Saturday, September 28, 2013

Nope, I Like This One Too. Get Over It.

Librarian in the TARDIS, Review 10.1

Title: Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks
Written By: Helen Raynor
Team TARDIS: Tenth Doctor, Martha Jones
Adversary: The Daleks, The Cult of Skaro
Originally Aired: April 21-28, 2007
Number of Episodes: 2

Synopses (from TARDIS Wikia) -

Daleks in Manhattan -
During the building of the Empire State Building in 1930's New York, the Cult of Skaro continues their attempts to destroy humanity and reign supreme.

Evolution of the Daleks -
As a new Dalek Empire rises in 1930s New York, the Doctor must enter an unholy alliance.

My Review:
This may be my most unpopular-est opinion in the history of unpopular opinions. And it comes purely because I had absolutely zero preconceived notions going into these episodes. Even three years after watching this story, I’m still not seeing all the problems that the perpetually malcontented people do.

I've said before that the first time I saw New Who, I watched it all the way straight through on my own. There was no hand-holding, no veteran Whovian standing over me to tell me what was good and what was bad, no spoilers whatsoever. I just sat down and watched them all the way through (barring a day or so to get over the complete gut-punch of “Doomsday”). It was only after I finished Series 5 (which was as far as the show had gotten when I was catching up), that I went in search of fan opinions and analysis and other kinds of trivia that I started to feel that “stupid noob” backlash - especially when it came to “Daleks in Manhattan” (I’m just going to call this two-parter by that name because it’s easier). Because I thought this was an exceptionally good story - bringing with it all kind of character development, depth of story, additions to the Doctor’s overall story arc, great moments for Martha, and lots of fun side characters.

Instead, I find a bunch of frothing-at-the-mouth fanboys wailing from the gutters of Gallifrey Base about pig slaves and a crappy human-Dalek prosthetic effect.

(That’s the sound of a fangirl still banging her head on the desk, three years on).

I guess some people are just never going to be able to get beyond less-than-stellar effects and I simply have to accept that as their loss. My thoughts on this subject have been made crystal clear. So, I’m just going to focus on what I find so compelling about this story and let the chips fall as they may (and I’ll probably get some entitled fanboy backlash anyway - but how I deal with that is my business).

1 - The Time War. In the previous episode, “Gridlock,” Martha sits the Doctor down and makes him tell her his backstory. She is very no-nonsense, take-no-obstructionist-crap about it (which is awesome in and of itself) and he tells her about it. We-the-audience don’t hear the entire story (seeing as it’s been covered in past episodes before Martha joined the party), but we know the basics - Time War, Daleks were the main antagonists, the events of the war destroyed the Doctor’s home planet, he’s still dealing with the guilt of being the only survivor. When I was very first watching Doctor Who, the idea of the Time War was one of the most compelling storylines woven throughout the entire series. I was never under the impression that I would get to see it, but watching the Doctor deal with the after-effects of the war was enough to tell me that it was horrendous.

2 - The moment where the Doctor is hiding with Tallulah in the sewer and the Dalek goes by and he realizes that at least a few Daleks survived the Battle of Canary Wharf is an absolute gut-punch. Bear in mind that this is not that long after the Series 2 finale, “Doomsday.” And whatever your feelings about the Doctor and Rose (shippy or otherwise) - there is no question that loss hit the Doctor hard. But I got the impression that he could console himself in his loss with the fact that the Daleks had been completely destroyed in the Battle of Canary Wharf. It’s small consolation, but for someone who is still coping with his own survivor’s guilt, he’d take comfort wherever he could get it. But to see that these vile and despicable creatures - creatures that the Doctor blames for all his losses - continue to survive when he has to lose everything totally breaks your heart.

3 - The Cult of Skaro. Even while the Doctor is reeling with the idea of Daleks surviving, in spite of all his efforts - it doesn’t actually mean that the Daleks are thriving. It’s kind of become a standing joke that even when the Daleks and their home planet are obliterated, there are always hoards of them still waiting in some hidden corner of the universe. But this is not so in “Daleks in Manhattan.” There are a grand total of four Daleks still in existence. Four Daleks that comprise the Cult of Skaro - a secret faction established when the Daleks (for all their insistence that the Dalek way of life is best and that anything that isn’t founded on Dalek principle is inferior and must be destroyed) realize that there might be something to these emotions that they have long since eradicated from their race. They even admit that they are impressed by humanity - a comparably young civilization that can still build great cities and continue to survive and thrive, even in the depths of poverty and despair (don’t know if that’s why Helen Raynor chose to set this story in the midst of the Great Depression, but it doesn’t hurt the context). And if the Daleks are doing anything right now, it is most certainly NOT surviving. The Cult of Skaro’s mission is to think the way their enemies think and find ways to use that thinking to benefit the Daleks in any way they can.

What’s their first problem? There are only four Daleks. They don’t have the means to create more. What usable resource is in greatest abundance at the present moment? Humans. Humans can think and strategize and create - and a fair number of them have worldviews and opinions that can be molded around to the Dalek way of thinking. So, why not genetically modify humans and Daleks to create a new race and a new homeworld for the Daleks? If you’re from a race and culture where creativity is all but unknown and you’re suddenly ordered to be creative, what else are you going to do?

(Granted, their cosmetics job on the finished product could use a little work, but Daleks are all about utility - looks don’t mean a thing to them. So, of course the final result is going to look a little... odd).

(And while we’re talking about cosmetics - how are pig slaves any weirder than those Robomen slaves with their proto-orthodontic headgear in “The Dalek Invasion of Earth”? It’s a thing, it happened, deal with it).

4 - The Doctor agreeing to work with Dalek Sec. Underneath all the PTSD and Survivor’s Guilt is the same old Doctor who sees the beauty in so many strange and wondrous things - even when those strange things are trying to kill him. He’s still the same Doctor who, when he had the chance to touch two wires together and destroy the Daleks before they even got started, hesitated and chose not to go through with it. And when he meets Dalek Sec and they get talking and he realizes that the human-Dalek hybrid isn’t as evil and mean as a pure Dalek - well, maybe there really is some hope for the old maniacal pepper pots. Maybe he doesn’t have to destroy the Daleks to defeat them - maybe all he really has to do is change them. That would get rid of the Dalek threat just as well, wouldn’t it? The Doctor hates killing and destruction, even when it becomes necessary. I think that’s what I love about the Doctor the most. People talk about how he’s a pacifist and all that jazz - which is definitely is, in theory at least. In practice... not so much and not all the time. But for once, he sees an opportunity to help the Daleks become better and he takes it. He comes to regret it later (and maybe we’re all wondering how bone-dead stupid do you have to be to trust a Dalek), but for a few glorious moments - the Daleks were redeemable. And if it wasn’t for those other three subversive little dopes whispering amongst themselves in sewers and plotting against their boss - it probably would have worked.

5 - Martha Jones is a gem of a companion and she gets some fantastic moments here. She’s the first one to discover what time period they’re in. She spots pig!Laszlo and follows him, thereby gaining a key ally in this whole affair. She’s the one who realizes where the Dalekanium is on the Empire State Building - AND that it’s still up there after the solar flare hits the tower (by the way - in defense of the Daleks’ base of operations in the Empire State Building - if you’re going to take over an entire planet, why not do it with a little style?) And there are those little moments when the Doctor is yelling for the Daleks to just kill him that Martha gets this look on her face like “Um, if you die, how am I supposed to get home?” She also forges a great bond with Tallulah and Laszlo and just takes charge, almost by default. That’s the kind of character she was set up to be in “Smith and Jones” and I love that she is just this natural leader-type. While she’s not yet a doctor in Series 3, I contend that she deserves entrance into the Dr. Liz Shaw Chapter of Awesome Female Scientist Companions (and I completely adore Freema Agyeman as a person, so there's that as well).

6 - I stinkin’ love Tallulah. And Laszlo. But Tallulah most of all. She’s just a fun character to watch. Yes, she’s portrayed as a little ditzy, but she’s got depth to her - when she says she’s glad to have a job in the horrible economy and she doesn’t want to end up out in Hooverville and when she’s worried for Laszlo - that he hasn’t been seen or heard from, but there’s still a white rose on her dressing table every night before she performs. Tallulah is a fantastic connection to this time period and helps ground the story in reality (such as reality ever is in Doctor Who) and every story needs those kinds of characters. The other characters from Hooverville and elsewhere do a good job of that as well, but I think Tallulah is my favorite out of all of them.

7 - Last the best of all the game: David Tennant. Dear Sweet Scorby, David Tennant acts his socks off in this one.  I've picked out certain moments where I think this story really shines, and most of that is due in no small part to how David Tennant acts the part of the Doctor.  You see this throughout his tenure (and you see it in his other roles as well - Broadchurch, oh my poor poor heart...) - he can go from "happy Tigger goofball" to "grimly, grim, and dark," but never in a way that's over the top or corny.  He makes that part of his Doctor and a huge part of why Ten still has so many fans (and it has very little to do with that tight little bottom of his - that's just an added bonus).  In fact, Ten was my Doctor for the longest time.  At least, until Five came in and stole his thunder (I guess they can argue that over family dinners or something), but I still love him to pieces.  It's difficult for me to point out specifics because everything about Ten just works so well and it's all interconnected.  I guess I can describe it this way: David Tennant's Doctor is like Tom Baker's Doctor - he was the right fit for the right role at the right time.  In many ways, he cemented the Doctor back into British consciousness and led the way for Matt Smith's era to become a global phenomenon (even though I hate that word).  If the revival Doctor Who hadn't worked at homebase, there's no way it would have caught on the way it has all around the world.

I don’t expect that my “List of Reasons Why ‘Daleks in Manhattan’ is Better Than You Think It Is” will change very many minds. Hell, all the little holes that people have poked in it haven’t changed my mind in the slightest. But I do hope that this gives people something to think about and a few things to consider. And just remember - one fan’s pig-slave is another fan’s tale of lost redemption.

For another person’s take on Dalek Caan specifically (but as it applies to the business at hand, I’m linking to it) click here: Why I Like Dalek Caan (BTW - Their explanation of the pig slaves is as good as any).

My subject line comes from the special Doctor Who episode of Never Mind the Buzzcocks where David Tennant is hosting and he's telling some trivia about some-band-or-another that I guess isn't that popular, but he quickly dismisses the haters by saying "Nope, I like this one too. Get over it."  It's a quick, funny, throwaway line, but it works for so many things (and the rest of the show is pretty good - Catherine Tate and Bernard Cribbins are in it too). You can watch the whole episode here.

Next Time, on Librarian in the TARDIS -
Review 10.2 - And you thought your landlords were horrible...

Previously -
Review 9.03 - The Odd Couple

Friday, September 27, 2013

Start from the Beginning - Tell Me Everything You Know

This video was posted on Facebook this morning and I haven't been able to get enough of it! There are plenty of tribute videos out there for the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who, but this one hit all the right emotional notes -

There are quite a few clips here that you don't often seen and some quotes that you know exist, but you don't often hear.  Everything is here - every Doctor, every companion, (nearly) every monster.  Even the music runs the gamut of feelings - from happy to sad to silly to contemplative to adventurous to wonder.  Every era is woven together to create one continuous narrative.  There were even parts where the editing was such that I couldn't tell if the clips were from a Classic or New Who story. And really, I didn't care. All I cared about was a very lovely, fitting, and heartfelt tribute to one of the greatest TV shows ever - and one that I've come to care for so very much.

If I had the means and talent to do so, this is the kind of tribute video I hope I would be able to create.  As it is, I can post it here and say "What they said."

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Odd Couple

Librarian in the TARDIS, Review 9.03

Title: Only Human
Author: Gareth Roberts
Team TARDIS: Ninth Doctor, Rose Tyler, Captain Jack Harkness
Adversary: Chantal Osterberg, The Hy-Bractors
Originally Released: September 2005
Range and Number: New Series Adventures #5

Synopsis (from TARDIS Wikia) -
Somebody's interfering with time. The Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack arrive on modern-day Earth to find the culprit -- and discover a Neanderthal Man, twenty-eight thousand years after his race became extinct. Only a trip back to the primeval dawn of humanity can solve the mystery.

Who are the mysterious humans from the distant future now living in that distant past? What hideous monsters are trying to escape from behind the Grey Door? Is Rose going to end up married to a caveman?

Caught between three very different types of human being -- past, present and future -- the Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack must learn the truth behind the Osterberg experiment before the monstrous Hy-Bractors escape to change humanity's history forever...

My Review:
I’m a bit mixed on this one, I don’t mind admitting.

Most of this story revolves around the Doctor and Rose traveling back to Neanderthal times because some humans get time travel at some point in the far-distant future and they've relocated there because there's more space there?  I think I got that right.  It's a little confusing at points and you just have to roll with it.  But then, there are the usual questions of why didn't these humans from the future totally screw with the rest of human history by doing that?  That, I think is what I had a hard time with in this story - never mind all the other psychedelic drugs that make everyone happy or forget pain or loss (they've basically medicated themselves out of any kind of human feelings, which also made me wonder "How is this any different than what Cybermen do?")  I think that you could have had a great story with a society that's lost sight of being human and having human emotions and pain because they've developed all these chemicals and drugs to get rid of them (oh wait - "Gridlock" did that in 2007.  Never mind).

So yeah, I just don't have a whole lot to say about this one.  Except...

Captain Jack Harkness stays in 21st Century London to help a Neanderthal man learn to live in the modern world.  And the Neanderthal man actually gets it!

Okay, okay - Jack's little adventure with Das (that's the Neanderthal man's name) accounts for maybe 15 pages worth of narrative out of the whole book (possibly 20 - it's hard to tell with the eBook version).  But those little interludes between the Doctor and Rose's adventures in the past were soooo much more entertaining than anything else going on in the book.

Das ends up in the present because of some time experiment that never got explained properly (at least, I couldn't figure it out), but the Doctor tries to take him back to his own time.  Problem is, the way Das initially traveled to the 21st century did something to his molecular structure and trying to travel in the TARDIS almost kills him. So, he's stuck in our time.  And he simply has to deal with it.  Jack is elected to stay behind and help Das acclimate to his new home and the Doctor and Rose go back to Das's time to do whatever-the-hell-that-was.

It's cool enough that, because of the TARDIS translation circuit, Das speaks English and can communicate with everyone around him. Not just communicate, but actually communicate well.  Like, proper grammar and sentence structure.  Das and Jack's adventures are told in the form of Das's daily journal and Jack's Data-Record - one right after the other.  Das explains his new surroundings and culture the best way he can and Jack tells his side of the story, which clears things up for the modern reader.  Das is completely and totally precious in how he identifies new things by explaining it in terms he understands.  He gets a job as a construction worker because he is strong and like to lift things and he's very good at his work.  He doesn't think the skinny women are pretty because they don't have any form or shape to them (he ends up marrying a girl that Jack describes as having "a face only a mother or a Neanderthal could love."  It's dead-adorable).  Das has no concept of sarcasm or acting (TV completely baffles him), which makes for some extremely entertaining moments with Jack "Sassmaster" Harkness.  If Torchwood ever got over its stupid "Hey, we're on after the watershed, we're required to be grim and raunchy and nasty" complex, this could seriously have been a great idea for a regular season episode.

I wish I had better material to comment on, but the only part of this I really liked was Das acclimatizing to modern life and Jack's commentary on guiding Das.  The Doctor and Rose's adventure (including Rose having to marry a Neanderthal man) was just kind of dull (though I did appreciate the little in-joke hearkening back to "An Unearthly Child" about how Rose hopes no one teaches the cavemen about fire too early).  I feel bad because I wanted to like this book more.  Oh well, I guess I can enjoy what I have.

Next Time, on Librarian in the TARDIS -
Review 10.1 - Another Highly Unpopular Opinion. I seem to run into those a lot...

Previously -
Review 9.02 - What Happens on New Vegas...

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Fairy-Tale Fangirl in Fairy-Tale World

I'm a sucker for fairy-tales. I was raised on the Disney versions of fairy-tales.  From The Little Mermaid to Cinderella to Beauty and the Beast - I wore those VHS tapes out!  I also adore the non-Disney versions (the fact that Hans Christian Andersen's original story of The Little Mermaid doesn't have a happy ending didn't sway me from reading and re-reading that old copy of fairy-tales my grandma had every time I went to visit).  There have been plenty of fairy-tale retellings in recent years - Shannon Hale and Jessica Day George are some of my favorite authors in this genre and Mercedes Lackey's Five Hundred Kingdoms series is quite good as well.  And there's the ever-popular Once Upon A Time Fairy Tales written by a variety of authors. And can I get a shout-out for The Ever Afters series by Shelby Bach? (that's another one I need to write a review for - so many writing projects and not enough time to write them).  Really, you can't sneeze in the library without hitting a fairy-tale retelling story (and here I must include a PSA to not sneeze on library books, because that's just gross).

So, it is no surprise that TV executives have leaped on the fairy-tale bandwagon with Once Upon a Time (and, yes, there is also Grimm, but I haven't watched that one yet).

As much as I love, love, LOVE fairy-tales, I'm surprised that I haven't joined the Once Upon a Time fandom.  I'd seen it talked about on Twitter and Tumblr, but it's just one of those things I had to make time for.  So, that's what I did last week - I got the first season from the library, just to see if it was as good as people said it was.

Here's a quick-and-dirty summary of the premise - the Evil Queen from Snow White has banished all the fairy-tale characters into the real world.  They are all trapped in the town of Storybrooke (100 points for that name, holy cow) and they can't leave. None of them remembers their past lives or that they were ever anywhere else. The only person who knows the truth about Storybrooke is Mayor Regina Mills (the Evil Queen) and she is the only one who can ever have a happy ending (something she delights in holding over everyone else's heads - even if they don't realize how much of a heinous hosebeast she really is). But Emma Swan, the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, escaped to the real world before the curse took effect and she can break the curse.  Problem is, she doesn't believe that she's the savior of Storybrooke - she's just brought into the town because of her ten-year-old son, Henry, who she gave up for adoption and he was adopted by Regina (how's that for a fairy-tale twist?)  Henry is the only person in town who isn't from the fairy tales, but who believes that the fairy tales are real, thanks to an old "Once Upon a Time" storybook that tells the fairy-tales as they actually happened.

There is a lot to love about this show and I'll start there. I enjoyed how all the different fairy tales were interwoven together and how all the characters were aware of each other. The very first episode has a High Fairy Tale Council (of sorts) with Snow White and Prince Charming leading the way.  You've got the Blue Fairy, Gepetto and Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio in the group, as well as the Seven Dwarves, Red Riding Hood and her Granny.  As the show progresses, you get Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast (that one's a special case, which I'll get to shortly), and, of course, Rumpelstiltskin - who has a very key role in this show as a trickster.  Sometimes he's a villain, sometimes he's the hero.  Some characters migrate into other stories (the Genie of the lamp comes to mind) and a few have different roles (Belle starts out as a princess betrothed to Gaston but later falls in love with... I'll get to that in a minute), but it all makes sense in the story.

The narrative structure in this show is absolutely brilliant.  Every episode switches between things going on in Storybrooke and things that happened before in Fairy-Tale Land (do they ever saw what the land is called specifically? I don't remember).  Through the whole show, I remember thinking "If you didn't have the fairy-tale component here, this would be just your run-of-the-mill soap opera" (that did become problematic in some places - I'm not a fan of the soap opera tropes of comatose love interests and insane love-triangles that serve no real overall purpose).  While Emma Swan's story is the focal point in the real world, she meets a fair number of fairy-tale characters in Storybrooke and we get flashbacks of their fairy-tales, which I just love.  At some points, the fairy-tale flashbacks were much more enjoyable than what was going on in the real world!

There are a few things that bothered me about the show and I want to address them - the biggest one that I had to contend with was the long, drawn-out plotline of Mary Margaret Blanchard (whose fairy-tale counterpart is Snow White) getting framed for murder.  Because the Evil Queen blames Snow White for the loss of her happy ending, Regina goes all-out in putting the blame squarely on Mary Margaret's shoulders, even though it's patently obvious that there's no way sweet, innocent, naive Mary Margaret could have done it (and evidently, Storybrooke is an obscenely petty town, so everyone believes that she's a murderous scumbag).  It was good for a few episodes, but it got really old, really fast and I thought they could have done something else with those episodes (I wish Pinocchio's storyline had been introduced much earlier than it was - there was narrative gold in that guy. Or, let's do more with Cinderella, because her story was freaking amazing!)

Another thing is how nosy Regina is as the mayor. There were a few instances where I was like "Really? The mayor has to be involved in this?  Nobody thinks there's something wrong here?"  Granted, I could handwave that away as people are unconsciously subservient to her because of the curse (oh, the plotholes that the simple phrase "It's magic" can resolve!), but after a while, it became ridiculous. I mean, at least Emma, as an outsider, should be wondering why the mayor of the town is involved in something as silly as a couple of hungry kids stealing from a convenience store (as happens in the episode with Hansel and Gretel).  Doesn't she have more important things to do?

One last nit-picky thing, and then I'll end on a high note (and this is EXTREMELY spoilery, so proceed with the utmost caution) -

(Spoiler Buffer)

Nobody freaking gets their memories back until the very, very, very, VERY end!!!!! This one drove me absolutely NUTS!  There were a few close calls - like Sheriff Graham (fairy-tale counterpart - the huntsman from Snow White).  But then Regina kills him and we're all "Well, that's the end of that."  I mean, if Emma coming to town is supposed to start changing things in Storybrooke and the curse is supposed to weaken - I didn't see much changing between the pilot and the finale (other than the clock in the town square finally moving off 8:15).  It's like it was just dropped and Regina continued being her hosey-beasty self (there were some instances where Regina was just waaaaay too much and I hoped and prayed that Robert Carlyle would show up with his Rumpel-snark-skin act and bring her down a notch or ten because I couldn't take it anymore.  It didn't happen as often as I would have liked). I didn't need anyone to remember everything all at once - but some little nod would be nice, especially since we're taking the time to do these fairy-tale flashbacks.  It could be that someone had a dream about their fairy-tale self and it was so unnerving that they don't tell anyone, but the audience knows they know something is going on and the business of curse-breaking is progressing.

Anyway - I don't want to be negative on this whole thing, because the rest of the show is quite wonderful.  I wish I had the time to take this show episode-by-episode and do a review of each one and discuss the great things about them, especially the fairy-tale components of it.  I skipped ahead to the end of Season 2 (that's what was on Hulu for free and I wanted to be up-to-speed on what the upcoming Season 3 would be about - thanks Wikipedia!) and it seems like Season 2 really went to town with the fairy-tale characters living in modern times, but still retaining their fairy-tale qualities, so I'm looking forward to when I can watch that (the Season 1 finale was the only episode I really got any of that and it was slightly disappointing.  Again, the fairy-tale flashbacks are what saved this show from me hating it entirely in some places).

But I do have to talk about Rumpelstiltskin - and Robert Carlyle's portrayal, by extension - because there were moments where he was the one bright spot on the horizon (especially in the "Who Framed Mary Margaret?" Plot Line Of DOOM!)  If anyone could bring Regina off her high horse, it was Mr. Gold (ol' Rumple's Storybrooke persona).  In the backstory, Rumpelstiltskin is the Dark One - a trickster, of sorts, in the fairy-tale land.  The Evil Queen actually gets the curse from Rumpelstiltskin and he puts in certain fail-safes so that he remembers who he is and what kind of power he has over the Queen. Even though he's a slimy little snake at times, I really enjoyed his character a lot.  I even liked his role in the Beauty and the Beast episode - where he's the Beast and Belle falls in love with him (though, the jury's still out on whether or not I'm on board with Belle - I'm not sure I like what they've done with the modern-day version of her. But that's my problem and I'll deal with it in my own time).  Like I mentioned earlier, there were times where Regina was so off-putting and out-of-control that anytime Mr. Gold showed up to reign her in was suddenly my most favorite part in the story - EVER!

And, of course, I LOVE what they did with Snow White and Prince Charming.  If I ever do an episode-by-episode analysis, I with probably spend ample time gushing over their love story.  Now, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was never my favorite Disney movie, though I thought it was passable.  But there is so much more rich detail woven into this story in this show and it's a huge reason why I will continue watching the show - for all the other little issues I have with it, as long as they get these two characters right (which, judging from what I saw in the Season 2 finale, I think they did), I will keep watching. I'm a sucker for a good romance, even better when you take stock characters from the fairy tale and add in all these fantastic little details - like Prince Charming actually being the twin brother of the real prince who was killed in battle and he gets pulled in from the farm to replace the prince who was killed (another long story involving Rumpelstiltskin selling and trading children - and how great is it that they used that component of the original Rumpelstiltskin story?)  Snow White becomes a ranger-type character after her stepmother tries to have her killed and she has to live on her skills and wits in the woods before falling in with the dwarves (who are hatched from eggs so they can work in the mines - that was a damn cute episode).  Really, there's more to gush and love about this show than there is to complain about.

Bottom Line: Once Upon a Time is a wonderful addition to the fairy-tale canon. Even with its faults, it's red meat to a fangirl who's been raised on fairy-tales and their fantasy spin-offs.

And, apparently, The Little Mermaid is getting the OUAT treatment in Season 3, which has me doing this -

Enchated Giselle Happy photo xbakyc.gif

Yes, I'm very excited about this.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What Happens On New Vegas...

Librarian in the TARDIS, Review 9.02

Title: Night of the Whisper
Written by: Cavan Scott and Mark Wright
Team TARDIS: Ninth Doctor, Rose Tyler, Captain Jack Harkness
Adversary: The Whisper
Originally Released: September 2013
Range and Number: Destiny of the Doctor #9

Synopsis (from TARDIS Wikia) -
New Vegas, 23rd Century — a sprawling city huddling beneath an artificial atmospheric bubble on a distant moon. Pleasure seekers flock there from every corner of the galaxy, to take in the shows and play the tables in the huge casinos. But beneath the glitz and the glitter, organised crime rules the streets.

Whilst Rose Tyler works as a waitress in the Full Moon nightclub, Jack Harkness poses as a reporter for the Daily Galaxy. Meanwhile, the Doctor is helping the police department with their investigation into the Whisper, a strange vigilante that has been terrorising the city's underworld. But the Doctor is also on a mission of his own — to save Police Chief McNeil's life at all costs.

My Review:
I had resigned myself to having no audio story to review for the Ninth Doctor, but then I realized that I could do what I’d done for the Fourth Doctor and review the “Destiny of the Doctor” audio that Big Finish has been producing with AudioGO this year. And since “Night of the Whisper” came out just before I was gearing up to post my review of “The End of the World,” I thought it was perfectly good timing (though I do have an audio-only adventure for the Tenth Doctor that I’m planning on reviewing already, so don’t expect this to be the norm).

This story is remarkable in that it’s the first one that Big Finish has worked on with characters from New Who (licensing rights and all that stuff). It’s also remarkable in that it’s the first of the “Destiny of the Doctor” range that is not performed by someone who was once a companion. Nicholas Briggs, veteran voice actor and executive producer for Big Finish, takes on the roles of the Ninth Doctor, Rose Tyler and Jack Harkness - as well as other creature characters AND the narrator. And I have to admit - I really like his Christopher Eccleston voice. It’s quite good.  There is a bit of a sense that it's a shame that they couldn't get Billie Piper or John Barrowman to perform this story (heaven knows that Eccleston would have been out of Big Finish's price range), but Nicholas Briggs steps up to the plate and does a fantastic job in this installment of this series.

I will say that it was strange to have a pre-theme-tune, cold open for these audios. At first, I thought my copy was defective because I was expecting it to start out with the theme song. But, nope - they went with the New Series tradition of cold opens, which I appreciate (along with the tradition of using each Doctor’s specific version of the theme that Big Finish has employed for quite some time now).  It put me very much in the mode of the New Series for this story and that was a nice little acknowledgement of how the Doctor's stories have been told since 2005.

As for the story itself - after you think about it for, like, ten seconds, the setting is patently obvious, this being a story where Captain Jack has come on board for the ride. Of course they’d go to a planet (sorry - it's really a moon) called New Vegas and of course Jack would have once been on the committee that voted the place as the most debauched in the universe. Nothing Jack does in this story surprises me. Even though this is an audio adventure and I've come to expect a certain kind of storytelling from Big Finish's Classic Doctors’ stories - this still very much fits in with the tone of the Ninth Doctor’s era and could very well be a taste of what a second Eccleston series would have been (complete with Captain Jack being his silly, flirty self instead of the great big ball of overbearing-angst that he became in Torchwood. But that’s neither here nor there).

The story starts out fun and innocent enough - strange goings-on on this moon and Team TARDIS splits up to investigate. And I have to comment on one Miss Rose Tyler. In my previous review, I commented at length about her potential to be a remarkable companion and how she proves herself in small ways in her first stories. Well, by this time in her time-and-space travels, Rose has grown into that potential. Her first appearance in this story, she is working undercover as a waitress in a diner that the Whisper has been known to attack and she’s trying to find out information. One her own. By herself. While the Doctor and Jack are off doing their own investigations.

In the Ninth Doctor’s era, I think it's safe to say that there’s a tonal shift after “The Doctor Dances.” Number One: Jack joins the team and adding a companion to an established Team TARDIS always shakes things up (and because I’m talking about Captain Jack Harkness - *insert obligatory double-entendre here*). Number Two: Rose has been on enough travels and adventures - and she even gets split off from the Doctor for a significant amount of time - that she finally feels like she can handle herself without the Doctor hovering over her shoulder all the time. And he seems to feel the same way. Of course, the Doctor isn't too far away, should Big Trouble happen and Rose does need his help, but she’s proven herself to be a perfectly competent companion (unlike a certain not-quite-companion-because-he-failed-the-audition in Adam. Poor guy - how would you like to be known as the one who lost the chance to travel in the TARDIS simply because you just couldn't hack it?) I’m not quite certain where that change came for Rose, or if it was simply a gradual thing and all of a sudden we realized how much she’s grown since she first met the Doctor. I tend to put it after “The Doctor Dances” - mostly because a lot of spin-off Ninth Doctor media takes place after that story.

This story is also quite representative of most Ninth Doctor stories.  There's a neat balance of the Ninth Doctor's fun, silly, happy-go-lucky side with that gritty, grim, serious side that he's well-known for.  I don't want to get into spoiler territory here because this is new enough that people might not want to have the twist ruined, but the Doctor's response to what the Whisper really is absolutely bone-chilling.  And it's nothing more than what the character would usually do in these situations.  That is all down to Nicholas Briggs' spot-on portrayal of the Ninth Doctor.  There were a few times that I wasn't certain that they didn't get Christopher Eccleston to come read this story - Nick Briggs is just that good!

Maybe if all the New Series stories they do for "Destiny of the Doctor" are as well-done as this one, we could possibly see some more Big Finish stuff from the New Series.  Fingers crossed!

Next Time, on Librarian in the TARDIS -
Review 9.03 - Not sure if this is what nature had in mind for the human race...

Previously -
Review 9.01 - Welcome to the End of the World

Friday, September 13, 2013

Welcome to the End of the World

Librarian in the TARDIS, Review 9.01

Title: The End of the World
Written by: Russell T Davies
Team TARDIS: Ninth Doctor, Rose Tyler
Adversary: Lady Cassandra
Originally Aired: April 2, 2005
Number of Episodes: 1

Synopsis (from TARDIS Wikia) -
The year is 5,000,000,000 and the Earth is about to be destroyed by the sun. The richest of the universe have gathered to watch the event on Platform One, along with two new arrivals - the Doctor and his new companion, Rose Tyler, but far greater danger is occurring on the station, robotic spiders are murdering the staff, the last human, Lady Cassandra O'Brien, is beyond human. When Rose's life is placed in danger, the Doctor joins forces with one of the guests, Jabe, to find out who is plotting the destruction of Platform One? and for what purpose?. Meanwhile, Rose is confused about her relationship with the Doctor. As Rose begins questioning him about his past, the Doctor is forced to confront one of the most painful memories of his life - a great war which ended the existence of his own people.

My Review:
"You could stay here and fill your life with work and food and sleep or you could go... anywhere!" - The Doctor, “Rose”

In May 2010, I was restless. I had been home from my LDS mission for ten months. I was living with my parents. I had no job (though I was volunteering at the local high school which would eventually hire me the next school year). I was in graduate school, doing an online/face-to-face hybrid program that allowed me to stay home because moving out-of-state simply wasn't an option. My family was going through a really rough patch. I’d just found out that I needed to take anxiety medication to help me sleep. A guy that I really, really, really liked had just shoved me into his Friend Box. I lived far away from most of my friends, who had jobs and were getting married and having babies (I don’t care who you are or what you say - watching those things happen to other people and not to you is really hard). And 24 had just been canceled.

(You see where my priorities lie).

Truth be told, I missed fandom. Prior to leaving on my 18-month mission, I had been into the Harry Potter fandom. But that fandom had moved on without me and I didn't feel like I was welcome there anymore. I didn't have much to get excited about or look forward to. I missed that overjoyed, giddy, silly, fangirl-squee that marked so much of my coming-of-age years. Most people would contend that I needed to become an adult and put away such childish things.

That might work for some people, but I think I would shrivel up and die if I were ever to do something so reckless (as evidenced by my overly-dramatic emotional-teenage-girl-type statement).

I canvassed the LiveJournal friends-list. I asked for book recommendations, which they happily obliged. And while I found some very worthwhile reads, nothing fed that craving I had for that “stay-up-way-past-bedtime-because-I-absolutely-NEED-to-know-what-happens-next” feeling. I missed stories that grabbed me and commanded my undivided attention. I missed characters that I would fall in love with - that I could write about and analyze and be best friends with when best friends were thin on the ground.

Somewhere along the line, I noticed people on LiveJournal talking about this Doctor Who show. I knew next to nothing about it - other than the guy who played Barty Crouch Jr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire had been the Doctor (well, I guess that movie was good for something). A few weeks after the finale of 24 aired, I was home alone with nothing better to do - so I took to Wikipedia to find out what all the fuss was about.

My first reaction was of being completely overwhelmed. I had no idea Doctor Who had been around since 1963. World record for longest-running sci-fi show ever? Did I have to start at the very beginning? Where in the world was I going to find all those episodes???

My answers: Yes. No - start with the 2005 revival and see how you like it. And *cough* the Internet.

With zero expectations and nothing at all to lose, I watched "Rose."  It took some getting used to the British television format, but I did all right. I wasn't completely blown away by that episode, but I enjoyed it well-enough. I liked Rose, I liked the Doctor, Mickey was a dork but he wasn't going to be in the show much (so I thought) and the story had some pretty good moments. It wasn't a bad way to spend an evening with the house completely to yourself.

And then - this happened:

And I knew immediately that I had to watch the next episode. That’s the moment I was well and truly hooked.

“The End of the World” holds the distinction as the story that made me a Whovian. It’s not the brightest gem in the Doctor Who treasure chest, but it doesn't have to be. It’s like the caveman episodes of “An Unearthly Child” - the first episode started off with the companions and their fairly normal lives, but with a compelling mystery to solve. And then this strange alien shows up and completely uproots those normal lives with his strange time-and-space ship. Once all those basics are established, it’s time for the show to take the companions (and the viewers) as far forward in time (or backward, as is the case with “100,000 BC”) as it likes. This is where the show gets to throw everything it’s got at the audience, but still wink at you as if to say “Oh, you haven’t seen anything yet!” (“One hundred years into the future? Boring!”)

While “The End of the World” starts out like a list (quite literally) of anything and everything the makeup and costuming crews can come up with - it also creates compelling character storylines. That’s something I latched onto in the Russell T Davies years. Each character seems to have a history and a personality - even a minor character like Raffalo (the bright-blue maintenance worker Rose speaks to when she’s exploring Platform One) feels like she’s grounded in reality. Hell, even the cutting from Jabe’s grandfather gets a part! (albeit a silent one) This story also set up the direction that New Who was going to take. “Rose” established the basics - time-traveling alien, blue box, sonic screwdriver, companion - but the next episode brought us the Time War, the last of the Time Lords, a lonely alien that just wants a friend, a human girl who gets her first taste of the universe (with a side of mortal peril) and is still willing to continue in her travels.

This story is all about the companion (and, by extension, the audience) learning what it's like to travel with the Doctor.  Can Rose handle the danger as well as the wondrous sights that the Doctor can show her?  How does she react when she finds out that the last "human" left in the year Five Billion is more or less a skin graft with lips and eyeballs?  Does she freak out or simply take it in stride?  The Earth about to explode? The expanding sun about to fry the observation station in orbit?  Metal spiders sabotaging Platform One?  Little chubby blue aliens gifting her with spit?  Nope, Rose Tyler can handle it all (even if it is more than a little weird).  And since Rose can handle it, we the viewers can handle it too.

Going back to "Rose" (the episode) - Rose Tyler is introduced as someone who is capable and willing to do extraordinary things - she just hasn't been given the chance to do them. I said early on in this post that I was officially hooked on Doctor Who with “Welcome to the end of the world!” But when Rose had that part at the end of “Rose” where she says “I’ve got no A-levels, no job, no future - but I’ll tell you what I have got: Under-Sevens gymnastics championship. I’ve got the bronze!” and then she swings down and knocks over the Autons holding the Doctor prisoner and spills the anti-plastic into the Nestene Consciousness. After watching this girl (who was not much younger than me and who was in a similar situation to where I was at the time) have her world turned completely upside-down, yet take it all in stride and even become an active participant in all the weirdness - that flat-out impressed me. It’s colored my view of Rose since then (*insert lame joke about “Rose-Colored Glasses”*) and even when other parts of fandom whine about how Rose is overused or whatever their problems are with the girl, I still love her for what she was in the beginning and what she became in the end - Rose Tyler: Defender of the Earth! (even if that particular spin-off never made it past the idea stage, it’s still cool).  And the best part is that none of it feels contrived or forced - by the end of her story, Rose is exactly who she needs to be. And it's all down to the Doctor and the opportunities he gave her to be amazing. Sometimes - we all just need that one friend or mentor who sees that potential in us and helps us bring it out. The Doctor did that for Rose - but Rose also did the same for the Doctor (I'll get to that in a bit).

I can’t get by this without talking about the Ninth Doctor. Because for all the talk that he’s grim and gritty and dark and still reeling from the events of the Time War - he still knows how to liven things up. How much of this is down to him finally having a companion around to impress is another matter (he did have some comedic moments in “Rose” as well as the “we’re falling through space and I can feel every moment of it” type of stuff). Christopher Eccleston strikes that balance quite nicely and there is a part of me that wishes he’d had another season with the show, but that’s neither here nor there. I have another theory that it was good to establish the concept of regeneration early-on in the New Who, since they were effectively bringing back the show to a brand new audience and had to re-introduce the basics. If you’re going to get your audience on the same page, you’d better go the whole nine yards and do everything. Still, the Ninth Doctor is a phenomenal character and I do wish there were more of his stories to enjoy (though I won’t complain about what we do have).

And I've got to talk about the Doctor and Rose's relationship - not necessarily "shipping" (though I won't shut down any such discussion if it comes up), but more of how they help each other and how this particular Doctor/Companion interaction is unique in Doctor Who history.  All Doctor/Companion relationships are unique, but this team-up had to re-introduce the idea in the revived series.  And it works marvelously.  Even though the Doctor and Rose get split up in the story (as is tradition), there's still that fantastic scene in the middle of the episode where the Doctor explains about the TARDIS translation circuit and Rose gets a little annoyed about it.  And then there's the phenomenal finale - the Doctor lets Lady Cassandra dry out and die - even though Rose obviously is bothered by it.  Later, Rose is obviously distraught that there are pieces of her home planet floating around Platform One and nobody even took the time to see it because they were all afraid for their lives (understandable).  Then the Doctor takes her back to her own time and Rose finally gets the full weight of what she's in for - and after all that, she still wants to travel with the Doctor.  She's not entirely sure about it, but she knows she'll regret it if she says no. And the Doctor - he wants a traveling companion, like he had in the old days. But in this post-Time War regeneration, he also realizes how dangerous it is and he's probably not sure if he wants to put someone in danger like that. So, he leaves it up to Rose. He gives her the chance to say no and walk away from traveling.  But instead, she takes him out for chips. Because - why not?

Little Things I Noticed That I Liked:
- The little metal spiders “bump” into the camera at one point - not sure if that’s a deliberate homage to the early days of Doctor Who when they did the “as-live” filming and sometimes the people in the alien suits couldn’t see where they were going and would bump into the cameras. If it is deliberate, it’s kind of a neat little thing.

- There's apparently a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone on display in the observation room.  I've seen screencaps of it, but I couldn't see it in the episode.  No real reason for pointing it out, other than it's cool.

Rewatching "The End of the World" gave me a real appreciation of where I started out with this show and where I've come since then. Yeah, the effects are a little dated, even eight years later.  But I've said before - I don't watch Doctor Who for mind-blowing special effects.  I watch for characters and story.  And this second episode delivered on the promise of the first - you're going to see aliens and monsters and danger, but it's the trip of a lifetime.

I wouldn't have missed it for anything.  Not even the end of the world.

Next Time, on Librarian in the TARDIS -
Review 9.02 - In this instance, I'm glad that I was delayed in getting to the Ninth Doctor - because now I have an audio story to review!

Previously -
Bonus Review #1 - No Companion Left Behind

Monday, September 9, 2013

No Companion Left Behind

Librarian in the TARDIS, Bonus Review #1

Title: Tales from the Vault
Written by: Jonathan Morris
Featuring: Captain Ruth Matheson, Warrant Officer Charlie Sato, Jo Grant, Zoe Heriot, Romana I, Steven Taylor
Adversary: Kali Carash
Originally Released: July 2011
Range and Number: Companion Chronicles 6.01

Synopsis (from TARDIS Wikia) -

Welcome to the Vault — jokingly known as "the Museum of Terrors" — a high security establishment where UNIT keeps all of its alien artefacts.

New recruit Warrant Officer Charlie Sato is given a guided tour by Captain Ruth Matheson, and the archive reveals some dark secrets. An army jacket, a painting, crystal and a wax cylinder all hold a grave significance, and their stories are told by the Doctor's companions: Steven Taylor, Zoe Heriot, Jo Grant and Romana...

My Review:
Okay, okay - I know I said I was done with Big Finish. Turns out the Doctor’s Rule #1 is also my Rule #1 (as far as springing surprises on my readership goes, anyway).

One thing that I've appreciated about this blogging project is the opportunity to revisit Doctors and companions that I've grown to love and highlight why I love them so much. Another thing I've enjoyed is the chance to take another look at other characters that I might not have given a fair chance to, or that I've never encountered before. I wanted to give as many companions their due as I could but because of the format I chose, I ended up ignoring a few companions that I wanted to talk about. And the fact that I was flying by the seat of my pants in the very beginning and hadn’t settled on a firm system - I kind of feel like I gave short shrift to the First and Second Doctors’ eras and those are stories that I want to revisit at a later date (just not quite sure how to do it yet).

Conversely, when I learned that Daphne Ashbrook and Yee Jee Tso had indeed done a Companion Chronicle for Big Finish - though not as Grace Holloway or Chang Lee - I was very intrigued. When I learned that Companion Chronicle also featured four companions from the Classic Series - several of whom I adore but didn't get to talk about in Librarian in the TARDIS - I resolved to review it and give them at least some kind of due.

What I didn't count on was how Grace and Lee would invade my headcanon when I listened to this. Even though Daphne and Yee Jee are playing different characters (as Big Finish does not have the rights to anything from the TV Movie, other than the Eighth Doctor), I kept hearing Grace and Lee in their performances, so I thought that maybe Ruth and Charlie were really Grace and Lee. In Grace’s case, I had no problem imagining that the American division of UNIT contacted a well-connected heart surgeon who’d been involved with a certain San Francisco Incident that, rumor had it, also involved the Doctor. Chang Lee would be a little more difficult to pin down - but I imagine that he finally got out of the gang scene and joined the military because he thought it would be a good way to improve his life. UNIT, being UNIT, eventually realizes that Lee was involved in the same incident that brought Grace to them and they approach Lee with an offer to join UNIT. Maybe Lee feels a twinge of regret at not having taken the Doctor up on his original offer to travel and this is the next best thing (who knows? The Doctor’s worked with UNIT before, maybe he’d come back again!) And the name changes? Witness protection. Standard operating procedure for UNIT (hell, they have the power to issue international gagging orders, so why not?)

Anyway, I know this is a cracked idea, but it works for me. No fanfic will come of it (trust me - you don’t want me writing fanfic), but it’s fun to play around with these theories. Besides, every time I watch the TV Movie, I keep wanting more and more of Grace's and Lee’s backstories and since I never got it out of official channels, I can make it up myself. It’s not any better or worse than what anyone else would come up with, is it?

The beauty behind “Tales from the Vault” is the idea of archiving stories for others to hear about and enjoy (or, in the case of UNIT Secret Ops, to hide and cover up). On one level, if you listen to enough Companion Chronicles, you start to feel like these companions are actually telling the stories to an audience - maybe the grandkids have come round for tea and another one of Gran’s or Gramps’s fantastic stories of traveling with the Doctor. Some of the Chronicles actually have the audience written into the story, such as Polly holding a press conference in “The Forbidden Time” or Liz writing to her mother in “The Last Post.” So, for UNIT to actually take parts of these stories and put them in archive is kind of a commentary on what the Companion Chronicles actually do.

Also - and this is a theme that creeps up in Doctor Who a lot, especially in New Who - how important stories are. How keenly you feel it when you know there are pieces missing (which Who fans are all too aware of). All of the stories in “Tales from the Vault” are just pieces of the story of Kali Carash - pieces that Ruth and Charlie work to put together to complete the whole (well, it’s more out of Charlie’s curiosity than anything).

Talking briefly about each companion in turn - I've already reviewed a Jo Grant story, but it’s so great to have a recording of her doing day-to-day UNIT stuff. Also, that Charlie calls her “a legend” is really neat too - then Ruth starts the tape. The joke that she would leave the tape recorder running while she made tea is absolutely charming. Jo’s part of the story - about a jacket that is possessed by an entity who takes over whoever touches it - is what gets the overarching narrative going, even though you don’t really think about it at the time.

The next companion to be featured is Romana I (played by Mary Tamm). Her part is actually from one of Captain Matheson’s first missions for UNIT Special Ops, so Ruth is heard interviewing Romana after an incident with a painting that shows the viewer the exact nature of their death, which in turn leads to the viewer going mad. The painting is held in the UNIT vault with instructions to only use it as a last resort - but at least it’s locked up in the vault. This Romana is very much a young, inexperienced Romana who hasn't quite found the appeal of Earth people and she has that haughty air about her that would be condescending in anyone else, but is positively glamorous in Mary Tamm’s portrayal of the character (Romana I has always been my favorite Romana and sometimes I wish there was more of her outside of the Key to Time season).

Zoe Heriot’s (played by Wendy Padbury) involvement in this story is quite unique. A copy of her mind has been transferred into a crystal that was used to wipe people’s memories (it didn't actually wipe Zoe’s memory - this is just a copy. But it’s an interesting choice by the producers of this audio, considering what ultimately happens to Zoe in the TV show). Using Zoe’s voice, the crystal tells the story of when the Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe got involved with an investigation of bank robberies in which the victims never remembered how they were robbed. The Doctor figures out that the robbers were using the crystal, stops the robbers from using it anymore, and gives the crystal to UNIT for safekeeping. This crystal is a big reason why UNIT Special Ops can cover up a lot of big alien invasion-type events and Ruth even says so (which was a dangling plot thread that I didn't even realize was dangling to begin with).

As Ruth and Charlie are leaving the vault, an alarm goes off on a time capsule with a wax phonograph recorder. Turns out, the time capsule was set to open at this exact time and this recording is of Steven Taylor with a warning that only gets half communicated (apparently, wax doesn't last very long). Steven was the companion I was most excited to hear from in this audio. I felt like an absolute dope when I realized I hadn't reviewed any Steven stories when I covered the First Doctor’s era (to be fair, I could hardly pass up the chance to fangirl flail over “The Rocket Men” - which is another review that I want to revisit later. And “The Keys of Marinus” is just way too good. You know - I think I should do a First Doctor rewatch... hm... I'll add it to the schedule).  As wonderful as Ian and Barbara are and as much as I adore Vicki and Susan - Steven is the real heartbreaker of the Hartnell era. Partially because most of his stories are missing (sad face), but also because his character is just so compelling. It’s hard to pin down my favorite Steven story because watching him find his time-traveling feet in “The Time Meddler” is just lovely, his relationships with the Doctor, Katarina and Sara Kingdom in “The Dalek Master Plan” are so tragic, he’ll tear your heart out in “The Massacre,” and he’s so cute in “The Gunfighters” and “The Celestial Toymaker” (if anyone wants my top list of missing stories to find, my answer would be anything with Steven). Meeting Peter Purves at Gallifrey One last February didn't hurt my enthusiasm for the character, either.

So, yeah, Steven Taylor - love him to pieces. And his segment in this audio is great too (sort of wish he got more time in this story, but I can listen to his other Companion Chronicles because they’re amazing!)

What’s fun about this entire story is how each of the different companions’ stories seem to be disconnected, but end up working together to resolve the problem. I won’t go into the resolution because it’s a great ending to a wonderful story and it’d be nice for you, Dear Reader, to have some surprises going into this audio.

Other things I loved:
- “You should see the security kitchen.” Loved that nod to “The Ark”
- UNIT Special Ops was involved in covering up the events of the millennium in San Francisco (Even more fun that Ruth was the one talking about it).
- Wondering what that “giant” thing was that the Doctor fought with UNIT that neither Ruth nor Charlie told the whole story about.

To conclude - this may be part of the Companion Chronicles range, but the deviation from the usual formula is a special treat for the listener. This story makes it feel like the Doctor’s lives are interconnected, even though you typically only deal with one incarnation at a time (special multi-Doctor episodes excluded). And it’s cool to remember that the Doctor’s companions are always a part of his life, even though he may not actively refer to them all the time. I love getting multi-companion stories and I only hope we get to see more, not to mention more with Daphne Ashbrook and Yee Jee Tso. I think my third big wish - apart from finding a shedload of missing episodes and getting Paul McGann a spin-off Eighth Doctor miniseries is that the rights to Grace Holloway and Chang Lee could be resolved and we could see their stories played out in Big Finish or some other medium. But for now, I’ll take my headcanon of Ruth Matheson and Charlie Sato being pseudonyms for Grace and Lee and that they went to work for UNIT.

(Hey, if Ace can go to the Academy on Gallifrey to become a Time Lord, anything is possible).

Next time, on Librarian in the TARDIS -
Review 9.01 - The modern world started with “Rose” - but this is the episode that sold me on Doctor Who

Previously -
Review 8.03 - “What Are You Going To Do Next?” “I’m Going... Somewhere Without Copyright Infringement”

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Comic Con in My Own Backyard - FINALLY!

I've had a day to recover and recuperate and now it's time to give my full-on report of Salt Lake Comic Con 2013!  I had the opportunity to share my experience throughout the con via Traveling the Vortex, who were gracious enough to allow me room on the podcast feed to share some updates and if I haven't thanked them enough for that, let me thank them just one more time.  It was so much fun and I enjoyed it very much (and I hope the other Vortex listeners got something out of it too).  Here are the links to those updates:

Day 0 - Preview
Day 1 - Vendors Hall
Day 2 - Line Dancing
Day 3 - A SHATNER-day Morning

And here is a link to all the pictures I took at Comic Con. I wanted to post them all here, but that's a LOT of pictures for one blog post.  Thank goodness for Picasa Albums!)

If you've listen to all of that and you STILL want more (or you just want to read about it), buckle in because here we go!
Vader encouraging people to sign up for a library card. As all good villains do.
Thursday, I was actually at the con for work (how many people - who aren't celebrity guests - can say they were paid to go to Comic Con?)  Salt Lake County Library and Salt Lake City Public Library shared a vendor booth in the Exhibit Hall and I got to take a shift for the entirety of that day's convention activities.  Thing is, the booth we had wasn't big enough to have four people there all the time, so we took turns wandering around the Exhibit Hall (which I mistakenly called the Vendors Hall in my podcast update - sorry about that).  Thursday was very not-busy, so I pretty much got to see everything I wanted.  I'd only planned on scoping out the area and planning my strategy for getting autographs and making purchases. But there were so few lines, that I decided it would be better to get the autographs I wanted now, rather than risk having to wait in monstrously long lines later (this proved to be one of my best ideas in the history of ever).

Blue was the theme of Thursday, apparently.
I met David Yost, who played Billy in the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (the Blue Ranger has been a personal favorite of mine since age 8) and that was a real treat for me to start out with.  David was so kind and very gracious, even though I was a bit flustered about meeting him (I will say that I was not as flustered as when I met Frazer Hines at Gallifery last year).  Then I went down the Autograph Alley a little further down and there was Simon Fisher-Becker, who was Dorium Maldovar in Series 5 and 6 of Doctor Who and someone I would have made a point to meet on principle, even without the encouragement from the Vortex Boys (Shaun had met Simon at Gallifrey One the year before last and Simon also came on the podcast for an interview soon after).  Simon was very personable and very gracious and remembered meeting Shaun and Mel at Gally.  He was very kind to provide me with a bumper for the podcast and I would have stayed to talk to him longer, but there were a few others who had come up behind me in line and Simon's handler/assistant/saleslady was anxious for the line to move (this lady was a pro - she nearly had me convinced to buy a $50 poster for Simon to sign, but I was on a budget for this con).

My Vendor Badge - that I had to give back at the end of Thursday *sad face*
That was Day 1, pretty much.  I talked a lot about it in the podcast and I don't want to repeat myself too much here because there were some stories from the second day that I forgot to tell.  So, I'm just going to launch into that now.

Manu Bennett in the Hobbit panel
William Kircher sneaking in the side door.
Day 2 (Friday) was very different.  For one thing, I was there as a regular con-goer, not as a vendor.  And it was even more busy the second day, which I decided was going to be my panel day.  I got in to the Unofficial Sneak Peek of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which was run by the guys from, which is a JRR Tolkien fansite.  They were there along with Weta Workshop, who are the geniuses behind the props and models and prosthetics in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies.  It's very difficult for me to pinpoint exactly who or what I was the most excited about having at Salt Lake Comic Con, but Weta Workshop was certainly on the list of Things To See.  I'd seen the Weta display the day before, and I took lots of pictures which would tell the story a million times better than I ever could and this panel was fantastic as well.  The guys from TORn (as they've shortened their site name to) had a whole presentation ready to go, but then Manu Bennett (who played Azog the White Orc in An Unexpected Journey) crashed the party and they let him have the floor for a while.  He talked about doing motion capture work and his initial thoughts about the concept design of Azog.  Then, William Kircher (Bifur the dwarf and Tom the troll) came in and talked for another twenty minutes and that was tons of fun to hear him talk about his experiences.

They sees us, Preciousssss!
By the time Manu and William had to leave, there wasn't a whole lot of time for the TORn guys to do their thing, but they got the important stuff in there.  One thing that I find interesting (and as a bit of a PSA) is that the studios aren't terribly thrilled about doing the Extended Edition DVD/Blu-Rays for The Hobbit.  This surprised me because I thought the Extended Editions were a hit for Lord of the Rings (but maybe that's because I'm a Tolkien nut and I get a kick out of that stuff).  They said that the Extended Edition for An Unexpected Journey will have over 15 hours of extras.  But if it doesn't sell well, the Extended Editions for the next two movies will only have about 2 hours of extras (which, I call that a standard DVD release, not an Extended Edition).  So, if you're a fan of the Extended Editions, here's your call to buy the EE for An Unexpected Journey and to make it a success! (if you're not a fan, well... buy it anyway and give it as a gift to someone you think might enjoy it).

Ray Park with some guy from X96 (forgot his name - sorry! But he was a great interviewer)
The next panel I went to was one I was not intending to see.  I wanted to see the Power Rangers panel at 3:00, which was going to be in the Main Stage ballroom.  I went to see if there was a line for that, but the doors were wide open and there were empty seats in the back for the Ray Park interview (Ray Park played Darth Maul, as well as other characters).  I figured that would be worth seeing while I waited for Power Rangers (better than sitting out in the hall, I guess).  Turned out Ray Park was one of the highlights of my day!  I think I enjoyed it precisely because I wasn't expecting to, but he is someone that I wish I had made time to go meet.  He was a fantastic interview - just listening to all his experiences from how he got into martial arts and physical acting to playing villains like Darth Maul and Toad from X-Men.  And he was so funny!  He said that at one point while shooting The Phantom Menace, Darth Maul was supposed to die by Obi-Wan slicing his head off, but they decided to change it because there was a chance that Darth Maul could come back in the next movie and they didn't want to have to explain how he got his head back.  Then Ray goes, "Everyone else has fake body parts - why couldn't Maul have a fake head?"  It was probably funnier when he said it.  If you're ever at a con and Ray Park is on the guest list speak, I highly recommend making time for any panel or interview he's in.

The only picture I got from the Power Rangers panel - told you I was enraptured by these three!
(the interviewer here didn't have a whole lot to do)
I already talked about my little run-in with miscommunication and misdirection between the Ray Park interview and the Power Rangers panel and I don't want to get into all the negativity with that (I've already left a comment on the Salt Lake Comic Con website and it doesn't need to go any further than that - if you really want to hear about it, it's on the Day 2 update on the podcast).  We were all seated and ready to go for the next panel and when the Power Rangers theme song came over the speakers, we all went nuts!  The audience looked like it was mostly made up of people like me who watched the show when we were little nippers and it was pure nostalgia to have these guys here.  The panel was made up of Cerina Vincent (who was the Yellow Ranger in Power Rangers: Lost Galaxy) and, of course, Walter Jones and David Yost (the Black Ranger and the Blue Ranger, respectively, in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers - or, as I called it in my updates, The Original Power Rangers).  And I was glued to everything these three said.  The one thing I regret now is that I didn't take notes or tweet the memorable moments, like I had for The Hobbit or Ray Park panels.  I'm blaming my inner nine-year-old for that one, but I was just so excited to see these guys on stage and I couldn't bring myself to have my face in a notebook or on my iPhone for this. There were a few specifics I do remember.  One started with a question from someone in the audience asking Walter and David how it was acting against a blank wall where post-production would put Zordon's floating head in later.  David said something to the effect of "You hit your mark, say your lines, and you get paid" (he said it much better than that)  Then Walter went on this thing (in his joking, cheerful manner) how it was kind of tough to imagine how they were going to realize this giant floating head giving them instructions and he had to tilt his head and squint at the piece of paper tacked on the wall for them to look at and it was kind of a funny bit.  Then David, who had been the straight man to Walter's comedic persona through this entire panel, completely deadpanned "Well, it would be much easier for a better actor."  And the room roared with laughter because Walter had been completely had by that and it came out of nowhere.  It was like these two had a routine down pat, after doing so many conventions through the years.  Cerina had some good moments too, but I'm not as familiar with her, though now I want to go find some of her episodes because her character sounds pretty interesting (she's sounds a lot like Leela, though less of a warrior and more of a [quote] "hippie, nature chick" from another planet).

SHATNER! (my iPhone kept auto-correcting his name like that, which was hilarious)
That was pretty much Day 2.  Day 3 was my quest to meet William Shatner and get his autograph for my friend Brittany, who'd asked me and I was more than happy to do that for her (and my dad said that I ought to, with him having been a fan since he was a little kid).  I spent about 3 hours in lines waiting for a 20-second encounter, but it was so worth it!  I basically tweeted and took pictures of cosplayers during this time (and I talked to a lot of really nice people while we waited in line.  I mean, what else are you going to do?)

A Wreck-It Ralph family - this taken was on the fly as the line was moving into the Salt Palace
Full shot of the homemade Dalek - Instagram kept cropping out parts of it
With this being Saturday and the final day of the con, I think this day came the closest to re-creating the San Diego Comic Con experience for Salt Lake City - tons of lines, tons of people, the completely inability to move anywhere on the convention floor.  When all was said and done, I think at final tally, it turned out that there were 70,000-80,000 people just on Saturday.  I know when I left at 2:00 pm, the line was wrapping around the block (which, the Salt Palace sits on a larger-than-average city block with Abravanel Hall) and was well on its way to the Gateway Mall (I didn't stick around to see if it got down that direction).  Apparently, they even ran out of badges at registration and they finally had to turn people away because the building was at capacity.  There were some complaints about it, but I think the con organizers really didn't expect this big of a turnout (this being a first-year convention and Utah's geek culture not really being at the forefront - that's a whole different discussion that I could spearhead later).

The funniest thing I heard when I got home was from my roommate, who was telling me that a group of people from my church were thinking about going down to Comic Con yesterday because they heard there was Sci-Fi Speed Dating and they wanted to check it out.  I laughed out loud because (A) These kids had NO idea what they were getting into by going to Comic Con in the first place and (B) By that time, there was ZERO chance of them getting in the convention anyway.  My roommate and I got a good laugh out of that one.

Thor and Loki and a bunch of demigods from Camp Half-Blood
Even with the hiccups and glitches, I think Salt Lake Comic Con was a huge success.  When I very first heard about it, I was hoping that there would be a good enough turnout to make this an annual thing.  But now, I think this could be a premiere convention in the country.  There are so many cons back east - DragonCon, New York Comic Con, C2E2, WorldCon (yes, I consider Texas to be back east.  If you're east of the Rocky Mountains, that's back east) and not a whole lot out here in the Intermountain West.  We're sort of the big empty hole right before you get to California that everyone ignores.  So many people I talked to that were from other states said that they would love to go to San Diego Comic Con, but it's so expensive and always so full - but they could certainly manage a trip to Salt Lake City.  And lots of them did.

Hope this TARDIS really is bigger on the inside!
For me, it's just nice to finally be acknowledged in my own backyard.  I like sports and I don't mind the outdoorsy people (but the froofy scrapbookers and bridal shows, I can ignore) - but I can't really say how much it means to me to have a sci-fi/geek convention in town.  Not only have this convention, but have it be a huge success and shatter all kinds of records.  I honestly don't know what'll happen when this con outgrows the Salt Palace because I think that's the largest convention center in the state (luckily, they still have the other half of the building that they could very well use next year - and they could expand into Abravanel Hall if they needed to - there was another conference going on there while Comic Con was running).

Can I be "Carriage Man" you guys?
I think the success of this convention could be summed up in one last story that I kept forgetting to tell, but it's such a good one.  When I left the convention Friday night, I saw a group of cosplayers being stopped by a guy who was driving one of those horse-and-carriage tours that go around downtown Salt Lake.  The guy had his camera out and was asking them if he could take a picture of them.  He was asking how the convention was going and thanked them for the picture.  And I thought that was a great moment of the convention mixing with the rest of the city.

So, until next year peeps!

Deadpool, out!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

It's Another Comic Con!

So, I hoped to have my next Librarian in the TARDIS review up today, but it's not quite ready.  I instead have a short "cj goes to Comic Con" post.

Salt Lake Comic Con starts tomorrow, which I am ALL KINDS of excited about!  I went and got my registration early and I'm already wearing my wristband because I was paranoid about losing it. The Salt Lake area does have a few smaller cons every year, but this is the first huge Comic Con we've ever gotten (and it's the first convention I will get to attend in my home state, which makes it that much special).

I will be working for a portion of the con - the Salt Lake County Library has a booth in the vendors hall (in conjunction with the Salt Lake City Public Library) and I will be working there Thursday afternoon from 4:00 until 8:00.  It's Booth 413, so come say hello!  On Friday and Saturday, I'll probably be wearing my Fifth Doctor hat which looks like this -

I thought about cosplaying, but wearing my Tenth Doctor costume at ToshoCON a few weeks ago was exhausting and for some strange reason, this first week of September has been intolerably hot and humid (the rest of the summer has been quite bearable - it's like Labor Day hit and summer decided it needed to make up for lost time or something).  Because of that, I'm opting not to cosplay at all unless the weather breaks by Saturday and coats and sweaters become a very good idea.  Anyway - if you're at the Con, that's the hat I'll be wearing, so say hello if you see me!

My plan is to keep up with Instagram and Twitter (3G/wifi connections and battery life willing) so even if you're not at the con, just follow my feeds there.  Also, you can follow the hashtag #SLComicCon if you want more con goodness.  There will certainly be follow-up reports afterward, so look for that as well.

All that's left now is to let Deadpool lead us all in a rousing rendition of his Comic Con parody song! (yes, I know it's talking more about San Diego Comic Con, but I can't help but hum "It's another Comic Con!" to myself all the time)

ETA 9/5/2013: This was totally an impromptu thing, but I will also be providing Side Trip updates for Traveling the Vortex throughout the duration of the convention.  The first one is up now - it's just a short preview I recorded last night about the things I was most excited for (and to make sure I knew what I was doing with all this audio recording stuff - they may make a podcaster of me yet! *looks sideways* Maybe...) Enjoy!