Sunday, August 9, 2015

Aragon vs. Anderson: Cold War



Now that I have a few minutes free, I thought I'd go back to one of my great passions...bashing The Whorist (or as it's generally known, The Nerdist), in particular their Doctor Who reviews by one Kyle Anderson.

Mr. Anderson (now doesn't that sound sinister) in my view, has rarely if ever met a Doctor Who post-Rose story that he hasn't loved.  I don't mean liked.  I mean L-O-V-E-D, to where that particular episode is the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time...until the next episode when THAT becomes the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time.  It's gotten to be almost a point of parody to see how Anderson rarely finds fault with a Doctor Who episode.  I don't mean just to nitpick on a few things.  I mean give a bona-fide negative review.  Even I, someone who has been vociferous in my condemnation for many NuWho episodes, do admit when I see a good one (like Flatline or Mummy on the Orient Express).  Anderson, however, will almost always find something to wax rhapsodic about, even on something as atrocious as In the Forest of the Night

I was intrigued by this, so a little research was required.  I went as far back as I could regarding Anderson's Doctor Who reviews, and the earliest one I could find was the Series/Season Six opener, The Impossible Astronaut.  What I've done is taken Kyle Anderson's review verbatim, and offered my own 'translation' to the text to see what Anderson is, in my view, really saying.  I also throw in my own thoughts as to what is being said.

I hope this will be a fun and informative journey into the strange mind of the Functioning Nerd.

I present Part 22 of The Nerdist as Whore: Cold War.  My 'translations' are in red.



Mark Gatiss has always been a Doctor Who writer I find interesting.

Mark Gatiss has always been a Doctor Who writer I find difficult.

He’s clearly a massive, enormous, gigantic fan of the series and has been involved in fandom for decades.

You see, Moff.  I'M a massive, enormous, gigantic fan of the series and have been involved in fandom for decades.  PLEASE LET ME WRITE MY OWN FANFIC INTO CANON TOO!!! Mark Gatiss does!  Why not me?  He too excels in turning fan-fiction into Canon, thus proving that fans should not be in charge.

Oh, did I mention Mark Gatiss is also my boss?

When the show came back in 2005, he was one of the first batch of fanboy writers Russell T. Davies brought on board for the new regime. In fact, Gatiss’ “The Unquiet Dead” was the only non-RTD script for the first 5 weeks of the show and is easily the best of that bunch.

Broken clock...The Unquiet Dead was the bench of the bunch, but what does it say that about the other stories penned by RTD?  Still, is it really a good idea to have fanboys in charge?  We've seen what Doctor Who has become, so putting them as creators of Canon hasn't always been for the good of show. 

Since then, his scripts have been some of the most varied in terms of style and content, but also in terms of quality, unfortunately.

I thought Gatiss' other scripts for The Idiot's Lantern and Night Terrors were really, really bad (which is odd since I, Rick Aragon, actually liked them).  And did I mention how much I HATED Victory of the Daleks?  I mean, come on, I know I lick Gatiss'...boots, but even I, most sycophantic of sycophants, couldn't stomach that pile of crap.
 
With his newest script, “Cold War,” he went back to his horror roots (if you haven’t seen his three-part documentary series about horror movies, you’re really doing yourself a disservice) and gave us an episode that is equal parts Alien and The Hunt for Red October and also sees the return of a favorite classic series enemy race. All that PLUS Duran Duran? Wowzers.

With his newest script, "Cold War," he went back to creating horrors (and as instructed, I plugged another project of yours that fluffs up your ego as to this idea that you, Lord Gatiss, are an intellectual giant) and gave us an episode that rips off from genuine classics as well as rips up a favorite classic series enemy race.  We also got a rather repetitive bit about how yet another alien is 'the last of their kind'.  Seriously, how many times is the Doctor going to run into an alien who happens to be the last of their kind?  Don't these people have like a continuity or script editor to tell them, 'Look, fanboys...this is about the third or fourth time we get a species that is about to be extinct.  Can't you come up with something original, or at least have more than one of their kind?'

The last two episodes of Series 7b have been very sci-fi, but neither were particularly scary.

The last two episodes of Series 7b have been jumbled, chaotic, and have vague pseudo-science (the Doctor rides up on the outside of a building on an anti-gravity motorbike!  The Doctor and Clara cross outer space without need of breathing apparatus!)  I shouldn't be too picky, since I'm on record about thinking a Doctor Who story that doesn't have much in terms of plot isn't a bad thing.  Still, I want to be scared, to hide behind the sofa...because at my age, that's pretty much all I got.

“Cold War” is claustrophobic, tense, and pretty harrowing, as the Doctor and Clara somehow end up on a sinking Soviet nuclear submarine just after some idiot has thawed an Ice Warrior, one of Mars’ battle-hardened race, who happens to be a ruthless war hero who’s been frozen for 5,000 years.

"Cold War" is a mess through and through: cluttered, rushed, and pretty appalling, as the Idiot Doctor and the Star of the Show somehow end up in a cliché: they show up right when the story begins.  Now, I'll grant you that the events from The Waters of Mars are hazy, but exactly how many battle-hardened races are there on Mars?  He says the Ice Warriors are 'one', so that should mean there are more. So the Ice Warrior is frozen for 5,000 years?  Why don't I find that exciting? 

Gatiss does a lot of great things in this episode, not the least of which is getting the Ice Warrior out of its bulky armor so that it can scurry around the ceilings and walls of the submarine and slaughter people silently.

Gatiss does a lot of horrible things in this episode, not the least of which was when he decided he knew better than Bryan Hayles, who created the Ice Warriors.   Gatiss, who happens to pay my bills (as I am his metaphorical rent boy) transformed the Ice Warrior so that it could be scarier than the ones the Classic Who fans knew, because as far as NuWhovians are concerned, Mark Gatiss created the Ice Warriors and can do anything he wants with them. 

It’s very much like Ridley Scott’s Alien, but that’s not a bad thing at all.

It's a total rip-off of Ridley Scott's Alien, but if I don't care about a story having a 'plot', you really think I'll care that I'm getting a remake in all but name?  Besides, I'm paid to cover up for the Doctor Who production crew, so I have to go along with this.

He also creates the tension of a world on the brink of “mutually-assured destruction” which perpetually haunted those of us living in the decade.

He also took a page from Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, where "mutually-assured destruction" was also something to be scared of.  Now, while I grew up in the 80s, to be honest I was never scared of The Bomb.  Part of it was because I was too young to really comprehend the seriousness of it all, but a big part of it was because I didn't obsess over it. 

So, while I enjoyed the horror element and the war element, I think overall the script was a bit rushed and had too much going on that wasn’t developed properly.

Dare I smell a whiff of a criticism?  I make special note of the word 'overall', which indicates 'as a whole of the episode'.  What are the odds that despite all this, Kyle Anderson will end up liking this episode?

In Gatiss’ previous story, the almost-universally derided “Victory of the Daleks,”

...ESPECIALLY BY KYLE ANDERSON...

there isn’t nearly enough time for things to play out in any real semblance of sequence. While “Cold War” isn’t that rushed, likely because there was less going on, there are interesting things that get brought up that aren’t paid off in a satisfying way.

While "Cold War" wasn't as crappy as "Victory of the Daleks", it was crap nonetheless.  I think it has to do with the fact that Gatiss had to get through so much in a short amount of time, so we didn't have much of a sense of actual tension or interest.  Oh, did I mention that the Ice Warrior is "The Last of His Kind"?  How many times are they going to use that trope to push the narrative?

The biggest example of this is the character of Lieutenant Stepashin, who is eager to be the one to end the world, or at least heat up the Cold War a bit. He is at odds a couple of times early on with Captain Zhukov (Liam Cunningham), who is a much more level-headed individual.

Is it me, or was a bit reminiscent of Crimson Tide?  Great movie.  You can't go wrong with Gene Hackman or Denzel Washington, really.  Someone get Gene Hackman a Kennedy Center Honor or Lifetime Achievement Award Oscar. 

Their dynamic was set up to be adversarial throughout, and one could imagine a scenario wherein even if Skaldak decides not to blow up the Earth, Stepashin might try to do it himself.

The idea of the two Soviets in conflict, with the Doctor caught in the middle, is actually a better story than the one we got.  Point for Anderson.

However, in the scene where Skaldak gets the drop on Stepashin, he tries to strike up an alliance with the Ice Warrior (an interesting idea), but then he’s just dead the next time we see him (or his feet). His whole storyline, if one can even call it that, existed to be the catalyst for the conflict and to be the one to inform Skaldak about the nuclear weapons on board. He is a completely unresolved character.

Oh, look.  Mark Gatiss started something and then forgot all about that story thread.  Now there's a shock!

I also have an objection to the way Gatiss felt the need to tack on the bit with Skaldak’s daughter, which just gets the briefest of mentions initially, just so Clara could then pipe up at the climax and mention that, of the billions of people who would die because of the nuke, daughters would be among them.

Here we go again with another 'Love Conquers All' routine Doctor Who has turned into a joke of a joke.  How often will villains be defeated to an appeal to their sensitive side?  No wonder these guys think Iran is a legitimate democracy that one can do business with rather than a genocidal-bent theocracy determined to finish what Hitler started.  It be nice to not have a story where essentially, they 'blew 'em up with love'.  Rings of Akhaten, The Snowmen, Closing Time... is it me or are villains just things in need of a hug?  

I feel like the Doctor was doing a pretty great job of attempting to appeal to Skaldak’s merciful side. Even Clara’s mention of him not killing the professor would have been enough, but she has to have this little speech (reminiscent of Amy’s speech in “Victory” which prevents the robot-bomb-guy from exploding) simply because Gatiss needs something for her to do in the climax.

Mark Gatiss repeated himself, and not in the best way possible.  Gatiss doesn't know what to do with female characters, does he? 

It was very lazy, I felt.

Broken clock.

Speaking of lazy, what a weird way to introduce the leads, who think they’re going to Vegas.


You're right, Kyle.  That was a weird way to introduce the leads.  We haven't had bizarre, even downright stupid ways for them to make an appearance before on this version of Doctor Who, right?  Ever, right?

Just, boom, now we’re on a Russian submarine in 1983. Then, just as suddenly, the TARDIS disappears. The eventual reason for this is pretty thin. It was very clear that they just needed a reason for there not to be a TARDIS on board so that the Doctor couldn’t just leave, or even take everybody on board the sub to safety. This happens a lot, but I didn’t care for this particular interpretation of it.

Plot contrivances aren't things I normally criticize (as if I actually criticize anything on Doctor Who), but this was too stupid even for me. 

Maybe I sound harsh on Mark Gatiss’ writing, but I think it’s because I like him as a dude so much.

I'm not even going to go there.  I'd love to, but I'm just not going there.

I find him endlessly fascinating to listen to on retrospectives of the show,

I find him to be the executive producer of the promotional shows my Little Boss Chris Hardwick hosts...

and I think he’s the perfect choice to write the upcoming docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time,

...and know that this An Adventure in Space and Time is already the Citizen Kane of Television (with the possible exception of things like The Beatles on Ed Sullivan) even if I haven't seen it at this point yet...

but his work on the series since “The Unquiet Dead” has been very hit and miss, usually within the same episode.

...but his work on the series since "The Unquiet Dead" has been confused, rushed, and repetitive, usually within the same episode.

In Series 2, he wrote “The Idiot’s Lantern,” which took place in 1953 and concerns TVs which remove people’s minds and faces.

That sounds like an allegory of NuWho fans to me. 

It was all right, but very hokey.

It was corny.

His next script was the aforementioned “Victory of the Daleks,” which should have been amazing, given its inclusion of Daleks and Winston Churchill, but suffered from the reasons listed above.

"Victory of the Daleks" was crap.  It was so awful even I, who gets paid to go past metaphorically kissing Gatiss' ass into downright sucking on it, couldn't get behind the episode. 

His script in Series 6, “Night Terrors,” was mostly good, but suffered from another hokey, heart-stringy ending. And now this one, which should have been his best one yet.

Mark Gatiss is a one-trick pony, doing the same thing over and over again in different settings.  Just like he ruined the Daleks with Victory of the Crap (Anderson's title, not mine), he's ruined the Ice Warriors with this one.  I didn't even mention that Ice Warriors 2.0 don't even whisper or extend the "S" sound.  And both of you call yourselves Doctor Who fans? 

I’d say it’s probably tied with “Night Terrors” for a very low number two.

What does that mean?  A very low Number Two in terms of score (like my score of 2/10) or low Number Two as in "it's the Second Greatest Mark Gatiss Doctor Who Story of All Time"?  What a rubbish review this is turning out to be.   

He has another script coming up this year, the Hammer-inspired story, “The Crimson Terror,” about which I know nothing. But given his love of Hammer and of period drama and horror, I’m hoping it’s a return to his “Unquiet” form.

He has another script coming up this year, and I hope to God that it will be good for once.

The cast did fine.

The cast did what they could.

I didn’t love either Clara or the Doctor in this one, though it had nothing to do with the performances.

I'll never criticize Matt Smith, and how could I go after Jenna-Louise Coleman since I masturbate to her? 

Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth in Game of Thrones) and David Warner (of many things, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze) are both great, though I wasn’t really sure why the professor behaved the way he did.

Is it me, or should I worry that Anderson highlighted the fact that someone was in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze as a POSITIVE?

He’s an old guy who likes music. Were there old Russian guys who were that laid back?



I have no idea. Part of me wonders if the professor wasn’t written to be a younger man, but when they found out they could get David Warner, they jumped on it.

I think David Warner was miscast.

If the episode works at all, and I think I did ultimately enjoy myself,

NO!  DO TELL...

it’s due to Douglas Mackinnon’s excellent direction. He stole the show completely.

The director stole the show.  Think on that for a moment. 

It’s very difficult to work in such tight quarters and still make it cinematic. I thought this was handled incredibly well, especially with the water and the lack of light and the low ceiling and all the rest of it.

Broken clock strikes again.

The design of the Ice Warrior itself was quite lovely.

Yes, Ice Warriors are suppose to be lovely.

The updated look of the battle armor was new enough to make sense but samey enough to remind us who the Ice Warriors were in their ’60s and ’70s appearances.

LIAR!  LIAR! 

The look of the out-of-armor Ice Warrior was interesting.

The look of the out-of-armor Ice Warrior was appalling.

I’d have liked to see a shot of his whole body as his arms were very thin, but his head was about the size of something that would fit in the helmet. Cool idea, overall.

This was a bastardization of the Ice Warriors.

So, in the end, masterful direction with a great monster help solid but uninspired performances in an interesting but ultimately troubled script.

So, in the end, despite being a bad episode, I was pleased enough to overlook everything about it and call it a masterpiece.

Mild “like” from me. It’s an episode I’ll definitely watch again.
SHOCKED that Kyle Anderson liked a
Doctor Who episode!

I'm intellectually dishonest but contractually obligated to like anything Mark Gatiss pulls out of his ass. 
 
Next week’s episode, “Hide,” written by Neil Cross and directed by Jamie Payne, looks pretty terrifying. If “Cold War” represents the time-tested approach to the show, “Hide” looks like a complete departure. Very excited for it.

Seriously, dude.  You get excited for almost every episode that is coming up.  Aren't you ever in a 'this one doesn't look too good' mood?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Aragon vs. Anderson: The Rings of Akhaten


 

Now that I have a few minutes free, I thought I'd go back to one of my great passions...bashing The Whorist (or as it's generally known, The Nerdist), in particular their Doctor Who reviews by one Kyle Anderson.

Mr. Anderson (now doesn't that sound sinister) in my view, has rarely if ever met a Doctor Who post-Rose story that he hasn't loved.  I don't mean liked.  I mean L-O-V-E-D, to where that particular episode is the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time...until the next episode when THAT becomes the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time.  It's gotten to be almost a point of parody to see how Anderson rarely finds fault with a Doctor Who episode.  I don't mean just to nitpick on a few things.  I mean give a bona-fide negative review.  Even I, someone who has been vociferous in my condemnation for many NuWho episodes, do admit when I see a good one (like Flatline or Mummy on the Orient Express).  Anderson, however, will almost always find something to wax rhapsodic about, even on something as atrocious as In the Forest of the Night

I was intrigued by this, so a little research was required.  I went as far back as I could regarding Anderson's Doctor Who reviews, and the earliest one I could find was the Series/Season Six opener, The Impossible Astronaut.  What I've done is taken Kyle Anderson's review verbatim, and offered my own 'translation' to the text to see what Anderson is, in my view, really saying.  I also throw in my own thoughts as to what is being said.

I hope this will be a fun and informative journey into the strange mind of the Functioning Nerd.

I present Part 21 of The Nerdist as Whore: The Rings of Akhaten.  My 'translations' are in red.




When I saw the trailer for “The Rings of Akhaten,” and took in the very alien sets and even more alien… aliens, I assumed it was going to be a Star Trek or Farscape inspired space odyssey,

When I saw the trailer for "The Rings of Akhaten", and took in the very alien sets and even more alien...aliens, I assumed it was going to be good.  I also thought that it would be nice to have a story take place somewhere other than 21st-Century London, which did I mention I've been to (and you haven't)?

and while it initially seemed like it, this was again an episode that focused on our two main characters and how they grow to understand each other by dealing with unfamiliar and dangerous circumstances.

While the sets, costumes, make-up, and even music was good, this was again an episode that focused on the Companion and how IMPORTANT she is.  We got to see her whole life story literally flash before our eyes, and realize the Doctor is a bit of a stalker, but coolness.  I don't mind.

In other words, it was a Doctor Who episode, and one that was surprisingly very sweet and touching even if it didn’t offer much in the way of plot.

In other words, it was a Doctor Who episode, and one that was shockingly very dumb and mawkish.  And seriously, what IS it with Anderson's lack of interest in plot?  This is at least the SECOND time where he tells us a Doctor Who story has little to nothing in way of plot, but that it's OK.  NO, Kyle, it's NOT OK.  A story HAS to have a plot to work, otherwise it's just a bunch of scenes tied together for no reason.

Get A Grip, Anderson!

Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age, but I was really moved by it, and I’m traditionally a cold-hearted bastard. Huh.

For a guy that goes on and on about how excited he is for the next episode of Doctor Who, he doesn't strike me as 'a cold-hearted bastard'.  Senile, well... 

The episode was written by Luther creator Neil Cross, and I must say, he’s a terrific writer for going so far outside of what he normally does, or at least what I know him for. Luther’s a gritty cop drama about serial killers and corruption and redemption, and this episode is, at its heart, about a little girl who is scared to sing in public.

The episode was written by Luther creator Neil Cross, and I must say, bless him for going out of his comfort zone to try and write something different.  It doesn't necessarily mean he succeeded in creating a proper Doctor Who story versus what he does on Luther, but he gave it as good a go as he could, and for that, he should be commended.

It’s something to which we can all relate.



WE is too many people. 

It also allowed us to get to know Clara – this Clara – better than we already thought we did in her curiosity and then wish to help the small Queen of Years, who is made to memorize the sum total of the history of her people, if only to be sacrificed to an ancient god. I adore Jenna-Louise Coleman.

I masturbated to Jenna-Louise Coleman.

She is the absolute perfect companion,

Come Again?
She is the absolute perfect companion,

Care to repeat that?

She is the absolute perfect companion,

I've got something in my bag for you, Kyle.
It'll be wicked...

and she and Matt Smith, who is also just phenomenal every single week, get on so spectacularly that I’m glad we have another six weeks with them.

and she and Matt Smith, who does his usual "Doctor as Idiot shtick" followed by "Doctor gives BIG speech shtick" every single week, are the Doctor/Companion team we're stuck with for another six weeks (at least). 

The direction by Farren Blackburn, of Luther, The Fades and other such British programming, is mostly good.

Farren Blackburn, also of Luther (it's like these guys took a holiday from the crime scene of London to have a bit of a jolly), did what he could with the material.

I loved the way he handled the “street” scenes on the asteroid, with all the various types of aliens and species, all of which looked amazing.

The make-up, costumes, and sets looked remarkably alien, which for once actually conveyed what the production was going for.  Here's to happy accidents.

He also did the stuff on Earth well, for the small amount Earth was onscreen.

Here were go with more "Companion-centric" story arcs.  Boy, I wish we'd get a Doctor who actually liked to travel through time and space, not one who has to sort out the mystery of yet another Tellurian who has to be the most important being on the planet...again.

I didn’t think, however, the massive blue-or-green screen stuff matched particularly well.

The special effects were horrible, which is shocking considering how much money the BBC is throwing at this thing.  Almost makes me long for when Doctor Who had rubber monsters, though at least these VFX, shoddy as they might be, were at least better than that embarrassing Myrka from Warriors of the Deep.  Now THAT was just an awful story, and I felt so sorry for everyone involved, trying so hard to make it all look believable when they knew it was so dreadful.   So yeah, compared to Warriors of the Deep, The Rings of Akhaten were Lord of the Rings brilliant.  However, that's an awful low bar to pass, isn't it?  

That’s not necessarily his fault, as the special effects were done by other people, but I still feel like the scenes could have been staged a little better so that the backgrounds didn’t look so very unbelievable.

It isn't fair to blame someone who has no control over things, but then again, how can I blame "the Moff" for anything that goes wrong on Doctor Who?  I'm paid to praise him, not bury him. 

That’s generally a minor nitpick, but the fact that they kept having to travel back and forth across expanses of space (which apparently has breathable atmosphere which is always at room temperature) really drew attention to the pretty but sometimes not well-blended CGI.

I already explained that I'm not bothered by a Doctor Who story not having an actual plot (which I don't think I've mentioned in this review.  Funny, huh?).  However, even I question the logic of traveling through space with no means of breathing.  Still, mine is not to question why, mine is but to praise and die. 

Something else that I didn’t really care for were the “evil” creatures. Sure, they looked amazing. Seriously, the designers outdid themselves.

Yes, the sets/costumes/make-up was good.  Broken clock.

No, I’m talking about how they were used narratively.

Again, odd since I don't really mind a story not having a plot. 

So, the Vigil are tasked with feeding the Queen of Years to the Grandfather if she decides she doesn’t want to be sacrificed; fine. I loved that they used sound to attack; that was great.

Worked great in driving Noriega out of Panama too.

The mummy in the glass box is not the elder god itself but is the alarm clock which awakens the god, which happens to be the sun around which the titular rings orbit. What’s the point of the alarm clock in the first place other than for us to think it’s the god?

To hit the snooze button?

If all the songs and everything are meant to keep the alarm clock asleep so that it can’t wake up the god, then why didn’t the people just kill the damn alarm clock while it was asleep?

Why ask why?

Did everyone think the thing in the box was the god? If so, then what did they think happened to the Queen of Years each time she got taken to the pyramid? Are the Vigil feeding her to the god or the alarm clock? And why would a god, even just a parasitic one, need a bipedal mummified creature that ALSO hibernates all the time to wake it up? That’s a very strange symbiotic relationship. What does the mummy get out of it besides a lifetime supply of lullabies to listen to from inside its cozy, see-thru box? It just didn’t make sense, really.

It's not suppose to make sense.  It's BRITISH!  Dear Heavens to Betsy, Kyle.  Why are you suddenly hung up on plot points that most of us questioned?  You haven't been before.  In fact, sometimes the lack of a plot is in your view, a good thing.  Why bother to complain now?! 

Also, “Cozy, See-Thru Box” is the name of my third album.

Nothing like a good joke to take the edge of the closest he'll get to actual criticism, analytical critic's mind be damned.

However, the episode wasn’t about the Vigil or the mummy or even the god itself;

If it wasn't, then a.) what was the point of your mini-tirade, and b.) what was the point of the episode itself?

it was about parents and what they mean to us when we’re scared.

it was about the Companion and how IMPORTANT she is. 

The Doctor actually mentions in this that he had a granddaughter, not just making weird allusions to the fact that he had a family at one point. This is juxtaposed with the sun god, which is also called “Grandfather.” Stories are to be passed on from the old to the young, but in the case of the god, he needs stories from the young to keep him alive. He’s a bad grandpa.



The Doctor learns about Clara’s past, which, we learn, colors the way she deals with the situation at hand.

The Doctor stalks Clara from even before she was born, which we learn, is a quick way to get sentimentality into Doctor Who.  Also, isn't curious that last week, Kyle was happy to see we were getting a Companion who was a clean slate and we didn't know anything about her family.  Now, ONE episode later, we learn All About Clara, right to how her parents met. 

Lessons she was taught help her face her fears and all that.

One lesson she apparently never learned: don't talk to idiots in bow ties.  Now, someone remind me: at one point in her childhood she did literally meet the Doctor, yet she has no memory of this?  Granted my own memory of The Rings of Akhaten is a little vague, but am I wrong in my recollection? 

She also learns a bit about the Doctor’s past and who he is, and what traveling with him will be like. Clara’s final speech, about being her own person and not the shadow of a ghost, is a wonderful little moment that lets the Doctor (and the audience) know that she’s more than a mystery.



She has to be. As much as I liked her, I don’t think Amy ever really was.

My, my, aren't WE mercurial.  In The Snowmen, you praised Moffat for coming up with a Companion "even more mysterious than Amelia Pond".  Now, you say Amy wasn't all that mysterious.  Yes, I agree with you there: Amy wasn't all that mysterious (just a mean girl who pushed her wimpy husband around to where she called him "Mr. Pond" to his face and he just said, 'Thank you may I have another?').  However, Clara is boring.  Pretty, yes, but unlike Kyle Anderson, I require more than a pretty face.   

Despite those few misgivings, I really, really liked “The Rings of Akhaten.”

 
SHOCKED that Kyle Anderson liked a
Doctor Who episode!

 

I hope the rest of Series 7 continues the way the previous seven episodes have.

I hope the rest of Series 7 makes sense.

I’ve always said Series 5 is my favorite New Who series, but at this rate, 7 will have it beat by a mile, even with “A Town Called Mercy” in there.

No surprise, given you've given positive 4-star reviews to 6 out of 7 stories (counting this one).  As for A Town Called Mercy, I think you have a quota of one negative review per season, and that one was the one chosen.   Let's go over a few things before we wrap up this little retro:

You didn't mention much if any of the actual plot (which isn't a big deal to you).
You mentioned oddities (like breathing in space) but pretty much papered over that.
You declared someone to be the perfect Companion after appearing in a total of four episodes (two if you don't count her dead and dead again shtick from Asylum of the Daleks and The Snowmen). 

Remind me, these ARE the actions of one with an 'analytical critic's mind', right?
  
Next week, it’s the one we’ve all been waiting for: “Cold War,” written by Mark Gatiss and directed by Douglas Mackinnon, the one that sees the return of the Ice Warriors, this time on a 1980s nuclear submarine, and even features Game of Thrones’ Liam Cunningham. I am excite!

Next week, it's the one we've all been dreading: "Cold War", written by my boss, Mark Gatiss, the one that sees the return of the Ice Warriors (which may suffer the same fate as previous Classic Doctor Who monsters), and even features someone from another geek-centric show.

I am not excite!

I am not even EXCITED!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Aragon vs. Anderson: The Bells of Saint John



Now that I have a few minutes free, I thought I'd go back to one of my great passions...bashing The Whorist (or as it's generally known, The Nerdist), in particular their Doctor Who reviews by one Kyle Anderson.

Mr. Anderson (now doesn't that sound sinister) in my view, has rarely if ever met a Doctor Who post-Rose story that he hasn't loved.  I don't mean liked.  I mean L-O-V-E-D, to where that particular episode is the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time...until the next episode when THAT becomes the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time.  It's gotten to be almost a point of parody to see how Anderson rarely finds fault with a Doctor Who episode.  I don't mean just to nitpick on a few things.  I mean give a bona-fide negative review.  Even I, someone who has been vociferous in my condemnation for many NuWho episodes, do admit when I see a good one (like Flatline or Mummy on the Orient Express).  Anderson, however, will almost always find something to wax rhapsodic about, even on something as atrocious as In the Forest of the Night

I was intrigued by this, so a little research was required.  I went as far back as I could regarding Anderson's Doctor Who reviews, and the earliest one I could find was the Series/Season Six opener, The Impossible Astronaut.  What I've done is taken Kyle Anderson's review verbatim, and offered my own 'translation' to the text to see what Anderson is, in my view, really saying.  I also throw in my own thoughts as to what is being said.

I hope this will be a fun and informative journey into the strange mind of the Functioning Nerd.

I present Part 20 of The Nerdist as Whore: The Bells of Saint John.  My 'translations' are in red.


 

Hooray! It’s back!
 
Oh, God!  It's back!
 
Doctor Who has returned to our various screen-types and has delivered an episode that looks so phenomenal it almost doesn’t look like it belongs on Doctor Who.
 
Doctor Who has returned to our various screen-types and has delivered an episode that looks so appalling it shouldn't bear the name of Doctor Who.
 
“The Bells of Saint John” introduced Clara Oswald Proper (Jenna-Louise Coleman) in a story that was supremely modern in both its storytelling and presentation.
 
"The Bells of Saint John" introduced another cookie-cutter Companion (a feisty 21st Century pretty London-centric girl, making this the fourth London-centric company and fourth pretty girl, Karen Gillan's Scottish lass being the exception in the former, Catherine Tate the exception in the latter).  She was introduced in a story that was supremely modern in that it was rushed, idiotic, and appealing to those who haven't got a brain cell to their name. 
 
It also features some of the best Doctor-companion repartee in quite a long time. The Ponds were fun,

Someone refresh my memory.  In what episode did we meet Amy's parents?  Is it even worth bothering to point out that Amy and Rory were never "the Ponds"?  Granted, Rory was such a wimp he could have changed his last name to hers, but since that never happened, who are these "Ponds" Anderson & Company keep babbling on about?

but Clara’s ability to banter is unmatched. Let’s dive right in!

but Clara's ability to talk fast is unmatched.  Let's get through another Doctor Who horror!

Steven Moffat is known for making the everyday threatening.

Steven Moffat is know for destroying Doctor Who in his efforts to remake it in his image.

This time, he’s done it with something that surrounds everybody all the time, whether they like it or not: Wi-Fi. It’s everywhere and we can do nothing about it, so what if it was hostile?

Skynet would like a word with you.

What if it had control of us all?

Internet controlling people?  What rubbish!

What if it had these weird camouflaged servers with empty, hollow heads? Creepy-ass, right?

Weird camouflaged servers with empty, hollow heads?  You must be so proud, Kyle.  Steven Moffat finally wrote a story about you.  Kiss-ass, right?

As far as a villain goes, the Spoonheads and the corporate people who control them are fairly pedestrian, but the threat is very compelling.



As far as villains go, The Spoonheads were too dumb even for me, but I have to find something positive to say in another of my fluff pieces. 

And when, at the end of the episode, we find out they’re being controlled by the Richard E. Great Intelligence, it gives me a great deal of hope that he (and it) are going to play a much larger role in this season’s activities.

"Richard E. Great Intelligence"?  Looks like someone is in need of a 'Grant'.  I've got a message for you Kyle: don't get your hopes up.

Hooray for references to 1960s, and specifically Patrick Troughton, stories.

Which most NuWhovians have never seen or care about.

There’s probably going to be a lot of that this year.

 

The direction of this episode is nothing short of gorgeous.

Why do I get the sense Anderson confuses 'directing' with 'cinematography'?

This is Colm McCarthy’s first foray into the world of Doctor Who, and he’s not slated to direct any more this year.

This is Colm McCarthy's first foray into the world of Doctor Who, and he's not slated to be burdened by the horror the show's devolved into any more this year.

However, he’s directed episodes of very London-centric shows like MI-5 and Hunter, so he’s one of the best people for directing an episode that so perfectly utilizes the city’s sites and geography.



I LOVED Hunter growing up.  Oh, what, that's not the Hunter he's referring to?  Oh, well then, screw that!

I just went to London last autumn and saw all of the locations shown. It’s exactly like that.

I just went to London last autumn...and you didn't.  I have more money than you do.  I get paid to lick Steven Moffat's boots and Mark Gatiss' ass.  Ain't my life grand?  Sucks to be you, suckers!

And for the record, I, Rick Aragon, HAVE been to London, so stuff it, Anderson.

The throwaway joke about Earl’s Court, when the baddies are looking for the TARDIS, was quite funny. (There’s a real police box outside the tube station there… I took a picture by it.)

Did I mention I get paid to travel and promote crap like The Bells of Saint John?  All you guys can do is look at pictures.

Moffat’s other show, Sherlock, uses London exceedingly well, and I never imagined Doctor Who would feel so… REAL.

I really want Wholock, that long-dreamt crossover between Doctor Who and Sherlock, which would TOTALLY make sense and is as logical as an anti-gravity motorbike riding up on the outside of a building.  I yearn for the day the TARDIS lands in front of 221 B Baker Street because I'm pretty dippy.  After all, you can't imagine the TARDIS landing in front of the brownstone on CBS' Elementary.  That would be so illogical, if not downright stupid. Wholock on the other hand...now that's ICONIC television.  Oh, and if we can get the Winchester Brothers to pop up, oh....SUPERWHOLOCK!  I'm so geeking out!!!
This gives me hope for what an eventual feature film COULD look like.

If The Bells of Saint John is what a Doctor Who movie would look like, I should go and apologize to the ghost of Peter Cushing, because Doctor Who and the Daleks now looks like Forbidden Planet compared to this.

The real story here is the relationship between Clara and the Doctor. Coleman and Smith have chemistry to spare.

I've never been so sexually aroused by anyone as I am by Jenna-Louise Coleman.  Jenna-Louise Anderson.  Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

It was more volatile in “The Snowmen,” but here it’s no less engaging or fun to watch. Seeing the Doctor really care about looking out for Clara and attempting to save her (finally) is wonderful.

It's nice to see that the Companion doesn't die for a change, so maybe third time really is the charm.

Smith never fails to surprise me with how he plays the Eleventh Doctor.

Smith never fails to appall me with how he plays the Eleventh Doctor.

It’s maybe the most varied and nuanced of all the Doctors ever.



He goes from silly to serious so effortlessly.




I love that Clara doesn’t fall for the Doctor’s usual lines and isn’t afraid to call him on his BS. In a series populated by tough chicks, it’s nice to see one who actually IS tough and not just made to look that way.

In a series populated by hot chicks (and Catherine Tate), it's nice to see one who actually is so hot that she doesn't have to be made to look that way.  God, Coleman's so smoking-hot...

The mystery behind Clara is nowhere near close to being resolved, which I love.

The mystery behind Clara is nowhere near close to being interesting, but I love the fact we're going to get yet ANOTHER Companion-centered story arc.  We just got past The Girl Who Waited, we endured The Death and Transfiguration of River Song aka Moldy Pond, and now we're getting The Impossible Girl.  Another mystery involving a Companion.  I LOVE these endless repetitive plotlines.  I just love kissing Steven Moffat's ass.  Hell, I don't just love it, I LIVE it!

We hear, possibly, the origin of the name “Oswin” and we see her do things that each of her previous “versions” have done (look after children and be very good at computers).

Oh, will we get a mention of the "Oswin" bit again?  Don't remember if we will, or will it kind of fall by the wayside as time goes by. 

I was initially concerned about having another companion who is mysterious and with a complicated past, but it’s different enough, and the character is certainly different enough, that it’s not a distraction nor does it feel like a retread.

I thought we were going to get a repetition of what we've gotten before, but I really don't care so long as Jenna-Louise Coleman is in it.  So what if it's a retread? 

Clara is the only companion thus far in the new series with a completely clean slate, seemingly no relations, and definitely nothing going on for her beyond wanting to travel. I’m really looking forward to where she goes this year.

Clara is the only companion thus far in the new series who isn't saddled with a family that we have to get involved with and have to revisit every other episode (unlike Rose, Martha, Donna, Amy).  I'm hoping it stays that way.  However, by the end of her run I'm sure we'll get a particularly embarrassing episode where we DO get into her family and its past. 

The more I think about this episode, the less I feel I have to say,

The more I think about this episode, the less I like it or can defend it so I won't say anything about it.

but the more I think I enjoyed watching it.

I'm easily pleased...or paid off.

It’s not got a very complicated plot,

There's no plot, but I am on record saying that a story not necessarily having a plot is a bad thing.  Besides, if I gave an actual plot summary (which note that I didn't) you'd laugh your head off at the idiocy of it all.

it’s not a huge mystery, it doesn’t have very engaging villains or monsters, but it does have a huge amount of character and it’s never boring or dumb.
 
The mystery of The Bells of Saint John is silly, the villains and monsters are embarrassing, and it really has nothing to recommend it.  You can't imagine how hard I worked to make this garbage palatable.  By my own admission the plot's weak, the mystery small, has no engaging villains or monsters.  It does have Jenna-Louise Coleman, who is the star of my sexual fantasies. 


As for this being 'never boring or dumb', The Doctor rode UP on the OUTSIDE of a building on a MOTORBIKE!  Seriously dude, you don't think that was dumb at ALL?!?  The villains were called The Spoonheads.  Seriously dude, you don't think that was dumb at ALL?!?  The inside jokes about skipping to "Chapter 11" which will make you cry wasn't dumb?
 
It’s just a really good episode, a decent story with exceptional dialogue, direction, and performances.

It's just a really horrendous episode, a dreadful story with idiotic dialogue, passable direction, and hit-and-miss performances.

There’s a reference to Amy (the book the son is reading is written by Amelia Williams),

Whoever this "Amelia Williams" is...

a small reference to UNIT, which you know I love, and there’s a small setup for what will probably be the main baddie for the rest of the series.

I like UNIT, even if it plays virtually no part in NuWho (apart from Kate "I'm Not Just the Brigadier's Daughter But Don't Forget I'm the Brigadier's Daughter" Stewart), and we're getting a thread that the Great Intelligence will be popping up throughout the series/season, like Madame Kovarian, like Bad Wolf, like the crack in time.  We got this year's running thread...but again, does the Great Intelligence really play a large part this season?  Can't remember.

One thing that may (and I’m sure will) come back into play is this mysterious woman from the shop who gave Clara the Doctor’s number that rang the eponymous “Bells of Saint John.” Might be River, might be Amy, might be Clara herself from the future, might be someone totally different; it’ll be interesting to see who.


Well, in a way, it is...and isn't...a woman, if you can believe that.  I can bet you it's someone you wouldn't think was possible this season, but we'll have to wait till next season to come up with a twist so out-of-control I'm sure you'll wet yourself and call 'genius', logic be damned.

So, to sum up: very good episode, would watch again, +++++.

SHOCKED that Kyle Anderson liked a
Doctor Who episode!
Sorry to interrupt Kyle, but tell me, what was this episode about? 

Next week, we have “The Rings of Akhaten,” written by Neil Cross and directed by Farren Blackburn, both of Luther fame. Looks pretty weird and definitely very alien, which was rather lacking in Series 7a. Until then!

OMG...we're going to get a Doctor Who episode that actually takes place somewhere other than Earth?!  I think this will be the first time since I don't know...maybe sometime when the show was in black-and-white.  You know, one of those 'lost episodes' or whatever.