Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Woman Who Rang In the New Year: Resolution Review

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This year, Doctor Who opted for a New Year's Day special versus a Christmas Day special. As I understand it, the reason for delaying the special a week was that they'd essentially run out of ideas of how to tie Doctor Who to Christmas.

I think the first part is correct, for Resolution had nothing to do with New Year's. In fact, it had nothing to do, and not even the return of the Daleks could make it worth anyone's time, sober or hung-over.

We start and end with voiceover, we begin in the 9th Century where a massive battle has defeated 'a great evil'. It is cut into three pieces and sent to three far corners: Anuta Island in the Pacific, Siberia in the cold, and Yorkshire because...reasons. Unfortunately the Yorkshire pudding fell flat as he is killed before burying the third piece.

Moving to New Year's Day 2019, archaeologists Lin (Charlotte Richie) and Mitch (Nikesh Patel) are excavating under the Sheffield City Hall when they find the Yorkshire pudding. The seemingly flirtatious couple take the object the bones hold and put it under lights. Said lights revive the third part and manages to summon the other two parts from the South Pacific and Russian tundra to form a whole.

Image result for doctor who resolution (2019)Fortunately The Doctress (Jodie Whittaker) along with Her 'fam' Graham (Bradley Walsh), Ryan (Tosin Cole) and Yaz (Mandip Gill) are alerted and go there. Unbeknownst to them though, the squid-like creature Lin saw has attached itself to her. Eventually we learn that said creature is a Dalek out of its casing.

It's a mad race to stop Lin/Dalek from ravaging the Earth. We do have to pause every so often to deal with the domestic situation Ryan and Graham face: that of Ryan's father/Graham's stepson Aaron (Daniel Adegboyega), who has come to reconcile with his son. Eventually the Doctress defeats the newly-encased Dalek, Aaron, saved from getting sucked into a supernova by Ryan declines a hop on the TARDIS, Lin and Mitch can continue their thwarted romance and The Doctress and Her 'fam' can keep on traveling.

I cannot imagine why Resolution has such high positive reviews. It was worse than bad. It was boring. Chris Chibnall seemed even more determined than usual to double-down on every bad decision he could think of and probably come with a few more to boot.

In particular is what he has done with The Doctor. She isn't 'wacky' but stupid, perpetually stupid. "Hi, Ryan's Dad", she first states when introduced to Aaron. This is something Matt Smith's Doctor would do, with diminishing results. However, for reasons only Chibnall may know he keeps having Her do that. Why can She not call him 'Aaron' or even 'Mr. Sinclair'. She keeps panicking when hearing a doorbell and keeps asking if it's an alarm.

Has She never heard a doorbell before? Is She that inept?

I cannot take Her seriously when She communicates with a terrorized Lin via a large old-style microphone. Did he or anyone at the Doctor Who production think this was remotely funny?

Image result for doctor who resolution (2019)Even the parts Chibnall imagined were funny were anything but. There's a brief bit where a family finds their Wi-Fi is cut off. "I suppose we'll have to have a conversation," the mother says despairingly. "WHAT?" the two boys reply. This is really, really dumb and nowhere near as funny as Chibnall thinks it is.

We even get some good old virtue signaling and political grandstanding that show Doctor Who has gone way off the deep end when it comes to placating the Social Justice Warrior mob it caters to. There's a 'funny' bit where She cannot get in touch with UNIT because of "financial disputes and subsequent funding withdrawal by the UK's major international partners". Why Chibnall decided Resolution was the best place to put in a snide Brexit comment I don't understand.

In the similar vein, why the Security Guard that Lin is forced to kill offers this strange woman he's never met and whom he should remove from the vicinity that he has a boyfriend is also just sad virtue signaling.

Over and over, Resolution makes the case that Doctor Who just is tired and deciding to be a more woke show with nothing to offer. Perhaps even that could be accepted if not for how bad things are.

"These are my serious tech skillz, and yes that is with a zed", The Doctress tells the Dalek. Not only is that an absurdly stupid statement, but is delivered so badly.
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The plot is a mess, more a Venom/The Mummy ripoff than a serious story mixed in with bad domestic drama that stops the action cold. Moreover, who decided to have voiceover? Why sideline Walsh's Graham for much of the episode? Why did the score pound the 'tension' and slip into a bad 007 parody? Why introduce 'The Order of the Custodians', these fabled protectors of the separate monsters that never played a role in Resolution?

Also, 'Order of the Custodians' sounds like a janitorial union, and the idea that the South Pacific and Siberian custodians did not know what happened to the Sheffield one is laughable.

Personally, I would have preferred Lin and Mitch to be Companions and dump the boring and useless Ryan and Yaz. At least the other two had semblances of a personality.

There is a Resolution that I may keep: I resolve to not watch another Doctor Who episode because now it's just boring and pointless.


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Woman Who Won the Battle But Lost the War: The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos Review

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We now limp into the series/season finale of Her first season with The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos. You would not be faulted in thinking this was going to be a Greek history lesson given the title. The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos is not so much bad as it is boring, with one ghastly decision after another that pretty much dooms it and calls the continuation of this nightmare into question.

On a mysterious planet, Andinio (Phyllis Logan) is encouraging another of her kind, Delph (Percell Ascott) to create something when a figure starts emerging to them.

Jump to the TARDIS, where The Doctress (Jodie Whittaker) receives a distress signal from the planet Ranskoor Av Kolos. Being who She is, She goes and takes Her 'fam': Graham (Bradley Walsh), Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Ryan (Tosin Cole) with Her.

Ranskoor Av Kolos, we are told, translates to 'Disintegrater of the Soul', which might have been a better title for this episode but I digress.

Once on the planet, they find Paltraki (Mark Addy), a shell-shocked pilot who was part of a rescue mission. We also see the return of Tzim-Sha (Samuel Oatley), whom we met in The Woman Who Fell to Earth. "Tim Shaw", mistaken for a god by a devout Andinio and a more reluctant Delph, wants an object Paltraki has in exchange for his crew: a case containing a circular object.

The Doctress now has to stop "Tim Shaw" and Graham, who has sworn revenge for the killing of Grace (which is something he's never mentioned until now, but whatever). We also see that "Tim Shaw" is going to try and conquer Earth and that those globes are actually planets.

As a side note, would this be considered an homage or ripoff of the Fourth Doctor story The Pirate Planet, but whatever.

The Doctress defeats "Tim Shaw"'s plans, Graham finds he's the better man and he and Ryan merely imprison "Tim Shaw" and free Andinio and Delph of the Ux.

Again, The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos is not so much bad as it boring. There are no stakes to be held, especially with the return of Tzim-Sha.

I felt it then and feel it now that ridiculing "Tim Shaw" in The Woman Who Fell to Earth was a terrible mistake. Mocking the villain defangs him/her, makes him/her less a threat and more a joke. For reasons I cannot fathom Chris Chibnall decided to double-down on "Tim Shaw" and bring him back.

There was no reason to bring him back. You might as well brought back Krasko from Rosa or Robertson from Arachnids in the UK back. They were more menacing despite being foolish. You cannot take a villain seriously if he's already been mocked, and She goes out of Her way to continue mocking "Tim Shaw". Not once would we take him seriously.

Not that we would take Her seriously either. I've given up on Whittaker's take on The Doctor: all 'quirky' and 'wacky' without an ounce of sense to Her. The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos showcases why she was all wrong and it has nothing to do with her gender. Whittaker's version of The Doctor goes from 'deadly serious' to fangirl in a switch. One moment She's going to take down "Tim Shaw", then immediately squeal about meeting an Ux.

How can anyone rally around a character that seems dead-set on being brain-dead?

Image result for the battle of ranskoor av kolosThe acting was not strong, though to be fair the actors really did not have much if anything to work with. Guest star Addy I think was miscast as this wounded warrior. He gave it as good a go as possible but his first appearance was nowhere near as tense as he and director Jamie Childs thought. Eventually Paltraki faded in terms of importance to where I forgot he was there.

Also, the name 'Paltraki' does not shake the idea that Chibnall came up with this episode while dining on souvlaki and chugging far too much ouzo.

The main cast was also bad, which is a terrible disappointment. I'm used to seeing Gill and Cole be bad. It's always a contest to see which one of them is worse and here Cole is the clear winner, with his Ryan being so blank and monotone as to be comatose. The disappointment was Walsh, who has been the only good thing on Doctor Who this series/season. His efforts to be the wrath of God fell almost hilariously flat. He never convinced me that he had a mad desire for revenge or was consumed by rage.

Perhaps by this time he was just tired and decided it was not worth the effort to lift the series. Same goes for Segun Akinola's score, which once was subtle and effective but now has gone full-Murray Gold in beating the 'tension' into things. Walsh and Akinola were the polar opposites: one underplaying things, one overdoing things.

As for Whittaker, her scrunchy face acting and wild hysterics are now rote. Maybe a Female Doctor would have worked. Jodie Whittaker however shows that just because you got a woman in the role does not mean that any woman will do.

The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos was boring. I don't think anything actually happened, and unfortunately this episode was not worth being a series/season finale. It wasn't even worth being a regular episode.


Next Episode: Resolution

Monday, June 3, 2019

The Woman Who Had A Frog In Her Throat: It Takes You Away Review

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It's a sad thing when a talking frog is one of the less silly elements of what is meant as a science fiction/fantasy show, but It Takes You Away has such an awful inconsistent tone that one can only marvel at how comically bad it all is.

The Doctress (Jodie Whittaker) and Her 'fam': Graham (Bradley Walsh), his step-grandson Ryan (Tosin Cole) and hanger-on Yaz (Mandip Gill) are in 2018 Norway (She learns this by eating the grass or dirt, I'm not sure which). No sooner can you say 'Jump' before She gets them on a mysterious adventure.

A rotting old house holds Hanne (Ellie Wallwork), a young blind girl who is afraid of the monsters laying siege. "It takes you away", she cries out. Her father, Erik, moved them to this remote area after his wife Trine's death, but now he has disappeared and Hanne thinks 'they' took him away. Ryan suggests Erik just ran off but the others will help find him.

There's a mirror that does not offer a reflection, which is really a portal to a parallel world. Here, She discovers with Graham and Yaz an antizone, a place that separates two worlds that should not connect. In the antizone is Ribbons of the Seven Stomachs (Kevin Eldon), an alien who guides them for a price. Ribbons puts them in danger with the Flesh Moths, but they end up eating him before they find Erik (Christian Rubek).

They also find Trine (Lisa Stokke), apparently very alive and well. Things grow more complicated when Graham finds Grace (Sharon D. Clarke) also in this universe. This however, is not real, and She realizes they are in a Solitract, a consciousness that affects whatever universe it is in.

As Hanne manages to outwit Ryan, placing them both in danger in the antizone, She realizes this universe will collapse upon itself. It takes courage for Graham and Erik to see their wives are not real, something Hanne realizes immediately as her blindness masks the Solitract's deception. In the end, the Solitract, taking the form of a talking frog, releases the Doctress. Erik, now reunited with Hanne, decides to go back to Oslo and Ryan calls Graham 'Granddad' for the first time ever.

Image result for it takes you away doctor who frogAgain, Ed Hime's script I figure wants desperately to touch on the issues of grief and lost love, but a talking frog? Yes, I know the connection is Grace, who comments that she likes frogs, but the whole thing looks daft and ridiculous. I was laughing uncontrollably at what is meant to be a very serious, somber, moving moment. Whittaker's acting only made things more laughably bad, though to be fair there is probably no way any actor/actress could play a moving farewell scene with a talking tiny frog on a big white chair in a big white space.

That's the entire problem with It Takes You Away: it wants to be a quiet meditation on death, loss, grief and letting go but it keeps piling on the silly to where you can't take it seriously. It's so tonally bonkers as to be thoroughly unhinged.

Yes, the damn talking frog is the nadir of how wildly out-of-tune It Takes You Away is, but let's remember everything connected with "Ribbons of the Seven Stomachs".

The name can't be taken seriously. It's a debate as to which was the sillier part: 'Ribbons' or 'Of the Seven Stomachs'. Tim the Enchanter was more logical.
The character was pointless, attempting to add menace and danger but ending up as time-filler. You could easily have cut "Ribbons of the Seven Stomachs" out of the plot without it affecting anything. You could easily have introduced the Flesh Moths without Ribbons.

Adding to Ribbons' unintended silliness is the literal red light he carries like a balloon. You almost expect everyone to burst out into 99 Red Balloons. When Ryan carries it, you half-expect it to literally 'take him away'.

Image result for it takes you away doctor who frogAbout the only good things in It Takes You Away were Walsh and the showcasing of the parallel worlds. In the latter, the episode did well in visualizing the fake world as light and sunny to the real world's gloom and darkness.

Walsh's performance elevated the episode due in part to his character having an actual motivation: Grace's loss. He mined the exploration of Graham's grief and the shadow hope of finding Grace again. Graham is also the smartest of the Companions: at an earlier point he comments how he always brings a sandwich with him on their journeys, having learned from experience that they might go a long time without food.

Tosin was again totally blank as Ryan, Gill even more so. Whittaker was hopelessly hampered by the script, which is dead-set on shifting The Doctress from wacky to serious without losing the wacky. Her eating the grass, commenting about "The Woolly Rebellion" (a future movement where sheep will overthrow humanity), going on about how She had 7 grandmothers but "Number 5 was my favorite" then adding how Granny 5 "also thought Granny 2 was a secret agent for the Zygons".

Only when She becomes serious, telling a wavering Graham, "It's her or the world. You can't have both" that a rare spark of sense creeps in. Perhaps if Doctor Who had opted to make Her more serious and drop the Matt Smith wackiness we could have been won over to a Female Doctor. However, the show's determination to have Whittaker essentially do a parody imitation of Matt Smith and David Tennant at their worst dooms her.

There is no threat in It Takes You Away. There is no danger. There is a talking frog.

It Takes You Away is an embarrassment to everyone involved and a massive disservice to Bradley Walsh who did a smashing job exploring Graham's grief and loss.


Next Episode: The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos