geek life, TV commentary

Today’s a good day to Marvel: Peggy and Ultron and SHIELD, oh my!

If you haven’t seen it yet, Marvel released the third official trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron today and it’s a doozy. If you haven’t seen it yet, take a moment.

 

See? A doozy. This is the villain trailer, starting right out of the gate with the foe for this installment, and the full cast of Avengers heading into battle with it. It looks to me like now everyone must face Tony Stark’s inner demons, which could prove really interesting. They’ve also got the two “miracles” (which is what they’re calling mutants because they sold the licensing for the word “mutant”). I also highly approve of Natasha’s new toys: Black Widow is one of my favorite parts of these movies.

image source: imdb.com
image source: imdb.com

This trailer comes the day after the mid-season return of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the beginning of the Inhumans story arc. It’s an exciting turn for the story which struggled in its first season before the reveal of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s infiltration and fall in Captain America: Winter Soldier. This series now stands on its own two feet, solidly planting itself in the same world as the movies and yet carrying its own plots and twists that could wind up playing heavily into future features. Of course, there is an Inhumans movie in the docket, but as of now it’s not scheduled to be released until summer 2019, so there’s a lot of TV time before that for the show to build a foundation.

image source: marvelcinematicuniverse.wikia.com
image source: marvelcinematicuniverse.wikia.com

In the meantime, we’ve all fallen in love with Agent Carter. Very wisely listening to the fan base, Disney and Marvel gave Peggy Carter her own mini-series that was intended to be a one-off run, but proved to be so well written and well received that there is chatter now of a season two. I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to that! We barely scratched the surface in this eight episode arc, and didn’t even touch on the founding of S.H.I.E.L.D., which could be so fascinating to watch.

What I’m really interested in is seeing how all of these will tie together. The shows and the movies have done a good job of blending seamlessly together without having any huge impacts on one another, and the cross-over characters work in both formats to establish this as one big universe. And that’s the amazing thing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe: it all seems to work together so well.

I know there are decades of comics to draw from, but that can prove to be a distraction or too much of a burden. Look at the problems faced by the X-Men movies; they struggle with consistency, and with different time periods not fitting together with different parts of the story. Heck, in the most recent film, they effectively had to undo everything that happened in X-Men: The Last Stand because it was ridiculously awful. But the Marvel properties coming out of Disney have a consistency that is impressive and that I really appreciate.

image source: marvel.wikia.com
image source: marvel.wikia.com

Full disclosure: I didn’t read Marvel comics as a kid, and I still don’t for the most part. I’ve enjoyed the new Black Widow comics and I’m interested in the Gwen Stacy Spider-Woman comics but for the most part all I know about this world is from the movies and TV shows. I know that a lot of the adaptations are distressing to the old guard, the fans who’ve been reading these things their whole lives. But I have to say, as a new fan, this has been fantastic. It’s something I can get excited about and has made what is often a very difficult fandom to enter so much more accessible, and at least in my option, any time good storytelling can be more accessible, the better.

With that I’ll sign off, but at least you’ll know where to find me May 1: at the theater.

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Commentary, geek life, TV commentary

The Five Stages of Grief…for the 11th Doctor

Capaldi Doctor Who Listen

Listen, here we are, four episodes into a new season of Doctor Who. Peter Capaldi is here to stay, and I have to say, I’m thrilled.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved Matt Smith’s Doctor, but I like the grumpiness and the alien-like qualities of the Doctor, and how much it hearkens back to the older shows. The beauty of a show like Doctor Who is that it has such a rich history and so many things to draw from to include in the stories, and yet can always bring something new.

The staple, of course, is that every so often the Doctor changes. Everything about him changes, from his face to his personality to his teeth, and all that’s left is his memory. This is traumatic for his companions, and it can be for the audience, too. Especially if you’re (to use the BBC’s phrase) fairly new to Who, it can be jolting to go from the actor and persona you fell in love with, established a relationship with over (especially in Tennant and Smith’s era) some emotional story arcs, to suddenly be handed Capaldi’s Doctor with a “Here you go, good luck now!”

But this is by no means new to fans of the show. Even those who have been around the TARDIS a time or two can go through difficulty accepting a new Doctor, not unlike the classic 5 Stages of Grief. So let’s work our way through this new rendition of the Doctor together, shall we?

Stage One: Denial
This stage is when you don’t want to believe the Thing That’s Happening is true. You find out that there’s going to be a new Doctor.
“Matt Smith is leaving? Don’t be ridiculous! I refuse to accept this! It’s just another rumor, or another instance of Moffat trolling* everyone. That’s it. It’s just Moffat again.”

Moffat Trolling

Stage Two: Anger
At this point, you suddenly find yourself irrationally angry that you’re getting a new** Doctor. The anger might be directed at Steven Moffat.
“NO. You CANNOT take away Eleven. You have RUINED this show! NO ONE ELSE WILL EVER BE THE DOCTOR AGAIN.”
Or you might be angry with Matt Smith.
“How DARE you leave us and go pursue your CAREER?”
Or you might be angry at other fans. I don’t know how your mind works. But you’re probably going to be angry.

Matt Smith Doctor shrugs

Stage Three: Bargaining
At this point, you’re trying to change the inevitable outcome. You want to make things go back to the way they were, or at least to some facsimile of how you perceived them to be. Bargaining may be with the person leaving.
“But Matt, if you stay we’ll be even more rabid fans of yours! We’ll cosplay with things other than your fez!”
Or the bargaining might take other forms. Sometimes it can involve roping other people into the equation in the hopes the person will listen to them.
“Jenna, can’t you make him stay? Just talk to him!”

Jenna Coleman Clara Doctor Who

Stage Four: Depression
By now, the loss of Your Doctor is making you feel very down in the dumps. You’re convinced the show just won’t be the same*** without Your Doctor, and that you’ll never love another Doctor as much as you did this one. Your Doctor was the Best Doctor There Ever Was and no one could replace him.

David Tennant Doctor Who crying

Stage Five: Acceptance
When you finally come to terms with the fact that there’s a new**** Doctor, you’ve reached acceptance. This usually happens some time in the first several episodes. For some, it happened when he dueled Robin Hood using only a spoon in “Robot of Sherwood.” For many of the fans, it seemed to happen with the most recent episode, “Listen.” (Some people got behind Capaldi much earlier, of course. We’ll come back to them.) Maybe some are still waiting for their “Oh, this IS the Doctor!” moment. But it’s coming.

Not every fan likes every regeneration of the Doctor the same. People have their affinities, and for many it’s the first Doctor they ever watched that is “Their” Doctor. For me, I might just be falling hard for Capaldi. I’ve been excited about the change since they announced who the next actor would be. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Matt Smith and his silliness and affinity for children, but I like that with Capaldi we can go a little darker, a little more serious, and a little more alien. He seems a lot more like some of the classic regenerations (a lot of people reference Pertwee’s Doctor, but I see a lot of Baker in him, too) and it’s a very nice change of pace.

Matt Smith everything ends sometime

The main thing to take away from this is that this cycle happens every single time there’s a “new” Doctor. The first time it happened the show runners weren’t sure it would work, but for some reason it did. And it continues to work. That’s the essence of the show, and what keeps it on the air. Change brings a fresh start, and brings new fans and new stories and new monsters and the whole deal. It’s not bad. It’s the lifeblood of the show, and what keeps it from getting stale all these years later.

And y’know what? I’d bet that I can pinpoint the moment when the last main holdout decided this guy was all right. Here you go.

Doctor Who Capaldi once upon a time dad skillsDoctor Who Capaldi the end dad skillsDoctor Who Clara looks upDoctor Who Capaldi dad skills

—————————————————

*Steven Moffat is notorious for teasing hints as well as outright lies about the shows he runs, to the general frustration of the fan bases.
**To be clear, it’s always the same Doctor. He is the Doctor, just with a new face. Same guy. So Capaldi isn’t really the “Twelfth” Doctor, he’s just THE Doctor.
***It won’t be the same, but that’s the beauty of the thing, and rather the point, after all.
****Do we really have to go over this again? SAME DOCTOR. Just a new actor playing the SAME GUY. You don’t have to pick just one, they’re all the SAME TIME LORD.

geek life, this and that, TV commentary

Clara Oswald: looking back at “The Bells of St John” and some Wild Speculation about The Time of the Doctor

Tonight I am revisiting the Clara Oswald episodes from this past season of Doctor Who. While watching “The Bells of St John,” I noticed something interesting, a very specific detail that got my mind rambling off (as it does) on all sorts of little theories. I’m going to ramble about them now and see if I get anywhere. Coming with me? Geronimo!

“I don’t know where I am.”

The episode begins with a warning: people are being uploaded into a giant computer database and they all say this same phrase. They don’t know where they are because they have ceased to exist in the physical space.

Clara, of course, gets uploaded twice; the first time the Doctor interrupts but not before she’s received her “computer package” which makes her as smart at computers as the giant database, or so it seems. The second time, she’s “fully integrated” and the Doctor must get everyone in the database downloaded to get her back. Each time she keeps on repeating “I don’t know where I am,” just like all the others.

Clara really is one for the repeated phrase. We know, thanks to “The Name of the Doctor,” that her catchphrase is from the moment she jumps into the Doctor’s time stream. “Run, you clever boy, and remember” is repeated each time she’s about to die in the other episodes. What’s really interesting is that at the very beginning and at the very end of “Name,” she repeats another phrase: “I don’t know where I am.”

She says this as she’s falling through the Doctor’s time stream, living through his entire history and stopping the Great Intelligence from killing him at every point in time. She was born to save the Doctor and she saves the Doctor again and again by being born. The episode implies that she sends the leaf that causes her parents to meet and have her…

…which means that Clara is essentially a time loop. This is where we get into Wild Speculation with a dash of Theorizing and Guesswork for good measure.

If Clara sent the leaf that caused one of her selves to be born, and we think it is the “original” Clara (Clara Prime), then she creates herself. That’s a bit confusing and a bit too Bad Wolf for my liking. But, if the Clara that sends the leaf is a version created when she jumped into the Doctor’s time stream, then where does Clara Prime actually originate? Is the Doctor traveling with Clara Prime, or is he traveling with a “Saving the Doctor” Clara? Or is it a combination?

It bothered me in the 50th special, “Day of the Doctor,” that even though the season ended with Clara and the Doctor both inside his mind, that there was no explanation for how they got back out of his mind. He asks her to trust him, to let him save her, and they see the War Doctor… and then she’s in a school?

No. We’ve missed something.

So, then, is it possible that the entire 50th anniversary episode takes place in the Doctor’s mind? It would be tricky with all the other Doctors there, but, if versions of Clara are throughout the Doctor’s timeline, then couldn’t there also be versions of the Doctor scattered around, too? And I hope this doesn’t get too Timey Wimey, but couldn’t that also account for why the War Doctor was able to reach two future Doctors are once, and not just, say, Ten?

And what about that computer database? It is, of course, the Great Intelligence, but is it the original Great Intelligence, or is It one of Its own versions that also went into the Doctor’s time stream? Are the players in “Bells of St John” their Prime selves, or just copies?

It’s…complicated.

I’m hoping that the Christmas special “Time of the Doctor” will reveal how they got out of his mind, or at least give a hint to it. I know sometimes there are coincidences, but repetition of key phrases? That’s very Moffat, isn’t it Sweetie?

“I don’t know where I am.” And we don’t know where the Doctor and Clara are, either.

Note: On a second watching of “Bells of St John” and other episodes, I have to say that I still think Clara’s character isn’t written well, but with my newly found affection for her thanks to the 50th special, I’m enjoying her a lot more in these. I hope the writers continue to give her more depth, because I like her attitude and independence. She’s the first modern companion who isn’t either A) interested in the Doctor or B) has or is looking for another love interest (remember, even Donna was constantly dealing with weddings and marriage). I like that she’s perfectly content to just wheel around the universe with him, having a laugh. She’s got a lot of potential.

Commentary, geek life, TV commentary

Thoughts on the Twelfth Doctor

I kept the title basic enough, but you should know this post has SPOILERS, sweetie.

So. Peter Capaldi is going to be the new Doctor.

I think most of the world collectively said, “Who??” when they made the announcement, but he looked really familiar and it didn’t take me long to find out why. Peter Capaldi has been all over our TV and movie screens for years, it’s just that he’s usually a character actor. We see him all the time.

The reason I recognized him was from his role in The Hour, which is a BBC drama I love. He came on for the second series (it’s a mini series with six episodes per run) and was fantastic, fit right in with the rest of the cast. He’s known for other things, too, but I think the most entertaining is one of his most recent billings: as “W.H.O. Doctor” in World War Z.

Anyway, that’s enough of the summary, you can get more of that elsewhere. Here are my two cents about it.

I like the casting choice. The Doctor has been getting younger looking lately, and I think it’s about time we had an older actor in the role. It’ll be interesting to see him not as the “heartthrob” any more, but as the over 1000 year old guy he is. And I’m really hoping that with a new Doctor that the writers will maybe fix Clara’s character up a bit, too. It’s been known to happen, where the characters get a bit, well, edited between seasons. It even happened with the Seventh Doctor (and I liked him a LOT in his second season).

All of that being said, I know there are people very upset about Matt Smith’s departure from the show. My friends’ six year old daughter bawled her eyes out about it, channeling fan-girls everywhere, I suspect. The thing is, the actors who play the Doctor always change. That’s the point, if you will. And I’m interested to see where the show is going next.

I also can’t help but remember the heartbreak over David Tennant’s departure, and how people said they just couldn’t see Matt Smith as the Doctor because he wasn’t David Tennant. Well, we (almost) all grew to love Matt Smith’s Doctor, and I’m sure we’ll love the new one, too. The Whovians are all in this together, and I think it’s going to be exciting.

TV commentary

More Thoughts on “The Hour”

We are now about midway through the first series of The Hour and I have to say I am enjoying it. It’s suspenseful but also paced very well so that you don’t get wound too tight, nor is it dull.

I think it’s interesting to see the comparisons to political clout between now and then, and the deals that are struck behind closed doors, and it makes me wonder (as someone who is not a member of the elite or of the moves and shakers club) how close to reality this fiction is.

It’s important to keep in mind that it is a historical fiction and that the characters are somewhat playing the roles that they must, but I also like the way Freddie (the main reporter) doggedly pursues leads and won’t let the story, or his childhood friend, die in vain.

I don’t have much else to say about it except that this week’s episode came to a surprising point at the end, and I certainly didn’t expect the confrontation that occurred. I’ll be curious to see how the rest plays itself out without a character that I considered an integral part of the conspiracy. It’s possible that his absence will increase the suspense, however, because without a person to keep an eye on, you begin to suspect that everyone else might be one of them.

geek life, TV commentary

TV Confessional

Until we moved to Hawaii, we didn’t have cable. We paid $12 a month to have the local networks and a couple of “freebies” the cable provider gave us, but that was it. Then we moved here and the only way to see my beloved Tarheels was to pay not only for cable but for the upgrade package that includes all 8,723 ESPN affiliates. That’s the right number, right? I’m not missing one?

Anyway, the games come on at 6 or 7 in the morning quite a bit, so I wake up early on game days (when I can) and have breakfast with the Heels. It’s kind of fun, but also kind of weird, and it makes it hard to have game watching parties. It’s no wonder we don’t seem to have an active local Carolina Club. Maybe I’ll look into that again now that football is upon us and basketball isn’t far behind it.

But coming back to my original point, I didn’t have cable for a while and so watched shows that I could buy on DVD, which is how I’ve seen every episode of NCIS and saw all of Monk. It meant that when we got cable I had a whole lot to choose from and not many shows to which I was a loyal follower. Plus we got a DVR and I can watch when I have a little extra time, and not be bound by a schedule. I recently updated all of the shows I record and realized I have a very random taste in shows… but also somewhat balanced, in a weird way.

I watch NCIS and Hawaii 5-0, which are cop shows with hints of comedy.
I watch Doctor Who and The Hour (a new one!), which are dramas.
I watch What Not to Wear and a few cooking shows, which are reality.

So I’ve got a pretty balanced watching routine. But then there’s the other stuff I watch, the stuff that’s “guilty pleasure” type stuff that I don’t usually admit to watching but am actually kind of excited about when it’s on…

I like the monster-catching shows on SyFy (the channel formerly known as SciFi).

*hides*

But really, I like watching people try to find the Loch Ness monster and bigfoot (or the yeti or whatever you want to call it) and aliens and all sorts of things like that. I’m fascinated by the people who go to look for these things, and I wonder if they really believe they’ll find these things (some of them really do believe it!) or if they’re just doing it for the TV show and I like imagining that there could be something hiding in Loch Ness that we can’t really explain.

I mean, the idea that we have everything in this world categorized is just plain dull; the world should still have wonder and mystery, and I also like the shows where they find new species of frogs or monkeys or whathaveyou, because it’s amazing to think there are undiscovered things out there.

The UFO sighting shows are a little different, but still the interesting thing to me in all of those is the people who tell these stories.

And isn’t that what watching TV is about? It’s the stories of the people, presented as “real” or “fiction” but all just stories that have been tailored for a TV audience in the end.

And I’m really ready for Doctor Who to be back on Saturday.

geek life, TV commentary

Doctor Who Commentary: Thoughts on River Song

So, I mentioned briefly in the comment section of my post about Rory that I think River Song might be a paradox and that is why Rory keeps “dying.” Or, rather, that he only is alive because he must be alive for River to exist. This will undoubtedly cause problems in the next several episodes if that is true. But follow with me for a moment.

Some things about River:

  • She has known the Doctor since she was a little girl.
  • She elicits fear in the clerics who escort her in “The Time of Angels.” They ask if the Doctor “knows what she is” and she doesn’t want him to know yet.
  • She thinks (at least at one point) that she’s living her life back to front in comparison to the Doctor.
  • River has been a professor, a doctor and is an archaeologist.
  • She is definitely an adventurer and knows how to use her laser gun thing.
  • She has hallucinogenic lipstick which works somewhat like the Doctor’s psychic paper.
  • She reveals in the finale of Series (season) 6 part 1 that she is Amy and Rory Pond’s daughter, Melody: Melody Pond = River Song. (Oh, and yes he’s Rory Williams but really they are Mr. and Mrs. Pond. That’s just how it works with Amy.)
  • Because her parents honeymooned on the TARDIS, River has traces of Timelord DNA.
  •  River is in jail for killing “the best man (she’s) ever known.”

So let’s move a little forward with this.

I think the general idea about the Doctor not knowing “what” River is (notice the “what” and not “who” used here) is that the Doctor doesn’t know she possesses Timelord DNA. I have to wonder, though, if the “what” she is happens to be a paradox. Her father is Rory Williams, who has died multiple times (as I discussed previously). We’ve been told there is a payoff for this and that he’s “really” died once. If Rory dies before he and Amy get married and have their daughter, then clearly he cannot actually marry Amy and have a daughter. It stands to reason that if Rory dies and stays dead before the wedding, that River will never exist. If Rory keeps dying because the universe is trying to correct a mistake… what mistake is that, exactly? Is the problem that he is alive or is the problem that he’s alive and there’s a daughter running around. If her dad died before he fathered her, River should not exist herself. A paradox can cause all sorts of problems in the universe (including tearing the universe apart). Another time when the Doctor tried to change a piece of history (by saving someone who was supposed to die to inspire her descendents to greatness) the “universe” acted to correct itself and the character died anyway, so the idea has precedence.

This has some interesting implications. If (as I suggested) Rory only exists because Amy believes he does, then River should not have ever existed. Strange things happen to River, including being pulled into the TARDIS which starts to explode for some unknown reason (in “The Pandorica Opens“). This makes sense– if you put a paradox and nothing else into a time machine, then what will happen? I think it could be very likely that the time machine would explode and put cracks in the universe that seem to “undo” things all around it. When the cracks appear, anyone or anything pulled into them has never existed, including Rory. This could be an extension of the universe (or the TARDIS) trying to erase River, but it’s caught in an endless loop of the same moments because Amy is believing Rory into existence and therefore holding River in existence as well.

The cracks in the universe disappear only after River is out of the TARDIS and the Doctor goes inside… and follows Amy all the way back until her childhood. It tries to undo everything that happened to Amy… but Amy remembers the universe back into existence including Rory (whom the Doctor has reminded her of in her sleep as a child) and therefore Rory must exist in this version of the universe. This also means that River will therefore exist.

Now that you’re thoroughly confused, what about this idea of killing the best man she’s ever known? There are definitely options for this. One theory is that she killed the Doctor (if she is the little girl in the astronaut suit at the start of Series 6, etc), which we see on camera. It’s also possible that this is the extremely put-upon, self-sacrificing twin (ganger) of the Doctor and because he was willing to give his life it made him a “better man” in her eyes. It’s also entirely possible that she kills Rory, her own father, who is quickly becoming a hero of some legend in the universe. It could be that she kills him in a conventional sense and is therefore locked away in the Stormcage, but what if he dies because she is a paradox and because she continues to live it makes people afraid… and so she is imprisoned. It’s an interesting thought. She might not have purposely killed anyone. Or maybe she did, but only when asked by that person (the Doctor? Rory?) in order to save the universe as a whole.

I’m sorry if these thoughts are disjointed, I’m just writing them as I think of them. River’s very interesting to me and I enjoy her interaction with the Doctor, especially because it’s one of the rare instances where he doesn’t know more than everybody else in the room and I think it’s good and healthy for him to have a dose of his own medicine.

Six days until new Who episodes. I’m so excited.