Friday, May 27, 2011

The Repeated Meme: The Almost People

Idea Proposed and Used to Death during the Classic Era: Doubles. Particularly of the Doctor. The Chase, The Massacre, Meglos, Mawdryn Undead (sort of), Black Orchid (sort of), Arc of Infinity...

Central Premise Recycled From: There's one hell of a lot of Alien: Resurrection in this one; the monster-Jennifer chase down the corridor is pure homage, but the tough female leader with a secret terminal illness and the whole alien-or-human identity crisis. Setting it in a monastery also recalls the religious subtext to the story (when properly done, that is, not the bowdlerised cinematic version). Androids, or something like them, which are indistinguishable from humans. Plus the idea that the Company is up to something deeply unethical that needs exposing.

Reference to Moffat's Back Catalogue: Small child, asking "where's my father?"

Amy Screws Up the day with Wuv: The last five minutes are one serious Screwup with Wuv, though how, and what the Wuv involved, are for the cliffhanger.

Joss Whedon Called...: He wants back his surprise twist where it turns out one of the main characters isn't who or what you thought they were (q.v. Dollhouse, or am I stretching this one too far? Don't answer that).

And from Lawrence Miles: A woman who drops her jaw and swallows a man? Sort of like the TARDIS in Alien Bodies.

Murray Goldwatch: Strike up the bland!

Nostalgia UK: That mock-regeneration sequence bit, arguably.

Inside Jokes: Ben Aaronovitch once wrote a Virgin novel called The Also People. The Doctor's greatest-hits riff on his own past incarnations mirrors Logopolis; although "Reverse the polarity" and "would you like a jelly baby" are too cliched to be inside jokes, Hartnell's "one day we will return" is just obscure enough to count.

Teeth! Jennifer's got quite the mouth on her.

Hats! No, shoes! are cool this week. Also eyepatches are undergoing a revival.

Fish! No, though the fish and chips remark from last week gets a revisit.

Small Child! Wee Adam, the five-year-old boy who is willing to spend ten minutes on the phone waiting for his Dad to get done murdering himself. Plus an incipient Small Child in the last five minutes of the story.

Item Most Likely to Wind Up as a Toy: I was originally going to predict a limited-edition Amy Pond Possibly Up the Duff (same as the regular Amy Pond figure, only it comes with one of those little red-blue positive-negative icons), but now it looks like we just might get the Amy Pond in Labour playset, so I take that back.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Repeated Meme: The Rebel Flesh

Idea Proposed and Used to Death during the RTD Era: Seriously, doesn't this feel like the distilled essence of RTD-era Base-under-Siege stories? It's equal parts "The Impossible Planet," "42" and "The Waters of Mars," plus echoes of the Master duplicating himself endlessly in the Era Finale. Also the Sontarans apparently got hold of some of that Flesh stuff.

Central Premise Recycled From: "The Impossible Planet," as mentioned. More philosophically, there's bits of The Thing, Blade Runner, Alien and The Death Guard in there.

Reference to Moffat's Back Catalogue: Surprisingly little this week, though we do get a quick Moffat Moppet, and surreal zombie creatures in spacesuits.

Amy Screws Up the day with Wuv: After the last two episodes, it's probably not surprising that Rory seems to be getting a bit up-close-and-personal with Ganger-Jennifer.

Joss Whedon Called...: He wants the philosophical concepts behind Dollhouse back. Oh, and Bioshock claim we've stolen their suits.

And from Lawrence Miles: People being reconstituted from a magic vat of fleshstuff, like in Interference.

Murray Goldwatch: Hits the heights of banality this week, with a distinctly Muzaklike tone to some of the non-leitmotif pieces. Or perhaps it's a comment on the alienating nature of manual labour?

Nostalgia UK: Casting Marshall Lancaster in a story about industrial unrest is just going to make everyone think of Life on Mars, you know.

Inside Jokes: Marshall Lancaster, above. There's a quick visual reference to Lady Cassandra in the sequence where Ganger-Jennifer emerges from the Flesh, and the Doctor shows his RTD-era fondness for climbing up spires. A monastery with an anachronistic record playing in it appeared in "The Time Meddler."

Teeth! More freaky-mouth action as a full-blown set of lips sprout out of the Flesh

Hats! None, but the suits have nifty Helmets.

Fish! The Doctor thinks Amy and Rory should go out for some. With chips.

Small Child! Ganger-Jennifer holds a picture of herself as a small child and reminisces about her early memories.

Item Most Likely to Wind Up as a Toy: The Gangers of course.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Alice and Wonderland

Temple Grandin: Biopic of the genius autistic animal behaviourist, which uses clever editing and animation sequences to convey how she perceives the world. Two takeaways: 1) it's amazing how much autism has normalised in the last thirty years, and 2) I'll never look at a cow the same way again.

A Town Like Alice: War-Britflick about a group of female British POW's, wandering around Malaya looking for a Japanese prisoner camp that would take them and dying of various tropical ailments and stress-related illnesses along the way. I know it's a classic, but I found it pretty unengaging.

Eyes Wide Shut: A film about a man who is convinced the world revolves around him, and then is extensively confronted with the fact that it doesn't. Slow, but also very beautiful and compelling, with Cruise and Kidman impeccably cast, and a haunting use of Christmas tree lights to convey atmosphere.

What a Whopper: Adorable teen comedy from an era that tends to get forgotten by popular culture, i.e. the early 1960s, when Britain was in transition from Austerity to Grooviness. Where else would you find a romantic subplot involving a radiophonic musician, Charles Hawtrey and Sid James before they got typecast, girls in underwear which contains more fabric than most modern outer clothing, Spike Milligan as a tramp on the Serpentine--and a couple of postmodern touches to remind us that the mad self-referential films of the late Sixties are only a few years away? Plus, it was written by Terry Nation. If you're feeling down, go buy it on Amazon and enjoy.

Movie count for 2011: 74

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Repeated Meme: The Doctor's Wife

Idea Proposed and Not Used During the JNT Era: The Doctor's Wife. Look, JNT was just baiting the press with that one, stop taking it seriously.

Central Premise Recycled From: "Edge of Destruction." No, really, think about it. Also quirky malevolent aliens naming themselves after family members is straight out of "The Family of Blood."

Reference to Moffat's Back Catalogue: Doctor having romantic relationship with woman who Understands Him Like No One Else Does, but is doomed, and gets his companions out of the way to do it. Rory makes yet another reference to his now-nonexistant life as a Nestene. Also, from this season (already), companions going all timey-wimey and graffitiing messages as a consequence.

Amy Saves the day with Wuv: Actually the theme this year seems increasingly to be Amy Failing to Save the Day with Wuv, as the incident with Rory aging to death seems to indicate that Rory's got a few abandonment issues.

Joss Whedon Called...: He wants his patchwork people made out of bits of demons/aliens back.

And from Lawrence Miles: The TARDIS is a human girl. Plus Idris says "it's About Time" at one point.

Murray Goldwatch: The "Da-da-da, da-da-da-da-da" theme comes in about 26 minutes in, and we also get some Carmina-Burana-by-way-of-The-Phantom-Menace choir action during the running around corridors.

Nostalgia UK: Neil Gaiman counts, unfortunately. But apparently Tardis consoles include a "retroscope."

Inside Jokes: The Doctor's Wife, and "it's About Time!" see above. The episode starts off with what sounds like a reference to "The Androids of Tara," but it turns out to be a fake-out. The Doctor asserting that he's rebuilt the console before is probably a Pertwee Era reference. There's a shaving mirror on the jury-rigged console, and a reference to the Eye of Orion as a holiday spot. Idris' babble is taken from Dalek Sec, which is itself taken from Ghost Light (which is a clear massive influence on this story). The original Celestial Toymaker story featured a malevolent Aunt and Uncle. Opening a door through telepathic visualisation is from the novelisation of The Doomsday Weapon.

Teeth! Idris is bitey.

Hats! Some pretty good examples on Auntie and Uncle, plus Idris' wig.

Fish! "Like fish fingers!" "Oh, do fish have fingers?" Idris taking the mick.

Small Child! Not a literal one, but the Auntie-Uncle-Nephew setup has a metaphorical one in Nephew.

Item Most Likely to Wind Up as a Toy: Idris, naturally. Though you can already make your own custom Nephew figure by painting the eyes of an Ood figurine with glow-in-the-dark green paint.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Worst Episode of Deep Space 9 Ever

Fight Club: Another of these Generation-X-defining films, about young men feeling alienated by the postmodern, post-ideological, consumer-driven zeitgeist of the late 1990s, spending too much time on airplanes and, with no ideological cause to rally round bar self-help groups, becoming drawn into an anarchic rebellion-as-therapy movement, with boxing clubs and bombing raids becoming a kind of self-actualisation process. Although some of the film feels a bit pre-September-11th, unfortunately a lot of the alienation and consumerised stagnation it portrays are still with us-- and indeed, now that the credit bubble has burst, in need of urgent resolution.

Waltz With Bashir: Animated film about post-traumatic stress syndrome, as the filmmaker/protagonist attempts to recapture his blocked memories of the 1982 Lebanon War, and in particular his witnessing of a massacre at a refugee camp. The nature of the animation and the soundtrack of frenetic electronica gives it a suitably nightmarish feel, while the climactic account of the massacre is a case study in how atrocities start and then keep going because nobody has the nerve to say "stop!"

Brideshead Revisited: A why-bother film. Pretty much all of the good bits were the ones which most resembled the TV adaption, and pretty much all of its problems were things which the TV adaptation was able to resolve (the short length of the film, for instance, meant that interesting characters like Anthony Blanche only get a spit and a cough, the casting of the Flyte siblings was all wrong, with Sebastian too uncharismatic and camp and Julia too beautiful and confident, and the frame story of Ryder's military service contributed nothing). This is a story which needs slow development, not the blockbuster treatment.

Movie count for 2011: 69

Sunday, May 08, 2011

The Repeated Meme: The Last Saskatchewan Pirate

Idea Proposed and Used to Death by Walt Disney: Pirates. Look, anything you do will be compared to Pirates of the Carribbean one way or another, so either a) roll with it and get as silly and "arr me hearties" as you can, or b) go against type and play it nasty, gritty, and filthy, sort of like The Oneidin Line with more gore and grime.

Central Premise Recycled From: "The Stones of Blood." Only Cessair of Diplos was at least more camp.

Reference to Moffat's Back Catalogue: Moffat Moppet aside, the idea of a spaceship whose crew are dead and one of its computer routines is kidnapping random people is pure "The Girl in the Fireplace," while the purpose behind the mermaid's activities is from the resolution to "the Doctor Dances." Plus, there's a Black Spot on people's hands exactly where the Red Spot was in "Day of the Moon"-- couldn't they have waited a bit before recycling?

Amy Saves the day with Wuv: Rory, despite his medical training, is convinced that Amy's Wuv will be enough to allow her to do competent CPR. Mind you, since it seems working as a kissogram girl has qualified her to do competent swordfighting, he might not be far wrong.

Joss Whedon Called...: No, actually, he didn't.

And from Lawrence Miles: The eighteenth-century setting, arguably. A more likely candidate is the Doctor's remark about "alien bogies" (as a pun on Alien Bodies).

Murray Goldwatch: Nul points for the "ahahahahaaaaaa" siren chorus, sort of like "The Phantom of the Opera" without the tune.

Nostalgia UK: Pirates. Who did once used to be a real problem for the British Navy, but by the time of Gilbert and Sullivan, J.M. Barrie etc., were panto-fodder. Like these ones.

Inside Jokes: More "Warrior's Gate" references as regards mirrors being used as transdimensional gateways.

Teeth! On the mermaid! Whenever she goes to red.

Hats! Tricorns are cool.

Fish! The Doctor describes the mermaid as "a green singing shark in an evening gown" (they should have gone with that image, not Lily Cole).

Small Child! Toby. The least said, the better.

Item Most Likely to Wind Up as a Toy: Wouldn't a glow-in-the-dark mermaid be cool? Unfortunately we're probably just going to get Hugh Bonneville with a small child instead.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

The Funny Pages

Enchanted: Enchanting. Outrageously cute Disney self-parody which affectionately takes the mick out of princess films, featuring a cartoon fairytale princess who finds herself, through a malign enchantment, in modern New York-- and yet still retaining fairytale-princess traits like the ability to summon cute animals (cue Snow-White inspired sequence where she cleans up a flat with the aid of pigeons, rats and cockroaches) and inspire musical set-pieces (there's a production number in Central Park which manages to be funnier than the dancing cutlery number from Beauty and the Beast). But while it has the obvious Disney message that everyone needs a "bit of fairytale magic" in their lives, there's a less-obvious message that fairytale people also need a dose of reality.

Superman Returns: Continuation, or possibly greatest-hits compilation, of the 1970s/80s Superman films (and sharing their slight confusion over when they are set, featuring as they do a strange mix of Seventies and 2000s aesthetic features). It's more in the serious Richard Donner than the silly Richard Lester mode, but this isn't really to its credit, as it's overlong and boring, with Kevin Spacey's Lex Luthor lacking the sense of OTT fun of the Gene Hackmann version.

Movie Count for 2011: 66