REVIEW: “Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale – The Final Chapter” by Russell T. Davies and Ben Cook

With Russell T. Davies set to return as the showrunner of Doctor Who in 2023, it seemed like the perfect time to finally read The Writer’s Tale. Published in 2010, Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale explores the final two years of Davies’ original run of Doctor Who – from the earliest days of season four to the final days of filming the Tenth Doctor’s regeneration special. Told through emails sent back and forth between Davies and Doctor Who Magazine writer, Ben Cook, The Writer’s Tale chronicles the good, the bad, and the in-between of producing these episodes. It’s less of a how-to-write book and more of a book about writing. And for that, it stands apart from the crowd of various behind-the-scenes books for TV shows and movies. (4.5 out of 5 wands)

Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale – The Final Chapter
Written by Russell T. Davies and Ben Cook
When The Writer’s Tale was published in autumn 2008, it was immediately embraced as a classic. For this extensively revised and updated paperback edition, Russell T Davies and Benjamin Cook continue their candid and in-depth correspondence to take in work on the last of Russell’s 2009 specials – and the end of David Tennant’s era as The Doctor – while also looking back to the achievements of the first three seasons. With over 300 pages of all-new material, including new photos and original artwork, The Writer’s Tale is a fitting tribute to Russell T Davies’ phenomenal achievement in bringing Doctor Who back for a new generation of fans.

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REVIEW: Chucky (SYFY and USA Series)

After three decades and seven movies, the Chucky franchise has finally arrived on TV. Once again helmed by creator Don Mancini (this time acting as showrunner and director of some episodes), Chucky picks up where the previous film left off while introducing a whole new slew of characters for the killer doll to terrorize. Having seen the first four episodes, Chucky feels right at home on TV. These first episodes are heavy on the new elements, holding back many returning plotlines and characters until later in the season. But the new characters and stories introduced are more than enough to hook audiences. And the show lives up to its campy, gory reputation. Things get off to a slightly slow start, but as the show progresses, the tension only gets higher. And it’s so much fun. (4 out of 5 wands.)

Chucky
Created by Don Mancini
An idyllic American town is thrown into chaos after a vintage ‘Good Guy’ doll turns up at a suburban yard sale. Soon, everyone must grapple with a series of horrifying murders that begin to expose the town’s deep hypocrisies and hidden secrets. Meanwhile, friends and foes from Chucky’s past creep back into his world and threaten to expose the truth behind his mysterious origins as a seemingly ordinary child who somehow became this notorious monster.

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REVIEW: “Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol” (Episodes 1-3)

After five books and three movies, Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon series is finally hitting TV screens. Or, more accurately, NBCUniversal’s streaming service, Peacock. Adapting the third Langdon novel, Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol proves once and for all that Robert Langdon belongs on TV. The first three episodes offer a promising start to this series – though, there’s also a lot of room for improvement. The central mystery is captivating enough. But some questionable pacing choices and underdeveloped characters and ideas hold the series back a little. However, with a total of ten episodes, there’s a lot of room for the show to develop into something deeply enjoyable. (3 out of 5 wands.)

Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol
Developed for TV by: Dan Dworkin and Jay Beattie
Based on Dan Brown’s international bestselling thriller “The Lost Symbol,” the series follows the early adventures of young Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, who must solve a series of deadly puzzles to save his kidnapped mentor and thwart a chilling global conspiracy.

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REVIEW: “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” Season 8

After nearly a decade, a cancelation scare, a network change, and a whole host of shenanigans, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is coming to an end. But not before taking one final ride, of course. And if the first five episodes are anything to go by, fans are gonna be pretty happy with how this final season brings the show to a close. Managing to balance its usual absurdity and fun character beats with some more serious, topical storylines, the final season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine gets off to a solid start. It’s not perfect, but it’s a good reminder of why the show is so beloved.

NOTE: There are spoilers for episodes 1 and 2, “The Good Ones” and “The Lake House.”

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Season 8)
Created by Dan Goor and Michael Schur
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” follows the exploits of hilarious Det. Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) and his stoically ever-professional Capt. Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher), along with their diverse, lovable colleagues as they police the NYPD’s 99th Precinct. In this final season of the series, Jake and the squad must try to balance their personal lives and their professional lives over the course of a very difficult year.

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REVIEW: “SurrealEstate”

SURREALESTATE — “Pilot” Episode 101 — Pictured: Tim Rozon as Luke Roman — (Photo by: Derm Carberry/Blue Ice Pictures/SYFY)

Haunted houses are frequently the subjects of horror films, shows, and books. A family moves into a house with a shady, often violent past. Almost immediately, some unseen force begins terrorizing the family. And on and on it goes until the ghost/demon/spirit is expelled from the house. Or until the family finally decides to high tail it out of there. But what happens to the house afterward? Who takes care of selling these haunted, potentially violent places? That’s precisely the question SurrealEstate answers. If you needed to sell a haunted house,  you’d call a realtor that specializes in the paranormal. In this case, Luke Roman (Tim Rozon). And, naturally, that realtor would be surrounded by an eclectic team of ghost hunting agents – Susan Ireland (Sarah Levy), Father Phil (Adam Korson), August (Maurice Dean Wint), and Zooey (Savannah Basley). SurrealEstate is basically what would happen if Mulder, Scully, and the Winchester brothers all worked at the same real estate firm. It’s a clever take on the familiar paranormal procedural drama. Featuring a cast of unique – though occasionally underdeveloped – characters and creative “ghost of the week” stories, SurrealEstate is well worth a watch. Though, for a show about ghosts, it’s never quite as scary as you’d like it to be. (4 out of 5 wands.)

NOTE: This review is based on the first eight episodes of SurrealEstate. It will be as spoiler free as possible.

SurrealEstate
Created by George Olson
SurrealEstate” follows real estate agent Luke Roman (Tim Rozon) and an elite team of specialists that handle the cases no one else can: haunted and possessed houses that literally scare would-be buyers away. Researching, investigating and “fixing” the things that go bump in the night, the team works to create closure – and closings – even as they struggle with demons of their own.

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REVIEW: “Doctor Who: The Wonderful Doctor of Oz” by Jacqueline Rayner

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like if Doctor Who met The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, then look no further. Jacqueline Rayner’s The Wonderful Doctor of Oz is exactly what it sounds like. After traveling to 1939 LA to see the world premiere of The Wizard of Oz, the Doctor and her friends are shocked to learn nobody’s ever heard of the film, the book, or its author. Even more shocking is when a tornado carries the TARDIS (and all of its occupants) away to a suspiciously Oz-like land. To escape, the Doctor, Graham, Yaz, Ryan, and a stowaway named Theodore have to act out the events of the book and find the Wizard of Oz before the mysterious Wicked Witch gets to them. It sounds like it’s gonna be a big gimmick, but it’s surprisingly emotional. The Wonderful Doctor of Oz is a quick, fun read that exemplifies the endless possibilities of Doctor Who. (4 out of 5 wands.)

(NOTE: Mild spoilers follow. Read at your own risk.)

Doctor Who: The Wonderful Doctor of Oz
Written by Jacqueline Rayner
When a sudden tornado engulfs the TARDIS, the Thirteenth Doctor and her fam find themselves transported to the magical land of Oz. With a damaged TARDIS and an unexpected stowaway from the 1930s, their only hope of getting home is to follow the yellow brick road.

But when an army of scarecrows ambushes them, they quickly realise that everything is not as it should be, and they’re thrown into a fight for survival against a mysterious enemy. As each of her companions becomes a shadow of their former selves, only the Doctor is left standing.

Desperate to save her friends, she must embark on a perilous journey to seek help from the mysterious Wizard of Oz – and stop whatever forces are at work before she and her friends are trapped in the fictional world forever.

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REVIEW: “Doctor Who: The Ruby’s Curse” by Alex Kingston

If you’re not a fan of River Song, you’re probably not gonna like The Ruby’s Curse, Alex Kingston’s first Doctor Who book and River’s first solo novel. It’s pure, unadulterated River Song, with all the pros and cons that come with that. The book’s been advertised as a sort of melding of fact and fiction, with River writing a new Melody Malone story only to have elements of that story bleed into her reality. And, honestly, it’s every bit as mind-bending as it sounds—in the best way possible. Doctor Who: The Ruby’s Curse is a love letter to River Song and her time on the show. It’s clever, thrilling, action-packed, and oh-so-meta. Is it perfect? No, but it sure is a lot of fun. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)

Doctor Who: The Ruby’s Curse
by Alex Kingston
1939, New York. Private Eye, Melody Malone, is hired to find a stolen ruby, the Eye of Horus. The ruby might hold the secret to the location of Cleopatra’s tomb – but everyone who comes into contact with it dies. Can Melody escape the ruby’s curse?

1939, New York. River Song, author of the Melody Malone Mysteries, is forced to find a reality-altering weapon, the Eye of Horus – but everyone who comes into contact with it dies. River doesn’t believe in curses – but is she wrong?

From the top-security confines of Stormcage to the barbarism of first-century Egypt, River battles to find the Eye of Horus before its powers are used to transform the universe. To succeed, she must team up with a most unlikely ally – her own fictional alter ego, Melody. And together they must solve another mystery: Is fiction changing into fact – or is fact changing into fiction?

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QUICKIE REVIEW: “Doctor Who: The Angel’s Kiss” by Justin Richards

It may not be the most beloved episode of Doctor Who (or of season 7, even), but I’ve always had a soft spot for “The Angels Take Manhattan.” I love River Song and I love film noir-style detective stories. So, of course, I love an episode where River is a film noir-style detective. And in that episode, there’s a book that’s based on her adventures as this detective—Melody Malone. It’s one of my favorite elements of the episode; I mean, who doesn’t love a good book-within-a-show? Honestly, I’d love to read a novelization of the episode written like a Melody Malone novel. And, when I first came across Justin Richards’ “The Angel’s Kiss,” I thought that’s what I’d be getting—a recreation of the book featured in “The Angels Take Manhattan.” Unfortunately, that’s not what this is.

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REVIEW: The Season 2 Finale of “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” Offers a Satisfying Conclusion and a Compelling Pitch for a Third Season

(Photo by: Michael Courtney / NBC / Lionsgate)

Look, I’m gonna be honest—season two of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist started to lose me a bit during the middle episodes. A lot of it felt like retreading familiar ground, with the show continuing to rely on the Max/Zoey/Simon love triangle (to the point where it became a love hexagon for a hot minute). But the last few episodes easily won me back, offering buckets of character development, heartfelt moments, and a whole lot of humor. And the season two finale hits a home run, managing to be everything you want a season finale to be. It satisfyingly brings many of the ongoing storylines to a close while offering a compelling pitch for a third season. As the episode ended, it felt like the show had so many different places it could go, not least of all by further exploring that jaw-dropping cliffhanger. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s start at the very beginning. It is, after all, a very good place to start. (5 out of 5 wands.)

(NOTE: There are major spoilers for the season two finale of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. Read at your own risk.)

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist 2×13: “Zoey’s Extraordinary Goodbye”
(Written by Austin Winsberg, directed by John Terlesky)
In the season finale, Zoey must face a difficult goodbye.

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REVIEW: “Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor Adventures – Ravagers”

It’s an absolute delight to be living in a world where Christopher Eccleston is acting in new Doctor Who stories featuring his Doctor. Like Paul McGann, Eccleston’s time on the show was brief but full of promise. So, it’s quite nice to see him return to the role after a nearly sixteen-year absence in a new series of audio dramas for Big Finish. Unfortunately, the first set of these stories, Doctor Who: Ravagers, isn’t the home run it could’ve been. It’s not a bad set, or anything, just an underwhelming one. It’s a three-part story that’s stretched across two-and-a-half hours and, honestly, the story just doesn’t support its length. But still—it feels like a story that might’ve aired during the Ninth Doctor’s era. Plus, Christopher Eccleston was always going to be the selling point of these sets and he doesn’t disappoint here. (3 out of 5 wands.)

(NOTE: Minor spoilers for Doctor Who: Ravagers follow. Major plot points are not spoiled, but read at your own risk.)

“Doctor Who: Ravagers”
(written by Nicholas Briggs)
1.1 Sphere of Freedom – On the Sphere of Freedom, the Doctor is about to shut down an evil Immersive Games business empire. He’s assisted by a valiant galley chef called Nova. But his plan spectacularly fails… And who exactly is Audrey?

1.2 Cataclysm – Nova is dislocated in time while the Time Eddies are out of control. Meanwhile, the Doctor is about to face the end of the universe. Or is that just the Battle of Waterloo?

1.3 Food Fight – The TARDIS is starting to get a little crowded! Audrey finds herself haunted by a ghostly Doctor.

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