Saturday, July 05, 2008

Review: Doctor Who, Episode 4.13, "Journey's End"

The fourth season of New Who comes to a close with an episode written by departing showrunner Russell T Davies (who's leaving after next year's four specials) and directed by Graeme Harper (who's been working in various roles on Who since 1966). It's big, it's brilliant, and it's a nearly perfect summation of Davies' tenure on the show. Bravo, Mr. Davies! I couldn't have asked for more.

The recent Daily Telegraph article listing the top ten episodes in the show's history needs to be revised to include this one and its predecessor from last week, "The Stolen Earth."

This episode is also sure to upset many fans, but a good writer, and Davies is one, has to stay true to their own vision. Certain elements may not hold up to the scrutiny of cold logic, but Davies is a writer whose strength is often found in stressing emotional payoff over logic, and his stories need to be viewed on that level to be fully appreciated. This story works because of the emotional payoffs.

Future showrunner Steven Moffat may be a better writer in some ways, but I'll miss Davies when he's gone because of stories like this. At his best, Davies transforms Who into an epic story about people, whether Time Lord or human, and their emotional relationships.

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

A few weeks ago I told someone that the one former companion I'd like to see in the finale was K-9 (since Sarah Jane has access to him), so I had to stifle a scream when he appeared.

The scene of the Doctor and his companions piloting the TARDIS together while pulling the Earth back to its rightful place in the galaxy is one of those rare scenes that takes my breath away and makes me so happy that this show exists. I almost cried. If I had to create a list of the all-time greatest scenes in Who history, this would be one of them.

Although there's a bit of a deus ex machina to the resolution here, it's thankfully not a case of hitting a reset button as in the third season finale.

Lots of goodbyes (it felt kind of like the end of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King). Sarah Jane is right, the Doctor is never alone because he has a huge family on Earth. It looks like the rumors of Martha and Mickey joining Team Torchwood are true.

With the return of Rose, Davies needed to finally resolve the feelings the Doctor and Rose have for one another, and creating a clone of the Doctor that's physically human is a wonderful way to do that. The clone can verbalize the one thing the Doctor himself couldn't and be with Rose in the parallel universe in a way that the Doctor never could. It resolves the Doctor/Rose storyline in a way that makes Ten/Rose shippers happy but still leaves our Doctor in a condition of angst, which is the only way it could work.

I don't have a problem with the clone Doctor whispering to Rose. I think it would have been too sentimental to hear him say he loves Rose, and it mirrors both the Doctor not being able to say it the first time and River Song whispering his secret name to him a few episodes ago.

Donna. She saved the universe by becoming part Time Lord, but her human mind was simply incapable of containing the consciousness of a Time Lord. To save her, that consciousness and all memories of the Doctor had to be removed. As Dalek Caan prophesied, a companion had to die. By returning to the person she was before meeting the Doctor, the Donna we came to know did indeed die. No victory is without its sacrifices, and this is a painful one to see, even more than if Donna had physically died.

And good on the Doctor for telling Donna's mother off. Wilf is right, Donna was better with the Doctor.

A few more things that I love in the episode: Tosh still helping Team Torchwood even though she's dead, Davros recognizing Sarah Jane as having been on Skaro when the Daleks were first created, crazy Dalek Caan is a traitor who's been manipulating everything to set up the final destruction of the Daleks, a family relationship between Torchwood's Gwen Cooper and "The Unquiet Dead"'s Gwyneth is finally touched upon, it's now canon that a time capsule is intended to have six pilots, and the strong musical score by Murray Gold.

Great acting from David Tennant as the Doctor and his clone, Catherine Tate as Donna, Bernard Cribbins as Wilf, and Julian Bleach as Davros.

Bleach is simply the best portrayer of Davros ever. This is the first time I felt the full intensity of Davros' hatred and insanity.

Thank you, RTD.


Friday, July 04, 2008

Review: Astonishing X-Men #25

It's a smooth transition from the old creative team of writer Joss Whedon and artist John Cassaday to the new one of writer Warren Ellis and artist Simone Bianchi, especially going from one master of clever dialog in Whedon to another in Ellis. Bianchi's painted art is very different from Cassaday's more traditional style, but both tend toward a certain kind of realism that eschews cartoonish or unrealistically proportioned characters.

Ellis quickly establishes a new status quo and a new lineup for the team as they're called in by the San Francisco Police Department to consult on a homicide case that may involve a mutant. It's a more down to earth story so far than Whedon's epic storylines, but in inimitable Ellis fashion, it all points to something weird and technological. Ellis' dialog makes it a treat to read.


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Today's also the 45th anniversary of the publication of Avengers #1, another superhero team created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.


This week's comic book purchases: Astonishing X-Men #25 (where Warren Ellis replaces Joss Whedon as writer), Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight #16 (Buffy/Fray crossover!), Angel: After the Fall #10, Hellboy: The Crooked Man #1, Doctor Who #5, Doctor Who Classics #8, Trinity #5, Supergirl #31, Manhunter #32, Patsy Walker: Hellcat #1, Joker's Asylum: The Joker #1, Batman #678, Avengers/Invaders #3, Squadron Supreme #1, Chas: The Knowledge #1, Fables #74, House of Mystery #3, and The Walking Dead #50. I also picked up Fantastic Four #558 because I forgot to get it last week.


Happy 45th Anniversary, X-Men!

45 years ago today, X-Men #1 was published with a cover date of September 1963 (comic book cover dates have traditionally been postdated 2-3 months).

In that very first issue, creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby set the stage for decades of stories by introducing the characters of Professor Xavier and his original team of mutant superheroes--Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman, and Marvel Girl--and their arch-nemesis Magneto. The story was plotted by Lee and Kirby, scripted by Lee, and penciled by Kirby (with inking by Paul Reinman and lettering by Sam Rosen).

Their concept of superheroes feared and hated for being different elevated the X-Men from simple crimefighters to a powerful metaphor that later writers used to address racism, homophobia, and intolerance in our own world. This trait immediately set the X-Men apart from other superhero teams.

Lee and Kirby's creation has become one of the most popular and enduring teams of superheroes in comics, spinning off into many other comic book titles, animated television shows, and three highly successful Hollywood films that raised the profile of the characters even higher. Individual team members such as Wolverine have become arguably even more popular than the team itself.

Although Lee and Kirby only lasted three years on the series, they paved the way for creators like Roy Thomas, Neal Adams, Len Wein, Dave Cockrum, Chris Claremont, and John Byrne to carry it into the 1970s and the 1980s, despite the first half of the 1970s seeing it publishing only reprints of earlier material, and those creators paved the way for the continued success of the book and its spinoffs right up to the present, where creators like superstar writers Joss Whedon and Warren Ellis have put their own stamps on the characters.

The Claremont/Byrne creative team had a legendary run from 1978 to 1981 that produced one of the most famous and influential storylines in comics, "The Dark Phoenix Saga." A recent poll by Comics Should Be Good! ranked the Claremont/Byrne run as the second best in the history of comics behind only Neil Gaiman's run on Sandman. Five other X-Men runs by different creators were ranked in the Top 100. The legacy of the X-Men in comics history is assured.

I was first introduced to the X-Men in January 1980 when X-Men #135 went on sale. This was right in the middle of "The Dark Phoenix Saga," and immediately established for me what good comics storytelling was all about. I'd been reading comics for a little over a year, but X-Men #135 was when my love affair with the medium began.


Monday, June 30, 2008

Review: The Middleman, Episode 1.3, "The Sino-Mexican Revelation"

The ABC Family network show serves up yet another absurd and enjoyable episode, with a teleplay by creator/showrunner Javier Grillo-Marxuach, as the Middleman and sidekick Wendy Watson must rescue Sensei Ping (guest star Mark Dacascos is hilarious) of the Clan of the Pointed Stick from a secret organization of Mexican wrestlers. This show is a delightful treat every Monday.


A new version of the cult television show The Prisoner is being produced as a miniseries with Jim Caviezel as Number Six and Ian McKellen as Number Two. It's a co-production by America's AMC network and the UK's ITV network, set to air in 2009. The showrunner is Bill Gallagher, creator of the BBC's 2004 miniseries Conviction.

Actor Don S. Davis passed away yesterday. He was best known as Major Briggs on Twin Peaks, Scully's father on The X-Files, and General Hammond on Stargate SG-1. R.I.P.

I was watching the new episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent last night and I thought guest star Indira Varma looked familiar before the credits listed her name, then I realized she was Suzie from Torchwood.

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