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.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Doctor Who-Kill The Moon

                       Noticing Courtney Woods' further self destructive behavior following her journey with the doctor on the TARDIS,Clara insists that the doctor find a way to tell Courtney that she is special. His answer is to take her and Clara on a journey to the moon. When they arrive however,the year is 2049 and they find themselves in a makeshift NASA space shuttle filled with nuclear explosives.  While Courtney takes in her surroundings,the doctor confers with the shuttles crew led by Lundvik,who informs him that they've been sent by Earth in an extreme hurry because the planet is encountering massive ecological disruptions due to unknown changes in the moon.

                     Since the gravity of the moon appears to suddenly be strong enough to allow human beings to walk effectively upon it? The doctor determines the moon is being weighed down by something enormous. So he,Clara,Courtney and Lundvik's team take a walk along the lunar surface to a Mexican scientific expedition that had sent an SOS to Earth and had apparently been killed. When there they discover a spider-like alien who kills the last of Lundvik's crew. While a confused an board Courtney returns to the TARDIS,following her using window cleaner to kill the creature before it attacked her,the doctor determines said alien is actually an enlarged germ.

                        Upon returning to where the other astronauts on Lundvik's team had died,the doctor and his team locate masses of these creatures just under the moons surface. A gigantic moon quake causes the makeshift shuttle to sink-including it's nuclear weapons. With only Lundvik's activation device and the Mexican station as a base camp? The doctor announces that the alien creates are in fact bacteria on a much large organism-one he has been able to pinpoint with his sonic screwdriver: a giant dragon-like flying creature.  The doctor gives Lundvik two choices-allow the creature to hatch and see what happens or destroy it with the nuclear weapons on the shuttle.

                            Interestingly enough? The doctor leaves Clara,Lundvik and Courtney alone to work out the situation-since it is there moon. Yet with their knowledge that it's actually a hatching egg with a gestation period of millennia? An ethical argument ensues wherein Earth control contacts Lundvik. Clara explains the situation and to answer them by turning the planets entire light system off. Earth turns them off just in time-indicating they wish the creature destroyed but Clara stops Lundvik from initiating the weapons when she hears the doctors TARDIS.

                              The doctor proceeds to take them all to watch the moon explode and the creature emerge-flying away after laying another egg-which will last as Earth's moon until probably the end of time itself. He also tells Lundvik that humanity witnessing this even,their first extra terrestrial sighting,encourages them to renew their interest in space exploration and begins a new age for humanity. Before returning Clara and Courtney to Earth,Clara angrily rails out at the doctor for essentially terrifying her and potentially his other companions and demands that she discontinue her travels in the TARDIS. She returns to Coal Hill,seeking comfort in her disappointment and anger from Danny Pink.

                               Personally I find this to be the most absorbing and  consummately   enjoyable episodes of Series 8 as it's so far occurred. It speaks to my exact views on space exploration-that the wonderful discoveries that await us from it will inspire future generations to do great things in friendship to sustain itself by moving on into the cosmos. As they do in this case,realizing the moon is actually a life form. Hermione Norris turns in an amazing performance as Lundvik-very much a one episode companion in and of herself. While I am at this point unsure? This might well be Clara's last journey with the doctor. Never in my time watching Doctor Who have I witnessed a companion so outraged and disappointed at the doctors behavior as Clara was at the conclusion of this story. As Danny Pink suggested to her however,how will she feel when her anger fades away?