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.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Fluke of the Universe

So today is my last day with my employer of... well... a very long time.

This is what one of my co-workers sent me:

I'm totally going to miss this place. Seriously.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Review: "Mummy on the Orient Express"

I was all set to hate this one. I really was. The premise alone sounded too stupid for me to want to give it a chance.

I admit that this one caught me by surprise.

Spoilers follow.

Still there? You were warned.

It starts on an old-fashioned train. An old lady starts hallucinating a mummy that only she can see. Then it reaches her and she's suddenly dead.

It turns out the old-fashioned train is actually a spacecraft set up to replicate the old Orient Express for reasons. Everyone on the train is dressed up in period outfits and acts period for reasons.

The TARDIS materializes in the cargo hold and the Doctor and Clara disembark. This is to be their last journey together and the Doctor brought her for a last huzzah. They have drinks and exchange some talk. The Doctor talks of planets and phenomena. Clara talks of feelings. They're not really communicating. They have a brief encounter with the grand-daughter of the old woman who died. The grand-daughter is out-of-it and tips them off to the mysterious death.

It doesn't take long before the Doctor is poking around and investigating. Clara, in the meantime, winds up with the grief-stricken granddaughter. Shenanigans get them trapped in a cargo hold while more deaths happen by the mummy that only the impending-dead can see. A countdown of 66 seconds happens when the mummy appears until the target is dead. Nobody can stop it.

The Doctor's investigation brings him across the ship's engineer, the PSTD-plagued ship's captain, and a few other passengers. It turns out almost all the passengers are actually highly-skilled scientists. Everyone has been maneuvered on to the train to solve the mystery of the mummy (called "the Foretold") which has been killing people for millennia.

The Doctor reveals that the mysterious puppet master has even lured him, though the Doctor knew he was being lured. Clara, by this point, is furious at being dragged into danger and lied to by the Doctor. The Doctor, however, is more focused on figuring out the mystery of the mummy. As people are targeted, he remorselessly quizzes the soon-to-be-dead on giving him information on the mummy before the target is killed. The Doctor's callous behavior is angering and disgusting others, including Clara.

Finally, the mummy targets the grief-stricken granddaughter. The Doctor performs technological wizardry and tricks the mummy into thinking the Doctor is the target. He quickly decrypts the mummy's secret: it is a super-soldier kept alive by some sort of malfunctioning life-draining technology. The Doctor surrenders, and the mummy stands down then disintegrates.

The puppet-master behind tricking everyone on the train then tries to murder everyone on board to cover up the events, but the Doctor saves them all.

Clara finally decides to continue staying with the Doctor, lying to him about Danny Pink being okay with it. The Doctor seems dubious, but glad of her company.

All-in-all, it was an entertaining episode. A menacing, proper monster and the claustrophobic feel of "classic Doctor Who" coupled with memorable side-characters made for a pleasant change of pace. I even enjoyed the Doctor and Clara interacting (for a change). I'm really liking the seeming-misanthropic callousness of Capaldi's Doctor. Not a bad story. Not bad at all.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Monday, October 6, 2014

Giant orange eye

Sometimes I suspect nature is trying subtle methods of killing me.

On this morning's commute into my office, a full moon hung low on the horizon, looking reddish-orange like a huge Eye of Sauron. The low fog, dwelling in random puffs above the bay, would hide the glowing orb, then reveal it suddenly.

And, of course, I was driving. It was hard not to get distracted, let me tell you.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Review: "Kill the Moon"

Just saw "Kill the Moon". Spoilers and all that.

Still there? You were warned...

Where to begin? So this wasn't a Moffatt-penned episode and it was really clear from how the story moved along. The Doctor has apparently been a bad influence on student Courtney Woods, who is mainly a teen brat. Woods, who was interesting in "The Caretaker" has devolved in the episode to whiny as the Doctor's obnoxious manner hurts her feelings. Clara drags the Doctor to Courtney to make him apologize. Instead, the Doctor takes Clara and Courtney in the TARDIS to the Moon, where Courtney can become the first woman to walk on the Moon.

And then things go wrong.

The TARDIS instead materializes on a space shuttle that is landing on the Moon with a trio of astronauts and a crapload of nukes.

It's the mid-21st century (some thirty or so years in our future) and the Moon is causing gravity disruptions that are damaging the Earth. When they all land, the Moon has essentially got Earth-normal gravity, weirding out the Doctor.

The astronauts are coming to investigate a Mexican-sponsored mining base that went dark ten years prior. Oh, and probably use the nukes to blow up the Moon, 'cause that's a great idea.

They find dessicated bodies and spider webs about. Before long, a couple of the redshirt astronauts are snacked on by giant spider-like things. The group runs scared until Courtney kills a spider thing with some Windex she has from class.

Turns out the spider thing is actually a giant germ. There's tons of them living in the ever-widening cracks of the disintegrating Moon.

Before long, the Doctor does some crazy exploration and they discover that the Moon is instead a giant egg for some kind of giant alien beast. The spider things are just the bacteria from the egg.

The remaining astronaut, afraid the hatching Moon egg will destroy the Earth, wants to use the nukes to kill the baby alien. Clara and Courtney, outraged, want to save the alien. The Doctor, weirdly, detaches himself from the discussion and jaunts off in the TARDIS, leaving the decision to the three women.

There's a brief moment when Clara communicates with the Earth to ask Earth to vote over saving or killing the alien by turning on or off their lights. The vote becomes immaterial as the astronaut decides to detonate the nukes anyway, only to be stopped by Clara. Then, as the Moon is hatching, the Doctor returns with the TARDIS and takes the three to Earth.

They watch the alien hatch from the disintegrating Moon (no debris survives to damage the Earth). The alien flies away, leaving behind an egg that is a new Moon.

The Doctor takes Courtney home then Clara, well and truly pissed off at the Doctor for abandoning them, finally tells him off and tells him to go away. She then finds comfort in the arms of Danny Pink.

So... yeah. This was an uneven episode, at best. The spider-monsters were moderately cool (and doubtless will give arachniphobes nightmares for years to come) but otherwise, the rest was pretty much trash.

The Doctor's weirdly-inconsistent and misanthropic behavior just feels jarring and wrong, especially when he decides not to take an active hand in saving the baby alien. The character of Courtney, who was entertaining in "The Caretaker" has slid into boring and ridiculous. And Clara remains sort of vague.

The premise - that the Moon is a giant egg - was probably one of the stupidest plots I've seen in ages, though in all fairness it's very much the sort of thing one might see in a "classic" Doctor Who episode from the old days.

I'm pretty disappointed in this season so far.