Tagged: Karen Gillan

Emily S. Whitten: GOTGv2’s Family Affair

I saw Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 this weekend, and man, did I have a blast. Is it a 100% perfect movie? Maybe not – how many comics adaptations are? But is it a really solid comics flick, an excellent second chapter to the Guardians’ adventure, and one of the most fun Marvel movies out to date? Yes, yes, and yes! And was it also made by creators who had a love for the source material and the actual product itself, knew their audience wanted an even more epic Guardians story, and delivered without falling into the more-of-the-same-only-bigger-equals-underwhelming-sequel trap? You bet!

(Warning: some SPOILERS ahead!)

Guardians Vol. 2 paints its backdrops in broad strokes. It is, as it should be, a space epic. The Guardians planet-hop, crash spaceships, and, at one point, bounce through something like forty space jumps at once. There are also several other groups of space-faring folk to keep track of – different factions of Ravagers, the newly-introduced Sovereign, and, of course, Peter Quill’s long-absent father. And the scenery is vast, unusual, and visually stunning, whether we’re seeing the innards of a collapsing planet or fireworks at a rare Ravager ceremony.

But set into all of this are the smaller scenes that knit this movie together with one thread: family. The theme is everywhere – from the reminder that the Guardians, even when they’re fighting, have chosen to be a family; to the denouement of Peter’s tamped-down desire to know his real father and his confrontation of difficult parental issues; to the rivalry between Gamora and her sister Nebula; to the well-played new friendship that’s struck up between the overly literal Drax and the extremely sheltered Mantis; to the bloody and harsh conflict that plays out between the Ravager factions; to gruff Yondu’s bonding with the equally prickly Rocket, and the redemption arc of Kraglin’s relationship with Yondu; to, of course, everyone’s involvement with The Growing Up of Little Groot (who is, as in Vol. I, one of the best parts of any scene).

Although interactions with Little Groot (no longer a potted baby stick, but still dancing adorably, particularly when set against the intense space-monster battle of the opening credits) are cute as can be (except when he’s killing folk, or, to be honest, even when he is), most of the familial messages are not all sweetness and light. But the overall gestalt of the film is that although families can be dysfunctional, messy, and even sometimes irredeemable, the value of being able to be your true self and still rely on family – whether they be your blood relatives of simply the people who have decided to love you like they are – is the most important thing.

Writer and director James Gunn hammers this home by having characters straight out remind us that the Guardians are, in fact, a family, in a couple of perhaps unnecessary “telling instead of showing” moments. However, unlike in Iron Man 2 where we were told about how Tony had become a better person after the events of Iron Man but the “showing” didn’t really back that up, the moments that Gunn uses to build this movie really carry that message.

And maybe he’s also playing with that “tell vs. show” aspect. Quill’s “real” father tells him all about how much he wanted to find his son as he explains (using a hilariously plastic-y series of museum exhibit-like display pods) his courtship of Peter’s mother; but then shows how little value he has for family through his actions and the harm he brings to Peter. Whereas Yondu, who raised Peter, regularly told Peter fairly awful stuff (“You said you would eat me!” “I thought that was funny!”), but consistently, even to the point of losing the respect and loyalty of his crew, looks out for and will not harm Peter. Likewise, Drax tells Mantis, in his usual tactless way, that he thinks her appearance is ugly and disgusting – but he is consistently kind and gentle towards her, and looks out for her and patiently answers her questions. Gamora takes Nebula prisoner and Nebula swears revenge – but when push comes to shove, neither can let the other go. And Groot – well, Groot tells everyone that he is Groot, and we just love him for it, end of story.

In focusing on the characters and their bonds, Guardians Vol. 2 also avoids the trait I dislike in so many comics space stories (and crossovers). Often, these stories get so caught up in the Grandiose Larger Purpose of what is going on – this planet is fighting that planet which is fighting that other planet over there – that I really stop caring which Planet wins, because they’re all just planets. But Guardians doesn’t throw focus. It doesn’t neglect the spaces within the epic story that is, in fact, also happening as Peter’s father tries to take over the universe.

It recognizes the mundane moments that sometimes show who people are more than a grand gesture or epic fight, and that make the audience care. Gunn being who he is, I’m not surprised that he almost takes this to the next level, to the point where the characters spend several movie minutes searching for Scotch tape. Some moviegoers might be put off by this, but I see it as part and parcel of who the Guardians are, and the unique sense of fun they bring to saving the world. Pretty much like when Rocket assigned Peter to acquire a prisoner’s fake leg for a prison break plan in the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. I, and then it turned out he didn’t need it and simply thought it would be hilarious to send Peter to get it (that still makes me laugh).

Fortunately, Gunn and the rest of the cast and crew didn’t lose that humor in Guardians Vol. 2, and in fact, in some places, amped it up in the best way. Drax (Dave Bautista), for instance, has been developed beyond the already humorous incongruity of his literal interpretations of the expressive way most people speak, to a character who is now more relatable but still unreasonably tactless and blunt at all the wrong moments. The result is that he gets some of the most subtly humorous but also human dialogue exchanges in the film, particularly with Mantis (Pom Klementieff, who is adorable, and stellar in keeping an equilibrium between Mantis’s sweet naiveté and the strong emotions she experiences as an empath).

Rocket (Bradley Cooper) is hilarious for the sheer fun he takes in mayhem and destruction (the scenes of him messing with the Ravagers in the forest are absolutely hysterical). Chris Pratt continues to balance Star Lord’s irreverence for serious moments and almost childlike sense of fun with the responsibilities of being the natural-born leader of the group. And Groot (in some magical combination of CGI and Vin Diesel that is definitely more than the sum of its parts) brings the house down while he tries and epically fails to bring his friends various objects to help them escape from a holding cell.

Of course, some characters are more suited to be “the straight man,” but even though Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Yondu (Michael Rooker), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Peter’s dad (Kurt Russell), and Kraglin (Sean Gunn) tend to be played straighter overall, each of them does a great job and also still gets at least a few moments of humor (and Michael Rooker has one of the absolutely funniest lines in the movie as they’re all falling to the ground towards the end). Heck, even the seriousness of the Sovereign, who exude gravitas and are quick to take offense, is undermined by the fact that they go to war by, essentially, playing space video games (Ender’s Game, anyone?).

But I think a point being made here is that life doesn’t have to be all serious or all fun – like this movie, it can contain everything from deadly Ravagers bouncing through the air like helpless popcorn at the hands of a “trash panda;” to poor little Groot being bullied and sadly squelching away (and boy, did that make me want to punch that whole mean crew in the face); to the leader of the saviors of the galaxy choosing to save that galaxy as a giant Pac-Man; to Yondu’s arrow snaking through the darkness in the most beautiful kind of 80s neon death I have ever seen as it kills those who betrayed him; to the universal trope of every teenager everywhere, no matter what species, being yelled at about their messy rooms; to the whole of space exploding into glorious fireworks to honor fallen family. This movie is, all in a couple of hours, ridiculous, badass, serious, not taking itself seriously, heartwarming, grim, riotously fun, incredibly sad, gloriously chaotic, seriously ugly, and vibrantly beautiful.

Which means that at its heart, despite the epic space setting and multitude of species, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 is a very human movie – and as Peter says when his father informs him that turning his back on his legacy will make him only human: “What’s so terrible about that?”

Not a thing, and I’m glad that the Guardians will be returning so we can be reminded of that yet again in, I assume, Volume 3 (the soundtrack of which had better be played on a Zune).

Until then, feel free to check out this clip from my further discussion of Guardians Vol. 2 on the Fantastic Forum radio show (the whole episode of which will be up here shortly), and don’t forget to Servo Lectio!

Box Office Democracy: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is an amazingly charming movie.  The characters they’ve constructed over these two movies are each a delight.  There’s an infectious camaraderie that makes it feel like it must be the best movie set to work on the there ever was.  The infectious joy and prodigious joke density easily carries a slightly disjointed script through the murky bits.  I don’t need everything to make sense or even be particularly important as long as I’m having fun and the rest of the theater is having fun.  There aren’t many movies more infectiously fun than Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

There are two separate stories being told in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. In one Star-Lord meets his father, Ego the Living Planet (Kurt Russell), and goes to his home planet (or his self? There’s nothing in the MLA rules about this) along with Gamora and Drax.  Why do Gamora and Drax come with him?  It would appear to balance the crew between the two stories because both of them barely interact with this story from the time they land on the planet until the third act.  In the other story, Rocket Racoon and Groot are captured by Ravagers and are going to be turned in for some sort of bounty involving stolen batteries.  This storyline is mostly about making baby Groot jokes and having people mistake Rocket for another kind of rodent.  It eventually hooks back up with the rest of the crew— not because it needs to, but more because they’re done.  These plots are not grand adventures in storytelling but rather a frame for character moments and jokes and they’re just fine for that, but I think they deserve to be called out for being a bit sparse.

The Guardians are such wonderfully distinct characters though.  Drax’s laugh is the glue that holds the first half of the movie together.  It isn’t what I thought would happen to the Drax character on the big screen, but he’s basically all comedy at this point with little action in sight.  Bradley Cooper is never going to get any recognition for this, but he’s doing fabulous work as Rocket.  He imbues a lot of humanity in to a character it would be so easy to not take seriously.  Rocket has a tearjerker of a line near the end that could easily fall flat.  The best scene in the whole film is between Gamora and Nebula talking about their familial relationship.  I never thought it would be believable to transition Nebula to the side of the Guardians after all the bad blood in the last movie and they accomplish it in three lines.  It’s the best scene between two women in any Marvel movie and I understand I’m not setting a particularly high bar.  It’s high now.

James Gunn has made a great looking movie.  There are so many shots with so much going on and they’re especially fun to take in in 3D.  There’s this concerted effort to have stuff going on in the background of shots and it’s a great way to sneak stuff in.  It looks an awful lot like a 1970s cosmic comic book.  I wouldn’t say Kirby-esque, I think we’re too liberal with Kirby-esque, it doesn’t look like Jack Kirby drew it but it looks an awful lot like Walter Simonson and that’s no slight.  The sequence that caps off the Rocket Racoon plot is the best of the whole film, it’s a great bit of elaborate camera work and fun violence.  The climax of the main plot is a little less impressive if only because there are a lot of supposed to be dramatic moments of people facing down grey goo.  Grey goo is not that scary.

Go see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.  It’s a great time.  Get a big popcorn and a smaller drink (it’s a very long movie) and just enjoy being in an air conditioned room with other people having a good time.  My wife remarked that the emphasis on family and reforming some former adversaries makes this Guardians feel like a step toward transitioning to a sort of Fast & Furious in space thing. I agree, and there’s nothing I would rather see from Marvel than something that leans so in to that kind of joy and absurdity.  I hope they can do it.

New “Doctor Who” companion to be revealed during Match of the Day

PanicMoonThe BBC have announced that the identity of the newest Companion for the record-breaking science fiction series Doctor Who will be announced Saturday, April 23rd, live on BBC One’s Match of the Day. During half-time of the FA Cup semi-final between Everton and Manchester United, the BBC will announce the name of the new actor to join Peter Capaldi on the TARDIS.

With the return of the series in 2005, each new face to join the series has been met with an increasing sense of occasion.  Peter Capaldi’s announcement, for example, was announced in a global simulcast. Each castmember has been shrouded in secrecy previous to their introduction.  When Karen Gillan was auditioning for her role, she was told to use the code name “Panic Moon”, an anagram of “Companion”. Jenna Coleman had to tell people she was auditioning for “Men on Waves”, an anagram for “Woman Seven”.

Things have changed greatly for Who-lumni in the modern era — typecasting is largely a thing of the past. Like the role of The Doctor, a spot as Companion can have an amazing effect on an actor’s cache. Karen Gillan has landed roles in numerous series on both sides of the proverbial (forgive me) Pond, including Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy.  Jenna Coleman will soon be playing Queen Victoria, and Noel Clarke (Morty Mickey Smith in series one) has become an established director with films like Kidulthood.

With Match of the Day‘s kickoff scheduled for 5:15, half-time is expected at about 6PM. The BBC will also share the news on their various social media sites, followed immediately by a worldwide flurry of Googling and IMDBing the new actor for their resume, to see how long ago they showed up on Eastenders.

Doctor Who will be making only one dramatic appearance this year, the Christmas special, followed by a proper season 10 in 2017, which has already been announced to be showrunner Steven Moffat’s last.  Rumors still abound as to Peter Capaldi’s future with the series after said season.

Tweeks: Power Rangers Super Megaforce For All!

Bj7sV31CAAADiOOThere’s a misconception that the Power Rangers are just for little kids or for boys (or Karen Gillan – you saw her ice bucket challenge, right?), but we think the cast of Saban’s Power Rangers Super Megaforce offers a little something for everyone.   Don’t believe us?  Watch our interview with the Power Rangers and try not to come away charmed and ready to watch the new season Saturdays at noon on Nickelodeon.

DOCTOR WHO GOES PULP

The name’s Malone. Melody Malone.

Coming soon from BBC Books is a new Doctor Who tie-in e-book entitled The Angel’s Kiss: A Melody Malone Mystery featuring a very pulp-inspired cover. The cover also appears in The Angels Take Manhattan episode of Doctor Who, airing September 29 on BBC and BBC America.

Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) reads a Melody Malone Mystery in The Angels Take Manhattan.

Press Release:

BBC Books are to release a special book inspired by this weekend’s episode, The Angels Take Manhattan. The Angel’s Kiss is a 112-page novella written by Justin Richards, and is the first book in the range to be published that has been written from the perspective of one of the show’s characters.

Melody Malone not only runs her own agency, she also happens to be the author of a successful series of novels, featuring one Melody Malone.

The book will only be available electronically beginning October 4th, a few days after the episode’s premiere.

Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) recognizes some familiar characters in Angel’s Kiss.

About Angel’s Kiss:

On some days, New York is one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

This was one of the other days…

Melody Malone, owner and sole employee of the Angel Detective Agency, has an unexpected caller. It’s movie star Rock Railton, and he thinks someone is out to kill him. When he mentions the ‘kiss of the Angel’, she takes the case. Angels are Melody’s business…

At the press party for Railton’s latest movie, studio owner Max Kliener invites Melody to the film set of their next blockbuster. He’s obviously spotted her potential, and Melody is flattered when Kliener asks her to become a star. But the cost of fame, she’ll soon discover, is greater than anyone could possibly imagine.

Will Melody be able to escape Kliener’s dastardly plan – before the Angels take Manhattan?

The e-book will be released October 4, 2012 via digital stores.

New Who Review : Asylum of the Daleks

A new season, a return of an old enemy, a dramatic change to a relationship, and a very surprising casting choice made the premiere episode of Doctor Who quite the rollicking ride.  Keep your arms and legs inside the car at all times, mind the spoilers, hang tight to your jewelry (especially bracelets), mind the spoilers and here we go…

ASYLUM OF THE DALEKS
By Steven Moffat
Directed by Nick Hurran

The Doctor, Amy Pond and Rory Williams are all captured by Dalek sleeper agents and taken to their main fleet, home of their Parliament.  Rather than Exterminate him, they beg for his help.  Their Asylum, a combination hospital and prison for Daleks so damaged or insane they can no longer be controlled, is in danger of being breached after a lost spaceship crashes on it.  The Doctor. Amy and Rory are sent down to the surface to shut down the planetary force field defense, so the Daleks can destroy it.  At the same time, The Doctor has to save the mysterious Oswin Oswald, who’s staged a single-handed defense against the insane Daleks for nearly a year, as well as fix the relationship of his Companions Amy and Rory.  If he achieves three more impossible things, he can have breakfast.

Steven Moffat’s admitted that the Daleks are his favorite Who foe, and had wanted to “give them a rest” for bit, till the right story came along. Well, mission accomplished.  He does what needs to be done anytime to you bring back an enemy and expand on them a bit, add to their mythos. Here we see a new ruling structure, a horrifying insight to their concept of beauty, and a look at how they treat their failures.  In short, a solid story, with some great dramatic moments.  Another chapter in the greatest romance in time and space, and an introduction to…well, maybe not the character, but certainly the actress who’ll be taking the reins from Karen and Arthur as the next Companion.

THE MONSTER FILES

The Daleks have been so much a part of the history of Doctor Who it’s almost impossible to talk of one without the other.  Introduced in the second adventure, their innovative design seized the imagination of the children of Britain, and has never let go.  Any hopes the series had of being a semi-educational show were blasted off the table when it became clear that the kids wanted scary monsters and super freaks.

Created by Terry Nation, who would go on to create the series Blake’s 7 and The Survivors, he attempted to take his creation to America and pitch  a series here.  The character Sara Kingdom (played by Jean Marsh and seen in The Dalek Master Plan) was to be their primary enemy in the pitched series, which never came to pass.

While the Dalek Puppets are a new addition to their weaponry, they’re scarcely the first attempt to use bipedal, opposable-thumbed minions.  In addition to the endless poor suckers who think they’ll be treated well (or even differently) by the Daleks, they’ve created Robomen slaves of their prisoners, both in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, and its out of continuity film adaptation starring Peter Cushing.  Ogrons became a slave race of choice for a while, appearing in Day of the Daleks. Most recently, we saw Professor Bracewell, an android created to aid in The Victory of the Daleks.  Indeed, since we’ve now seen how they can completely replace a human’s body with Dalek components, one could wonder if Edwin Bracewell didn’t have implanted memories, but REAL memories, those from before his conversion.

HUGE SPOILED ALERT!

Jenna-Louise Coleman (Oswin Oswald)  Jenna’s career is only a few years old, similar to that of Karen Gillan, but what she’s got is cherce. Starting off with a brief run on British soap opera Emmerdale (you thought I was going to say EastEnders, didn’t you?), she also had recurring roles on Walterloo Road and  starred with John Goodman on Dancing on the Edge. Most recently she’s starred in the Titanic mini-series, and had a small role in Captain America. She will be heard from again in the very near future.

Anamaria Marinca (Darla / Dalek puppet) is another case of getting the best people for even the smallest roles.  Romanian by birth, she’s won dozens of acting awards for her work, including a BAFTA for the series Sex Traffic.

BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS – Trivia and production details

CREDITS WHERE CREDITS ARE DUE – Another minor tweak to the opening of the series.  The effect of the TARDIS flying through the Time Vortex is more blurred, and at the same time more colorful.  We see the return of the red and blue, indicating the capsule is traveling forward or backward in time. Also, the logo of the series has changed, and will continue to change in each episode.  Here it’s covered in “Dalek Bumps”, next week it’s reported it’ll have scales like a dinosaur.  The font for the cast and the episode title match now, no longer using the same font as the logo.

SET PIECES – The design of the Dalek ships have a number of subtle points.  The bars in the viewport window match the grille design of a new series Dalek, so it looks like they’re looking out the grille of a giant Dalek.  Also note the trapezoidal doors, designed to accommodate their bodies, and of course, the utter lack of stairs. Note also that all the control panels are all shaped to fit the Dalek “plunger” hand. We’ve seen that it can change shape slightly – likely the globe serves as a haptic interface, a hemispheric iPad screen.

Once again, the classic “heart beat” sound effect appears – used since the Tom Baker years (and found on the “Doctor Who Sound Effects” album), the thumping hum of a Dalek base has been used in every new series Dalek episode.  It appears as Rory accidentally awakens the sleeping inmates of the asylum.

AND NO ONE HEARD AT ALL, NOT EVEN THE CHAIR – The Beeb will re-use props and background pieces when they can.  This week, the chair from Oswin’s little control room is the same one from Jenny’s ship in The Doctor’s Daughter. The Clever Theories have already started rolling.

SCOTT OF THE ANTARCTIC SAHARA – The sequences on the snowy mountains of the Asylum were originally set to be filed in a set.  But when preparing for a trip to Spain to film sequences for A Town Called Mercy, series producer Marcus Wilson pointed out that the Sierra Nevada mountain range was only a hop skip and jump away, and wouldn’t it make more sense (and possibly save money) to pop up there and film the exterior scenes?  Caroline Skinner agreed, and off they went.

EVERY DALEK EVER – marked as the biggest conglomeration of pepperpots in the history of the series, the episode did not disappoint.  Well…sort of.  For all the hype and hoohah they gave the return of the Special Weapons Dalek (first seen in Remembrance of the Daleks and several novels and other off-TV adventures), it was a glorified cameo – it didn’t fire, and barely moved.  You got a better look at it in the promotional photos.  There were a smattering of old model Daleks – the pirouetting model appeared to be a white Imperial Dalek from Remembrance, and there were a few other “classic” series models.  Can you find them all?

More surprising is which Daleks we saw the most of – the vast majority of models we saw were the “bronze” variety we’ve seen since the start of the new series.  Considering all the pomp and circumstance the New Paradigm Daleks were introduced in Victory of the Daleks, they were barely there at all.  Since they were seen at the center of the parliament, it is most likely that they serve as rulers/generals of the Dalek race, taking the positions once held by Black and Gold Daleks.  The bronze models would continue to serve as the soldiers.

ONE IF BY LAND, TWO IF BY RORY – Minor production error in Rory’s first scene among all the inactive Daleks – the model he pushes about has a headlamp missing in the above and reverse shots; it has both in the shots from behind Rory.

“Skaro – original planet of the Daleks” Introduced in their original adventure, we’ve seen Skaro itself a few times in the series.  The Doctor and his friends traveled back to The Genesis of the Daleks with the help of the Time Lords, with the task of averting their creation.  In the far future, the Emperor Dalek ruled over their empire in The Evil of the Daleks, but at another point, it was a virtually dead planet being excavated by the Movellans in Destiny of the Daleks. It was presumed destroyed by supernova in Remembrance of the Daleks, but Daleks are not unlike cockroaches – they seem to be able to survive everything.

“Out of ten?  Eleven” More than just the obvious Spinal Tap “Goes to eleven” gag, this is another sly reference that this is The Doctor’s eleventh incarnation, and that Matt is the eleventh (in continuity) actor to play him.

“The Predator of the Daleks will be deployed” – Along with the earlier revealed “Oncoming Storm”, The Daleks have graced The Doctor with a title of their own.  As has been pointed out before, names are a recurring theme in the series.  Knowing an enemy’s name reduces their power, and increases your ability to hurt them.

“Are you actually, properly real?” Note a very subtle hint to Oswin’s malleable reality – when The Doctor calls her “Carmen”, a rose appears behind her ear.  It was not there before, and is gone in the next scene.

“RoRRRYYYYYYYYYyyyyyy!” Throughout the episode, there are tells that Amy still very much cares for Rory.  When she awakes, she looks for him, and not The Doctor.  And that piercing scream is the same one she used to call to him in Amy’s Choice.

“Nanogenes” Steven Moffat coined that term in The Empty Child for the micro-robots designed to heal injuries, turn people into gasmask-faced monsters, and in this case, convert people to Dalek Puppets.  Amy is likely (we hope) right that as a Time Lord The Doctor was immune to their effect, and will similarly be able to reprogram a few to repair any temporary changes made to Amy.

“They’re the ones who survived me” The planets mentioned are all from past battles between the Doctor and his lifelong foe:
Spiridon – Planet of the Daleks
Kembal – The Dalek Master Plan
Aridius – The Chase
Vulcan – Power of the Daleks
Exxilon – Death to the Daleks
Of course, if I were to be very picayune, I’d mention that if that were the case, these should all be older design Daleks, when it looks more like they’re all the modern Bronze variety. But do I look like that kind of person?

“They did a full conversion” – Daleks have converted humans to Dalek beings in the past, although in Victory, it was said that they’d done it so many times, the Progenitor system didn’t even recognize the surviving members as true Daleks.  Presumably the automated systems of the Asylum was more interested in enhancing the security system than in the scrupulous worry about purity.

Humans and Daleks don’t usually mix.  Dalek Sec attempted it in Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks with poor results, and the infection of the Human Factor caused a civil war in Evil of the Daleks, which was at the time supposed to be the final Dalek adventure.

BIG BAD WOLF REPORT While Moffat and the Who production office have maintained that there’s no over-arcing plotline this series, there are clearly themes already appearing.  Matt Smith has described this five-episode run as “The Fall of the Ponds”, as it will culminate in their departure at the end of episode five, The Angels Take Manhattan.  The prequel series Pond Life provided a look into the Ponds’s home life when The Doctor wasn’t around, ending with a hint of the breakup we saw here.  The fourth episode, The Power of Three, is supposed to further that story a bit more.

“Life, just life – that thing that goes on when you’re not there” Most tragic is the revelation that because of the traumas from Demon’s Run, Amy can no longer bear children.  That’s clearly a massive blow to Rory, so much so that Amy chooses to push him away, in the hopes he’ll find someone who can give him what he’s always wanted.  There’s a clever theory boiling in my head that might well tie more than a couple threads up, but I’ll hold my tongue for the moment.

“Remember me” Clearly one theme that popped up in this episode is that of memory and remembering.  From The Doctor’s advice that Amy “Make [the Daleks] remember you” to Oswin’s request of the same to The Doctor, after her ensuring that the Daleks wouldn’t remember him, it comes up more than a few times in the episode.

“DOK-TOR-WHO?” Tying back to the end of last series, The Doctor chooses to allow the reports of his death to remain greatly exaggerated, so he may work more into the background, and safe from those who wish to harm him.  It’s backed up in the opening of the episode where Darla believe The Doctor to be dead.  And now that the Daleks have now (at least temporarily) forgotten who he is, he’s able to fade back a bit more.

But the real “Question” is one that’s been bouncing through the entire new series – The Doctor’s Name, his real origins, and why he keeps them so secret.  It’s been said that on the Fields of Trenzalore, that question will be asked, and he’ll be compelled to answer.  When that will happen, and what will happen as a result, we do not know, but Moffat does not lay plot threads higgledy-piggledy.

I DON’T THINK WE’VE BEEN PROPERLY INTRODUCED – Jenna-Louise Coleman’s appearance Oswin Oswald is clearly the biggest surprise this episode had.  Already announced as The Doctor’s new Companion (and scheduled to come on board in that capacity in the Christmas episode) she appears here in what is presumed either a different role, or perhaps even from another point of her life.  Her Companion role’s name had been rumored to be Clara, but as we know, nothing is guaranteed in the world of Who.

Moffat and the rest of the cast and crew have shared massive accolades to both the press and the thousands of fans and bloggers who all kept this reveal utterly secret through four sneak previews of this episode over the past month.

You’re welcome.

NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO – The Doctor is sick of…well, no, he seems quite excited by the idea of Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. Lestrade finds his division, Ron Weasley’s dad is also Rory’s dad (so…related?) and also Queen Nefertiti. Seven days away…you busy?

 

Doctor Who Premieres On NYC Stage

Last Saturday was a busy day if you were a Doctor Who fan in New York City.  The first episode of the new series, Asylum of the Daleks, had its US premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater, the largest single-screen theater in the city they could lay their hands on.  After a minor frenzy to obtain tickets, fans were treated to an hour-long thrill ride as The Doctor and his friends Amy and Rory fought against more Daleks than you could shake an eye-stalk at.  But the activity began earlier in the day, as the folks at BBC America made stars Matt Smith and Karen Gillan, as well as co-producer Caroline Skinner available for interviews to the appreciative hordes of the working press.

Matt Smith  (The Doctor) is currently shooting the Christmas special (“Which you have to shoot in August, because what could be more silly” explained Caro Skinner) and arranged a break in his schedule so he could fly to New York specifically to attend the premiere.  “I want to film every single episode in New York, I want to get that out there right now.  I absolutely love this place.  Any way you point a camera, there’s something wonderful and beautiful to look at. The Light here sort of falls between the grids of the buildings so wonderfully. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’d like to come live here one day. And it’s great to do a sort of periody piece here – the locations afford you so much.”

In the aforementioned special, “[The Doctor] meets his new chum…or someone he thinks is his new chum”, played by newcomer to the series, Jenna-Louise Coleman.  When asked about how The Doctor acts when he hasn’t got a companion, Matt admits he’s “really interested by the time he spends on his own. I think he gets more dangerous when he’s on his own.  I think he needs that sort of human moral compass, that human sensibility.  He needs that, he doesn’t have the same grasp of it.    It’s interesting to think about the character becoming more reclusive, and on his own. Just this old man, wandering around the universe, trying to put things right…killing loads of innocent people along the way. when you look at it, there’s a lot of clerics that die in certain episodes.”

This season of thirteen regular episodes is broken into a short set of five, the final eight coming in 2013, after the Christmas special.  The only “arc” in this five is what matt calls “The fall of the Ponds”.  “We start off exactly where we left him,” Matt explains, “a man who is trying to step back a bit, into the shadows, and be less prominent, less famous, less apparent, less destructive. less of all those things that he started to struggle with. We see him trying to deal with that, as a character, or personality trait, it’s absolutely something he’s trying to deal with.  Perhaps it does make his soul a bit darker, because he’s alone a lot more. As Amy says, it’s unhealthy for him, I think, ultimately, to be alone too long.”

When discussing the new episode, everyone has said the Daleks are “scary again”.  “We’ve got the design of them better,” says Matt.  “We’ve drawn from every Dalek, every one ever on its…well, you can’t say ‘legs’, can you?  On their…space wheels.  And The Asylum, you’ll see tonight, it’s…Dalek-Land. Like a perfect theme park – everything’s made for Daleks, it’s sort of ridiculous.  The doors all go like that (makes a triangle shape with his hands) cause they’re all fat at the bottom. The world is really sort of gruesome and frightening. The design, and the tone, and the way it’s lit, I think we’ve achieved our intention with their nature.”

Karen Gillan (Amy Pond Williams) admitted something fairly major – “I’ve never found the Daleks…all that scary. I’ve loved them, cause they’re so iconic. But in this episode, they’re properly frightening.

I wondered if this “asylum” was more in the sense of a place where you keep mad people, of a place where dangerous people beg to be kept safe.  Matt surmised, “I think it is [the first], but I rather like the idea of Daleks SO mad, they’re asking, ‘don’t let me out’. If they had more of a human consciousness, the latter could apply, but the Daleks don’t have that, it’s just not there.  It’s just alien evil, encased in a tank.  That’s why The Doctor has had this life-long war, that’s why they are his greatest foe, there’s nothing redemptive about them.  They are only evil, and that’s the way he sees them; only evil.”

“This is an interesting episode for the nature of the Daleks”, Matt thinks. “We learn a lot, Steven cleverly reveals.  As I think you have to with any villain that comes back.  They have to have moved on somehow. And I think Steven’s done that here, he’s explored their nature in a very interesting way.”

The recurring theme of meeting historical figures will come round again, in an odd way.  “In episode four, we encounter someone’s feet. He was a king, and he’s chasing us…and I’m not gonna give anything else away.”  When asked what figure he might like to see appear, Matt was introspective.  “Was Tarzan real?  He wasn’t real was he?  I kind of like the idea of The Doctor swinging from the branches, but being really bad at it.”

Gillan had a rather definite opinion about her character, specifically about the possibility of a return after this season’s assuredly dramatic departure.  “I’ve always said that when I go, I want it to be for good.  Because I want that final scene to have that same impact, maybe ten years on.  I want people to be able to revisit it and still have the same emotion.  That’s really important for me, so for that reason, I think I’m going to rule out any returns.”  However, when I quietly complimented her on her ability to lie, she replied, “I learned it from the best!”

This season will start with a five-part webisode prequel, Pond Life, which will be made available on the BBC’s You Tube channel. “That was really interesting,” Karen recalls. “Cause you never get to see the snippets in between their adventures with The Doctor. And that’s what Pond Life is all about.  And the in episode four (The Power of Three) that’s what the whole episode is about – these two people trying to deal with their domestic life, with this time-traveler popping in and out of their lives, whisking them off into these crazy adventures.”

“Steven (Moffat) and I wanted to do a fairly substantial piece about the Ponds and their relationship with The Doctor,” explained Executive producer Caroline Skinner, “kind of in general, and in between series six and seven.  And one of the exciting thing about this series of episodes is you’ve got Amy and Rory as a married couple, and The Doctor popping in and out of their life, and taking them on adventures, and then dropping them off again. And we wanted something to set up that context, and really let people get an emotional sense of their relationship. And to see what The Doctor popping in and out meant from their point of view. You’ve got him coming in like that crazy little child, and throwing everything up in the air.”

“We were working at the time with brilliant writer Chris Chibnall (writer of 42 and The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood for Who, and numerous episodes of Torchwood), and he’s just got the most beautiful way for writing for Amy and Rory, and we asked him to put pen to paper, and that’s what we got.”

In this, her first full season producing the show, Caro brings to the table “A huge amount of passion for [the series], I’ve always loved it, and massive enthusiasm and ambition to make this the biggest series ever. And so does Steven.  I sat down on day minus-one, just before I got the job, and he pitched me what he wanted to do with the series. And miraculously, in fifteen minutes, he’d pitched me all 13 stories for each episode, and I was just sat there saying ‘Wow, that’s quite a lot.’  And it was just so exciting to hear, to be honest, and I just wanted to bring my enthusiasm to bear to make all those ideas come to life, in the most ambitious way that we could.”

While chatting, Karen shared a problem she had with the many deaths of Rory Williams:  “Each time, I have to invent a sort of new ‘death reaction.’  What am I going to do now?”  She didn’t have any such problems filming her final scenes.  “It not even acting, it’s just real. And it was honestly, just one of the most powerful feelings, and I just related it to how I genuinely felt.  [that scene] was fairly far along in the shooting, but our very last scene was kind of an insignificant one, just us getting into the TARDIS, going ‘bye!’ But it became significant, cause it was the last time were going into the TARDIS together. So Matt closed the door, and we were in total darkness, and we all had a massive hug in the dark.  And I cried, and milked it for all it was worth. It was amazing.”

Of all the episodes she’s filmed, Karen still considered The Eleventh Hour to be her favorite. “There was a particular magic to that episode. We were introducing the characters and establishing their relationship for the first time, and it was all so exciting.  Actually, my favorite scene doesn’t even involve me at all, it’s the fish/custard scene, with my little cousin (Caitlin Blackwood) and Matt.”

Karen’s met some very wonderful fans, but had a couple stories about a couple that…stuck in her mind. One was a fellow who had actually had his name changed to “River Song”, and dressed as her for the convention, and a second fellow from Australia who had customized his house to a Doctor Who theme – “He had a TARDIS elevator, the gates had the logo – it had to cost some money.”

All three of the guests agreed that filming in New York City was a wonderful experience. “We filmed in Central Park and had hundreds of fans,” Matt recalls, “following us. It was remarkable, like nothing I’d ever witnessed before.”  Karen agreed – ” Just to contain the excitement of being in Central Park was a challenge. We didn’t have any sort of security, we didn’t think anything like [hundreds of fans] was going to happen. But what was really nice is everybody respected the shooting, they were really quiet, and the they said ‘Cut,’ and it was all ‘Sign my TARDIS!'”  Caroline explained, “When we shoot in the UK, we’ll get quite a few people following us around, and the fan base absolutely adore the show.  But in my career, I’ve never known anything…I don’t think anyone had prepared themselves for what shooting in New York would be like. Least of all, our producers here in New York, who had done various movies here, and they’re all saying, ‘Caro, I don’t mean to be funny, but you’ve got twice as many people as Julia Roberts here!’ Just a wonderful experience.  We had maybe twenty, thirty people in central park in the morning, and the crowd just grew, and by the end, we were shooting at a big fountain, and we could hardly hold the people back.  And the sheer love and passion for the show was in the air, and it made the entire experience so special.

Indeed, Caroline called Angels in Manhattan the most challenging episode of this front half of the season.  “Challenging for Steven because he’s written the most beautiful and heartbreaking exit story and there are some scenes in there that just so absolutely emotional.  It’s an enormous thing to change companions, and you absolutely have to get that story right.  And at the same time, we wanted to make the New York setting as resonant as we possibly could, and really make it feel to every detail, that we’d set it over here.  And we did, we came here.  We worked incredibly hard to get to get out and about to every New York landmark that we could, but more so to create that sort of noirish atmosphere that shooting in this city is so famous for.  To make the story feel as beautiful as it possibly could do.

As for next year, which will of course be 2013, the fiftieth anniversary year for the series.  “All I can say at this point”, said Caroline, guardedly, “Is that next year i going to be the biggest year of Doctor Who, bar none.  I spent a lot of my time in strange underground rooms, with senior people at the BBC, and talking about what we might do. And not just on television; but other things, cause obviously Doctor Who has a lot of live events. So there are many plans afoot, which are all wonderful, and are all absolutely top secret.”

Writing for science fiction is always a challenge, as eventually someone has to ask how much things will cost, and that’s ultimately Caroline’s job.  “We are treated very nicely by the BBC, but it’s always, whatever show you do, however big of small the budget is, you always want more.  The thing we do on Doctor Who, as much as we possibly can do, is to let writers write exactly what they want, and then try not to cut anything,  What you tend to get, in a Doctor Who script, is if it doesn’t, in terms of the production challenges, within it, in terms of location, in terms of special effects, just sheer story-based ambition…if it doesn’t scare you, as well as the monsters, we’re none of us are working hard enough.”

Later that evening, Matt and Karen arrived at the Ziegfeld theater in twin DeLoreans, to the sound of the cheering crowds, and of reality folding in upon itself.  The episode itself was met with delight by the audience, and as the trio were so earnest in their requests to keep it all a secret (especially the BIG where where…ok, sorry), well, who are we to refuse them.  suffice to say we learn about a great deal more about how Daleks think, how they treat their failures, and what they see as beautiful.  The question and answer session was filled with laughs as, among other things, we learned that Matt had to help Karen zip up her dress (“Twice!”), the cast think that Peter Sellers and Bill Nighy would make great Doctors, and in answer to a young girl who asked “Why does Amy always get in trouble?”, Karen simply answered “Well, she’s a risk-taker”.  Matt shared a story about his Mum, who was with him at the premiere (and was received with great cheers). She’s quite the fan of the series herself, and when they were looking for the new Doctor, she sent him a text saying “You should be the new Doctor”, and he had already gotten cast, and couldn’t even tell her.  So if he’s that good at keeping secrets, surely the 1,200 member of the audience can keep schtum for a week.

Asylum of the Daleks premieres September 1st at 9PM EDT on BBC America.  Check you local listing, especially in HD as several major cable and satellite carries have recently added the BBC America HD channel to their lineups.

Doctor Who Series premieres on 9/1 in US and UK; prologue web mini-series starts 8/27

The Eleventh Doctor and Amy PondDoctor Who fans don’t have to hold it anymore. The Great Question has been answered.  No, not the one about Life, The Universe and Everything, or even the one that will be asked on the Fields of Trenzilor at the Fall Of The Eleventh.  The BIG question – “When will Doctor Who premiere?”

And the answer is, September 1st.  And it’s the SAME answer whether you live in America or the UK, with only a slight variance in detail.  In the UK, the premiere episode Asylum of the Daleks will broadcast at 7:20 PM, and in the states at 9 PM, EDT.

The episode has already seen its premiere in the UK via a gala celebration, and will see its US premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York City on August 25th.  Tickets for the NYC event sold out in under half an hour, the rush of hopeful fans crashing the Movietickets.com website.

Over and above the welcome news of the premiere, the big surprise was that the premiere will be preceded by a five-part webisode mini series.  The story, entitled “Pond Life”, will feature Amy and Rory PondWilliams attempting to live a normal life, outside the TARDIS.  The synopsis of Asylum suggests that said normal life may not be going too smoothly. Series stars Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill discuss the mini-adventure on the BBC Website.

The episodes, written by Chris Chibnall, will be released one day, starting Monday, August 27th on the BBC website.  They’ll also be made available in the UK, via BBC’s interactive “Red Button” service.  Plans are proceeding on how the episodes will be released by BBC America— look for an update soon.

These webisodes are a continuation of the episode prequels from the previous season, each of which featured a brief extra scene from several episodes of the series.  These prequels were included on the later video releases, it’s presumed this mini-series will also appear in this season’s set.

In honor of this surprise, Your Humble Reporter has crafted a suggested logo for the mini-series, inspired by a popular Britcom which starred a number of actors who later appeared on Doctor Who:

(Update: yes, 9/1, not 8/1 as we originally had in the headline. We’re dumb.)

Mindy Newell: Doctor ????

Who’s your favorite Doctor?

I discovered the Time Lord back in the late 1970s (I think), when WNET, the New York PBS station, started running the Tom Baker episodes. Baker’s Doctor, with his floppy-brimmed hat, outback duster, and loonnnng, multi-colored, scarf – did Granny Who knit it for him? – was the itinerant cosmic hobo. Only instead of hopping the rails, he “tripped the light fantastic” across the universe in the TARDIS. Companions Sara Jane Smith (the late Elisabeth Sladen) and Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter) were – seen with the advantage of hindsight –sort of “Mulder/Scully” prototypes, with Sara Jane as the believing Mulder and Harry as the skeptic. I can’t say that the British military operations called UNIT – Unified Intelligence Taskforce – was the FBI, although Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart did sort of act like the Assistant Director Walter Skinner, walking the high-wire tightrope between helping the Doctor and answering to his superiors.

Like every other Whovian, I mourned – and was really pissed off – when the BBC stopped producing the series.

And like every other Whovian with Cablevision, I watched the relaunch of Doctor Who on Sci-Fi, with Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor and Billy Piper – the call girl of The Secret Diary Of A Call Girl on Showtime – as his companion, Rose Tyler. I really got into Eccleston as the Doctor, and was incredibly disappointed when he chose to leave the role after only one season…until David Tennant took over the controls of the TARDIS and the wielding of the sonic screwdriver. Like Rose, I fell in love with Tennant’s Doctor.

And I was deeply upset when, after five years, Tennant left. The love story between the Doctor and Rose added new and deep emotional resonance to the series and I didn’t want their tale to end.  So I was stubbornly anti-Matt Smith as the as romanticism and emotional I was not prepared to like Matt Smith as the Doctor’s eleventh reincarnation. I thought his introduction was stupid and boring, not funny, going though young Amy Pond’s refrigerator and kitchen pantry, tasting everything, spitting out everything.

But then….

Bow ties are cool. So are fezzes.

The absolute brilliance – imho – of Smith’s first season as the Time Lord, and the introduction of Amy Pond as, first, a young girl, and then as a grown woman (Karen Gillan), with the addition of Amy’s fiancée-now-husband Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) won me over by the second episode.

Last night I watched The Science Of Doctor Who, which, like its predecessors The Science Of Star Wars and The Science Of Star Trek, explored how the show has influenced the scientists of today in making the science fiction of the Doctor science reality. Today I trolled BBC America’s Doctor Who web pages, watching sneak previews and reading about catching up on all things Whovian. Including the news that Gillan and Darvill will be exiting the show, and that it may have something to do with the Weeping Angels – to my mind the scariest and creepiest aliens to ever appear on Doctor Who. Yes, much more than the Daleks or the Cybermen.

But I do have one question.

Can someone please, please tell me when Season 7 starts?

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold and Cold Ennui