Tag Archives: time travel

The Return of Doctor Mysterio

BBC

My rating: 4.5 of 5

NOTE: This TV special takes place following The Husbands of River Song” and immediately preceding series 10 of Doctor Who. It’s relatively spoiler-free, but you should still be sure to watch “The Husbands of River Song” first because you’ll miss half the feels of this episode if you don’t.

On Christmas Eve of 1992, the Doctor is in New York, trying to stabilize the mess he’s made of time there. That night, he encounters a young boy named Grant and accidentally gives the boy superpowers (don’t ask; it’s the Doctor) . . . and a strict command to never use those powers. Twenty-four years later, the Doctor returns to New York to investigate an alien invasion (surprise) only to encounter Grant–who is living a double life as both nanny to a small baby and local masked superhero “Ghost.” So much for never using those powers. . . .

At first, I was kind of exasperated with the writers for choosing a superhero story–I mean, that’s basically the only sort of movie that seems to be coming out right now! And honestly, I’m not the superhero movie type. But “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” is Doctor Who, and I have to admit that it brings in the best of both worlds. You’ve got all the quirkiness and geekiness of Capaldi’s Doctor (absolutely brilliant!) and the classic Who alien invasion story. Plus you’ve got a good guy trying to protect the people he loves and live up to the ideals of the old superhero comics he read as a kid . . . all the while keeping his true identity a secret from the very clever and insightful (except as it regards him) journalist that he works for. The lightness and action of the superhero plot (and the sweet, innocent romance they work in) actually do a lot to counterbalance what may otherwise have been a very dark and angsty story (if you’ve watched “The Husbands of River Song,” you know why). On the other hand, the interactions between the Doctor and the journalist, Lucy, are humorous on the surface but serve to draw out and develop the Doctor’s inner turmoil, which is neat to see. In any case, I would definitely recommend “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” to any fan of Doctor Who.

Written by Steven Moffat/Directed by Ed Bazalgette/Produced by  Peter Bennett/Music by Murray Gold/Starring Peter Capaldi, Matt Lucas, Justin Chatwin, & Charity Wakefield

2 Comments

Filed under Media Review

The Legends of River Song

Authors:  Jenny T. Colgan, Jaqueline Rayner, Steve Lyons, Guy Adams, & Andrew Lyonsthe-legends-of-river-song

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Professor River Song. The mysterious woman who traipses backwards through the Doctor’s life, growing younger even as he grows older. Archaeologist, psychopath, convicted murderer. Child of the TARDIS. A veritable lifetime of spoilers and secrets and untold wonders. Little surprise then that her diary is her closest and best-guarded confidante. And luck those who get to sample its contents.

The Legends of River Song is a collection of short stories set in the same universe as Doctor Who, but focusing particularly on the fabulous Professor River Song. I believe (haven’t taken the trouble to go back and check) that they’re all written as though taken from the pages of her diary; at any rate, the memorable ones were. The collection is quite a mixture of tales, but I think all will appeal to those who enjoy Doctor Who and River’s character in particular. “Suspicious Minds” by Jacqueline Rayner was probably my favorite Doctor/River story both because the story was interesting and, even more so, because she nails the characters of Eleven and River so well, particularly the unique dynamic between the two. (And it’s really interesting to have Eleven described through River’s eyes!) “Death in New Venice” by Guy Adams and “River of Time” by Andrew Lane were both excellent just River stories that flesh out her character nicely. “A Gamble of Time” by Steve Lyons is, while scientifically paradoxical, quite an interesting and exciting story as well. Personally, I found “Picnic at Asgard”  by Jenny T. Colgan to be the big disappointment of this collection (which is really tragic, since it’s the first story in the volume; don’t be discouraged, and push past it). Mostly, I felt that Colgan just missed River’s character, perhaps only by a hair, but enough for the story to feel off the entire time I was reading it. Still, overall The Legends of River Song is a nice little collection that I enjoyed and would recommend.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon (manga)

Mangaka: Naoko Takeuchisailor-moon

Translator: William Flanagan

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Usagi Tsukino is an average middle-school girl–cute, cheerful, and prone to oversleeping. She’s also the reincarnation of an ancient Moon Princess–a Sailor Guardian wielding the power of the Legendary Silver Crystal to protect the world she loves. As she awakens to her powers, Usagi discovers other Sailor Guardians, friends from her past life who join her in the battles she faces. And they will definitely face numerous enemies in battle as those drawn to the power of the Legendary Silver Crystal for their own greedy reasons seek to take it from her.

First off, I must recognize that Sailor Moon has a certain appeal that uniquely comes from growing up with it; I have any number of friends who absolutely adore the story–all of whom first watched it on TV back in middle school. So I have to preface my review by saying that I only just read this manga recently, so I’m coming at the story from a different perspective, acknowledging that there are aspects of it that I’m just not going to appreciate in the same way. Please don’t be offended if you are one of those people who love this manga dearly. I can certainly acknowledge that is a classic–one that anyone who enjoys manga should read at least once–and that it has been highly influential not only on readers but on other mangaka over the years. I found Sailor Moon to be quite a unique story. The genre blend is something I’ve never seen before, at least not in this particular mix. While being essentially a shoujo story (with a strong mahou shojou flair, complete with the instantaneous costume changes and frou frou styles), there is a strong shounen vibe to the story as well. I found this particularly notable in the battles, both with the named attacks in the midst of the battles and with the sequence of each defeated enemy being followed by a stronger enemy. Personally, I found the enemies and their motives to be a bit bland and unoriginal. Although the character designs and the specifics changed, they were all essentially interchangeable otherwise, at least for the most part. On the other hand, the characters of the Sailor Guardians were charming, distinct, and interesting. I think the reason I enjoyed the series as much as I did was that I enjoyed the characters. As for the plot . . . the overarching plot of reincarnation, destined love, everlasting friendship, and all that goes into that was actually quite good. I enjoyed the time-travel plot elements that were thrown in as well. But the repeated fights just weren’t that enjoyable for me. Still, I think Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon is a solid classic manga that is well worth reading at least once, both for the characters and story themselves and to understand the innumerable references to it that pop up elsewhere.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Book Review

Blossom Culp and the Sleep of Death

Author: Richard Peckblossom culp and the sleep of death

My rating: 4 of 5

Blossom Culp, vol. 4

The year is 1914, and Blossom and Alexander are in their freshman year of high school. Things are beginning to change–like the popular girls’ crushing on Alexander, his newfound obsession with getting into the elite high-school fraternity, or the new suffragette history teacher who’s bent on educating the freshmen about ancient Egypt. Some things never change though–like Blossom’s spunkiness, Alexander’s complete disavowal of his ability to interact with spirits, and Blossom’s mother’s sticky fingers. So when an ancient Egyptian relic turns up in Blossom’s mother’s pocket, naturally Blossom gets interested. And when the ghost (ka, whatever) of an ancient Egyptian princess demands Blossom’s help, well, of course she’s got to get Alexander involved, though she’ll have a time and a half dragging him away from the miseries of his fraternity initiation. Well, while she’s at it, she might as well make the initiation a bit more interesting, too. . . .

Richard Peck’s books are superb, and I think the ones set in Illinois and thereabouts around the turn of the century are some of the best. He has such a feel for the atmosphere of the time, making it alive rather than stuffy and historical. Plus, these are some of the most absurdly funny books I’ve ever read. Blossom Culp and the Sleep of Death is all of that and more. Blossom has got to be one of the most amusing and lovable characters ever–while being someone who’d probably drive me nuts if I actually met her. Scruffy, saucy, and smart as can be–that’s Blossom. In this particular story, seeing her and Alexander growing up from children into young adults is really interesting and funny and kind of cute as well. The inclusion of spirits and historical (for Blossom as well as for the reader) mystery is classic for this series, but bringing in an Egyptian princess is something else. It works though, oddly enough. There’s enough historical detail to make it credible without feeling forced. And the combination of eerie mystery and absurd humor is perfect. For any readers upper elementary and older who enjoy a humorous historical story, Blossom Culp and the Sleep of Death is definitely recommended whether you’ve read the other books in the series or not.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Doctor Who, Series 8

BBCdoctor who series 8

12 episodes

My rating: 4 of 5

*SPOILER ALERT*

Is it really possible that this grumpy, gray-haired Scotsman who can’t even fly the TARDIS properly is the same Doctor that Clara has been traveling through time and space with, has regarded as her best friend? It’s hard for her to believe, even though she saw his regeneration with her own eyes–he just seems so different! With the help of some close friends of the Doctor in Victorian London (where the Doctor managed to land the TARDIS–along with a giant T-Rex), Clara does manage to find her friend again in this stranger’s eyes . . . but there’s some definite “define the relationship” moments going on in the process. But Clara, being Clara, is up for the challenge as she begins once again popping in and out of her ordinary life for ventures throughout time and space. She even sort-of manages to have a boyfriend and a real job, although the success of those ventures is precarious at best.

I’m going to be honest: for the first few episodes of the eighth series of Doctor Who I was really not happy about Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor. It’s not that he does a bad job with the role. Actually, he’s perfect. But the contrast between him and Matt Smith’s happy-go-lucky Eleventh Doctor as exceedingly stark, painfully so. And you really see that contrast developed in the Doctor’s strained relationship with Clara Oswald in the first several episodes of the series. But the truth is that Capaldi’s Doctor grows on you (or at least he did on me), and even going back and watching the first few episodes again now, I’m impressed by his work in them. I guess what I’m saying is, give the eighth series a chance to convince you before you decide it’s rubbish in the first few episodes. Actually, what I found most frustrating throughout the series is Clara’s vacillation and (spoilers) her two-timing between the Doctor (who is admittedly not her boyfriend, but still) and Danny (her actual boyfriend)–lying to each about the other in a most annoying manner. Also, perhaps because of this vacillation, perhaps not, the storyline felt a bit disconnected at parts. Still, the episodes were interesting and consistent with both the Doctor Who storyline as a whole and with the individual characters. I guess you could say that this series was a strong development of both Clara’s and the new Doctor’s characters, leaving lots of room for more story development in the ninth series. In any case, I really did enjoy the eighth series of Doctor Who and found it a consistently interesting and family-friendly series involving fantastic wonders, time travel, and just enough scariness to keep it interesting.

Created by Sydney Newman, C. E. Webber, & Donald Wilson/Head Writer & Executive Producer Steven Moffat/Starring Peter Capaldi & Jenna-Louise Coleman

 

4 Comments

Filed under Media Review

Doctor Who, Series 7

BBCdoctor who series 7

13 episodes + specials

My rating: 5 of 5

*SPOILER ALERT*

The Doctor has left Amy and Rory to their own devices for too long, as is rapidly clear to him when the three of them are kidnapped by the Daleks to clean up a mess the Daleks made for themselves–and unsurprisingly, the Doctor is as worried about “fixing” Amy and Rory’s marriage as he is about surviving this mess. Obviously, he succeeds on both counts . . . with a little help from a mysterious souffle-making girl by the name of Oswin Oswald. The Ponds are naturally swept up into the wonder of traveling with the Doctor again, while still trying to balance their normal life as well, which isn’t the easiest of tasks. But seriously, how could they choose one or the other? Years later (well, it’s hard to tell, with a bunch of time travelers), the Doctor is on his own again (vowing never again to get involved or care) when he once again encounters Miss Oswald–living a completely different life with no knowledge of their former encounter (nor of the fact that she had died then). Tragically, Clara Oswald dies this time also, but the Doctor is left with the niggling feeling that something impossible and wonderful is going on, a feeling that is remarkably confirmed when he receives a phone call on the TARDIS line–from Clara Oswald, living in the present day with once again no knowledge of their former encounters. Well of course the Doctor has to get her to travel with him then, doesn’t he?

I enjoyed the 7th series of Doctor Who so much! Although it really felt like 2 series kind of smooshed together. The first 5 episodes with Amy and Rory (and River, some) are fantastic, very much tying in with the former series involving this wonderful family. I really love the vibe between them all, the way they really are family; it’s different from any other Doctor/companion relationship I’ve seen, and it’s wonderful. I think the way Moffat tied up the Amy/Rory arc of the story was very well done, especially in how true it was to the character of all the individuals involved. There was an inevitability about it, and a rightness as well, that made the ending of their story satisfying, even though I was very sad to see them go. They might be my favorite group in Doctor Who to date; maybe even one of my favorite character groups period. The special episode between the two parts of the series, “The Snowmen”, is one that you really need to watch to get a full appreciation for the story as it goes ahead from there, even though seeing the Doctor (especially Matt Smith’s Doctor who always seems impossibly chipper) being depressed and lonely is pretty depressing to watch. Which is probably why perky, demanding Clara Oswald is a welcome new companion. It’s hard to understand exactly how she and the Doctor relate to each other, possibly because she’s sort of a chameleon, changing to suit the occasion a bit. Whatever the case, the dynamic between Jenna-Louise Coleman and Matt Smith works really well. The story writing for this part is mostly episodic, although there is an overarching plot. The scripts are interesting (including a fantastic episode written by Neil Gaiman!), and they highlight the characters effectively; I don’t think there was one episode this series that I didn’t enjoy.

Created by Sydney Newman, C. E. Webber, & Donald Wilson/Head Writer & Executive Producer Steven Moffat/Starring Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, Jenna-Louise Coleman, & Alex Kingston

 

1 Comment

Filed under Media Review

Doctor Who, Series 6

BBCdoctor who series 6

Created by Sydney Newman, C. E. Webber, & Donald Wilson/Head Writer & Executive Producer Steven Moffat/Starring Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, & Arthur Darvill

14 episodes

My rating: 5 of 5

*SPOILER ALERT*

Newlyweds Amy and Rory find themselves waiting at home, settling into normal life for a bit–but it’s not as though the Doctor’s keeping quiet. No, he’s plastering himself throughout history like a big, flashing “look at me” sign. Then they get an invitation to meet up in Utah of all places, where they encounter not only the Doctor but also River Song who had apparently also been invited. But in the middle of a nice picnic reunion by Lake Silencio, they are interrupted by (of all the absurd things) someone in a spacesuit rising up from the lake and killing the Doctor. Devastated, the three friends return to town . . . only to run into the Doctor, alive and well! Also significantly younger and completely unaware of what’s just taken place. So it’s off on adventures again, but with Amy, Rory, and River very concerned about the Doctor’s future–when they have time to worry about anything besides the creepy, unmemorable invasion that’s overtaking the earth and the fact that Amy may or may not be pregnant(?).

I really enjoyed the sixth series of Doctor Who. I think it’s a solid follow-up of series five, keeping the same characters and deepening their relationships in a very enjoyable (sometimes quite suspenseful) way. Overall, I think the suspense level was higher in this series than perhaps any other series I’ve seen so far–it worked really well that way. There’s a lot of overarching storyline this time, which is fun. I really love how the whole thing with River Song, which has been previously intriguing but maddeningly mysterious, is gradually unfolded over the course of the series. She really is a most enjoyable, fascinating character–plus she brings out all sorts of interesting sides to the Doctor that you’d never see otherwise. The growth of Amy and Rory both as individuals and as a couple is really neat to see too, especially as they go through all the craziness with the baby together. And even though there is definitely a huge overarching plotline to this series, there’s a nice variety of episodes presented as well (bonus points for a Neil Gaiman episode!). I’d definitely recommend Doctor Who, series 6, to anyone who has enjoyed the previous series–but I’d certainly recommend watching at least series five before trying this series or you might be a bit lost.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Media Review