Sunday, June 28, 2015

Aragon vs. Anderson: A Town Called Mercy




Now that I have a few minutes free, I thought I'd go back to one of my great passions...bashing The Whorist (or as it's generally known, The Nerdist), in particular their Doctor Who reviews by one Kyle Anderson.

Mr. Anderson (now doesn't that sound sinister) in my view, has rarely if ever met a Doctor Who post-Rose story that he hasn't loved.  I don't mean liked.  I mean L-O-V-E-D, to where that particular episode is the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time...until the next episode when THAT becomes the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time.  It's gotten to be almost a point of parody to see how Anderson rarely finds fault with a Doctor Who episode.  I don't mean just to nitpick on a few things.  I mean give a bona-fide negative review.  Even I, someone who has been vociferous in my condemnation for many NuWho episodes, do admit when I see a good one (like Flatline or Mummy on the Orient Express).  Anderson, however, will almost always find something to wax rhapsodic about, even on something as atrocious as In the Forest of the Night

I was intrigued by this, so a little research was required.  I went as far back as I could regarding Anderson's Doctor Who reviews, and the earliest one I could find was the Series/Season Six opener, The Impossible Astronaut.  What I've done is taken Kyle Anderson's review verbatim, and offered my own 'translation' to the text to see what Anderson is, in my view, really saying.  I also throw in my own thoughts as to what is being said.

I hope this will be a fun and informative journey into the strange mind of the Functioning Nerd.

I present Part 14 of The Nerdist as Whore: A Town Called Mercy.  My 'translations' are in red.



It has been said elsewhere that the TARDIS is not simply a time and space machine; it is also a genre machine: Step out of its familiar blue doors and enter any kind of story the writer’s mind can concoct.

Given the recent spate of NuWho writers, one shudders at what will happen next.

With “Asylum of the Daleks,” we had horror; with “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship,” we had comedy; and now with “A Town Called Mercy,” we have, ostensibly, a Western. Sort of.

With "Asylum of the Daleks," we had a horrible episode; with "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship," we had an embarrassment; and now with "A Town Called Mercy," we have, ostensibly, a clichéd Western. 

In the entire nearly-50 year history of the show, there has only been one other attempt at the Western, the First Doctor story “The Gunfighter,” a serial that was mostly a comedy despite the OK Corral setting and quite a well-shot gunfight to go with it.

Maybe I shouldn't quibble on the fact that the First Doctor story has been given the overarching title The Gunfighters (plural), not The Gunfighter (singular) as Anderson maintains.  I'm sure it was a typo (and we've all had them).  The Gunfighters (plural) was the last Classic Doctor Who story to have individual titles for episodes, and the next story, the now-lost four-parter The Savages, began the tradition of having "Episode 1", etc. for the rest of the series' original run.  I suppose it was comic, but by goodness was The Gunfighters a dreadful Doctor Who story.  If I'm honest, A Town Called Mercy is actually BETTER than The Gunfighters, especially with that damn Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon playing an average of once every three minutes!  The song was played or heard 34 times in around two hours...a horrible ditty that would cause screaming frenzies to the hearer.  If only THIS story were lost...

It’s difficult, I’d imagine, for a show as supremely British as Doctor Who to tackle something as supremely American (or Italian) as the Western. “A Town Called Mercy” has all the physical trappings that one would immediately point to as belonging to the Cowboy movie, but there was something strangely missing, something that WAS present in “Dinosaurs.”

For all the sets and costumes and settings, this is the second time Doctor Who bombs with a Western setting.  Maybe they should leave those to The Duke, not The Doctor. 

Landing in the middle of nowhere in the 1880s, the Doctor, Amy, and Rory come across a town called Mercy (get it?!?)

Yes, I thought it was pretty stupid too.

which is surrounded by rocks and logs creating a perimeter. Upon entering the saloon and pronouncing himself, the townsfolk run him out as a mysterious cyborg called “The Gunslinger” teleports ever-closer.

Obviously, the citizens of Mercy are Classic Who fans who can no longer endure Matt Smith.

The town’s marshal, Isaac (guest star Ben Browder), saves the Doctor and takes them all to his office, where he’s introduced to the OTHER Doctor, Kahler Jex, the town’s benevolent physician who is being pursued by the Gunslinger. Taking a visit to Jex’s spaceship (which was not in the plan), the Doctor discovers that Jex and others were responsible for genetically-engineering their own people to be the perfect weapons, which ended the Kahler’s 9-year war in a week. Knowing Kahler to be a war criminal that has perpetuated hundreds of atrocities, the Doctor decides to push him out of the town for the Gunslinger to kill. The Doctor claims that he won’t let more people die because of his “mercy,” the same mercy he’s shown to the Daleks, the Master, and many others time and time again.

Oh sure, he has no problem letting the Master live, the Daleks live, all these villains he's been fighting all these years, but now all of a sudden he's going to throw the guy who saved Mercy from cholera to the Terminator...I mean, Gunslinger. 

The real conflict of the episode exists within the Doctor. He can’t wrap his brain around Jex being both a butcher and a savior, and it’s his own inner turmoil about having done the same thing during the Time War (though it’s never spoken out loud) that makes him react the way he does.

TIME WAR?  WHAT "TIME WAR"?

After Isaac is killed (he should have been in it much longer)

Agreed.

by the Gunslinger, accidentally of course,

Of course.

the Doctor becomes the marshal and must find a way to save Jex without the entirety of Mercy being slaughtered by the Gunslinger in the process.

I guess that answers the age-old question, "Who died and made you Marshal?"

Now, as I said, on the surface, this is a Western in the traditional sense; it takes place in a totally deserted small town; there is a town lawman who is the moral authority of the place; there’s horses and guns and Stetsons; and there’s even a showdown at High Noon.

We've got all the accoutrements of what a Western is supposed to look like, right down to a showdown at High Noon.  Talk about cliché overload!  He forgot to mention the shady ladies, which I figure given the town was essentially on lockdown would have come in handy in Mercy. 

Shooting the episode in Almeria, Spain, in one of the very standing towns built for Sergio Leone’s Italian Westerns of the ’60s (not to mention a few dozen thereafter) added an air of legitimacy to the look and the visual style of the episode.

It certainly made a lot more sense than when John Nathan-Turner sent the crew to Seville to shoot The Two Doctors despite there being no point to the setting...or the story really, but I digress.

They even got a genuine American in the form of Browder, someone with sufficient geek cred to boot, to be the marshal.

I guess...not having seen Browder in anything, I am not in a position to 'geek out' at a guest appearance.  I had to look who he was up, and yes, I've never seen either Farscape or Stargate SG-1.  I can say that Browder's Marshal would have made a better Companion than Amy and What's-His-Name, but like The God Complex's Rita and both Riddell and Nefertiti from Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, good Companion material is tossed in favor of The Bitch and The Wimp.  NuWho is too terrified to have a Companion a.) from Earth's past, b.) from Earth's future, and/or c.) not from Earth.  Instead, we're stuck with 21-Century foxes...

They certainly did everything they could to make us all think we were watching a real, honest-to-goodness Horse Opera.

Complete with Talking Horses (in a roundabout way)!

But, Toby Whithouse’s script lacked the most important element: a bad guy. Seems easy, doesn’t it? And they certainly had a character who LOOKED like the bad guy, but he wasn’t.

 
 
LOOK!  I FOUND A BAD GUY! 
 
I absolutely love Westerns, so please forgive me this brief history.

Allow me to show off, because you, Nerdist readers, are either too stupid or ignorant of Westerns to understand the subtleties of the genre.  Also, I have to lengthen the review while not mentioning all the awful things about it.  

Hollywood Westerns generally had a good guy, a “White Hat,” who was often a sheriff or a marshal and they and possibly a few deputies or other helpers defended their town from the “Black Hats,” or bad guys. You’ll find this in movies like Rio Bravo or My Darling Clementine. In the case of something like High Noon, which at least partly inspired this episode, the sheriff is on his own as the town has essentially turned its back on him, but he still defends them. In all of these films, the key is that the good guy is defending the town and its people from bad guys who want to do bad things.

The other variation is an heroic stranger who comes through town and, though perhaps he doesn’t want to, he defends the town out of nothing but duty. The best example of this is Shane. With Spaghetti Westerns (or Westerns made by Italian filmmakers for Italian/Spanish/West German audiences), the tropes became a lot more cynical. The “White Hat” didn’t wear a white hat and wasn’t overly good, usually helping people out of his own desire for money, which is the case in movies like A Fistful of Dollars and Django. The “Black Hats,” however, couldn’t have been more evil, often committing really horrifying and violent acts with a delight that caused many of these films to be censored in a lot of places, especially the UK.



Oh, Robert Osborne, where art thou?

I give you this context so that I may make this point: All of these Westerns have a very clear, discernible, and reprehensible villain.


DO THEY NOW?
ALL Westerns, Mr. Anderson?

In this, there are two possible villains, each with a point of view that is, if not condonable, at least understandable. It went along okay for a bit; the Gunslinger was scary and seemingly unstoppable and the nice alien doctor was the innocent victim of his unexplained wrath. Then, we find out that Jex has done inhumane and deadly experiments in an effort to win a war, not unlike Davros when he created the Daleks. Our sympathy then switches from the doctor to the Gunslinger. Revenge stories are one of the most powerful and prevalent in the Western genre. However, we’re meant, through the Doctor’s conversations with both Amy and Jex, to come down on the side that there are no black and whites in any situation.

Moral ambiguity.  Works in real life.  In Westerns, not so much...like in Unforgiven.

This is the problem.

Yeah, because A Town Called Mercy was EXCELLENT apart from that...

This story BADLY needed a villain.

This story BADLY needed a villain...and a hero...and good actors...and a good script...

Not just to fulfill its Western roots, but to give it some kind of tension. This type of setting needs certain constants. Either Jex or the Gunslinger had to be a true villain, and since both somewhat redeemed themselves by the end, it made everything that came before it happen in vain. I understand this is what Whithouse was going for, making us not side with anyone outright; fine, I get that. But this comes only one week after an episode that, for all its zaniness, had an unbelievably evil villain who would have been perfect in a story like this. And, if the point was that the Doctor should be above revenge or killing no matter how justified, then why show us that immediately after he allows Solomon to be taken out entirely for doing essentially the same thing that Jex did.

Oh, you want consistency in Doctor Who?  You want logic in Doctor Who?  My dear Kyle, haven't you heard...

If the Doctor’s going to learn the lesson that killing is wrong regardless of motivation, then he needed to be defending someone as bad as Solomon, not himself.

This could have, and I think should have been a Good/Bad/Ugly setup, with the Doctor representing the “Good,” Jex representing the “Bad,” and the Gunslinger representing the “Ugly.” As it stands, we had a Pretty Good/Fairly Bad/Somewhat Ugly setup and it just didn’t work.

OMG...did Kyle Anderson say something on Doctor Who didn't work?  Where art thou, Captain Renault?

Westerns, at least in the early days, were morality plays that worked because the hero had to be faced with ultimate villainy. This tried to be a morality play where everyone was basically the same. The Doctor refused to hurt anybody, Jex repented his past crimes, and the Gunslinger didn’t want innocents to be in the way. There are no stakes at this point. When nobody is doing anything at each other, it becomes a pretty boring Mexican standoff. How boring is it?

It's so boring they can only afford One God...I mean, even I fell asleep at it!

The resolution comes when one person kills themselves and is said to have done the “honorable” thing. Clearly, Toby Whithouse hasn’t seen as many Westerns as I’d have thought if he thinks someone committing suicide would ever have been seen as the high road in a John Ford film. Sacrifice? Sure, but not suicide.

Suicide as the 'honorable' thing.  Such a British mindset, innit? 

At any rate, this was my main problem with the show.

Not the 'talking horse' shit, right?  That was peachy-keen. 

It wasn’t a Western and it wasn’t an adventure; basically, it squandered the fantastic location and some more phenomenal direction by Saul Metzstein. Even Murray Gold, who I’m not the hugest fan of, got to play around with familiar themes. When the Doctor rides away on Joshua/Susan, the music cue is very reminiscent of The Magnificent Seven. It’s just kind of a shame. This was a very dull episode.

Kyle Anderson recognizing that a Doctor Who episode in general and A Town Called Mercy in particular was dull? 

 
In the words of Phineas Fogg, perhaps I should 'curtail the jubilation'.  This might be his traditional "one negative review per season" routine, and next time he'll be back to telling me how he loved that particular episode.  However, given how often he said, and I quote, "I'm quite looking forward" to A Town Called Mercy, maybe, just this once, the disappointment is genuine. 

Next week, we’re going back to Chris Chibnall already for “The Power of Three,” which I know very little about and am extremely intrigued by given the trailer. Check it out!

Thank Heavens this nightmare is over, and now on to an episode I know very little about but which I'm going to gush over ad nauseam. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Aragon vs. Anderson: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship



Now that I have a few minutes free, I thought I'd go back to one of my great passions...bashing The Whorist (or as it's generally known, The Nerdist), in particular their Doctor Who reviews by one Kyle Anderson.

Mr. Anderson (now doesn't that sound sinister) in my view, has rarely if ever met a Doctor Who post-Rose story that he hasn't loved.  I don't mean liked.  I mean L-O-V-E-D, to where that particular episode is the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time...until the next episode when THAT becomes the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time.  It's gotten to be almost a point of parody to see how Anderson rarely finds fault with a Doctor Who episode.  I don't mean just to nitpick on a few things.  I mean give a bona-fide negative review.  Even I, someone who has been vociferous in my condemnation for many NuWho episodes, do admit when I see a good one (like Flatline or Mummy on the Orient Express).  Anderson, however, will almost always find something to wax rhapsodic about, even on something as atrocious as In the Forest of the Night

I was intrigued by this, so a little research was required.  I went as far back as I could regarding Anderson's Doctor Who reviews, and the earliest one I could find was the Series/Season Six opener, The Impossible Astronaut.  What I've done is taken Kyle Anderson's review verbatim, and offered my own 'translation' to the text to see what Anderson is, in my view, really saying.  I also throw in my own thoughts as to what is being said.

I hope this will be a fun and informative journey into the strange mind of the Functioning Nerd.

I present Part 13 of The Nerdist as Whore: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.  My 'translations' are in red.




I have to confess; when I heard the title of episode two of Series 7 of Doctor Who was to be “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship,” I was a bit cautious.

I have to confess: when I heard the title of episode tow of Series 7 of Doctor Who was to be "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship," I thought what we all did: this is going to be beyond stupid.

Seemed a very silly title, the likes of which we haven’t seen in the show, save, of course, “Let’s Kill Hitler.”

Never mind the already silly title, what kind of plot could they develop out of it?

After the first teaser and even the full trailer for the episode aired, I was still a bit wary.

After the first teaser and even the full trailer for the episode aired, I was still convinced that this would be a disaster, something the show could ill afford given just how bad it's sinking (and how much further it has to sink, like the Titanic).

It just seemed ridiculous and Doctor Who isn’t, traditionally, known for pulling off broad comedy.

"Hear that, Ian? Doctor Who can't pull off comedy."
"You know Babs, there are fools who think
Kyle Anderson is an 'analytical critic'".
"Oh, Doctor, how droll..."


It needed to have something besides people just running around a spaceship after dinosaurs.

Because if Doctor Who is lacking in something, it's in running around spaceships...when aliens aren't invading Earth.  Of course, we DO get people just running around a spaceship after dinosaurs, but why bother with pesky bits of information?

Having now seen the episode, I find that there is a much firmer grounding in storytelling than I had been expecting, but it was basically just running around a spaceship. Yet, you know what? That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Having now seen the episode, I find that there is no amount of fawning I won't do for a bit of green.  So what if it was basically just running around a spaceship?  You know what?  I'd watch forty-two minutes of a test pattern and declare it the Citizen Kane of television and greater than Caves of Androzani, if Moffat told me to. 


The Doctor Who fan community doesn’t have much of a high opinion of Chris Chibnall, the writer of “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.”

The Doctor Who fan community doesn't have much of a high opinion of Kyle Anderson, the writer of sycophantic reviews of stories like "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship".

I suspect most of this is to do with his being the head writer on the first two series of Torchwood, which I know some people love, but I thought were pretty much pants, with a few exceptions.

Never having seen the adventures of Captain Jack Harkness, or the Intergalatic Nymphomaniac, and having no interest in watching said adventures, I have no opinion on Torchwood

Still, Chibnall’s work on Who has been fine if nothing special.

Chris Chibnall is just OK.

Having written “42” in Series 3 (the one where the ship is crashing into the sun with the “Burn with me” stuff) and the Silurian two-parter, “The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood,” in Series 5, I’d say his work is passable if uneven.

Again, never saw 42, but I did like Cold Blood Parts 1 & 2 (even if it was repetitive of The Silurians, which was superior in every way).  Cold Blood also featured another Death of Rory What's-His-Name, but back then, it wasn't the nonsensical farce it's turned into.  I now my liking of Cold Blood Parts 1 & 2 puts me against the grain, but unlike Kyle, I not only stand by my views but don't write something to please others. 

His strong suits are definitely premise and atmosphere, but the actual stories tend to get muddied by the end. He also wrote all five parts of the recently-aired “Pond Life,” which in total couldn’t have been more than three pages long. Based on all of this, I think “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” is actually his best work on Doctor Who to date, which I know sounds like damning with faint praise.

Given how crappy his writing has been (particularly in regards to the Pond Life bits which made Asylum of the Daleks even more idiotic), Dinosaurs on a Spaceship is his best work on Doctor Who to date, which is damning with faint praise.  It's also a sad indicator of how wretched the show has become, to think a story about 'dinosaurs on a spaceship', particularly THIS one when others could have done more with the title, is already dreadful on its own. 

He definitely threw the kitchen sink into this story, populating it not only with dinosaurs but with prissy robots, historical guests, companion family members, pirates, missiles, and his old buddies the Silurians for good measure. And let’s not forget the whole “You have six hours to do something or this whole craft will be blown out of the sky.”

Using an old writing trick, Chibnall threw in all sorts of rubbish into the story and hoped that somehow people wouldn't notice how jumbled and chaotic everything was, let alone nonsensical.  We also got another standard plot device: the 'race against time'.

I was quite surprised at how much plot and story were actually involved.

I was quite surprised at how much garbage was thrown at us.

What I think saves this from being an over-complicated jumble of ideas is that he was actually, somehow, able to give each character their moment or two to shine and give them each a purpose.

Despite his general ineptness, he managed to make something that I thought wasn't a total fiasco.  Mind you, it IS a fiasco, but it was pretty.

If Chibnall does anything well, it’s creating situations where the characters have to split up into different groups, create their own dynamics, and solve their own problems before it’s all brought back together.

That is something the show has never tried before *cough* Keys of Marinus *cough*.

Does it 100% work? No; there is just a hair too many threads (see what I did there?) and it does a bit just become a silly romp, but sometimes the show can be a silly romp. It doesn’t have to be dark every time.

Given how Doctor Who doesn't generally pull of broad comedy, how now can the show be a silly romp?  Did I miss something?  We usually laugh AT the Eleventh Doctor, but this time we are meant to laugh on purpose.  I do have a little tip for aspiring comic Anderson: it isn't funny or clever if you have to point out how funny or clever it is. 

See what I did there?

A huge help and a genius move

The second time he's used 'genius' in regards to a Doctor Who episode in as many weeks...

was to get a really fantastic guest cast to play all these new supporting characters. It was important that they each have their own personality and charm so we enjoyed having them onscreen. Riann Steele playing Nefertiti was the only actor of whom I was completely unfamiliar, but I think she did quite a good job playing the very strong Egyptian queen.

Want to say that to my face, Kyle?
If I don't know who they are prior to the show, I really don't care, but I make exceptions for hot women.  I'm not going to begrudge this point: Steele was good in the role, but I have a feeling we've seen actresses play strong Egyptian queens before...Claudette Colbert, Elizabeth Taylor, Vivien Leigh.  Nothing against Steele, but I think these three ladies did a better job as Cleopatra (another very strong Egyptian queen) than Steele did as Nefertiti.

Rupert Graves (Lestrade in Sherlock) did a really fine job as the Edwardian man’s man Riddell. He didn’t get the most to do until the end of the episode, but, despite this, his character is very well-rounded, and pitting him opposite Nefertiti and Amy was really delightful.

Broken clock: Graves was good, though I had not seen Sherlock when I saw Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.  Therefore, I couldn't care what his other acting jobs were prior to this stint.

Mark Williams was a terrific choice to play Rory’s dad, Brian. It was a lot of fun seeing him play off of Arthur Darvill. My only complaint about how he was written is that his main quirk, being a homebody who doesn’t like to travel, was mentioned but not really explored as well as I’d have liked.

I'm not going to argue about Mark Williams or Brian "Pond". Yes, I know it's Brian Williams, but shouldn't I just go along with all this "the Ponds" business and call him Brian Pond, like so many NuWhovians? My only complaint about how he was written is that his main quirk, being a virtual recluse, was mentioned but not explored in a show that is already rushed.  Maybe I'm in the minority on this point, but I don't think being a homebody who doesn't like to travel is a 'quirk'. 

I’d bet there was more of him at home with the Ponds before the Doctor shows up, but those are usually the first things cut when episodes run long. Still, Williams, Darvill, and Matt Smith had really great chemistry in their scenes.

KYLE YOU DAMN BLOODY IDIOT!  "I'd bet there was more of him at home with THE PONDS"?  THE PONDS?  DID YOU NOT SEE THE EPISODE?!  RORY'S DAD TELLS THE DOCTOR OFF BY SHOUTING, "I AM NOT A POND!"  Why then do you refer to them as "the Ponds".  Ugh, stupid NuWhovian...

I was most struck by the story’s villains, Solomon, played by David Bradley, and his two easily-offended robot bodyguards, voiced by comedians David Mitchell and Robert Webb.

As my mother says, "they know them in THEIR houses"...

It’s been a really long while since the show’s had an honest-to-goodness villain who had no other preoccupation than his own greed and being nasty.

It's been a really long while since the show's had an actual antagonist worth our time and interest, one who is evil just because he is evil.

Sure, the Daleks and Cybermen are evil, but they have an ethos they’re perpetuating.

Sure, the Daleks and Cybermen are evil, but they have catchphrases they're perpetuating. 

Even Madame Kovarian had the master plan of the Silence driving her actions.

Whose 'master plan' no one ever fully understood or which was logical.

Solomon has no master plan or any belief structure to explain his actions; he’s just a mean, greedy SOB who literally has no problem killing anyone or anything that stops him from getting what he wants.



He kills a poor dinosaur, for Pete’s sake!

THE FIEND!


He was refreshing in a way; not a “The world is mine! Muahahahahah!” type of antagonist who I feel like we’ve seen way too much lately.

I'm trying to remember the last Bond villain to appear on Doctor Who, especially given how much Anderson loved Madame Kovarian and all her hijinks...

The robots were very funny, surely channeling the bickering three-headed knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but also proved to be quite deadly, and will do anything Solomon tells them to do.

The robots were very stupid, surely a waste of time and nowhere near the genius of Monty Python and the Holy Grail

I thought this story had some of the strongest characterizations of Amy and Rory we’ve seen yet. Amy basically being the de facto Doctor in her group, even referring to Riddell and Nefertiti as her companions, was bold.

We had confirmation of what we've known ever since Rose premiered: that the Companion was the star of Doctor Who, and the title character is really a supporting actor (so far) in his (so far) series. 

It’s nice to see that she’s actually grown and learned through her time spent with the Doctor. She’s come an incredibly long way since Series 5 in terms of maturity and ability to handle these situations.



Rory, likewise, has left his trepidations behind, taking things in stride and handling himself accordingly.

How long ago did Anderson declare Rory...Pond?  Williams?  Pond-Williams?  Williams-Pond?  a 'badass'?  Given that, how is it that he has 'left his trepidations behind' now, when he had faced down an army of Cybermen?  How soon they forget...

It’s especially nice to see how well Rory and the Doctor work together, like a real team and not just as two people fighting over Amy’s attention. The scene where Rory tends to his father’s wounds is quite nice and it makes me wish Brian had been a character earlier so we’d have been able to see their relationship before.

I get the sneaking suspicion that Brian Williams was an afterthought.  When did Rory What's-His-Name mention his family? 

As a whole, though, it’s really lovely to see the Doctor, Amy, and Rory working together, like a well-oiled machine even after the ten-month hiatus.

As a whole, though, it's really sad to see the Doctor, Amy, and Rory schlepping together like a lame horse no one wants to put down. 

Note: I can’t really confirm this, but I feel like this story takes place earlier in Amy and Rory’s timeline than Asylum of the Daleks. The fact that Amy’s wearing the same outfit she did in most of “Pond Life” and the way it seems there never had been any problems between them, or even mention of their last adventure, made me pause and think maybe this came before. Just a feeling I get; it might never come up again, but it’s just a theory I have. We’ll see.

"It might never come up again."  Oh, I think that's a pretty safe bet.

Now, for the story itself; there were things I quite liked, and things I didn’t.

There were things you didn't like?  Well, that IS a shock!

I thought the idea of the Silurians building an ark was very interesting, and totally in keeping with what we know of the very cautious Homo reptilia.

I declare myself Expert on All Things Silurian.

They were all about preserving themselves and surely, if they thought Earth would be uninhabitable, they’d have tried to go elsewhere.

Maybe it's just me, but if they had the ability to create rockets prior to the rise of Homo sapien, wouldn't they have tried to shoot down the Egg they thought was going to crash in on them?  Just a thought.

More importantly, it provided the story with a decent reason for their being M-Effing dinosaurs on an M-Effing spaceship.


That's right.  There was a decent reason for their being M-Effing dinosaurs on an M-Effing spaceship.  Whatever you say, Kyle.  Whatever you say... 

I would bet it’s controversial, but I also quite enjoyed the fact that the Doctor allowed it so Solomon’s ship would get blown up. This is a truly evil man who, if left unchecked, would probably cause untold more damage and might even wipe out another whole species. The only downside of this is that we won’t get Solomon as a recurring villain.

Broken clock: I thought Solomon would make for a good recurring antagonist, but given this is Doctor Who, can't a little timey-wimey bring him back from the dead?  I will say I don't see this as particularly controversial, but that's just me.

Stuff that didn’t sit well with me were the somewhat lazy things Chibnall does. First, why wouldn’t Brian know who the Doctor is? Presumably Brian had been at Amy and Rory’s wedding,

Presumably, unless he refused to go as a protest to his only son becoming Rory Pond.

and the Doctor did make a pretty memorable entrance to said party, so even if they hadn’t met, Brian would at least remember the weird guy in the blue box. This is never addressed, though, save Rory just saying, “Remember how we left after our wedding?” It just seems like a misstep on someone’s part.

Continuity.  Who needs it. 

Second, it was a bit too convenient that the Silurian ark could only be piloted by beings from the same “gene chain.” There wasn’t a logical reason for them to construct their vessel that way aside from getting Rory and Brian to work together, which they could have done anyway even without the necessity of family bonds.

Plot contrivances.  Who has it.

Third was the way that the ship’s teleporter worked some of the time and not other times, but only when it was helpful in the script for it to do so. Chibnall’s much better at creating things that happen than he is at reasons for them to happen.

Plot holes.  Who is full of them. 

Overall, I was actually fairly impressed by the episode.

SHOCKED that Kyle Anderson liked a
Doctor Who episode!

It was certainly better than I’d expected it to be and all the characters seemed to gel mostly well.

I got a nice bonus for peddling this particular piece of trash.  Either that, or I'm easily pleased.

It still was silly (they rode a damn Triceratops) but not offensively so and was much more enjoyable than it really had any right to be.

It went beyond being silly (they rode a damn Triceratops) to being openly offensive to those who think.

Probably Chibnall’s best. Not a great episode, but one I won’t mind watching again when the DVDs come out.

Not a great episode.  A pretty bad episode.  I have not seen Dinosaurs on a Spaceship since it first aired and have no desire to watch it again.

Next week is Toby Whithouse’s “A Town Called Mercy” which, as I’ve said countless times, I’m quite looking forward to. Here to whet your whistle is the next-time trailer.

As much as I dislike your idiotic, sycophantic reviews, Kyle, you're in for a BIG disappointment...

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Aragon vs. Anderson: Asylum of the Daleks



 

Now that I have a few minutes free, I thought I'd go back to one of my great passions...bashing The Whorist (or as it's generally known, The Nerdist), in particular their Doctor Who reviews by one Kyle Anderson.

Mr. Anderson (now doesn't that sound sinister) in my view, has rarely if ever met a Doctor Who post-Rose story that he hasn't loved.  I don't mean liked.  I mean L-O-V-E-D, to where that particular episode is the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time...until the next episode when THAT becomes the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time.  It's gotten to be almost a point of parody to see how Anderson rarely finds fault with a Doctor Who episode.  I don't mean just to nitpick on a few things.  I mean give a bona-fide negative review.  Even I, someone who has been vociferous in my condemnation for many NuWho episodes, do admit when I see a good one (like Flatline or Mummy on the Orient Express).  Anderson, however, will almost always find something to wax rhapsodic about, even on something as atrocious as In the Forest of the Night

I was intrigued by this, so a little research was required.  I went as far back as I could regarding Anderson's Doctor Who reviews, and the earliest one I could find was the Series/Season Six opener, The Impossible Astronaut.  What I've done is taken Kyle Anderson's review verbatim, and offered my own 'translation' to the text to see what Anderson is, in my view, really saying.  I also throw in my own thoughts as to what is being said.

I hope this will be a fun and informative journey into the strange mind of the Functioning Nerd.

I present Part 12 of The Nerdist as Whore: Asylum of the Daleks .  My 'translations' are in red.


 



Come hither, ye Whovians, and rejoice!

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

Doctor Who has, after a 9-month hiatus, returned to our screens and has done so in style.

Doctor Who has, after a 9-month hiatus, returned to our screens and has done so in disgrace.

“Asylum of the Daleks” was exactly what you could want from a (relatively) stand-alone episode: It was exciting, scary, heartfelt, twisty, triumphant, and shocking.

"Asylum of the Daleks" was exactly what you could expect from the inept team in charge: it was horrifying, Canon-shattering, hypocritical, illogical, embarrassing, tragic, inadvertently hilarious, and sad, just sad.  Sad, sad, sad.  It also, I can promise you, will not, NOT be a stand-alone episode.  It will be tied into some grand epic story arc that will not hold up to scrutiny, not make any sense, and serve as another poor example of plotting. 

Steven Moffat’s script and Nick Hurran’s direction blended together exceedingly well and, go figure, the cast did a great job, too.

Steven Moffat's script and Nick Hurran's direction blended together exceedingly disastrously and, go figure, the cast did a bad job, too.

After the somewhat disappointing finale last year and the syrupy Christmas special, it was time we had a true rip-snorter of an adventure. It can never be said that the Moff doesn’t know how to open a season with a bang… a planet-destroying bang.

After the awful, awful finale last year and the brain-killing Christmas special, it was time we had a true rip-snorter of an adventure.  Pity we didn't get one.  Let it never be said that the Moff doesn't know how to open a season with a bang...or with something that will never have a logical or satisfying conclusion to a story arc which even he probably doesn't understand.

Again, let me pause here to say that any critic that refers to his subject by a cutesy nickname (like "The Moff") cannot be trusted to be either analytical or critical.  Just a thought.

Now, especially for this episode, it’s going to be very difficult for me to discuss what I need to and remain spoiler-free. So, before I dive into the hope-you’ve-seen-it-already territory, I’d like to say this episode did not disappoint at all.

"I'd like to say this episode did not disappoint at all."  Famous last words, Mr. Anderson.  Famous. Last. Words.  I'D like to say this episode DID disappoint, and did so on a grand scale.  I don't think we've had a bigger, more disastrous season opener than this one, and that's saying a lot.  Then again, we haven't seen the worst yet.

To say I loved it would be pretty accurate.


SHOCKED that Kyle Anderson liked a
Doctor Who episode!
To say that Kyle Anderson is a pathetic whore with the intellectual skills of a fruit fly and the integrity of Jimmy Hoffa's accountant would be pretty accurate.

More shocking, more astounding, more horrifying, is that we're barely in the intro to Anderson's review.  I get the sense that he thinks Asylum of the Daleks is somewhere in the same league as Caves of Androzani, Tomb of the Cybermen, Inferno, The Aztecs, or what I think is the greatest Dalek story of All Time: Evil of the Daleks...and he's serious!

As much as I dislike the word, “Asylum” felt epic and massive and yet, as Moffat’s best scripts are, it was a very intimate story at its heart, one of reconciliation and discovery.

"The word “special” is used too often anymore for things that don’t deserve it, much like the word “epic,” for that matter, but that’s for a different article."

Direct quote from Kyle Anderson's review for The Doctor The Widow and The Wardrobe

Let's remember that for a moment.  Last Doctor Who review, Mr. Anderson said the word 'epic' was overused, and now, here he is, using the word 'epic'.  And for the record, did we ever get that 'different article' he promised.

I've concluded that Kyle Anderson was flat-out drunk when he wrote this. He could also be seriously delusional, or been paid off.  This review isn't even worth the time to mock.  The typical Andersonian ebullience he taps out for any Moffat-penned script went into insane overdrive on Asylum of the Daleks.  I've never really known a Moffat script that is 'intimate' or about reconciliation and discovery.

Kyle Anderson is either paid off or completely bat-shit crazy.  We cannot establish which one though.

I’m most pleased that the show was finally able to deliver a Dalek story that gave the Daleks some depth and actually made them scary again.

I'm most pleased that the show's check finally cleared. 

Anderson didn't write that this dribble about Asylum making the Daleks scary again.  That came straight from BBC promotional material.  Asylum of the Daleks made the Daleks scary again?!  He can't be serious.  He just can't be. WTF, Kyle? 

WTF?!

With the exception of “Dalek” all the way back in Series 1, in every other story featuring the surly salt-shakers, they’ve felt like little more than Snidely Whiplash-esque melodrama villains, with plans too grand and sweeping to truly menace.

The Dalek Invasion of Earth, Evil of the Daleks, Genesis of the Daleks, Remembrance of the Daleks.  Yep, all pretty comical treatment of the Daleks on those.  All those were pretty campy, right Kyle?  Oh yes, I forget: those were pre-Rose Dalek stories, and to NuWhovians, It All Started With Rose 

Here, though, the Daleks become, as they should be, terrifying in their own right and not entirely based on universal subjugation. The Daleks as a warring entity still aren’t that scary, but individual ones are again.


If Kyle Anderson really, truly, seriously believes Asylum of the Daleks has made the Daleks terrifying, his point of reference to Daleks must be NuWho only.  

This review, without even actually starting, is completely insane.  It's clear Anderson and I saw two different episode.  Of course, I am an independent, self-funded reviewer, not someone with a too-cozy relationship with the people I cover. 

Now, beware, we’re heading into SPOILER territory. You’re being amply warned.

I’ll start out with minor spoilers and go on from there.

I absolutely adored the idea of the human meat-puppet Dalek zombies. It isn’t the first time the Daleks have used human slaves as acolytes, but having them be sleeper agents with creepy eyestalk heads was a particularly creepy touch.

Robomen didn't NEED eyestalks
to be creepy!


They, and especially the mummified ones in the Alaska cockpit, evoked other creations like the Vashta Nerada. Moffat loves his undead.

Moffat loves his undead alright...to where he can't kill off any character permanently.  Let's see: Rory, River, the Doctor, Sherlock, Moriarty.  It leads one to seriously wonder whether he has some pathological fear of death.

Anyone else get a Weeping Angels vibe when Rory was walking through what he believed to be a corridor of dead Daleks? This stuff was reminiscent of his other work, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

As if The Moff would ever break from his patterns...

I loved the idea of the Parliament of the Daleks, and of course the Prime Minister would just be a mutant and not need a tank to sit in.

I hated the idea of the Parliament of the Daleks.  Seriously, how do they have a Parliament?  Which ones are Tory, which ones are Labour?  Do they have actual elections? Or is this more House of Lords, where it's an inherited seat? And of course, the Prime Minster would be just a mutant, completely in tune with the Dalek philosophy of total uniformity. 

The conversation in the beginning between the Doctor and PM was creepy and very telling.

I scare easy.

Finding out the Daleks find hate beautiful and hence would rather not destroy it was a whopper of a great revelation only bettered by the notion that the Doctor’s hate for them is the only reason they haven’t killed him.

That has to be the worst excuse for their eternal inability to exterminate the Doctor.  They keep him alive because their hatred for him they find beautiful?  I'm not buying this for a moment. 

Chilling.

Stupid.

The millions of Daleks were really cool to see, though I was disappointed we didn’t see as many older-style Daleks as they perhaps promised. I definitely didn’t see the Special Weapons Dalek from “Remembrance of the Daleks.”

Wait a minute, Kyle.  You remember the Daleks from Remembrance of the Daleks and you STILL think Asylum made them scary?  Didn't "The Moff" promise we'd see all the old-school Daleks?  Oh, yes: The Moffat Lies. 

Throughout, Dalek voice actor Nicholas Briggs did maybe his best work to date, making the insane, scared, and sad Daleks all sound different. His work at the climax of the episode, when the Doctor finds Oswin, is particularly great. I also loved beginning the episode on the long-desolate Skaro. Really nice touch.

Now, someone remind me: wasn't Skaro already destroyed in the Time War?  That whole thing now is so convoluted and beyond repair that I don't remember.

Matt Smith is amazing.
 
Matt Smith is horrible.
 
I don’t need to say any more than that at this point. He is MY Doctor.
 
AND YOU DAMN WELL CAN KEEP HIM!

I enjoyed a lot of the Amy and Rory stuff.

I enjoyed a lot of the soap opera in space stuff.

It was nice to see them not 100% perfect, like they apparently had been for too long.

She was a bitch.  He was a wimp.  Neither quality I would qualify as making someone perfect.

Introducing an element of dissent between them was interesting and Gillan and Darvill have really fantastic performances throughout, but especially in their emotional breakdown scene.

I'll bet their emotional breakdown wasn't as big as Anderson's break from reality while watching this.

I think I would have enjoyed this aspect a little more if it didn’t seem to come out of nowhere.

It would have been more believable if the show had established some rifts in preceding episodes rather than take endless time with all that "River Song is Our Daughter" crap we sat through all last season.

As cute as the “Pond Life” segments were, they probably should have been a bit more real and established the problem in their lives. I think I’d have had a better time believing they’d been on the rocks, to the point of divorce, if we hadn’t just seen them living in harmony with an Ood.

If Pond Life is considered Canon, then we have a serious problem.  Each of these little cutesy bits made things light and comic, so when we get this episode they suddenly hate each other and want a divorce.  It does come out of nowhere and there is no rhyme or reason for it, at least at first.  It got so ugly between them in the opening that they called each other "Miss Pond" and "Mr. Williams", (which makes it the first time Amy called Rory by his actual last name rather than the usual "Mr. Pond", showing how weak he was).  During the course of the episode, we find why they are divorcing: it is because of Amy's inability to have children.

This very serious and important plot point Anderson does not address in his review, so let me do that. This is going to be a bit of a rant, so bear with me.

I have two friends: Caleb Sattelmeier and his wife, Alexandra (Alex for short).  They face a situation similar to the Williamses (click here for their story). It's a heartbreaking story, but they have recently announce that they are going to do something that the Pond-Williams never apparently contemplated: Adoption.  This perhaps is the most insidious aspect of this story.

If Amy and Rory really wanted children, adoption is the most logical choice, especially since I imagine Amy 's income as a fashion model is pretty good.  It is the most obvious resolution to their problem, but Moffat doesn't contemplate it.  Why? To create drama.

Personally, I think this is an insult to all those who are incapable of having children, making their situation hopeless.  It is also insulting to those who have been adopted, suggesting they are not worthy if they don't have a family to begin with.  Anderson's cowardice in not mentioning this, or pointing out the fallacy of it all, is shameful, but he is simply too beholden to Moffat to be a fair arbiter of the true quality of  a Doctor Who episode.     

Also, does this mean Amy’s part Dalek, or are we to believe she hadn’t been physically changed yet?

File that under 'plot points that won't get brought up again".

One more quick note before I open up all the spoiler gates: Nick Hurran’s direction was top-to-bottom fantastic.

Broken clock: the visuals were good.

He directed “The Girl Who Waited” and “The God Complex” in Series 6, which were two of the most stylistically different episodes in the whole season, and here he directs the most grungy, creepy, atmospheric story we’ve seen in quite awhile. He also directed episode 5, “The Angels Take Manhattan,” and I really can’t wait to see what he does there.

Spoiler alert: it's going to be an absolute mess.

He’s established himself as being up there with Toby Haynes, Adam Smith, Euros Lyn, and the great Graeme Harper as one of the very best directors of the new series.

And now, for what you’ve all been waiting for – ALL THE SPOILERS THERE ARE

HOLY SHIT! Jenna-Louise Coleman was in this episode! How did we not know this? I am incredibly impressed with the Twitter-verse and the like for not spoiling this for me or most people. (I realize several UK feeds started tweeting in depth about the episode before it had aired in the US and Canada. If this happened to you, I’m sorry; that sucks.

If this episode is to your liking, I'm sorry; that sucks.  As for Jenna-Louise Coleman being in this episode, we have yet to touch the tip of the iceberg.

In the future, I encourage you to do what I do – steer clear of all social media on Doctor Who Saturdays until you’ve seen the episode.)

In the future, I encourage you to do what I do--steer clear of all Nerdist Doctor Who reviews until you've seen the episode.

I was utterly shocked when she showed up in the first post-titles scene, and was even more utterly shocked when she stayed in the episode throughout, becoming basically the other main character. On top of that, she did a fantastic job. Really, really great.

Well, I won't begrudge her debut story, but I can tell you this fawning of Coleman by Anderson will only grow and grow and get more sickening.  For my part, I thought it was good, but honestly, by this time next year, I pray she will go.

Working essentially in a vacuum, she seemed to be able to play opposite the other actors like they shared the screen. Having never seen her act (with the exception of the tiny part in Captain America I didn’t know she had until I watched that movie again last week), it was very refreshing and exciting to be able to know she’s so great this early.

Yeah, yeah...

And this is why Steven Moffat’s a genius:



STEVEN MOFFAT A GENIUS?!



And this is why I'm a hopeless rimmer...

The whole twist of the episode (that Oswin is not only a girl trapped in a Dalek asylum, but trapped in a Dalek) and its effectiveness on the audience is contingent on our knowing that she’s going to be the new companion come Christmas. I’m sure some viewers didn’t know this, and it may or may not have affected them, but for me it was paramount.

By 'paramount', I mean I got a bonus from the BBC.

Because we knew the actress is going to be the new companion, and that we didn’t know she was going to appear in this episode, we (or I) assumed that the inevitable twist with her character wasn’t going to be what it ended up being. We all assumed that this character is the same character that will be the companion and hence weren’t paying attention to the fairly obvious, or at least brushing it off.

Which is pretty much what Anderson does on all his Doctor Who reviews.  

Moffat used the audience’s preconceptions to aid his storytelling.

Moffat used the audiences' stupidity to aid his storytelling.  That and sycophants like me that pretend to be 'analytical critics' when we're really just virtually paid-for lackeys.

I always thought it was odd the way they announced Coleman as the new companion.

Yes, I was hoping for a better actress myself, but you can't have everything, can you?

It seemed to come a bit early and out of nowhere. Also, aside from a few leaked photos, we didn’t know the name of the companion. He wanted to make sure the fact that she’s joining the show was known well in advance so that her appearance in this episode already had meaning to the audience and he could properly pull the rug out from under us. To coin a Moffat-esque phrase: it was “Meta Weta.”

Ugh.  Just ugh.

And because she was by herself for the whole story, they could show a ton of clips of the Doctor, Amy, and Rory and never once see that JLC was involved. So brilliant.

It 'so brilliant' that it will never be resolved, like the exploding TARDIS from The Big Bang Parts 1 & 2 you keep harping on about.

Here is the theory I have about Oswin Oswald and how she will fit in to the eventual story.

Do tell.  I'm sure it will be as accurate at your theory as to why shot the Doctor last season, or your theory about the true nature of River Song. 

In her final shot, she tells the Doctor to remember her name.



He doesn’t know what she looks like; again, only we do. She looks into the camera as she says “remember” for the final time.

Didn't Spock do the same thing to McCoy in Wrath of Khan (or as it's known today, the movie that was remade and released as Into Darkness)? 

I think that the character Jenna-Louise will play come Christmas is an ancestor of this character. It’s been somewhat rumored/known that the companion will be named “Clara Oswin,” so I’m guessing she’ll be the great-great-great-great grandmother of the girl in the Dalek.


Guess again, oh analytical critic.  Guess again...

Just speculation of course, but the only thing the Doctor has is the name and “Oswin” is an interesting enough name to stick out in someone’s brain. I’m hoping she’ll be not from the present day, but we’ll see.

Wanna bet she isn't from the PRESENT day?

Just my theory, take from it what you will.

You mean take it as the garbage you pass off as 'objective reviewing'?

And I loved, loved, LOVED that she was able to make the Daleks forget the Doctor.

Would that we be so lucky...

This is integral to Moffat’s proposed plan of making the Doctor a cipher again and not the universe-famous “Predator of the Daleks” that he has been for decades.

This is integral to Moffat's proposed plan of remaking the Doctor into his own diseased, deranged, delusional, megalomaniac image.  This is integral to Moffat's proposed plan of making the Doctor's Companions, not the title character, the center of the show. This is integral to Moffat's proposed plan of making the Doctor into a blithering, blundering idiot, rather than the famous 'intellectual hero' that he has been for decades.

This is integral to Moffat's proposed plan of destroying Doctor Who permanently.  

If the Daleks can’t remember him, other people won’t, too. I mean, who’s going to believe Cybermen?

OK, so if the Daleks can't remember him, does this mean she erased everything?  The Dalek Invasion of Earth, Genesis of the Daleks, Remembrance of the Daleks, Bad Wolf Parts 1 & 2, even Journey's End Parts 1 & 2? Nearly fifty years of continuity gone in an instant? Explain how that is a GOOD thing... 

Random thought: I’d really love an “Almost Got ‘im”-style episode where a Dalek, a Cyberman, a Sontaran, and the Master all sit around playing cards talking about how they nearly defeated the Doctor. Copyright: Kanderson.

Kanderson pitching his second fan-fic to The Moff. 

To sum up: “Asylum of the Daleks” was a big, enormous mark in the WIN column. Loved it to bits.

I think I'm going to be sick..

This wasn't a review.  This was a fanboy masturbating on a keyboard and passing it off as objective reportage.  Note that in his review, not once the he say anything negative.  In short, there was apparently no flaw in Asylum of the Daleks. That to me seems rather incredible, to think that Asylum of the Daleks is THAT perfect, a story with no flaws, no mistakes. 

Whatever reputation I, Rick Aragon, have, I stake on this: Asylum of the Daleks was nowhere near as brilliant as Kyle Anderson insists it is.  Asylum of the Daleks is not the Best Dalek story Of All Time, or one of the Greatest Doctor Who Stories of All Time.  I don't know if I'd call it the worst Dalek story of All Time, but the praise for this is parody enough. 

Next week’s episode is Chris Chibnall’s “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” and you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be back to review that sucker.

And you can bet your bottom dollar I'll be back to give it a glowing review for you suckers. 

With likely fewer theories and spoiler warnings. I leave you now with the BBC America trailer:

I leave you with another message, one directed at Kyle Anderson...