Doctor Who S10E02 Review – “Smile”

Doctor Who S10E02 Review – “Smile”

Hello my fellow Whovians! We are back with another great episode of Doctor Who and, according to Bill, our first “proper” adventure with our new companion.

Before we dig into “Smile”, I have to say that the more I thought about “The Pilot” from last week, the more I liked it and I may have come off a bit harsher than I wanted to in my review for it.  Ah well, live and learn.  On with the show!

Also mild SPOILERS FOR THIS EPISODE!  If you haven’t watched “Smile” yet, maybe do so and then come back.

We start this week’s episode with a woman walking through a wheat field as she heads back to what looks like an alien colony.  As she goes back towards the main building, it becomes clear that something is amiss. She is met by what looks like a family member and told that everyone is dead but she HAS to keep smiling as insanely creepy robots with emojis for eyes lurk about.  When her smile and happiness starts to fade, a swarm of microbots descend upon her and strip her bones clean! WTF Doctor Who?!?!  As cold opens go, this one definitely got the job done.

After the opening credits, we see Bill and the Doctor in the TARDIS control room where the Doctor asks Bill where she would like to go – backwards or forwards?  She, like I would, answers forwards.  But before they can take off, Nardole pops in and reminds the Doctor that he can’t leave earth because of the promise he made to guard the vault. There’s that vault again.  It’s pretty clear that “what/who is in the vault? who did he make the promise to?” is going to be the central plot, season long arc of this season, probably teased until the end of episode 11 and resolved in the season finale.  My pet theory is that it’s Susan, the Doctor’s Granddaughter, and that Carol Ann Ford will reprise her role. Maybe Susan has been stuck on Earth ever since she was left there by the First Doctor and was locked in the vault by UNIT or The Master/Missy at some point?  I’m hoping that if that is true and it is Susan being played by Ford, that she regenerates and becomes a companion going forward.

Anyway……  The Doctor ignores Nardole, because of course he does, and flies off with Bill in tow to the colony we saw in the cold open.  Almost, immediately upon arriving, Bill and the Doctor are met by the robots and given emotion indicators that sit on their backs, basically real live working mood rings.  As per usually the Doctor begins to suspect something odd is going on and starts to piece the puzzle together and eventually discovers that they have to stay happy and keep smiling or they die.

I really enjoyed this episode.  The true test of a new companion is always their second episode or their first “proper” adventure with the Doctor. Whether it’s Rose on the space station, Martha meeting Shakespeare, or Donna and the Adipose, after all the Doctor Who “pleasantries” are taken care of (bigger on the inside, aliens exist, time travel etc.) it’s always more telling how a companion deals with an adventure than it is when they first meet the Doctor.  It’s very safe to say the Bill acquitted herself nicely in this episode. She’s clever, doesn’t always listen to the Doctor, questions everything, isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty, distinct personality – everything we Whovians look for in a companion.

The monsters (or robots) in this episode were delightfully creepy, a tenant (HA! Who puns) of the Moffat era and Moffat penned episodes. Moffat always knows how to take the mundane and ordinary and make your skin crawl with it and they nail it again here. While the Doctor and Bill work to figure out what the hell is going on on this planet, it’s a treat to see the robots monitor their emotions knowing just what they are capable of if they don’t like what they see. Or as my wife put it – “They’re creepy as fuck…..”.  Truth babe, truth. I also really liked the clunky way they walked as it just adds to the creep factor. It reminded me of the Mondoshawans in “The Fifth Element” and how they moved.

The reason they give for the robots turning against humans is amazing.  Right before the Doctor and Bill landed, the leader of the colony passed away and when the news spread of her death, people started to feel grief and the robots just couldn’t comprehend that sadness.  So rather than let everyone work through their grief, the robots simply eliminated the sadness because an absence of sadness equals happiness right?  That’s insane logic but precisely what a machine might think because it just doesn’t know any better….  It’s fascinating to think about and Doctor Who is always at it’s best when it gives us something to think about.

Capaldi is rock solid as the Twelfth Doctor once again.  Since last season, Capaldi has inched closer and close to knocking Christopher Eccleston off the top of my list of favorite Doctors. (9, 12, War, 8 – in case you were wondering.)  I will be incredibly sad to see him go at the end of the season as I think he run will forever be marred by the pretty awful season 8. Hopefully season 10 continues on the strength of season 9 and they will be what defines Capaldi’s legacy.

Another fantastic (HA! more Who puns) 45 minutes of Doctor Who in the books this week. Next week looks extra creepy as we go back to Victorian England and deal with some sort of giant reptile monster!

Until next time, Thank You for reading and….

RUN!

 

Advertisements

Doctor Who S10E1 Review – “The Pilot”

Doctor Who S10E1 Review – “The Pilot”

“DOCTOR WHO” IS BACK, “DOCTOR WHO” IS BACK, “DOCTOR WHO” IS BACK, “DOCTOR WHO” IS BACK, “DOCTOR WHO” IS BACK, “DOCTOR WHO” IS BACK, “DOCTOR WHO” IS BACK!!!!!!!

Ok….. calm down…

Deep breaths……. ok….

It’s been a minute since we’ve had some new “Doctor Who” to talk about.  We had the 2016 Christmas Special but that has been it since December 2015.  It’s certainly not the longest dry spell Whovians have had to endure (16 year drought anyone?) but it still wasn’t pleasant. It feels great to get to dive into a new season with a new companion and get back to getting a regular fix of The Doctor and his adventures. The big question is – was it worth the wait?  And the answer is – Mostly…..

Before we get into it, there will be some mild SPOILERS in this review.

spoilers

The episode opens inside a college office and Nardole ushers in Bill, our soon to be new companion.  As she waits to be seen, we get a slow pan around the office which is chock full of nods to Who history.  On the desk are pictures of River Song and Susan Foreman (The Doctors Granddaughter from waaayyyy back in the First Doctor era), there is a pencil cup on the desk that’s full of past incarnations of the Sonic Screwdriver, and most importantly – the TARDIS sits disused in the corner with an out of order sign on the door. The way the TARDIS looked in the office, instantly reminded me of the Third Doctor era, when, after the events of the War Games serial, the Doctor is forcibly regenerated and banished to earth.  I also noticed a wood carving of a black bird which may be a nod to the episode “The Raven” from last season in which …… things happen.

Soon after Bill enters, the Doctor makes his first appearance in full Twelfth Doctor fashion, sporting his guitar, Sonic Sunglasses, and the now classic hoodie / suit jacket combo. Right from the get go, it feels like Capaldi hasn’t missed a step in the time off as he falls right back into the Twelfth Doctor persona. When the Doctor realizes he’s no longer alone in his office, he comes out of a side room and begins to interview Bill asking her why she comes to his lectures when she’s not even a student at the university they’re at.  During their conversation, we are told that the Doctor has been teaching at whatever university this is for upwards of 50 years despite never really being on staff or having an official class listing, he just sort of goes to “class” and rambles on in true Doctor Who fashion and students show up to listen.

I got the feeling from this scene that the Doctor wanted to stay in one place a while and rest after the events that the 2015 and 2016 Christmas specials book-ended, which was the 24 years that the Doctor and River spent together before her fateful trip to the library (although that theory may fall apart based on the end of the episode). I also got the feeling that he has pegged Bill to be his new travelling companion without even realizing it. Over the course of the scene, the Doctor tells Bill he is going to be her tutor and when Bill asks why, the Doctor simply says that when ever she doesn’t understand something, she smiles.  That sounds to me like a perfect trait for a new companion.

As we watch Bill and the Doctor begin their student / teacher relationship, I really enjoyed their interactions together.  There was great dialogue and good character moments.  While this may be a bit of a “run of the mill” episode of “Doctor Who” as far as story goes, I found myself laughing a lot and even having to pause a few times to just soak in a line or a joke. It’s definitely great to have new “Doctor Who” back on TV.

Where this episode did fall apart though, is when it dealt with it’s alien threat – a puddle of semi-sentient space oil that got left as a stain on the pavement by some long gone alien ship.  Bill runs into a girl named Heather in a bar and they have a bit of a moment.  Later on in the episode, they meet again and Heather asks Bill to come with her to look at this odd puddle.  As they look into it, they each see their own faces but something is “off” about their reflections and it is eventually revealed that the puddle is mimicking them instead of just showing their reflections.  Heather keeps going back to the puddle and get’s absorbed by it. There are a few shots from “inside” the puddle and we can hear the puddles “voice” describing Heather as “The Pilot” and Bill as the “Passenger”.  It seems that when Heather was absorbed by the puddle, the consciousness of the two merged and the desire of the puddle to get back to it’s ship got mixed up with Heather’s desire to be with Bill.  Then from there, “Puddle Heather” follows Bill around like the killer in a slasher movie, which makes for a rather tense scene in Bill’s apartment and some cool scenes as Bill continues to run away, eventually enlisting the help of the Doctor.

For the most part, that sub plot of the episode was rather underdeveloped and the resolution to it was confusing at best.  I’ve had to ponder it a lot in the 12ish hours it’s been since I watched the episode just to make some sort of sense out of it.  Whether it’s just that this particular story point was neglected to focus on the introduction of Bill and getting her set up as the new companion or if it was just another typical Moffat-ian story that’s great in theory but crap in practice, this part of the episode definitely fell flat.

Something else that wasn’t really covered very well was the vault that the Doctor and Nardole are protecting.  It’s clearly Gallifreian in origin but we don’t find out anything else about it.  At the end of the episode, when Bill looks at the TARDIS and the Doctor realizes what she want’s to do, he says that he can’t go, that he’s in disguise, he has a promise to keep, and no one can know about him.  I honestly can’t remember anything relating to this from the past two Christmas specials so I think that whatever that promise is, whatever his mission is and how it relates to that vault will be the story arc of this season.

Overall, this was a good but not great episode of “Doctor Who”. We get some fairly standard Who moments that come with the introduction of a new companion but they are twisted just enough to make them fresh.  The “Monster of the Week” was lackluster and confusing after showing great promise but it’s a Moffat episode and lately his episodes have been much more “Death in Heaven” than “Blink” in quality.  Bill seems like she will be an adept companion and it I am intrigued by the Gallifreian vault that the Doctor is protecting.  I’m hoping we have a great season ahead of us.

Until next time, Thank You for reading and when in doubt….

RUN!

Legion – Season 1 Review

Legion – Season 1 Review

Howdy my little Beardlings and welcome back to WildeBeard Reviews! We’re stepping away from the big screen today and checking out what the small screen has to offer and boy did the TV bring it’s A-game.

I am of course talking about “Fargo” show runner Noah Hawley’s newest project, “Legion”, a very different, very odd show about a man trying to sort through his personal demons as he wrestles with schizophrenia and past drug addiction only to be pulled into a war between mutants and the government agencies bent on wiping mutants out.

Mutants?  Is this show set in the X-Men universe?  The best answer I can give is “sort of, kind of, maybe-ish yes”.  Informative I know…..   The main character David Haller, played by the amazing Dan Stevens, is an X-Men character from the mid 90s, however the show’s version of David is very different from the comic book version. The TV version is much more grounded and real while the comic book version is very over the top and very 90s X-Men (the late 90s were not exactly kind to the X-Men…. Google Maggott and that should tell you everything….).  Now when I say grounded and real I mean like “Logan” and “The Dark Knight” grounded and real.  Both of those movies took a very comic book-y premise and comic book characters and through story, tone, acting, and direction, elevate the material beyond it’s comic book roots and make it so much more. While I love the way the CW’s Arrow-verse feels like a comic book come to life, I also adore “Legion” for eschewing that comic book feel and reaching for so much more.

Now I mentioned that Dan Stevens is amazing in this, and he absolutely is, but this would be a failure of a review if I did not mention the rest of the outstanding cast.  Jean Smart and Rachel Keller are both fantastic and the types of female roles that television needs (also both were in Season 2 of Fargo which is also fantastic). Jemaine Clement has a particularly interesting character to play and he owns every minute of it. Amber Midthunder, Bill Irwin, and Jeremie Harris round out the cast of heroes and all deliver spot on performances.  For me though, the stand out has to be Aubrey Plaza.  “Parks and Recreation” is my absolute favorite TV comedy of all time and Aubrey Plaza’s April Ludgate is a big reason why.  Seeing her in “Legion”, playing the character that she plays, was honestly rather difficult for me.  Because I love “Parks and Rec” so much, it is often hard for me to separate the actors from their P&R characters (partly because the real life people are so much like their fictional personas) and that was especially true for Plaza here.  But the more and more we learn about her character, the more screen time she has, the more distance Plaza puts between herself and April Ludgate and that just makes the show as a whole so much better.  It can be insanely hard, if not impossible, for an actor to break away from their breakout role and become something more but Plaza has done it here.

With all of the accolades and superlatives that I have written here about this show, this next bit may come off as odd.  As much as I love this show now, “Legion” was one of the single most frustrating and challenging shows I have ever watched, to the point that I almost gave up on it.  I am an unabashed comic book fan, I’ve read and own thousands upon thousands of comics, I worked in a comic book store for a number of years, I go see every comic book related movie, and I watch damn near every comic book related show on TV so when “Legion” was announced I was incredibly excited.  A comic book show on FX and done by the “Fargo” guy?  Sign me right up!  But as I kept watching this show week after week I grew more and more frustrated with the plot and story telling as I struggled to figure out just what the hell I was watching.  Then finally, something clicked.  Near the end of Episode 5, there is a pivotal scene that turned the entire show around for me and completely changed my outlook on it.  Looking back at those earlier episodes, I can see that my frustration and confusion was on purpose because I needed to see the world through the eyes of the main character and really feel his frustration and confusion.

So if you’re feeling the same way I was, wait it out.  This show absolutely pays off the struggle at the end of its first season and the journey is just as important as the destination.  Also, if you’re streaming this show after the fact, please don’t binge watch it. “Legion” is a show that requires you to take some time between the episodes and mull over what you’ve seen.  Ponder it, let it sink it.  I truly believe that if you watch all eight episodes in one or two sittings you won’t get the full emotional impact that the creators want you get.

As you can tell, “Legion” was a bit of an roller coaster for me but I am really glad I stuck with it and I can’t wait for Season 2.

Have you seen “Legion” yet?  Tell me what you thought in the comments below!

Until next time, Thank You for reading and…..

SEE YOU AT THE CINEMA!