The Leighton Ploms have found an online store that sells loads of Firefly, Doctor Who and other sci-fi related products, including a totally shiny atlas of key areas of the 'verse. This may well be on my future purchase list!
[I wrote this review on the Saturday evening after watching the UK transmission: However, I placed a delay on posting to prevent spoiling too many of my foreign readers]
It opened with the Doctor hiding under a woman's skirt with no clothes on. It ended with one of the strangest cliffhangers that this show has ever produced.
"The Impossible Astronaut", the first part of the Season 32 opener, is definitely a character piece: I'll get to that in a little.
The plot is definitely one of the most intriguing I've seen for a long time. President Richard Nixon is receiving daily telephone calls from a young girl. Amy, Rory and Dr. River Song, the last one being a... I can't find the right words, you've got to experience River for yourselves... are all summoned by TARDIS blue envelopes to the same space-time location (Utah in 2011). For River this means escaping from prison - again. They meet up with the Doctor, who is wearing a Stetson until River shoots it off his head (seriously, this Doctor is acquiring a poor track record with hats). After a picnic, the Doctor has a rather nasty encounter with a person in a spacesuit, but not before instructing them to go to "Space, 1969".
Going to a diner, they meet the Doctor again, for whom the previous events are two hundred years in his future (Steven Moffat breaking out the wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey again. It's now bumpy-wumpy as well). Not being able to tell the Doctor what they have seen, lest they create a paradox and unleash killer-time-monkeys, they still manage to get them to take the TARDIS back to 1969...
This is a very character-driven piece, not a big bombastic episode. There's no big explosions, only two deaths and a lot of quiet introspection.
All the leads play it quiet and reflective: Matt Smith's Doctor in particular, who is particularly alien in this, but still has the playful boffin element to his portrayal. The guy playing Nixon was OK, but I managed to wonder when watching the prequel on the BBC website if it was actually meant to be Lyndon Johnson...
The one-liners are truly brilliant. We've got lines like "She's packing again", "I tried careful once" and of course "I wear a Stetson now. Stetsons are cool". The dialogue sparkles and crackles.
Then there's the Silents. I won't spoil their particular party trick, but it's one of the most frightening concepts that Moffat has come up with.
The music isn't that overblown either, with familiar themes (such as "I Am The Doctor", Eleven's leitmotif) being played in a toned-down manner. I don't remember the musical term for that.
After a great and intriguing episode, we get a cliffhanger which is rather disappointing. It's more of a "what on earth is going on?" rather than "what happens next".
Still, I'm looking forward to next week.
4.5/5. I'm docking half a point for the cliffhanger, which was a rather large let-down.
To provide us with a little more variety in the content of this blog, I am going to be posting reviews of works connected, in some loose way, with Phoenix Roleplaying. I have some of my previous reviews on my other blog.
So let us begin at a beginning, or what was supposed to be one:
Phoenixians will no doubt have strong feelings about FOX due to the way that they handled a certain pair of Joss Whedon shows. The work I am reviewing today proves that FOX was mishandling science-fiction long before Firefly.
Doctor Who's first TV run came to an end in 1989 with "Survival", but there was still strong interest in the show, particularly in terms of VHS. In 1996, a television movie was jointly produced by the BBC and FOX, with the aim of becoming a "backdoor pilot" for a new TV series. The BBC (I am citing Doctor Who Magazine's "The Fact of Fiction" here) was only willing to go ahead with a full TV series with continued US backing and FOX needed decent US ratings to provide it.
So what did FOX do? Schedule the US airing against a highly popular sitcom (Roseanne) that had ended the previous week's episode on a cliffhanger... The rest is history - the ratings were not that good.
We would have to wait 9 years to get more TV Doctor Who.
The first canon Doctor Who I ever watched was Doctor Who: The Movie (I'm going to refer to this from here on in as the TVM, one of the common terms for it among fans) back in May 1996. I saw it a second time sometime later and this is now the third time I have watched it - a decision to do so in light of the upcoming 32nd series.
The initial set-up, as narrated by Paul McGann goes like this: The Master, an evil Time Lord with a line in hypnosis, mass extortion and stealing other people's bodies, is executed by the Daleks for his crimes. As his last request, he asks that his remains be taken back to Gallifrey, the home planet of the Time Lords, by the Seventh Doctor, played by Sylvester McCoy.
Of course, the Master being a guy who doesn't quite do dying like everyone else, gets out of his container and forces the TARDIS, with a highly ornate interior that puts the white console room of the classic era to shame and arguably beats both of the new sets, to land in San Francisco, on 29 December 1999. The Doctor pops out from the TARDIS, then gets shot by some gangsters.
The three bullet wounds weren't lethal, but when red-haired cardiologist Dr Grace Holloway, confused by the Doctor's X-rays and the beats of his two hearts, decides to do some exploratory surgery, the results are fatal. Placed into a morgue locker, the Doctor regenerates.
The Master has, in the meantime, escaped and is out to get a new body: the Doctor's. Our Time Lord must stop him from destroying the planet in his attempt to do so...
There are a few things wrong with the TVM that make it far weaker than "Rose", the Ninth Doctor's opener and the start of the current era (for me, DW is one series, not two).
Firstly, the first half hour. It's badly paced, dumps a lot of information at you and has Sylvester McCoy rather underused - serving to get shot, make a few statements and then die.
Secondly, Eric Roberts' Master. His delivery is jarring, he has some truly poor dialogue that made me laugh for the wrong reasons and he just doesn't look the part. The Master may be a complete and utter psychopath, but he's an urbane one. More like Jack Nicholson's Joker than Heath Ledger's (I may be in a minority by actually preferring the former's portrayal).
Thirdly, I don't like the theme music.
Fourth, the TARDIS police box is too wide for my liking.
Before we go on to the positives, it's worth mentioning that the scenes where the Doctor snogs Grace caused an absolute outcry among fans back in the day and still resonate, even after Ten seemed to have gotten to fourth base with Madame de Pompadour and Amy actively tried it on with Eleven.
I'm personally going to put it down to post-regenerative confusion.
After a first half where I was starting to lose the will to carry on with this, things get a lot better in the second. The Doctor fully gets into gear, Grace starts doing some decent stuff (her behaviour during the motorcycle scenes reminds me a lot of later rouge-tressed companions, Donna and Amy) and things genuinely get a bit more exciting.
Paul McGann is a great Doctor, something evidenced by the popularity of his Big Finish audio dramas, which he still does.
There are some great touches in the TVM, including the 900 Year Diary, the Doctor stealing clothes from a hospital (cf. "Spearhead in Space", "The Eleventh Hour") and a really rather good climax, not counting Eric Roberts.
In summary, poor first half is balanced out by a good second half. What we might have got remains unclear. What we do have now though is much better.
Elisabeth Sladen, who played one of Doctor Who's best-loved characters, companion to the Third and Fourth Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith, who would appear again in the new era and in a spin-off series, has died aged 63.
I am sure that all my fellow members will join me in expressing our sincere condolences to her family and friends.
Mike Palmer, one of Phoenix's best known players, has announced his resignation from the site due to personal reasons.
Mike, the long-standing CO of the ship now called Atlantis, was responsible for shepherding that vessel into Phoenix's most popular sim by some margin. He also played a key role in events leading up to the creation of the site.
A truly superb player, Mike's great contributions will be missed and we hope to have him back at some point in the future.
James McGuire, the current GM of Atlantis, will take over the sim.
Robert and Aidan are currently playing a new F2P (Free to Play) MMORPG called Forsaken World. Anybody interested in gaming and keeping in touch with their fellow Phoenixians through Forsaken World should contact Robert for an invite to his guild: DrunkDragon. They are playing on the US East Coast PVE server "Storm".