Archive for May, 2011

Doctor Who Series Six: Strong Start Shifts to Anticlimactic Episodes

Anyone who has read my last Doctor post knows that after the two-part series beginning, I was left on the edge of my seat.  These last two episodes have helped me to settle back…possibly step away for a snack, or play on facebook with the show on in the background.

I might be exaggerating.

Last week I didn’t write anything about the episode The Black Spot.  While it was a decently entertaining episode, it didn’t contain much to satisfy my leftover burning curiosity.  The Siren was a nice, new monster; a good example of the way DW can take an ancient story and turn it Sci-fi.  Amy and Rory were endearing as always—unless you count the part where Amy gave up trying to save Rory, right after he said he chose her because she’d never quit.  It seemed more like he came back on his own due to his stubborn refusal to leave her side.  Plus, the doctor really doesn’t know CPR?  Honestly??  After all this time saving humans, it never came up??  I mean, he’s not required, right, he’s not “the Doctor” because he has a medical degree.  Still, 900-years-old, all that brilliance…never come across the directions in a restaurant bathroom somewhere?

Anyway, I was already impatiently looking past The Black Spot, because I knew the episode coming next was called The Doctor’s Wife.   I hadn’t watched any previews, so you can imagine what I was thinking:  time to find out about River Song and the Doctor, once and for all!  Obviously, I was pretty far off.

Looking at it that way, it’s probably my own fault that I felt let down.  And to be fair,  no season of Doctor Who can consist entirely of nail-biters.  One could even point out that many of the eps on my top ten list are either silly or sappy, and not scary at all.  Still, perhaps a by-product of having the Most Exciting Series Premiere is an abnormally high set of expectations for the following weeks.  Hence my increasingly pronounced feeling of disappointment since then.

Now that I’ve recognized my own accountability, I’ll see what I can draw from The Doctor’s Wife.

I suppose it is a unique concept, that the Doctor should finally be able to speak to his beloved machine and get a response.  (Makes me wonder if this is some kind of male fantasy:  if his boat or car could suddenly assume a female body, she’d be his perfect mate.)  Matt Smith’s grief and anger when he realizes he’s once again missed a chance at reconciling with fellow Time Lords was palpable and it was nice to see a little of the dark, out-of-control Doctor in him that was common for Tennant.   Then there’s the appreciated return of the Ood, although interesting that this time an Ood can be possessed by evil intent and his eyes will be green instead of traditional red.  Red eyes on an Ood always meant  it was hitting the fan until now.

My problem is that both eps offered very little in the way of the big hints I need.   The creepy woman that opens a hatch in places where hatches do not exist shows up for Amy again, and the Doctor is still getting negative and positive results on her pregnancy.  The monster called “The House” who eats Time Lords and Tardises shows an unhealthy interest in Amy, which disturbs the Doctor and shows us that she is still really weird.  But there’s nothing about Amy’s child with the regenerating abilities.  Previews of future episodes show Sontarans, which just means more time with no answers, but then there seems to be a woman explaining the living matter inside the space suits.  That is important.

I do feel impatient, and I worry more that the season is chopped in half.  Call me crazy, but I feel a cliffhanger coming on.

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Broadway’s Billy Elliot: Freakin’ Phenomenal!

Today I saw Billy Elliot and the entire experience was so fantastic that I have to write it up.   This won’t be much of a review; I refuse to spoil a single thing about it.

First, I don’t know if I’ve made it eminently clear, but I’m not exactly made of money.  I was supposed to take my mom to see a production of  A Raisin in the Sun here in NJ but it already ended.  On a whim we decided just to show up in Times Square and hit the Tkts Kiosk in the hopes of grabbing some last minute tickets for cheap.  I’d never done it before, but a quick check on the Net before I left this morning had me worried about 2 hour lines and having to pay in cash.

It was nothing like that.  There was maybe one group in front of us, and a giant list of shows to pick from.  My mom had heard good things about Billy Elliot, so I swallowed my disinterest and away we went with our fantastic tickets (center Front Mezzanine—not orchestra but still a great view) for half price and only a half-hour to kill before the show.  Nice.

Why the disinterest?  I adore plays, but I’m always going to look for that emotional oomph.  I want to be moved—to laughter, to tears, it doesn’t matter, just as long as I’m feeling something.  A great play can do that better than any other forum; the immediacy of seeing the drama right in front of you makes it feel so real.  A good actor will take me through the emotional gauntlet, if that’s what the story calls for; and there you have my initial apathy.  What emotions can a dancing kid wring from a 32-year-old woman?

As it turns out, plenty.

I’ll keep it simple (so, probably a tad vague).  It’s set in a mining town in the middle of a strike in the UK under Margaret Thatcher, so this blue-collar little town tries to band together and weather tough, scary times.  At the center is a small family:  grandmother, father, two sons and the ghost of a beloved and too-soon lost mother.  The family dynamics are incredibly realistic and easy to relate with:  the anger, fears, frustrations, and love between them.  Yet you also get some hilarious characters, (Billy’s grandmother and his best friend, Michael, are complete scene-stealers), and even entire numbers that had the audience laughing throughout.  The writing is really strong, with a few different messages you can take home, including the obvious “Be Yourself” with some pretty good arguments to back it up.  The dancing is incredible, which is to be expected from Broadway, but it’s the emotion behind the dancing that really gets to me.  Check out Billy’s “Angry Dance” just before intermission and find out how to project rage via ballet and tap.  For our production, the actor who played Billy was Jacob Clemente and he is frightfully talented.  Any kid in this role would have to have crazy skills and crazier stamina.  Plus absolutely no fear of heights.  But I’ll stop there—no hints!

The entire cast was brilliant down to the chorus, each line delivered perfectly, each movement divine.  Without giving anything away, I can say with confidence that you will get swept up in the story.  I cried twice, laughed a lot, and helped give Jacob a standing-O.  For those of you who have seen the movie (I haven’t), my mom assures me that the play is an entirely different experience, and a far better one at that.

There are a lot of moments that moved me, and part of me feels like going into detail.  Maybe I’ll change my mind and revamp this entire post, really dig deep.  For now, it’s 1 a.m. and I spent the day packed like a sardine into Times Square, so I’ll happily stay in the shallow end.

If I actually hoped to accomplish anything with this post, it would be for someone with tastes like mine to realize that a play doesn’t need a love story to engage your heart.  It just needs a great story to be told in a phenomenal way—in this case, a story about a dancing kid.

How I Met Your Mother: Shame On Ted Mosby!

I said I was a fan of How I Met Your Mother and I am, but there just hasn’t been anything on the show this season that would compel me to write about it.  Tiny moments for Swarkles (Swarley and Robin Sparkles…I saw that somewhere, cutest thing ever), but the show has already been renewed for two more seasons.  I’ve said it before, there is no reason to rush these things.  Done properly, it’s more fun to watch a ‘ship build slowly, and it gives the writers plenty of time to make it seem natural instead of slapped together sitcom-style.

But this isn’t about Swarkles.

Last night’s episode “Landmarks” was centered around the final end of Ted-and-Zoey, never a favorite of mine.  I didn’t like the fact that their relationship dissolved a marriage, even a weird one, and the idea that Ted would choose some tail over the chance at his dream job seemed all wrong.  Is he so desperate for marriage that he’d trade everything else about himself for a shot up the aisle?  I guess it is refreshing to see a male character act this way for once.  I’m sure Steven Moffat would find him incredibly unrealistic.

Snarky, unrelated comments aside, I’ll come to the point:  I get that Ted might throw his own career away for the chance at a relationship, but the fact that he was willing to let Barney lose his job just threw me for a loop.  I know that when the show started, Barney was the shallow friend and Ted never seemed sure he wanted to keep him around, but over the years I think he’s proven himself to all of them.  He’s the one who made sure that Lily and Marshall got back together after their short-lived break-up; he’s the one who made sure Robin got a new job so she wouldn’t have to move back to Canada; and he’s also the one who got hit by a bus running to reach Ted’s side when he’d been in a car accident.  Even the other characters didn’t freak out on Ted for his sheer selfishness and that struck me as insane.  It seems like the group, with the exception of Robin, still treats Barney like they’re doing him a favor by letting him hang around.

Don’t agree?  Let’s say you’re Barney.  You stake your reputation on the line to get your down-on-his-luck friend the job he’s always wanted, because you won’t allow him to give up on himself.  Not your style; shouldn’t be his.  You do this despite the fact that the last time you tried to help this friend get a job he misjudged his client so badly that he was fired.  Now you find out that he’s planning to illogically betray the project so his new girlfriend will keep liking him, and if he does this you lose your job.  No need to freak out, though, because naturally your friend won’t jeopardize your career for his however-many-months-old relationship, right?  I mean…that would be crazy.

I guess that makes Ted crazy, because he calmly decided to stay his course.  In fact, when he finally does change his mind, it has nothing to do with Barney; he just remembered that turning down the chance to design a building in NYC would be brutally idiotic.  So, I guess Barney should be thankful that Ted’s one self-interest overcame his other self-interest.  I wonder if Hallmark makes a card for that.

I guess it sounds like I’m taking this pretty seriously, but this little show has become a favorite of mine.  I think all four actors have hit their stride by now, outdoing each other with some fantastic delivery.  I guess this is more of a writing complaint then, because I really didn’t like this new side to Ted’s character.  By the time Zoey delivers her betrayal-smack-down, I wasn’t even rooting for him.

Somehow after all this time, Ted still doesn’t treat Barney as a best friend…or even just a close one.  In season 1, it made sense because nobody knew that Barney had a soul.  But season 6?

Not cool, Ted.   Not cool.

Series Six: Most Exciting Doctor Who Premiere Yet! (SPOILERS through Day of the Moon)

I should’ve choked on the words in that title, but I absolutely stand by them.  RTD fan or not, I am on the edge of my seat here.  Let me clarify—I love RTD’s premiere eps, but never has one scared the pee out of me and left me with a billion questions this way.  I can’t help but be impressed.

First?  I was not expecting body bags.

I wanted the episode to start where The Impossible Astronaut ended, with Amy shooting the little girl in the spacesuit.  Should’ve known that just isn’t how Moffat rolls.  Instead, Amy is run down in the desert by Canton Delaware, who was a friend last time I checked!  The image of his men throwing that body bag in front of Amy was powerfully evocative–shocking, with an extra touch of horror.

But the orphanage was just ridiculous.

Amy and Canton (friends again, his defection just another twisty trick from the Doctor) are looking for the little girl in an orphanage, and find a dimly lit building with a haunted caretaker.  You just know the aliens are inside, and it’s all downhill from there.  There’s graffiti on the walls in  blood red:  the words “Get out”.  The caretaker doesn’t know how it got there but Amy sees the same words on his wrist.  So not good.

Then Amy’s in a dark room with rows of empty beds (had a quick, pleasant flashback to Nine in Series One, the hospital scene in The Empty Child…aww, I loved Nine).  The door shuts and she can’t get out…that’s when she sees that her hand is blinking red like an answering machine in the 80’s.

Did I mention that the Doctor implanted a recording device in their hands to keep track of alien sightings?

Last week in The Impossible Astronaut, we learned that looking away from the aliens causes a person to forget having seen them.  The device is supposed to solve the problem.  But here’s what makes it interesting, what, actually, makes it positively ingenious.  When Amy met the alien last week the audience might have been omniscient, but this week?  Oh, we’re stuck in Amy’s head.  That means if Amy sees an alien, we won’t know until that light is blinking—and if Amy misses time, so do we.

Fear builds in quick flashes—Amy runs to the window and sees her arm covered in ‘crap, I saw an alien’ tally marks, but just a second glance shows the marks all over her face; scores of sleeping aliens are hanging from the ceiling (funny when the Krillitane did it in School Reunion, not so much this time); some weird lady talking through a hatch in a door that suddenly has no hatch—by the time Amy went into the little girl’s room, I’ll admit, I was scared.  Deliciously so.

Other highlights?


There’s another Badass-Extreme moment for River Song.  Amy’s rescued in a room full of aliens (reminding me of Nine and Captain Jack saving Rose from the middle of the Dalek fleet in The Parting of the Ways), which have been revealed as the Silence.  River guards the Doctor while he stalks around being brilliant, and their banter sizzles.  Great stuff, but she’s best when she starts taking the aliens out one by one, spinning gracefully as she rains destruction on their enemies.  Much like the Doctor, I’m getting kind of attached to her.  They had their first kiss and it was both awkward (the Doctor flails his arms and acts as if he’s never been kissed before by anyone, never mind River) and sad (River realizes that his first kiss with her must be her last with him).

The romance of Amy and Rory took a few harrowing twists and turns this time as well.  Rory and the Doctor arrive at the orphanage too late to find Amy; all they find is her little red recorder, which is somehow still recording her although no longer physically attached.  Rory tells her he’s coming for her and the Doctor explains that she can’t hear him.  Rory, looking less than friendly, responds with, “She can always hear me, Doctor. Always. Wherever she is and she always knows that I am coming for her, do you understand me? Always.”

Sweet, but Amy takes some of the wind out of his sails by  pleading for the Doctor to come rescue her.  Later, a desolate Rory is holding her device when she starts talking about someone with a stupid face that she loves…you can see his spirits lift until she says, “My life was so boring until you dropped out of the sky.”  Even I thought she was talking about the Doctor.

Luckily Amy is rescued and she refers to Rory’s stupid face.  All is well again, until she starts talking about last week’s mystery pregnancy.  She told the Doctor she was, now she tells him she isn’t.  The audience knows that Amy saw a picture of herself holding a baby in the creepy little girl’s room, but she can’t quite grasp the memory.  When the Doctor asks why she told him instead of Rory, she admits she had worried that the pregnancy would have been affected by her time traveling, whether or not her child would come out with a ‘Time Head’.  Funny, but now there is doubt again for Rory (who is naturally eavesdropping), because why would the kid have a ‘Time Head’ unless the mom messed around with a Time Lord?  Only it turns out Amy knows he’s listening, so then she must’ve been just messing with him.  Right?

Except for this mind-blowing ending:

Questions, questions, questions.  The aliens here were the Silence and now they’re defeated.  Can that really be the end of it after they spent the entire fifth series hinting about  ‘The Silence Will Fall’?  That would seem anticlimactic and so seems unlikely.  Amy is and isn’t pregnant; that girl is always weird.  There’s a little kid out there who regenerates and the suggestion is that Amy is her mother.  So Rory still has something to worry about after all?

I’m excited.  I’m intrigued.  And I’ve already said I’m impressed.  This series is going new places, and this time I’m going with it.

Bring it on, Moffat.