Doctor Who - "The Magician's Apprentice"

The ninth season of Doctor Who premiered on BBC America on Saturday, September 19. Being the Whovians that we are, my family joined together for a rare night of live television. (We usually DVR our shows.) Were we in for an exciting night! As a note, I will try my best to stay away from spoilers.

Every Doctor Who episode has a grand entrance, right? This one is no different. A war rages on some world. It vaguely looks like Earth but the airplanes are shooting laser beams at the men on the ground. Men who are only armed with bows and arrows. Not exactly an even match. One of the men come upon a child running from the fray. Unfortunately, this child has run into a hand mine. (That would be a mines made of hands...) If the hand grabs you, it will drag you under the ground to your death. The child stands still, not knowing how to handle his situation, when a strange object lands near his feet. We hear the voice of The Doctor, amplified through the sonic screwdriver he threw to the child. As The Doctor talks, telling the child that he will not die this day, he asks the child his name. And it is the name The Doctor fears the most. Davros.

OK. I said I was staying away from spoilers. That is the closest I will get because it is very important to understanding the episode.

Clara is in her classroom when she notices the airplanes have all stopped mid-air. They aren't falling. They are just stopped. Of course, she gets a call from UNIT (the UNified Intelligence Taskforce) and rushes off.

So, yeah, UNIT has been around for years and years and years. Since the Second Doctor, I believe. At what point do you think they will stop hiring morons? They seemed pretty intelligent when Martha was working with them. But now they are stupid? I found their whole part in the episode annoying. It was nothing more than an easy way to slide Missy (formerly known as The Master) back into the show. (Hey, she was on some of the promo posters and trailers. Not a spoiler!)

Missy is the one that stopped the planes. She needed to talk to Clara but it's not like Clara would willingly go have tea with her for no good reason. It turns out that Missy received an item that means The Doctor will die the next day. Or at least he thinks he will. They need to find The Doctor and save him. Clara uses UNIT's computers to lock down the time and place The Doctor is hiding. And off they go.

Hm. Does this mean that the writers are officially saying The Doctor is out of regenerations? Supposedly this thing Missy received is akin to a will. Why wouldn't it get sent out every time he changes? I mean, The Doctor isn't dying in the first two episodes of the series. Duh. But what are they saying about the future of the show?

From here on out, the episode is all about The Doctor living with decisions he has made. Has he made the right ones? Has he doomed us all by making terrible ones? While this is a two-part episode (it looks like most of the season will be as well), there are quite a few surprises in the second half of this episode. And a lot of it revolves around relationships. How The Doctor views the people he interacts with on his travels. I have to admit that I thought it was rather interesting.

Even though I hate cliff-hanger episodes, I thought this was a good way to open Season 9. We had The Doctor asking Clara if he was a good man in the beginning of Season 8. Will we find out the answer to that this season? Will Peter Capaldi be the final Doctor? I really hope that the writers give us the answers to the possibilities they have given us. I also hope this isn't really the end for the series. I do love it.



TV Review: Sherlock

I can't believe I forgot to talk about this! Way back in the summer of 2010, the BBC aired a new series titled Sherlock. Created by Steven Moffat, the same guy that created the currently-airing version of Doctor Who, I heard great things about the series. It wasn't until I came upon the episodes on Netflix that I got a chance to sit down and watch them. Boy, am I glad that I did!

Pretty much everyone knows who Sherlock Holmes is so I won't go into too much detail. For those of you that don't (shame on you), here is the nitty gritty: Sherlock Holmes is a strange man who reaches grand conclusions with only the smallest of details. Since he is not much of a "people person," he requires someone to not only help him out in day-to-day activities (such as shopping) but also someone he can bounce thoughts off of. This person is John Watson, a former military doctor who longs for more action in his life. Together, they help Scotland Yard solve the toughest cases.

First, I want to talk about the bad points of the show. There really is just one. The entire first season is a mere three episodes long. Just as we're starting to love Sherlock and his insane ways, they unlovingly dump us on the floor. There is a second season, which is also only three episodes, but it didn't start until this month! I haven't watched it yet so I'm hoping it's as good as the first.

Now. Let's talk about the good points. Benedict Cumberbatch is absolutely amazing as Sherlock. He is able to bring forth the smugness and frustration that is Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock knows he is smarter than everyone else in the room and it frustrates him when people miss things he considers obvious. Also, Martin Freeman is an ideal match as Watson. Watson isn't there to be brilliant or awesome. He is just there to continually keep Sherlock grounded in the real world. I couldn't imagine anyone else in these roles. The show would fall apart of these two weren't so good.

I also love the cinematography of the show. In the first episode, as Sherlock notices things, random words appear on the screen. It isn't until Sherlock pieces everything together for us that we realize what the words mean to him. For once, we get to see a bit of the inner workings in Sherlock's brain. No wonder the world is so frustrating for him.

For you old-school Sherlock fans, there are some minor changes but not a lot. He no longer smokes pipes (not even cigar specials). Instead, he uses nicotine patches. He claims the nicotine helps him think but it isn't convenient to smoke in London nowadays. We do get to see him playing the violin a little. Though, I fully admit that it isn't very good violin playing. Perhaps we'll get something better in the next season.

Sherlock is an awesome piece of television. If you get a chance to see it, be it on PBS or on Netflix, do it. You definitely will not regret it. And, if we're lucky, we'll get to see the second season sooner. I'd hate to have a wait another year and a half to see what happens!

Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol

For the first time ever, on December 25, 2010, the Doctor Who Christmas special was broadcast in both the UK (on BBC One) and the US (on BBC America). This year's special was titled A Christmas Carol.

We join Amy (Karen Gillian) and Rory (Arthur Darvill), the Doctor's companions from the previous season, on their honeymoon. Unfortunately, the passenger ship they are on is about to crash into a planet covered in strange clouds that screws up their controls. Of course, Amy calls the Doctor (Matt Smith) to save them. He can't use the TARDIS to save them so he lands on a building that seems to control the clouds. Sadly, he finds a bitter old man, Kazran Sardick (Michael Gambon), unwilling to help anyone.

This is where the Christmas Carol story begins. The Doctor goes back in time to Sardick's childhood to figure out where the man went wrong in life. He finds a boy who has had his curiosity and love stomped out by a demanding father. Luckily, the Doctor steps in to help foster the boy's curiosity about the fish that swim in the strange clouds. But where there are fish, there are predators too. After dodging a shark attack (and losing half of his sonic screwdriver in the process), young Sardick is crushed to find that the shark is dying. Unless they can get it back to the clouds, it won't survive. The only way to save the shark is to use an "icebox", a life support chamber that Sardick's father uses to control people, to transport it.

Young Sardick chooses the chamber of a young woman, Abigail Pettigrew (Katharine Jenkins), because she loves the fish. Just after releasing her, the shark attacks again. It is Abigail's singing that soothes the shark into submission. Once they save the shark, the boy decides that this has been a grand adventure. As Abigail returns to her chamber, young Sardick promises that the Doctor will return every year to celebrate Christmas Eve with them.

Years pass and the Doctor makes good on the promise. Every Christmas Eve, they release Abigail and travel around time with her. On the seventh year, Abigail confesses to a now teenaged Sardick that she was terminally ill when she was locked in the chamber. She only has one more day to live. Devestated, the lovestruck Sardick locks her back in the chamber without telling the Doctor about her condition. Realizing that life isn't fair, he still continues on the path to becoming a bitter old man.

Amy appears as a hologram to old Sardick in order to show him how to passengers of the doomed ship are coping. Since they know that singing can have an effect on the clouds, all of the passengers attempt to sing carols to stop the ship from crashing. The sound of the singing begins to break through to Sardick, but he just waves it away stubbornly.

As a last resort, the Doctor appears again telling old Sardick that he has shown him the past and the present. Now it is time for the future. He brings the boy to see what a crotchety old man he has become. This has a monumental effect on old Sardick, who vow to use his machine to save the ship. However, the Doctor has changed Sardick so much that the machine no longer recognizes him. Their only option is to use Abigail's voice to control the clouds again.

Knowing that this will be her final day, old Sardick opens her chamber one last time. She sings into the sonic screwdriver and the clouds stabilize, saving the ship and her 4000 passengers. Amy and Rory reunite with the Doctor, while Sardick and Abigail spend their last moments riding around the clouds in a shark-drawn carriage.

I usually like the Christmas specials. The Runaway Bride being the one episode I hated. This time around, I absolutely loved the episode. The interaction between the Doctor and the various incarnations of Sardick were wonderful. My favorite parts were when teenaged Sardick asked the Doctor for love advice. While I enjoyed CChristopher Eccleson and David Tennant as their respective Doctor, I really enjoy Matt Smith's version. He has the ability to be completely fun-loving yet deadly serious at the same time. If you haven't watched Doctor Who recently, this may be the one to latch onto.

TV review: Demons

On Saturday, February 6, BBC America aired the final episode of the series Demons. At a mere six episodes, the show was extremely short. Especially considering the content.

Luke Rutherford (Christian Cook) is the last of the Van Helsing men. According to Rupert Galvin (Philip Glenister), it is now his job to hunt down demons known as "half lives" and smite them. With help from Galvin, Mina Harker (Zoe Tapper), and his best friend Ruby (Holliday Grainger), he faces vampires, harpies, demons, and more.

The show started off slow, which isn't promising considering how little time the writers have to get the story out and wrap it up. There were a few really good episodes in there. I think "Smitten" was my favorite. However, the writers spent a lot of time building up to something spectacular for Luke, only to end it without giving it to us. Instead, they give us a bit of a cliff-hanger. Unfortunately, it has been confirmed that there will not be a second season so we will never get the resolution to the climax. That would be why I can't really recommend it to anyone. It just doesn't go anywhere.

On the good side, both Christian Cook and Holliday Grainger gave some good performances. I hope to see more excellent work from them in the future.

TV review: Torchwood: Children of Earth

Last week, BBC America aired the five-part Torchwood mini-series, Children of Earth. It begins a short while after season 2 ends. The team hasn't forgotten their fallen members, but they are moving on. As always, there is another alien force threatening the earth. This time around, it's the 456, an unknown alien race that appeared 44 years earlier and have returned, speaking through the children of the world.

The show is a lot grittier than what we are used to. Gwen loses hope. One of the team members dies. Jack is forced to do something pretty evil. Meanwhile, society around them is falling into ruin. I really did love the show, even though every episode feels like "how else can we screw over Jack..." and Jack doesn't come out of the ordeal unscathed. He comes out very broken. I would love to see another season of Torchwood, especially in light of everything they've gone through. However, it doesn't seem like it would be possible. Most of the team is dead and those that are left are scattered. Where can they go from here?

TV review: Jekyll

Yes, I am a little late on this one. Jekyll is a 6-episode series that aired on the BBC in June and July 2007. It is a continuation of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde novella by Robert Louis Stevenson. A brilliantly cast James Nesbitt stars as Tom Jackman/"Billy" Hyde. Alongside him are Michelle Ryan (who was in the Bionic Woman remake), Gina Bellman, Meera Syal, Paterson Joseph and Denis Lawson.

At first, I didn't know what to make of the show. A friend recommended my husband and I rent it so we did. By the end of the first episode, I was hooked. I had heard it was like the Showtime series Dexter, however, I don't agree with that. (Though, I should note that I've only ever seen one episode of Dexter.) In my opinion, it's more like My Own Worst Enemy but a lot more maniacal. I don't want to say too much without giving away the major plot points but this is definitely something you should watch. And since it's only 6 episodes long, it really is easy to watch in one afternoon.

New Who

A reminder to all Doctor Who fans out there: Tonight is the Christmas Special! For the first time, we (those of us in the US watching it on SciFi) don't have to wait until Christmas to see new episodes of Doctor Who. Like Torchwood on BBC America, We'll only be about two weeks later than the BBC airing of the show.

TV review: The Sarah Jane Adventures

For those Doctor Who fans in the United States, last night was the premiere of The Sarah Jane Adventures on the SciFi channel. People who have watched the original series of Doctor Who know Sarah Jane (Elisabeth Sladen) as the companion for the Third and Fourth incarnations of The Doctor. After she left The Doctor, Sarah Jane was back to everyday normal life. Can a companion go back to "normal" life? Sarah Jane decided that she would help aliens who have crash landed on Earth instead. The first episode of the series ran for an hour and a half. Supposedly, people say that the show is "kiddified." However, I didn't find that to be true. Yes, the show is not as dark as Doctor Who but then again Sarah Jane isn't a TimeLord nor is she the last of her race. It's not as sexually charged as Torchwood but then again Sarah Jane said she couldn't find a man who was better than The Doctor. There are still aliens and gadgets and fighting. They are all just done in Sarah Jane's way. (I thought the Sonic Lipstick was cute!) I'm looking forward to future episodes and I hope that the show doesn't get written off as "childish" or something.

Top Five Favorite - Television Shows

I watch a lot of weird television shows. Here are my top five favorite, along with what stations they play on in the US: 1. Top Gear (BBC America) 2. Chuck (NBC) 3. Torchwood (BBC America) 4. Doctor Who (Sci-Fi) 5. Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares (BBC America)

As you can see, I watch a lot of British TV. I do watch a lot of US shows as well but most of them just aren't as entertaining as I find these.