tv shows

REVIEW: “Doctor Who” S12E04 – Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror

tesla terrorI love a good celebrity historical episode of Doctor Who. There’s just something that’s inherently fun about seeing the Doctor meet some famous person from history and have an adventure with them. Some of the best celebrity historicals are when Doctor Who answers some previously-unanswered question about that historical figure’s life – in The Unicorn and the Wasp, the show posits an answer to the question of why Agatha Christie went missing for a week, only to reappear with no memory of those days. So, when it was revealed that we’d be getting an episode about Nikola Tesla – who infamously claimed to have seen UFOs at one point in his life – it seemed like the show was setting us up for a really fun romp between the Doctor and Tesla that might answer the question of what, exactly, Tesla saw – which sounds really interesting. And with a title as bonkers as Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror, it seemed as though we’d be getting an episode every bit as fun as its premise would suggest. So, was the episode interesting and fun? Was it good? Answer: yes. It is an immensely fun episode. (This review contains spoilers for Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror.)

Season 12, Episode 4: Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror (written by Nina Metivier, directed by Nida Manzoor)
It is 1903 and on the edge of Niagara Falls, something is wrong at Nikola Tesla’s (Goran Višnjić) generator plant, where someone – or something – is sabotaging the maverick inventor’s work. Has Tesla really received a message from Mars? And where does his great rival Thomas Edison (Robert Glenister) fit into these events? The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her companions Yaz (Mandip Gill), Ryan (Tosin Cole) and Graham (Bradley Walsh) must join forces with one of history’s greatest minds to save both him and planet Earth.

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REVIEW: “Doctor Who – The Target Storybook”

target storybookLast year, the Target line of Doctor Who novelizations burst back to life with the first adaptations of episodes from the revived TV series – Rose, The Christmas Invasion, Day of the Doctor, and Twice Upon a Time. The novels were really solid works in their own right, managing to take all the best elements of their respective TV episodes and weave them into something that worked as a novel. They also had the added bonus of reinvigorating the entire Target line – another batch of new adaptations has been announced for July 2020. And then there’s this collection of short stories that was published in October 2018. Normally, the Target range adapts preexisting Doctor Who TV stories, but this collection of short stories decided to go a different route – bringing readers a collection of stories set before/during/after iconic stories from all through Doctor Who‘s 50+ year history. And, I gotta say, a lot of these stories are really, really good.

Doctor Who: The Target Storybook (featuring stories from various authors)
In this exciting collection you’ll find all-new stories spinning off from some of your favourite Doctor Who moments across the history of the series. Learn what happened next, what went on before, and what occurred off-screen in an inventive selection of sequels, side-trips, foreshadowings and first-hand accounts – and look forward too, with a brand new adventure for the Thirteenth Doctor.

Each story expands in thrilling ways upon aspects of Doctor Who’s enduring legend. With contributions from show luminaries past and present – including Colin Baker, Matthew Waterhouse, Vinay Patel, Joy Wilkinson and Terrance Dicks – The Target Storybook is a once-in-a-lifetime tour around the wonders of the Whoniverse

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REVIEW: “Doctor Who” S12E03 – Orphan 55

orphan 5Ed Hime’s previous Doctor Who episode, It Takes You Away, was one of my favorite episodes of the previous season. I thought it had a perfect balance of character stuff and plot stuff and it was just a whole lot of fun to watch – especially with that whole bonkers idea of a sentient universe presenting itself as a talking frog. With that episode being as good as it was, I was definitely looking forward to what Hime would do in his second episode. I mean, there’s no realistic way it was gonna be quite as weird as his first, but I hoped it would be pretty fun. And, to be fair, it was very fun. Orphan 55 has a great premise, some great characters, a poignant message, and some truly scary monsters. It’s an extremely entertaining episode that’s let down a little bit by a very on the nose ending. (Spoilers follow!)

Season 12, Episode 3: Orphan 55 (written by Ed Hime, directed by director Lee Haven Jones) 
Having decided that everyone could do with a holiday, the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) takes Graham (Bradley Walsh), Yaz (Mandip Gill), and Ryan (Tosin Cole) to a luxury resort for a spot of rest and relaxation. However, they discover the place where they are having a break is hiding a number of deadly secrets. What are the ferocious monsters that are attacking Tranquillity Spa?

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REVIEW: “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist”

Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist - Season 2019It should come as no surprise to anyone that I love a good musical. There’s something that’s just so fun about musicals. Something so heartfelt about that. I’ll also be one of the first to admit that it’s incredibly difficult to pull off a TV show that’s also a musical. Musical films are a little easier to do, but musical shows seem unable to find a way to balance all of the necessary elements in a way that’s sustainable in the long term. Glee came the closest, but its writing quickly fizzled out after a few seasons and both SMASH and RISE failed to attract a large enough audience to justify their existence. But along comes Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, a show that owes a lot to those previous attempts at musical tv shows. Having seen the first four episodes of its first season, it seems that Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist might have found a way to balance all of the elements of a good musical with the necessary elements of a long-running TV show. But the question still remains if it can find an audience and/or maintain its quality writing and energy in the long term. All of that aside, these first four episodes are pretty darn good, though.

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (created by Austin Winsberg)
If there’s a song in your heart, it will get in her head. Jane Levy stars in this high-concept drama as Zoey Clarke (Jane Levy), a whip-smart computer coder forging her way in San Francisco. After an unusual event, Zoey, who always preferred podcasts over pop songs, suddenly starts to hear the innermost wants, thoughts and desires of the people around her – her family, co-workers and complete strangers – through popular songs. At first, she questions her own sanity, but after getting some guidance from her musically adept neighbor, Mo (Alex Newell), and making a breakthrough with her ailing father (Peter Gallagher), Zoey soon realizes this unwanted curse may just be an incredibly wonderful gift as she connects with the world like never before.

The series stars Jane Levy, Skylar Astin, Alex Newell, John Clarence Stewart, with Peter Gallagher and Mary Steenburgen. Lauren Graham is special guest star.

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REVIEW: “Doctor Who” S12E02 – Spyfall, Part 2

DOCTOR WHO: SERIES 12: EPISODE 01I love a good two-parter, I really do. But I’ll also admit that it’s extremely hard to stick the landing on one. The best two-parters have pretty explosive (sometimes literally) cliffhangers that have to be satisfactorily dealt with before the rest of the episode can focus on actually concluding the greater story being told. This was something previous eras of Doctor Who had struggled with a bit; RTD tended to write himself into corners that required a deus ex machina solution while Moffat’s two-parters often were more spiritually connected than narratively. Both of them frequently struggled with figuring out a way to properly conclude the stories they were telling. With Spyfall being the first two-parter from the new showrunner, Chris Chibnall, the hope would be that he’d find a good way to thread this needle. And, for the most part, he does a pretty good job, delivering an episode that’s most definitely a narrative continuation of the previous and providing some solid answers while setting up an intriguing throughline for the rest of the season. (This review will contain spoilers for Spyfall, Part 2. Proceed at your own risk.)

Season 12, Episode 2: Spyfall, Part 2 (written by Chris Chibnall, directed by Lee Haven Jones)
In part two of this epic spy thriller, a terrifying plan to destroy humanity is about to reach fruition. Can the Doctor and her friends escape multiple traps and defeat a deadly alliance?

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REVIEW: BBC’s “Dracula” (2020)

draculaI was one of the few people who remained a fan of Moffat throughout his tenure on Doctor Who. His episodes certainly weren’t perfect, and often ranged dramatically in quality, but I was mostly on board with what he was doing with the storyline – even if his grasp on writing the companions’ character arcs was always weak. I also really enjoyed the first two seasons of Sherlock – even two of those first six episodes weren’t particularly good. While Moffat’s run on Doctor Who was mostly consistent, his and Gatiss’ work on Sherlock took a noticeable dip in quality during the third and fourth seasons, completely blowing any goodwill they’d accumulated from the fanbase by the end of the fourth season’s finale. And it’s this trend of inconsistent quality that brings us to Dracula. There is something appealing about the writers who revived Sherlock Holmes for a new generation tackling another literary legend like Dracula. In that sense, I was very excited to see what they’d do, hoping it would skew closer to the first two seasons of Sherlock in terms of quality. Unfortunately, it skewed heavily toward the last two seasons of Sherlock, giving us a mess of a show that tries to be more clever than it is and eschews telling any kind of coherent story in favor of distracting plot twists that don’t work half as well as Moffat and Gatiss think they do. (Spoilers for all three episodes of Dracula.)

Dracula (written by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat)
For over 120 years, Bram Stoker’s classic novel, Dracula, has inspired generations of filmmakers. Now the creators of Sherlock give the legend fresh blood! It’s 1897 and St Mary’s Convent in Budapest plays host to a desiccated husk of a human being, Jonathan Harker (John Heffernan), an English lawyer with a strange and unsettling story to tell. Listening in is the kind and inquisitive Sister Agatha (Dolly Wells), a nun with an unusual interest in the creatures of the night.

Invited to Transylvania to meet the reclusive Count Dracula (Claes Bang), Harker finds himself trapped in an ancient, terrifying castle, a maze of mouldering corridors and vaults: a prison without locks. It soon becomes clear that he and his client are the only things living in the echoing halls of the moulding pile, and that the Count himself isn’t living at all. In fact, Dracula is a 400-year-old vampire who has grown weary of his own exhausted country and has set his sights on the new world. As the shadows lengthen and Harker’s account unfolds, it becomes clear that the remorseless vampire may have unfinished business with his erstwhile guest.

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REVIEW: “Doctor Who” S12E01 – Spyfall, Part 1

spyfall_no logoAfter a full year, Doctor Who has finally returned to our TV screens! While I may not have totally loved Chris Chibnall’s first season as showrunner, I did quite enjoy Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor. She brought a lot of energy and commitment to the role and it was hard to dislike her as the character, even if I wish the writing of her episodes was stronger. The same was true for her friends, Ryan (Tosin Cole), Yaz (Mandip Gill), and Graham (Bradley Walsh) – all of whom brought such energy to their characters, but many of whom felt underdeveloped. Luckily, all four of these actors have returned for this sophomore outing for the 13th Doctor, and if this first episode is anything to go by, it looks like they’re in for quite the adventure. It’s always hard to judge a two-part story when you’ve only seen its first part, and that remains true for this story. That being said, Spyfall (Part 1) is certainly an excellent first half of a story, ticking every box you’d want ticked and perfectly setting up a pretty exciting second half. (Major spoilers for Spyfall, Part 1 follow!)

Season 12, Episode 1: Spyfall, Part 1 (written by Chris Chibnall, directed by Jamie Magnus Stone)
Intelligence agents around the world are under attack from alien forces, so MI6 turn to the only people who can help: the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her friends, Ryan (Tosin Cole), Yaz (Mandip Gill), and Graham (Bradley Walsh). As they travel the globe looking for answers, attacks come from all sides. Earth’s security rests on the team’s shoulders, but where will this planet-threatening conspiracy lead them?

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REVIEW: “The Mandalorian” – Season 1

the mandalorian posterOne of the things I’ve most wanted from a Star Wars story was something that felt similar to Firefly. There’s just something I find endlessly fascinating about watching a group of loveable outlaws struggles against an oppressive government. That’s exactly what Firefly excelled at and it would seem that the Star Wars universe would be perfect for such a story. And for a long time, George Lucas was working on a show that explored the underworld of the Star Wars universe, but it was ultimately deemed too expensive to do in the latter half of the first decade of the 2000s and was completely shelved when Disney bought Lucasfilm. A glimpse of hope seemed to shine, though, when the first trailers for The Mandalorian hit the internet and it genuinely seemed as though The Mandalorian might be the show I was longing to see. You had the leader, Pedro Pascal’s unnamed Mandalorian, appearing to assemble some kind of crew to accomplish some kind of mission. Unfortunately, the actual show we got was less Firefly and more Saturday morning cartoon. Is this necessarily a bad thing? No, but it probably shouldn’t have been advertised as anything more than that. Regardless, there’s a lot of enjoyment to be found in The Mandalorian, even if it is often poorly paced, seemingly aimless, and occasionally frustrating to watch. (Spoilers for all eight episodes of The Mandalorian’s first season.)

The Mandalorian (created by Jon Favreau)
After the fall of the Empire, a lone gunfighter (Pedro Pascal) makes his way through the lawless galaxy.

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REVIEW: Doctor Who 2019 Christmas Special – “Time Out of Mind” by Jody Houser

Doctor Who - Time Out of MindAs the saying always goes, if the BBC won’t give Doctor Who a Christmas special on TV, then the comics will pick up the slack! And pick up the slack they do as writer, Jody Houser, and illustrator, Roberta Ingranata, team up once again to tell a new story with Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor and her friends – this time as they go against a holiday threat as scary as anything they’ve faced to date. It’s fun, it’s festive, and Houser and Ingranata continue to show the vast understanding they have for these characters.

Doctor Who: Time Out of Mind (written by Jody Houser, illustrated by Roberta Ingranata) 
The 13th Doctor and co visit an inter-galactic fair for some down time, only to realise things aren’t all as they seem. Both their minds and the TARDIS’ logs have been tampered with, and in a bid to discover just what in Gallifrey’s name is going on, they head to a distant planet where they encounter a mysterious festive figure involved in an audacious plot…

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REVIEW: “Watchmen” (HBO TV Series)

m8rWq3j73ZGhDuSCZWMMoE9ePH1Watchmen is one of those properties that has proven notoriously difficult to adapt to other mediums, so it only seems fitting that it would similarly be difficult to review. Normally, I either review a TV show episode-by-episode, or I review it in chunks, or I review it after the finale ends. For Watchmen, the trick was deciding whether I’d review it three episodes at a time or whether I’d wait until the end of the season and just review the whole thing. As the third episode aired, it became clear that it was going to be impossible to judge this show until the ending was known. Like the graphic novel (written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons), every episode/chapter of the story was clearly building to a climax that would either answer (most of) the questions posed by the story or would completely drop the ball, and the quality of the story would largely be determined by how well it executed its ending (even if individual “chapters” were excellent – episode 6 of the show and the chapter of the comic detailing Manhattan’s past). And, let’s be clear, every episode of the series was extremely good. There was a point to every episode, and they followed a very similar pattern to that of the comic (one episode would be devoted to furthering the plot along, the next would be devoted to exploring one of the key characters’ backgrounds (thus moving the emotional arcs forward) and they’d alternate back and forth like this until the climax. But with this style, it is very important that the landing pay off all of this development in a meaningful and satisfying way. Luckily, that’s exactly what the show managed to do. (Spoilers for all nine episodes of Watchmen follow. You have been warned.)

Set in an alternate history where masked vigilantes are treated as outlaws, WATCHMEN, from executive producer Damon Lindelof (Emmy(R) winner for “Lost”; HBO’s “The Leftovers”) embraces the nostalgia of the original groundbreaking graphic novel of the same name, while attempting to break new ground of its own. Nicole Kassell directs the pilot from a script written by Lindelof. WATCHMEN is produced for HBO by White Rabbit in association with Warner Bros. Television; executive producer/writer, Damon Lindelof; executive producer/director, Nicole Kassell; executive producer, Tom Spezialy; executive producer/director, Stephen Williams; executive producer, Joseph Iberti. Based on the iconic graphic novel co-created and illustrated by Dave Gibbons and published by DC.

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