Doctor Who – Season 11 Overview

I have religiously watched every episode of Doctor Who since its relaunch in 2005 and have tried to watch every episode of every spin-off that added to ongoing construction of the Whoniverse – which includes Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures and Class. I will admit to not bothering with Torchwood: Miracle Day, but from what I’ve subsequently read, I probably didn’t miss much. And I have seen the majority of the “Classic” Who episodes.

So, I think that I can be considered somewhat of an expert on all things ‘Who’.

I have now watched the entirety of Season 11 (or “Chibi-Who”, as I like to call it), and can give my considered opinion of the series as a whole.

Now, usually, I try to refrain from using expletives, but…what the actual fuck was THAT?!

That was NOT Doctor Who. Yes, it may have been billed as Doctor Who, may be considered “canon” and may have the same underlying background as the previous season, but it’s just…Not…RIGHT.

Now, I can understand that the new show-runner, Chris Chibnall, wants to put his own stamp on it, that he wants to create his own Who mythology and has been quoted a s saying that the BBC were looking for “risk and boldness” on recruiting him to be in charge of Who. But where exactly was this “risk and boldness”?

Cast a woman as the Doctor? Oooh, been done before, way back in 1999 – by Stephen Moffat, no less, in the Comic Relief Doctor Who spoof “The Curse of Fatal Death”. Yes, it may have been a parody, but not only did we have Rowan Atkinson as the Doctor, we also had Richard E. Grant (pre-dating his role as the Doctor in the animated Scream of the Shalka – which is not considered canon), Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant and…Joanna Lumley. Female Doctor, see?

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Give the Doctor a more ethnic group of companions? Hmm, may not have been the Doctor, but Sarah Jane in The Sarah Jane Adventures (canon Whoniverse) had both black AND Asian sidekicks at one point – and Clyde Langer also had an absent father, although his came back and got possessed by a Beserker pendant, which drove him a little bit bonkers…which was kind of cool.

Gary Beadle in The Sarah Jane Adventures (2007)

Chibnall is quoted as stating that “If you’ve seen Doctor Who before I hope we’re going to be giving you all the stuff you love.” Hmm, more like “If you’ve seen any science fiction stuff before, including Doctor Who, you’ll spot where we’ve stolen the ideas from”. The Stenza race that appear in the first and last episode are basically Predators, instead of a visually unique design, they are the Blue Man Group with teeth stuck to their faces. The Pting from “The Tsuranga Conundrum” seem to be a hybrid between the Slitheen from “Aliens of London” and the Krites from the movie Kritters – but with the ridiculous premise that it cannot be harmed by anything. The TeamMates from the episode “Kerblam!” look familiar?

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I can’t think where the designers came up with that look…*cough, Total Recall, cough*

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So, rather than being ‘risky’ and ‘bold’, Season 11 seems to retreading ground that has been gone over before, but not improving on its inspiration. It’s like the difference between the original 1984 Ghostbusters and the 2018 reboot – both have the same original source, both are effectively the same film, but rather than build on and improve on the original, it’s just…doesn’t.

And whilst the analogy above has in common that the principal roles were played by women rather than men, this has absolutely no bearing on my opinion. I have no issue with the Doctor being portrayed by a female actor.

My issue is with the overall tone and direction of the show under Chris Chibnall. He states that he’s a huge fan of Doctor Who, but he seems to have imposed his own vision of what he believes the show to be – and it bears only a passing resemblance to what THIS long-term fan has enjoyed in the past, going right back to 1963.

However, if the rumours are correct, the era of Chibi-Who will not last long and we can pretend it was all just a bad dream…including that fucking talking frog.

Until next time.

Jez

 

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Doctor Who – Season 11…so far

I posted my first review of the new season of Doctor Who on 16th October 2018, having only watched the first two episodes – “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” and “The Ghost Monument.” For my initial thoughts on the new series at that point, please refer back to that review, as I will be referencing it as I go along (follow the link to The Doctor and the Crow).

All caught up? Good.

We are now eight episodes in to the new season, with only two episodes to go before the Doctor and “Team Tardis” are off our screens, and I feel compelled to put my fingers to my keyboard and express my opinion once more.

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Now, casting aside the fact that they’ve moved it to Sunday night, which niggles me slightly, and the fact that the Doctor is now female, as this has no relevance whatsoever. do I feel (as a long-term fan of Doctor Who), that this represents a fine continuation of the series?

Basically, in a word, no.

As far as I am concerned, Doctor Who is an adventure serial, wherein a hyper-intelligent almost-immortal travels through time and space, with a select group of companions, and is drawn to specific locations where an alien threat is discovered, which the Doctor investigates and usually resolves through his/her brilliance and the assistance of either locals or one of his/her companions. Along the way, we should be treated to strange and breath-taking locales, interesting and well-designed aliens and plots that not only make sense, but are wrapped up satisfactorily by the end of our 50-ish minutes.

That’s what we’ve come to expect of Doctor Who and, for the most part, that’s what we’ve had with Eccleston, Tennant, Smith and Capaldi. Not every episode was a gem, but for the most part we were spirited away through the Time Vortex and fully invested in the adventures of the Doctor and his companions.

But with season 11, it just hasn’t gelled. We’ve not had any REAL threats or villains that actually required the Doctor to exercise her intellect to resolve. The Doctor herself seems to not really know what’s going on most of the time and there is an over-reliance on the companions to solve whatever issue it ‘troubling’ the Universe that week.

After episode 7 – “Kerblam!” – I was almost ready to give up on it completely, as I used to religiously watch Doctor Who on the day it was broadcast, and only realised last Wednesday that I hadn’t watched the previous Sunday’s episode. It was becoming less Doctor Who, and more Doctor Who Cares…

However, Episode 8 – The Witchfinders – is what I’d been waiting for since the beginning of the new season. Historical setting, mysterious problem, supporting actors fully embracing and bringing their characters to life, a credible (and creepy) alien threat and the Doctor being brilliant and sorting everything out. It was also the first episode that caused me to laugh out loud at one of the jokes. This was PROPER Doctor Who, a throwback to why I watched the show in the first place.

However, it’s taken EIGHT episodes to get to this, preceded by seven almost forgettable episodes. I have no problem with a female Doctor and no issues with a multi-ethnic group of companions. What I DO object to is lack-lustre scripts which don’t give the performers the opportunity to shine. Of the first seven episodes, four were written in their entirety by Chris Chibnall, with partial script-writing duties on a further one. Strangely, the remaining two episodes – “Demons of the Punjab” and “Kerblam!” – were the ones that had more of a Who-feel.

I had my reservations regarding Chris Chibnall taking over as showrunner and he currently has not laid these to rest.

I will be watching the entire series to the end, but am currently not impressed. If this is what we can expect for the future of Who, then they might need to reconsider who they put in charge.

However, go and watch “The Witchfinders” (Episode 8) to show what the series COULD be.

See you next time.

Bright (2017)

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Bright (2017) is a curious beast. It’s a Netflix original movie, originally released on the streaming service on 22nd December 2017 and currently only available there. It stars Will Smith and Joel Edgerton, who is pretty unrecognisable under his Orc make-up.

Yep, that’s right, I said ‘Orc’.

In the world of Bright, races usually consigned to Middle Earth or other fantasy realms co-exist in an alternate modern-day Los Angeles.

200 years ago, the “Dark Lord” arose and waged war across the Earth and initially the Orc race sided with him, until an ‘unblooded’ (more on this later) Orc farmer named Jinga rose up and convinced the Orcs to join the forces of good, which turned the tide, resulting in the defeat of the Dark Lord.

Whilst ‘nine races’ are mentioned during the movie, we only get to see the Elves, Humans and Orcs in any detail, although a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo of a Centaur police officer is briefly shown. The Elves are rich, beautiful and live in their own gated enclave in the centre of the city, from which they apparently run things. A brief short-cut taken by the two main characters through elftown highlights this disparity of living conditions between the elves and the other two races, with every car on the exceptionally clean streets being a supercar.

Our two main protagonists are Daryl Ward (Smith) a human LAPD officer and his Orc partner, Nick Jacoby (Edgerton). Jacoby is the first Orc to ever become a police officer and suffers abuse from both his rascist co-workers and his Orcish kin, who feel he has betrayed his race. Ward doesn’t want Jakoby as his partner, but has very little choice in the matter and harbours resentment towards him, as Ward was injured whilst on duty due to Jakoby not watching his back and allowing the Orcish perpetrator to escape.

So far, it’s very much a buddy-cop movie, with an urban fantasy twist, which reminded me of the similar, if science fiction, film Alien Nation (1988).

On a routine call to a disturbance in a rough neighbourhood, Ward and Jakoby come across the main plot/Maguffin of the movie – a Magic Wand in the hands of a young Elf girl. Magic Wands are extremely rare and can only be safely handled by “Brights”, hence the title of the movie. They are supposedly capable of doing anything the user wants – in essence, they are unlimited wishing sticks – and the F.B.I. has set up a special Magic Task Force to recover and contain any that surface.

Unfortunately, the wand belongs to the leader of a sect of Elves who are dedicated to resurrecting the Dark Lord – the Inferni – but was stolen by one of their number who had a change of heart.

The main crux of the movie’s plot is therefore Ward and Jakoby’s attempts to prevent the wand being recovered by the Inferni, whilst also preventing it from falling into the hands of those who seek to abuse its power, including human and Orc street gangs and a bunch of corrupt cops.

And here’s the trailer, so you can get an idea of what the movie looks like.

Now, that’s given an overview of the movie’s plot, the question is – is it any good?

It’s not too bad, to be honest. As it concentrates on ‘street-level’ characters, it doesn’t overuse special effects to bedazzle the viewer and those it does use fit within the overall story being told. The Inferni assassins are suitably nasty and deadly, as Elves in the world of Bright are tough, athletic and fast, wiping out their opposition – both police and street gangers – with a selection of bladed weapons. The Orcs we meet are fulfilling the role of the lower-class citizens, being primarily ‘gangstas’, but this makes sense in a world where they are distrusted by the majority of the populace. The Orcs value bravery, wherein an Orc can only be consider ‘blooded’ when they have completed an act of unstinting bravery.

It’s pretty action-packed, with car chases, gun-play and some interesting fight scenes and there were a couple of ‘That’s pretty cool” moments for me.

But certain aspects of the plot were quite predictable and were telegraphed in advance. Saying that, there were also a few twists that I wasn’t expecting, so it could still surprise you.

The film was panned by the critics, who felt that it was trying too hard to be several different things at once without succeeding and that it was heavy-handed in its social commentary, but apparently the casual viewers were more positive about the film in general. It’s certainly done well enough for Netflix to commission a sequel, with the same cast.

I quite enjoyed it. It’s not ‘summer blockbuster’ fare, but an entertaining ‘popcorn’ movie that introduces an intriguing and different world that I’d like to see more of.

This gets 3 of 5 Caws from the Carrion Crow.

A New Place with an Old Voice

Welcome to the very first post on my new blog – Corvuscope.

On my other blog Carrion Crow’s Buffet I had been slipping in the odd review of television shows and movies, but upon reflection, as that blog is dedicated to narrative wargaming and related topics, it did not seem appropriate to continue posting that type of content on that blog. Hence this site.

So, what can you expect to see on Corvuscope? Well, the intention here is to post reviews of books, television shows and movies that I have read or watched and give my considered opinion of them. As my interests tend towards the more fantastical forms of entertainment, I will be primarily featuring works of fantasy, science fiction and horror, rather than posting reviews of “The Greatest Showman.”

So you can expect reviews of entries into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, sci-fi tv shows available on both terrestrial, satellite and streaming services, curious books that may have slipped past you and movies both old and new.

Each will be judged on its individual merits, rather than pandering to the masses or buying in to popular opinion. And it will be MY personal opinion, which you are free to agree or disagree with as you see fit.

The main purpose of this blog is to highlight those works of ‘fantastic fiction’ that may have passed you by and give my honest opinion of whether or not they are worth spending your valuable time reading or viewing them. Hopefully, this will uncover a few hidden gems amongst the vast panoply available across various platforms and will be an entertaining read.

So, consider me your guide to a variety of hidden worlds awaiting you…