Fantasy v SF Round One Second Half Gets Weird

io9 continues whittling down the first sixty-four entries, getting decidedly weirder, digging around in the classics for mad scientists, dystopian alternate realities, monsters and magic.

Results from the first half of the voting returned only one disappointment for me, and it’s a bittersweet one. The Princess Bride edged out The Wheel of Time in the Epic Fantasy bracket.  Bit of a quibble for me as I don’t really think the former qualifies as ‘epic’ fantasy; rather, it’s more like humorous high fantasy.  The latter clearly takes epic to the next level and should not have been so easily defeated.  I’ve read both, though, and loved them both.

Update March 20, 2014: I missed the vote yesterday for the first half of round two.  Some of the results are already in and can be found here.

Upcoming Schedule:

  • Friday, March 21: Sweet Sixteen
  • Monday, March 24: Elite Eight
  • Wednesday, March 26: Final Four
  • Friday, March 28: Championship

Movie Review: Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (1966)

Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (1966)

1 out of 5 stars

If only I could get those ninety minutes back I spent watching this movie last night.  Even the respectable talents of Peter Cushing as Doctor Who could not save this film (although his character did manage to save the world from the Daleks).  If the rest of the 60s era Doctor Who movies and television series overflowed with such bad acting, inept stunts, God-awful music and exceptionally fictional science, it’s a miracle Doctor Who survived to the 21st century. 

Some of the ‘shocks’ for me in this movie included a girl who called the Doctor who grandfather and a woman companion who professed to be his niece.  Having watched the Moffat version of Doctor Who for the last few years, I assumed the Doctor had no relatives (except for one episode involving a regenerated hand during the Tenant season).  And I realized this morning that the police officer who rushed into the TARDIS thinking it was an actual police call box is the very same actor who portrayed Donna Noble‘s grandfather, Wilfred Mott (also during the David Tenant Doctor Who seasons). 

I can thank my husband for finding this gem on TCM.  Even though this movie was the sequel to the previous year’s Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965), I won’t be rushing over to Netflix to place it in my queue.  And, thankfully, the BBC does NOT consider anything but the television series to be ‘canon’ with respect to the Doctor Who universe.

Amy Pond Outshines the Doctor

Perhaps being turned into a giant wooden doll while trapped in a dollhouse stored in a scared boy’s cabinet left Amy with some unresolved anger issues.  Last week’s forgettable episode, Night Terrors, disappointed on many levels (weak story and acting on the part of the bit players).  Creepy Doctor Who episode I hope to forget sooner rather than later.  Thankfully, last night’s episode, The Girl Who Waited, provided excellent science fiction (including  a time travel paradox unresolvable by either the Doctor or the TARDIS) and phenomenal acting from both Karen Gillan (as Amy Pond) and Arthur Darvill (as Rory Williams).  While this episode doesn’t contribute much to the overall story arc for this season (the Doctor’s death), the character growth glimpsed in both Amys and Rory will knock your socks off.

A great stand-alone episode of Doctor Who I highly recommend for your viewing pleasure.

Doctor Who Returns after Summer Break with ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’

"Let's Kill Hitler" aired on BBCA 08/27/2011
"Let's Kill Hitler" aired on BBCA 08/27/2011

I suffered through some disappointing summer science fiction television recently (most notably “Falling Skies” on TNT).  But all that is behind me now with the return of the Doctor and the best ‘bad girl’ in any time or space: River Song.   Amy and Rory continue their quest to reunite with their daughter, Melody Pond, also known as River Song, although her parents are still coming to grips with their daughter’s incorrigibility, knack for mad-cap adventures and an obsession with the Doctor not of her own making.

And River, as Mels, Amy’s BFF from childhood, who coins the episodes title ‘Let’s Kill Hitler‘ when she finally meets the Doctor, after Amy and Rory destroy a wheat field with a crop-circle calling card.  Holding the Doctor and the TARDIS at gunpoint, Mels corrals everyone into the TARDIS for a trip back to pre-war Berlin.  Mels manages to shoot the TARDIS and forces a crash landing in Hitler’s office, interrupting a shape-shifting humanoid robot containing miniaturised humanoids has assumed the form of a Wehrmacht officer and attacked Hitler.

And it’s at this point where Hitler becomes a minor impediment to the ongoing conflict between the newly regenerated River Song and her immediate assassination attempt on the Doctor, Amy and Rory kidnapped by the miniaturized humans, and a dying Doctor.   Hitler is locked in the cupboard by Rory.  My husband and I laughed repeatedly on that dialogue.

The tiny robot-occupying humans reveal themselves as time-traveling Justice Department personnel who mete out punishment to infamous criminals by snatching them in the last seconds of their life and torturing them for thousands of years for their crimes.   They switch gears from Hitler (they arrived too early anyway in 1938) to River Song, who has a criminal record including killing the Doctor.  So now we spend the last thirty minutes of the Doctor’s life arguing whether River can be tortured for killing the Doctor when he is in fact still alive.

Best bit of lore gleaned this episode about the Silence (spoilers follow, obviously):

Robot Amy: Records Available

Doctor: Question.  I’m dying.  Who wants me dead?

Robot Amy: The Silence.

Doctor: What is the Silence? Why is it called that? What does it mean?

Robot Amy: The Silence is not a species.  It is a religious order or movement.  Their core belief is that Silence will fall when the question is asked.

Doctor: What question?

Robot Amy: The first question, the oldest question in the universe, hidden in plain sight.

Doctor: Yes, but what is the question?

Robot Amy: Unknown.

This episode did not have the impact of ‘A Good Man Goes to War‘ (but how could it with the big reveal of who River’s parents actually were).  However, I loved it (as I do most Doctor Who episodes) for the great writing, story-telling and acting.   I know where I’ll be every Saturday evening … wherever the TARDIS re-appears.

Doctor Who: The Doctor’s Wife

An amazing episode, written by none other than Neil Gaiman, a well known popular award winning science fiction author.  Again, I’m too lazy to write my own synopsis, so please visit the Wikipedia article on The Doctor’s Wife episode if you need more info.

My favorite snippet of dialogue from this episode:

Idris: You ever wonder why I chose you all those years ago?
The Doctor: I chose you. You were unlocked.
Idris: Of course I was. I wanted to see the universe so I stole a Time Lord and I ran away. And you were the only one mad enough.

This episode is overflowing with revelations about the TARDIS (it’s female and likes being called both ‘old girl’ and ‘sexy’).  We see more of the TARDIS (well, Amy and Rory running through endlessly similar corridors while the villain, House, terrorizes them).  We see other dead TARDISes (or is it TARDI ??) and revisit the Tenth Doctor’s console (Tenant’s desktop so to speak).  Definitely a four star rating.

Next Episode: Rebel Flesh

Doctor Who: The Curse of the Black Spot

Doctor Who: Curse of the Black Spot

“Yo ho ho! or does nobody actually say that?”  — the Doctor (soon to be one of my favorite quotes).

Plot summary at Wikipedia (yes, I’m being lazy again but I have an excuse … it’s Mother’s Day).

I thoroughly enjoyed this episode and would give it four stars, possibly more, especially for the dramatic scene between Amy and Rory towards the end and for the pirates!  Who doesn’t love a romping swashbuckling tale of the high seas, pirates and sea monsters?

And was I the only one who noticed that the newly inaugurated space pirates first visited the Dog Star aka Sirius?

I think I still prefer Robert Picardo over a supermodel with his signature ‘Please state the nature of the medical emergency.’  But that’s just me.

Next week we might meet the Doctor’s wife or possibly another time lord.  Either way, I’m excited and ecstatic to have exceptional science fiction to look forward to each and every Saturday night.  Hip Hip Hurray for BBC America!

Doctor Who: Day of the Moon

Nearly the first thing we did upon returning home from our weekend getaway to Table Rock Lake, after visiting the necessary room of course, was to watch the Day of the Moon via the DVR.  Follow this link for a plot synopsis at the relevant Wikipedia article.

Doctor Who: Day of the Moon
Doctor Who: Day of the Moon

The beginning and middle of this episode kept me confused for longer than I like.  And the Silents started creeping me out, similar to the Weeping Angels in “Blink” episode, especially when Amy was wondering a deserted orphanage during a night thunderstorm alone.  Part of my confusion probably stemmed from the unreliably nature of the narration.  Since the characters (including Doctor Who) could not cohesively remember their encounters with the Silents, we experienced what they experienced without much third-person omnipotent viewpoint advantage.

I am not convinced we have seen the last of the Silents, especially if you consider the continuity flashbacks and foreshadowings.  I liked the very American response and call to revolution against the Silents that the Doctor engineered and I especially liked the black box at Area 51, but the resolution arrived too quickly for me.

As to the identity of the girl in the astronaut suit, you can find a good discussion ongoing here where I bring up some questions about who the girl might be and who her mother might be, all of which will be answered in Moffat‘s good time.

Close to four stars, better than three and a half stars (out of five stars) for an episode of Doctor Who.  Next week it appears Doctor Who et al. will be playing pirates and chasing mermaids on the high seas in “The Curse of the Black Spot” episode.

Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut

Just a few quick words, thoughts and questions about last night’s Doctor Who Season Six premiere ‘The Impossible Astronaut‘ (if you’re looking for a synopsis or re-cap of the episode, click on the episode name link).  The Doctor, Amy, Rory and River hop across the pond to late 1960s America, unraveling (without alerting the younger doctor) the mystery surrounding the two hundred year older Doctor’s demise (yes, a bit of a spoiler but it happens within the first few minutes of the episode).

I enjoyed the nostalgic references to the space program (go NASA! to the moon and beyond!) and Nixon (as Doctor Who states ‘so much more happened in 1969 than people remember), but Moffat’s latest aliens didn’t seem as creative as his extremely creepy weeping angels (see the Hugo and BAFTA award winning episode ‘Blink‘ for further creepiness).

And it begs that question, if these aliens have the ability to make you forget them completely after you are no longer looking at them, why would one of these aliens command Amy to tell Doctor Who something?  Don’t they realize she’ll forget whatever they told her as soon as she turns her head?   Here’s an excerpt from Amy’s conversation with one of the aliens in a White House restroom:

Alien: You will tell the Doctor.

Amy: Tell him what?

Alien: What he must know and what he must never know.

Amy: How do you know about that?

Alien: Tell him.

After which Amy runs gasping from the restroom and immediately forgets what just happened.  She did snap a photo of the alien with her cell phone, after she determined that humans forget the aliens as soon as they look away (thanks to a poor woman caught in the conversational crossfire as collateral damage).  And was I the only one who that thought the electrifying moaning alien consuming said woman reminded you of Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall‘?  Ew.

An intriguing above-average episode of Doctor Who (more than three, probably close to four out of five stars).  I’m still having David Tennant withdrawals as I just can’t relate to a Doctor Who played by an actor born just a year before I graduated from high school.  I loved having Mark Sheppard, one of my current favorite British (or is that Irish) actors who pops up on many of the shows I watch.  The preview for next week’s conclusion entitled ‘Day of the Moon‘ look suitably time-twisty and action packed.

Thank goodness BBC America saved science fiction television from complete extinction.  Heaven knows, I can’t count on Syfy for anything except fantasy (because what else do you call WWE or reality TV)?