It’s Sunday night, 7:19 P.M. on my clock, which makes the premiere of the 2016 Doctor Who Christmas Special just an hour and 41 minutes away. The long drought is almost over.
I’ve been getting my Whovian fix this week by watching as much as I can of BBCAmerica’s marathon of episodes, which has been running since last Tuesday. It was interesting to watch the progression of Doctors, as it gave me a chance to really compare Eccleston, Tennant, Smith, and Capaldi’s characterizations of the Time Lord.
To be honest, I can’t really say all that much about Christopher Eccleston’s turn – it always seemed a little flat to me, as though the actor rather quickly regretted signing on to the role, and so was doing that – merely playing a role until the contract ran out. (I remind everyone that this is all imho, not, for a change, im-not-so-ho.) However, I do love that lone season because of the supporting characters – Rose Tyler, the shop girl who dares to dream of another life; Rose’s widowed mom Jackie, who drinks and sleeps around just a little too much to forget her own unfulfilled dreams and who is very much one possible template for Rose’s future; and Mickey Smith, Rose’s working-class boyfriend who is oh-so-ordinary.
David Tennant’s Doctor was the one that really caught the world’s attention. Sexy and cocky, he nonetheless truly regained his “humanity” in this incarnation, allowing his feelings to surface, especially in his relationship in Rose (call me a romantic, but I believe that he truly loved her) and with Donna Noble’s grandfather, Wifred Mott.
And then there was Matt Smith. What I think is interesting in Matt’s interpretation is that he was while he was young and joyful and adventurous, he could also very much be dangerous, dark, and duplicitous. (“The Doctor lies,” said River.)
What about John Hurt, you may ask, as the War Doctor? His was the source of the darkness within – but, at the same time, his was also the source of the Time Lord’s humanity. It was etched on his face – the sorrow, self-loathing, but also, the love that drove him to commit the ultimate destructive act.
And what of Paul McGann, the Eighth Doctor? Im-not-so-ho, he was probably the most self-aware of the four, for in his decision to reject the very name of “the Doctor” – a word that means healer and saver of life – and to accept the guise of “the Warrior,” he allowed us to see the resignation to the fate that the Time Lord had been running from all those centuries.
It’s 35 minutes to the Christmas Special. As I told John in my reply to his column yesterday – and also on the phone to editor Mike – I’m feeling “a bit trepidatious” about what’s about to play out. I’m afraid that the suits at the BBC, dismayed at the drop in Doctor Who’s audience after the dashing Matt Smith left and Peter Capaldi took over – as my niece, a rabid Smith fan, said, “He’s old!!!” – told Moffat to write something that would bring back the youngsters, and hey, here’s an idea, let’s include a superhero, superheroes are hot right now. Not only does it seem to me to be a mercenary and crass directive, the mix of genres feels weird and just “not right.” Down on your knees begging, y’know?
Then again, as Mike Gold pointed out to me, Doctor Who has pushed the boundaries before and succeeded. (“The soufflé isn’t the soufflé, the soufflé is the recipe.”)
Oh, yeah, I forgot.
Peter Capaldi. What about him? A scared little boy. A lost soul. A revengeful son-of-a-bitch. A work in progress.
There are all kinds of traditions connected to Christmas. One tradition in our house is the Doctor Who Christmas Special playing here on BBC America. If you don’t know, Doctor Who is the looooong running BBC series about an alien time traveler and his (usually) human companion(s) who all travel through time and space having adventures. The Doctor regenerates into a new body – and a new actor – when his current body is at its end. If you don’t know the series and/or don’t care, you can probably skip this column.
There was a sort of Christmas Special as far back as the first incarnation over a half-century ago, but mostly it’s only been over the last ten years. The latest one will be tonight (if you’re reading this on Sunday). The first in this series began after the show returned from a sixteen-year hiatus and featured the Doctor’s tenth incarnation, played by David Tennant, and his companion, Rose Tyler, played by Billie Piper, and Rose’s mother and her ex-boyfriend. The episode was also our introduction to this incarnation, the Doctor having just regenerated in the previous episode.
It’s a good, solid, interesting episode, establishing the new Doctor’s persona. The plot is about an alien invasion (the episode is called “The Christmas Invasion”) and written by showrunner Russell T. Davies; it’s sturdy enough and there are some nice Christmas touches like a Christmas tree that becomes a spinning instrument of death. The Doctor is recovering from his transformation and is in a coma for most of the show but when he finally snaps into action, it’s a treat.
By the following year, the Doctor has just parted with Rose Tyler and is feeling mopey when a woman in a wedding dress just materializes in his TARDIS. The woman is Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) and she is “The Runaway Bride.” She’s outraged, abrasive, and very rude to the Doctor who she holds responsible for her abduction. Russell T. Davies again did the scripting and this one is a hoot. I’m a big fan of Donna and was very pleased when she eventually returned as a full-time companion.
The next year brought us “Voyage of the Damned,” again written by Davies. The Doctor, temporarily without a companion, finds himself on an alien, space faring replica of the Titanic during a Christmas party. Why would aliens have a Christmas party and a replica of the Titanic? Just go with it.
There is, of course, a disaster and the Doctor must lead a group of passengers in a “Poseidon Adventure” like attempt to get to safety. One of them is a waitress, Astrid (played by pop singer Kylie Minogue) who looks as if she will be the next companion. Alas, no. Too bad; I thought she had promise. It’s fairly somber for the season and really could have been set at any other time. It’s okay but only okay.
Christmas Special #5, again scripted by Davies, is “The Next Doctor.” Our Doctor travels to Dickensian London and encounters someone who could be his own next incarnation. Interesting concept. He also encounters an old foe, the Cybermen, including a gigantic robo version. That part is sort of weird but there’s some very nice touches in the episode including David Morrisey as the “Next Doctor” who showed he could have played that part very well. The ending is kind of goofy though and I found it far fetched… which is saying something for this show.
Onward. The following year presents up with “The End of Time” and it is both David Tennant’s and Russell Davies’ respective swan songs. It’s a two-parter with the first half shown on Christmas and the second half on New Year’s Day. Put simply – this one is a mess. I won’t pretend to explain it because I’m not sure I fully understand it. David Tennant’s Doctor gets a “farewell tour” at the end when he should simply be dead. It is interesting to note that Tennant’s tenure began in one Christmas Special and ended in this one.
Stephen Moffat became showrunner the following season and Matt Smith replaced David Tennant as the Doctor. I run hot and cold on Moffat; sometimes he is simply brilliant and other times he’s too clever by half. He got into taking other Christmas stories as the inspiration for what he’s writing in his Specials. This year it was A Christmas Carol and the episode was also titled “A Christmas Carol.” It takes place on an alien planet and, among other things, features sharks that swim in the atmosphere. Over all, more than a little odd and, for me, it doesn’t really work.
On the other hand, the following year brought us the “good” Stephen Moffat. This episode. “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe” takes its cue from C. S. Lewis’s classic Narnia story “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” This one is really good; simple straight ahead plot, touches of comedy, and deeply felt emotion with a nice bit at the end that makes me tear up.
The following year’s offering, “The Snowmen,” introduces the young woman Clara (played by Jenna Coleman) who, in slightly different form, will be the Doctor’s next companion. The Doctor has suffered a devastating personal loss and has retreated to Victorian London and is in seclusion. He wants no part of the world. That, however, wouldn’t make for very interesting TV and Clara, through her spunk, draws him out. I’m not as crazy about Clara as Moffat seems to be but this episode works all right. The setting is fun ans the supporting characters are great, especially the alien butler, Strax. I love me some Strax.
Which bring us to the ninth Christmas Special, “The Time of the Doctor.” This is Matt Smith’s swan song as the Doctor and it’s too bad because the episode is wretched. There is a planet called Trenzalore that has a town called Christmas filled with humans. Why? Who knows? Moffat tries to reconcile every offhand prophecy and prediction he made along the way about how this Doctor would end and its labored and beyond incredulity.
Next Christmas is better… but not by much. It’s called “Last Christmas” and it starts with Clara, on the outs with this Doctor (now played by Peter Capaldi), encountering Santa Claus on her roof on Christmas Eve. The Doctor shows up and he and Clara go off to the North Pole, not to Santa’s workshop but a research station that’s having the crabs. Well, crab like aliens. Things happen within dreams and there are dreams within dreams. Somebody else sort it out; my brain hurts.
Last year we had “The Husbands of River Song” and this may be my favorite of the Christmas Specials. It features the inestimable River Song, played by the inestimable Alex Kingston. River is the time-tossed daughter of the Doctor’s former companions Amy and Rory and, by the way, she’s also the Doctor’s wife. She has a way of traveling through time and she and the Doctor keep meeting in a non time linear fashion so they always have to check where they are in their own time lines in the diaries they keep for this purpose. (“Spoilers!”) At this point, she has not yet met this incarnation of the Doctor and therefore doesn’t recognize him. The adventure is fun and outrageous (with River, things often get outrageous) and ends perfectly – romantic and sadly sweet.
This year is titled “The Return of Captain Mysterio” and, from the previews, it appears to have a masked and caped superhero (supervillain?) which definitely is not usual for Doctor Who.
Over all, I’d have to say that while some of the Specials were indeed Specials, some tried too hard to be “special” and as a result were not. The good ones, however, were really good. We’ll see what Santa Moffat has left under the tree for us this year. Naughty or nice?
So – while I’m here – let it be said before I fade out of sight,
So it turns out that I maybe I do have a TARDIS, because I was able to finish watching Jessica Jones and to catch up on Supergirl.
You remember that basically crappy review of Supergirl I gave a couple of months ago? Well, the show is getting there, though, im-not-so-ho, they aren’t taking advantage of what could be some great story arcs. Except for Alex Danvers. And Cat Grant. And Hank Henshaw. But more on that in a bit.
I watched “Strange Visitor From Another Planet,” an hour that really could have called “Why Did You Abandon Me?” Hank Henshaw, a.k.a. J’onn J’onzz the Martian Manhunter, struggled with the personification of survivor’s guilt and abandonment in the appearance of a “White Martian,” a member of the “other” Martian race responsible for the Martian holocaust – a literal “Strange Visitor.” And while the psychological voices from beyond the grave – including his wife and two daughters – chastised J’onn J’onzz for abandoning them by not joining them in death, Cat Grant dealt with her own, different kind of survivor’s guilt and abandonment issues when her “Strange Visitor” turned out to be the child she had chosen to abandon in her drive to become a professional success, now all grown up and wanting to know why she hadn’t loved him enough to stay. “Bizzaro,” a twist on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, borrowed – well, stole – the origin of the sad creature from DC’s New52 reboot, only instead of Lex Luthor creating the “monster” from splicing Superman’s DNA with human DNA and injecting it into a teenager, it was Maxwell Lord splicing Supergirl’s DNA with the human DNA of comatose young women who “resembled” Kara Zor-El. I thought the show sorta fell down on this one – it was essentially a “monster of the week” episode with Bizzaro Supergirl dying at the end and Maxwell Lord becoming “The Man in the Glass Booth,” kidnapped and imprisoned – for now – at DEO headquarters. Which is rather illegal, and I assume will lead to further ramifications down the line.
One immediate ramification of Max hanging around the DEO, though, is that he just happened to be handy when the alien chest-hugging flower called the “Black Mercy” dug its tentacles into Supergirl’s rib cage and inflicted her heart’s desires upon her in a hallucinatory mind-game. Many of you will recognize this as an adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ 1985 Superman Annual #11 story, For the Man Who Has Everything.
It’s not a bad adaptation, but if you remember FTMWHE, it’s not quite up to par in comparison, especially in the Krypton sequences. Granted, the show’s budget had to be a serious factor in producing this episode, but in Superman’s dream world, we really become invested in Kal-El’s life on Krypton and in Kryptonian society. Kara Zor-El, however, never leaves her home. She just sits in the “living room” talking with her parents and Aunt Astra, who was never banished to the Phantom Zone. Oh, yeah, and we also meet a prepubescent Kal-El, though there is neither mention of nor a visit from Jor-
El and Lara. And though there is mention of a serious boyfriend, we don’t meet him nor do we see anything else of what Kara’s dream life if Krypton had not exploded entails.
In Superman’s dream state he has no memory or sense of anything wrong – well, the dream does start becoming increasingly disturbing – but Kara’s immediate reaction when waking up in her bed on Krypton is one of confusion and a sense that something is definitely wrong. But as the Black Mercy continues its psychic invasion, Kara starts forgetting, and by the time “virtual reality” Alex shows up she has accepted her life for what it is and does not recognize her “Terran” sister.
It’s a good attempt, but not one for the ages. For one thing, for a story about Supergirl’s lost dreams, it’s a fantastic showcase for Alex, who totally steals the scene(s). Alex’s quest to save her sister, her devotion to her, is really what this episode is about – and I don’t know if that’s what the writers had in mind. In fact, lately it almost seems that the title should be Supergirl’s Sister, Alex Danvers. She has become the most well developed character on the show (with Cat Grant coming up behind and Hank Henshaw/J’onn J’onzz nipping at Cat’s heels). It’s too bad, because this could have been a real showcase for Supergirl/Kara Zor-El.
And, again, wasn’t it convenient that Max Lord was on DEO premises so he could help develop the “virtual reality” psychic connection thing-a-ma-jig that got Alex into Kara’s dreamland in the first place?
However, Melissa Benoist did a bang-up job in displaying Supergirl’s anger and rage and hurt and sorrow when she woke up. Echoing Moore’s words, she spits out “Do you know what you did to me?” and then “Burn” as she lashes out with her heat vision against Non, the evil – and oh so incredibly boring – Kryptonian who’s Aunt Astra’s husband, and who exposed her to the Black Mercy in the first place.
There’s a lot more plot about Non’s plan to destroy Earth (or something – I’m not quite sure exactly what he wants to do), but there’s a twist at the end that really disappointed me, which now means that it’s
Astra is killed by Alex.
This is right up there with the whole “fooling Cat Grant and convincing her that Kara isn’t Supergirl” storyline. I mean, Boo! Hiss! Really, Bernanti, Adler, et.al., killing off what could have been a fascinating character and story arc? Again, Boo! Hiss!
And as for JJ – it left me shaken and stirred, with that uncomfortable feeling you get when you’ve had a horrific nightmare which stays with you all day, or after you’ve made the mistake of watching a double feature of Fail-Safe and Dr. Strangelove (Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb) on Turner Classic Movies.
SPOILERS HERE FOR ANYBODY WHO HAS ALSO BEEN LATE TO THE PARTY!
What really got me was the straightforward and uncomplicated denouement of David Tennant’s Killgrave – a simple twisting of his neck, a quick dislocating of his cervical vertebrae, a horrific rupturing of the right and left common carotid and vertebral arteries, and he’s as dead as the Tyrannosaurus Rex that King Kong killed using the same method – only with a lot less fight than in that epic battle. It was so straightforward, not what is usually expected when dealing with the gifted, as the show’s super-powered individuals and others called them; in comic-book land fights are usually a chance for the artist to strut his stuff, consisting of many panels and sometimes many pages of balletic and brutal brawling. What I thought, as Jessica approached Killgrave, was that she was going to rip his tongue out, which would certainly, I think, have been an apt Sisyphean punishment for him – King Sisyphus of Ephyra was punished by Zeus for his hubris, lying, greediness, and self-aggrandizing by being condemned to push a gigantic boulder up a steep hill, only to have it roll back down to the bottom before reaching the top, repeating this pattern forever and ever and ever.
Killgrave with his tongue is essentially powerless, and as I said, it would have been a fitting punishment; but Jessica said she was going to kill him and she did. But though it looked simple it wasn’t; Jessica Jones literally killed her demon. But the question is: Will it be enough? Stay streamed.
I am in no way dissing Krysten Ritter or anybody else in the cast of this superb show – Krysten Ritter was nominated for a Critic’s Choice Award, but I think it’s sin that no one else was nominated (Jessica Jones was ignored by the Golden), especially David Tennant.
I now have an even bigger crushon appreciation of David Tennant.
He’s getting handsomer and handsomer and handsomer.
His acting chops just keep getting better and better and better.
If so, I hope you and yours are all healthy and safe.
Jonas, of course, is the huge winter storm that not only dumped record-breaking amounts of snow on the Mid-Atlantic States and Eastern Seaboard up to Boston, but also caused major coastal flooding in areas that are still recovering from Sandy, like the Jersey shore. An 84-mile stretch of the Pennsylvania Turnpike was shut down, and 500 cars, trucks, and buses were stranded in the blizzard for almost a full day, with the National Guard delivering medicine, food and water, and gasoline (to keep the cars running and warm) to hundreds of people.
Governor Shamu – I mean New Jersey Governor Chris Christie – finally got the message and left New Hampshire, where he has been campaigning to come back to the state that he ostensibly governs. Everywhere there were travel bans; Mayor Bill de Blasio even banned food deliveries. The airports, of course, cancelled all flights. The U.S. Postal Service – Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds – ignored its motto. The supermarkets were cleaned out – I walked down to my local market at about 1:00 p.m. on Saturday and the only thing left was Soylent Green. And all I wanted was Diet Pepsi and a pack of Salem 100’s.
But compared to many, I was lucky. My power never wavered, my steam radiators steamed. The most I had to worry about was digging my car out yesterday in order to go to work Sunday – and even that turned out incredibly easy, because my downstairs neighbor Lois, her wonderful husband Corey, and their kids did all of the work for me. In fact, all I had to do was clean the windshields and make sure that I could pull out of my parking spot easily. On top of which Lois saved that spot for me by parking her car so that it takes up two spaces, so that when I got home all I had to do was text her to come down and make room.
Yes, those whose cars take up two spaces in my parking-challenged city usually make me curse like a sailor – okay, that’s not hard, but otherwise I doubt I would be able to get to the hospital tomorrow for fear of driving around and around and around the blocks upon reaching home for hours, so today I forgive them and myself.
Aside from the walk to the Soylent Green store and not having to dig out my car, I basically did absolutely nothing, which sometimes is the best thing in the world. I played solitaire on the computer, I did the New York Times crossword puzzle, and then I caught up on Jessica Jones, courtesy of Netflix. I realize I’m a little behind the curve here.
The eponymous, hard-drinking anti-hero is played by Krysten Ritter (Breaking Bad, Veronica Mars), who is joined by Mike Coulter as Luke Cage, Rachael Taylor as Patsy “Trish” Walker, and David Tennant as Killgrave. JJ is dark and ugly and all about the underbelly of the superhero fantasy – the trauma, the amorality, the death, the pain, the anger, the fear, the regret, the isolation. It’s the post-traumatic stress syndrome of the genre. There is no joy in this world. Booze is for dulling the memories, sex is for physical pleasure, marriage is just a road to the inevitable divorce, and love is denied – or at least suspect. Anyone and everyone connected, even incidentally, by the “power enhanced” is scarred physically or emotionally or psychologically, or left for dead or dead. No one is innocent. And no one gets out alive. Not really.
So pretend that I’m Killgrave and that I have the power to control your mind:
In case you haven’t done so yet, watch Jessica Jones.
BROADCHURCH’S LAWYERS COULDN’T HIT THE BROADSIDE OF A CHURCH
Sometimes there’s nothing for it but to put the unpleasantness front and center. This is one of those times. So, here comes an unpleasant:
I want to discuss the British police procedural TV show Broadchurch and there’s no way I can do that without massive spoilers on both seasons of the show. Spoilers along the lines of SPOILER ALERT! not just revealing that Darth Vader was Luke’s father but doing it before the Star Wars came out.
Broadchurch is set in the small, seaside British village of Broadchurch, which explains why the show wasn’t called Bexhill-On-Sea. The first season started with the murder of Danny Latimer, a local eleven-year-old local boy then centered on the investigation by Detective Inspector Alec Hardy and Detective Sargent Ellie Miller of said murder. (Wait, who said murder? I thought she only wrote it.) Broadchurch was not a pure procedural. It dealt as much with how the murder tore apart the small, close-knit community.
That tearing-apart aspect came fully into play in the final episode of the first season when DI Hardy learned that the murderer was SPOILER ALERT! Ellie’s husband, Joe. The town of Broadchurch in microcosm was torn apart after Ellie watched Joe’s filmed confession and SPOILER ALERT! beat him up in the police station. The town of Broadchurch in macrocosm was torn apart by the murder then torn apart again in the show’s second season, when SPOILER ALERT! Joe didn’t plead guilty and stood trial for Danny’s murder.
That’s where the law came in. So I guess it’s where I come in, too.
I won’t stress over the niggling legal mistakes that aren’t even worthy of a SPOILER ALERT! such as the fact that the trial judge was wearing a barrister’s wig instead of a judge’s wig, even if legal experts in England did. We’ve got wacking great errors to deal with.
Before the trial began, SPOILER ALERT! Joe’s defense lawyers had Danny Latimer’s body exhumed without telling anyone, even the Latimers. And on rather flimsy grounds. (That is, the grounds for the exhumation were flimsy. The ground of the cemetery was fine old English sod.) I realize things are different in the British criminal justice system; what with the wigs and the “M’luds,” and all. So I did some research. I found an article from the British paper The Daily Mailabout Broadchurch’s second season. It answered my questions and confirmed my suspicions.
The body of an English murder victim belongs to the coroner. No coroner would have released Danny’s body without consulting the surviving family, unless said family were suspects in the case; which they weren’t. A spokesperson for England’s Ministry of Justice quoted in The Daily Mail said it was “inconceivable” that the body would have been exhumed in the way shown in the show. And I think the word did mean what he thought it meant.
But that was just the start. When Danny’s mother was cross-examined, defense counsel SPOILER ALERT! asked her about her sex life and her husband’s affair. In America such questions wouldn’t be permitted unless they went to the witness’s credibility. The fact that a woman’s husband was having an affair might affect her gullibility but not her credibility. Legal experts interviewed by The Daily Mail said the questions wouldn’t have been allowed in England either, as they had no connection to the case being tried.
During the trial, SPOILER ALERT! all the witnesses were in the courtroom when the other witnesses testified. Dramatic as hell; we got to see Danny’s parents agonized faces every time something went wrong. But inaccurate as a caveman eating brontoburgers. According to The Daily Mail, British courts, like American courts, require a separation of witnesses http://criminal.lawyers.com/criminal-law-basics/excluding-witnesses-from-the-courtroom.html. Witness aren’t permitted in the courtroom until they’ve testified. That way, no witnesses can hear what other witnesses say and change their testimony to conform it with what had been said before.
But the most egregious error was the SPOILER ALERT! motion to suppress Joe Miller’s confession. (The British called it excluding the statement, not suppressing. Silly Brits, can’t even get their own language right.) After DI Hardy testified about how he arrested Joe and obtained Joe’s confession, defense counsel SPOILER ALERT! got Hardy to admit that DS Miller physically assaulted Joe while he was in custody. Then counsel argued that the police had beaten the confession out of Joe, so it should be excluded.
DI Hardy had testified that Joe confessed before DS Miller assaulted him. Moreover, the confession was filmed, so the judge could see that Joe Miller didn’t have any signs of a physical assault at the time he confessed. Despite all this, SPOILER ALERT! the judge agreed she could not discount the possibility that the injuries were sustained before Joe Miller arrived at the police station, suppressed the confession, and ordered the jury to disregard it.
This whole proceeding was the Lex Luthor of dash; balderdash.
First there’s the matter of the suppression motion being heard in open court in front of the jury. Suppression motions are questions of law not evidentiary matter. No American suppression hearing would be held in front of the jury, the way it happened on Broadchurch. No English hearing would either according to the attorney interviewed by The Daily Mail.
More egregious was the timing of the suppression motion; after the trial started. In the United States, defense counsel wouldn’t even have been permitted to make a motion to suppress a confession after trial had started. Motions to suppress evidencemust be filed before trial starts. See, if the trial has started and the prosecution loses the motion to suppress, it’s stuck. The trial court won’t grand a prosecution motion for a months-long continuance, while the prosecution takes an interlocutory appeal on the suppression ruling. But the prosecution can’t wait until the trial ends before appealing the suppression ruling. Assuming the prosecution lost the trial – a totally warranted assumption; if the prosecution won the trial, it would bother appealing – Double Jeopardy would prevent it from trying the defendant a second time, should it win the appeal. So defense attorneys are required to file motions to suppress before trial starts. That way, the prosecution can appeal the decision before jeopardy attaches and, should it win the appeal, still be able to try the defendant.
England, apparently, doesn’t have the same requirement. However, the lawyer interviewed by the ubiquitous Daily Mail said that the suppression matter would still have been settled before trial started. Neither the defense nor the prosecution would want to start a trial with this question mark over the case.
Most egregious was the fact that the judge granted the motion to suppress Joe’s confession. Judges don’t like to suppress confessions; especially confessions of confessed child killers. No judge in her right mind would agree with the defense counsel argument that “we cannot discount the possibility that the injuries were sustained before his arrival at the police station,” when the video evidence before her clearly showed that not only did Joe receive his injuries after he arrived at the station, he received them after he confessed.
Sure the judge was wearing a barrister’s wig instead of a judge’s wig. But that only means she wasn’t in her right wig, not that she wasn’t in her right mind. This ruling was shakier than a selfie in an earthquake.
You’ll be glad to know the attorney quoted in The Daily Mail agreed that no judge would have excluded Joe’s confession. Even if you’re not glad, I certainly am. I’d hate to think my grasp of the law was as tenuous as Broadchurch’s.
I had a problem with Broadchurch’s second season on from a legal point of view. I also had problems with it from a story point of view. An underlying subplot of Broadchurch’s first season was that SPOILER ALERT! DI Hardy was trying to restore his career after he failed to bring to justice a different child killer from an earlier case. Broadchurch’s first season was also a story of Hardy’s redemption when he solved the murder of Danny Latimer. However in the final episode of Broadchurch season two, SPOILER ALERT! the jury found Joe Miller not guilty. This demeaned the whole redeemed story of the first season, because, once again, DI Hardy failed to secure the conviction of a child murderer.
Still, Broadchurch’s second season wasn’t as bad as it could have been. It wasn’t, for example, Gracepoint, the American version of Broadchurch. Gracepoint managed to undercut all of the themes in Broadchurch, not just the redemption one, by SPOILER ALERT! having a completely different solution and a different murderer.
Broadchurch’s second season also wasn’t as bad as the second season of True Detective. Broadchurch’s second season only undercut the themes of the first season, True Detective’ssecond season tarnished the memory of the first season by being lousy.
Oops. Guess I should have put a SPOILER ALERT! there.
Like the dweeb I am, I spent last weekend watching television on my computer. First (because I’d already seen the first two episodes), The Man in the High Castle on Amazon Prime, and then Marvel’s Jessica Jones on Netflix. I suppose there might have been other things to do for two days, but all of them involved wearing pants.
This isn’t going to be a review, or even a comparison of the two shows. Instead, I want to talk about trigger warnings. Still, you might want to beware of spoilers.
A trigger warning is a note, usually on a book cover or syllabus or other preview piece, that informs the potential user that some material in the specific piece might be disturbing. If you watch the network news, you’ve probably heard some version of a trigger warning before the camera cuts to pictures of starving children or corpses of people shot down in the streets.
The term “trigger warning” has become a cause du jour because some people think it means a particular book (or movie or newscast) is banned when it comes so captioned. To those people, a trigger warning is just another way we are coddling kids today, with their crazy music and their hair, who don’t appreciate how good they have it and they should just get off my lawn already.
Here’s what I think is the key quote: The point of a trigger warning is not to tell people “Don’t watch this.” Or “You’re too weak to handle this.” The point of a trigger warning is to empower all viewers by informing them of what they can expect so they can make the best decision for themselves, cognizant all the while that the viewer’s personal response is just that: personal.
Maybe I would have understood if I had read the comic book on which Jessica Jones is based. I did read the first issue, and I didn’t like it much. To my reading at the time, it seemed to me to be trying to hard to be shocking and gritty. I watched the series because I totally love David Tennant. Yes, I’m shallow. Don’t judge me.
If I’d read the series, maybe I would have known that Jessica Jones is the victim of the violent sexual and emotional abuse perpetuated by Kilgrave The Purple Man, the villain who uses his mind control powers exactly as you’d expect if you imagine David Tennant to be the embodiment of a houseful of frat-boys. Still, because I heart him so much, I found myself, after the first episode, wishing he would come to me in my dreams and lick my face, as he did to Jessica.
After a few more episodes, I didn’t want that anymore. If anything, I felt kind of soiled for having wanted it at all.
I haven’t experienced the kind of comic-book violence Jessica Jones went through, nor have I experienced any more than the daily insults and bruises that any woman gets in this culture (and as a straight cis woman with gray hair, I get less than many of my sisters). The violence in the Netflix series seemed more harsh than what we see every day on network television, but I didn’t have to look away except for the parts about needles in the eye.
Still, there are millions of women who have experienced actual criminal violence, and they might have been disproportionately upset by the fight scenes on the show. (When I say “disproportionately” I don’t mean they are too sensitive, I mean that their reactions are not what the creative people intended.) If Netflix put some kind of warning or disclaimer in the descriptive materials (like cast information and plot summaries) they post before the user clicks to play, this wouldn’t be an issue at all.
There wasn’t a warning on Amazon Prime for The Man in the High Castle either, and I haven’t seen anyone ask for one. So I guess it’s just me.
If you haven’t read the Phillip K. Dick novel on which the show is based, you can still enjoy the show. I haven’t read it in decades. The premise imagines a world 20 years after the Axis won World War II. Germany controls the East Coast of the United States across to the Rockies. Japan controls the West Coast. There is a narrow neutral zone in between.
The world-building on this series is awesome. Everything, from the cars to the clothing to the outdoor advertising to the streetlights, reflects a world in which the American way has been perverted by fascism. It takes a while to notice some of the detail (like the lack of anyone but Aryans in Manhattan) but it’s chilling when it sinks in.
I didn’t experience concentration camps (I’m not that old), but I have been freaked out by the imagery for my entire life. I also have trouble looking at old footage from Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the atomic bombs destroyed those cities. There’s a bunch of both of these things in this series. You have been warned.
Even if the shows had been labeled, I would have watched. Again, trigger warnings are not censorship. If anything, more people would probably enjoy them if they knew what they were getting into.
Now, if we could only lobby Marvel into that Dakota North series…
Jessica Jones is the next up in Marvel’s series of Netflix TV shows, and I am beyond excited for it. I was excited for Daredevil, I loved Daredevil, I am excited that there’s going to be more Daredevil; but if possible, I think I may be more excited to see Jessica Jones than I was even to see Vincent D’Onofrio playing the Kingpin. Why? I’ll tell you why.
Jessica Jones is an odd duck in the Marvel universe. When the story opens, she’s not a hero (anymore) and she’s not a villain. She’s tried the hero thing, and has now made the choice to walk away from it. She’s had a horrific traumatic experience, and is now trying to live life on her own terms. In fact, she’s pretty much the Harry Dresden of NYC (without the male gaze and other weird holdovers from the early Dresden Files books. Sorry, Jim Butcher; I’m a huge Dresden fan, but those early stories have a few issues).
Like Harry, she comes from a tortured past of literal manipulation and has major trust issues; wields a ton of power; and because of her abilities, keeps getting sucked in, no matter whether it’s what she wants or not, to the greater world of the super-powered heroes and villains. And also like Harry, her past, her powers, and her present issues often make her life a big ol’ mess; and have given her some serious attitude. I love the complexities and rough edges of her character; and I love that Marvel appears to be presenting a three-dimensional, imperfect (and therefore human and relatable) woman as the second headlining female in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, following on the excellent and nuanced performance of Hayley Atwell as Agent Carter. Jessica Jones is a no-nonsense badass with a rebellious streak and (well-founded) control issues, and she’s not trying to make friends; but she also has a heart that is still looking to do good.
This is illustrated in the Netflix tie-in comic that I picked up at NYCC. Written by Brian Michael Bendis, with art by Michael Gaydos (the same writer and artist team who did the original 28-issue comics series), the comic references Daredevil’s run-in with Turk in the Daredevil Netflix series, and shows Jessica Jones tracking Turk down; but not to inflict Daredevil-style justice on him. Instead, she’s there to collect on child support payments that he owes. As she says, “I don’t know what messed-up house you grew up in that made you think it’s okay to be the way you are; but you brought kids into this world, and if you can’t be there for them like a grown-up, the least you can do, I mean the very least, is provide for them; so that maybe the cycle of nonsense that created you stops with you.”
It’s an interesting sentiment to punch home in the tie-in introductory book; and it emphasizes that in Jones’ world, a) your past doesn’t provide an excuse for you not to try to fix your future (something she’s dealing with herself); and b) what she cares about are the individual responsibilities and characters of the people she deals with.
Although I confess I am not deep into the lore of Jones in the comics (I haven’t explored too far into the MAX line, although of course I have all the Deadpool stuff), from what I know the original series also took this track of being more personal and less grandiose, so it seems Netflix is sticking with the flavor of the source material, which is great. Netflix is also sticking with the gritty, intense feel of the MAX line of comics. The show’s trailers continue in the dark vein of Daredevil, and Krysten Ritter has so far done an excellent job of conveying Jessica’s complex character in the trailers. It’s clear from her portrayal that this character’s story is deep, and messy, and complicated; and that makes for good TV. This is the kind of character I can’t help but want to see more of.
Netflix also looks to be delving into even darker, more disturbing territory than Daredevil with the introduction of Jessica’s nemesis, Killgrave (the Purple Man in the comics), played by David Tennant (who is always good value, as the Brits say, so I’m looking forward to seeing him in this). Although I don’t know all of the indignities Jones suffered at the hands of Killgrave, even the thought of someone having the power to manipulate one’s behavior is chilling, and the hints of her past in the trailers are über creepy; so I’m sure what we’ll see in the show will be pretty terrifying. And I like that, as with the Kingpin, the villain here didn’t start out as e.g. an all-powerful god of mischief, or the ruler of his own little country. He did, however, start out as a spy, so it will be interesting to see what they might do with that in the show.
It will also be cool to see how Luke Cage (played by Mike Colter) starts to fit into the Netflix/Marvel universe. He’s the next character slated to have his own show, and he appears in the Jessica Jones trailers and is listed as appearing in all episodes. Given that Jones and Cage have both a working and a romantic relationship in the comics, it makes sense to introduce him here; but I’m curious to see how he fits while she is the main character; and to what extent she will then be appearing in his series. Regardless, in the brief appearances I’ve seen so far, I’m liking the character.
The bottom line as we ramp up to Jessica Jones is that it looks like we’re in for an intense, chilling, suspenseful, intricate story enveloping a character with a fascinating tale to be told, possibly set as an investigative procedural; and I really love investigative procedurals. It also looks like Netflix is going to continue its strong start with Daredevil as we move into round 2 before going on to Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and finally, The Defenders. It’s an ambitious undertaking, but it seems that Marvel’s idea of tying this string of shows into each other and then into an ensemble cast affair may just turn out to be as awesome in reality as it sounds in concept. And on that note; when Jessica Jones rolls around on November 20, I am so. There.
Don’t blink. Blink and you’re dead. They are fast. Faster than you can believe. Don’t turn your back. Don’t look away. And don’t blink. Good Luck. • The Doctor • “Blink,” written by Steven Moffat
Adelaide: But you said we die. For the future. For the human race!
The Doctor: Yes, because there are laws. There are laws of time. Once upon a time there were people in charge of those laws but they died. They all died. Do you know who that leaves? Me! It’s taken me all these years to realize that the laws of time are mine and they will obey me! • The Waters of Mars, written by Russell T. Davies
Like you, John, I’ve been in the midst of the summer doldrums eagerly awaiting the return of new episodes of Marvel’s Agents Of Shield, Downtown Abbey, The Flash and, of course, a certain alien from Gallifrey.
Saturday night I tuned into BBC America to watch the first two episodes of The Doctor’s Finest, the network’s lead-up to the premiere of Peter Capaldi’s second year as the Time Lord, otherwise known as Series 9 of the modern era Doctor Who, or the 52nd year of wibbly wobbly timey wimey…stuff. (A bit more on those five little words a few paragraphs down.)
Hosted by Hannah Hart of My Drunk Kitchen on YouTube, and with “special guests” and “behind-the-scenes” interviews, the next four Saturday nights will feature two “essential” episodes of the Doctor’s story – “essential” in this case meaning that in some very important “essential” way these stories have contributed to the still-evolving mythos of the Whovian universe.
First up was Blink. Here’s a brief synopsis:
2007. In an abandoned house on the outskirts of London, photographer Sally Sparrow – the absolutely terrific Carey Mulligan – finds statures of weeping angels, and an even creepier message hidden under the wallpaper: ‘Sally Sparrow. Beware the Weeping Angel. Love from The Doctor (1969).’ The next day, Sally returns with her friend Kathy Nightingale – who suddenly vanishes. As Sally looks for her in the house, a man delivers a letter addressed to Sally from his grandmother, who has recently died. The grandmother’s name? Kathy Nightingale. And she has a message for Sally.
Meanwhile Kathy’s brother, Larry, who owns a DVD shop, has been tracking down “easter eggs” found in 17 unrelated DVDs, featuring a man with glasses who seems to be having a conversation with the viewer. The man is the Doctor – David Tennant – trapped in 1969 without his TARDIS. And the “easter eggs” are for Sally.
Blink, written by Steven Moffat and based on his short story “‘What I Did on My Christmas Holidays’ By Sally Sparrow” in the 2006 Doctor Who Annual, is essential because it introduces the Weeping Angels, im-not-so-ho the creepiest and scariest of all of the foes and “monsters” ever seen on Doctor Who. They also appeared during Matt Smith’s run as the Doctor in the two-part “The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone” and, most notably, as the adversaries responsible for the “deaths” of Amelia Pond and Rory Williams in “The Angels Take Manhattan.”
The episode is also the first time we hear five essential words as the Doctor attempts to explain the concept of time to Sally: “People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint – it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly…time-y wimey…stuff.”
Blink won the 2007 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. Steven Moffat won two BAFTA awards for Best Writer. Carey Mulligan won the Constellation Award for Beset Female Performance in a 2007 Science Fiction Television Award. In 2009, readers of Doctor Who Magazine voted it the second best Doctor Who story ever.
My Saturday night Whovian feast continued with the 2010 special The Waters of Mars, which won the 2010 Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, and was Russell T. Davies’s last episode as writer/showrunner.
November 21, 2059. The first human colony on Mars, Bowie Base One. The Doctor – David Tennant – is there on this pivotal day in history, when the colony is destroyed in a nuclear blast. But it is precisely this disaster that inspires the granddaughter of the mission’s leader, Captain Adelaide Brooke (Lindsay Duncan), as well as the rest of humanity, to continue their journey into deep space exploration and colonization.
The fixed point in time is an “essential” concept in the Whovian universe – and it is in The Waters of Mars that the Doctor is brutally taught that not even he, the “Victorious Time Lord,” as he refers to himself towards the climatic moment, is capable of changing it.
For it is not precisely the destruction of the colony that is the crucial event, but (SPOILER ALERT) Captain Adelaide Brooke’s death that is the necessary, critical, fundamental and central point – a fixed pointin time – on which the future of humanity rests. If she does not die, her granddaughter, Susie Fontana Brooke, will not pilot the first faster-than-light spaceship to Proxima Centauri, nor will her other descendants, nor humanity, follow her into space. And so Adelaide accepts her fate, and confronting the self-congratulatory Doctor who has saved her – “I don’t care who you are…the Time Lord Victorious is ‘wrong’.” – walks into her home and kills herself with her laser gun.
“Your song is ending…he will knock four times.” The Doctor has been running from a prophecy of his death (“Planet of the Dead,” “Planet of the Ood”) as a fixed point in time. This episode (though not “officially” part of the final arc – “The End of Time” – leading up to the regeneration of Tennant into the 11th – I mean the 12th – Doctor, Matt Smith) is essential in its portrayal of Tennant’s Doctor’s dark side.
He is the last of the Time Lords, and in his arrogance he no longer believes that he has to obey the rules. Two rules especially – the first being that he cannot change a fixed point in history, and more important, and more personal, that he must die and regenerate. Just as he refuses to accept the death of Adelaide Brooke and her mission mates, he refuses the prophecy, even going so far as to deliberately electrocute one of the mutated members of the Mars mission to stop him from “knock[ing] four times” on a bulkhead door.
“I don’t want togo.”
But he must.
Time is not just a wibbly wobbley time-y whimey ball of stuff.
SPOILER ALERT: This week’s topic is Doctor Who. If you don’t watch the show, you probably won’t like the column. Also, if you’re saving this season to binge watch and haven’t seen any of the episodes yet, there may be some spoilers. Fair warning.
We’re several weeks now into the new season of Doctor Who featuring the latest incarnation of the Doctor as played by Peter Capaldi. While our own Vinnie Bartilucci has been doing splendid recaps/reviews here on ComicMix, I’d like to look at Capaldi’s Doctor overall and weigh in.
He’s not like the past several incarnations. Capaldi said he wanted his Doctor to be more of an alien and he’s succeeded. This Doctor also has something of an empathy problem and his social skills are rather lacking. David Tennant, the Tenth Doctor, was famous for telling people, “I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry.” Especially when something terrible was going to happen or did happen to them that he couldn’t prevent. I can’t imagine those words even occurring to Capaldi’s incarnation.
However, what distinguishes this Doctor most to me is – he’s cranky. He’s Doctor McCrankypants.
Start with the eyes. Our first glimpse of him showed an almost angry glare and fierce, fierce eyebrows. He scowls more than he smiles. Suffer fools gladly? This Doctor doesn’t suffer them at all. He doesn’t like being hugged and, when his companion insisted, did it very awkwardly. He almost looked as if he was in pain.
He is ruthlessly pragmatic. On “Mummy on the Orient Express,” the mummy appears only to those it is about to kill. They have 66 seconds to live. The Doctor insistently pumps one of the victims before their death for a description and any other information in an effort to learn what they are dealing with. He knows there is no chance of saving the terrified man and doesn’t try.
In the first of the new episodes, the Doctor and his companion, Clara, are fleeing automatons. A door comes down between them with only a porthole in it. “No sense in both of us getting caught,” says the Doctor and runs off, leaving Clara to survive as best she can. You can see her sense of betrayal. The Doctor does return with help and does later rescue Clara but his actions are very atypical of the Doctor.
There can also be amusing side-effects to the Doctor’s crankiness. He offers to take Clara anywhere she wants to meet anyone she wants and she asks to meet Robin Hood whom the Doctor insists never existed. They go anyway and, of course, the first person the Doctor sees is Robin Hood. Refusing to admit he’s wrong, the Doctor insists this is an imposter or a robot or a hologram or something but definitely not Robin Hood. Caught and thrown into a dungeon, the Doctor and Robin have a hysterical bickering session.
In a later episode, the Doctor goes “undercover” as a caretaker at the school where Clara teaches when she is not off traipsing through all of time and space. He pretends to be human and thinks he can get away with it. He is so tone deaf to his social ineptness that it really is very funny.
All of this makes him different from his immediate predecessors. He lacks the puppy dog verbosity of Matt Smith or the emo boyishness of David Tennant or the mannish, blunt charms of Christopher Eccleston. In fact, the only Doctor I can think of who has been as cranky was the first Doctor, William Hartnell. Maybe not even him.
I wonder how the fans who have only joined the show since Eccleston and Tennant will react to Capaldi’s Doctor? He’s older and, well, crankier. Myself – I like him. A lot. In many ways, I relate to him more. As I get older, I get – well – crankier. “Hey, you kids – get away from my TARDIS!”
So – here’s to Doctor McCrankypants. Long may he travel through space and time, alienating friends and enemies alike. Go get em, Doctor.
This week we review Dreamworks’ How To Train Your Dragon, which is very much Tweeks Approved for all ages, even if it caused us to rant about movies so loosely-based on our favorite books that we suspect the rights to only the title were bought (Yes! We’re talking to you too, The Giver, Percy Jackson, & Insurgent)!