tale. Mine makes more sense.

And that brings us to the Doctor himself. Recognizing that he’s become too big, too famous, too frightening, he decides to appear to die. And it almost worked too, if it hadn’t been for that damned meddling kid, um River. But in the end, he got to do exactly that, but not before a couple of very important things happened. The second is pure magic, and a little heartbreaking. Railing against what the Universe seems to be pushing him towards and coming very close to the arrogance of the 10th Doctor at the end, the Doctor calls Earth, and tells the person on the other end to get “him” and shouts that “Time has never laid a glove on me!”, only to find that it has.

He called the nursing home where one Brigadier Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart resides, but too late. The good Brigadier had passed away months before, waiting to see his old friend one more time, and here, here, Matt Smith gives us a moment the Doctor experiences all the time, and one we almost never see. His friends die. They die of old age, and he continues on. It’s subtle, it’s powerful, and it’s true, and Smith delivers it brilliantly. As he says later, his friends are the best part of him, and in the end, they will all be gone. We never got to see Nicholas Courtney make an appearance in the new series, and his death earlier this year means we never will, so it was nice to see that sad moment become a part of the Doctor’s life, and an important one. Rest well Brigadier.

Ahem.

The first is this: While trying to avoid his fate, he searched for information on the Silence, and along the way, we got to see that the Doctor still has that dark edge to him, as he confronts a damaged Dalek:

“Imagine you were dying, imagine you were afraid, and a long way from home and in terrible pain. Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, you looked up, and saw the face of the Devil himself. Hello Dalek.”

That that is shown from the point of view of the Dalek is creepy, very creepy, and from the sound of the Doctor’s voice, well, the Time War is far from off his mind. But after a warped game of Live Chess, he find himself in possession of the still living head of Dorium Maldovar and the reason why the Silence wants him dead.

It seems that the Question the Silence doesn’t want answered is one the Doctor is in a unique position to answer, a secret that they know only he possesses, one that can never be revealed. And at a place called the Fields of Trenzalor, at the Fall of The Eleventh, there will come a time when only the truth can be spoken, and there, there, the Doctor will answer the Question, and this the Silence cannot allow. But what is the Question?

Ohhhhh you crafty buggers. It’s quite a big one, and it opens up a LOT of new questions itself. You see the Question that cannot be answered, the one that the Silence needs the Doctor to never answer, the question the Doctor has been running from all his life… is simply this: Doctor Who? Who is the Doctor? Well, that question came up years ago at the end of the first run of the show, and the plan was to reveal that the Doctor wasn’t quite who he claimed to be, and was part of what came to be known as the Cartmel Masterplan. It seems unlikely that we’ll be seeing that hit our screens, since it was so aptly played out in the New Adventures novel LUNGBARROW, but one does suspect that sometime in 2013, around a certain anniversary, the rug will get pulled out from underneath us.

So much more I could write about this episode, from Ian McNiece as Churchill, Mark Gatiss as Gantok, pterodactylus in London, Area 52 in Egypt, and more… but I think we’ve covered the most important parts. So thank you Matt Smith, Alex Kingston, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, Steven Moffat and Co. It’s been a hell of a season, and it’s worked more than it hasn’t. You asked big questions and gave us big stories. That they didn’t always work, well, that’s how it goes, and we’re happy you tried, because sometimes you made magic. And now we wait. Because the bad news is that the London Olympics are going to push the next season back to the fall of 2012, and while we’ll have the Christmas Special and there are rumors of an Easter Special, the answers, and the new incarnation of the show are many months away. New incarnation? Yes indeed, because we have something of a reboot here don’t we?

The Doctor is Dead. Long Live the Doctor.

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

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]

Episode 106 “Bill & Gary’s Excellent Adventure”

When Bill sees a chance to get back in the good graces of the FBI by tracking down a kidnapped heiress, he enlists Gary in the attempt. Meanwhile, Nina’s past comes back to haunt her as a police detective arrives to ask uncomfortable questions, and Hicks finds himself drawn to her.

Spoilers Follow…

Again we have an episode that doesn’t advance the Red Flag arc, but does delve into the characters back-stories more, and while personally I’m wanting more of our less-good Alpha “villains”, it’s good to get more of a sense of our principle characters. This week is a two-for, with both Bill (Malik Yoba) and Nina (Laura Minnell) getting their pasts fleshed out, Bill much more so.

It seems that the reason he’s in trouble with the FBI and likely to be fired is an incident with another agent, where Bill lost his temper and slammed the agent into a wall. Seeing that Bill’s Alpha ability gives him an edge in the strength department, the agent ended up with a broken clavicle and something of a grudge. The incident drew the attention of the DOD and got Bill assigned to Rosen’s team while the FBI reviewed Bill’s disciplinary case, but Bill has never given up on getting reinstated.

When Lisa Collier is kidnapped and her bodyguard Sarah Nelson (Aliana Huffman) tasered, Bill sees that using Gary’s Alpha abilities will give him an edge over standard FBI tactics, and maybe, just maybe, get him back in the FBI’s good graces. What ensues is something of a riff on the buddy-cop genre with our rather miss-matched pair getting the approval of Lisa’s father (Peter Wingfield) to investigate, as well as the grudging cooperation of the FBI team led, of course, by a certain agent who is no fan of Bill’s.

On one hand the story is really pretty bland. There’s a kidnapping, suspects who aren’t who they appear to be, double-crosses and the like… the plot is actually kinda dull. And I was pretty sure what the bad guys were up to oh, five minutes into the episode. But really, “Bill & Gary’s Excellent Adventure” wasn’t about the crime our duo was investigating, it was about who Bill is, and what he feels about his life and his place on Rosen’s team. Wisely we spend some time with his wife Jeannie (Rachael Crawford), seeing that Bill has a good marriage and home life, and while he sees Rosen’s Alphas as having benefits financially for them, it’s Jeannie’s desire that her husband be doing what makes him happy. What’s especially nice is that Bill makes a pretty big mistake and finds himself having to ask Rosen and the team for help, even as he tries to get his old job back and leave the team. This causes Bill to reassess his priorities quite a bit, recognising that he hasn’t been thinking first about the kidnapped girl, but about his career, and if he really wants to save her, he needs his team of unique individuals.

Bill’s relationship with Gary also gets to evolve here, moving from often amused irritation to real respect and something resembling friendship. Gary still manages to get under Bill’s skin of course as Bill is still not the most patient of men, and Gary’s Asperger’s doesn’t make him the easiest person to relate too. That said, Bill finds himself serving as sort of a mentor of sorts to Gary, who really is finding a sense of purpose and self-sufficiency on the team. In many ways Gary is the most entertaining of our characters, his Asperger’s often being a source of irritation for the team, but also a point of view that cuts through the layers we build up in “polite society”. Here his ability to see wireless signals gives Bill the edge over the FBI in tracking down the burner phones, but it also makes Bill look at him as more of an equal. That Gary wants to be respected and listened to is clear, and being a part of the DCIS gives him that, at least in a sense.

Of course Gary doesn’t really know how to talk to ordinary people, and the DCIS is still new, so using his badge to try and get a police officer to leave him alone doesn’t work like he wants it to and his subsequent trip to jail is what instigates the whole episode.  Ryan Cartwright really does do great work with the character, from the physical movements and tics to the verbal repetitions and tactless observations that both display his Asperger’s and illustrate his abilities.

Nina doesn’t get the depth that Bill does here, but we do get a little more information about her past. In earlier episodes it’s made clear that she views working with Rosen as be something of a path to redemption, and implied that she abused her mind control abilities with at least one fatal result. It seems that before she met Rosen, she pushed quite a few people, getting and taking what she wanted, including it seems, Bill Murray’s hat from CADDYSHACK. The reason the detective has shown up is the incident that seems to have triggered her shift in attitude, the Alpha ability influenced death of her then boyfriend. It was a bad relationship, and when she tried to leave it didn’t go well, and she told him that he should go kill himself.

Which he did.

Since then she’s “pushed” the detective who investigated the death away every time he’s come around to ask more questions, but this time Hicks interrupts her and begins prying into her past. Their spat and Hick’s apology opens up the door of the attraction they have for each other and while that explodes into passion, an interruption from a returning Rachel sends them scrambling for their clothes and some distance. Nice here is the awkwardness of that scene and the maturity of the fallout, with Hicks and Nina taking a step back and deciding that they would like to get to know each other first. Oh it’s sometimes nice to see people behaving like grown-ups.

Hicks gets to stretch his abilities here, and we see for the first time just how fast his reflexes are as he dodges two bullets. Now I recall an episode of MYTHBUSTERS where it was made pretty clear that that’s more or less impossible, but seeing that we’re dealing with the world of the Alphas, it’s ok I guess. Errrr, maybe. It’s a pretty cool sequence anyway. We also get a “Hicks-Eye” view as he runs and jumps and does his thing, the camera being his eyes, which I’m not sure I like, although it is an interesting effect.

Rachel (Azita Ghanizada) doesn’t have much to do this episode other than trusting Gary when she shouldn’t and being support, and neither does David Strathairn’s Dr. Rosen, although Rosen does get to chew Bill out quite effectively when Bill’s errors land him and Gary in jail. His disappointment is pretty paternal in fact, and I laughed out loud when, at the end where Bill has chosen to stay with the Alphas, Rosen tells him “I’m a professional; I can do my gloating in private.”

All in all an entertaining episode, again not so much for the plot, but for the development of our characters, and more of the group coming together as an actual team. Obviously there’s more work to do there, and we still have Rosen’s backstory to really delve into, and that’s the tale that intrigues me the most to be honest, but it’s been a pretty solid series so far. Now, if they would give us more Red Flag…

[Official Show Site at Syfy]