Saturday, May 17, 2008

Review: Doctor Who, Episode 4.7, "The Unicorn and the Wasp"

Gareth Roberts, writer of last season's "The Shakespeare Code", pens the latest New Who story about the Doctor meeting an historical figure. It was Charles Dickens in the first season, Queen Victoria in the second, Shakespeare in the third, and now it's another famous writer. Without revealing the identity of the writer, I'll just say that this episode is very much a fun little homage to their stories while also trying to explain a mysterious event in their life. It's also the first Who story to be explicitly written as a comedy since the 1966 First Doctor serial, "The Gunfighters".

It's crisply directed by Graeme Harper, who began his Who career as a floor assistant for the 1966 Second Doctor serial, "The Power of the Daleks" and began directing for the show with the 1984 Fifth Doctor serial, "The Caves of Androzani" (although he unofficially worked on the 1981 Fourth Doctor serial, "Warriors' Gate" as co-director). He balances the drawing room comedy and the action to provide a satisfying episode.

While in some ways it's an unsubstantial episode that doesn't advance the show's mythology or this season's story arc, it's pleasantly entertaining and a nice change of pace. If you're a fan of the writer in question, as I am, you'll appreciate the nods to their works.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I finished re-watching the fifth and final season of Angel last night. I still think its ending is perfect and reflects the themes of the show. I feel the same way I did after re-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer: I don't need to read the comic book continuation of the story because it came to the right end on television. Overall, the show wasn't quite as good as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it wasn't very far behind it. Next up: re-watch Firefly.

More details about Joss Whedon's Dollhouse: Angel story editors/staff writers Sarah Fain and Elizabeth Craft are the showrunners; Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel line producer Kelly A. Manners is working in the same capacity again; and Steven S. DeKnight (story editor/staff writer on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a staff writer/producer on Angel) and Tim Minear (showrunner on both Angel and Firefly) are consulting producers. The people working with Joss behind the scenes certainly have credentials. The first season is expected to begin airing in January 2009.

As for casting, what I'm most excited about in Dollhouse isn't Eliza Dushku in the lead role of Echo, but Amy Acker in the recurring role of Dr. Claire Saunders. After re-watching Angel, I was reminded of just how good of an actress Acker is. I still can't believe she played both Fred and Illyria. She changed her method of speaking and even her body language so completely. Add in her voice work in Justice League Unlimited as the Huntress, and Acker has demonstrated her ability to be a chameleon. One wonders if perhaps she wouldn't have been better cast as Echo, a character who can have different traits programmed into her each episode.

Nooooo!!!! Moonlight got canceled. I'm not going to defend the show on quality grounds, but once a week I could look forward to cheesy fun with some nice eye candy in the forms of Alex O'Loughlin and Sophia Myles.

However, one of my other favorite new shows from the 2007-08 season received better news. Reaper is coming back for a second season, although the number of episodes will be reduced from the eighteen of the first season to thirteen and they won't air until early in 2009. I like how the show's mythology has developed over the first season and want to see where it goes from here.

Captain America's Shield Found in Iron Man?!. Fascinating.

Speed Racer is turning into one of the biggest box office disasters of the 21st century. Reportedly costing in the area of $300 million to produce and market, it'll be lucky to even make 20% of that back at the US box office. I haven't seen it yet, but most of the reviews I've read haven't been kind.

Lastly, this made me laugh out loud.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Review: Doctor Who, Episode 4.6, "The Doctor's Daughter"

Stephen Greenhorn, who wrote last season's "The Lazarus Experiment" and created the BBC Scotland soap River City, returns with a fun but decidedly mixed effort that at its best feels like a Classic Who serial but at its worst suffers from having so many good ideas but not enough time to properly explore them in any depth. It should have been a two part episode to prevent every plot development from feeling rushed. It's also the kind of story that would have been better served in the hands of writers Paul Cornell or Steven Moffat. There are things to like about it, but there are also things to be disappointed by.

Warning: spoilers below, please highlight the white space with your mouse to read them.

Two factions of colonists come into conflict. The Doctor finds a resolution amidst much running up and down corridors. Yep, that's a Classic Who story, the Fourth Doctor's era in particular.

Despite showrunner Russell T Davies' promise that the episode "does exactly as it says on the tin", the Doctor's daughter, Jenny, is really more of a clone and her creation is less than satisfying. That said, I love the character herself and Georgia Moffett (the daughter of actor Peter Davison aka the Fifth Doctor) is absolutely perfect for the role. We just don't have enough time to get to know her because so much else is crammed into 45 minutes.

Her revival from seeming death paves the way for her future return or a spinoff, but it raises questions about her nature. If she's essentially a clone of a Time Lord, shouldn't her fatal wound have caused a regeneration instead of just reviving hours later? In "The Christmas Invasion", the Doctor is able to regrow a severed hand because Time Lords have an amazing healing ability within the first fifteen hours after regeneration. If Jenny was within the first fifteen hours after her creation, perhaps the same ability came into play, but shouldn't the Doctor have realized that? Her fate is sloppily conceived by Greenhorn.

I love the Hath, especially Martha's friend.

Martha is awesome once again. After she's left back on Earth at the end, I miss her already.

Donna wanting to use her feminine wiles during the escape is funny.

Next week's episode looks hilarious.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Emerald City ComiCon, Day Two

Day Two of the Emerald City ComiCon. I arrived at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center just in time for the doors to the convention space to open at 10am.

I brought some comics with me to have them signed by their creators, so I spent most of the first two hours doing that. Some of the lines for signings were incredibly long, so I didn't get every comic signed that I wanted. I did get Birds of Prey #98 signed by writer Gail Simone (I also asked her for some advice to an aspiring writer like myself, and she was generous with her time in giving some), Superman #656 signed by writer Kurt Busiek, Manifest Eternity #4 signed by artist Dustin Nguyen, and New X-Men #139 (with Jean Grey in her Dark Phoenix costume on the cover) signed by artist Phil Jimenez.

I didn't have anything by writer Andy Mangels handy (you try digging through 6,000 poorly indexed comics to find something), but he had some of his work for sale, so I purchased Nightmares on Elm Street #1 (from way back in 1991 -- oh, and yay, Freddy!) and he signed it. He also threw in a signed poster for a related miniseries for free because I'm a fellow member of the GLA mailing list (associated with the Gay League website for GLBT comics fans). Mangels said he thought I might be someone from the list. Do I look visibly queer or something? Why, yes, I do. Heh. Jimenez is another GLA list member, so I also introduced myself to him as a list member when he signed the New X-Men comic.

From Noon to 1pm, I was at the "Sunday Conversation" panel moderated by DC Comics' senior vice president/executive editor Dan DiDio. The rest of the panel consisted of Busiek, writer Bill Willingham, and senior story editor Ian Sattler.

It was more of a give and take between fans and creators, with DiDio asking questions of the fans and then letting us have our say. I raised my hand when he asked how many of us had stopped reading comics for awhile and then returned to reading them. He called on me to explain why. I said the first time was in the 1990s when grim and gritty was the rule of the day, and the second time was last year due to 'big event' fatigue. I said I was coming back again this time because of the upcoming Final Crisis miniseries, which earned me a thank you from Sattler.

1pm to 2pm was spent at a Q&A session for actor/writer/geek extraordinaire Wil Wheaton. He's a great speaker with many funny anecdotes to share, as well as some serious ones about growing up as a bullied geek and dealing with fans who were nasty because they hated his character on Star Trek: The Next Generation. He had some great words of advice for a teenaged girl asking about how to survive high school when you're bullied for being different. After the session, he pulled her aside and spoke to her some more. He seems like a genuinely nice guy, as well as a mega-nerd.

Then I went to lunch. I had a hot dog and lemonade at the little deli on the convention floor. Then I wandered around the exhibition area some more. I bought a Buffy action figure complete with the magical scythe she acquired at the end of the final season. So two action figures was the sum total of my purchases this year. Some other items I had my eyes on were just too expensive to justify buying, like a Dark Phoenix action figure for $60.

But now it means my desk has even more protection. If you get past the Jawa and Hal Jordan (only the greatest Green Lantern ever), now you also have to deal with a Slayer and a genocidal pepper pot. Beware!

After lunch, I caught the tail end of writer J. Michael Straczynski's Q&A session. I finished off the day at a panel about self-publishing that included writer Phil Foglio. Very informative. Then I said goodbye to the con until next year.

I had a great time and I'm definitely looking forward to going again next year. It was worthwhile, even with my arthritic left ankle acting up after all the walking I did.