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Doctor Who: The Movie (1996) Review

19 08 2011

The Eighth Doctor, played by Paul McGann. Copyright 1996 BBC

★ ★ ★ 1/2

Ever since starting the 2005 reboot of Doctor Who earlier this year, I have been a super fan boy to the series.  It’s great!  So great, in fact, that I may actually purchase cable through the devil (Time Warner) soon so that I can watch the rest of season six as it airs live.  That aside, after catching up and having this break in the series this summer, I have tried to go back and watch some of the classic series serials.  The classic series spans some 600+ episodes, so I am sure it will be many years to come, if ever, for me to finish it; however, I am on a quest to at least watch serials of all the eleven doctors, so that I can see how each respective actor handled the role.  So far, I have seen serials with first, third, fourth, fifth, eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh doctors.  Some of the episodes included regenerations, so I have actually briefly seen Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy in the role as well.

Anyway, for those of you who don’t know, Doctor Who is about a Time Lord (alien) who travels through time and space in a machine that has stuck on the look of a 1960s police box called the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space).  The original series ran in serials from 1963-1989 and encompassed the first through seventh incarnations (he regenerates when he dies into a new form that retains some basic traits and memories, but wholly new personalities).  Following the end of the original series, there was a US/UK joint effort at rebooting the series in the form of a television movie; this is the movie in question, and it was released in 1996.  Due to many Americans being unfamiliar with the classic British show, it received abysmal reviews in the US and no further episodes were made.  In 2005, the series rebooted with the ninth doctor and continues to this day, currently with the eleventh incarnation portrayed by Matt Smith.

The television movie here up for review begins with the seventh incarnation of the Doctor, Sylvester McCoy, transporting the remains of longtime enemy and fellow Time Lord, the Master, back to their home planet of Gallifrey.  The Master’s spirit, though locked and concealed, manages to escape the box causing the TARDIS to spin out of control and “crash land” in San Francisco in 1999.  When the Seventh Doctor exits the TARDIS, he is shot by a gang of hoodlums chasing down another Asian hoodlum, Chang Lee (Lee Jee Tso).  The Doctor is rushed to a local hospital and, while in the ambulance, the Master’s spirit begins the process of taking over a temporary body; this being the body of the EMS employee.  In the hospital, because of his alien anatomy, heart surgeon Dr. Grace Holloway (Daphne Ashbrook) accidentally kills his seventh form on the table.  This sets the regeneration process in motion until the Doctor regenerates into his eighth form, played by one of my favorite (and most underrated) British actors, Paul McGann.  A bit amnesiac from the regeneration, the Doctor has to remember exactly who he is and starts a friendship, and slight romance, with Dr. Holloway who becomes his companion for this movie.  The Doctor has to stop the Master from destroying the fabric of the universe and stop the Master from taking over the Doctor’s body, since the Master’s temporary human body can’t handle the soul of a Time Lord.

Compared to the lower budget effects of the original series, this television movie is extremely high tech.  The camera moves, direction and editing are all much better than many of the older serials, just because of larger budget.  Unfortunately, the story isn’t as good as it could be.  It is oddly almost like a Terminator meets Doctor Who, as the Master in human form (played by Eric Roberts) is very reminiscent of T-1000.  I also hated the acting of Eric Roberts in this role, it was just too over-the-top and campy for me.  Yet, the worst actor in the lot, I think is Lee Jee Tso; he is just awful.  However, I liked Daphne Ashbrook as Dr. Holloway and actually really enjoyed Paul McGann as the doctor!  It’s a shame the script wasn’t better and that he didn’t have further chance to solidify himself in the role after this one televised appearance.  Furthermore, I have no idea why they allude to the fact that the Doctor is half human; it does nothing for the story and has never been alluded to before or after.  I just pretended that they didn’t say this about the Eighth Doctor, he is all Time Lord in my mind and that helps me enjoy the film more.

All complaints aside, I did enjoy the movie.  Yes, it could have been better, but it wasn’t a train wreck, especially for any true Doctor Who fan.  There are many nostalgic moments and lots of inside “jokes” for fans, and like I said, I really enjoyed Paul McGann as the Doctor.  Then again, Paul played in my all-time favorite British comedy, Withnail and I.  So, maybe I’m a bit biased.

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My Favorite Doctor Who Episodes from Series 1-6 (2005 – Present)

14 07 2011

Above: Ninth Doctor, Christopher Eccleston Middle: Tenth Doctor, David Tennat Below: Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith. Copyright BBC Worldwide

As of two months ago I knew essentially nothing of Doctor Who.  I knew that it was a British science fiction show, that the main character traveled through time and space in a police box and that the show had been on the air forever.  After finishing a run of Twin Peaks for the second time in my life, I was looking for another television program to become involved in.  Because I generally really enjoy most science fiction and fantasy, I asked several people I know that watch Doctor Who if they thought I would like it and they all said, “Yes!”.  The second problem was where to begin.  There is a classic series that aired on the BBC from 1963 to 1989 which was produced in a serial format with each chapter being an amalgam of several 25 minute episodes.  The first seven incarnations of the primary role of The Doctor are contained within these 26 seasons of the show.  The Eighth Doctor, portrayed by Paul McGann, was part of a British-American co-produced television special in 1996, and, finally, the reboot of the television series arrived with Christopher Eccleston playing the ninth regeneration of the Doctor in 2005.  The reboot of the series is currently in their sixth season and Eleventh Doctor, played by Matt Smith.

After much deliberation, I started the series with the 2005 reboot (though I have since watched some of the classic series as well).  Just yesterday, I finally caught up with the current production schedule with the series six mid-season finale that aired last month.  The series won’t continue series six until sometime in September.  I am so glad I started watching this series and can’t recommend it enough, it’s well-written, well-directed and well-acted.  If you have any geekiness in you whatsoever or an affinity towards science fiction or fantasy, you will love this show.  Of the 81 episodes I’ve watched of the reboot (including Christmas Specials), I’ve decided to elucidate on my favorite episodes of the series thus far:

As to not spoil the episodes for future viewers or people who’ve yet to get to these episodes, I will not include much of a synopsis in the descriptions.

1. Blink – Season 3, Episode 10 – Written by Steven Moffat

If you look around online, you will see that this episode constantly gets rated in the top of the series, and for good reason, because it is brilliant.  Season 3 is during David Tennant’s run as the Tenth Doctor (my personal favorite!), but this episode is actually what the series calls a “doctor light” episode, as he hardly appears.  The real star of this episode is Carey Mulligan as Sally Sparrow and the amazingly creepy monsters, the Weeping Angels.  This episode was so good that writer Steven Moffat won a Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, and a BAFTA Craft and BAFTA Cymru.  It’s an amazing episode and probably my favorite of them all since I’ve been watching the series.

2.  The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances – Season 1, Episodes 9 & 10 – Written by Steven Moffat

This two episode entry into season 1 is by far the best story of that season.  It takes place in World War II and centers around an extremely creepy little boy with a gas mask on that continually haunts people, asking them, “Are you my mummy?”  Christopher Eccleston is portraying the Ninth Doctor in this episode and one of my favorite companions of the series so far, Rose Tyler (Billie Piper), is at his side.  In addition, the hugely popular character of Captain Jack Harkness is introduced in this episode, who goes on to be one of the leads of the spin-off series Torchwood.

3. Human Nature and The Family of Blood – Season 3, Episodes 8 & 9 – Written by Paul Cornell

This is the two episode entry right before Blink, so you know you are in for a treat once you get to these episodes, because three amazing entries are to follow.  David Tennant is the Tenth Doctor in this episode, but for all intensive purposes is that of John Smith, as he has erased his memory and reverted to a human form to escape a family of monsters who are chasing him through time and space.  Unable to remember his past, his companion in this season, Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman), is presented with a very difficult task of watching over him and calling him back if needed.  When the blood thirsty family find Martha and the Doctor’s hiding location, things get very interesting.

4. The Doctor’s Wife – Season 6, Episode 4 – Written by Neil Gaiman

This episode by well-known science fiction and fantasy author Neil Gaiman was to come out during season 5, but was ultimately delayed for various reasons until season 6.  This episode is extremely interesting and entertaining because it does something that the show had never done before: it allows the Doctor and his TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space – his time/space traveling police box) to speak to each other when the TARDIS’s time vortex is put into a human’s form.  The witty banter between Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith and his oldest friend in human form is brilliant, and seeing them have to work together to save two companions in the series is a real treat.

5. Vincent and the Doctor – Season 5, Episode 10 – Written by Richard Curtis

Series 5 was a bit difficult for me.  David Tennant had been my favorite incarnation of the Doctor so far and I was having a hard time getting used to Matt Smith’s portrayal of the Doctor; however, I thought this episode was great, and it might be the episode that I finally warmed up to Matt Smith in the role.  The Doctor and his companion, Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), go to Europe in the late 1800s because of something the Doctor saw in a painting by Vincent Van Gogh at the National Gallery.  They meet Van Gogh and have to work with him to tame a monster that only he can see.  The ode to the work of the great master and the beauty in which Tony Curran plays Van Gogh is exquisite.

6. Dalek – Season 1, Episode 6 – Written by Robert Shearman

The Doctor’s longest running adversary from all eleven regenerations is that of the alien race known as the Daleks.  This episode in the first season is the first time that Daleks are introduced in the reboot of the series.  The Ninth Doctor and Rose turn up in an underground bunker that belongs to an eccentric American billionaire who collects “space junk”.  His prized possession is that of a Dalek, though he doesn’t know what it is and it is currently incapacitated.  When the Dalek returns to full form, everyone’s life is in danger, not just in the bunker, but in the world.

7. The Waters of Mars – Autumn Special 2009 – Written by Russell T. Davis & Phil Ford 

There was no full series in 2009, only a series of four specials that rounded out the last episodes of David Tennant’s duration as the Doctor.  This was the third of those specials before the two-part finale and regeneration into the Eleventh Doctor.  The Doctor is by himself for this episode, exploring the planet of Mars, when he is captured by members of a space station in the mid 22nd century.  Once on board, he insists he poses no threat.  He then realizes who these members are from history, as a terrible thing had happened that killed them all.  When the wheels are set in motion, he must decide whether or not to interfere with a fixed point in time.

8. Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead – Season 4, Episode 9 & 10 – Written by Steven Moffat

In this two-parter, the Tenth Doctor is with companion Donna Nobel (Catherine Tate).  They arrive in a futuristic library that is literally a planet; it is the largest library in the world.  However, there are no people in the library, as something happened to them.  A strange little girl in a side story can see into the library when she closes her eyes, and the Doctor runs into a very important figure in his life, the character of River Song for the first time in this episode.

9. A Good Man Goes to War – Season 6, Episode 7 – Written by Steven Moffat

Starting to catch on that Steven Moffat is a pretty damn good writer on this show?  He is actually the current head writer, though several of these listed episodes he was just a staff writer under former head Richard T. Davies.  This was the mid-series finale for season 6 that is the most recent episode to date.  When one of the Eleventh Doctor’s close companions, Amy Pond, is abducted by a strange army, the Doctor calls on all his favors and goes to fight to get her back.  It’s one of the few times that you see the Doctor truly angry in this incarnation of himself and the ending of the episode leaves the audience with a HUGE surprise.

10. The Shakespearean Code – Season 3, Episode 2 – Written by Gareth Roberts

The Tenth Doctor and Martha Jones end up in Shakespearean England after some strange occurrences have been happening under the title of “witchcraft”.  Not only do they arrive in Shakespearean England, but they actually must get involved with Shakespeare himself and force him to rewrite certain altered parts of his unreleased play Love’s Labor’s Won to prevent a great evil from being unleashed onto the Earth.  It’s a fun, historic romp and even has a Harry Potter reference thrown in the mix!

 

 





Who Killed Laura Palmer?

14 04 2011

Copyright 1990 Lynch/Frost Productions

That question was burning through the television world  in 1990 when the original episodes of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks aired.  When the first season came out on DVD in the early 2000s, I jumped at the opportunity to watch the show.  David Lynch has long been a favorite filmmaker of mine; of course, not all his films are for all tastes, but you can’t say they aren’t interesting at least.

I watched through the first season of the show and absolutely loved it.  Unfortunately, the second DVD installment wasn’t released until much later, so by the time it came out I would have had to re-watch all the first season.  By that time I was deep in the throes of college and didn’t have the time to devote to a television program.  Even without fully finishing the series, I long carried this as my favorite television show of all time (until The Sopranos and Lost).  The quirky characters and weird happenings in the town made the show very unique.  It’s a soap opera mystery via David Lynch, and it’s the Lynchian touch that makes it so brilliant.

Now, nearly 10 years later, I noticed that Netflix has added the entire series to their instant queue.  I was ecstatic; finally an opportunity to finish this wonderful show properly.  However, my girlfriend, Maddie, had never seen the show and I wanted to watch it with her.  So, we started the pilot episode last night and are looking forward to watching through the entire series.  It’s amazing how much you forget from a television program after 10 years; I definitely remembered the major points of the pilot, but so much of the ancillary stories had evaporated from memory.  I hope 10 years from now the same will be able to be done with Lost; to watch it again and feel like first viewing – that would be a treat!

Though I never finished the series, I do know who killed Laura Palmer.  There was no disclosure statement in the prequel movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me and I watched it before I started the actual show.  At the end of the film, it shows who killed her.  So, for anyone interested in Twin Peaks, don’t watch Fire Walk with Me until after the series!  Also, for the sake of future viewers, please no comments revealing the culprit.








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