Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Big Bang review

A review by kirkslashspock+++

Well finally, my Saturday nights are my own again. After finally getting employed at the radio station I started my career at (kind of), after a year of unemployment, I am once again laboring to "working for the weekend." Yes, that precious forty-eight hours of time-off is finally mine again... no weird scheduling, like some friends have, where there jobs of management require them to work odd hours (although, honestly, I would love to work second shift like I did in Portland, when they simply didn't have studio space for me until the morning show vacated around 2 p.m... there's plenty of studio space in the skeleton-crewed place I work now). No, I'm a Monday to Friday, eightish to fiveish regular Joe, one who for the first few Saturdays of being married to his new and underpaid ball-and-chain has been spending those Saturday nights glued to the bittorrent feeds waiting for the new Doctor Who ep to finish downloading.

The series started with a bang...

...whereupon the new Doctor, the very young Matt Smith, almost universally charmed the audience of old fogeys and newcomers like myself. I've only been really into The Doctor since David Tennant took the role. I watched Tom Baker when I could in the eighties, but far too often the bus driver taking us home from school would take the long way 'round to my place, and we would be stuck with just Addams Family reruns.

The season had been mostly hit and sometimes miss for me, with the return of River Song and the Weeping Angels two-parter being the highlight of the middle of it. I'm not sure why some Whovians felt such disdain towards the character... simply a fellow time traveller that knew the Doctor well, who just happened to be going the other way through time. What's the big deal? I thought the character was well thought out, and obviously writer (and now showrunner) Stephen Moffat knew exactly what he wanted from the character when he created her. I think perhaps it was even known back then that Russell Davies would be leaving and Moffat would be taking over... which is why they introduced such an important (to be, anyway) character in the fourth season, even if they did kill her off in a way.

The return of the Weeping Angels, however, was a thrill. They were how I got my little brother hooked on the show... I made him watch "Blink" with me and suddenly he was there when repeats were on, there to enjoy The End of Time and The Waters of Mars along with me. It's been a long time since we've shared a show together, so it kind of felt special to me. Then again we also watch Warren The Ape together, perhaps I shouldn't put so much empathy into that then.

And then there was the historical figure episode. Normally I do not look forward to these, and I did not look forward to Vincent Van Gogh warning of a deadly creature in a church a'la John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness, but the creature itself was barely a blip on the radar compared to the examination of the tortured Van Gogh (who I shall now always pronounce as "Van Goff" rather than the American "Van Go"). For one thing, it would appear that Van Gogh, in this imagining, has a bit of synesthesia... that is, one sensory perception, say how you look at color, can be represented by another, such as taste or smell. In the case of Van Gogh, he didn't just see a black night sky... in one amazing scene with The Doctor and Amy lying in a field with him, he helps them to see the sky as he sees it, awash with deep blues, pitch blacks, lighter shades of lavender, and the stars aren't merely bright pinpoints but swirling explosions of color and light... slowly the sky morphs into the Starry Night painting. Awesome scene.

But that wasn't even the best. So far Doctor Who's revitalization has made me almost cry twice. Once was in Blink, when Sally Sparrow, who keeps receiving messages from the past from people who used to be in her present, meets detective Billy Shipton. I can't recognize Billy's accent, it doesn't seem Jamaican but it definitely isn't English. But he is sweet on Sally, and when he tells her that she's not seeing the big question about her little mystery, she asks him what it is.

"Would you have a drink with me?" "What?" "You, me, drink?" It's a very sweet scene, where he tells her that he's knocked off of work and wants to ask her out because "Life is short and you are hot." Normal rambunctious hormones, yes? He gets a phone number for his troubles... not a promise, just a phone number, before she leaves and the Angels steal his potential time energy to feed upon, whipping him into the past, where he's found by the Doctor.

Although only minutes have passed for Sally, the next time she hears from Billy he is an old man. He had to take the long way through time to contact her again, living live from 1969 to present day 2007 the old fashioned-non-Tardis way. Like Sparrow's friend who was also zapped by the Angels, Shipton lived his life, married, and now at his old age is facing his final day of life, and he's using it to help Sally solve her mystery and help the Doctor. He takes her hand and says, "Life is long, and you are hot..." and dude, I almost lose it every time. Every single time. Sally just met this man that she was obviously a little taken with, and now he's going to die, old and broken. Billy has waited his entire life to have one final moment with a girl he never really knew. THAT IS THE SADDEST THING EVER. But it is also part of one of the best time-travel stories ever, and that's why I love it and love this show.

The other time it's nearly made me cry was when the Doctor, knowing that even with the grande adventure they've had with Van Gogh, he was still going to commit suicide, decides to give him one final hurrah... he takes him to a Paris museum, this drunk of a man who couldn't sell a painting in his lifetime, and lets him stand among his works as dozens of admirers coo and gasp at his artwork. Then he has the curator say some of the most awesome things about Van Gogh, just within earshot of the artist, and to watch this man who was never appreciated in his lifetime come to realize the lives he'd eventually touch with his art, the one thing he could cling to and know was real to him when nobody else cared... it was one of the sweetest moments in TV for me for a long time.

Certainly better than that damn glowing fairy pond in LOST anyway.

The season finale was a doozy. In any other show, indeed even Doctor Who past, I would cry foul at the use of time travel in the manner that it's presented here, but it's obvious they've been setting us up for this the entire time. The useage of the Vortex Manipulator to hop through time and enter previous episodes to set up sequences would be a cheat if they had not actually set those sequences up. The talk with Amy in the forest, especially, was something fans had figured out way before the finale popped up. And I didn't quite get it, at first, but after my second viewing, I don't see how Amy remembering the TARDIS for her wedding (old, new, borrowed, blue) was at all a cheat. The entire episode hinged on her memories. It was perfect. Best season finale so far for the show. And such a happy one... Rory and Amy married, going off with the Doctor for more adventures. These are new times we live in, and I am glad Doctor Who is turning out to be such a crowd pleaser.

Now if we can just figure out what role River Song is to play... is she a good witch, or does her bank account go up by thirty pieces of silver next season? We get to find out for sure, according to Moffat...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Big Bang... Doctor Who finale

For once in my life, I don't want to read any spoilers at all. I will be glued next to the computer refreshing the screen until the bittorrent is posted. This promo from BBC doesn't have anything we didn't see in part one.

The Dalek's entry in the Hitchhiker's Guide

Talk about a well done slab of fried gold... this mashup between two sci-fi universes continues to make me giggle.