Thursday, December 26, 2013

Day Three Hundred and Sixty - Dr.Who: Series 5, Episodes 8-13, "It's the End of the Universe... AGAIN! Wait. 'Again' again? Or just 'Again?'"

As the first of Matt Smith's seasons draws to a close, it's relatively fun (and sometimes mildly annoying) to watch he and Karen Gillan (and Arthur Darvill) fend off beasties and cease to exist only to come back from the brink in typical Deus Ex Whovian fashion. There's something so much more appealing about Smith's goofy charisma and Gillan's self-assured rawr-factor. Of the spread, as much as nostalgia dictates I should pick Baker or angsty aggression says I should pick Tennant, Matt Smith's run has definitely been the most pleasing to me so far.

Anyways, onwards through the episodes... gotta chug away if I'm going to make the end of Series 6 by New Year's.

Tonight starts with the two parter The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood where The Doctor, Amy, and Rory get trapped in a small English town where miners have accidentally broken into an ancient civilization of dinosaur peoples' hibernation creche and have managed to piss off it's overly aggressive war leader. Tensions mount as each side takes hostages and inflict casualties, leading to Rory's heroic death to save The Doctor from a Homo Reptilia firehose weapon (seriously, that prop looked ridiculous). Still, peace may be possible yet, in a thousand years, thanks to the cooler heads of the diplomatic and science castes of reptiloids helping The Doctor, et al., save the day.

The monsters of the week (or two weeks, really) are rather boring, with their inevitable conflicts and betrayals being telegraphed too obviously, but there are still some strong points to the episode. For one, there's the time paradox device of Rory and Amy standing on a hilly overlook at a far distance waving at themselves. It's not explained this season, but there's a moment where present Amy and The Doctor have to rationalize why Future Rory has disappeared from the hill. Mysteries for some future date... as it's certainly not explained THIS season.

Moving on, now Rory-less as he, the love of Amy's life, is no more, eaten by the time crack (important season arc plot point that) and she has forgotten him, The Doctor and Amy go to the aid of Vincent Van Gogh (pronounced "gouggghf?" I never knew that) thanks to spotting a possible alien in one of his paintings. Along they way they bond with the moody painter and thwart the strange, invisible monster of the week while managing to inspire the doomed artist to his greatness.

The conflict, like with most episodes, is boring and convenient dreck, but the interpersonal relations between Vincent and the time travelers is emotive enough to be pleasing. While I think it's the height of irresponsibility to take someone into the future just to show them they haven't been forgotten, I'm not a Time Lord so I don't get to decide. I should point out that I really enjoyed Bill Nighy's cameo as the museum director. While he doesn't have much screen time, his back and forth with Matt Smith over bow ties is delightful.

Quick shoutout to the imagination sequence that has Starry Night playing out in fully CGI glory in the night sky for Vincent, The Doctor, and Amy. Beautiful.

Next is "The Lodger" where Amy gets trapped in a time jumping TARDIS and The Doctor gets stranded in modern England, forced via hints to take up lodging with a shy man who is secretly in love with his best friend and whose upstairs tenant is a mystery that The Doctor needs to solve in order to save both local lives and the TARDIS, itself.

Like the others, I find the threat an afterthought and the small bits of The Doctor interacting with humans to be genius. I love the way he inserts himself into the life of young Craig and manages to both help and threaten the man's existence. Sure, the romance is a little bit of nerd wish-fulfillment, a la Chuck, but it's cute nevertheless. This episode also helps to set up the time travel device of leaving notes to help oneself in the future/past that will be of paramount importance in the next couple of episodes.

Said device is immediately apparent at the beginning of The Pandorica Opens where River Song leaves a message for The Doctor that takes him and Amy back to Roman era Britannia where she delivers a message from Vincent Van Gough that was relayed through Winston Churchill to her (look at all of the Seasonal Continuity). It's a warning for the near future about the destruction of the TARDIS and leads them to a giant plot MacGuffin called the Pandorica, which all the hostile aliens in existence are swarming to 100AD Earth to deal with.

This is another two-parter, combined with The Big Bang, in which The Doctor tries to stave off the combined forces of all his old enemies... Daleks, Sontarans, Cybermen, Judoon, etc., plus the dinosaur people from "The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood" for some reason (my guess is "because the costumes were available")... but it turns out the whole thing was a trap to seal off The Doctor from the universe in order to save it from the cracks in time. Weird, twisted, Whovian logic that should piss me off but instead just washes over me. I accept things like this now, but that doesn't mean I enjoy it.

I do like having River back, of course. She'll always flip my switch as the concept of her character is just so damned intriguing. Plus, it's hard not to enjoy Karen Gillan. I think she's the perfect companion. Adventurous and direct, aggressive, but not violent... emotive and loyal. Just an all around well written personality played by a beautiful actress.

I can't say that I was all that impressed with the return of Rory (more Deus Ex drivel) or the saving of the universe. I actually could've been behind the whole "Big Bang Two" bit if they'd followed through and NOT kept the series going. If that had been the end of Doctor Who, I probably would've been satisfied with it. Instead, more Deus Ex nonsense and fan pandering. At least they'll explain River's backstory next season, which we'll start on Saturday. Still, feels like false drama looking back.

That being said, the "Crack in Time" story-arcing that they did this season was much more effective than the whole of the Bad Wolf seeding that the showrunners did during Eccleston's and Tennant's runs. Much tighter and entertaining, and oddly more believable. Can't believe I'm saying that in concert with Doctor Who.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~


Uh-oh, Netflix is DOWN at the moment. Luckily I had finished today's binge before the crash, but I hope it resolves before tomorrow. Wouldn't do to not be able to finish Couchbound this late in the game!

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