Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Aragon vs. Anderson: The Power of Three


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 15 of The Nerdist as Whore: The Power of Three.  My 'translations' are in red.



Somebody needs to remind Chris Chibnall that he’s supposed to write the Doctor Who episodes people don’t really like.

Ooh, ooh, LET ME!  LET ME!

He’s written two of the last four stories and I’ve really enjoyed them both. What is that about?

Well, will you look at that?  Kyle Anderson is back at sucking...up to Doctor Who again.  You get the sense this will be another positive review?  How many do we have so far? 

With both of his Series 7A episodes, “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” and “The Power of Three,” he’s given us possibly the strongest outings for Amy and Rory we’ve seen since, probably, “The Girl Who Waited” or “The God Complex.”


I know it's too soon to break out The Laugh, but come on: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship as one of the 'strongest outings'?  Comparing something to The God Complex as a compliment?  Who wouldn't laugh at such blanket stupidity?

A while is what I’m saying. With “The Power of Three,” Chibnall’s explored what it’s like to be a companion who doesn’t necessarily want to give up their regular life and the effect that has on both them and the Doctor. He also seems dead set on referencing the Pertwee era as much as possible, which is perfectly fine with me.

Pertwee would 'talk horse'?  Never knew that...

The Ponds have two lives: Doctor Life, and Regular Life.

I thought Amy's parents were dead.  Who are these 'Ponds' he keeps talking about?  Rory's last name isn't Pond, it's...oh, Hell, it doesn't matter. 

They aren’t ready to give either up entirely, and in fact they’re slowly leaning toward just living quiet, day-to-day, normal life.

Which is odd since the Doctor dumped them at the end of The God Complex and they appeared to live out their lives pretty easily from Closing Time down to Asylum of the Daleks (down to celebrating Christmas when the Doctor popped in at the end of The Doctor The Widow and The Wardrobe).  You'd think they would have had some time to adjust to living private lives (they managed to have a generally quiet Christmas one year). 

One day, the cubes showed up.

One day, the rubes showed up.

These cubes are small, black, and seemingly inert.

The rubes are small-brained, multicolored, and at least mentally if not physically inert.

Amy’s voiceover tells us it’s the year of the slow invasion. The Doctor, as you probably noticed, hates slow.

Well, he wasn't too picky during The War Games.  However, given the Eleventh Doctor has the attention span of a five-year-old, I won't belabor the point. 

UNIT arrives, led by scientist Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave), and they’ve got nothing to go on either.

But enough about the scripts...

The Doctor tells everyone to pay close attention to the cubes, and no one heeds this instruction more than Rory’s father, Brian Williams (played again by Mark Williams).

Sorry to interrupt, but, what exactly would make you think they'd get another actor to play Brian Pond.  Expecting a Darryl/Darryl Bewitched situation?

For about a year, nothing happens with them.

Reflecting Series Six of NuWho.

Rory and Amy make commitments that require them to be in one place for an extended period of time. The Doctor arrives to take them on a seven-week vacation on their anniversary party, and Brian is concerned.

Seven-week vacation?  What are they: French?

Eventually, the cubes begin to do things and the nature of the plan is revealed. But what does this mean for the Doctor and his two conflicted companions?

Curious that Kyle doesn't touch on the actual plan of the cubes, or how it all ended.  Curious that, innit?

There’s a whole lot to like about this episode, not least of which are the performances of the three leads.

There's a whole lot to hate about this episode, not least of which are the performances of the three leads.

As I said during “Dinosaurs,” it’s terrific to see them working as a team so well, which makes perfect sense if, as Amy says, they’ve been traveling with the Doctor on and off for the better part of a decade.

No, no.  It only feels like they've been there for a decade. 

Part of what I love about the Eleventh Doctor is that his life isn’t linear, the way the Ninth and Tenth Doctor’s were.

Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey strikes again!  And this is similar to the Pertwee Era exactly how?

Each new series only added one year to the Doctor’s age,

...as in real life...

but here, with the way Smith’s Doctor pops in and out as he likes, we know that he has countless adventures on his own, with the Ponds, or with other people entirely, that we won’t get to see.

And for which we Whovians are eternally thankful for.  Again, why does the Doctor insist on travelling with Amy's parents? Doesn't seem fair to leave little Amelia out of adventures as he travels with The Ponds, since, you know, her last name is Williams, same as her husband's. 

I loved the scene where the Doctor and Amy sit on the wall and discuss the nature of their traveling. You get the real sense of how deeply they care for each other; they are absolutely best friends.

"Amy, you're my best friend".

We’ve always known Amy’s feelings toward the Doctor,

She tried to rape him...on the eve of her wedding to "Mr. Pond".

given how long her life has been intertwined with him, but the Doctor finally reciprocates; hers is the first face this face saw.

Well, it DOES beat his previous reactions to seeing
other Companions for the first time...

A great line and a great sentiment. Amy has been the longest-running consecutive companion of the new series, and Rory’s not far behind.

Makes me wish Scotland DID vote itself out of the Union.

Mark Williams again brings something very interesting to the role of Rory’s dad. He’s certainly not dumb; the way he quickly rattles off possible (though wrong) explanations for what the cubes might be doing proves that he can think critically, but the sort of adorably simple things he does means that he looks at the world a little differently.

He's dumb.

From sitting in the TARDIS for four straight days just because the Doctor said to, to making daily video diaries (“Brian’s Log”) about the nothing happening with the cube, to the strange and hilarious moment when Rory finds him in the hospital, apparently contemplating an IV bag, Brian is a weird and fun character and I’m glad he’s been introduced this series, even if it’s at the end of Amy and Rory’s time.

At least we know where Rory Pond gets it from: his dad, Brian Pond.  Brian's last name IS 'Pond', right, Kyle?

Also worth noting that Brian is the one who insists his son and daughter-in-law go off with the Doctor again.

Even after being told by the Doctor that some Companions have died.  Way to go, Dad! 

If the next episode is as sad as Steven Moffat has promised, then it’s this moment, when he essentially gives them permission to go along, that will prove to be the most tragic.

Expect to cry at the next episode, because crying was the hallmark of the Pertwee Era.  We all just sobbed our eyes out at the end of The Daemons, didn't we? 
 
It’s very easy to say that this episode harkens back to the kinds of stories from Russell T. Davies’ tenure, having it set on Earth and featuring not only companions’ friends and family but also a worldwide invasion and news snippets.

It's very easy to say that this episode harkens back to the kinds of stories from Russell T Davies' tenure, having it set on Earth and featuring not only Companions' friends and family but also a worldwide invasion and news snippets.  It's very easy to say that...because that's essentially what it is.

I think, though, this has more to do with Chibnall’s inherent love of the early 70s. Chris Chibnall and I share a love for the Third Doctor’s era.


STAY BACK! STAY BACK!  GET AWAY FROM ME, ANDERSON AND CHIBNALL!



Oh, come on.  YOU love the Third Doctor's era?!  Even YOU can't believe that!

He wrote the Silurian two-parter in Series 5, which was essentially an amalgam of several elements from Pertwee’s first two seasons. With this story, we see a return to modern day (or possibly slightly in the future), and we see the Doctor working again with UNIT, the military investigation branch Pertwee worked with almost his five seasons. We learn that Kate Stewart is the daughter of the late Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.

We also learn that she won't shut up about it.  We also learn that Kate Stewart constantly whines about not being thought of as "The Brigadier's Daughter" but keeps mentioning that she's "The Brigadier's Daughter" to remind people of her importance.  That might make for an interesting drinking game: take a shot whenever Kate Stewart brings up Daddy Dearest, two whenever she insist no one mention she's Daddy's Wittle Girl. 

It’s stuff like this that I really find fascinating, especially in light of the fast-approaching 50th Anniversary. The show has always been about legacy,

And Moffat has been about destroying said legacy.

and this episode highlights that exceedingly well, alhough the fact that UNIT still remembers the Doctor when even the Daleks do not is a bit strange.

What's this?  Continuity error?  On NuWho?  PERISH THE THOUGHT!

Perhaps it’ll be explained. It doesn’t need to be, though.
Because Kyle Anderson is a hopeless whore and NuWhovians defy logic...literally.  They think Doctor Who shouldn't make sense.  Something about it being British. 

The plot itself was a bit secondary, but that, I think, is the point.

That is the Official Motto of NuWho: The Plot Is Secondary, and That's the Point.

The threat takes a whole year to manifest, something the Doctor is neither accustomed to nor prepared to deal with.

"The threat takes a whole year to manifest".  Is Kyle talking about Steven Moffat's writing and producing?

There’s enough there to keep us interested, and it’s pretty satisfactorily handled.

A bunch of people staring at essentially nothing.  I think I've seen this before...


For the record, this might actually be funnier than The Laugh.  These guys are morons.  At least Kyle Anderson gets paid to push this drivel.  These people have no excuse for their idiocy.  All these twits can do is cry their eyes out at a regeneration (when they should have seen three already if they started at Rose) and think all this makes sense. 

I don’t really understand why the evil twin nurses have geometric faces, but there we have it.

Do we really need to 'understand' something Doctor Who-related?  It IS British, after all, and thus immune from such things as logic.  It also has Steven Moffat as head writer and showrunner, so things like logic and quality are pretty much out the window.

The “villain,” though only a hologram of the other-dimensional Shakri, gained a lot of points by being played by writer/director/actor, and former Bond villain, Steven Berkoff. I love the star supporting cast this series, especially because they’re all cast perfectly.

Never mind the Shakri were irrelevant, or their plan a bit, well, curious.  We got General Orlov from Octopussy!  Now, I liked Octopussy, though I can't say that some of his other work, like Under the Cherry Moon or Strippers vs. Werewolves is up there in quality or that they will lend themselves to a Kennedy Center Honor (although that honor has sunk pretty low in recent years).  At least have the decency to tell us WHICH Bond villain he played. 

Actually, if you think on it, Orlov wasn't the main Bond villain in Octopussy.  That was Kamal Khan, played by the late Louis Jourdan.  Orlov was a secondary Bond villain, hovering between villain and henchman.  I question the declaration of Berkoff being a 'Bond villain'.  He's killed off before we get the big finale.   

Though limited, The Mill’s CG work with the blocks and especially the Shakri ship is gorgeous.

It was pretty, I guess.  I really have no opinion on that, at least nothing that I'll go to bat for.

It really helped bring everything together nicely.

It really helped bring the coda to yet another disaster of an episode which Anderson will hopelessly cheerlead.

The directing duties fell to Douglas Mackinnon, whose only other Who credit is directing the Series 4 Sontaran two-parter, which was also set almost entirely on Earth. His direction here is a lot better than in the earlier episodes and, once again, Michael Pickwoad’s production design adds heaps of atmosphere and believability to anything he touches.

I'm going to find anything to praise because I want Steven Moffat and my boss, Chris Hardwick, to see what a good sycophant I can be.

A couple of things I didn’t like: 1) The narration, especially at the end. It was very hokey and obvious;

Yes, I hate voice-over myself too.  It sometimes works (Double Indemnity, Blade Runner, Sunset Boulevard) but by and large it fails and is an easy way to explain things. 

and, 2) The scene where Amy has to defibrillate the Doctor’s second heart. I liked the idea behind it, but it was very convenient that there was a crash cart mere feet from where they are (which is also mere feet from where the “little girl” was). Chibnall is all about convenience.

NO!

In the same scene, I think Smith goes a little too over-the-top with his joyous “Welcome back, Lefty,” jig. There’s a level of silliness I’ve grown to expect and appreciate with Smitty’s performance, but if ever it goes too far, there’s a steep drop-off.

Come now: when hasn't Smitty been silly in his Doctor Who performances?  Oh, right, Matt Smith is reminiscent of Jon Pertwee's take on the Doctor, right?  In fairness, when even Kyle Anderson thinks Matt Smith goes over-the-top, can you imagine what we not blessed with an 'analytical critic's mind' thought?

That’s really it, though. Overall, I absolutely loved this.



SHOCKED that Kyle Anderson liked a
Doctor Who episode!

So far, even given my dislike of the way the story unfolded in last week’s “A Town Called Mercy,” I think this series is the most consistent in quality that we’ve had in quite a while.


Obviously, with such episodes as Asylum of the Daleks, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, A Town Called Mercy, and The Power of Three, we can see how they are this generation's Spearhead From Space, Doctor Who & The Silurians, The Ambassadors of Death, and Inferno.   

The parallel is exact. 

SHOCKED that Kyle Anderson thinks the newest
Doctor Who season is brilliant!

Even Series 5, which is still my favorite of the new series, had a couple stinkers early on, but Series 7A so far has a 3.5 out of 4.


Series 5, which is his favorite of the new series, has Victory of the Daleks, an episode Anderson himself derides as Victory of the Crap.  And that's his favorite season.  OK, so he said it had a couple of stinkers, but if Anderson really thinks Asylum of the Daleks, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, and The Power of Three are all 4 out of 4 (with A Town Called Mercy being the 3.5), then Kyle Anderson is not crazy or pathetic.

He's flat-out stupid.

And he said something about his analytical critic's mind?  What do you think of all this, Vinnie?



Any thoughts, Captain Renault?

SHOCKED that Kyle Anderson gave a 
Doctor Who episode a positive review!

I hope next week’s mid-series finale, “The Angels Take Manhattan,” can keep it up. From the looks of the trailer, we’re in for some scary-ass, sad-ass, exciting-ass television. Cannot wait.

From the looks of it, we're in for some kiss-ass, head-up-his-ass, ass-brained reviewing.  Cannot endure.



Sunday, June 28, 2015

Aragon vs. Anderson: A Town Called Mercy




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 14 of The Nerdist as Whore: A Town Called Mercy.  My 'translations' are in red.



It has been said elsewhere that the TARDIS is not simply a time and space machine; it is also a genre machine: Step out of its familiar blue doors and enter any kind of story the writer’s mind can concoct.

Given the recent spate of NuWho writers, one shudders at what will happen next.

With “Asylum of the Daleks,” we had horror; with “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship,” we had comedy; and now with “A Town Called Mercy,” we have, ostensibly, a Western. Sort of.

With "Asylum of the Daleks," we had a horrible episode; with "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship," we had an embarrassment; and now with "A Town Called Mercy," we have, ostensibly, a clichéd Western. 

In the entire nearly-50 year history of the show, there has only been one other attempt at the Western, the First Doctor story “The Gunfighter,” a serial that was mostly a comedy despite the OK Corral setting and quite a well-shot gunfight to go with it.

Maybe I shouldn't quibble on the fact that the First Doctor story has been given the overarching title The Gunfighters (plural), not The Gunfighter (singular) as Anderson maintains.  I'm sure it was a typo (and we've all had them).  The Gunfighters (plural) was the last Classic Doctor Who story to have individual titles for episodes, and the next story, the now-lost four-parter The Savages, began the tradition of having "Episode 1", etc. for the rest of the series' original run.  I suppose it was comic, but by goodness was The Gunfighters a dreadful Doctor Who story.  If I'm honest, A Town Called Mercy is actually BETTER than The Gunfighters, especially with that damn Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon playing an average of once every three minutes!  The song was played or heard 34 times in around two hours...a horrible ditty that would cause screaming frenzies to the hearer.  If only THIS story were lost...

It’s difficult, I’d imagine, for a show as supremely British as Doctor Who to tackle something as supremely American (or Italian) as the Western. “A Town Called Mercy” has all the physical trappings that one would immediately point to as belonging to the Cowboy movie, but there was something strangely missing, something that WAS present in “Dinosaurs.”

For all the sets and costumes and settings, this is the second time Doctor Who bombs with a Western setting.  Maybe they should leave those to The Duke, not The Doctor. 

Landing in the middle of nowhere in the 1880s, the Doctor, Amy, and Rory come across a town called Mercy (get it?!?)

Yes, I thought it was pretty stupid too.

which is surrounded by rocks and logs creating a perimeter. Upon entering the saloon and pronouncing himself, the townsfolk run him out as a mysterious cyborg called “The Gunslinger” teleports ever-closer.

Obviously, the citizens of Mercy are Classic Who fans who can no longer endure Matt Smith.

The town’s marshal, Isaac (guest star Ben Browder), saves the Doctor and takes them all to his office, where he’s introduced to the OTHER Doctor, Kahler Jex, the town’s benevolent physician who is being pursued by the Gunslinger. Taking a visit to Jex’s spaceship (which was not in the plan), the Doctor discovers that Jex and others were responsible for genetically-engineering their own people to be the perfect weapons, which ended the Kahler’s 9-year war in a week. Knowing Kahler to be a war criminal that has perpetuated hundreds of atrocities, the Doctor decides to push him out of the town for the Gunslinger to kill. The Doctor claims that he won’t let more people die because of his “mercy,” the same mercy he’s shown to the Daleks, the Master, and many others time and time again.

Oh sure, he has no problem letting the Master live, the Daleks live, all these villains he's been fighting all these years, but now all of a sudden he's going to throw the guy who saved Mercy from cholera to the Terminator...I mean, Gunslinger. 

The real conflict of the episode exists within the Doctor. He can’t wrap his brain around Jex being both a butcher and a savior, and it’s his own inner turmoil about having done the same thing during the Time War (though it’s never spoken out loud) that makes him react the way he does.

TIME WAR?  WHAT "TIME WAR"?

After Isaac is killed (he should have been in it much longer)

Agreed.

by the Gunslinger, accidentally of course,

Of course.

the Doctor becomes the marshal and must find a way to save Jex without the entirety of Mercy being slaughtered by the Gunslinger in the process.

I guess that answers the age-old question, "Who died and made you Marshal?"

Now, as I said, on the surface, this is a Western in the traditional sense; it takes place in a totally deserted small town; there is a town lawman who is the moral authority of the place; there’s horses and guns and Stetsons; and there’s even a showdown at High Noon.

We've got all the accoutrements of what a Western is supposed to look like, right down to a showdown at High Noon.  Talk about cliché overload!  He forgot to mention the shady ladies, which I figure given the town was essentially on lockdown would have come in handy in Mercy. 

Shooting the episode in Almeria, Spain, in one of the very standing towns built for Sergio Leone’s Italian Westerns of the ’60s (not to mention a few dozen thereafter) added an air of legitimacy to the look and the visual style of the episode.

It certainly made a lot more sense than when John Nathan-Turner sent the crew to Seville to shoot The Two Doctors despite there being no point to the setting...or the story really, but I digress.

They even got a genuine American in the form of Browder, someone with sufficient geek cred to boot, to be the marshal.

I guess...not having seen Browder in anything, I am not in a position to 'geek out' at a guest appearance.  I had to look who he was up, and yes, I've never seen either Farscape or Stargate SG-1.  I can say that Browder's Marshal would have made a better Companion than Amy and What's-His-Name, but like The God Complex's Rita and both Riddell and Nefertiti from Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, good Companion material is tossed in favor of The Bitch and The Wimp.  NuWho is too terrified to have a Companion a.) from Earth's past, b.) from Earth's future, and/or c.) not from Earth.  Instead, we're stuck with 21-Century foxes...

They certainly did everything they could to make us all think we were watching a real, honest-to-goodness Horse Opera.

Complete with Talking Horses (in a roundabout way)!

But, Toby Whithouse’s script lacked the most important element: a bad guy. Seems easy, doesn’t it? And they certainly had a character who LOOKED like the bad guy, but he wasn’t.

 
 
LOOK!  I FOUND A BAD GUY! 
 
I absolutely love Westerns, so please forgive me this brief history.

Allow me to show off, because you, Nerdist readers, are either too stupid or ignorant of Westerns to understand the subtleties of the genre.  Also, I have to lengthen the review while not mentioning all the awful things about it.  

Hollywood Westerns generally had a good guy, a “White Hat,” who was often a sheriff or a marshal and they and possibly a few deputies or other helpers defended their town from the “Black Hats,” or bad guys. You’ll find this in movies like Rio Bravo or My Darling Clementine. In the case of something like High Noon, which at least partly inspired this episode, the sheriff is on his own as the town has essentially turned its back on him, but he still defends them. In all of these films, the key is that the good guy is defending the town and its people from bad guys who want to do bad things.

The other variation is an heroic stranger who comes through town and, though perhaps he doesn’t want to, he defends the town out of nothing but duty. The best example of this is Shane. With Spaghetti Westerns (or Westerns made by Italian filmmakers for Italian/Spanish/West German audiences), the tropes became a lot more cynical. The “White Hat” didn’t wear a white hat and wasn’t overly good, usually helping people out of his own desire for money, which is the case in movies like A Fistful of Dollars and Django. The “Black Hats,” however, couldn’t have been more evil, often committing really horrifying and violent acts with a delight that caused many of these films to be censored in a lot of places, especially the UK.



Oh, Robert Osborne, where art thou?

I give you this context so that I may make this point: All of these Westerns have a very clear, discernible, and reprehensible villain.


DO THEY NOW?
ALL Westerns, Mr. Anderson?

In this, there are two possible villains, each with a point of view that is, if not condonable, at least understandable. It went along okay for a bit; the Gunslinger was scary and seemingly unstoppable and the nice alien doctor was the innocent victim of his unexplained wrath. Then, we find out that Jex has done inhumane and deadly experiments in an effort to win a war, not unlike Davros when he created the Daleks. Our sympathy then switches from the doctor to the Gunslinger. Revenge stories are one of the most powerful and prevalent in the Western genre. However, we’re meant, through the Doctor’s conversations with both Amy and Jex, to come down on the side that there are no black and whites in any situation.

Moral ambiguity.  Works in real life.  In Westerns, not so much...like in Unforgiven.

This is the problem.

Yeah, because A Town Called Mercy was EXCELLENT apart from that...

This story BADLY needed a villain.

This story BADLY needed a villain...and a hero...and good actors...and a good script...

Not just to fulfill its Western roots, but to give it some kind of tension. This type of setting needs certain constants. Either Jex or the Gunslinger had to be a true villain, and since both somewhat redeemed themselves by the end, it made everything that came before it happen in vain. I understand this is what Whithouse was going for, making us not side with anyone outright; fine, I get that. But this comes only one week after an episode that, for all its zaniness, had an unbelievably evil villain who would have been perfect in a story like this. And, if the point was that the Doctor should be above revenge or killing no matter how justified, then why show us that immediately after he allows Solomon to be taken out entirely for doing essentially the same thing that Jex did.

Oh, you want consistency in Doctor Who?  You want logic in Doctor Who?  My dear Kyle, haven't you heard...

If the Doctor’s going to learn the lesson that killing is wrong regardless of motivation, then he needed to be defending someone as bad as Solomon, not himself.

This could have, and I think should have been a Good/Bad/Ugly setup, with the Doctor representing the “Good,” Jex representing the “Bad,” and the Gunslinger representing the “Ugly.” As it stands, we had a Pretty Good/Fairly Bad/Somewhat Ugly setup and it just didn’t work.

OMG...did Kyle Anderson say something on Doctor Who didn't work?  Where art thou, Captain Renault?

Westerns, at least in the early days, were morality plays that worked because the hero had to be faced with ultimate villainy. This tried to be a morality play where everyone was basically the same. The Doctor refused to hurt anybody, Jex repented his past crimes, and the Gunslinger didn’t want innocents to be in the way. There are no stakes at this point. When nobody is doing anything at each other, it becomes a pretty boring Mexican standoff. How boring is it?

It's so boring they can only afford One God...I mean, even I fell asleep at it!

The resolution comes when one person kills themselves and is said to have done the “honorable” thing. Clearly, Toby Whithouse hasn’t seen as many Westerns as I’d have thought if he thinks someone committing suicide would ever have been seen as the high road in a John Ford film. Sacrifice? Sure, but not suicide.

Suicide as the 'honorable' thing.  Such a British mindset, innit? 

At any rate, this was my main problem with the show.

Not the 'talking horse' shit, right?  That was peachy-keen. 

It wasn’t a Western and it wasn’t an adventure; basically, it squandered the fantastic location and some more phenomenal direction by Saul Metzstein. Even Murray Gold, who I’m not the hugest fan of, got to play around with familiar themes. When the Doctor rides away on Joshua/Susan, the music cue is very reminiscent of The Magnificent Seven. It’s just kind of a shame. This was a very dull episode.

Kyle Anderson recognizing that a Doctor Who episode in general and A Town Called Mercy in particular was dull? 

 
In the words of Phineas Fogg, perhaps I should 'curtail the jubilation'.  This might be his traditional "one negative review per season" routine, and next time he'll be back to telling me how he loved that particular episode.  However, given how often he said, and I quote, "I'm quite looking forward" to A Town Called Mercy, maybe, just this once, the disappointment is genuine. 

Next week, we’re going back to Chris Chibnall already for “The Power of Three,” which I know very little about and am extremely intrigued by given the trailer. Check it out!

Thank Heavens this nightmare is over, and now on to an episode I know very little about but which I'm going to gush over ad nauseam. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Aragon vs. Anderson: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship



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 13 of The Nerdist as Whore: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.  My 'translations' are in red.




I have to confess; when I heard the title of episode two of Series 7 of Doctor Who was to be “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship,” I was a bit cautious.

I have to confess: when I heard the title of episode tow of Series 7 of Doctor Who was to be "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship," I thought what we all did: this is going to be beyond stupid.

Seemed a very silly title, the likes of which we haven’t seen in the show, save, of course, “Let’s Kill Hitler.”

Never mind the already silly title, what kind of plot could they develop out of it?

After the first teaser and even the full trailer for the episode aired, I was still a bit wary.

After the first teaser and even the full trailer for the episode aired, I was still convinced that this would be a disaster, something the show could ill afford given just how bad it's sinking (and how much further it has to sink, like the Titanic).

It just seemed ridiculous and Doctor Who isn’t, traditionally, known for pulling off broad comedy.

"Hear that, Ian? Doctor Who can't pull off comedy."
"You know Babs, there are fools who think
Kyle Anderson is an 'analytical critic'".
"Oh, Doctor, how droll..."


It needed to have something besides people just running around a spaceship after dinosaurs.

Because if Doctor Who is lacking in something, it's in running around spaceships...when aliens aren't invading Earth.  Of course, we DO get people just running around a spaceship after dinosaurs, but why bother with pesky bits of information?

Having now seen the episode, I find that there is a much firmer grounding in storytelling than I had been expecting, but it was basically just running around a spaceship. Yet, you know what? That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Having now seen the episode, I find that there is no amount of fawning I won't do for a bit of green.  So what if it was basically just running around a spaceship?  You know what?  I'd watch forty-two minutes of a test pattern and declare it the Citizen Kane of television and greater than Caves of Androzani, if Moffat told me to. 


The Doctor Who fan community doesn’t have much of a high opinion of Chris Chibnall, the writer of “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.”

The Doctor Who fan community doesn't have much of a high opinion of Kyle Anderson, the writer of sycophantic reviews of stories like "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship".

I suspect most of this is to do with his being the head writer on the first two series of Torchwood, which I know some people love, but I thought were pretty much pants, with a few exceptions.

Never having seen the adventures of Captain Jack Harkness, or the Intergalatic Nymphomaniac, and having no interest in watching said adventures, I have no opinion on Torchwood

Still, Chibnall’s work on Who has been fine if nothing special.

Chris Chibnall is just OK.

Having written “42” in Series 3 (the one where the ship is crashing into the sun with the “Burn with me” stuff) and the Silurian two-parter, “The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood,” in Series 5, I’d say his work is passable if uneven.

Again, never saw 42, but I did like Cold Blood Parts 1 & 2 (even if it was repetitive of The Silurians, which was superior in every way).  Cold Blood also featured another Death of Rory What's-His-Name, but back then, it wasn't the nonsensical farce it's turned into.  I now my liking of Cold Blood Parts 1 & 2 puts me against the grain, but unlike Kyle, I not only stand by my views but don't write something to please others. 

His strong suits are definitely premise and atmosphere, but the actual stories tend to get muddied by the end. He also wrote all five parts of the recently-aired “Pond Life,” which in total couldn’t have been more than three pages long. Based on all of this, I think “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” is actually his best work on Doctor Who to date, which I know sounds like damning with faint praise.

Given how crappy his writing has been (particularly in regards to the Pond Life bits which made Asylum of the Daleks even more idiotic), Dinosaurs on a Spaceship is his best work on Doctor Who to date, which is damning with faint praise.  It's also a sad indicator of how wretched the show has become, to think a story about 'dinosaurs on a spaceship', particularly THIS one when others could have done more with the title, is already dreadful on its own. 

He definitely threw the kitchen sink into this story, populating it not only with dinosaurs but with prissy robots, historical guests, companion family members, pirates, missiles, and his old buddies the Silurians for good measure. And let’s not forget the whole “You have six hours to do something or this whole craft will be blown out of the sky.”

Using an old writing trick, Chibnall threw in all sorts of rubbish into the story and hoped that somehow people wouldn't notice how jumbled and chaotic everything was, let alone nonsensical.  We also got another standard plot device: the 'race against time'.

I was quite surprised at how much plot and story were actually involved.

I was quite surprised at how much garbage was thrown at us.

What I think saves this from being an over-complicated jumble of ideas is that he was actually, somehow, able to give each character their moment or two to shine and give them each a purpose.

Despite his general ineptness, he managed to make something that I thought wasn't a total fiasco.  Mind you, it IS a fiasco, but it was pretty.

If Chibnall does anything well, it’s creating situations where the characters have to split up into different groups, create their own dynamics, and solve their own problems before it’s all brought back together.

That is something the show has never tried before *cough* Keys of Marinus *cough*.

Does it 100% work? No; there is just a hair too many threads (see what I did there?) and it does a bit just become a silly romp, but sometimes the show can be a silly romp. It doesn’t have to be dark every time.

Given how Doctor Who doesn't generally pull of broad comedy, how now can the show be a silly romp?  Did I miss something?  We usually laugh AT the Eleventh Doctor, but this time we are meant to laugh on purpose.  I do have a little tip for aspiring comic Anderson: it isn't funny or clever if you have to point out how funny or clever it is. 

See what I did there?

A huge help and a genius move

The second time he's used 'genius' in regards to a Doctor Who episode in as many weeks...

was to get a really fantastic guest cast to play all these new supporting characters. It was important that they each have their own personality and charm so we enjoyed having them onscreen. Riann Steele playing Nefertiti was the only actor of whom I was completely unfamiliar, but I think she did quite a good job playing the very strong Egyptian queen.

Want to say that to my face, Kyle?
If I don't know who they are prior to the show, I really don't care, but I make exceptions for hot women.  I'm not going to begrudge this point: Steele was good in the role, but I have a feeling we've seen actresses play strong Egyptian queens before...Claudette Colbert, Elizabeth Taylor, Vivien Leigh.  Nothing against Steele, but I think these three ladies did a better job as Cleopatra (another very strong Egyptian queen) than Steele did as Nefertiti.

Rupert Graves (Lestrade in Sherlock) did a really fine job as the Edwardian man’s man Riddell. He didn’t get the most to do until the end of the episode, but, despite this, his character is very well-rounded, and pitting him opposite Nefertiti and Amy was really delightful.

Broken clock: Graves was good, though I had not seen Sherlock when I saw Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.  Therefore, I couldn't care what his other acting jobs were prior to this stint.

Mark Williams was a terrific choice to play Rory’s dad, Brian. It was a lot of fun seeing him play off of Arthur Darvill. My only complaint about how he was written is that his main quirk, being a homebody who doesn’t like to travel, was mentioned but not really explored as well as I’d have liked.

I'm not going to argue about Mark Williams or Brian "Pond". Yes, I know it's Brian Williams, but shouldn't I just go along with all this "the Ponds" business and call him Brian Pond, like so many NuWhovians? My only complaint about how he was written is that his main quirk, being a virtual recluse, was mentioned but not explored in a show that is already rushed.  Maybe I'm in the minority on this point, but I don't think being a homebody who doesn't like to travel is a 'quirk'. 

I’d bet there was more of him at home with the Ponds before the Doctor shows up, but those are usually the first things cut when episodes run long. Still, Williams, Darvill, and Matt Smith had really great chemistry in their scenes.

KYLE YOU DAMN BLOODY IDIOT!  "I'd bet there was more of him at home with THE PONDS"?  THE PONDS?  DID YOU NOT SEE THE EPISODE?!  RORY'S DAD TELLS THE DOCTOR OFF BY SHOUTING, "I AM NOT A POND!"  Why then do you refer to them as "the Ponds".  Ugh, stupid NuWhovian...

I was most struck by the story’s villains, Solomon, played by David Bradley, and his two easily-offended robot bodyguards, voiced by comedians David Mitchell and Robert Webb.

As my mother says, "they know them in THEIR houses"...

It’s been a really long while since the show’s had an honest-to-goodness villain who had no other preoccupation than his own greed and being nasty.

It's been a really long while since the show's had an actual antagonist worth our time and interest, one who is evil just because he is evil.

Sure, the Daleks and Cybermen are evil, but they have an ethos they’re perpetuating.

Sure, the Daleks and Cybermen are evil, but they have catchphrases they're perpetuating. 

Even Madame Kovarian had the master plan of the Silence driving her actions.

Whose 'master plan' no one ever fully understood or which was logical.

Solomon has no master plan or any belief structure to explain his actions; he’s just a mean, greedy SOB who literally has no problem killing anyone or anything that stops him from getting what he wants.



He kills a poor dinosaur, for Pete’s sake!

THE FIEND!


He was refreshing in a way; not a “The world is mine! Muahahahahah!” type of antagonist who I feel like we’ve seen way too much lately.

I'm trying to remember the last Bond villain to appear on Doctor Who, especially given how much Anderson loved Madame Kovarian and all her hijinks...

The robots were very funny, surely channeling the bickering three-headed knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but also proved to be quite deadly, and will do anything Solomon tells them to do.

The robots were very stupid, surely a waste of time and nowhere near the genius of Monty Python and the Holy Grail

I thought this story had some of the strongest characterizations of Amy and Rory we’ve seen yet. Amy basically being the de facto Doctor in her group, even referring to Riddell and Nefertiti as her companions, was bold.

We had confirmation of what we've known ever since Rose premiered: that the Companion was the star of Doctor Who, and the title character is really a supporting actor (so far) in his (so far) series. 

It’s nice to see that she’s actually grown and learned through her time spent with the Doctor. She’s come an incredibly long way since Series 5 in terms of maturity and ability to handle these situations.



Rory, likewise, has left his trepidations behind, taking things in stride and handling himself accordingly.

How long ago did Anderson declare Rory...Pond?  Williams?  Pond-Williams?  Williams-Pond?  a 'badass'?  Given that, how is it that he has 'left his trepidations behind' now, when he had faced down an army of Cybermen?  How soon they forget...

It’s especially nice to see how well Rory and the Doctor work together, like a real team and not just as two people fighting over Amy’s attention. The scene where Rory tends to his father’s wounds is quite nice and it makes me wish Brian had been a character earlier so we’d have been able to see their relationship before.

I get the sneaking suspicion that Brian Williams was an afterthought.  When did Rory What's-His-Name mention his family? 

As a whole, though, it’s really lovely to see the Doctor, Amy, and Rory working together, like a well-oiled machine even after the ten-month hiatus.

As a whole, though, it's really sad to see the Doctor, Amy, and Rory schlepping together like a lame horse no one wants to put down. 

Note: I can’t really confirm this, but I feel like this story takes place earlier in Amy and Rory’s timeline than Asylum of the Daleks. The fact that Amy’s wearing the same outfit she did in most of “Pond Life” and the way it seems there never had been any problems between them, or even mention of their last adventure, made me pause and think maybe this came before. Just a feeling I get; it might never come up again, but it’s just a theory I have. We’ll see.

"It might never come up again."  Oh, I think that's a pretty safe bet.

Now, for the story itself; there were things I quite liked, and things I didn’t.

There were things you didn't like?  Well, that IS a shock!

I thought the idea of the Silurians building an ark was very interesting, and totally in keeping with what we know of the very cautious Homo reptilia.

I declare myself Expert on All Things Silurian.

They were all about preserving themselves and surely, if they thought Earth would be uninhabitable, they’d have tried to go elsewhere.

Maybe it's just me, but if they had the ability to create rockets prior to the rise of Homo sapien, wouldn't they have tried to shoot down the Egg they thought was going to crash in on them?  Just a thought.

More importantly, it provided the story with a decent reason for their being M-Effing dinosaurs on an M-Effing spaceship.


That's right.  There was a decent reason for their being M-Effing dinosaurs on an M-Effing spaceship.  Whatever you say, Kyle.  Whatever you say... 

I would bet it’s controversial, but I also quite enjoyed the fact that the Doctor allowed it so Solomon’s ship would get blown up. This is a truly evil man who, if left unchecked, would probably cause untold more damage and might even wipe out another whole species. The only downside of this is that we won’t get Solomon as a recurring villain.

Broken clock: I thought Solomon would make for a good recurring antagonist, but given this is Doctor Who, can't a little timey-wimey bring him back from the dead?  I will say I don't see this as particularly controversial, but that's just me.

Stuff that didn’t sit well with me were the somewhat lazy things Chibnall does. First, why wouldn’t Brian know who the Doctor is? Presumably Brian had been at Amy and Rory’s wedding,

Presumably, unless he refused to go as a protest to his only son becoming Rory Pond.

and the Doctor did make a pretty memorable entrance to said party, so even if they hadn’t met, Brian would at least remember the weird guy in the blue box. This is never addressed, though, save Rory just saying, “Remember how we left after our wedding?” It just seems like a misstep on someone’s part.

Continuity.  Who needs it. 

Second, it was a bit too convenient that the Silurian ark could only be piloted by beings from the same “gene chain.” There wasn’t a logical reason for them to construct their vessel that way aside from getting Rory and Brian to work together, which they could have done anyway even without the necessity of family bonds.

Plot contrivances.  Who has it.

Third was the way that the ship’s teleporter worked some of the time and not other times, but only when it was helpful in the script for it to do so. Chibnall’s much better at creating things that happen than he is at reasons for them to happen.

Plot holes.  Who is full of them. 

Overall, I was actually fairly impressed by the episode.

SHOCKED that Kyle Anderson liked a
Doctor Who episode!

It was certainly better than I’d expected it to be and all the characters seemed to gel mostly well.

I got a nice bonus for peddling this particular piece of trash.  Either that, or I'm easily pleased.

It still was silly (they rode a damn Triceratops) but not offensively so and was much more enjoyable than it really had any right to be.

It went beyond being silly (they rode a damn Triceratops) to being openly offensive to those who think.

Probably Chibnall’s best. Not a great episode, but one I won’t mind watching again when the DVDs come out.

Not a great episode.  A pretty bad episode.  I have not seen Dinosaurs on a Spaceship since it first aired and have no desire to watch it again.

Next week is Toby Whithouse’s “A Town Called Mercy” which, as I’ve said countless times, I’m quite looking forward to. Here to whet your whistle is the next-time trailer.

As much as I dislike your idiotic, sycophantic reviews, Kyle, you're in for a BIG disappointment...