Black Faces, White Messages : Doctor Who

With Season 9 of BBC slated to start in a month, season 8 of DOCTOR WHO finally makes its way onto Netflix. I’ve watched more DOCTOR WHO than the vast majority of you reading this. My compulsive personality at work, I’ve seen all of the current reboot, and all of the classic existing series.

And I’ve seen the series go from great to mediocre and back again. One thing the series has suffered from, at times, in both its classic and modern incarnations is its depictions of people not WASPish.

Russell T. Davies was the visionary largely responsible for the rebirth of Dr. Who after an absence of over a decade; bringing a 20th century creation successfully into the 21st century. In terms of effects, and scope of story-lines Davies reboot was a massive win both artistically and commercially. That said one of the few failings of Russell T. Davies tenure, especially early on, was his use of characters of Color.

His Mickey character, played by the Shakespearean trained Noel Clarke (And I hold both creator and actor complicit for such a portrayal) from the first was a neutered, constantly emasculated character of color much in the vein of Step and Fetchit Hollywood, not just an offensive character, but worse a detriment to otherwise watchable story-lines, of which the Russell T. Davies run, had many.

I would rather creators avoid using characters of color, than use them offensively or ignorantly, as nothing more than tokens or stereotypes or outlets for their biases, which I think unfortunately is how Russell t. Davies approached such characters, particularly early in his run.

However by the Tenant years, Davies had a far better grasp on utilizing characters of color, as his Martha Jones character, brilliantly played by Freema Agyeman and her extended family were from the most part brilliantly written.

The post Tenant years, starring the youngest Doctor Matt Smith, and helmed by new Show Runner Steven Moffatt, I felt were pretty uneven, as the character was saddled with companions for most of his run that I found almost as annoying as the Mickey character.

That brings us finally to the new incarnation of the Doctor played by Peter Capaldi in Season 8, which definitely had me intrigued.

However, initially, the introduction of a Black character (love interest for the companion Clara), named Mr. Pink had me groaning audibly. I saw another Mickey in the making. A Black character called Mr, Pink? Really? Why not just call him snowball. But thankfully, the series, six episodes in is smarter, better written, and the character of Mr. Pink, stronger and more compelling and likably written and performed, than initial episodes and the unfortunate name… would imply. As well as other characters of color in far more humanistic and enjoyable and non-stereotypical roles than most stateside shows.

Add to that Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor and Jenna Coleman as Clara are fantastic. Capaldi brings a less manic, measured performance and is a welcome touchstone to the Doctor as teacher and mentor and father. And Jenna Coleman’s Clara an excellent companion.

Episode 6 CARETAKER is my favorite of the season so far and season 8 as a whole my favorite season since the Tenant/Agyeman series. Let’s hope the writing continues to transcend the easy crutches of stereotype that sometime marred earlier seasons, and continues to broaden and enrich the history and mythology of Dr. Who.

Final Word:

On the accusation of Black Faces/White Message we find Season 8 of Doctor Who… NOT GUILTY. It is TV done right, as Showrunner, Stars, and stories combine to make addictive, fun, ethnically diverse, and smart television.

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A minute with the DOCTOR : WHO defeats EBOLA in NIGERIA?!!!

“WHO Declares Nigeria Ebola-Free

Abuja – The World Health Organization, today, 20th October, 2014 officially declared Nigeria Ebola-Free, having passed the mandatory period with no new cases; 42 days after the last confirmed case of the virus was discharged from the hospital, giving sufficient confidence to declare the outbreak over.”

“This is a good public health story with an unusual twist at the end. As part of preparedness for an imported case, several advanced countries with good health systems are now studying technologies “made in Nigeria”, with WHO support, to improve their own contact tracing capacities.

The story has another very clear message, as noted by Dr Margaret Chan, the WHO Director-General. “If a country like Nigeria, hampered by serious security problems, can do this – that is, make significant progress towards interrupting polio transmission, eradicate guinea-worm disease and contain Ebola, all at the same time – any country in the world experiencing an imported case can hold onward transmission to just a handful of cases.”

Read the whole remarkable story here!

DVD Review: DOCTOR WHO [STORY 10] THE DALEK INVASION OF EARTH

DVD Review of DOCTOR WHO [STORY 10] THE DALEK INVASION OF EARTH. [Under Construction- some spoilers]

WORLD’S END- Written by Terry Nation. It’s a pretty dire opening with
someone committing suicide. A fitting opening for an episode entitled
World’s End. Grade: B. Commentary with Gary Russell, Verity Lambert, and
Richard Martin.

DALEKS- Reintroduces the almost immediately iconic Daleks. A tale of
humanity attempting to resist… in an age called Dalek. A captivating
story, solid performances and a large cast for a WHO production, but man
the Dalek effects (little streamers supposed to be the gun firing) and
the battle scenes are shockingly bad. Shockingly bad. Even for 1965 the
special effects, saucer flying scenes, and fight staging are c
ringingly, embarrassingly inept. Only the script, performances make it
worthwhile. The Doctor comes into his own in this episode using his
genius to launch an escape, only to find himself out of the fire and
into the frying pan. Questionably directed by Richard Martin. Grade: B-.
Commentary with Gary Russell, Verity Lambert, Richard Martin, Bill
Russell.

DAY OF RECKONING- Written by Terry Nation. The human attack against the
Daleks has been rebuffed. And now the Daleks have only one thing on
their mind… extermination. And on the battle scenes, considering the
show is done for the most part live/in real time, you can excuse much of
its failings. However the Dalek shooting effect, and saucer footage,
there is no excuse for anything that lame. I say again, shockingly bad.
Susan gets to step up this episode and even gets a bit of romance going
on. And one fantastic, iconic scene this episode is the Daleks’
possessive march through London. Done to a great atonal score. Unusually
cinematic and very impressive. The highlight of the episode, and my
guess would be the serial. Appearance of the Black Dalek. Great
commentary. Grade: B.

THE END OF TOMORROW- A possibly explosive opening as Susan and her beau
David, save the day. Nice scene of the Daleks overseeing their human
slave labor. Nice THE GREAT ESCAPE feel as multiple story-lines converge
on the same goal… freedom. It is impressive and layered storytelling
by Terry Nation and Story Editor David Smith. Alligators in the Sewers
of London. Human vs Human. And a Dalek Guard Dog… the Slither?
Color-coded Daleks. And another strong cliffhanger. Great, full house
commentary.

THE WAKING ALLY- Ian and compatriot, escaping the Slither must face the
secrets of the mine. Doctor, Susan and cast must face the horrors of the
Sewers of London, and Barbara and friend, find uncertain shelter. A
wonderful Terry Nation script that continues to plumb the horrors of
humanity as much as the horror of the Daleks. The romance of Susan and
David continues. And the Black Dalek/The Supreme Controller announces
the reason the the Daleks have come to Earth and boy is it a doozy! They
intend to turn the planet Earth into a ship that they can pilot
anywhere?! That’s massive huge thinking by Terry Nation, way ahead of
its time! Commentary with Richard Martin, Carolyn Ford, Bill. Grade: B+.

FLASHPOINT- Ian is a fly in the ointment and nearly pays for it with his
life, Barbara launches a bold plan at the heart of the Daleks, And the
Doctor, Susan and cast also launch their attack against the heart of the
Dalek invasion. Nice use of Dalek-vision. Nice wrap-up, actually pretty
fantastic wrap-up with Susan and David. Strong episode. Grade: B+. Richard,
Verity, Carol, and Bill on commentary

WHAT IS HOT and WHAT’s NOT on TV for FALL 2012!!

I don’t have cable. I jumped off the band wagon years ago, and really have not been seriously tempted to jump back on. I’m content with waiting for products to hit DVD, and in the interim there are a lot of great shows out there on DVD to try.

I did that with both season 5 and season 6 of Doctor Who. Watching the shows over a few nights rather than the dubious experience of lengthy waits over several months, to invest in a story that may end with a whimper rather than a bang.

Which is how I tended to feel about Moffat’s Dr. Who seasons. While an imaginative and talented writer of “done in one” episodes or two parters, as a season wide story arc writer, his work tends to be swiss-cheese and disappointing.

So the ability to find that out by renting the DVDs over a couple nights, rather than an investment of months of ‘live’ watching, suits the way I like to view seasons.

That said for those of you who do watch TV/cable here are the shows I think you should be watching this fall, ones I’m intrigued in picking up when they hit DVD.

WHAT’S HOT

LAST RESORT on ABC- Why I’m interested? 1/Stars Andre Braugher of HOMICIDE fame. 2/Premise of a naval commander and his sub crew hunted for refusing to commit mass murder, has me incredibly intrigued. 3/One of the few dramas/genre/thrillers on an increasingly whites only TV shows, that has multiple actors of color

TREME- I’ve heard much about this Orlean’s based show. So look forward to catching up with it on DVD.

DOCTOR WHO- While I think Moffat should stick to done and one episodes or 2parters, and give up his attempt to outdo Russell T. Davies with big elaborate universe ending story arcs (Note to Moffat…, you may be a more imaginative writer than Russell, he is the better story arc guy. And your tenure is suffering in an attempt to outdo Davies rather than play to your strengths.

Particularly Moffat’s take leaves a lot to be desired. It gets old, the elaborate universe ending story arcs and over-hyping the Doctor into a God like protagonist. It just reads as bs and failed one-upmanship, and leaving your character no place to go or grow to. It tends to get boring, and while it’s fantasy and some level of inconsistency is inherent, season 5 and 6 have plotholes you can drive a truck through), I am interested in seeing where Season 7 takes the show. If Moffat would play to his strengths, smaller, intimate, done-in-one stories or two parters… the show could be fantastic.

WHAT’S NOT
ELEMENTARY- Sherlock Holmes is a recovering smart-alec drunk, Watson is his Asian female Bodyguard and Watcher, and the setting is New York. Really?!! I’m not a huge fan of the BBC SHERLOCK series, it’s okay, I just don’t think the writing is always up to the strong acting and direction, so my objection to ELEMENTARY has nothing to do with that BBC show. The more great shows the better. My objection is, if you’re going to change everything about it that is Sherlock Holmes, why even call the character Sherlock Holmes? I have no interest in seeing it, the premise just sounds insipid. However I’m willing to be proven wrong. If it makes it a full season and people are raving about it I’ll pick up the DVD, but otherwise this goes in the “What were they thinking’ trash pile.

That’s all for now! Feel free to leave your own recommendations, comments!

DVD Review: DOCTOR WHO THE SEEDS OF DOOM

DVD Review: DOCTOR WHO THE SEEDS OF DOOM

Presaging John Carpenter’s seminal film THE THING by a full six years, The 6-part 1976 DOCTOR WHO serial SEEDS OF DOOM, is not only one of the best Tom Baker era Doctor Who episodes, but is one of the best Doctor Who story-lines; in its going on 50 year history(2013 will be the 50th anniversary of the show).

Mixing space born terror, cronenbergesque occupation with body horror, ecological concerns, and human madmen it is a surprisingly brutal and more than a bit horrific entry, in the oft imaginative, but usually tame, family show.

An intelligent, engrossing, exciting and risk taking script by Robert Banks Stewart (script edited by the great Robert Holmes and produced by Philip Hinchliffe, so SEEDS OF DOOM is the highlight of what many consider the best Doctor Who producer/script editor team), is complemented by one of the best directed episodes of Doctor Who by the equally great director Douglas Camfield, and all tied together by stellar performances from the usual suspects (Tom Baker giving one of the most commanding and passionate performances of his seven year run) as well as the guest stars.

It was typical for serials longer than four parts to feel padded, not this one, it starts out engrossing and just gets more intense each episode. My first impetus, upon my original viewing was to grade this an A/A+. Having let some time pass, viewing the episode again, it lives up to that first impression, it rates a solid A+.

If you want a modern comparison it is the BLINK (the best episode of the David Tennant era) of the Tom Baker era. DVD sports a commentary with Tom Baker (The Doctor), John Challis (Scorby), Kenneth Gilbert (Dunbar), Michael McStay (Moberley), Philip Hinchcliffe (Producer), Robert Banks Stewart (Writer), Roger-Murray Leach (Designer) and Joggs Camfield (son of Douglas Camfield, Director).

Final Grade: A+
Doctor Who: The Seeds of Doom (Story 85): Price Your Copy Here!

DEAL OF THE DAY: DOCTOR WHO style SOLAR POWERED Pocket Watch- Retracted

UPDATE: Having received this one I have to update this post. It does not live up to expectations. First the pics are quite a bit larger than the actual item that feels tiny and insubstantial. And possibly I got a used, defective one but I didn’t see the solar part at all.

I figured you’d open it up and light would hit it and the hands would start rotating, and there would be a cool way to set it. Right?! I mean proper Steam Punk! Nope.

It’s just a dinky watch, with a normal battery that supposedly gets solar charged, and has a frustrating method for setting the time, and is even more frustrating trying to read the time.

A curio for its looks, but functionally it’s… hmm how do I say this nicely… not worth the money. At $10 or under it might be a cute thing to display, but as a functional watch it’s a bust.

Now possibly I got a bad one, as it has some decent reviews at the link below. But I can only go by my experience. And my experience… not good. I’m sending mine back for a refund. So DEAL OF THE DAY… retracted. 🙂

I don’t wear wrist watches. I never picked up the habit, and working with electricity it’s just one less thing I had to remove, so I got used to not wearing a wrist watch.

However pocket watches, or what the British call fob watches (fob, because that’s the name of the small pocket on vests, where the watch was meant to go) I simply cannot get enough of.

A great pocket watch is just a strong buy for me, and an especially unusual and finely crafted one… just a must have.

Enter today’s DEAL OF THE DAY:

Solar Powered Turbine Fob Watch

You can view the item here:

EER Patent Solar Powered Turbine Fob Watch by Alchemy Gothic

RATING THE SEASON! Review of DOCTOR WHO (2005) Season 5

Review of DOCTOR WHO Season 5 (that’s New Series numbering, it’s actually Season 31 overall).

I re-watched this season, the first with Matt Smith as the eponymous Doctor and Steven Moffat as show runner to see if my opinion of it changed any.

And I have to say it didn’t.

Overall, outside of the quite compelling scoring, I still find the season dreadfully flawed, for two main reasons. The first is the companions.

Doctor Who is only as good as the companions/writing, and just as Ecleston’s years were hurt by the character of Mickey, and the Baker and Davidson years hurt by the character of Adric, the Matt Baker Doctor is hurt by the Dawson’s Creek/Smallville annoying soap opera antics of the companions Amy Pond and Rory.

I know some people are found of the Amy Pond character, but having watched all of season 5, she is, to me, like fingernails on a chalk board.

Largely it’s a combination of the pouty, annoying way she is written and the pouty annoying way she plays the character. More the latter than the former. As even in scenes where she is saying nothing, just supposed to be looking meaningfully, I find her among the most annoying things I’ve ever seen. Give me back Martha Jones or Rose Tyler any-day.

That said there were moments where she didn’t annoy me in season 5 (or more precisely, gave a performance that did something other than annoy me), most notably the 2nd episode of the season ,THE BEAST BELOW, where the Amy character saves the day in a way. A nice bit of storytelling, and cutting down on the annoying poutiness Karen Gillan tends to do, rather than act.

But largely I found her annoying, and add the Cory character, played by Arthur Darvill, to that already uninteresting dynamic, and the show becomes exponentially annoying.

Which leads me to the 2nd flaw of the season. Steven Moffat’s writing. Steven Moffat is a great writer when on his game, episodes like BLINK and THE GIRL IN THE FIREPLACE showing the writing chops that got him the job of Show Runner, replacing Doctor Who Resurrectionist Russell T. Davies. However this season he gets away from what are his strengths, and tries to beat Russell T. Davies at his game; of large universe ending threats.

Which tends to get old, after a while. Russell T. Davies himself playing that card one time too many, till by his last story, THE END OF TIME , it just came off as tired, and forced, and a chore.

So Moffat trying for that epic overarching universe ending scope in season 5, just did not work for me.

The small intimate stories in season 5 were fine, but those were few and far between, and most of the season was given over to this crack of time Storyline, that I thought was largely rubbish through most of season 5.

Exceptions being:

BEAST BELOW Grade B+

THE TIME OF ANGELS Grade B. A really strong first half, with a great cliffhanger. But the 2nd part is a letdown, exhibiting the diminishing returns of more is less. One weeping angel in the Season 3 episode BLINK, brilliantly directed by Hettie MacDonald, was scary, but here an army of Weeping Angels are just… boring and a disappointment. And the director fails to use the conventions that Hettie MacDonald devised to make this conceit… scary. It shows Directors are not interchangeable, and when you get a great one like Hettie MacDonald you should keep using her. Particularly on as iconic and fragile an idea as Weeping Angels.

VINCENT AND THE DOCTOR- Grade B. An intimate, standalone episode.

THE LODGER- Grade B-.

Those 4, standalones primarily, are the highlights of season 5. The remaining episodes I would chuck with the bath water. Your mileage may vary.

Moffat when on his game is great at small intimate tales, that have less to do with saving worlds then saving one person. His stories more fable than scifi, tales as much of sleeping beauties and spells and ogres and handsome knights, as anything to do with space faring threats.

There’s an immediacy, a personalization to Moffat’s writing that comes through in places, However the season finale fails to be one of those places. The finale stumbles over its own, “let me outdo the last universe ending threat” pattern.

And did I mention I really can’t stand the companions?

So the whole season hinges on you caring for Amy Pond, and accepting the “tell don’t show” greatness of the Doctor, that he does nothing this season to earn.

Matt Smith is an okay Doctor, Moffat has written some great dialog for him, but as stated he’s encumbered by the writing of the companions. I’d like to see a season with him, with non-annoying companions ( I overall like River Song– though the ‘spoilers’ mantra, gets a bit old), and more intimate, less hyperbole ridden universe saving episodes.

Overall a season worth viewing free or if you can rent it cheap, but not one I would suggest buying. Here’s hoping Season 6 when finally available in box set rental, is an improvement. Final grade for DOCTOR WHO: SEASON 5 is C-.

Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series (See all Sci-Fi & Fantasy Cult Movies)

Doctor Who: Series Six, Part 1