Brockton Author Releases Fourth Dark Fantasy Book By: Emily J. Reynolds

The following piece was written by Emily J. Reynolds and was originally published on http://www.sparkthenews.com on November 9th, 2015 and has been reprinted here with permission by the author.  For more news from the South Shore, subscribe to http://www.sparkthenews.com – CTO

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Brockton Author Releases Fourth Dark Fantasy Book

By: Emily J. Reynolds

BROCKTON — “The Damned Queen.” “Only God’s To Give.” “Caught Amongst the Bannister.” “Let’s Get Dead.”

These are a few of the stories Brockton-native Craig O’Connor has shared in his self-published collections of short stories: Happy Holidays and Memorial Tales — his newest. O’Conner also wrote two novels, The Whitechapel Five and its sequel, The Monster of Modern Times.

O’Connor, a Brockton High School and Stonehill College graduate, writes almost exclusively what he describes as “dark fantasy,” and credits Stephen King as one of his early inspirations.

“I loved [King’s] Nightshift,” O’Connor said. “That’s the one with Children of the Corn in it and a lot of the ones that have turned into films now… The wonderful thing about reading his early stuff is that it’s primitive stuff – he hadn’t developed into the writer we know now. But it’s still great stuff.

“You read something like The Boogeyman…and you sit back and go, ‘Oh my goodness, what a great idea. Can I come up with that stuff?’”

O’Connor, 46, has been writing since he was in high school. At that time he veered away from the “teenage angst” topics that he believed most of the students in his creative writing class were drawing from.

“That didn’t really interest me too much because everyone was doing it,” O’Connor said. “I thought I’d rather do something a bit more weird, strange. I find that far more interesting.”

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The inspiration for his individual stories has come from other authors, horror movies, and life experiences. He once read a book about horror movies that mentioned an old German film, The Golem, where the character has no soul because it is “only God’s to give.” This struck a chord with O’Connor and lead to his own short story, Only God’s To Give, which is about a man who is kept cryogenically frozen by his brother and brought back to life many years later.

“But he came back seemingly without any feeling of empathy,” O’Connor explained. “As if his soul never came back: it’s only God’s to give.”

O’Connor ventured into screenplay writing after college, earning a master’s in Fine Arts at the University of Miami; however, he never sold a screenplay and decided to move back to Brockton and focus on his novel and short story-writing career.

“The good thing about writing screenplays is that it does get you thinking primarily in the story structure,” O’Connor said, describing how screenplay writing helped improve his overall writing. “Screenplays are much easier to write than novels because in a screenplay all you have to say is, ‘He went to the door and opened it.’ In a novel it would be, ‘He went to the door, his hand shaking as it reached for the knob, not knowing what was on the other side.’”

O’Connor also self-publishes his work: “I taught myself how to do it,” he said, explaining that the process involves laying out the book in Microsoft Publisher and then sending it to an Amazon affiliate for publishing.

Once the books are published, they are available for sale on Amazon and can be printed on demand.

“You don’t have to order 1,000,” O’Connor said. “I can order 20, bring them here, keep them in the trunk of my car.”

He talked about his interactions with people in daily life and when the subject of his books comes up, he has them right there to make the sale.

In addition to writing, O’Connor also works as a character actor and has appeared in many South Shore community theater shows including The Wizard of Oz, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and he will be playing Bob Cratchit in an upcoming production of A Christmas Carol. He is finishing his third collection of short fiction, provisionally titled The Shrine and Other Stories, and has a third novel in the works.

O’Connor also has aspirations to write a book about horror movies, as he is an aficionado of the genre.

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The Twenty Most Tear-Jerking Moments in Doctor Who

Last year, I published an article on this blog titled “The Fifteen Most Tear-Jerking Moments in Doctor Who.”  What with another year of episodes behind us (and suddenly remembering a few moments I forgot for the previous article), I realized it was time to expand our horizons when it comes to the weepier moments in our favorite science fiction program.   So here, without further introduction, is the expanded list of twenty saddest moments, in ascending order, from the last ten years of Doctor Who:

WARNING:  Here there be Spoilers

uktv-doctor-who-s08-e01-matt-smith-surprise-appearence-6#20 – The Eleventh Doctor calls Clara (from Deep Breath) – Clara (Jenna Coleman) and the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) return from Victorian England having saved the day from the clockwork robots that were harvesting humans for their parts.  However, Clara is unsure whether she can accept this older, grumpier Scot as the Doctor.  She decides that she won’t travel anymore on the TARDIS… and then her phone rings.  She is shocked to hear the labored breathing of The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) placing a “time-call” from Trenzalore before his regeneration.  Clara tears up, hearing the voice of her old friend as he tells her that he thinks this new change might “be a whopper” and is worried that she might be scared.  He begs her not to abandon the new Doctor because “he is more scared than you are.”  “Is that the Doctor?” Number Twelve asks her and Number Eleven asks her the same thing.  After the call is over, The Doctor tries to get her to understand.  “That was me who called you… you’re looking right at me and you can’t see me.”  After giving him a good long look, she thanks him for phoning and gives him the first of many (for him) uncomfortable hugs.

#19 – Madame de Pompadour Dies (from The Girl in the Fireplace) – The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) has saved Reinette (Sophia Myles) indexfrom clockwork androids and he finds one working door (the fireplace) back to his own time.  “Pack your bags and pick a star,” he says to her, hinting that she’s going on a journey with him.  He returns a minute later, but the time-window is defective; he arrives years later to discover that Reinette has just died.  The Doctor, who fell in love with the amazing woman, sadly returns to his TARDIS and reads her letter to him, discovering that she never gave up hope that she would see him one more time.

BigBang22#18– “Something Old… Something New…” (from The Big Bang) – The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) has restored the universe and brought Amy (Karen Gillan) back to her wedding day with Rory (Arthur Darvill) and her parents restored, but he himself has fallen outside the universe.  Before leaving, he knows that he can be restored if Amy remembers him and he implants a memory of the TARDIS in her, which will be triggered by a certain phrase.  At her wedding, Amy suddenly stands up, shouts, “Raggedy Man, you are late for my wedding!”  Then everything starts to tremble and a familiar noise is heard.  As the TARDIS starts to appear in front of them, Rory asks, “What is it?”  Amy replies with the phrase that triggered her memory, “Something old… something new… something borrowed… something blue.”  Aw…

#17 – Clara Turns Off Danny’s Emotions (from Death In Heaven) – Don’t get me wrong; Danny’s death in the previous episode Dark Water and doctor-who-death-in-heaven-11Clara’s subsequent Mexican standoff with the Doctor in the Volcano was emotional and intense to say the least, but here we are confronted with the two young lovers at their worst possible moment.  Clara wasn’t present when Danny died and his off-screen death made his fate seem almost absent.  Here Danny, now rejuvenated as a cyberman (albeit one with a malfunctioning emotional inhibitor), confronts Clara in a cemetery, removing his cyber face-plate and revealing his pained and decaying face beneath, gone gray and punctured by cyberplugs.  He’s begging Clara to use the sonic screwdriver on his inhibitor to stop the pain.  “I feel like I’m killing you,” she says, choking up.  But Danny has the trump card:  “I’m already dead.”  The tragic couple profess their love one last time before Clara turns him into a fully-functioning cyberman.  True, he does retain enough of his old self in order to save the world, but it’s still a horrific scene.

lottlsml2#16 – The Master Dies (from The Last Of The Time Lords) – The Tenth Doctor has won the day against The Master (John Simm), but he refuses everyone’s demand to kill him, deciding that he’ll just keep him on the TARDIS.  But Lucy Saxon (Alexandra Moen) shoots her husband.  Not wanting to again be the last of the Time Lords, the Doctor begs the Master to regenerate, but the Master chooses to die rather than be locked up in the TARDIS forever.  “What do you know,” the Master says, looking at the distraught Doctor’s face, “I win.”  He dies and the Doctor screams in grief.

#15 – Jackie and Pete find each other (from Doomsday) – The first of several weepy moments from 2x13jackieandpetethis episode.  Jackie Tyler (Camille Coduri) comes face to face with her dead husband, Pete (Shawn Dingwall), alive and well from a parallel universe and who has recently lost his wife, a parallel version of Jackie.  The two look at each other while Jackie takes it all in.  Then Pete says, “Truth is, you’re not my wife, Jacks.  It would be just…”  and Jackie nods, agreeing it would be a bit weird.  But then he says, “Oh, come here,” and the two of them rush into each other’s arms.

2x06rosesaysgoodbyetomickey#14 – Mickey stays behind (from The Age of Steel) – Mickey (Noel Clarke) wasn’t traveling with Rose and The Doctor long before he started feeling like a third wheel.  Upon finding that his beloved grandmother is still alive in the parallel universe that the TARDIS crew has stumbled into, Mickey elects to stay behind.  “She needs me,” he says.  “But… what if I need you?”  Rose asks, tears coming to her eyes.  “But, that’s just it, Rose; you don’t.”  Rose finally has to acknowledge that, despite falling in love with the Doctor, she has been reluctant to let Mickey go and has been leading him on.  She cries, hugs him goodbye and walks to the TARDIS with her head bowed.  “Where’s Mickey,” Jackie asks when they return to their own world.  “He went home,” the Doctor says.

#13 – “You’re my Daddy” (from Father’s Day) – The Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) takes Rose back in time to see the father that she neverPete_time knew and she impulsively saves his life, creating a fracture in time that threatens to destroy the world.  With the Doctor dead and the end coming soon, Pete knows that the only way to set things right is to run out in front of a car and let it kill him.  “Who am I?” he asks Rose.  “My Daddy,” she says and squeezes her crying eyes tight as she hugs him one last time.  Pete runs into the street and is killed, Rose holding his hand as he breathes his last.  Nothing in Pete Tyler’s life was a heroic as his leaving of it.

Ten_sarah_jane_bear_hug#12 – Sarah Jane’s farewell (from School Reunion) – After meeting Sarah Jane (Elisabeth Sladen), Rose realizes that life with the Doctor can’t last forever.  “Should I stay with him?” she asks Sarah Jane.  “Yes,” she replies, “Some things are worth getting your heart broken for.  Find me… if you need to one day.”  Once outside the TARDIS, Sarah Jane begs the Doctor to say goodbye properly (unlike the last time).  “Goodbye… my Sarah Jane,” he says, giving her a hug that lifts her off her feet.

#11 – Donna loses her children (from Forests Of The Dead) – Donna (Catherine Tate), realizes that 4x09-Forest-of-the-Dead-Screencaps-Donna-Noble-donna-noble-3668970-624-352she is trapped inside a computer and has been experiencing a virtual reality, but she rejects the notion that her children are not real, even when her children say so.  “Mummy, sometimes when you’re not here, it’s like we’re not here.  Even when you close your eyes, we just… stop.”  “Well,” Donna says, trying to put a happy face on it, “Mummy promises never to close her eyes again.”  She leans down to kiss them goodnight and they disappear.  Donna reacts accordingly; she screams in horror.

Vincent14#10 – Vincent Van Gogh sees the future (from Vincent and The Doctor) – Doctor Who has always had an interesting relationship with historical artists.  Both Dickens and Agatha Christie were unsure of their legacies while Shakespeare knew he had nothing to worry about.  But the most troubled artist the Doctor ever met was Vincent Van Gogh (Tony Curran).  In an unprecedented move, The Eleventh Doctor and Amy take the troubled artist to present-day England and visit an art gallery featuring a Van Gogh exhibition.  Vincent sees for the first time his life’s work celebrated.  Then the Doctor asks curator Mr. Black (Bill Nighy) his opinion of Van Gogh.  Mr. Black waxes poetically and gushes unapologetically about the spirit of Van Gogh’s work until Vincent is overcome with emotion.  A throat-lumping moment if ever there was one.

#9 – Amy and Rory Die (from The Angels Take Manhattan) – After a bid at double suicide that causes one paradox too many, Amy and Rory saveAmys-Goodbye-Doctor-Who themselves from the Weeping Angels and end up back in the present day with the Doctor and River (Alex Kingston).  But an angel has survived and touches Rory, sending him back to 1930s New York.  A nearby tombstone bears his name, confirming his fate.  The TARDIS can never go back, but Amy knows another way; knowing that she can’t live without Rory she decides to let the angel touch her so that she can be with him.  The Doctor is horrified and begs her to return to the TARDIS.  Amy turns to him, says “Raggedy Man, Goodbye,” and disappears in front of him.  The tombstone now bears both Amy and Rory’s names and the Doctor is inconsolable.

2d4fa1bbc275c65b17064f3f4de7d724#8 – The Eleventh Doctor Regenerates (from The Time Of The Doctor) – The Doctor has withered into old age, guarding both the Timelords and the planet Trenzalore from the hordes of villains out to destroy them.  He’s fully expecting to be killed but, egged on by Clara, the Timelords grant the Doctor a new life-cycle.  The energy from his regeneration defeats the Daleks fleets in a flash.  Clara boards the TARDIS to find the Doctor young again, but he says it’s just the reset and his new face is coming.  Talking about how people are always changing, he concludes “I will always remember when the Doctor was me.”  A figure approaches from the stairs and the Doctor is confronted with a hallucination of his long-dead friend Amy Peter-Capaldi-Clara-Doctor-Who-Time-of-the-DoctorPond.  “Raggedy Man,” she says, “Goodnight.”  Sadly, he removes his iconic bow tie and lets it drop to the floor.  “No, no,” Clara pleads, crying, “Please don’t change.”  But before anyone can draw another breath, the Doctor’s head snaps back and he is replaced with the aged appearance of his new incarnation.  It’s so sudden, we almost forget that we were crying just a moment before.

4x13-Journey-s-End-Screencaps-Donna-Noble-donna-noble-3672265-640-352#7 – Donna Forgets  (from Journey’s End) – Although the TARDIS control room was stuffed with the Tenth Doctor’s old friends in their efforts to defeat Davros, once the crisis is over, they leave, one by one, to take up their old lives, leaving The Doctor and Donna (now the super-intelligent “Doctor Donna”) alone.  But Donna’s got a problem, her new-found Timelord intelligence is burning up her brain.  In order to save her life, the Doctor has no choice but to wipe her memories of him and everything she experienced on the TARDIS.  Donna pleads with the Doctor through her tears, but to no avail.  The next we see of her, she is the vapid Donna that she once was, gossiping with her friends and unable to remember that she saved the entire universe from extinction.  With that version of Donna now dead, the Doctor has no choice but to make his sad and lonely way back to the TARDIS.  It doesn’t help to lift the audience’s mood when Wilf (Bernard Cribbins) wishes him goodbye by saying, “Every night, when the stars come out, I’ll look up… on her behalf… I’ll look up in the sky… and think of you.”

#6 – Idris Dies (from The Doctor’s Wife) – In one of the most inventive episodes of the Matt Smith era, a creature called House has ripped the the-doctors-wifeTARDIS’s consciousness out of the blue box and placed it in the body of a woman, Idris (Suranne Jones), taking control of the machine itself and terrorizing Amy and Rory, trapped onboard.  The Doctor is stuck with the TARDIS actually talking to him, which he finds absolutely brilliant.  Together, they work to build a new consol to reach the hijacked TARDIS and defeat House, but a human body can not contain the life-force of the TARDIS without burning up.  Idris and a tearful Doctor share one last conversation where she speaks of a word that she wanted to say to him.  The Doctor guesses “Goodbye” but Idris instead says “Hello… It’s so very nice to meet you.”  And in case any of us missed it, the last thing she says a her body disintegrates is “I love you.”  Wiping away the tears, the Doctor realizes that he has met and lost the love of his life, all in the space of an hour.

drwhoparting1#5 – “Have a good life.” (from The Parting Of The Ways) – The Ninth Doctor has tricked Rose into the TARDIS is order to save her from the slaughter that he imagines is going to happen on the Gamestation by the fleet of Daleks descending on it.  When she realizes what is happening, a hologram of the Doctor appears in front of her, telling her not to worry about his upcoming death and to just let the TARDIS die on the streets of modern-day Earth.  Panicking, Rose rushes around but the hologram, being only a hologram, continues to stare straight at the spot where Rose was standing.  Then it says, “If you want to do one thing for me, Rose, just one thing…” and amazingly the hologram Doctor turns his to his left to where Rose is now standing, where he somehow knew she would be.  “Have a good life,” he says with a warm smile.  “Do that for me.”  It’s a shocker of a moment and the saddest moment in all of Eccleston’s era.

#4 – Wilf offers his pistol (from The End of Time – Part 2) – While stranded on an alien ship, Wilf takes a moment to have a quiet talk with the imagesTenth Doctor.  He’s brought his service revolver with him and tries to give it to the Doctor so that he can kill the Master.  The Doctor refuses it… several times.  Finally, Wilf’s composure breaks.  “Please don’t die.  You’re the most wonderful man and I don’t want you to die,” he pleads through his tears, but the Doctor still won’t take the gun.  It’s a heartbreaking moment, and it is shocking when a minute later, after realizing that the Time Lords are returning, the Doctor takes Wilf’s gun after all.

amy-rory-girl-who-waited-tardis#3 – Rory says Goodbye to Old Amy (from The Girl Who Waited) – Amy has been trapped for thirty-six years on Appalapachia and has a bone to pick with the Eleventh Doctor.  She finally decides to help Rory and her younger self escape on the condition that she is allowed to escape too.  The Doctor says that the TARDIS could handle the paradox of two Amy’s in the TARDIS, but then locks Old Amy out, admitting that he lied.  Rory can’t bear to leave her there and starts to unlock the door.  “Don’t let me in,” she says, crying, “If you love me, don’t let me in.  Tell her, your Amy, that I’m giving her the days… the days I can’t have.”  Amy and Rory have spent most of their time in the series convincing each other (and the audience) that they love each other.  It was never more convincing than at this moment.

#2 The Tenth Doctor Regenerates (from The End Of Time – Part 2) – Five years after he left the show, David Tennant is still considered the the-end-of-time-part-twomost popular Doctor of all time.  Thus was the case when he announced his decision to hand the role over to someone else, an announcement that was met with a great cry of protest from fans all over the world.  As such, Russell T Davies, the writer of Tennant’s last episode, gave him a death scene that hit all the emotional high points that fans were looking for.  The Doctor is zapped by radiation in order to save Wilf.  Then he holds off his regeneration to go and say Goodbye to all his friends, leaving Rose for last.  Then he staggers back to the TARDIS, wracked in pain, and takes off one last time.  Alone and despondent, he looks into the camera and says, “I don’t want to go.”  But go he does, in a violent flash of energy that nearly destroys the TARDIS.  A brilliant send-off for a brilliant Doctor.

RoseSeparatedDoomsday#1 – The Doctor loses Rose (from Doomsday)  Even the most hard-hearted of viewers cry during the last ten minutes of this episode.  Despite her determination that she will never leave the Doctor, even if it means never seeing her mother again, Rose falls towards the mouth of the Void and is saved at the last minute by Pete, who takes her into the parallel world before the breach closes.  Rose pounds on the wall and weeps to be taken back.  The separated lovers each put an ear up to the wall and feel each others’ presence on the other side, despite being separated by dimensions.  Later, the Doctor is able to send his image through to say Goodbye to her one last time.  “I love you,” she stammers through her tears.  The Doctor also has something to say, but he takes a little too long to say it.  “Rose Tyler…” he manages to get out before the breach closes for good, leaving Rose crying in her mother’s arms on the beach and the Doctor alone, with a tear rolling down his face, on the TARDIS.  It is the saddest moment in the history of this show.

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The Orphanage (2007)

Written by Sergio G. Sanchez

Directed by J.A. Bayona

A Warner Brothers (of Spain) & Picturehouse Film

Starring Belen Rueda (Laura), Fernando Cayo (Carlos), Roger Princep (Simon), Montserrat Carulla (Benigna Escobeda) & Geraldine Chaplin (Aurora)

 

The-orphanage            There’s something very special happening within the frames of The Orphanage:  in fact, it happens so subtly and magnificently that it seems to take you by surprise.  There is no reason whatsoever, within the first hour of viewing, to see the The Orphanage as anything more than just another ghost story involving children (including a lost child, which recalls Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist (1982)).  But before you realize it, The Orphanage gives you something more than your money’s worth:  you get the ghosts, you get the moments that make you jump (the death of a woman in a sudden traffic accident is a perfect jumper), but by the end, you get to the heart of the story; something that enables you to feel for the heroine and all her trials up to the conclusion which, despite being tragic, gives the viewer something to cling to, something to believe in.  Strange for a horror film, this film’s audience can actually rise from their seats happy.  The Orphanage is a horror film for the 21st century:  it thrills, it scares, but ultimately, it touches.

Laura (the emaciated Belen Rueda) returns to the closed-down orphanage where she lived briefly as a child in orphanage460order to turn it into a clinic for Down Syndrome children.  She’s happily married to Carlos (Fernando Cayo) and is the adopted mother of Simon (Roger Princep), whose life is in a precarious state owing to the fact that he is HIV-positive.  Not long after moving in, strange things begin to happen:  Simon begins to tell his mother of his imaginary friend, Tomas, who has a “little house” somewhere in the orphanage, Laura begins to see evidence that the orphanage may indeed be haunted, a woman (Montserrat Carulla) is found on the property digging around the coal shed and Laura is attacked by a little person in a mask.  Is it Simon or one of Simon’s little friends?  Before she can find out, Simon disappears.  After months go by, Carlos is ready to accept that Simon is dead and that his disappearance will remain a mystery, but Laura asks a medium (Geraldine Chaplin) to try and contact the ghosts of the orphanage in the hopes of finding her son.

simon            The initial comparison to Poltergeist is not a casual one:  like Hooper’s Freeling family, Laura’s family leaves a bit to be desired.  Carlos is a bit lethargic as a parent, Simon is a bit of a brat (well… demanding of attention would probably be a better description and what seven year-old is any different) and, although there is love between them all, Laura is already showing signs of fatigue (the only times the painfully thin Rueda doesn’t look exhausted is when she flashes her heart-warming smile).  Her dream of reopening the orphanage (apparently more her endeavor than Carlos’s) is far more noble than Poltergiest‘s Steve Freeling’s (Craig T. Nelson) real estate ventures, but her natural desire to bring her dream to fruition makes her miss the clues that Simon is giving her just at the moment when she needs them most.  Early in the film, Simon leads Laura through a game that he claims Tomas has initiated:  they must follow a series of clues which leads to a “treasure” (which turns out to be Simon’s hidden medical file) and, if successful, they’ll be granted a wish.  Simon’s energy and eagerness contrasts sharply with his mother’s tiredness as she tags along after him trying to understand what’s going on.  It’s clear that Laura would rather be doing something else (especially when the trail leads to the locked drawer where she knows she will have to answer some awkward questions), but this is the very thing that Laura should be paying attention to:  at the end of the film, this very game, played six months too late, will lead to answers behind Simon’s disappearance.  This sequence illustrates the central problem in the relationship Laura has with her son:  despite their obvious love for each other, hqdefaultSimon is a lonely little boy with no playmates (his excitement at finding Tomas speaks volumes) and his overworked mother simply does not have the time for him.  More than anything else, this is a film about the tragedy of not recognizing what is important in our lives:  Simon tries to show his mother Tomas’s “little house” (the entrance to the basement) but the harried mother has no time for her child’s foolishness (it is the clinic’s opening day), the child is upset that he’s being ignored, and Laura’s injury and Simon’s disappearance soon follow.  In many ways, The Orphanage has the same qualities as the tragedies of Shakespeare, where the late arrival of a messenger or a lover’s misunderstanding brings about the destruction of the entire cast.

the orphanage            The Orphanage deviates from Poltergeist‘s template soon after Simon’s disappearance.  While Poltergeist’s Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke) is missing only for a few days, the narrative of The Orphanage jumps ahead after Simon’s disappearance by six months, stressing that the HIV-positive child needs medication to maintain his health.  Carlos and Laura have fallen into the daily drudge of life after Simon, checking up on hopeless leads and joining a therapy group for parents of missing children.  A pall falls over the couple’s lives (and the film):  the viewer realizes that there is no way, after six months, that Simon can be alive; common sense and knowledge of real-life disappearances tells us as much.  Carlos is close to accepting that they’ll never find Simon alive again but Laura has no choice but to hang onto hope, as fleeting as it may be.  Not only is she a mother – and therefore practically incapable of letting Simon go – but she remembers the strange circumstances surrounding Simon’s disappearance and is wondering if there was anything she could’ve done to have prevented it at the time (tragically, she learns this to be the truth). With nowhere else to turn, she consults Aurora (Geraldine Chaplin, this film’s Zelda Rubenstein), a medium, for help.  The marvelous Ms. Chaplin takes the camera (on a night-vision setting that makes her pasty skin look almost alien) on a spooky and hair-raising tour of the orphanage, looking for traces of Simon, and finding the ghosts of children who, in one of the film’s most heart-breaking moments, are crying for lives that are already long since withered away.  Invigorated by the experience (unlike the pragmatic Carlos, who only wants to move on), Laura stays on alone at the orphanage in a last-ditch attempt to commune with the ghosts and hopefully find Simon.

Responsibility is also a major theme in The Orphanage.  We’ve already discussed Laura’s responsibility for missing the clues that would lead 354_4her to discover the whereabouts of her son (and her actual responsibility for Simon’s fate will be revealed in all its horror in the film’s final minutes), but what of the responsibility of the tragedies from years before?  During the course of the film, we learn that Benigna Escobeda has willfully poisoned the orphans (Laura’s childhood friends) which has resulted in the orphanage’s haunting and has directly led to Simon’s disappearance.  Her death at the business end of a city bus certainly seems deserved.  But it is important to remember that this child-murderer had her reasons:  the orphans played a cruel prank on Benigna’s deformed son, Tomas, stealing his face mask while the boy was in the hidden sea cave at low tide.  His shame of his deformities led him to hide in the cave until the tide rolled in and drowned him.  Surely, the orphans can be held responsible for Tomas’s death (Benigna certainly did), but it is important to realize that the orphans did not intend Tomas to die.  Their culpability in the deaths of Simon and Laura has to be mitigated through the undeniable truth that they meant no real harm (just like Laura, an orphan herself, meant no harm when she unknowingly sets up the circumstances to Simon’s death).  And as horrific as Benigna’s murder of the orphans is, the realization that she was a mother ORPHANAGEx400revenging her only son’s death has to be taken into consideration (although she cannot plead temporary insanity since, so many years later, she is still conniving to keep her crime a secret).  All of this leads us to the moment when Laura finally finds the basement door and discovers the moldering, fly-covered body of her son; as she puts together the jigsaw pieces of that day’s events (her accidental blocking of the cellar door along with the knocking and crashing that she heard that first night), she realizes her own fault in Simon’s death.  Like the orphans, she didn’t mean it, but Simon’s corpse is still a reality and her failure to be a mother when it was really needed stabs her heart just as painfully as if she had broken his neck with her own two hands.

Like Poltergeist, The Orphanage is simple film; it is the story of a mother trying to keep her family safe despite an unwelcome brush with the 20090822000831!The_Orphanagesupernatural.  But Poltergeist ultimately doesn’t want its characters stepping past the veil that separates this world from the next and, despite its suspense scenes, keeps the Freeling family well within the realm of safe return.  Even little Carol Anne, missing only for a few days and rescued by a medium’s determination and a mother’s love, is retrieved from the other side healthy, happy and with only a thick layer of ectoplasm keeping her from her parents’ loving arms.  She fares much better than poor little Simon, whose fate lies not in the realm of the netherworld, but in the simple questions of chance and the deciphering of clues.  After Laura plays the ghost children’s game (following their clues), she discovers that Simon has not been spirited away by ghosts but has instead been trapped in the basement for months:  his entrance accidently blocked by her, the strange knocking at the door his, and the crash she heard the sound of him falling from the stairway and breaking his neck.  But the rules of the ghost children still hold true:  upon finding Simon, Laura makes a wish (“I want Simon back”) and, after swallowing handfuls of pills, she gets it.  Laura, now a ghost herself, is content to be the nursemaid to Simon and the other ghost children of the orphanage.

8c27df51a9b763786b420afd1925388e            In the end, we are left with the formally pragmatic Carlos who seems to accept that his wife and child are alive in the orphanage, keeping each other content.  And it is his smile that leads us to the closing credits, the smile of new-found faith in the afterlife.  Ultimately, The Orphanage celebrates ghosts because they are eventually what we will all become, living in a world divorced from pain and misery and granting us our dearest wishes.

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DOCTOR WHO:  LAST CHRISTMAS – A Review

Doctor-Who-Last-Christmas

Written by Stephen Moffat

Directed by Paul Wilmshurst

Starring:  Peter Capaldi (The Doctor); Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald); Nick Frost (Santa Claus); Samuel Anderson (Danny Pink); Michael Troughton (Prof. Albert Smithe); Faye Marsay (Shona McCullough); Natalie Gumede (Ashley Carter); Maureen Beattie (Fiona Bellows); Dan Starkey (Ian) & Nathan McMullen (Wolf)

Here there be SPOILERS

 

doctorwholastchristmasx20            There’s a few things we need to get straight before we tuck into the latest Christmas episode of Doctor Who.  First of all, in my review of the last episode of the show, Death In Heaven, I referred to it as the series finale, and a flawed one at that, one that left an uncertain taste in my mouth.  Now that wasn’t really my fault since the thirteenth episode of any series of Doctor Who is always considered the series finale (and it is the final episode on the series 8 boxset).  Make no mistake, it is Last Christmas that is the actual finale to series 8 as it brings the audience to the place where they wanted to be but found themselves far from at the conclusion of Death In Heaven.  There’s one other thing you need to know about your reviewer:  he thinks, with all his heart, that Inception (2010) is the most pretentious piece of crap that has ever graced the silver screen.  What does that have to do with Last Christmas?  Well… read on and let’s see.

Last Christmas throws us into the silly end of the pool immediately (but since it is a holiday special, we certainly can’t complain); when up fromDoctor-Who-Last-Christmas-5 the roof arises such a clatter, Clara springs from her bed to see what’s the matter.  The next few lines of that famous poem hold true throughout the pre-credit sequence; up on the rooftop (click, click, click) are elves, flying reindeer and good St. Nick (Nick Frost, the name of a man who was born to play this part).  He hems and haws about being a figment of her imagination, but he finally has to come clean:  he’s Santa.  As someone who’s met Robin Hood, Clara takes it all in stride until a familiar sound turns her head.  The TARDIS appears, the Doctor emerges, he tells the speechless girl to get into the TARDIS, and she obeys.  So begins the episode on a jolly and festive note, but I’d been hearing reports that this holiday episode was reportedly too scary for some children.  How are we ever going to get to the action when we’re left with Santa holding his trusty nectarine?

normal_dw2014-lastchristmas0650            The action cuts to an expedition base at the North Pole  where three scientists are trying to guide their fourth colleague Shona (Faye Marsay) into the infirmary where four more of their colleagues are laying on beds with horrific-looking creatures on their faces.  From what we can glean from the scientists, the only way to keep the creatures at bay is to not think about them.  To that goal, Shona dances goofily past them to a Christmas Carol, but when the Doctor and Clara blunder in, they break her concentration and that’s when more creatures descend from the ceiling to get them all!  Just when it looks bad, Santa comes riding in on Rudolph to save the day.  It all happens so fast and with so much good old fashioned Christmas whimsy (Santa’s arrival is preceded by an army of slinkies and toy robots) that we never get around to questioning it, which was exactly what mean ol’ Mr. Moffat is counting on.  And now here comes the Doctor to identify the creatures:  Dream Crabs.  Once attaching themselves to your face like the face-hugger from Alien (which is noted by Prof. Smithe, prompting the Doctor to say doctor-who-the-last-christmas-141214“You got a horror movie called Alien?  That’s so offensive!  No wonder you’re always getting invaded!”) it puts it’s victim in a dream state, keeping him or her distracted while they slowly eat their victim’s brain.  The only thing that can defeat the crabs is for their victim to wake up, which is unlikely considering the authenticity of the dream.  And that’s when the Doctor evokes the episode’s other influence, Christopher Nolan’s Inception; he warns everyone not to trust anything they see… it just might be a dream.

normal_dw2014-lastchristmas1481            Now, the thing you have to remember about Inception is that it is a highly imaginative film, a film with a sound and creative concept that is awash in impossible and memorable images.  It is also a film looking for a story interesting enough to sustain its concept.  It is a film so ridiculously complex that it needs pages upon pages of dialog to set it up (and doesn’t quite succeed) and, despite all the dream-layers and CGI action sequences at each one, it is ultimately about nothing more important than a corporate takeover (and the film even puts us in the position of cheering for the bad guys).  The film is so proud of its own concepts that it hasn’t given us a single character to invest in and ultimately falls flat in its own puddle of pretention.  And Last Christmas is using this film as its jumping-off point.  So what does Mr. Moffat do?  He does exactly what Mr. Nolan should have done with his film; he’s streamlined the entire concept and populated it with people worth caring about and given us an easy-to-follow plotline to challenge them… and with a wise-cracking Santa thrown into the mix.  Not all of the expedition are fully drawn characters, there simply isn’t enough time, but we do have Shona, whose dance endears her to the viewer and who seems to be more interested in talking to Santa than working out how to save herself and who, when it looks as if the team will finally wake up from their nightmare and go back home, desperately tries to collect everyone’s phone numbers so that they can stay in touch.  Upon waking, we find that Shona is an apparently lonely young woman, on the outs with boyfriend and planning to spend her Christmas immersed in a Game Of Thrones marathon.  Not everyone is as doctor-who-last-christmas-6-1024x576endearing as her (Ashley is the no-nonsense, quick-thinking one while other two scientists don’t have much, even though the Doctor refers to grandmother Fiona as “the sexy one”), but sometimes all it takes is one special character to hook your audience.  And although the episode, like Inception, gives us multiple levels of dream scenarios, it never gets too complex or confusing to follow.  Upon reflection, we probably should’ve realized that any sequence involving Santa was a dream, but Moffat wisely doesn’t introduce the Dream Crabs’ secret power until long after we’ve accepted Santa as an actual presence.  Then we’re given Clara’s dream sequence, her Christmas morning with Danny, that we can easily see through.  We feel confident that we’ll be able to tell dream from reality, but as the episode continues, dream after dream peels away like the layers of an onion.

normal_dw2014-lastchristmas2105            Also impressive are the methods by which the Doctor is able to discern dream from reality.  What a great idea for all four crew members to read the first word on the same page of four identical manuals, only to find they come up with four different words (Shona’s, tellingly, is “chocolate”), thereby exposing the dream state.  Clara’s Christmas with Danny is full of good ideas, from blackboards that spell out the Doctor’s warnings to the Doctor allowing himself to become a victim of the Dream Crab in order to enter Clara’s dream, thereby introducing the concept of group dreaming (which, let’s face it, 90% of this episode is).  Also enjoyable is Samuel Anderson’s brief turn (probably his last) as Danny, who seems less inhibited in Clara’s dream until, when he realizes that staying in the dream will kill her, he reverts to his brave and caring demeanor.  And then there’s Santa Claus, played to the hilt by the aptly-named Nick Frost, who steals every scene he enters and provides the episode with the “Christmassy” feeling that it needs in order to be broadcast on December 25th.  He’s full of jokes and trade secrets (when the Doctor asks him how he can get all those presents in the sleigh, he cheekily responds “It’s bigger on the inside.”) although I must say I’m completely done with the joke where something unlikely is locked with an electric keychain (the Doctor locked the TARDIS with one in The End Of Time and Madame Vastra locked her carriage in Deep Breath identically… enough already!).

Time to talk about the creatures themselves.  As already mentioned, they are a knock-off from other well-known films, but their design is just Doctor-Who-Last-Christmas-promo-18the sort of thing that prompted rumors that the episode was too scary for children.  Whether they are too scary for children is not a question I can answer, but I was perfectly fine with those lumpy dark mounds of alien flesh sitting contentedly on the characters’ faces, tunneling away (apparently) into their brains (I did feel a bit cheated to discover that there was no visible wound on their victims’ temples when they freed themselves but, hey, this is a children’s show after all).  I noticed that Mr. Moffat even stole of bit from himself in regards to the Dream Crabs coming to life only when you start thinking about them.  Remember that scene near the beginning when the Doctor is trying to force Clara to think of something else?  Remind you of anything?   Yep, Moffat wrote nearly the same exact situation into The Snowmen when the Doctor (then played by Matt Smith) tried to force Clara to defeat the living snow creatures by imagining them melting (our heroes got splashed by a torrent of water as a result).  So while the Dream Crabs cannot be described as the most original creatures in the Doctor Who canon, they are marvelous in their execution.

Doctor-Who-Last-Christmas-Sleigh-600x300            But even in a Christmas episode as scary as this, it is a Christmas episode and we need to have some Yuletide joy.  So, while it may be incredible silly to have the Doctor, Clara and the remaining scientists pile into Santa’s sleigh and take off into the wild blue yonder, it is a joyous few minutes of television.  Santa hands the reigns to the Doctor and the usually stoic Time Lord has the time of his life piloting it around the skies of London (he drives it about as well as he drives the TARDIS, but no one seems to mind), he even accepts a hug from Clara!  Then one by one, the passengers disappear, waking up in their home with the Dream Cabs turning to dust next to them.  But the dream is so sweet that Clara resists waking from it.  When the Doctor races to her bedside to relieve her of the creature, we find out why:  Clara Oswald is eighty-nine years old, her adventurous days long-since past her.  Although refreshingly free from regret or bitterness, we feel the sadness from the Doctor (helping her, like she did for him in The last-christmas-doctor-who-recap9Time Of The Doctor, pull a Christmas cracker) who regrets all the times he could’ve spent with her having adventures.  It is a bittersweet way to close a Christmas special.  Or at least… it would be… if we didn’t discover that the Doctor and Clara are still dreaming!  They awake again one last time and Clara is relieved to discover that she is 27 again.  The Doctor is relieved too, so relieved that he’s going to open the doors of the TARDIS to her for another thirteen episodes.  Clara, who is no fool, readily accepts and the two of them are off for another year of adventures.

doctor-who-last-christmas-2-1024x576            In you haven’t gleaned it already from my tone, Last Christmas is a good, fun and scary episode, everything that we tune into Doctor Who for but have only been getting part of the time in the past year.  It’s a relief to know that Clara will be returning for another series (her departure has been teased in the press for half a year now) because, as I noted in my review for Death In Heaven, Clara’s story didn’t seem finished yet.  There is more for this young lady to achieve and, unlike Amy and Rory, it doesn’t feel like she has overstayed her welcome.  Even better is that the Doctor seems to have turned a corner; his turn at the helm of Santa’s sleigh and his shock at discovering an elderly Clara who can no longer travel with him (apparently, the press were given preview copies that had Clara dying in the Doctor’s arms to fool them) has made him more appreciative of him diminutive friend and, dare I say, maybe a little bit more cheerful.  There are many more things that need to be explored:  is Missy gone for good (I think not) and what about the future existence of Orson Pink now that Danny is dead?  There’s a lot more (at least thirteen more episodes) that these two need to experience.  I can only hope that series nine will learn from the mistakes of series eight and give us a grand series of scares, fun, laughter and adventure from start to finish.  If Last Christmas is any indication, we just might be in for one Hell of a ride.

Doctor_Who_Last_Christmas_review-560x337

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Christmas Villains’ Grudge Match – Bout 3

Ladies and Gentlemen, the bets are in!  The bookies are closed!  It’s time for:

 

Christmas Villains’ Grudge Match

 Bout 3!

Henry F. Potter vs. The Grinch!

 40917586b857ebe3bb8b0a3a04591d79 GrinchF1

It’s all come down this!  Here, tonight, at the recently christened “Rudolph Memorial Action Dome” here in the heart of the North Pole, only a stone’s throw away from Santa’s fabled workshop, do our two returning champions meet to decide, once and for all, who is the nastiest, meanest, and dirtiest old humbug of the holiday season.  It’s a jam-packed crowd tonight… strange that all the elves were given the night off so soon before Christmas; their little, sparkly eyes filled with anticipation and bloodlust.  I don’t believe they’ll be disappointed if the last two bouts are anything to go by.  What with the forced suicide of Ebeneezer Scrooge and the “death by Courtney Love philosophy” suffered by the Abominable Snow Monster of the North, all we are left with is two bloodthirsty contenders who’ll stop at nothing to achieve the crown!

As we have previously brought you interviews with tonight’s contenders, tonight we thought we’d have a word with the bout’s referee.  Ladies and Gentlemen, tonight we bring you a rare interview with, the one and only, SANTA CLAUS!

santaWe caught up with Santa Claus in the Merry Castle earlier this afternoon and asked his views and tonight’s bout.

Q:  Santa, Santa?  Could we have a quick word please?

A:  Yeah, yeah, but not too long, alright.  We’re way behind on toy production, I’ve got three elves down with the clap, and the reindeers are being inoculated for hoof-and-mouth.  I tell you, the crap we go through each year for those rotten, little condom-busts and…

Q:  Uh… Santa, when the red light’s on, we’re recording…

A:  What?  Oh, my goodness!  [Clears throat]  Ho-ho-ho!  Merry Christmas, all you darling little kiddies out there!  Ho-ho-ho!  [Quietly]  Can you edit that last part out?

Q:  No problem.  First of all, Santa, I’d like to know why you graciously volunteered to officiate this bout.  The King of Christmas calling a fight between two known enemies of the holiday seems a bit strange.

A:  Well, what the fu… heck else was I gonna’ do?  The elves got unionized and told me they were going to the fight!  Told ME, mind you!  Once upon a time, I was in charge around here!  I called the shots!  Elves cowered and kowtowed at the sight of my shadow at the door!  Step out of line and SLAM… the reindeers got a little something extra in their feed that night!  Then that union elf showed up and got the whole crew all stirred up with a lot of fancy speeches.  I thought an unfortunate accident would solve everything, but he was more powerful than he ever…

Q:  Uh… Santa… the red light…

A:  Oh, is that thing still on?  You can cut all that out, right?  Anyway, with production down for an hour, there was no reason not to go.  Besides, I’ve heard what’s been going on at the previous fights and I thought I might be able to help things along.

Q:  You mean to cut down on all the dirty tricks?

A:  To make sure that these two finish each other.  Don’t you realize what we’ve got here?  These four loonies have been a thorn in my ass for too long, and now there are only two left!  They tell me that there’ll only be one left!  Well, why settle for just one left?  I’ve got a feeling that I can rid Christmas of its two biggest pains in one fell swoop!  Hey, you see that lady elf over there?  Hey, honey, don’t forget that Santa wants to get into your stocking, later!

Q:  Uh… Santa…

A:  What?  Is that thing still on?

Q:  Is Christmas going to be cancelled now that Rudolph has gone to that “stable in the sky”?

A:  If it is, I’ll be the first one to cheer.  I’ve had enough of this stupid job!  And Rudolph wasn’t so damn amazing when you get right down to it.  A drunk, that’s what he was!  How else do you think he got his nose to shine like that?  He’d put away six bottles of bourbon on Christmas Eve and then stagger over to the sled team.  He once vomited over Israel!  “Manna from Heaven” they said!  If they only knew…

Q:  But he will be missed, won’t he?

A:  Sure, he will.  He was the tenderest one of the bunch!  We haven’t had a dinner like him in years!

Q:  Uh… Santa…

A:  Hey, did you hear the one about the blonde, lady elf with the huge… [Interview interrupted at this point, just because we couldn’t take it anymore.  Those masochists among you who want to read the rest of it are hereby directed to  http://www.Santas101dirtyelfjokes.com, but we felt the need to take a shower afterwards.  You’ve been forewarned.]

And here we are again, waiting for the bout to start.  Santa Claus, in full uniform, strides to the center of the ring and makes the announcement.

“Ladies & Gentlemen, from the east entrance, the challenger!  He been called the “Why” amongst the Whos, the horror of Whoville, the green grouch!  Does it matter if his shoes are too tight or his head isn’t screwed on quite right?  He’s mean and he’s green!  He’s the GRRRRINNNNCCCCCCHHHHHHHH-AH!”

And the Grinch enters from the east entrance, bobbing and weaving.  He looks to be in perfect condition.  He’s been training hard for… but what’s this?  Before The Grinch is even halfway to the ring, Santa is striding up to the mike and making the next announcement.

“And the champion, the one to beat!  Maybe he can’t walk, but he can float like a butterfly and sting like a bee!  He’s the Bedford Falls Bastard!  The Crucifying Cripple!  The oldest and most miserable man on Earth.  No, it’s not Dick Cheney!  It’s HENRY… F… POTTTTTTEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRR-AH!

The Grinch stops in his tracks as he watches Potter being wheeled out from the west entrance.  Potter is shadow boxing in his chair as his creepy assistant pushes him down the aisle.  This has been a major break from tradition.  The Grinch has been left in the middle of the aisle and he doesn’t like it one bit!  Well, this little break in decorum…

But what’s this?  The Grinch is a lot more upset than we first realized!  He’s leaping over the seats and the pointy hats of the elf audience, quick and as nimble as a Who dodging flying reindeer vomit, and leaps right on top of Potter!  Ladies and Gentlemen, the bout has started and it hasn’t even gotten as far as the ring yet!  Potter’s chair has been overturned and the Grinch is stomping the back of Potter’s neck!  The only sound in the dome is the rather sinister “Ho-Ho-Ho” rising from the depths of the center of the ring.  Oh, Santa’s nefarious plan has just started, I can see now.  I find it sad that the word “nefarious” can be used in the same sentence with “Santa”, but there it is!  Oh, where is the Christmas spirit when you need it?  All I can see is the Grinch pummeling Potter as Potter’s creepy assistant…

I can’t believe what I’m seeing!  I’ll try to keep reporting to these events as long as… My God!  Potter’s creepy assistant is tearing at his own face and… it looks as if… he’s been wearing a latex mask the entire time!  I can’t believe it!  He tears the mask and a wig off to reveal himself to be… HENRY F. POTTER!  Why didn’t I notice those strings hanging from the dummy Potter this entire time?  Ladies and Gentlemen, Potter can walk and he’s pissed off like you wouldn’t believe!  He’s been waiting for this moment for a long time.  A gasp explodes from the audience as the Grinch looks up from the Potter dummy and sees the actual contender for the crown!  The Grinch’s false sense of security properly lulled, he cowers at the sight of the actual Potter lunging towards him.  Potter lumbers like Frankenstien’s wet dream towards the skulking Grinch, his arms  extended and… with a cry of “Go Go, Potter, circular saws” his hands suddenly retract and a pair of whirling circular saws extend from his wrists!  Ladies and Gentlemen, no wonder Potter never reformed by the end of It’s A Wonderful Life!  He’s a…terminator!  He lumbers towards the Grinch, death looming in his eyes as the shrieking, piercing cries of hysterical “Ho-Ho-Ho”’s fill the dome.  The Grinch tries to crawl backwards but it looks bad for him.  The terminator Potter continues to lunge forward…

Suddenly, the Grinch looks over into the audience.  By an extraordinary coincidence, little Cindy-Lou Who (no more than two, so you pervs in the back better clear out of here) is sitting in the audience.  In her hands she holds a cup of water.  Could this be the famous cup of water that The Grinch gave her so long ago in that tale that made him famous?  Apparently, he’s betting on it because he snatches Little Cindy-Lou Who’s cup away and throws it into Potter’s face!  My God!  That cup was filled with sulfuric acid all this time, and not tap-water as we were led to believe!  Ohhhh, you’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch!  Lucky for Little Cindy-Lou Who that she never drank it and lucky for the Grinch as well because the acid has splashed all over the face of the terminator Potter and a noxious gas rises from the formally threatening figure!  A screech of agony shoots through the dome, drowning out the sinister “Ho-Ho-Ho”’s, as the terminator Potter falls backwards, his hands clawing at the melted remains of synthetic skin that covered the now-smelted metallic skull that once housed the cyborg brain of Potter!  The Grinch sees his advantage!  He scamper towards the dissolving cyborg…

And suddenly the entire crowd is on it’s feet.  The elf and who audience suddenly start singing a Christmas Carol.  “Christmas time is in our grasp, as long as we have hands to clasp,” is the rallying cry of the day as the Grinch, true to form, suddenly stops and thinks a thought he never thought before.  Maybe Christmas isn’t all about killing and maiming and bludgeoning your opponent into a mass of tooth and boney tissue.  Maybe, just maybe, Christmas means a little bit more.

How-the-Grinch-Stole-Christmas-christmas-movies-17366574-1067-800As the audience watches the Grinch’s heart grow three sizes, a cry of, “No, you Green Bastard!  Die like the dog you are,” rises from the ring!  Santa Claus, banking on the two contenders destroying each other, appears a little miffed that one is going to be left standing to see tomorrow’s sunrise.  He leaps over the ropes and charges the Grinch – his eyes how they blaze, his dimples flushed badly, his cheeks are on fire, his nose flaring madly – he charges to dispatch this final opponent of holiday joy and a peace with… my goodness, he’s pulled out an AK-47!  It looks like the end for our friend the Grinch!

But what’s this?  The know-it-all mouse from Twas The Night Before Christmas animated special suddenly steps forward from the audience!  “Dear sirs,” he says, “Santa Claus is a fraudulent myth…”  This unbeliever24009025 is too much for Santa, stopping him in his tracks!  His eyes roll up as he seems to be sinking into the floor.  A strange, foul-smelling puddle is forming underneath… my God, he’s melting!  Like Frosty in a microwave, Santa sinks into the carpet with a cry of, “What a world, what a world, how could you destroy my precious, evil, jolly mask!  One more lady elf for the road, just oonnnnnneeee!”  And in a whiff of smoke that smells suspiciously like reindeer farts, the last bit of Santa liquefies into the carpeting, leaving a disheveled red hat and suit behind.

The whole room explodes into a frenzy of hollering, cheering and singing!  The know-it-all mouse asks for Santa’s broomstick to hand over to the Wizard of Oz and his wish, quite reaching beyond every logical bound of this already convoluted and multi-novel spanning tale, is granted.  In lieu of a proper referee, Hermie the elf (the only person in authority… he’s a dentist so everyone is afraid of him) jumps up, snags the mic, and makes the announcement.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, the winner of tonight’s bout by knockout, the new champion humbug, and the new Santa Claus, I give you… The GRRRRRINNNCHHHHHH-AH!”

The crowd is on its feet as The Grinch is awarded the sacred key to the lady elves’s locker room, the symbol of authority at the North Pole.  Yes, all you kiddies out there, The Grinch is the new Santa Claus!

grinch

That’s about all for us here tonight, so on behalf of WXMAS – the network that still thinks Perry Como can carry a tune – have a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and keep an eye on the skies for the jolly, green Santa Grinch who’ll be there to bring Christmas joy to all good little girls and boys (but lock up the roast beast just in case; you never know when this guy is gonna’ have a relapse.)

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight!

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CHRISTMAS VILLAINS’ GRUDGE MATCH – BOUT 2

Ladies and Gentlemen, the bets are in!  The bookies are closed!  It’s time for:

Christmas Villains’ Grudge Match

Bout 2!

The Grinch vs. The Abominable Snow Monster!

Well, here we are again, at the Melted Frosty Memorial Amphitheater in the heart of Whoville for the start of our second bout in order to determine the meanest, nastiest cretin ever to try to put a damper on Christmas since Aunt Louisa came over and gave your three year-old a pair of socks packaged to look like a video game.  Not since the time the dog knocked over the Christmas tree has there been two contenders so intent on throwing a monkey wrench into “the most wonderful day of the year,” as Julie Andrews would be calling it if she hadn’t been so tragically decapitated and flayed in that heinous girlscout cookie incident.  That’s right, two animated legends come to battle for the honor of going against Henry F. Potter, the winner of last week’s bout.

grinch-1We took a few minutes to talk to each of the contenders in their dressing rooms concerning the upcoming slaughter.

Q:  So, Mr. Grinch, they tell me you have spiders in your soul.

A:  Spiders and weevils and insects galore, I’ll wipe Mr. Bumbles’ face on the floor!

Q:  Oh, I see.  You’re gonna’ be talking in rhymes, are you?  Well, to each his own.  As you know, weapons are allowed in this bout.  Do you have anything special up your sleeve to take care of that mighty Bumbles?

A:  The Abominable Snow Monster is no match for me, I’ll use my jigstopper-thantomine-G!

Q:  A Jigstopper-thantomine-G?  And what exactly is that?

A:  Uh… Well, it’s…uh…

Q:  You just made up something that would rhyme, didn’t you?

A:  No, no, you great poombler, you mustuff kenzi, you great noffy nebberhead pentomous kee!

Q:  Could you repeat that?

A:  Go away.

Q:  Excuse me?

A:  I said, go away!  This interview is over!

Q:  Is that the best you can do?  A noffy nebberhead pentomous kee?

A:  You want to hear real words, huh?  Well, let me tell you something you little… [Interview interrupted at this point, to avoid a lawsuit from the FCC and the estate of Theodore Geisel.  For a full transcript of The Grinch’s comments, all 146 pages of it, please log on to http://www.thegrinchcussesmeout.com.

tumblr_mduu68ZFFE1rl0gz1o2_1280Our interview with the Abominable Snow Monster was no less boring.  We found The Grinch’s challenger to be in a rather foul mood when we paid a call on him.

Q:  Abominable Snow Monster… uh… can I call you Bumbles?

A:  RRRROOOOOOWWWWWRRRR!!!

Q:  Well, thanks.  So, Bumbles, any ideas on how you’ll fight this bout?  After all, you are taking on a creature who emptied Whoville of all its Christmas paraphernalia in one night.

A:  RRRROOOOOOWWWWWRRRR!!!

Q:  Okay, okay, if you want to keep it a secret, I can understand that.  What about strategy?  You are quite aware that The Grinch has a heart that’s two sizes too small.  With the probability that he’ll get winded very early in the match, are you going to overwork him early in the bout?

A:  RRRROOOOOOWWWWWRRRR!!!

Q:  I’m sorry, what was that?

A:  RRRROOOOOOWWWWWRRRR!!!

Q:  Ah, I see.  Bumbles, uh… may I call you Bumb?

A:  RRRROOOOOOWWWWWRRRR!!!

Q:  Alright, Bumbles it is.  Is it alright with you if I ask you a personal question?

A:  RRRROOOOOOWWWWWRRRR!!!

Q:  Why did you just eat my photographer?

A:  RRRROOOOOOWWWWWRRRR!!!

Q:  Well, that’s no reason, is it?  Uh… why are you looking at me like that?

A:  RRRROOOOOOWWWWWRRRR!!!

Although we don’t have the time here to go into how that interview ended, you can read the full account at http://www.Letsgetthehelloutofherebeforewebecomeabumblessnack.com.

Well, that should give a fair account of what we have up against us:  The green evil genius versus the eating machine.  And as the lights fall on the amphitheater, I can see the spotlight pick out The Grinch slinking his way towards the ring in a homemade Santa Claus suit carrying a dreidel in one hand and a sign that reads “Happy Quanza” in the other.  Pretty smart, this boy.  Ready for anything the monster throws at him.  And here comes Bumbles!  His head digging a new skylight in the amphitheater, he strides majestically towards the ring, pausing only to casually scoop up and swallow a few Whos on the way.  Boy, I bet those sports fans are kinda’ wishing they’d swung with a few of the more expensive seats up near the front.  15bThe two contenders are in their corners and tonight’s referee, the Charley-In-The-Box from the “Island Of Misfit Toys”, springs into the stage to give the instructions.

At least that’s what would be happening if Charley hadn’t suddenly gone into a whining tirade about how nobody wants a Charley-In-The-Box.  I’m told that our referee has been returned to the island a total of 496 times, far exceeding the old record set by the “Polly-Puke-On-Your-Feet” doll.  He has been voted the most unwanted box of metal in the history of the world, despite even a name change from Charley to Mortimer.  Things are looking pretty grim for all of us here at the amphitheater.  As Mortimer’s rant continues, I can see all the Whos in section B shoot themselves and fall into a massive bloodied mountain of flesh as the entire balcony prepares to step into midair and into eternity.  I haven’t seen anything like this since Pauly Shore and Adam Sandler formed that nightclub act and Vegas sank into the desert without a trace!  Wow, what The Grinch couldn’t accomplish by stealing all the Whos’ presents is happening in droves right before our very…

Ah, but what’s this?  Bumbles has grabbed Mortimer’s head and has tied the spring into a series of small, tight knots.  A roar of relief rises from the few surviving Whos here as The Mortimer-In-The-Box turns blue, sputters, and falls to the canvass.  Toy medical science tells us that a Mortimer-In-The-Box can live for ten minutes without oxygen; more than enough time for him to officiate this bout as the contenders go to their corners and the bell rings for round one.

Round 1

The Grinch zips out of his corner with his dog-powered sleigh piled high with sacks of stolen Who Christmas knickknacks towards Bumbles, who lumbers along uncertainly.  Max the dog takes one look at what he’s up against, turns, and heads straight for the exit, taking the sleigh with him.  The Grinch looses his grip and ends up sitting squat on the canvass with an old, leftover can of Who Harsh slowly running down his face.  With both the sleigh and Max no longer at his disposal, The Grinch looks like he’s forced to rely on his own wits to get him through this one.  As Bumbles lumbers closer and closer, I see that tell-tale mile-wide smile forming on The Grinch’s face.  He’s getting an idea… an awful idea.

Wow, it was an awful idea!  The Grinch stands up and kicks Bumbles in the shin!  You can’t get much more awful than that!  Mortimer-In-The-Box, now an arresting shade of ultra-violet, deducts a point from The Grinch’s score for “Sheer Stupidity” as Bumbles reaches down, gently plucks up The Grinch by the hairs on his sack (not a sack for carrying stolen Who gifts, mind you, I mean his SACK) and lifts him towards his upturned mouth.  It looks bad for the Grinch!  Bumbles’ hot breath blows like a hurricane across the former terror of Whoville…

Rudolph-Red-Nosed-Reindeer-007But what’s this?  There is a flash of red from the audience.  Bumbles is distracted!  He puts the Grinch down and looks into the crowd.  I don’t believe it!  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is in attendance tonight and his nose has, as it has on so many other occasions, caught the Bumbles’ attention.  Bumbles reaches into the audience, picks up Rudolph and… does something to him that makes me glad that the kiddies are tucked snug into their beds already.  Oh dear!  I do hope that the fog patch doesn’t roll in on Christmas Eve this year because Santa’s gonna’ have to rely on the original eight to get that sleigh off the ground.

The Grinch backs into his corner and cowers as the bell rings and Round 1 comes to a close.

Round 2

Both contenders have agreed that round 2 tends to be an anticlimatic series of gesturing and flat-footed legwork with no bearing on anything even remotely interesting, let alone exciting.  Both contenders have agreed to forego the round and all the other boring rounds to follow until something interesting happens.  Mortimer-In-The-Box, now a lovely crimson that just about matches what Rudolph’s nose would look like were it not hanging from the announcer’s microphone, has suggested that round 6 is a traditionally festive round with lots of dramatic turns, not to mention that boxing joe-cocker1history shows us that most fighters who die in the ring tend to breathe their last in the sixth.  All parties agree to reconvene at the sixth round.  Tea is served.  Nobody drinks it.  The brown acid is circulating.  Wavy Gravy is making a speech.  Joe Cocker finishes his set and the rainclouds hover overhead.  No rain!  No rain!  No rain!  No rain!  New York state thruway is closed!  It’s three days of peace and love without the hang-ups up from the MAN!  Hendrix plays as the sun comes up.  Let’s leave the garbage where it lies and th (2)trek across the country to Altamont and watch our hippie ideals die to the tune of “Street Fighting Man”.  Bummer, man.  Got any weed?

Round 6

Well, there certainly seems to be a lot of excitement going on.  I just wish I could report it without being hampered by this acid flashback I seem to be in the middle of at the moment.  I don’t mind telling you that I’m a bit concerned for my sanity right about now.  It all started out as a nice little evening with a small, green guy in a Santa Claus suit trying to beat up a big, ugly snow monster, but now it’s getting weird.  My microphone has turned into Brittany Spears and it’s singing that damn song again!  Airsick leprechauns are hanging from the ceiling and the booth is flooded in green sick!  A little man who lives in my coat pocket is telling me that I’m not a sports announcer, but an underwear salesman from Boise who can’t make a sale because his entire clientele consists of Yak people from the planet Zarquon-4 who all wear boxers.  That’s when the little woman who lives in the little man’s coat pocket tells me not to listen to the little man:  he apparently says that to everybody.

Round 11

Ah, what a relief.  A short nap, a warm spot of herbal tea, and nice, tasty shot of adrenaline to the temple and I’m back in the announcer’s chair just as the bell rings and our two contenders walk to the center of the ring for round 11.  These two look like they’ve been through a war… uh.. well, maybe not an actual war per se.  Uh… a skirmish or maybe a… really, really, harsh exchange of words.  The Grinch’s Santa hat is askew on his head and… he’s not making a move to correct it!  What could be driving this creature to ignore an obvious fashion faux pas?  Could it be that his shoes are too tight?  Could it be that his head’s not screwed on right?  Or could it be…

My goodness!  Or could it be that in The Grinch’s left hand, he carrying a jigstopper-thantomine-G!  Either that, or the acid hasn’t worn off yet.  After pausing briefly to throw a nasty look in my direction, he advances on Bumbles with the Seussian device, the ripping claws snapping at the air molecules just in front of Bumbles’ face, the rotating rabid chipmunks gnashing away at the monster’s fur, the red-hot-off-the-presses issue of People Magazine with the Courtney Love interview flapping before the monster’s eyes!

The monster reacts quickly and harshly!  Shaking back his fur and with a determined look in his eye, he immediately hunkers down and writes out a full apology!  Oh, what a magnificent document it is!  How eloquently he waxes as he writes of his own “complete and utter foolishness in my fantasies to topple you from your rightful position as ‘the one who bitch-slaps me with vigor’”.  All of it, every single whining, kowtowing syllable, is being written on the canvass by a creature that never learned to conjugate the verb “to RRRROOOOOOWWWWWRRRR”.  Bumbles has finished the apology and is about to sign it and signal the end of this bout… when The Grinch knocks the pen out of his hand!  It seems that the Abominable Snow Monster has misspelled the word “butt-licker”, and this doesn’t sit well with The Grinch!  Viciously, quite beyond the bounds of fair play, The Grinch unleashes the Courtney Love interview!  Oh, the humanity!  While discovering why Ms. Love considers herpes just another extension of her artistic persona, the Abominable Snow creature clutches his chest and falls to the canvass, shaking the amphitheater to its foundation.  This could be its undoing, as the rules clearly state that a contender has to be alive in order to compete for the title.  Mortimer-In-The-Box, his face a death-mask as white as pure Christmas snow, drags himself to the center of the ring to make it all official.

“[Gasp]… Winner by knoc… [cough]… knockout… [wheeze]… g-g-g-grinch…”

Well, there’s no stopping it now.  Two Christmas supervillains will meet here next week to decide who’s the nastiest of them all.  Don’t miss our next and final bout in the series with…

HENRY F. POTTER vs. THE GRINCH!

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 GrinchF1

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CHRISTMAS VILLAINS’ GRUDGE MATCH – BOUT 1

Ladies and Gentlemen:  fasten your seatbelts.  Get ready for the match you’ve been waiting twelve months for!  It’s the

 Christmas Villains’ Grudge Match!

 Four tried and true nasties of the holiday season battle it out to see who’s the best of the worst!

Here are the stats for the four contenders:

Eberneezer Scrooge:  (as played by Alistar Sim/A Christmas Carol)

scrooge

 

STRENGTH Let’s face it: a leaf could blow this guy over.  His evil power extends in other areas. 1
AGILITY Has been avoiding spending Christmas with his nephew for thirty years or so.  You know how hard it is to get out of holidays parties with relatives! 7
ENDURENCE It takes visits from four ghosts and a premonition of his own death to turn him around.  A tough nut to crack! 9
SPEED Threatens everyone in town with repossession for unpaid debts and makes it home in time for a visit from Ghost.  Not bad. 5
INTELLIGENCE Doesn’t realize that listening to the ghosts and being nice to people isn’t going to stop him from dying someday. 5
EVIL LEVEL Has allowed himself to be played by Vanessa Williams and Mr. Magoo. 9
MOTIVES Unhappy childhood and death of sister turns him into bitter old fart.  Something of a whiner. 7
ANNOYENCE LEVEL Extremely annoying.  Loses 2 points for not actively annoying people.  (People must actually travel to his counting house to be annoyed.) 7
DAMAGE DONE Forces Fezziwig out of business, dumps his fiancé, keeps the Cratchet family in starvation, passively causes the death of Tiny Tim (in alternate future). 7
WEAPONS Lots of money.  The word “Humbug” (not really sure what this does, but Scrooge apparently believes it has some power over enemies: he never stops saying it). 3
LACKEYS Bob Cratchet does not assist Scrooge in his evil pursuits.  In fact, he hinders Scrooge through nefarious whinings of his own, usually concerning the coal shovel or time off for Christmas.  A major distraction for Scrooge. 3

TOTAL

63

 

Henry F. Potter  (as played by Lionel Barrymore/It’s A Wonderful Life)

its_a_wonderful_life_lionel_barrymore

 

STRENGTH Pretty scrappy for an old cripple.  Got some bite left in him. 5
AGILITY He’s a cripple.  Although add one point for avoiding being reformed by the end of the film. 1
ENDURENCE By the end of the film, he’s still the bad guy!  You’ve got to give him credit. 10
SPEED Makes George Bailey’s life a living Hell over a period of thirty years. 1
INTELLIGENCE Winds up buying everything in town ten seconds after the market crashes. 7
EVIL LEVEL Along with his notorious crimes against the town of Bedford Falls, he once allowed – in a TV version of the film – a slumming Orson Welles to play his role. 9
MOTIVES He’s just mean.  Add two points for the sheer spectacle of someone who is mean just for the enjoyment of it. 2
ANNOYENCE LEVEL Drives George Bailey to call Uncle Billy a “doddering old fool”, insult the school teacher, yell at his family, drive into a tree, and consider suicide. 9
DAMAGE DONE Passively responsible for George’s father’s death, forces George to abandon college, steals Uncle Billy’s deposit, drives George to consider suicide, turns Bedford Falls into a small-town Vegas (in Evil Alternate Universe). 9
WEAPONS Has more money than Scrooge and not afraid to use it for his own nefarious plots. 5
LACKEYS Has creepy, mute sidekick who wheels him around everywhere.  With this man behind him, Potter is unstoppable. 5

TOTAL

63

 

The Grinch:  (as played by Boris Karloff/How The Grinch Stole Christmas)

GrinchF1

 

STRENGTH Ten Grinches plus two! 9
AGILITY Can sneak down chimneys, slink snakelike between gifts and even turn his head around 360 degrees (there’ll be no sneaking up on this guy)! 9
ENDURENCE One cute song from the Whos and he melts like warm butter in their hands. 0
SPEED Empties Whoville of their Christmas gifts all in one night. 10
INTELLIGENCE Conjures up the plan all on his own.  It’s not his fault that the Whos don’t react the way they should.  Lose one point for going to the trouble of making a Santa Claus suit even though he knows all the Whos will be sleeping. 8
EVIL LEVEL Probably gives Little Cindy-Lou Who (no more than 2) cancer by giving her a glass of tap-water (she’ll never reach 3).  Allowed Jim Carrey to play him later in life. 9
MOTIVES Undecided between the size of his heart and the size of his shoes. 5
ANNOYENCE LEVEL The Whos barely notice his wicked efforts. 0
DAMAGE DONE See “Annoyance Level”.  Add one point for not washing his hands before carving the roast beast. 1
WEAPONS A quickly made Santa Claus suit, a bunch of sacks, and a sleigh that he just happened to have hanging around. 7
LACKEYS Max the dog, who helps out only because he’s got no other choice. 3

TOTAL

61

 

Bumbles The Abominable Snowmonster:  (as played by a lump of clay/Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer)

Bumble03

 

STRENGTH “He’s mean and he’s nasty!  He hates everything to do with Christmas!” – Sam the Snowman 10
AGILITY “Bumbles bounce!” – Y. Cornelius 7
ENDURENCE If his teeth are pulled by an effeminate elf, there isn’t much more he can do. 3
SPEED You practically have to walk up to him and smell like a deer in order to get caught. 3
INTELLIGENCE He fell for the old “Hermie-makes-lame-pig-noises” trick a little too easily. 1
EVIL LEVEL Sure he eats Santa’s reindeer, but come on – he’s a piece of clay! 5
MOTIVES So he likes deer meat.  How would you like it if all your teeth were pulled just because you had the nerve to go out and get some food? 5
ANNOYENCE LEVEL Rather good at scaring everyone without actually having to do anything bad. 7
DAMAGE DONE Add one point for putting the star on the tree crooked. 1
WEAPONS Razor sharp teeth.  Plus he swings a mean icicle against Rudolph. 9
LACKEYS Doesn’t need any.  Add two points for being an independent piece of clay. 2

TOTAL

53

Well, those are the contenders.  And now our first bout in a three bout series begins.  Watch two old farts enter the ring to prove who’s the biggest humbug of them all in…

 Eberneezer Scrooge vs. Henry F. Potter:

 Battle of the Coots

 Despite strengths lying in different aspects of their evil and nefarious characters, these two fighters are evenly matched up for this bout, each attaining a score of 63 (out of 110, but they’re old:  what are you expecting?).  Each of them have been training hard for this bout and we should be seeing plenty from the two men most responsible for forcing people to jump from bridges on Christmas eve.

Lionel-Potter-490x367We were able to have few words with the fighters early today in their dressing rooms.

Q:  Mr. Potter, do you feel worried about the upcoming bout?  After all, you are taking on one of the leading villains in literature.

A:  Former villain, you mean!  You see the way he scampered about when he finally got the Christmas spirit in him?  Shameful, if you ask me!  Three measly little ghosts give him a couple of bad dreams, tell him that he’s gonna’ die someday and he gets all “giddy as a drunken man?”  What the Spirit of Christmas-Yet-To-Come neglected to tell him is that his number’s coming up tonight!

Q:  You do realize that you’ll be going up against the pre-spirits version of Scrooge.

A:  So what?  Mention his sister or show him a tombstone with his name on it and the man turns to putty.  You wouldn’t catch me prancing around like an idiot in my nightgown!  Thank God I’m a cripple!

Q:  Let’s get to tactics, shall we?  What do you think will be your most effective weapon against Scrooge.

A:  Money, of course!  I can outbuy that old buzzard twenty times over.  And if that doesn’t work, he must have some silly uncle who’ll accidentally leave his bank deposit with me.  Then I’ll have him arrested!  That’s how I got that dumb whippersnapper George Bailey!

Q:  Yes, but George got out of trouble when his friends loaned him the money you stole.

A:  Only because I didn’t have time to implement the second part of plan to kill everyone else Pottersville!

Q:  You mean Bedford Falls!

A:  For the time being, young man.  That reminds me, if you should happen to be driving through Pottersville during the next few months, you may not want to breathe in too deeply.

Q:  Mr. Potter, you’re a warped, frustrated old man.

A:  Thank you.  Don’t forget the “F” in Henry F. Potter stands for… [We interrupt the interview at this point to avoid a possible lawsuit from the FCC.  It may be the new millenium, but there are still rules to follow.  You can read the full unexpurgated version of this interview, all 76 pages of it, at http://www.Potterisafilthyoldswine.com].

scroogescaredWe then joined Eberneezer Scrooge in his locker room for a few words.  It turned out to be very few words.

Q:  Well, Mr. Scrooge, how are you feeling about tonight’s bout?

A:  Humbug!

Q:  Uh… Yeah!  Do you have any special tactics or strategy that you’re going to be using against Potter?

A:  Humbug!

Q:  Mr. Scrooge, do you have any idea what I’m saying at all?

A:  Humbug!

Q:  I see.  Could you tell me how much one plus one is?

A:  Humbug, humbug!

Q:  What’s your favorite food?

A: Gruel.

Q:  Not humbug?

A:  Fire hydrant.

Q:  Mr. Scrooge, now that we’ve established that you have no idea what I’m saying, do have any idea what you’re saying?

A:  I’m as giddy as a drunken man.

Q: Apparently.

A:  He should be boiled in his own pudding and buried with a sprig of holly through his heart!

Q:  Ah, here we go!  Are these the tactics you’re going to use against Potter?

A:  Any fool who goes about wishing anyone a Merry Christmas…

Q:  Potter! P-O-T-T-E-R!  The man you’ll be meeting in the ring in a few minutes!  What are you going to do about him?

A:  Oh…

(Thoughtful pause)

A:  Humbug!

Q:  Oh, for Christ’s sake.  I’m outta’ here!

A:  Humbug?

So, as you can see, we have an exciting bout ahead of us.  I can see both the contenders heading for the ring.  A dollar bill has been placed in the center img_0179of the ring to ensure that both contenders will not get lost on the way.  Yes, they’ve honed in on the dollar bill.  They’ve entered the ring and are making their way towards the dollar.  I see that the referee, Yukon Cornelius, has speared the dollar with his pickaxe and chucked it away before either of the contenders have a chance to snatch it up, and neither of them are happy about that one little bit!

Uh… what’s that?  My goodness, Mr. Potter has run over Cornelius’s foot with his wheelchair, allowing Mr. Scrooge the opportunity to take up the pickaxe and… Oh dear.  I certainly hope that someone gets on the phone because we’re going to need somebody to ref this bout.  Maybe we can get Frosty or Father O’Malley from The Bells Of St. Mary.  Wow!  Whoever said that the sinking value of the dollar has lessened the impact of monetary gain hasn’t seen a pickaxe sticking out of the blood-soaked head of…

But what’s this?  A chill comes over the ring as Snow Miser, the snow God from Year Without A Santa Claus, steps forward and generously offers up snow-miserhis services as referee.  Being immortal certainly is a plus for Snow Miser as he can avoid the type of sudden violence that felled his predecessor.

A few words from the referee, the contenders go back to their corners.  Just waiting to see if they’ll scrape Cornellius off the ring.  No?  Evidently not, as the bell sounds and the fight commences.

Round 1

Potter’s creepy assistant wheels him to the center of the ring as Scrooge hobbles out carrying a very sharp sprig of holly and a bucket containing… I’m not certain of this, but it looks like it might be boiling pudding!  Scrooge starts to circle Potter’s chair.  But what’s he waiting for?  Oh, apparently he’s waiting to be wished a “Merry Christmas” before he strikes out with these deadly holiday knickknacks.  Got to hand it to Scrooge; true to his character till the end.  But it’s not helping here.  The two are circling each other.  Potter isn’t going to wish anyone “Merry Christmas” anytime in this lifetime…

What’s this?  One of the ringsiders has wished his wife “Merry Christmas” and Scrooge has thrown the sprig with pinpoint accuracy straight between the gentleman’s eyes!  Before he can stop himself, he tosses the bucket of boiling pudding into the crowd!  Oh, the humanity!  But back in the ring, Snow Miser has deducted a point from Scrooge’s score just as the bell sounds and the round ends.

Round 2

Potter and Scrooge head for the center again and… they are trying to bribe each other into throwing the fight.  As Potter said earlier, he can easily outbid… but what’s this?  Scrooge has pulled out Victorian gold crowns and Potter’s eyes are beginning to sparkle!  Smart move, Ebby, not getting your money changed over.  Potter is attempting to rise out of his chair to get at the gold and his creepy assistant is trying to hold him back, but this Potter is a scrappy one!  He takes two steps out of his chair before remembering that he can’t walk and falls flat on his face!  Scrooge lifts Potter and piledrives him into the canvass!  Where is the referee through all this?  Why doesn’t he put a stop to it?  Oh, yeah, he’s evil:  I forgot.

It looks bad for Potter as Scrooge knees his body right in his jelly-like spine!  But what’s this?  There’s a shimmering puff of smoke in the middle of the ring and… Yes, it’s the Ghost of Christmas Past, pleading with Scrooge to look back in his childhood and see how his past mistakes have hardened his thheart towards Christmas.  Oh, dear, the spirit has just presented to Scrooge his sister’s early death and he goes to the floor shouting, “Spirit, torment me no longer!”  I should pause to note that the three spirit rule is in effect tonight.  If either of the fighters are tormented by three spirits and made to allow the spirit of Christmas into their hearts, it is considered a technical knockout.

Potter has used this pause in his own mauling to crawl back into his chair.  He runs right over Scrooge and chases the spirit around ring!  The spirit is frantically trying to conjure up heartbreaking images of his childhood, but Potter won’t have any of that!  He traps the spirit into Scrooge’s corner.  He pauses, almost savoring the moment of impact, he nods to his creepy assistant and…

The bell has rung and round 2 is over!

Round 3

The bell rings and the two men stagger towards the center of the ring.  Scrooge looks nearly used up; his weapons gone, he lifts his head towards Potter and starts shouting “Humbug” at him over and over.  There’s a malicious gleam in Potter’s eye; it looks like he’s been savoring this moment for quite a while.  And now, he pulls out his secret weapon… I knew it!  He’s threatening to close the Building & Loan unless Scrooge gives up his chance to go to college and take over.  Scrooge, shouting “Humbug” and not sure where he is, doesn’t realize that he doesn’t own a Building & Loan and falls for it immediately!  He becomes a pawn in Potter’s plan.  Although he does get to marry Mary, Potter makes his life Hell for years!  Uh… just as I suspected!  He’s gotten the deposit away from Scrooge’s Uncle Billy.  Scrooge has forgotten that Uncle Billy is a character from a completely different story!  It looks bad for Scrooge as he wanders home without the Christmas wreath, muttering “humbug.. humbug” under his breath.  Potter has just sworn out a warrant for Scrooge’s arrest and Scrooge just barely avoids the punch in the mouth by the schoolteacher’s drunken husband.  Oh-oh!  Scrooge has just scampered to the bridge and…

But, what’s this, the Ghost of Christmas Present has just materialized in front of Potter and has shown him a crutch by the fire and an empty chair!  th (1)He’s warned Potter that if these shadows remain unchanged by future events, Tiny Tim will die.  Is that a look of concern on Potter’s brow that I see?  Could it be that the iron will of Henry F. Potter might be cracking?  Potter pauses and considers…

Meanwhile, Scrooge is having his own problems on the bridge.  It looks like Potter isn’t going to have time to change his stripes as Scrooge swings one leg over the parapet and… Clarence Oddbody – AS2 – materializes and shows Scrooge what the world have been like if he had not been born.  Unfortunately, the picture isn’t so encouraging.  It seems that Tiny Tim would’ve grown up to be the star quarterback at London U, married Zuzu, and drove Potter into a home for the criminally demented.  With a cry of “HUMBUUUUUUUUG”, Scrooge jumps off the bridge!

As Zuzu’s petals flutter to the ring, Snow Miser walks to the center of the ring and announces the official results.

“Ladies & Gentlemen, winner by technical knockout, Henry F. PoTTTTTTERRRRRR!”

40917586b857ebe3bb8b0a3a04591d79

Well, there it is.  The first bout in this three bout series has ended in a knockout for Potter, who’ll go on to meet the winner of our next bout.  Join us next time and watch the animated terrors of Christmas go at it hammer and sleigh.  Don’t tune in late for the blood-thirsty battle of the brushstrokes in…

THE GRINCH vs. THE ABOMINABLE SNOW MONSTER!

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DOCTOR WHO:  DEATH IN HEAVEN – A Review

deathinheaven

Written by Stephen Moffat

Directed by Rachel Talalay

Starring:  Peter Capaldi (The Doctor); Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald); Samuel Anderson (Danny Pink); Michelle Gomez (Missy); Jemma Redgrave (Kate Lethbridge-Stewart); Ingrid Oliver (Osgood); Chris Addison (Seb); Sanjeev Bhaskar (Colonel Ahmed) & Nick Frost (Santa Claus)

Here There Be Spoilers (EVEN BIGGER ONES).

 

death-in-heaven-doctor-who           And thus the eighth series of Doctor Who, the first series starring new Doctor Peter Capaldi, came to an end… a bitter end, for there is no other way to accurately describe the feelings the viewer is left with when the TARDIS disappears in front of Clara for what is quite possibly the last time.  Our two heroes have been through a lot and, as usual, have been less than honest with each other but it somehow feels as if it is for the best.  There’s a lot of pain that is inflicted on the Doctor and Clara during the sixty minutes of Death In Heaven, and (the silly mid-credits insert not withstanding) it is hard to sit back at the end of this episode with any sort of satisfaction.  Death In Heaven has tried harder than any other series finale of Doctor Who in recent memory to give the fans everything they wanted and more.  And it succeeds.  And it fails.  Let’s see if we can examine what happened and search our feelings to get to the root of this bipolar judgment.

When last we left our heroes, Cybermen were invading the streets of London, Clara was being advanced on by a Cyberman, Danny was dead and considering deleting his emotions and Missy had just dropped a bombshell:  she is the latest regeneration of the Master.  We haven’t had a cliff-hanger in quite a while and, by tradition, the resolutions tend to be a bit of a letdown.  So it’s not so surprising when the Cybermen march into the street and just stand there 61319while people start taking selfies with them.  Clara’s reaction to her Cyberman is to tell it that she is actually the Doctor; an interesting twist that is propped up by a special credit sequence that puts Coleman’s name before Capaldi’s and substitutes his intense stare with her beautiful peepers (a trick that Moffat has played before during the last episode of his series Jekyll).  It’s not bad, but it’s not great either; at no point during the opening fifteen minutes of this episode did I believe that Clara was actually the Doctor and we had all been victims of a long-running ruse.  We simply know too much about Clara’s background to be taken in by this; she is simply doing what she does best, stalling for time until she can figure out her next move.  Clara has certainly come a long way since her face-off with the half-faced man in Deep Breath; the scared girl who hopes that she can keeping stalling long enough for the Doctor to come and save her has evolved into a companion who can fearlessly hold off three Cybermen with a stream of bullshit that neither they nor the viewer believes for a second without any thought that the Doctor might leap in to the rescue.  As the eleventh Doctor told Tasha Lem in The Time of The Doctor, “That is a WOMAN!”  She certainly is.

Doctor-who-death-in-heaven-doctor           Meanwhile, the Doctor finds he’s not fighting alone against Missy and the Cybermen; UNIT, led by Kate Lethbridge-Stewart and her trusty sidekick Osgood, descend on the street and take Missy into custody but are powerless to stop the Cybermen from launching themselves into the sky to pollenate the planet with their seed.  Remember the Cybermites from Nightmare In Silver that could crawl inside your brain and transform you into a Cyberman?  Same principal here, except they’re going to convert the dead; some of the best sequences in this episode involve the Cybermen rising from morgue slabs or reaching up from under the ground.  So there’s only one safe place for the Doctor, now the acting “president of Earth” to command the world’s armies from, a UNIT sky bus.  But they already know that the Cybermen have upgraded themselves into flying machines.  Can they truly be safe?

I don’t know about the Doctor and UNIT, but there certainly a major lack of threat to the Earthbound population.  Since the doctor_who_death_in_heaven_6series began, it has been common knowledge that the Cybermen would be making an appearance in the final episode and the reality is that they are spectacularly underwhelming.  There has been much criticism as of late about the way the Cybermen were treated while under the eye of Russell T. Davies (which I, for the most part, disagree with) but, whatever the complaints were, at least the Cybermen of series two (Rise Of The Cybermen, Age Of Steel, Army Of Ghosts and Doomsday) posed an actual threat to the planet:  they touched you and you died of electrocution, they shot you with lasers, and they herded you up and took you to be processed into a Cyberman.  Even during the somewhat disappointing Nightmare In Silver they were upgraded into unbeatable badasses; you had to blow up the planet in order to beat them.  In Death In Heaven, they emerge from St. Paul’s cathedral and… stand around a bit.  True, they can fly (and their attack on the sky bus is their most exciting sequence), but the climax of the episode is twenty minutes in a cemetery where they mill around without attacking anyone.  The Doctor says that they’re confused because they’re newly born (and later it is suggested that it is because they are awaiting orders from Missy) but with the exception of the sky bus attack, they don’t do much except stand there.  Wouldn’t it have made sense for the Cybermen to march on the living population to kill them and convert them?  Well, it would have until Cyber-Danny reveals that a second rain will come that will convert all the living people of Earth to Cybermen as well.  What????  What was the purpose of converting just the dead when Missy could’ve converted everyone on Earth, dead or living, all at once?  None whatsoever as far as I can see and the poor Cybermen are reduced to the status of stationary boogiemen awaiting orders.  This is not how you treat a classic Doctor Who monster.

capaldi-facepalm-death-in-heaven            Another good idea that doesn’t really see fruition is the Doctor being proclaimed President of Earth.  Shuffled onto the UNIT sky bus and given ultimate authority over the Earth’s forces (a damned good idea, for once the Doctor doesn’t have to battle military red tape in order to get the job done), the Doctor’s reign as mankind’s Lord and Protector is short-lived and incredibly unproductive.  He concludes early on that there really isn’t anything that the armies of Earth can do against the Cybermen; there are more of them than us and Cybermen cannot be defeated.  It frankly feels like a letdown for the Doctor to be given so much authority and do little except wait for the Cybermen to arrive and crash the plane.  The episode’s main failure is the fact that introduces great plot ideas that don’t come even close to paying off.

This review isn’t going very well at all, is it?  Is there anything that can possibly save this very important episode from completeclara-doctor-danny-grave-death-in-heaven-300x168 and utter failure?  Well, I would like to mention that for every head-scratching moment in the plot, the episode more than makes up for it with character development and emotion.  Death In Heaven is a draining experience in that it puts the characters we love straight through the mangler and forces us to look at the aftermath.  It is here that we must now turn our attention to the unfortunate Danny Pink; killed in a stupid road accident in last week’s episode, he is further subjected to pain and injustice as a Cyberman.  It is absolutely horrifying when he removes his faceplate:  his dead skin has gone nearly gray and cyber-plugs are attached to his face.  And to make matters worse, his emotional inhibitor is not switched on and is causing him incredible pain.  Clara wants to end his pain, but doing so would sever Danny’s last connection with humanity.  Three words come to mind when looking at Danny’s grieving and ravaged face:  It’s not fair.  Danny sacrifices himself twice during the thepisode’s finale, once when he leads the Cybermen into the sky to burn up the Cyber-clouds and again when he allows the boy he accidently killed to live again in his place.  No one need ask, like the Doctor, if Danny is a good man.  We knew the answer all the time, but the Doctor needed to find it out, so that he could let Clara go to him in the knowledge that he was good enough for her.  The fact that he comes to this conclusion not knowing that Danny did not come back from the dead feels like a misstep; it is a wasted opportunity in the Doctor’s life.  Maybe he would have taken to Clara and Danny like Amy and Rory.  But then again, maybe it is the pain he still feels over their loss that motivates him to bring his travels with Clara to an end.

It is important to the series that Moffat has matured in his writing that he is finally allowing a character’s death to stand.  It’s always heart-breaking when a character we like dies, such as Astrid from Voyage Of The Damned or Rita from The God Complex.  Inmissy-osgood-death-in-heaven-300x168 fantasy, there are times when a character’s death can be reversed, but in the Moffat era, this happened so often that it became ridiculous.  Rory and Amy died and came back so many times that it became a joke even to them (when awaking in a dark unknown place in Night Terrors, Rory says “We’re dead… again!”) and it eliminated the series of suspense (what does it matter if Amy and Rory are put in deathly danger if they just keep coming back) and robbed the characters of their humanity; when Rory and Amy died for real at the end of The Angels Take Manhattan, what should have been an emotional tidal wave felt almost ho-hum.  Been there, done that, sorry.  We’ve even seen Clara buy the farm on a few occasions, but at least that was explained as part of her “Impossible Girl” story arc.  So now that we are given the deaths of two characters we like – Danny and Osgood – and know that they are definitely not coming back, it feels as if we’ve been hit by a bus.  Yes, I think I would’ve cheered if Danny had chosen to use the p02b8gnjbracelet for himself, but his decision to let the boy he killed live is the right one, the one that the Danny we were getting to know (let’s face it, we really didn’t get to know him all that well) would have chosen.  And Osgood’s death hurts as well, but we should’ve known that she was doomed the minute that the Doctor offered a space in the TARDIS to her (Rory in The God Complex:  “Whenever the Doctor makes friends with someone, I get the urge to contact their next of kin.”).  And because these deaths are so final, it’s alright for Kate to have been saved by the Cyberized version of her late father, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.  It’s a great moment, and it gives the Doctor a chance to redeem himself for not being at the Brig’s side when the great old man passed on.  Without the possibility of death, there is not only no suspense but there is also no reason to cheer when the smoke clears and we find that our heroes have survived one more time.

And what of the death of Missy, who is better known as The Master?  This is one time when I do think that a character’s death should only be temporary.  Sure it’s a cheat, but the Master’s timeline is full of cheats.  How did he escape death at the end of Planet Of Fire to return in The Ultimate Foe?  And how can Doctor-Who-Dark-Water-Missy-2he go from being swallowed by The Eye Of Harmony in Doctor Who: The Movie to finally reappear at the end of the universe in Utopia?  I don’t know either.  But it happened and we accepted it.  The Master has to live on, and not just because our Doctor needs his arch enemy.  Michelle Gomez’s Missy has been popping up, little by little, all through the series in sequences so short that we barely get an idea of who she is.  Death In Heaven is the first time she’s allowed to shine and she doesn’t waste the opportunity.  Like John Simm before her, Gomez’s Master chews the scenery and swallows it without a burp and I loved every moment of it.  The build-up to her murder of Osgood is a perfect example of her character, manipulating the poor girl close enough so that she can whisper “I’m going to kill you in a minute,” giving a countdown and then ordering her, like all her other victims, to “say something nice” before their deaths.  She’s kissing the Doctor one moment and then blowing up his plane next.  The only thing that doesn’t work (and Death-in-Heaven-Pic8this is more down to the story than to the acting) is her plan:  she goes through all the trouble to harvest and save dead intellects and turn them into a Cyber-army… to hand over its control to the Doctor.  What?  Because she wants to be close to him and make him see that they’re not so different after all.  Huh?  Did anyone really think that the Doctor was going to take her up on that?  It feels insanely confused and botched, much like the reveal (the worst one in the episode) that it was Missy who gave Clara the TARDIS’s phone number.  I still don’t know why she did that (Note to writers:  please don’t give characters important exposition while they’re thrashing around in a crashing plane).  Gomez’s turn as The Master is fascinating to watch and I hope that they will find a way to bring her back, but only if they give her character a plan that makes some degree of sense!

All of this leads to our two heroes sitting in a coffee shop, saying Goodbye.  The Doctor is letting Clara go because he believes p02b8gpfthat she should settle down with Danny (Clara, who was trying to find a way to tell him that her traveling days are over, doesn’t bother to correct him) so he tells a lie of his own:  his story that he has found Gallifrey and wants to go back home is pure codswallop (and Capaldi has never been finer than when he vents his frustration by beating the TARDIS console until it fizzles and sparks).  The two of them believe that they are letting the other live happily ever after and they part with a rare hug, which the Doctor says he never trusts because a hug hides a person’s face.  It’s a fitting epitaph for these two, they love each deeply but couldn’t find a way to be truthful with each other; the Doctor began their relationship on lies because he was trying to solve Clara’s Impossible Girl mystery, and then Clara felt the need to keep secrets of her own.  Maybe it is for the best that the two of them part, and yet it seems that the series isn’t finished with Clara yet.  Even the end of Donna’s travels with capaldi-hug-death-in-heaventhe Doctor, when she was forced to forget everything and reverted back to shallow old self, doesn’t feel as cruel as Clara’s slow walk away from where the TARDIS once stood.  She’s in mourning, for both her boyfriend and for her amazing second life, and it seems important that we get one more look at Clara and know that she’s turned a corner and is getting her life back together.  There is some talk that Jenna Coleman will appear in the 2014 Christmas episode, but rumors have tricked us before.  As it is, we’re left with a sadden companion and a somber Doctor (until jolly old Kris Kringle barges his way onto the TARDIS).  Death In Heaven is a sad ending to the eighth series but at least it forced our characters to grow and develop like they never did before.  I only wish that the story had been worthy of them.

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DOCTOR WHO:  DARK WATER – A Review

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Written by Stephen Moffat

Directed by Rachel Talalay

Starring:  Peter Capaldi (The Doctor); Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald); Samuel Anderson (Danny Pink); Michelle Gomez (Missy); Chris Addison (Seb); Andrew Leung (Dr. Chang) & Shiela Ried (Gran Oswald)

Here There Be Spoilers (BIG ONES).

 

doctor_who_missy_dark_water            Well, it is less than twenty-four hours since the broadcast of Dark Water, the first part of Doctor Who‘s series eight two-part finale and we finally know what’s what.  The Promised Land/Nethersphere has finally been exposed of its true nature, as has the true nature Missy, the seriously weird woman who has been turning up in episode finales since Deep Breath, peeking around the edges of the action like Killroy.  We can now make an educated guess as to what happened to everyone who found themselves sitting in Missy’s parlor.  As Rob Webb and Olivia Coleman shouted in sexual ecstasy during a hilarious Mitchell & Webb sketch, “Now we know.”  And how does that knowledge sit with this reviewer?

Dark Water begins on the oddest moment possible; just when Clara is finally ready, willing and able to tell Danny everything Doctor-Who-Dark-Water-Dannyabout her life as the Doctor’s companion, tragedy strikes:  Danny is run down by a car and killed.  Now if you have been paying attention for the last eleven weeks, you will know that Moffat’s arc has been hinging on the concept that death, as we know it, isn’t necessarily the end of life.  Although I haven’t committed this theory to any of my previous reviews, it did occur to me that, after seeing many secondary characters buy the farm only to take tea with Missy in her garden, it would only make sense to raise the stakes and have an important character find out what’s on the other side.  It occurred to me by the time of the broadcast of The Caretaker that either Clara’s or Danny’s days were numbered.  Danny’s end seems a little perfunctory as presented (more on that later), but it does drive Clara into a place we’ve never seen her in before.  It drives her ask the Doctor for something that she knows he will object to:  changing the past so that Danny can be saved.  Clara decides to negotiate from a point of strength; after apparently tricking the Doctor with a sleep patch, he finds himself inside an active volcano with Clara standing in front of him holding all seven of his TARDIS keys, throwing one into the lava and saying, “Do I have your attention?”  The stakes are clear:  either the Doctor finds a way to erase Danny’s death from history or be locked out of the TARDIS permanently.

Doctor-Who-Dark-Water-Clara            A lot has been written about the growth and development of Clara as a character, with special emphasis being paid to her role in shaping the Doctor’s personality as a child (Listen), her anger at his apparent abandonment of her (Kill The Moon), her abilities to work independently of him (Flatline) and her willingness to save him from certain doom (In The Forest Of The Night).  As impressive as all those moments are, they are nothing compared to the Clara we see dangling the TARDIS keys over a pool of lava.  To destroy them all will bring her nothing, both she and the Doctor know it, and when the final key sails into the drink, she is horrified at what she’s done while still admitting through her tears that she “would do it again.”  With the loss of Danny, Clara has been pushed over the edge; given another minute and she would likely throw herself into the lava pool and dissolve alongside the keys.  It is a shattering moment and it is difficult to believe that this is the same woman who, when the Doctor first met her, thought that only one person at a time could use the internet.  The Doctor is also impressive in his determination to not allow himself to be blackmailed (that is, until we realize that he set up the scenario and the keys were never in any danger).  The scene and the performances nail the amount of frustration that the Doctor_Who_2005_S08_E11_Dark_Water_720p_HDTV_x265 (2)characters must have for each other despite their friendship, she with his uncaring and dismissive attitude, he with her controlling nature.  When the illusion is finally dispelled and the Doctor gathers up the keys from the control room floor, we are left with a girl drained of emotion; her grief halted by the shock of the accident, Clara poured out her sadness and anger inside the volcano and now she must come to terms with the probability that she has lost the Doctor too.  But he’s not so easy to shake off; despite her betrayal, he agrees to try and take the TARDIS into the afterlife (!) and see if they can find Danny.  After an entire series of trying gauge the Doctor’s feelings for Clara, he finally makes it plain with the best line of the entire year:  “Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?”  It’s the only thing he could’ve said to match Clara’s standoff in the volcano.  For those of you who were hedging a bit on excepting this Doctor, eyebrows and all, this is the moment to relax:  Peter Capaldi is the Doctor and he is actually taking his companion into the afterlife to see if they can save her boyfriend.

 

Clara:  I don’t deserve a friend like you.

The Doctor:  Well, I’m terribly sorry, but that’s exactly what you deserve.

 

dark-water-promo-pics-3            The very fact that the Doctor is even attempting to do this shows a major leap forward for the character and the series; not long ago, he was chiding Clara for wanting to visit Robin Hood because he believed no such man ever existed (he was wrong) and now he’s attempting to go find out what happens to you after you die.  The episode begins to cross into the shadowlands at this point, with an apparently still living Danny being asked to fill in forms in order to process his afterlife admin, as it has done many times before whenever it gets close to the realm of the supernatural.  Doctor Who has taken a very definite stand on supernatural subjects; they are all either alien life forms or are the result of superior technology.  The ghosts in The Unquiet Dead were the Gelth, the witches in The Shakespeare Code were Carionites, and the Vampires Of Venice were Saturnyne creatures (only The Satan Pit’s Beast defied the Doctor’s explanation).  We’ve even see a version of Missy’s plan before; is the Nethersphere really so different from the data cloud that the Great Intelligence used to upload and store people’s consciousnesses?  And yet I feel that Dark Water is hedging its bets a bit; the Nethersphere maybe Time Lord technology, but it doesn’t answer everything.  Is Danny in a state of virtual reality or has he actually been given a body that will eventually be stored inside a cybersuit once his emotions are deleted?  And the chilling question of a dead consciousness still be able to feel the experiences of their former bodies (from cold storage to the burning of cremation) bares further thought:  I don’t believe that this is a natural Doctor-Who-darkwater-6phenomenon, something that every dead person going back to the dawn of time experiences (that would be exceptionally cruel) but something that Missy has cooked up with her soul-catching Nethersphere , something that induces new arrivals to hit the delete button on their emotions perhaps.  But whatever the cause, the sound of a voice crying out “Don’t cremate me” throws the episode into utter darkness.  It’s far worse than The Bells Of St. John’s “I don’t know where I am” since that episode didn’t fully convey what the captured souls were going through.  The Nethersphere is far-more fully realized; we are doomed to not only die but be tortured by the doctors and morticians who will prepare our bodies for their final fates.  When first deciding to take the TARDIS there, the Doctor referred to it as Hell.  Maybe he wasn’t far wrong.

Doctor_Who_2005_S08_E11_Dark_Water_720p_HDTV_x265 (1)            Since Clara and Danny met in Into The Dalek, there has been quite a lot chatter about whether these two characters, who are obviously attracted to each other, are a good couple (a bit like Amy and Rory during their first year on the show).  Sometimes their relationship has felt underwritten and disappointing – Danny was only a major presence three episodes until his untimely demise and, more often than not, was pushed into the background – and much of their time together has been spent examining their problems such as their differences (Clara loves adventure while time-traveling has no appeal for Danny) and the lies that Clara tells to suit her need for both her men.  It is all the more tragic that Clara’s intentions to come clean with Danny go for nought; the rug has been literally ripped from under her feet, which is well-conveyed through the unrealistic way in which Danny death is filmed.  Consider that Clara is talking to Danny on the phone (he is apparently only a few yards away, walking to her flat) and, after telling him she loves him, gets nothing but silence until a woman, who has picked up the phone, informs Clara that there has been an accident.  It’s powerful stuff, but not true-to-life since Clara either would’ve heard something of the accident either over the phone or through her window.  We don’t even get a “clunk” of the phone hitting the pavement, let alone the sound of screeching tires or general Doctor_Who_2005_S08_E11_Dark_Water_720p_HDTV_x265 (3)gasps.  At first, I wasn’t sure that I liked this sequence; it almost makes Danny’s death seem unreal, as if he disappeared from the face of planet rather than was run down.  But now I realize that we have been put into Clara’s shoes; she literally cannot believe that Danny could be speaking to her one moment and eternally silent the next.  It couldn’t have happened and yet we are told that it did; this must be exactly what Clara is feeling.  She confirms this when she later says, surprisingly harshly, that Danny’s death was “boring.”  A simple accident and nothing more, Danny’s death doesn’t have the spark of Adric’s from Earthshock or River’s in Forest Of The Dead.  It wasn’t even in defense of his country.  It was unnecessary and disappointing, and this is why Clara cannot get her head around it.

Doctor-Who-Dark-Water-delete            And so we leave Danny in the Nethersphere, his finger hovering over the Delete button that will turn him into a cyberman and take a closer look at the one who created it all, Missy.  There’s no sense beating around the bush; Missy is the Master (or the Mistress, as she evidentially refers to be called).  After a mighty brouhaha about whether it was inconceivable that Matt Smith’s successor as the Doctor could ever be a woman, Stephen Moffat has pulled something of a fast one on us… and it seems to be working.  Here is the Master as never envisioned; since Deep Breath, she has been referring to the Doctor as her boyfriend and even gives him a kiss in this episode that stops him cold in his tracks.  The Master is not only an evil genius but, in this new body, she is a dangerously unhinged femme fatale.  Now that we know how Missy is, nearly all of her motives (from the creation of the Cyberman army to the odd killing of Doctor-Who-Dark-WaterDoctor Chang) seem to make sense.  She is the Master and it is in her nature to kill and to dominate and, with a Cyberman army behind her (and these guys are tough if the otherwise-disappointing Nightmare In Silver is anything to go by), she’s already practically victorious.  And that is where the only cliff-hanger of series eight leaves us.  How can the Doctor defeat the cybermen without blowing up the Earth and can he, in any way, find a way to bring Danny back to the land of the living?

Doctor-Who-Dark-Water-Missy            There’s no deny that Dark Water is exciting, riveting and highly thought-provoking.  Even some of its more odd moments do not diminish its achievements (the dark water of the title has no real narrative function – it is only there to keep the Cybermen hidden for a while – and whenever a direct question is asked and another character says “You mean you don’t know” and starts to explain it all from the beginning, you are experiencing a writer stalling for time).  In last week’s disappointing episode, I was not confident that Clara and Danny’s relationship was heading in any interesting direction, now Moffat has made me care about them.  If Danny can be saved, I hope it will be in a way that is satisfactorily believable, and not have him just come back the way Amy and Rory did on so many occasions.  We care about these characters and their conflict too much to have it just flung aside.  This is where Stephen Moffat, Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman and Samuel Anderson make their stand for this new series of Doctor Who.  This is where it counts.

I hope Death In Heaven blasts us all away.

 Doctor-Who-Dark-Water-Cybermen

P.S. – If next week’s episode is as good as I hope it will be, I’ll try not to harp too much on the other plot threads (Gus the Train, the return of Annabelle after a year’s absence) which will no doubt NOT be cleared up next week.

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DOCTOR WHO:  IN THE FOREST OF THE NIGHT – A Review

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Written by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Directed by Sheree Folkson

Starring:  Peter Capaldi (The Doctor); Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald); Samuel Anderson (Danny Pink); Abigail Eames (Maebh Arden); Jayden Harris-Wallace (Samson); Ashley Foster (Bradley); Harley Bird (Ruby); Siwan Morris (Mrs. Arden); Harry Dickman (George) & Michelle Gomez (Missy)

Here There Be Spoilers.

 

In-the-Forest-of-the-Night-capaldi-sonic            Here there also be a touch of confusion and tangling plot threads to go along with our weekly serving of all of time and space, except In The Forest of The Night features neither time nor space (well… just a wee bit of space).  No, this week the threat is entirely home grown (quite literally) and the Doctor and his pals (which consists of Clara, Danny, a half a dozen kids and, strangely enough, nobody else in the whole of London) have to answer the question as to why the world is suddenly covered with dense trees and vegetation.  And when they finally do answer that question, they discover that heavy foliage and the occasional tiger are the least of their troubles.  In The Forest of The Night (I hate typing that title as much as you hate reading it) is a romp through a global crisis that eventually gets solved by our heroes doing absolutely nothing.  This is a difficult one to call; on the rather lush and green surface ITFOTN (as it shall be referred to until we get to the final paragraph) has all the makings of an exciting adventure, but what happens when we dig a bit more?

To start with, the TARDIS, apparently sitting in the middle of a dense forest, gets a visit from a rather worried little girl, Maebh (I hate typing that name as much as you hate In-the-Forest-of-the-Night-08reading it).  She tells the Doctor that a voice in her head, which she believes belongs to “Miss Oswald,” told her to find the Doctor.  The Doctor is having trouble with the TARDIS navigational circuits (what else is new); it keeps telling him that he’s in the middle of London when he obviously is not, but a quick look out the door at Nelson’s Column tells him that something else is afoot:  all of London (and indeed, the Earth) is covered by forests that have sprung up spontaneously.  Maebh is part of a group of children sleeping over at the London Museum (why?), being chaperoned by Clara and Danny.  Clara gets word from the Doctor that he’s got Maebh and off they all go to collect her.  On the way, Danny and Clara continue their ongoing debate about Clara’s infatuation with the Doctor, while the children display the quirks that tend to appear in child characters-who-are-destined-to-appear-in-only-one-episode:  one’s got anger-management problems, another’s not too bright, etc.  And then there’s the Doctor, who knows a problem when he sees one, but is at a loss when it comes to what to do (he’s surrounded by wood and regular viewers will know the one thing the sonic screwdriver is useless against).

in-the-forest-of-the-night1            In many ways, INFOTN is a continuation of themes begun in The Caretaker; the Doctor is still disrespecting Danny, Danny is still trying to get the truth out of Clara, and Clara is still trying to live a secret double life.  I must say that I was little disappointed to see that the episode was taking place on Earth; watching the “Next Week” trailer at the end of Flatline led me to believe that Danny finally took a trip on the TARDIS and ended up on some heavily wooded planet.  It seems quite clear that, with only two episodes to go in the series, Danny is not going to become a companion; his dialog near the end, where he explains that he’s looking for the wonders on Earth (and in one person in particular) rather than in the universe tells us that he’s not going to be even a reluctant companion like Rory was.  In terms of time and space travel, Danny is strictly a landlubber and it’s going to be up to Clara what to do about their relationship.  Danny is quite obviously a good man – even though he has caught Clara in further lies about her travels with the Doctor, he is good-natured and understanding – but it’s a shame that the eternal mysteries of time and space hold no charms for him.  And he’s not alone; when the Doctor invites the students to come along and watch the solar flare hit Earth from the safety of the TARDIS, every one of them turns him down.  When in the world did the human race get so BORING?

Without a doubt, INFOTN is an incredibly good-looking episode with its bold colors and stone lions of Trafalgar Square sitting amongst the trees like we took a wrong turn and p0299mwbended up in the forests of Narnia.  And the wolves and the tiger provide some good suspense and danger for our heroes.  But there is also some degree of monotony involved; Maebh disappears from the museum to find the Doctor, only to disappear again, which means that she has to be found again.  As good as the forest looks, it does get a bit tiring seeing the cast in the same type of set throughout nearly the entire run of the episode (it’s almost as bad as the old cliché of Classic Doctor Who when characters are stuck running along the same length of corridor shot from different angles).  And as humorous as some of the children are, the two flashbacks showing Bradley and Ruby in class are just there to fill up the running time (although I do love Ruby’s answer to “How do we find X?”).  Maybe all of this is to distract the viewer from the fact that, while there is quite a lot of character development going on, In-the-Forest-of-the-Night-13there isn’t really that much story.  When the Doctor finally catches up to Maebh, a little screwdriver jiggery-pokery gets her talking in an alien voice, which doesn’t really tell us much and is a bit difficult to understand in any case.  The trees are there and, despite the fact they have toppled Lord Nelson and let some rather dangerous animals escape from the zoo, they’re not that threatening.  In fact, they seem to be a distraction to the Doctor, who learns of the solar flare that will wipe out life on Earth and can’t seem to put it in perspective.  Despite his insistence that finding Maebh will lead to all the answers, he learns nothing from her and only guesses the correct answer later on.  As exciting as the chase was, it’s a bit of an eye-roller to see that it was all a waste of time.

I can’t fault the sequence near the end when, convinced that the heat-death of the Earth is coming, Clara tricks the Doctor backp0299p0c to the TARDIS with the sole purpose of him saving himself… and only himself.  The children will not be happy survivors and Danny will never leave the children.  When the Doctor offers to save only Clara, she demurs and says that she doesn’t want to be the last of her kind, like the Doctor (it’s interesting that her reason is not that she can’t leave Danny).  The Doctor offers to share in the destruction of Earth, throwing Clara’s own words from Kill The Moon, “I walk on this planet, I breath its air,” but whatever anger Clara felt for him in the past has melted away.  The Doctor doesn’t belong to the Earth; he belongs to the universe and it’s going to need him.  Clara has been a difficult character to track, sometimes she says and does things that don’t completely add up, but this is her finest moment since she has been introduced and, for once, there isn’t a bit of comedy to undermine it.  She’s the only person on Earth who knows what is going to happen and she accepts it with grace.  Truth be told, this moment deserved to be preserved in a better episode.

In-the-Forest-of-the-Night-Promo-Pics-15            And so the Doctor figures out that the trees are there to actually save the planet from the solar-flare and the only thing they really need to do is to send out a message telling the world’s governments to leave the trees alone so that they can do their job (in a really unbelievable sequence:  seriously, if you heard a little girl’s voice coming out of a phone and telling you to stop destroying trees that you believe are choking the planet, would you stop?).  So basically, the Doctor and humanity simply had to sit back, do nothing, and let nature literally take its course.  And so there is no world-wide catastrophe, planet Earth is safe to live another day, and all we’re left with is… questions, questions and MORE BLOODY QUESTIONS!  Does Maebh have visions truly because she’s looking for her sister, as the Doctor says, or is she psychic?  Why does she seek out the Doctor at the beginning?  Did she hear Clara’s voice in her head, and if so, how could she since Clara didn’t know there was even a crisis at that point?  What exactly are those points of light that flutter around the trees?  Why will the human race forget the entire incident?  And why did Maebh’s sister disappear a year before, where has she been, how can she just return, and is that really her?  Does it matter?  Are these questions and some of the others that have been left dangling this series (such as the true identity of Gus the computer from Mummy On The Orient Express) going to be answered in the next two episodes?  Does it have anything to do with Missy, a plot thread that will finally be addressed next week?  These simply aren’t the type of things that should be going through a viewer’s head during the last minute of an episode.

In The Forest Of The Night has a lot going for it; it’s good-looking and exciting in places and gives us more of Clara and Danny’s relationship (although it seems that it hasn’t doctor-who-the-forest-63412_bigprogressed much further than The Caretaker) and some good development for Clara (who is last seen in the Next Time trailer saying “Clara Oswald never existed!”), but it seems like much ado about nothing.  Listen traveled this path masterfully, with the Doctor practically inventing a creature to chase (or did he?) but here it seems like a bit of a rehash, and there are far too many tangling threads for the episode to feel complete or satisfactory.  It’s a shame, since we seemed to be going well there for a while.  It is not the most disappointing episode of the series (Robot of Sherwood still holds that title) but it is an exercise at the fine art of chasing your tail.  I can only hope the two-part finale, beginning next week, can shake off the problems this episode had and relieve at least some of these dangling plot threads.  If it can, then maybe In The Forest Of The Night might be re-evaluated as a rocky transitional episode.  As it is, it seems, like our heroes, lost in a vast wood.

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