Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Doctor Who-The Enemy Of The World

                        While on vacation in early 21st century Australia with little ambition to do much more then build sand castles,the doctor soon finds himself an attempted assassination victim. Not because of  anything he has done,but because of whom he appears to be. After he,Jamie and Victoria are rescued by one controller of these assassins,agent Astrid Ferrier in a helicopter.

                      Seems that with a world government divided into specific geographical zones,Astrid's boss Giles Kent is hoping that the doctor will help him to infiltrate the organization of Salamander,the man that the doctor was nearly killed because of his physical similarities to him. Salamander has been using his solar generator to help grow more productive crops but,according to Kent,is using this as a means to take full power over the entire Earth and it's people.

                       Not yet convinced that Salamander is a villain,Kent manages to utilize the doctors resemblance to con Bruce,a ward of Salamander that Kent and his people have made a deal with the would be president for life.  Reluctantly the doctor and his companions agree to infiltrate Salamander's base. With Jamie and Victoria pretending to take jobs in his kitchen staff while in continual contact with Astrid.

                          While there they discover that Fedorin,one of Salamander's closest confidant's,is involved in a power struggle for leadership to take Salamander's position with Denes-who is Kent's only ally in the worlds European zone. Also one of their fellow staff members,the food taster Feriah,clearly has no love for Salamander or his methods. 

                         For his part Salamander has been managing to create earthquakes and volcano's that he explains off as natural disasters only he can stop. Denes is arrested in the ensuing struggle when Salamander orders Fedorin to murder the man. When he cannot morally,Salamander poisons Fedorin. On the lamb with Kent,he and the doctor fend of one encounter after another with Salamander's sadistic guardsman Benik.

                               Once the doctor finds out that Jamie and Victoria are now held hostage by Salamander? He manages to convince with Kent's help (and in disguise) to convince Bruce that Salamander is going betray all his alleys with falsified records of their misdeeds. For his part,Salamander has descended through a pneumatic  tube underground to a group of people who believe Salamander is protecting them from a nuclear war above ground and working to bring them goods to survive.

                               After Feriah is killed by Benik following her betrayal of Salamander? Astrid meets up with an injured gentleman named Swann who,after discovering a newspaper clip in a care package contradicting what Salamander told him,ventured to the surface with him and his knocked out by Salamander to keep him from discovering the truth. After he dies in her attempted care,she manages to infiltrate his base and discovers the pneumatic tube-using it to tell the people underground-used to create the volcanic earthquakes by Salamander,the truth of the deception.

                              Upon emerging to the surface,Astrid reveals to a Giles Kent confronting the doctor (who he believes is Salamander) that she has just learned that Kent and Salamander were actually working together all along to overtake the Earth. As Kent tries to escape,he dies when Salamander attempts to destroy the tunnels with another Earthquake. Leading Astrid and Bruce out to undo the damage and rescue Salamander's hostages? Jamie and Victoria,sent back to the TARDIS upon their rescue by the doctor for safety,finds Salamander trying to impersonate the doctor himself until the genuine article struggles with him for control of the TARDIS-with Salamander ending up falling out into the time vortex.

                               Overall this story is a superb example of a once lost Doctor Who story that lives up to it's legendary representation. It's a very James Bond-like adventure serial that's full of motion,action,highly motivated characters and the wonderful subtext where the doctor is for once very reluctant to get involved. And actually has to be coerced by Astrid and Kent to impersonate the psychically numb dictator Salamander in order to defeat him. Of course he's totally reluctant to kill-reasoning from Kent's embrace of murder as possible subtext for his collaboration with Salamander.

                              This is also a wonderfully character driven story. Patrick Troughton of course takes a wonderful turn as not only the doctor and the Yucatan accented Salamander but as the doctor trying to IMPERSONATE Salamander as well.  One of my favorite characters in this story is Salamander's food taster Fariah,played by Guyanese derived actress Carmen Munroe. This is a character who is essentially a slave to Salamander,forced to worked at the bottom of his domestic ladder. It is learned this occurred due to blackmail. Yet we never learn for sure,if I suspect if perhaps one of reasons for this was one of the African zone nations in this story actively resisting Salamander's power. This ends up being a story that never ceases to thrill and compel for just about any Whovian.




Friday, December 26, 2014

Doctor Who-Last Christmas

                       One snowy morning Clara awakens to find Santa and two elves on her rooftop,with seemingly the sole purpose of convincing her she actually believes in them. Finally the doctor shows up in the TARDIS-informing Clara that she is has to go with the doctor because humanity's fate might be at stake. They arrive at a base at the North Pole at some point in time. It's a base being terrorized by creatures that the doctor refers to as dream crabs,terrestrial Earth lifeforms capable of using it's hosts dreams as a form of anesthetic while consuming their bio-matter.

                         While working with different members of the research team to find out how to stop the dream crabs,Clara is absorbed by one of them and imagines herself with a living Danny Pink. The doctor,having been absorbed voluntarily to warn her of what's happening,manages to successful pull them both of the supposed illusion until he realizes the onion effect of the what the dream crabs are doing-using layers of plausible illusion to keep everyone unconscious while they slowly consume them. 

                    Thinking everyone was attacked in the bases infirmary,they awaken when the doctor deduces the same effect-with the identical copy of the polar base operation manual containing totally different first words on the exact same page. During another try of this,realizing the pain they are all feeling in their head as the key focal point for their actual reality,the doctor realizes the persistent presence of Santa Claus questioning everyone as to his reality is actually a safety net. 

                       The reality of everyone's situation is they are all asleep,in different places on Earth,possibly different times even and the dream crabs are all linking them together as part of a plan. In order to escape this,Santa appears with his reindeer and sleigh-taking everyone with him and giving the doctor the chance to indulge in a fantasy of steering his sleigh. Soon everyone remembers who they are and disappear-all except Clara. 

                   The doctor believes he has awakened on a planet and returns to free Clara from the dream crab only to find her 62 years old. He talks to her about her supposed experiences since they last met before Santa again reminds him to "wakey wakey",and he wakes up on the same red planet-and rescues the real and young Clara from the dream crab. And invites her back to the TARDIS with him for yet more journey's through space and time.

                    Upon first viewing? This emerges as possibly one of my very favorite Doctor Who Christmas tales. Perhaps one of the best of such Doctor Who stories thus far. The story really kicks into how each of the characters,in particular with Clara missing the deceased Danny Pink and the doctor in turn missing Clara,with how much the imagery of Christmas really fires up the imagination. That plus Nick Frost as a rather pimped out attituded Santa,complete with comedy Elves makes for a story full of horror,laughs,toy robots taking siege of an imaginary moon base and a tangerine! In the Whoniverse? Christmas is always fun!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Doctor Who-Death In Heaven

                       While Clara attempts to fool a small army of Cybermen at 3W HQ into thinking she is the doctor,the actual doctor is attempting to fend of Missy and the Cybermen army. She is attempting to pass them off as an art installation until a lady asking to take a photo reveals herself to be an incognito member of UNIT-with her and Kate Lethbridge Stewart having Missy and the Cyber army totally surrounded. By this time the Cybermen fly into the air which,as Missy explains,will cause a rain across the Earth that will ensure the Cybermen's takeover of the planet. All the while,Clara is successful in fooling the Cybermen army on 3W into destroying one another rather than her.

           Much to the doctors surprise she then tranquilizes both him and Missy together. She cites his past unreliability with UNIT as her reason for getting him to guarantee to the position she must now assign him in this planetary emergency: as the president of the entire planet Earth itself. Aboard a specialized emergency airplane,the doctor tells Stewart and the UNIT crew that the "rain" is actually Cybermen bio matter. And that they must have found some way to control the bodies of deceased humans in a centuries long plan of Missy's at 3W-all along set up as a prerequisite for the on-coming invasion.

             While Danny Pink begins to notice the change inside the "neurosphere" that is 3-W,he is told the truth before the rain before the first of the new Cybermen begin to rise from graveyards the world over. Clara finds herself deposited in one such graveyard. As the flying Cybermen catch up with with the UNIT plane,Missy causes an escape plan by using her guard to escape,than killing her while the Cybermen enter and hijack the plane. In the graveyard,Clara's life is spared by one particular Cyberman. As he approaches her he reveals himself to be constructed from the body of Danny Pink. He than proceeds to beg Clara to activate the circuit that will remove the emotions which he doesn't want to have.

              Escaping the broken up UNIT plane after Missy transports out and he believes Kate has been blown out into the sky,the doctor locks onto his departed TARDIS and engineers an escape to find Clara. All after Missy has revealed to him that she now knows the coordinates of Gallifrey.  And that she'd carefully masterminded that Clara would become his companion. He arrives to find that Missy attempting to sway the doctor into re-joining her to return to his home world. All the while with Clara desperate for the doctor to save the life of Danny Pink. Between the two demands made on him,the doctor asks Clara to deactivate Danny's emotions so he can explain how the Cybermen's mission will be carried out. Danny explains how Missy has been controlling the Cybermen through a bracelet,which she gives to the doctor-offering him full over over the Cybermen. 

                The doctor defers control of the bracelet to Danny,who rallies the Cybermen as a soldier to return to the sky where the cloud they created burns away with them in it. The doctor dismisses Missy-either killing her or sending her back to her TARDIS while he goes off to Gallifrey. He was deceived by Missy and doesn't find it of course. But he does return to Clara to inform he was returning there anyway-allowing her to remain with Danny-who he thinks returned using the bracelet. Before leaving he finds Kate Stewart returned alive,apparently the doing of her now Cyberman body of her father-the "Brigadier". Of course,since it was a one way journey for one person? Danny actually had opted to send back the boy he killed in war.

                  While the Cybermen present,now with the ability to fly,is very appealing to Whovians I am sure? This is actually a very moving story about honesty,deception and betrayal. The science of the Cybermen being used by Missy,the new "Master" regeneration,to use bio matter of dead humans to replicate is a good new development for the classic Doctor Who adversary. Michelle Gomez's turn as the darkly comic and very unstable Missy is also a highlight. At the same time,the story actually provides an interesting and rather literary ending to the Clara/Danny Pink saga-with him apparently sacrificing his miserable and sad existence for the life of the young boy he killed in war. The idea of the doctor's discomfort with soldiers provides the arc of the story-a doctor who still doesn't quite know himself. As for whether Clara will be his companion in the future? It would appear this actually won't be the case.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Doctor Who-Dark Water

                         Following a call from Clara whose noticed sticky notes describing her recent adventures with the doctor all over the wall,her concerned phone call to Danny Pink is interrupted by a lady who claims she just ran over him in her car. After Pink's demise,Clara receives a call from the doctor asking after her. Once on board the TARDIS, she then uses a patch aboard of the doctors to induce him into a dream state where she threatens to throw all of his TARDIS keys into  an active volcano if he doesn't bring Danny back to her-rational being that she's seen him manipulate life and death.

                       Though decrying her behavior,the doctor agrees to have Clara connect with the TARDIS's telepathic circuit,as she did before,in order to connect herself stronger with Danny Pink's timeline-to which she is emotionally connected.  Once this is done,the TARDIS takes them to what appears to be a mausoleum filled with skeletal human remains suspended in a liquid medium. The doctor encounters a manual which projects a holographic ad for 3W,apparently some type of "humane" method of life after death. 

                 After encountering a woman who claims to be an android rep named Missy,the doctor and Clara are taken to her subordinate who claims that the name 3W refers to three words heard by the founder of the facility-who claims to have isolated the voices of the dead through white noise in the television from the dead saying "don't cremate me",indicating people still have feeling after death. This explains the name (3 words),yet the doctor is skeptical. 

                    Meanwhile Danny Pink has also arrived at 3W,and is receiving the same story-that he is dead and connected to his own deceased corpse. He is linked by means of a localized Wi-Fi to Clara,something that has apparently never happened at 3W HQ before,where she attempts to question him as to the truth of his identity. The doctor meanwhile goes to see Missy for more information about the facility itself and what she plans to do with the corpses.

                     All around Clara and the doctor,without them immediately noticing the transparent "dark water" with which they are all surrounded are receding to reveal the bodies of the doctors nemesis the Cybermen. After meeting with a boy he apparently killed in war,Danny Pink is then given the option to "delete" his emotions. When the doctor discovers this,Missy takes him to the center of London-where they've apparently already been. After his attempts to warn the population of their impending doom? Missy reveals her name as short for mistress because she can no longer go by her original name of The Master.

                       Aside from the reveal of this series' ongoing story arc character of Missy as being a new regeneration of The Master? This story has some similarities to the classic 1985 Colin Baker serial Revelation Of The Daleks in that it deals with the deceased being used as vessels by one of the doctor's foes. In this case,its the Cybermen rather than the Daleks. The element of people's irrational fear of death,and their inability to accept it as a part of their own existence,is added into this story as well.

                    As for Clara's behavior at the beginning of this episode? Speak of irrationality! While the trauma of a dead loved one can cause emotional instability? Clara's self centered behavior to the doctor,whose saved whole civilizations from utter destruction throughout time,removes a great deal of likability about the character-already suffering from a poorly realized attitude this series. That Clara would actually take away the doctor's means to be heroic only to satisfy her romantic needs. As for the story itself,there is of course more to tell.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Doctor Who-In The Forest Of The Night

                        The TARDIS materializes in what turns out to be Trafalgar square,where the doctor meets a young girl named Maebh Arden who had ran away from a museum field trip at the Coal Hill School with Mister Danny Pink. After their sleepover in the museum,Danny and his students awake to find a London (and much of the planet) covered in dense forest foliage. Not only is the presence of this forest mystifying. But also that Maebh,a girl whom her students and fellow teachers view as mentally delusional and on medication,seems to have knowledge of the doctor and also has been making some rather unsettling drawings in her notebook.

                           Back in the TARDIS a fast observation of the drawings indicates that the visuals and numbers of it indicate a massive solar flair powerful enough to destroy the planet,one that is arriving today. Local officials meanwhile are trying to burn paths through the forest in order to clear pedestrian pathways,and find the trees are resisting their attempts. After escaping a number of escaped zoo animals,Maebh is revealed to be a child of preternatural mental ability-whose a voice for an unseen alien voice on Earth protecting the new trees from destruction. The doctor assumes that the laws of physics suddenly dismissing themselves are a sign of the planet's impending doom. 

                           After Clara leads him to travel alone in the TARDIS and continue his mission after Earth's inevitable demise,the doctor chases Clara,Danny and the students back to the TARDIS to explain that the intelligence occupying these trees have created the natural shrubbery as a way to consume all the carbon dioxide given off by the solar flares and thus saving the Earth. It's up to Maebh to send an urgent message to the world-urging them not attempt to destroy the new shrubbery. With Danny and the students returning to Coal Hill,Clara and the doctor watch from the TARDIS as his "solar airbag" of oxygenation successfully shields the planet from the gigantic solar flare.

                            While the character of Maebh Arden is a strong one,indicating my thoughts that what some might see as mental illness may be an unknown gifted perception at times,some of her fellow students do come across as rather annoying characters. While at first the playing up of the irascible cynicism of Peter Capaldi's doctor is equally as unpleasant? This episode does have an important and distinctive social message about deforestation. With environmentalism and climate change in the hearts and minds of the world? This adds a relatively plausible element of science fiction wherein an alien presence in trees won't allow Earth to be destroyed. It's an excellent infusion of hope for those who are convinced climate change cannot be stopped. And that the world does in fact have a future if we wish it to.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Doctor Who-Flatline

                       When the doctor attempts to return Clara back to her precise,previous destination the TARDIS finds itself in Bristol. Oddly enough,the exterior of it has been reduced to half it's normal size and it's continuing to shrink. Clara goes to investigate the situation while the doctor stays and attempts to solve the problem. At a nearby highway tunnel she meets Rigsy,a young Graffiti artist doing community service. She's quick to notice the graffiti on the side of the tunnel-all full bodies of people with their backs turned. Rigsy and lead civic worker Roscoe proceed to point out that there have been mysterious deaths all over town. When Clara returns to the TARDIS,she finds it further reduced  to roughly the size of a human hand.

                      Considering the doctor is now longer able to exit,he gives Clara the sonic screwdriver and asks her to operate on his behalf. She proceeds to go with Rigsy to his home,the doctor talking to her through a type of psychic Blue Tooth that allows him to see through her eyes. The screwdriver is able to detect,following a police officer who suddenly disappeared,that what seem to be unusual patterns on the wall are actually two dimensional human remains. By the time the doctor determines the city is being invaded by lifeforms that can affect dimension? Clara and Rigsy are escaping the creatures,apparently living in the walls,as they pursue the pair into Rigsy's glass hammock.

                    Once outside Rigsy's flat,he and Clara return with the shrunken TARDIS in tow back to the train station where Clara unites Roscoe and his civic crew in escaping these lifeforms-who continually seem to outrun them at every turn. Even to the point of killing at least one more time. As the doctor determines that these creatures are in fact parasitic somehow,the nature of this is determined by Clara who,by talking to Rigsy about the graffiti of the people in the tunnel that these represent the physical bodies of some of those who had been killed. The lifeforms then begin to manifest themselves as flesh twisted versions of the bodies of those who'd been killed.

                          During Clara and company's escape the shrunken TARDIS,having fell into the center of a railroad track,is forced to go into a siege mode wherein no one can get out or in. Once Clara is able to retrieved the "locked" TARDIS she is able to overhear the doctor speak of the need for energy reserves to make it function,and that he has a solution for dealing with the aliens. She asks Rigsy,following a near self sacrifice to stop the train before it ran over the TARDIS,to great a graffiti painted gate the aliens would be fooled into opening-with the TARDIS behind it and allowing the energy they create to re-fuel it. With the TARDIS restored? The doctor managed to use the sonic screwdriver to feedback the aliens energy and return them to their dimensional realm-after which he returns everyone involved back to where they came from.

                            This is a very captivating story for a number of reasons. For one,it provides many informative and often comic moments (such as the doctor using his hand to pull the miniature TARDIS out of danger ala' the Addams Family's Thing). Also we learn the TARDIS has a safe mode-rather like a far more advanced one on a personal computer. The thrust of the story,aliens who have the capability of altering the entire 3 dimensional nature of matter to it's own benefit,makes for some exciting and sometimes horrifying moments-as well as bringing out a compelling scientific theory at the core of Doctor Who itself with the TARDIS: the idea of relative dimension  itself. 

                         Even the doctor admits the Clara really showed her mettle as a vicarious doctor-solving a life and death problem with brain over bron and wits over fear. Jenna Louise Coleman plays it up wonderfully in what Whovians refer to as a "doctor light" story. Of the human characters Rigsy,the everyday man of the setup acts as Clara's companion and helps save...perhaps humanity from losing their life and dimension in the end. The blustery protagonist of Roscoe,potentially a minor irritant in the story,turns out to embody the worst aspects of humanity in the end. While the world is saved,people have died. Most of the human characters sho compassion save for Roscoe-who just feels they are lower class people no one will truly miss. This says as much for the dimension of the mind as the story itself does for the dimension of the physical self.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Doctor Who-Mummy On The Orient Express

                         For her final journey on the TARDIS,the doctor takes Clara on board a space bound simulation of the Orient Express for a railway trip through the stars. Pandemonium ensues when the doctor and Clara are suspected of being responsible for the murder of an elderly passenger. When the woman's granddaughter Maisie take it upon herself to investigate the death,they find themselves discussing their respective positions while the doctor confronts the captain of this expedition and his attempts to keep the continuing deaths quiet to avoid panic.

                          What's really happening is that mummy-like creatures are killing passengers on the train,many of whom turn out to be different medical and scientific experts,and the fact it all seems to happen within 66 seconds is inflaming many of their own superstitions and plays into why they are keeping the situation quiet. Even when Clara and Maisie decide to join the doctor on his mission? The doctor figures out that the Orient Express setup and most of it's passengers are a simulation-fabricated by a sentient computer that is performing a study on the life and death of humanoid beings.

                            The doctor then finds that the mummy's responses to those it "kills" seem to come not only from there emotions,but also from their likely physical probability of death when the computer dismissively murders several live cooks on the train for that very reason. The doctor also figures out these mummy's are programmed alien soldiers and liberates one of them by allowing everyone to see it at once-even if they aren't dying. The computer responds by cutting off the crew's air supply.  In the end the doctor manages to rescue Clara and much of the crew to a nearby sentient world. After a conversation with Danny Pink,Clara decides to continue her journey's with the doctor.

                                During this series in particular many Whovians,even a few I have know,have expressed great disappointment in some of the directions the show has been taking under the direction of producer Steven Moffatt. Even I can clearly see some of the issues these people have bought up with this episode. The story of the mummy's and the orient express,very much of human fear obscuring the eventual rational that what's been happening is a computer's logical view of life and death,is a compelling one making for wonderful storytelling.  And the appearance of jelly babies adds some fun continuity to the current series resurrection of Doctor Who's past. Yet at the same time,deeper holes appear very clearly on the surface of the story.

                                   Clara Oswald's personal problems with the doctor,which were illustrated at the end of the previous weeks episode,simply weren't integral to this story and prevented some major points from being addressed. Why did Clara go on one final trip with the doctor after stating she was leaving right then and there? What was the source of these mummy-like soldiers and just what was the doctor's relationship with them? And most of all? Why,after only a brief phone call to Danny Pink,did Clara have a manic change of heart to continue her travels with the doctor only after her lover seemingly gave her the okay to do so? Perhaps in the future Doctor Who stories might benefit from closer attention to the plot than advancing lesser elements of the doctor/companion personal dynamic.