Saturday, November 8, 2014

Review: "Death in Heaven"

And we've come to the finale.

Spoilers follow and all that. Proceed at your own risk.

Still there? You were warned. Highlight to view.

Starting from the ridiculous mess that was "Dark Water", the gender-bent Master, now known as "Missy" has brought the Cybermen back to Earth using imprinted memories from the dead from across time and space, thanks to Time Lord technology. U.N.I.T. crashes the scene, taking both the Doctor and "Missy" into custody as the Cybermen display flight capabilities and depart. They go into the skies above all major population centers and explode.

Meanwhile, Clara - trapped by a Cyberman - tries a bluff by claiming to be the regenerated Doctor to buy her time before she's killed. Her erstwhile boyfriend, Danny, has also returned as a Cyberman but with his emotions intact. He rescues Clara from the other Cybermen and knocks her out.

The Doctor awakens to find his TARDIS in U.N.I.T. custody. U.N.I.T. gets him and "Missy" on a plane then reveal that the Doctor is now the de-facto President of Earth to lead them out of the current threat. You see, the exploded Cybermen have turned into clouds that rain over graveyards and bring back the dead as Cybermen.

Don't ask.

So the world is in terrible danger, blah-blah.

Meanwhile, "Missy" plays head-games with one of the U.N.I.T. scientists before gleefully murdering her and the really useless U.N.I.T. guards.

Fast-forward to the Cybermen attacking the plane. The Doctor and "Missy" have a showdown, but "Missy" outmatches the Doctor by blowing out the side of the plane, sending Kate Lethbridge-Stewart (the daughter of the Brigadier) to her apparent death and then the Doctor to the same as "Missy" teleports to safety.

The Doctor manages to get into his falling TARDIS and head to the revived Clara, who is attempting to help the Cyberman-Danny delete his emotions because reasons.

"Missy" reveals to the Doctor that she can control all the Cybermen in the world as her puppets and they are invaluable tool to conquer the known universe. And she gives control of the Cybermen to the Doctor so he can find out that he's no different than she.

The Doctor ponders who he is, then gives control of the Cybermen to Cyber-Danny who uses the Cybermen to destroy the Cyber-clouds that are awakening the dead.

Clara, having stolen "Missy's" death-ray-thing, prepares to murder the renegade Time Lady, but the Doctor stops her. The Doctor struggles to finish "Missy" himself when she is apparently disintegrated by another Cyberman. It seems Danny wasn't the only Cyberman among the dead to retain his emotions. Kate Lethbridge-Stewart is revealed to be alive thanks to a Cyberman who can only be the Brigadier.

The episode ends with some hand-wavy stuff from beyond in which Danny sends the kid he killed as a soldier back to Clara so Clara can get him home. The Doctor and Clara meet one last time and lie to one another to ease their parting. Then Santa Claus appears.

Okay, my snark aside, I was surprised how much I enjoyed this finale. It was probably one of the few Moffatt-finales I actually did enjoy. The story writing was rough, but far, far better than his previous attempts. The gleeful, horrific brutality of "Missy" made up for much of the overly-convoluted nonsense of the plot and sold me on "Missy" as an incarnation of the Master. I also liked the grimly-brutal resolution of the Danny Pink storyline and how it really was an unhappy ending for Clara and Danny. I was also impressed with the consistency of the horrible lying that ultimately split the Doctor and Clara apart.

So, I raise a toast to you, Stephen Moffatt. Nicely-played. It wasn't great but I found it somewhat-enjoyable. Now please go on to other things and pass the baton to someone else.

Fishing for chips

I spent a couple of weeks in the UK recently. I was able to visit northern England where matronly cafe-ladies call everyone "love" and "cheers" is the ubiquitous utterance. Ale is hand pumped and room temperature. Steak and ale pie is a thing. People drive on the other side of the road and everything feels a bit... off... to an American.

It was glorious.

I was able to attend celebrations for Guy Fawkes Night, which consisted of many fireworks and a HUGE bonfire upon which an effigy of good old Guy was lit aflame.

Words fail me.

I must say I love the UK. The people are quite nice, the food - while generally unhealthy - suited my palate nicely, and the pubs just made me happy.

Can't say I enjoyed the travel to and from the county, though. As a California resident, my trek there was many hours in the air or in airports.

It's no shock that I caught a head cold while returning, though I've mostly fought it off.

I got to catch up on movies on the flight back. I managed to see the utter train wreck that was the latest Godzilla movie as well as watch Tom Cruise die over and over in End of Tomorrow (or was it Edge of Tomorrow? I forget).

All-in-all, I'm glad to be home. Travel is fun once you're at your destination, but the act of getting from point A to point B just sucks.

Not a review: "Dark Water"

I'm not going to bother on this one.

I was in the UK when it aired and got to see it broadcast. There's nothing positive I can say about this episode at all.

Honestly, I can't think of a single positive thing. So rather than turn this into a bile-filled tirade, I'll just leave it here as I didn't like the episode and it's just another example of Moffatt losing it.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Not-Really-A-Review: "Into the Forest of the Night"

I'm not even going to bother summarizing this one. I don't think I can. It was an utter, disjointed, incoherent mess of acid-induced crap. I can't even spoil it as it's too incoherent. This one is up there with "Love and Monsters" for my list of worst episodes ever. Though I'm still leaning towards hating "Love and Monsters" more.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Charting New Courses

So I've started a new job. Going through all the fun of training and learning new things and meeting new people. It's been good times thus far.

One of the biggest adjustments is the added commute time on BART.

I've spent a great deal of time on BART, usually on pleasure treks to-and-from some social outing. Over the years I've had nearly all the classic non-violent encounters on BART, ranging from idle flirting with a complete stranger (and the subsequent regret I didn't get a name/phone number) to often-unwilling interactions with the obviously mentally-ill (and hygienically-challenged).

Some of my friends who commute regularly on BART felt a need to warn me that I'd encounter rude folks and more obnoxious behavior. I haven't seen it yet. I've had the full-gambit this week of delayed trains, packed (oh-so-packed) trains, the odd crazy people, and normal commutes and it's been no problem at all. Sure, people get irritable when things go sour, but I've found that small attempts at being gracious and polite pay great dividends in making for an easier ride.

I wonder how I'll feel in a few months? Heh.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Review: "Flatline"

Huh. That was a lot better than I expected!

My commentary follows with a summary. Spoilers, standard stuff. Highlight to see. Blah-blah.

Still there? You were warned...

The episode starts out with a panicked man calling about disappearances. There's something out there responsible and he knows what it is. As he's on the phone with the police he suddenly vanishes.

The TARDIS materializes in a Council Estate (public housing area). Clara is still on her lying to the Doctor about how her boyfriend Danny is cool with her continuing travels with the Doctor (he's not).

And there's a problem: the TARDIS appears in a diminutive size, half of what it is normally. The Doctor and Clara are able to exit the TARDIS and look around a bit. The Doctor re-enters the TARDIS, puzzled, and sends Clara off to investigate.

Clara stumbles across a monument to some missing people and some guys doing community service. Two of the guys who stand out are Rigsby, a kid who got busted for tagging and a racist old bastard who bullies the crap out of the others.

Clara notices a few weird things, such as the various missing people the tagger-kid tells her about and mysterious murals of all the missing folks.

She returns to the Doctor to find the TARDIS has shrunk again. It's the size of a kid's toy and the Doctor cannot exit. He loans Clara his sonic screwdriver and psychic paper and has her carry the TARDIS with her as she goes to investigate some more. Her investigations run her across a policewoman, who is quickly killed, while they are investigating an apartment of a missing man (the guy who died at the beginning of the episode). The Doctor quickly groks what's going on: aliens from a 2-dimensional universe are killing and dissecting people. Clara and Rigsby escape and wind up rejoining the other community service guys. And the aliens follow them.

The Doctor struggles between some kind of dimensional drain against the TARDIS by these aliens and advising Clara. Clara, for her part, leads the community service guys to escape the hostile aliens.

There's a brief attempt to communicate with the aliens, which really just seems to reveal they're hostile and evolving. Then cue the chase scenes.

The aliens can turn things 2-dimensional (thus obliterating doorknobs and such), which makes fleeing hard for our heroes. And the aliens learn how to become 3-dimensional constructs as they start taking out the crew, one-by-one, until there's only Clara, Rigsby, and the asshole guy left. Clara is separated from the Doctor as the miniaturized TARDIS is knocked from her hand. The TARDIS goes into "siege mode", locking down completely and separating the Doctor from Clara, save via their little erratic communications link.

Clara, with Rigsby's help, manages to trick the aliens into pouring power into the TARDIS, allowing the TARDIS to restore its size. The Doctor emerges and uses some kind of Time Lord magic to obliterate the aliens after a corny speech.

The episode ended with Rigsby, the asshole-guy, and another side-character picked up along the way surviving. The Doctor seems disturbed that Clara took over his role so well.

And we pull back to our obligatory reference to the ever-so-boring "Heaven" mystery bit as Missy the weird story-arc character gloats about how Clara was such a good choice for something... DUN-DUN-DUN!!!!!!!

Overall, I found "Flatline" an entertaining episode. Rigsby had awesome Companion-potential, as seems to be a pattern with a number of side-characters getting introduced. I kind of like that the asshole character survived. It made things weird.

Clara had more to do in the episode, which was nice. The character still bugs me, but I have to give Jenna Coleman credit for doing her best with what she's got.

I'm kind of getting tired of the endless dickishness of Capaldi's Doctor, but it's a minor quibble for me, at best.

I appreciate that we're finally getting proper "bad guy" monsters back in the show. It's certainly an improvement.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Too much of a good thing

So I spent yesterday evening celebrating and saying fond and heartfelt farewells to many friends.

There were more than a few drinks.

And it all caught up with me this morning.

So... sick... I'd be happy if water would stay down. Being hydrated is nice.