Saturday, June 07, 2008

So, fellow Doctor Who fans, who would you like to see as the Eleventh Doctor?

My short list:

Alan Davies (of Jonathan Creek fame)
Stephen Fry
Alan Cumming
Derek Jacobi

I'm aware that Jacobi already appeared as the Master, but his performance as Professor Yana before he regained his memories of being the Master was so Doctorish. Besides, Colin Baker appeared as another character on the show before becoming the Sixth Doctor.


Review: Doctor Who, Episode 4.9, "Forest of the Dead"

To quote the Ninth Doctor, this episode is "absolutely fantastic!" Future showrunner/current writer Steven Moffat and director Euros Lyn finish what they started in last week's "Silence in the Library," and what a finish it is. It's easily my favorite episode of this season so far, fully living up to my high expectations for a Moffat story. As he's noted for doing, Moffat provides an intriguing concept with a story worthy of it. It's suspenseful, even disturbing at times, and I appreciate the way it all ends. Bravo!

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

I really like Alex Kingston's character, Professor River Song, and I hope she returns in a future episode, perhaps in 2010 when Moffat takes over.

So the way that River makes the Doctor trust her is to whisper his real name into his ear. The Doctor knows that he would have only told that to someone truly special to him. It also means that during the hinted at relationship between the two in the Doctor's future and River's past, he fully knows what her fate is. It's both tragic and beautiful, not to mention timey wimey.

And what a tease for fans to have River say the Doctor's real name, but we can't hear it or read her lips because her back is turned. Curse you, Moffat, you evil bastard!

I pretty much figured last week that the library computer had stored Donna in its system, meaning the Doctor could discover a way to bring her back, which he did.

Once again there's a reference to a First Doctor serial, this time 1964's "The Aztecs." With other First Doctor references this season, one wonders if they're just subtle nods to the past or if they'll lead to something.

All the references to spoilers over the past two episodes are amusing.

I love the ending having a nod to Moffat's earlier episode, "The Doctor Dances."


Reviews: Battlestar Galactica 4.9/Charlie Jade 1.1

Review: Battlestar Galactica, Episode 4.9, "The Hub"

Former Buffy the Vampire Slayer staff writer Jane Espenson delivers another strong episode, deftly balancing action and character-based drama while moving the final season closer to some major revelations, some of which may occur next week judging by the preview (although last week's preview for this episode turned out to be a bit of a tease). Every time I think this show can't possibly get any better, it does. The suspense for how it all ends just got ratcheted up another notch.

Review: Charlie Jade, Episode 1.1, "The Big Bang"

This Canadian/South African co-production, originally broadcast on Canada's SPACE network in 2005, finally makes its US debut on the Sci Fi Channel. Created by Chris Roland and Robert Wertheimer (noted science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer also had a hand in its development), it's a science fiction drama involving travel to parallel universes and a conspiracy spanning several of them. It's like The X-Files meets Sliders, but it's much closer to the tone of the former. It's also visually stylish, with its look established in the first episode by veteran television director T.J. Scott (Xena: Warrior Princess, La Femme Nikita), and part of what makes it look different are the unfamiliar Cape Town shooting locations. My overall impression of the episode is positive and I'm intrigued enough by the premise to want to see where it goes from here.

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Friday, June 06, 2008

Action Comics #1

Seventy years ago, Action Comics #1 was published by Detective Comics, Inc. with a cover date of June 1938 (although it actually arrived on newsstands on April 18th). The lead story featured a mild-mannered reporter named Clark Kent, a disguise for a strange visitor from another planet who became known to the world as Superman.

With that story, writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster, sons of Jewish immigrants, introduced the first superhero and ushered in the Golden Age of Comic Books. Their creation is one of the few comic book characters to never go out of publication. Despite that, the story of Siegel and Shuster is a sad one of being exploited and robbed by the corporation they sold their creation to, although recent judgments in favor of their heirs assures that some measure of justice will finally be done.

Prior to creating Superman, Siegel and Shuster created swashbuckler Henri Duval and supernatural crimefighter Doctor Occult for National Allied Publications, a corporate ancestor of DC, and tough guy detective Slam Bradley and spy Bart Regan for DC. After leaving DC in 1947, they created Funnyman for Magazine Enterprises, a company formed by Action Comics #1 editor Vin Sullivan. Nothing they did before or after Superman achieved the kind of unprecedented mass popularity that he did.

Siegel and Shuster's status as sons of Jewish immigrants is important to their creation. Kal-El (derived from Hebrew words that have been translated as "all that is G_d" or "voice of G_d") is an immigrant whose original home was destroyed by a great calamity, much as Jewish communities in Europe were being destroyed in the 1930s. In a new world and unable to return to the old one, he's given a new American-sounding name and does his best to succeed in his new community, a time honored immigrant's tale. Comic book creator and historian Will Eisner considered Superman a conceptual descendant of the mythic Golem, a mystical protector of the oppressed Jews of Prague. Similarities to the story of Moses have also been noted.

As first conceived by the duo when they were teenagers, Superman was a bald, megalomaniacal villain who bore a strong resemblance to his future arch-nemesis, Lex Luthor. Siegel eventually decided the character would make a better hero, one who would aid the downtrodden and oppressed. Superman in his early years was a liberal crusader against injustice, a "Champion of the Oppressed" as he was described on the very first page of Action Comics #1.

Superman's earliest opponents were lynch mobs, war profiteers, corrupt politicians, slum lords, greedy mine owners, and abusers of women, a marked contrast to the megalomaniacal supervillains, menaces from outer space, and the like that he later became associated with. In many ways, Superman was a child of the Great Depression and the New Deal, a champion of ordinary working class men and women.

Action Comics #1 also featured the first appearances of magician-hero Zatara, whose daughter Zatanna is more familiar today, and adventurer Tex Thomson. The latter was created by writer Ken Fitch and artist Bernard Baily, the team that would later create Hourman. In 1940, Baily collaborated with Siegel in the creation of the Spectre, bringing two key creators who worked on different stories in Action Comics #1 together. Much later, Baily's art studio was a starting point for future greats like Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, and Frank Frazetta.

Action Comics #1 is well-deserving of its exalted place in comic book history.

If anyone wants to read Action Comics #1, scanned images from a low-grade copy are online here.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight #15

It just didn't grab me, but it deserves a second chance.

It's a little hard to judge the writing since I came in at the end of a story arc, so I think it's only fair that I allow the series at least one full story arc before I really judge it. The next story arc will be written by creator Joss Whedon and will be a crossover with his earlier Fray comic. I'm thinking I might like that.

On the other hand, it's easy to judge the art of Georges Jeanty and to judge it harshly. The characters look cartoonish (especially in long shots where they have all the facial expression of Little Orphan Annie), I couldn't have told Buffy and Willow apart on one page if I didn't know one was a blonde and the other a redhead, and Xander looks like he hasn't hit puberty yet. The good news is that the next story arc will feature art by Fray co-creator Karl Moline.

I'm still not convinced that it was necessary to continue Buffy's story in comic book form.

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This week's comics haul: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight #15 (yes, I decided to give it a try), Wolverine: Dangerous Games #1, Trinity #1 (a new weekly series featuring Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman), Ultimate Origins #1, The Invincible Iron Man #2, Young X-Men #3, House of Mystery #2, Infinity Inc. #10, Justice Society of America #16, and Avengers/Invaders #2.


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Along with Doctor Who only airing four specials in 2009 instead of a full season, sibling show Torchwood will only have five episodes in its third season, also set to air in 2009. They'll be broadcast on consecutive nights in the UK, making it more of a miniseries. It'll be interesting to see what direction the show goes in now that showrunner Chris Chibnall has moved on to the same position for the upcoming Law & Order: London. He was Torchwood's best writer last season, so his absence will be felt.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Three men associated with the Star Trek franchise have died in the past two weeks.

First it was Joseph Pevney, who directed fourteen episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series, including some of the absolute best ("The City on the Edge of Forever" and "The Trouble with Tribbles").

Then it was Alexander Courage, who composed the iconic theme music for Star Trek: The Original Series.

Now it's Robert H. Justman, who was a producer for both Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation, and was considered to be creator Gene Roddenberry's right hand man on both shows.