Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Doctor Who S05E08-The Hungry Earth

The Doctor, Amy and Rory land in the year 2020 and run into a group of people attempting to drill deeper into the Earth’s crust than any human in history. However, once the drill hits 21km, mysterious holes begin appearing in the drilling facility. Something is drilling upwards and claiming human hostages, including Amy. With only Rory and a small village of scared individuals to help him, The Doctor must race to unravel the mystery of the somewhat familiar creatures causing this havoc before fighting breaks out and all hell breaks loose.

Like “Vampires in Venice” to “The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone,” “The Hungry Earth” felt like a step back in quality after the amazing “Amy’s Choice”. That’s not to say that this was a bad outing, but this is the first of a two part story and we had to build momentum this week before the fireworks go off next week.

I was a little surprised at how “Amy lite” this episode was. Amy has been such a driving force for many of the episodes thus far, last weeks episode was even an Amy centered story for example. I never thought they’d cut back on her story time or her overall screen time for that matter. Amy is quickly captured and only seen two more brief times before the episode ends. Again, a little shocking but her absence works to build on the other character filtering this story. Nasreen was my favorite character of the bunch. At first she was a little skeptical of The Doctor (honestly, who isn’t really when they first meet him) but then her sense of adventure kicks in and she eventually follows him to the underground to confront The Silurians (more on them in a second). I like her but I can’t help but feel there is some “hidden” quality we haven’t seen yet that will be revealed next week. The other pivotal characters this week were Tony and his daughter Ambrose. Tony was a good sidekick for Nasreen but Ambrose, while understandably concerned for the safety of her son, came of as annoying. If anyone is going to do something stupid next week that ignites a war, she is at the top of my list (again I’ll continue on this point momentarily).

This week saw the return of another old villain of Doctor Who lore. The reptilian Silurians design wise reminded me of the Draqs seen in 1983’s Enemy Mine (starring Dennis Quaid and Lou Gossitt Jr., great movie btw). We only got to see one of them clearly this week and that one is the strangely attractive warrior Alaya, wow cute with a pretty name to match. Alaya, as aforementioned, is a fighter and I was fully sold on her claims that her people would bring the fire to eliminate mankind no matter what. Her chilling foresight as to how that will come about had me guessing like crazy. Alaya claims someone will kill her and thus ignite the war. At first I was sure it would be Ambrose, but then again Tony has been infected by some sort of Sullarian sting and needs a cure and Rory wants Amy back (that bit with the wedding ring makes me think he might bite it in the end next week), plus Ambrose wants her son back but seems more keen on pulling the trigger now. All have legit reasons for wanting to kill Alaya and next week we will find out who does.

I should also take a quick moment to note that this little two parter is courtesy of Chris Chibnall, head writer for another little series called Torchwood. He is an outstanding writer who has written many of Torchwood’s best episodes so far and I’m really looking forward to how his massive build up this week pays off next week. Again, “The Hungry Earth” wasn’t a lame episode, I really want to see next weeks episode so badly because of the last ten minutes. Plus, you got to see The Doctor fire a slingshot of all things and wear his sunglasses at night, nice. This week was all about the build up and next week is sure to give us all a proper payoff for sitting patiently through it.

Next Week-Stop the Silurians, prevent a war, have a beer (ok maybe that last one is stretching it).


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Doctor Who S05E07-Amy’s Choice

The Doctor, Amy and Rory find themselves floating back and forth between two different worlds: one is set on the present day Tardis and the other is set five years in the future back on Earth with a happily married Amy and Rory awaiting the birth of their first child. Complicating matters is the appearance of the mysterious “Dream Lord” and his dangerous game for the trio. Together, they must decipher which world is real and quickly before one specific crisis on each claims their lives. And with opinions divided on how real each world feels, this isn’t going to be the easiest game ever.

Series Five continues to deliver the goods with expert storytelling and lots of adrenaline inducing excitement. And this weeks episode continued with those praises. “Amy’s Choice” was a terrific outing that presented us with a very unique scenario that makes for the best Doctor Who material. The jumping back and forth between worlds could have become tedious and annoying after a while but writer Simon Nye gives the story the balance needed to keep the story moving flawlessly from one point to the next without loosing any momentum. I think it was obvious to any viewer which world was the obvious choice, but then there was that slap in the face realization that everyone was wrong, even the viewer. Just goes to show that if you think you know this show real well, you haven’t seen anything yet.

I’ve been bragging about the story so far. What about our time traveling trio and the villain du jour? I have to give a quick cap on the Dream Lord. For a while, just watching him on screen tormenting our heroes I could help but think of Michael Caine’s famous quote from “The Dark Knight”, “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn”. Up until the big reveal of his true identity, I figured the Dream Lord for the kind of guy who tormented just for amusement and interest rather than personal gain. But again, the big reveal at the end (which I will leave spoiler free for a change, you really should watch and see for yourself) threw me for a loop and gave it a bit more of a darker edge to the character. And hats off to Toby Jones, who was amazing in the role of the villain.

The title of the episode is the key to the story as a whole. Torn between The Doctor’s scientific analysis and Rory’s personal desires, Amy is the one who has to make the final call in this dangerous game. Maybe it was just me, but I was totally convinced the five years later world was the definite fake just because it seemed to perfect and quiet, something this show doesn’t do a lot of in terms of the latter and occasionally on the former. Rory wants the quiet life and The Doctor the louder, more exciting one. Both Matt Smith and Arthur Darvill were good with their performances and were very convincing playing the defense of their choices.

I kind of feel bad for Rory and Amy. Even when Amy realizes how much she really loves Rory and wants to be with him, I can’t help but feel that it is always going to be The Doctor she loves truly (like Rose with Mickey and The Tenth Doctor or, better example, Gwen Cooper with Rhys and Captain Jack Harkness on Torchwood). Still if Gwen could make it work with Rhys now that I think about it, it could work out with Rory. Plus, The Doctor seems to not want to belittle Rory, but do his best to keep Amy off of himself and more attached to her fiancé, which is a very good call in this case. Still, just as with last week, I don’t think this is the last we’ve heard of Amy’s romantic woes, not by a long shot.

“Amy’s Choice” was a fun episode from beginning to end and I can’t remember the last time I honestly bragged this much about an individual episode of Doctor Who (really not since I saw Series Three’s “The Shakespeare Code” for the first time , I should post a review for that now). Series Five is well past it’s half way mark and is doing an amazing job most people thought would be impossible to accomplish after David Tennant’s departure. This show is still as awesome as when it first came back on the air and this episode is plenty evidence of that.

Next Week-Drilling to the center of the Earth should be a straight shot down. Then why is something drilling upwards to the surface?


Monday, May 10, 2010

Doctor Who S05E06-Vampires in Venice

In order to get Amy back in love with her fiancé Rory, The Doctor decides to take the two of them on a romantic getaway to Venice, Italy in 1580. But romance is not the main course of the day as all three travelers on separate occasions encounter mysterious girl, robbed in white with sharp fangs and a strong distaste for the sun. There are vampires in Venice, or at least that is the initial belief. But once Amy infiltrates the mysterious Calvierri School for Girls, she learns that these mysterious bloodsucking females may be the least of everyone’s worries when she discovers the full scope of their plans for the city.

Vampires in Venice is a decent episode for the new series, decent being the word of choice since it comes nowhere near as amazing as the last two weeks two part story. The dual opening is interesting choice to start off with a bit of horror in the form of the vampiric Calvierri girls claiming another victim and the awkward humor in the form of The Doctor party crashing Rory’s bachelor party to get his attention. To be honest, I liked the second part of the opening better. It was awkward and funny and was a better place to start off after Amy’s Doctor seduction session last week.

I was a little worried to see Rory on the TARDIS even though I knew it would happen eventually. But cudos to The Doctor for choosing to do so as he doesn’t want to screw up a companions life back home because of her adventures with him. Rory ended up being a pretty good character, even if he is kind of a Mickey knock off. I’m finding it difficult to figure out how his new companion status on the TARDIS will affect the already awesome dynamic between Amy and The Doctor. At the end of the episode, it looks as though Amy chooses Rory and convinces The Doctor to let him tag along, but I’m not convinced this is the end of the subject with this new love triangle.

The villains du jour were the reptilian/vampiric Saturnynians, led by the lovely Rosanna (played by guest star Helen McRory, who, if your up on your Harry Potter alums as I am, played Narcissia Malfoy in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince). I couldn’t help but feel that this group of bloodsuckers were a bit like the characters in 1987’s “The Lost Boys”. The exclusive club meant for chosen ones, ones that every guy wanted to get with but couldn’t. Still, I liked Helen McRory’s Rosanna and her characters interactions with The Doctor. The two big conversations they have in the episode were well written and played out. Plus, she was a sympathetic character. Sure she was trying to drown Venice, but then again she was also trying to repair the damage done to her race by those ever pesky cracks in time. It was a sad ending for her and it sucked to see her meet her fate. A character I was totally Unsympathetic towards was her “son” Francesco. From the moment I set eyes on him I couldn’t wait to see him get his butt kicked, amusingly enough by a double team effort by Amy and Rory. Whereas Rosanna was a cool and calculating opponent, Francesco was just flat out annoying. Although, the “what’d you say about my momma?” look on his face when Rory taunted him was priceless.

I also have to take a second to applaud the Production Team for its work on a very nice looking Venice. After just recently playing Assassin’s Creed II, which is set in Venice, I thought the city was well recreated and it didn’t feel small scale, similar to the work the crew did on Series Four’s “Fires of Pompeii”. The money spent of the production of this show is spent very well indeed, just check out the visually stunning real versions of the Saturnynians.

So what now? Rory’s on the TARDIS and we get our first real glimpse of “the silence,” which to be honest scared the crap out of me. This wasn’t a great follow up to “Time of the Angels/Flesh and Stone”, and to be honest that was going to be a tough one to top. But “Vampires in Venice” was still a lot of fun with Doctor wit (Best Line: “Oh this is Christmas!!!”), decent action, and a sense that things are definitely going to get worse for the Time Lord as the series goes on. Series Five continues to roll on strong and show no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

Next Week-Trapped in a dream world with a pregnant Amy, even The Doctor has to admit, “This is gonna be a tricky one.”


Monday, May 3, 2010

Doctor Who S05E05-Flesh and Stone

Even though The Doctor has moved himself and his dwindling group of survivors up to the Byzantium, The Weeping Angels are right on their tail and multiplying. Making matter worse, not only are the Angels growing stronger, but one of them is manifesting itself inside of Amy. And as if things weren’t tough enough, a new yet oddly familiar threat, one worse than the Weeping Angels themselves has appeared within the ship. As the heart pounding race to the end begins, who will survive this dual onslaught of terror?

The terror factor was amped up tremendously is week on Doctor Who. I will say that as compared to my blink and you’ll miss the episode attitude from last week, this week is was hooked and truly frightened for everyone on the ship. It sucks that Father Octavian (Iain Glen) had to bite the big one this week and his final scene with The Doctor, who stayed with him even though he knew he couldn’t get him out of the Angels grip, was a emotionally gripping one. You really feel for The Doctor this week. Between the return of the crack in the wall and The Weeping Angels he is being pushed to his limit trying to figure out how to stop both before everyone is killed. The scene where he shouts at River because of a lack of ideas really nailed this and Matt Smith did a good job delivering the fear and frustration needed to pull off such a performance.

After her encounter with the digitized Weeping Angel last week, we all knew something was going to happen to Amy in some kind of way. In fact it may have been Amy who had it worse than The Doctor this week. She had not only two foes to face, but three, the third of course being the darkness as she had to walk around blind through a field of Weeping Angels and listen to the remaining Clerics wander off to the light and never return. The poor, poor girl.

And when all was said and done by episodes end, there was the final scene, the other big highlight of the episode. Amy finally revealed to The Doctor that she was getting married…then tried to get him to sleep with her!!! Whoa. I don’t think we’ve ever seen this kind of an attitude in a Doctor Who Companion before. I mean Rose was in love, but she never tried to do that. Still it’s understandable. Amy has loved The Doctor for the better part of her life and to be honest, we all knew she was going to kiss him at some point. The Doctor, however and sadly, does the right thing and says that Amy needs to marry her fiancé, revealed to be Rory. But first he needs to solve the mystery of the crack in the wall and how it is affecting Amy, all by June 26, 2010, which is as I double checked, the date of the Season Finale, nice.

This was a great episode, arguably the best of the series thus far. It has terror, action, suspense and a lot of sexual tension between The Doctor and two women, lucky guy. This is how Doctor Who should always be done. I’m sure we’ll see River Song again, possibly before the end of series five as she hinted to events that might happen then. Plus there’s always the onboard tension in the TARDIS. Now that Amy has tried to openly seduce The Doctor, how will that affect their relationship in the future? Special cudos should go out to Steven Moffat, who has put a lot of the fear factor into his episodes thus far. This week however was when he did it at its grandest and most effective.

Next Week: It’s off to Venice with Amy and Rory. But wait, girls with sharp fangs, pale skin and no reflection in the mirror? To quote The Doctor, “Oh you have got to be kidding me?”