Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Doctor Who - Twice Upon a Time - A Mess of Sentiment and Self-Indulgence

Image result for doctor who twice upon a time


My review of the previous episode: The Doctor Falls.

I feel like if you looked up the definition of placeholder in the dictionary, this episode would be right there.

That's not entirely anyone's fault. Steven Moffat always intended Peter Capaldi to regenerate at the end of series 10, but when incoming showrunner Chris Chibnall refused to start off on a Christmas episode, it was left to Moffat to come up with some reason for Peter Capaldi to stick around for an episode.

As it is, he pulls a few good moments together and coats the rest in sentimentality and a boatload of nostalgia. That's always an enjoyable experience, I guess, if you shut your brain off. If there's anything clear at the end, it's that Doctor Who is desperately in need of new ideas, and Steven Moffat is out of gas.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Doctor Who Series 10 - The Doctor Falls - Episode Review

My review of last week's episode: World Enough and Time.

(This is a long review. You have been warned.)

Well, here we are. And I'm conflicted. On the one hand, The Doctor Falls is perhaps the clearest, most concise Steven Moffat finale that we've seen. But on the other, it's deeply unsatisfying.

Mostly because of Bill. Moffat wrote Bill Potts into a corner so dark that he couldn't break her out of it without a Deus ex machina, and that's a problem.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Doctor Who Series 10 - World Enough and Time - Episode Review

Image result for world enough and time

My review of the previous episode: The Eaters of Light.

Holy crap.

You know, there's a part of me that hates this type of episode. It's the first of a two-parter, and since this is Steven Moffat, I really doubt that he'll be able to pull off a safe landing, especially to a story as ambitious and twisty as this one. But boy, does he make me hope (and that's hard to resist).

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Doctor Who Series 10 - The Eaters of Light - Episode Review

Image result for eaters of the light

My review of the previous episode: Empress of Mars.


It's been a while since we've visited the home of the Twelfth Doctor's accent. With all the kilts and accents, it makes me nostalgic for Jamie McCrimmon and Amy Pond, and now I'm wondering what this story would have been like with an all-Scottish TARDIS team. I mean, it's still okay. It's even good. Honestly, it's probably one of the better episode this season, after the disappointment that was the Monks trilogy.

Also, a fun fact: this episode was written by Classic Who writer Rona Munro, who wrote the final episode before the show was cancelled.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Doctor Who Series 10 - Empress of Mars - Episode Review

Image result for empress of mars

My review of the previous episode: The Lie of the Land.

To be one of New Who's longest-serving writers, Mark Gatiss really isn't all that impressive. He's turned in the occasional good episode(The Unquiet Dead is good, and I have an irrational soft spot for Robin of Sherwood), but most of his installments are just mediocre or genuinely bad (Sleep No More, I'm looking at you). Empress of Mars is a pretty basic Gatiss episode, in that it's just...there.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Doctor Who Series 10 - The Lie of the Land - Episode Review

Image result for the lie of the land doctor who
My review of the previous episode: The Pyramid at the End of the World.

Last week, I predicted this episode would have some similarities to Last of the Time Lords, and sure enough, there are a ton of parallels that could be drawn. For one thing, both episodes feature Britain overtaken by a fascist regime (in the latter case, complete with some on-the-nose Trump references), a female companion on the run but believing in the Doctor, and a Deus ex machina ending based on psychic links and faith and something something something.

While this episode really doesn't hold up to scrutiny, I will say this: about everything Last of the Time Lords did poorly, The Lie of the Land does...if not right, then at least better. Faint praise?

Doctor Who Series 10 - The Pyramid at the End of the World - Episode Review

Image result for pyramid at the end of the world doctor who

My review of the previous episode: Extremis.

[Sorry for the lateness: spent the last two weeks settling into my internship in Washington D.C. - in related news, keep an eye out for my writing at The Weekly Standard.]

If anyone was wondering which part of this episode Steven Moffat wrote, it should be pretty obvious when Peter Capaldi starts monologuing self-seriously about death. It's pure Heaven Sent. There's a kind of Moffaty gimmick at the center of The Pyramid at the End of the World, too: the concept of all-knowing aliens who can pinpoint world disasters and prevent them. On first viewing, I had rather a hard time coping with the idea of a benevolent invasion, but the more I think about it, the more I like it.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Doctor Who Series 10 - Extremis - Episode Review

Image result for doctor who extremis
My review of the previous episode: Oxygen.

Oh, Moffat.

Steven Moffat is one of the greatest visionaries in Doctor Who history. He’s written multiple classic episodes and pushed the boundaries of the show in ways that no one has before. But there's a reason "Moffaty" exists as an adjective. And Extremis is very Moffaty.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Doctor Who Series 10 - Oxygen - Episode Review

Image result for doctor who oxygen

My review of the previous episode: Knock Knock.

Series 10 had been taking it pretty easy up till now. Slowly introducing us to Bill, dropping hints about what's inside the vault, giving the Doctor (and the show) a new lease on life. All of that changed with Oxygen, an episode heavy on plot, message, and thrills, complete with a game-changing twist in the final scene.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Doctor Who Series 10 - Knock Knock - Episode Review

Image result for doctor who knock knock

My review of last week's episode: Thin Ice.

Knock knock...

...Who's there.

Bill’s TARDIS adventures don’t appear to have gone to her head: she’s back to her usual life, looking for a place to stay with a group of friends (or more accurately: a friend and a group of her friends). When the Doctor gets involved, Bill’s not happy about it, though why, or how strongly, she wants to isolate this part of her life isn’t quite clear.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Doctor Who Series 10 - Thin Ice - Episode Review

Image result for doctor who press photos 10.3

My review of the previous episode: Smile.

Thin Ice is just about everything I love about Doctor Who, from its compelling, evocative setting to its epic, spooky monster to its deft mixture of the serious and the silly. It's easily my favorite of this season, one of my favorite Capaldi episodes overall, and a welcome second installment from promising newbie Who writer, Sarah Dollard.

Bill and the Doctor arrive on the frozen Thames in 1814. When a street urchin steals the sonic screwdriver, the Doctor and Bill chase him out onto the ice, only to watch as the boy is sucked beneath the ice by mysterious green lights. Why? Well, it turns out a massive creature is sleeping beneath the Thames, devouring unwary Fair-goers and turning them into a super-powered fuel. A predatory aristocrat is promoting visitors to the Frost Fair to amp up production.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Doctor Who Series 10 - Smile - Episode Review

Image result for doctor who smile

My review of the previous episode: The Pilot.

Bill and the Doctor arrive in the distant future, where a group of mood-sensitive robots have gone rogue and slaughtered the crew of a small human colony. The main thing Bill wants to know about the future: is it happy?

Friday, May 5, 2017

Doctor Who Series 10 - The Pilot - Episode Review

Image result for doctor who series 10

Basically anyone can tell you that I'm obsessed with Doctor Who, and have been since...roughly...last June. I tore through all of the rebooted show (2005 - now) last summer and fall, then dove into the Doctor Who Silmarillion: the vast expanse of Classic Who. I'm nearly finished with Tom Baker's seven-year run as the Doctor. I dressed as River Song for Halloween and special ordered jelly babies from Ireland for Christmas. Considering all of this, it's surprising that I let something as trivial as finals and internship paperwork get in the way of reviewing the show's new season, but...here we are.

Better late than never, right? That is certainly in the Doctor Who tradition.

One of the things I love about Doctor Who is that it renews itself so often. Every few years, we get a new leading man, and a completely new style. After ten years, the rebooted show is probably due a makeover, and that's what we get with The Pilot, a double entendre title which emphasizes both the show's soft reboot of itself, and references a plot point in the episode.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Vera Series 7 - The Blanket Mire - Episode Review

My review of the previous episode: Broken Promise.
"Yer mam'll be worried about yuh." 
"She doesn't care about oos." 
"Ah, shut oop and get in the car."
This episode of Vera puts a slightly horrific twist into the usual body discovery by revealing it rather unexpectedly, as a bit of sludgey sod gives way under a hiker.

18-year-old Mia Hinkin has been missing for six weeks when her body is discovered.

"Why does this feel worse?" says Aiden at the crime scene.

"The publicity," Vera replies. "Feel like you knew her."

Monday, April 3, 2017

Vera Series 7 - Broken Promise - Episode Review

My review of the previous episode: Dark Angel

One of my favorite things about Vera has always been its style - stark lighting, artsy shots, atmosphere. I've felt that the first two episodes of this season haven't really measured up to the series' visual standards, but Broken Promise, from its compelling cold open to its evocative conclusion, brings colors and contrast that have been missing.

Jamie Marshall, a 21-year-old University of Northumberland student, begins the episode recording a new vlog episode, ranting about tuition and toffs. Simultaneously, we watch him throw himself up the murky stairway of a dilapidated, old pile. It's a dramatic contrast between his frustrated but relatively measured vlog rant and his emotional devastation as - reaching the top floor - he hangs out of a window menacingly.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Vera Series 7 - Dark Angel - Episode Review

My review of the previous episode: Natural Selection.

"The burden of guilt, eh? It weighs heavily. Easier not to dwell on things."

The second episode of Vera opens with yet another body in the water, this time a young druggie named Nathan Weaver, clobbered over the head and dumped over the side of a forest bridge. Meanwhile, a Catholic priest prays the rosary and looks guilty.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Vera Series 7 - Natural Selection - Episode Review

My review of the previous season finale: The Sea Glass.

My review of the first season of Vera.
My review of the second season of Vera.
My review of the t
hird season of Vera.
My reviews of the fourth season of Vera.
My reviews of the fifth season of Vera.

My reviews of the sixth season of Vera.

Vera Stanhope and her sergeant, Aiden Healy, are called in when body is discovered on the shore of an island. Gemma Wyatt was a ranger who lived alone on the island part of the year. She worked with Sophia Ashbrook and her intern Peter Haden.

Wyatt was widely liked, but sure enough, as Vera starts to dig, a different picture of the victim emerges. Her solemn, surly sister Alice says, "She knew how to be cruel." Of course, it's possible that Alice is just bitter. Gemma and her boyfriend, Ryan, had been pressuring Alice to sell the family farm, but she refused to budge.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Endeavour Series 4 - Harvest - Episode Review

My review of the previous episode: Lazaretto.

In 1962, botanist Matthew Laxman went missing. In the first minutes of Harvest an atmospheric black-and-white flashback shows us his final moments, as he picked up a man on the side of the road, swerved to avoid a lorry and...black screen.

Back to the present. Relatively speaking.

It's 1967, and Courtney College archaeologists have just discovered a 2000-year-old body in Bramford Mere, close to where Laxman disappeared. Morse has a theory about the old body's cause of death, but the more pressing matter is that a pair of glasses were discovered close by that could have been Laxman's. Thursday was dissatisfied with the investigation last time around ("County," he grumbles, but he also suspects his previous bagman D.S. Lott wasn't "as thorough as he could have been") so he drags Morse along and they start to interview relatives.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Endeavour Series 4 - Lazaretto - Episode Review

My review of the previous episode: Canticle.
"I suppose everyone's got their own secret sadness, 'aven't they?" 
"I suppose. What's yours?" 
"Flat feet."
Lazaretto begins quite simply, for a Morse episode. Perhaps thanks to director Börkur Sigþórsson (a Scandinavian, if there ever was one), the episode has a bare simplicity and white light that's unusual for the usually warm, cozy show. The color palette reflects the sterile hospital at the center of this week's plot. It takes Morse and co. a while to get there however, because they've another death to attend to first.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Sherlock - The Final Problem - Episode Review

My review of the previous episode: The Lying Detective.

Who is Sherlock Holmes? I don't mean Benedict Cumberbatch. I mean Sherlock Holmes. The deerstalker. 221B. The legend of the Great Detective. Who is Sherlock Holmes?

Arthur Conan Doyle wasn't particularly interested in telling us. When we meet Sherlock in A Study in Scarlet, we learn almost everything we need to know about him in his first appearance. He's charming, polite, and a brilliant detective. Beyond an atypical big brother and an unremarkable background pieced together from hints, Sherlock is without a history.

Obviously, in these postmodern times, we can't just leave it at that, so Sherlock sets itself the task of unraveling the mystery of Sherlock Holmes. This is the Great Detective's origin story.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Endeavour Series 4 - Canticle - Episode Review

My review of the previous episode: Game.

Mrs. Joy Pettybon is on a crusade to Keep Britain Decent. An elderly widow, Mrs. Pettybon is quick to denounce anything to do with sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, and - it seems - fun. She's accompanied by her timid daughter, Bettina, and happy-go-lucky colleague, the Reverend Mervyn Golightly.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Endeavour Series 4 - Game - Episode Review

My review of last season's finale: Coda.

Chess, swimming pools, creepy dolls, fishing, computers, Oxford - you'd be hard pressed to figure out what these things have in common, but happily, Endeavour Morse is here to do that for us.

Series 4 of Endeavour picks up two weeks after we saw Joan Thursday pack her bags and hit the road. A lovelorn Morse and a befuddled Thursday are still working through the implications of her decision. Thursday retreats into surly irascibility. Morse, meanwhile, is resentful and thin-skinned, snobbish and sarcastic.

Sherlock - The Lying Detective - Episode Review

My review of The Six Thatchers

Just when I thought Sherlock couldn't surprise me, it comes out with this. While The Lying Detective isn't quite to level of the show's highs, it corrects almost all the problems I had with the previous episode and turns the series back in a positive direction. Whether that will last is up for grabs, but I'm feeling optimistic.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Dreams Come True

Image result for carrie fisher
When I went to visit my grandmother the other day, she said, out of the blue: "Leah died."

"Huh?" I mentally ran down a list of people we both know.

"Princess Leah," she explained. And then I understood. Carrie Fisher.

Public mourning is a weird thing, especially for actors. In the last weeks of 2016, a spate of celebrity deaths caused many fans to engage in something...not quite like grief, more like nostalgia. Carrie Fisher was not Princess Leia, but it can't be denied that what most people are missing about her is the white-clad space rebel she portrayed.

And that's even more strange, because Princess Leia is not dead.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Sherlock - The Six Thatchers - Episode Review

My review of the Christmas Special

The Six Thatchers is like six different stories at once. On the one hand, you have the teasing of the Moriarty revelation at the beginning, with Sherlock being a jerk to a bunch of civil servants (you know, as I write that out, it seems less annoying than it was - and it was quite annoying). Then we jump right back into the regular routine as Sherlock solves a series of cases. A dizzying montage climaxes with a rather unlikely murder case, which is notable only because it leads Sherlock to notice the theft of a plaster bust of Margaret Thatcher.