Wednesday, 26 May 2010

REVIEW: Doctor Who - The Hungry Earth (5.8)

Sorry this review's both late and short... my bad :P Too busy packing!


In Which: The Doctor, Amy and Rory turn up at a mining facility in 2020 who are drilling down further than man has ever drilled before... But something's drilling back up towards them!

What did I think?: Could this episode have been anymore old-school-Who if it had tried? And I mean that in a good way. A small cast, a returning enemy (who, granted, look completely different to how they used to look, but enemies on Dr Who do that on a remarkably regular basis), a companion separated and imprisoned... the list goes on.

Firstly, can I say that the team of Doctor, Rory and Amy seems to be working incredibly well, at least in my eyes, but then I've always preferred three-man TARDIS-teams.

Guest stars this week did a wonderful job, and special credit goes out to the child actor for not being annoying like, well, most other child actors. (For an example see the kids who played young Jacob and MIB in LOST).

So the earth is eating people having been bio-programmed by the Silurians? I buy that, and it leads to creepy images of people being "eaten" by the earth, including, (shock, horror) Amy! But it turns out they haven't been killed, merely captured for some, as yet undetermined purpose.

Loved the "dome" over the village when the Silurians attacked, and loved Rory and The Doctor bundling their captive into the meals on wheels van. Oh, and the Silurian makeup was superb!

Obviously, a lot of this episode was setup for next weeks resolution, so it was the little elements that stood out for me. The Silurian predicting her death at the hands of one of the three characters facing her (Rory, Tony and Ambrose) , Nasreen entering the TARDIS and being overawed and excited, and, of course, the Silurian City reveal at the end of the episode...

It all looks like it's leading up to excitement, which is good.

Obviously, it wasn't all perfect, the "10 years hence Rory and Amy" I'm starting to wonder whether it's a plot point or just a joke, and the silly reason for Rory to split up from the other two at the beginning (putting the ring in the TARDIS) could have been better thought through. Also, I'm sad that the scene that was shown (mostly) in Dr Who Confidential was cut, as it looked to be some nice character banter between The Doctor and Amy.

The Good: Most of it. Felt very old-Who, which I liked as a change, performances suitably brilliant as always, loved the Silurian make-up.

The Bad: A bit slow (But I can forgive that as it's a Part One), Rory getting split off from the others early on was very contrived, and I almost felt that we shouldn't have seen any shots of Amy after she was captured, because we didn't learn much, and it would have sustained the question of if she was OK...

Conclusion: 8/10

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

REVIEW: Dr Who - Amy's Choice (5.7)

Firstly, let me apologise for not having posted anything here for a week or so, I have been significantly lacking in free time!

And now, on with the meat and substance of this post.


In Which: The Doctor visits Rory and Amy five years after they've left the TARDIS, and Amy's pregnant. But then all three of them wake up on the TARDIS...

What did I think: Well, this was new. An episode of Dr Who that managed to take the standard Dr Who formula and feel significantly different. And to me, it highlighted the biggest (and I would say best) difference between this era and the David Tennant era. It took the Doctor most of the episode to figure out what was going on. So rather than feel we were along for a ride with a man who knew what to do, we were all on a sort of creepy wander through a strange and curious adventure.

And, more to the point, it managed to give us a resolution on the Amy/Rory/Doctor triangle much quicker than I thought we would get one (I thought it'd go on for the whole series), which I wholeheartedly embrace.

Speaking of Rory, he continues to grow and slowly become the companion that he is capable of being, much like Mickey did in Series 1/2, and I like that - one of the many reasons I like multi-companion teams is that there is room for growth and banter and all that good stuff...

The Dream Lord was fantastic, his flickering in and out, his jumping around, and his extremely creepy edge he gave to the dialogue. And, while we're on that subject, the dialogue was pretty damn impressive too. Full marks to Simon Nye, who managed to write a self-contained, well thought out, witty, banter-fuelled and scary episode.

My biggest complaint, in a way, was the two stories - because as fun and a shock it was to see Amy pregnant and Rory with a ponytail, the fact that the earth-based half of the story was set five years hence did kind of tell me that one wouldn't be real. (Although the reveal that both were dreams was fun, but at the same time, perfectly logical). However, I LOVED the nasty old people, as well as the idea of the TARDIS drifting into a 'cold star'.

But the best thing about this episode was the fact we finally got some development of Amy. This is an area a lot of people (and yes, I'm talking about those weird online forum-goers like me again) have been moaning about for ages - that she's one-dimensional. Which has, to my mind, made sense. She's rushed from adventure to adventure trying (as Rory said in the last episode) to impress the Doctor. This is the first time an adventure has had a major impact on her, and to see her have such a human reaction to that was heartwarming.

And the ending, where we have a "it was a dream" explanation. I should hate it, but I really didn't. :)

So now we have a happy, excitable, three person TARDIS team! It's great, but I have a feeling it'll be like an Eastenders marriage, it won't last long and will end in either death, drugs, jail or someone getting an a taxi and leaving forever....

I hope I'm wrong...

(But I bet I'm not!)

The Good: Performances across the board. The balancing of the Rory/Amy/Doctor story with the life-threatening stories. Toby Jones was brilliant as the Dream Lord.

The Bad: I never believed that the Leadworth-world was real, which kind of diminished the threat slightly...

Conclusion: 9/10 - Still very high quality!

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Doctor Who - The Vampires of Venice (5.6)


In Which: The Doctor decides to take Amy and Rory on a trip together as a wedding gift in order to help solidify their relationship. So they end up in Venice and promptly run into some pointy-teethed minions of evil. Or are they what they seem?

What did I think?: I loved this episode. From start to finish. And I think the opening of it (and therefore the motivation for the characters to be there (i.e. The Doctor and Amy's kiss in the bedroom)) beautifully paid off the end of the previous episode.

And I loved that the thread ran all the way through it, rather than have Amy completely forget about the Doctor's fanciableness (is that a word?), we got lots of jokes and awkward conversational snippets about it, so that by the end of the episode, you believe that she really wants Rory again, hence the invitation to travel.

Meanwhile, this felt like a nice romp through 16th century Venice (well realised by using a small Croatian village) with everything you'd (or at least I'd) want from a Doctor Who episode.

Compelling villains? Check - OK, Francesco was a bit of a pantomime villain, but Rosanna had a reason for doing what she was doing, rather than just being after power or money, or just being inherently evil, which is always nice.

Companions stepping up? Check - Rory was the big surprise of the episode for me, as I actually found myself warming to him, and am glad he's joining the TARDIS crew, mostly because we now seem to have (mostly) dealt with Amy's fancying of the Doctor, which will surely lessen now that Rory is around

A myth explained in an all new and bizarre Dr-Who-Esque fashion? Check - Vampires that are actually alien fish-type-beings who, being fish, don't like sunlight, but who hide using a Perception filter, which therefore explains why they don't appear in mirrors? Genius.

An alien device powered by a small metal flip-switch? Check - I laughed so hard when that happened. They build the secondary device on top of the tower and it's turned on and off with a tiny switch. And people complained about this fact online - what do you use that you DON'T turn on and off with a switch??

A comedy sword fight? Check - Who didn't love it when Rory attempt to show off with the broom before the fight started, and then later on when he tried to stab Francesco with the bristly end... brilliant.

Reference to the season-long arc? Check - The 'Vampires' came through a crack, to escape the silence... the silence itself occurring again at the end of the episode...

And of course - the funny moments? Check - Including some brilliant ones such as: "It'd never work, I'm a Time Lord, you're a big fish. Think of the Children", Rory and the Doctor's discussion about him kissing Amy while they are breaking in;
"What's there between you and Amy? You said she kissed you!"
"Now? You want to know now?!"
"I have a right to know. We're getting married in 430 years!"
And of course, the brilliant moment where the Doctor reaches for his psychic paper, and instead reveals his library card. With a photo of the first Doctor on it.

In fact, my only minor gripe with the episode was the editing once they had reached the climax, with Rory and Amy ripping out the insides of the chair and the Doctor chasing the cables - the editing following the Doctor felt a bit choppy to me, almost as if they were cutting down to the second to stop the episode over-running, and it just felt incongruous. But this is a minor complaint.

So where do we go from here? The trailer for next weeks - Amy's Choice - seems very intriguing and new, and I can't wait.

The Good: Pretty much everything. Rory was the standout in this, but both The Doctor and Amy continue to impress. The Sword Fight. The gentle build up of the crack/silence tension...

The Bad: Some slightly strange editing choices. Also, a little dodgy CGI (the Doctor climbing the tower)

Conclusion: 9/10. More like this please!

Friday, 7 May 2010

The News on Friday

In a bit of light Friday banter (and get me, I'm writing a blog on a Friday, that almost never happens!) I saw a couple of news stories earlier that I felt were just dying to be written about....

First up - Russian abducted by Aliens? MP demands investigation....

Is it just me, or does this feel like the beginning of a science fiction blockbuster? Eccentric man (who happens to be a local Russian president, the leader of the southern region of Kalmykia) claims in TV interview to have been abducted by aliens. MP demands investigation...

If it was a blockbuster film then the story would progress as follows. The local president would be questioned, just as the aliens invade, and the MP would lead the people in fighting them off. (Also, if it was a blockbuster film, it wouldn't be set in Russia...)

But what's great about this is that it's real, and the MP has some very real concerns.

"MP Andre Lebedev is not just asking whether Mr Ilyumzhinov is fit to govern. He is also concerned that, if he was abducted, he may have revealed details about his job and state secrets...(he) asks if there are official guidelines for what government officials should do if contacted by aliens, especially if those officials have access to state secrets."

Yeah, because aliens are interested in Russia's state secrets, obviously. You'd understand his point if it was a very sensible person claiming to have been abducted, but let's look at Mr Ilyumzhinov's credentials...

"He has been president of Kalmykia, a small Buddhist region of Russia which lies on the shores of the Caspian Sea, for 17 years. The millionaire former businessman has a reputation as an eccentric character. As president of the World Chess Federation, he has spent tens of millions of dollars turning the impoverished republic into a mecca for chess players - building an entire village to host international tournaments. "

So basically, he's the president of Chessville, Russia??? I'm fairly sure that, what with him being a weirdo to start with, the aliens probably didn't exist...

Or they have some mechanism to only target people that the rest of the world won't believe, and they are right now monitoring the internet, reading this blog, and smiling because they know their secret remains safe....

OK. I'm not gonna believe it, unless the aliens invade, in which case I'm heading for Chessvile, anyone else coming? You're all invited. Except this guy.

Yes, this is Brawny's second crazy news story of the day (did you like my exceedingly unsubtle link between the two? It's the best I could do, I'm tired...) and I can't possibly describe it in a funnier way than the opening two paragraphs of the Sun article, so I'm just going to paste that here :

"Greying Peter Trigger, 60, was given a five year ASBO in December 2008 after loitering outside a primary school wearing a Britney Spears-style outfit of grey skirt, white blouse, burgundy tie, grey ankle socks and a blue cap.

He is banned from wearing a skirt or showing bare legs on a school day between 8.30am and 10am and 2.45pm and 4pm.

That's right. A 60 year old man is banned from wearing a skirt or showing his bare legs on a schoolday. I'm not sure what else I need to write here to make it funny. I'm pretty sure that it doesn't need a lot of comments from me...although, what with it being the Sun, and the article being about him breaching the ASBO, shouldn't the headline have been "Oops, he did it again!"?

Except he didn't do it again. The article itself says "He paraded in front of Mary and Philip Copping, who live opposite, while wearing a mini-skirt before repeatedly bending over in front them with his back turned. "

*Shudders* Ignore that mental image and read the next sentence...

"The couple were getting into Mr Copping's van to go to work at 7.25am when he approached, the court was told. "

7.25am. That's before 8.30am. Therefore surely he's not in breach of his ASBO? Especially since it was initially put into place due to him freaking out schoolchildren, hence the timings and schoolday specifications. When it was initially imposed "Northampton Borough Council said he was entitled to wear whatever he wanted, but not if it caused "alarm or distress" to the public."

So we're allowed to express ourselves freely, as long as we don't alarm or distress people? Is it just me, or are our rights to freedom of speech and freedom of expression slowly being whittled away, made so that we can do whatever we want as long as it is determined to be "normal"?

Serious thoughts there, from a ridiculous story, but they lead to this third and much more serious story that genuinely splits my opinion, as it's a case of my personal principles and dislikes clashing.

This is the story of Dale McAlpine, a Christian preacher, who was arrested for saying that homosexuality was a sin in a public place. (I realise that sentence is unclear, I mean he said it in a public place, not that he was saying homosexuality is only a sin in public...) And this is where my conflicting opinions come into play.

On the one hand, I think it's disgraceful in this day and age that people should believe that any form of sexuality is wrong.

However, I also don't agree with the arresting of someone for expressing an opinion.

I believe in free speech and tolerance for all religious and personal beliefs, no matter how stupid or idiotic I personally think they are. And as the article itself says "The 42-year-old Baptist, who has preached Christianity in Workington, Cumbria for years, said he did not mention homosexuality while delivering a sermon from the top of a stepladder, but admitted telling a passing shopper that he believed it went against the word of God. "

That to me sounds like a private conversation between two people. Did the passing shopper feel harassed? Did Mr McAlpine yell the information? Well.. not really.

"Police officers are alleging that he made the remark in a voice loud enough to be overheard by others and have charged him with using abusive or insulting language, contrary to the Public Order Act.(..) Mr McAlpine was handing out leaflets explaining the Ten Commandments or offering a “ticket to heaven” with a church colleague on April 20, when a woman came up and engaged him in a debate about his faith. During the exchange, he says he quietly listed homosexuality among a number of sins referred to in 1 Corinthians, including blasphemy, fornication, adultery and drunkenness.

After the woman walked away, she was approached by a PCSO who spoke with her briefly and then walked over to Mr McAlpine and told him a complaint had been made, and that he could be arrested for using racist or homophobic language.

The street preacher said he told the PCSO: “I am not homophobic but sometimes I do say that the Bible says homosexuality is a crime against the Creator”.

He claims that the PCSO then said he was homosexual and identified himself as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender liaison officer for Cumbria police. Mr McAlpine replied: “It’s still a sin.”

The preacher then began a 20 minute sermon, in which he says he mentioned drunkenness and adultery, but not homosexuality. Three regular uniformed police officers arrived during the address, arrested Mr McAlpine and put him in the back of a police van. "

My biggest problem with this is that, if he said it loudly enough to be charged under the Public Order act then why on earth didn't the PCSO attempt to arrest him before his sermon, or prevent him from giving the sermon whilst waiting for backup? It does seem that the PCSO may have pushed harder for the man to be arrested, due to his own sexuality.

Which I can understand. If I was a policeman and someone told me that it was a sin to be fat (That's not anyone's religious belief as far as I know, but just an example that could apply to me) then I'd be annoyed and I'd take it personally. But I'd like to think I wouldn't abuse my powers to then arrest the offending man.

Now if, in his sermon, he'd started preaching about how we should kill all the gays, then they'd have a point. But he didn't.

In conclusion, I think I'd much rather that we had complete freedom of speech, and we have to occasionally listen to religious nutjobs, than allowing the Police to arrest us over quietly discussing our opinions.

That's all for now. Brawny signing off.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Election Fever and how to cure it.

So, the day is upon us. It's election day. Everyone rejoice!

*Listens to the complete lack of rejoicing*

That's right people, it's election day. And, for the first time in, oh maybe ten years or so, I am actually voting. But this blog isn't about me, it's about two other types of people.

Type 1: The self-righteous Voter

This is the person who goes to vote before badgering you, asking who you're voting for, why, when you're going to do it, and using that immortal phrase (which belongs in the pantheon of "Phrases Brawny hates") "If you don't vote, then you can't complain about the state of the country". Bollocks. Yes you can. You can complain as much as you like.

Now the obvious enemy of the Self-Righteous voter is this man (or woman - I'm not sexist)

Type 2: The Apathetic Non-Voter

This is the person who won't go and vote, usually for one of the following reasons:
I don't know enough about it
I've read the manifesto's and it doesn't make a difference
It's just going to be as bad whoever gets in.

Now most of you, I expect, are waiting for me to start complaining about this person. But I won't. Because I was one of them (and still am partially, I'm voting this time because there are specific things I would like to happen, but if there weren't I'd still be this guy). And let me tell you why. It's not because I'm lazy (although I can be), it's because I genuinely don't believe most things would be solved in a change of government. I use the following as my reasoning:

1) Every party lies during campaigns - they therefore won't enact at least 50% of their policies even if they get elected
2) There are things outside the control of politicians and the government - the financial situation we are currently in would, for example, have happened under any government, because until it happened we wouldn't have prevented it!

The next most common thing I used to hear was "Well why not go and spoil your ballot in protest?". Because it's not really a protest. I admire the gesture but the problem is (and I'm going to simplify slightly here) the results we see of voting ballots reported in the news will be as follows:

Labour - a%
Conservative - b%
Liberal Democrats - c%
Others - d%
Spoilt papers - e%

The problem is that no-one knows how many of those papers were spoilt out of protest, as opposed to the ones that are spoilt because stupid people don't understand how to draw an X.

If there was an option for "None of the above" on the ballot paper, then I would have voted every time I had the chance in the eleven years I've been eligible. But there isn't.

So this blog is a message of solidarity to those people who are not voting today (Unless you're a voter who's too lazy to get out of bed. Then you're just lazy.) Vote if you want to. Vote if there's a reason to. But if you genuinely don't believe you know enough or don't want any of the parties to get in, then why bother going down and scribbling on your paper? Is it worth it? Find a different way to make your statement...

And don't let those pushy voting bastards tell you "You're not allowed to complain." Complain all you damn well want.

P.S. At work there is a mock election going on today, and students have been representing the parties. They were all supposed to come to me to record announcements for each individual party, and I found the results kind of mirrored certain stereotypes of the parties:

The Lib Dems - The delegated representative turned up on time, was very polite, and recorded a nice little message directly relating to their policies. Unfortunately it was delivered in a dull, monotonic fashion, and no-one would have listened to it.

Labour - Four of them turned up half an hour late, argued over what the recording should sound like and then recorded something that was all style and no substance.

Conservative - Just didn't bother to turn up.

I'm not passing judgement, but I did find it funny - especially when the eventual decision was made that the announcements would not be going out on the tannoy, therefore allowing the Conservatives to have gone home early the day we recorded and still not lost any ground....

P.P.S. If anyone can figure out what my title is a reference to, they get a brownie point. (Which isn't a sharpened 8 year old girl...)

Saturday, 1 May 2010

REVIEW - Doctor Who: Flesh and Stone (5.5)

It's Monday, (or at least it was when I started this review, now it's Tuesday (In fact, according to the top of this blog post it's last Saturday! My Time Travel research must be going better than I thought (Or I made notes on Saturday and forgot to update the date of the blog. Never mind. ))) and it's time for....


In Which: The Doctor, Amy and River (along with cannon fodder and "Important Guest Star who will die dramatically mid-episode") continue to flee from the Angels, before getting rudely interrupted by the return of a different plot device...

What did I think?: I liked it. (Oh what a shocker, I hear you all say, well tough. If you wanted a negative review of Dr Who, look around the net, there's plenty you can find.) I thought it was much better than last weeks, and in fact it would bring up last weeks score if I re-reviewed it now, since a lot of last weeks episode was direct setup for things in this one.

The realisation that Amy had been infected by an angel was brilliant, and the effect of the angel in here eye was superb, although one thing is that the Doctor does seem to be quite happy to leave Amy alone in every episode... but nevertheless, it was good.

And then, in the biggest shock of Nu-Who in a long time, we got direct interaction with the series arc plot in episode 5! Rather than the RTD method of hints building up until episode 12/13, where it'd be revealed, Moffat's gone for allowing us to find out slightly more about the crack in this episode, and this reveal seems to have a significant effect on the Doctor's motivations, and also will now (I expect, although I don't know) form the basis for the rest of the series.

My biggest disappointment with this episode was, in many ways, the Angels. Because the rules for them seemed to bend depending on what was happening. Previously we've been told that if you stop looking at you they can move fast... so when Amy was in the forest and unable to look at them why were they still or moving slowly? And the whole "walk as if you can see" thing? Surely if they have a quantum-locked physiology, then it's nothing to do with whether they think they are being observed, but it's do with the actual act of observation? And if that's the case how come they didn't just kill her straightaway?

And also, why did they kill people anyway? Why didn't they just send them through time the way they used to?

AND, why, when Amy can't open her eyes for a second, does she open them for significantly longer than that? (And no, it wasn't for dramatic tension, it wasn't an 'extended second' where only a second passed for her and more for us - because she SPOKE while her eyes were open!) This annoyed me, because it could have so easily been dealt with - either by giving her 2 or 3 seconds left, or by literally having her open her eyes and then shut them again, before speaking!

But these are nit-picks. The killing of Father Octavian was brilliant, leaving the Doctor facing someone he already knew had died, and knowing there was nothing he could do. Which lead us to AngryDoctor! Who was quite scarily angry... Matt Smith has a dramatic range, and he likes to show it. Which suits me fine - the Doctor is not human, and that's showing now, much more than it did with David Tennant. (Don't get me wrong, I loved David Tennant's Doctor, but he was nowhere near the alien that Matt Smith is becoming). Also, when Amy was first counting down, and he was telling her to stop whining so he could think? Brilliant.

And then, after a few hints from River Song, we get to the ending. The one that caused certain areas of the internet (yes, I'm talking about you Gallifrey Base). The ending where Amy tried to bed the Doctor.

You know what? I liked it. There are arguments that it was out of character for Amy, to which I have one resounding defence.


(I apologise for my French. (And where does that saying come from anyway? Swear words aren't French...))

She's lusted after him since he arrived (the second time, when she was of a suitable age) and of course he's disturbed - for several reasons! Number One - He met her as a 7 year old girl, about a week ago (in his timeline), Number Two - He's an alien, she's a Human, Number Three - the age difference thing, Number Four - She's engaged!

There's currently a rumour doing the rounds that she is mind-controlled, or possessed, and that's why the Doctor was so jittery. I hope that's not true. We've finally got a different type of Dr/Companion relationship, and people are moaning???

Besides, the reason he is so jittery is because he's discovered that something that happens that day, probably involving Amy, is causing the cracks in time and space... that'd freak any man out.

If Dr Who was an American series, this episode would have been what they term the mid-season break, where they stop showing new episodes for weeks. It moved everything on, and added a sense of urgency to the series, which I loved.

And for a bonus point, who noticed the moment which is either a massive continuity flaw or a subtle hint for the future? Were there TWO Doctors in the forest? Because he lost his jacket (very obviously), then after he left Amy with River... when he came back at the end of that scene, telling Amy to remember? He was wearing his jacket... and had come from a slightly different direction.

Next time we saw him? No jacket. Makes you wonder.... maybe we're going to get a point where the Doctor is travelling back through his adventures in the finale?

The Good: Nearly everything. Even River Song didn't annoy me much at all.

The Bad: Apart from the Amy-eyes-open for way longer than a second? Probably just the fact the rules about the Angels seemed to shift and change slightly...

Conclusion - 9/10. One of the Best so far...