Doctor Who The Pyramid at the End of the World Review

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Doctor Who The Pyramid at the End of the World

Review by Paul Bowler

[Contains Spoilers]

The Doctor, Bill, and Nardole confront an alien invasion in The Pyramid at the End of the World, but its not like any the Time Lord has ever seen before. There’s a 500 year old pyramid in the middle of a war zone, the Chinese, Russian, and American armies are poised to strike, but the pyramid wasn’t there yesterday… Intrigued by the mystery, the Doctor and his companions must do everything they can to avert the impending disaster, but bizarrely for the conquest of Earth to begin these aliens need the consent of the human race first!

As the seventh episode of series ten, The Pyramid at the End of the World certainly has one of the most intriguing episode titles so far in this new series of Doctor Who, and it reunites the co-writing partnership of Peter Harness and Steven Moffat that brought us The Zygon Inversion! Peter Harness, the writer of Kill The Moon (2014), The Zygon Invasion, and The Zygon Inversion co written with Steven Moffat (2015), now returns with his third story for Doctor Who, The Pyramid at the End of the World, which is also just happens to be directed by The Zygon Invasion / The Zygon Inversion director Daniel Nettheim.

Following the startling revelations in Extremis the Doctor, Bill, and Nardole are now forewarned of the Monks elaborate strategic planning and must stand ready to face their invasion in The Pyramid at the End of the World. As the second part of the “Monk Trilogy” gets underway Bill’s love-life suffers another VIP gatecrasher and the blind Doctor takes to strumming lonesome tunes on his electric guitar in the TARDIS, but when an ancient pyramid suddenly appears in Turmezistan causing an international incident between the Chinese, Russian, and American forces, the UN calls on the Doctor (still hiding the weakness of his blindness from Bill) to act in his capacity as the President of Earth and help them confront the menace of the alien Monks.

When every clock in the world suddenly jumps towards a countdown to doomsday, the Monks offer a terrifying proposition to save humanity from disaster (caused by a deadly biohazard that‘s been unwittingly created by scientists at Agrofuel Research Operations, a bacteria so lethal it will wipe out all like on Earth), but in order to avert Armageddon the human race must willingly consent to become slaves to their would-be alien saviours!

The Pyramid at the End of the World shows Peter Capaldi at his best as the 12th incarnation of the Time Lord, with Capaldi turning in a terrific performance as the Doctor gradually becomes increasingly desperate in his attempts to stop the invasion of the Monks. The scenes as the Doctor confronts the Monk outside the pyramid crackles with menace, but the visually impaired Time Lord is unaccustomedly hampered by his aliment, and this time the odds seem impossibly stacked against him as he attempts to save the day. Pearl Mackie also excels as Bill Pott’s, who quickly notices something is wrong with the Doctor in this episode when the Time Lord urges the military leaders to coordinate their attacks on the pyramid. Bill gets to see a darker, more war-like side to the Doctor in The Pyramid at the End of the World, and this really shakes up the dynamic between them. Matt Lucas did seem a little sidelined as Nardole in this episode, but his character does lighten the tone a bit during the bleaker moments as the Earth faces impending doom.

The corpse-like red-robed Monks have chosen this exact moment and place to begin their campaign to invade Earth. Having made their debut in Extremis, where it emerged they’d been using advanced virtual reality projections to study the Earth and assess its vulnerabilities, the Monks quickly evolve into a palpable threat to humanity in The Pyramid at the End of the World. They know of the Doctor, yet even though the Time Lord makes it clear that he is the line in the sand they will face, they nevertheless intend to take this world and its people, but like Vampires they will do so only when invited, and they say they will talk to the Doctor again: “At the end of the Earth.”

Jamie Hill reprises his role as the Monk from Extremis for this episode – he also played the Foretold in Mummy on the Orient Express (2014) and appeared as a Silence in series six – and the eerie rasping voice of the Monks is provided by Tim Bentinck. In this episode we discover the Monks chose their undead form to look like us because this is how they perceive humanity. The Monks must also be invited to save the world, stating: “We must be loved,” because “To rule through fear is inefficient.” – which seems to indicate a somewhat unusual conflict of emotion and logic… These mysterious blue skinned creatures are chillingly realized. With their cadaverous bodies and the sinister way they speak with their mouths agape, they cast an extremely powerful presence whenever they appear, and are easily one of the creepiest monsters that we’ve seen so far in series ten.

Along with the strong performances of the three leads, The Pyramid at the End of the World features an impressive supporting cast, which includes Togo Igawa (Secretary General of the UN), Nigel Hastings (The Commander), Eben Young (Colonel Don Barbbit), Rachel Denning (Erica), Daphine Cheung (Captain Xiaolian), Tony Gardner (Dogulas), Andrew Bryon (llya), and Ronke Adekoluejo (Penny). Filming for parts of this story also took place in Tenerife in the Canary Islands, a location previously used to represent the Moon (Kill The Moon), Skaro (The Magician’s Apprentice / The Witch’s Familiar), and Gallifrey (Hell Bent).

The Pyramid at the End of the World sees the Doctor taking charge as the President of Earth, a role which he originally earned in Death in Heaven (2014), giving him special powers to control Earth’s military forces during an alien invasion, a duty he upheld again during The Zygon Inasion / The Zygon Inversion (2015). The Doctor is working alongside the UN in The Pyramid at the End of the World, but UNIT is mentioned fleetingly when he’s trying to locate the research laboratory the Monks are secretly monitoring. The fictional country of Turkmenistan in this episode also featured in The Zygon Inasion / The Zygon Inversion. The doomsday clock is a real concept designed to represent the increments of cataclysmic man-made disasters, the original setting for the clock in 1947 was seven minutes to midnight – midnight being the point of catastrophe. Pyramids have featured regularly in Doctor Who over the years, but perhaps most notably in this instance when the 1st Doctor (William Hartnell) visited the Great Pyramid of Giza in Part Nine of The Daleks’ Master Plan (1966), where he was also pitted against an adversary known as The Monk (Peter Butterworth)

Having nullified the militaries attacks with ease, the Monks invite the military leaders into they pyramid and use their bizarre future modelling technology to demonstrate Earth’s fate. Needing someone of extreme power to give them formal “consent” and provide the link to invite them to take over the world, the Monks power is revealed when first the UN Secretary General, followed by the three colonels, all fail to offer “pure” consent, and are disintegrated.

While Bill remains at the Pyramid, the Doctor and Nardole use the TARDIS to reach Agrofuel Research Operations, where the Doctor is helped by the scientist Erica (superbly played by Rachel Denning) to contain and destroy the biohazard. A nail biting countdown ensues when the Doctor gets trapped in part of the building that’s about to explode – and with Nardole in the TARDIS suddenly overwhelmed by the affects of the airborne contagion – the Time Lord is forced to confess to Bill that he’s been blind since the events on Chasm Forge. Desperate to save the Doctor at any cost, Bill offers her pure consent to the Monks, pure as she is acting out of love. The Monks restore the Doctor’s sight, enabling him to escape from the room in the laboratory before it explodes, but in return the Monks will now rule the Earth… forever!

Just as they did with The Zygon Inversion, the writing team of Peter Harness and Steven Moffat have crafted an exceptionally good Earth invasion story with The Pyramid at the End of the World. Though the pace of the story is a tad slower than expected, strong themes drive the narrative, and there are distinct hints of Torchwood Children of Earth and the 2016 film Arrival about the episode as well. Peter Capaldi also delivers a great monologue near the start, and later Bill has to make the most important decision since she began her adventures with the Doctor. Daniel Nettheim’s assured direction offers a powerful depiction of the epic scale of events, and delivers some particularly striking visuals featuring the episodes mysterious Pyramid.

One thing’s for sure, the fallout from Bill “executive decision” looks set to cause a major upheaval, especially if that exciting Next Time trailer featuring Missy, Monks, and mass mind control is anything to go by! The Pyramid at the End of the World provides an enthralling and challenging middle segment to the “Monk Trilogy”. The Doctor’s valiant battle to save planet Earth from the fate that’s been so chillingly orchestrated for it by the Monks makes for a tense, edge-of-your-seat adventure, and it skilfully sets everything up for the thrilling conclusion of the trilogy in The Lie of the Land.

Doctor Who Extremis Review

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Doctor Who Extremis

Review by Paul Bowler

[Contains Spoilers]

The Doctor must investigate an ancient mystery in Extremis. Within a secret library of the Vatican, there is a book of dangerous power – The Veritas. History accounts how anybody foolhardy enough to read it has subsequently taken their own life. After a new translation appears online, The Vatican asks the Doctor for help. But will the Time Lord read The Veritas, and can even the Doctor endure the terrible truth it holds?

Extremis is a dark, brooding tale, written by Steven Moffat, and directed by Daniel Nettheim – who also helmed The Zygon Invasion / The Zygon Inversion (2015). This sixth episode of series ten also features the return of the 12th Doctor’s arch nemesis, Missy (the female incarnation of the Master), played by Michelle Gomez. Last time we saw Missy she was surrounded by Daleks in their crumbling city on Skaro in The Witch’s Familiar (2015), but now she’s back and this time it seems like her luck might be about to run out…

Following Oxygen’s shock cliff-hanger, where the Doctor secretly confided in Nardole that he was still blind, the Time Lord doesn’t want his enemies to learn of his sight loss, and he’s adamant that Bill shouldn’t know either. Extremis is also something of a major turning point in series ten as it forms the first episode in a linked trilogy of stories were the world comes under threat by an emaciated corpse-like order of sinister Monks.

When Bill’s date night with Penny gets embarrassingly gate crashed, she’s soon off on her next adventure in the TARDIS with the Doctor and Nardole, and this time it concerns the Pope and an ancient text called The Veritas held in a secret Vatican library: the Haereticum. The Veritas is older than even the church itself, with its language and translations seemingly lost after a sect’s bizarre mass suicide. Now the Veritas has been translated again, however, everyone that worked on the translation online has mysteriously killed themselves. At the behest of the Pope himself, the Doctor has been called upon to solve the dangerous mystery surrounding the Veritas, but in doing so he must also grapple with his own hidden agonies.

Essentially two stories in one, Extremis, with its secret libraries, mysterious portals, and international conspiracies, is one of Steven Moffat’s most ambitious episodes to date. Taking in Rome, CERN, Washington, and a visit to a distant planet, Moffat infuses Extremis with elements of The Ring, The Da Vinci Code, The Matrix, and The Name of the Rose, effortlessly splicing them with the core underlying themes of series 10, and the end result is an assured adventure that make for a remarkably compelling and thought provoking episode.

An ominous sense of impending dread gradually builds throughout Extremis. Peter Capaldi’s Doctor – sporting his trusty enhanced sonic specs – must draw on every ounce of his resolve to deal with the enigma of the Veritas. Once inside the Vatican’s secret library of blasphemy, the Haereticm, where strange portals are forming, they discover a priest has emailed a copy of the Verita’s translation to the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) before killing himself. After sending Bill and Nardole to investigate, the Doctor borrows from his own future to temporarily restore his sight to enable him to read the Veritas, and soon finds himself in deadly danger as undead-looking Monks close in to seize the Veritas for themselves!

Bill and Nardole discover another portal that leads to a collective hub of portals controlled by an unknown form of alien technology. Following a brief sojourn to CERN, where a chilling game of random numbers with scientists about to blow themselves up ensues, but after fleeing back to the hub Bill is horrified when Nardole realizes the portals are actually computer projections and watches him slowly fade away – a fate she also shares when she finally catches up with the Doctor inside another projection that simulates the Oval Office inside the White House. Pearl Mackie continues to impress as Bill, and she constantly brings a refreshing sense of vitality and compassion to the role of the Doctor’s companion. Matt Lucas gets to play a tougher side of Nardole as well in Extremis, his character really steps up, especially when he’s teamed with Bill, and his reasons for being with the Doctor also start to become more apparent as Extremis unfolds.

Along with Joseph Long as the Pope (Long previously appeared in the 2008 Doctor Who episode Turn Left as the Italian newsagent, Roco Colasanto), the guest cast in Extremis also includes Corrado Invernizzi as the Pope’s trusted aid Cardinal Angelo who turns up at the university looking for the Doctor, Ivanno Jeremiah as Rafando, Laurent Maurel as Nicholas Rorke Adekoluejo as Penny, and Jennifer Hennessy as Billd’s foster mum, Moria.

The main foes in Extremis are the Monks. These withered, burgundy robed creatures, with their clawed hands and menacing presence are hell bent on taking over the Earth, and it seems it’s something they’ve been planning for a long time. Seeking the Veritas for their own ends, they are a marvellously creepy and effective adversary in this episode. These super-intelligent beings have used their technology to craft this huge VR simulation, where even the Doctor and his friends are just simulations in something akin to a highly sophisticated video game which the Monks have been using to assess Earth’s capabilities and weaknesses before launching a perfectly calculated invasion. The Monk the Doctor faces in Extremis is played by Jamie Hill, he also appeared as the Foretold in 2014’s Mummy on the Orient Express (as well as one of the Silence creatures in series six), and the chilling voice of the Monks is provided by Tim Bentinck. Bizarrely, it’s interesting how the Monks are slightly reminiscent of the Silence, with their long fingers and ingenious invasion plans, yet they speak with their mouths agape in a way that’s also similar to the original Mondasian Cybermen.

After all the build up, hints, and speculation, Extremis is the episode of series ten where we finally discover who is inside the Vault that the Doctor and Nardole have been guarding at the university on Earth, and it turns out to be – Missy! Yes, even though we’d probably already half-guessed this big reveal, it doesn’t diminish it to finally have it conformed in Extremis. This all ties in with the numerous flashbacks that permeate every aspect of the episode, where Missy is a prisoner on Carnathon awaiting her execution which will be instigated by non other than the Doctor himself, and her body then subsequently placed inside a waiting Quantum Fold Chamber which the Doctor has solemnly vowed to watch over for a thousand years.

Michelle Gomez makes a welcome return as rogue Time Lady and self styled Queen of Evil, Missy in Extremis, with a surprisingly restrained and vulnerable performance, and her characters impromptu return to the series really heightens the drama in this episode. Extremis also presents Missy in a completely different light, she even begs the Doctor to help her change her ways at one point, and Gomez is excellent throughout as ever. However, the full extent of Missy’s role and her fate remains somewhat unclear, at least for now…

There are a number of references that pertain to River Song in Extremis, most notably when Missy mentions she’s heard rumours amongst the Daleks of the Doctor’s retirement and “Domestic bliss on Darillium” (a planet first mentioned in 2008’s Forest of the Dead), where the Doctor and River went to see the Singing Towers in the 2015 Christmas Special: The Husbands of River Song after defeating King Hydroflax. Missy also offers the Doctor her condolences on River’s passing. Nardole also turns up as a Cleric at Missy’s execution in Extremis to meet the Doctor, having been given special permission by the Doctor‘s late wife, and he also has River’s distinctive TARDIS styled diary (first seen in 2008’s Silence in the Library) which she used to keep track of her out-of-sequence adventures with the Doctor and their haphazard timelines. The Doctor also mentions as he is part of the Prydonian Chapter, first mentioned in the Deadly Assassin (1976).

Extremis concludes with some truly powerful scenes, when the Doctor is confronted by a Monk in the simulation of the Oval Office. The Time Lord reveals he is fully aware that he is also a simulation, but warns the creature that the Earth will be ready for them as he’s been secretly recording everything via his sonic sunglasses and has just emailed the file to his real-world self guarding the Vault. This all entwines with how the Doctor outwits Missy’s captors and death sentence to spare her life, explaining why he’s been overseeing her incarceration in the Vault. It all collectively builds towards the episodes thrilling cliff-hanger, where the real-world Doctor gets the email sent from his digital self and asks for Missy’s help through the doors to fend off the invasion.

Although in retrospect Extremis is actually just a set up for the “Monk Trilogy” of stories, there’s still a wealth of exciting developments in this episode, with terrific performances from Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, and Matt Lucas as the new TARDIS team faces their greatest challenge so far. Steven Moffat’s scrip is audaciously epic in scope and scale, presenting just as many questions as it does answers, and director Daniel Nettheim offsets the striking visuals with a darkly atmospheric edge – especially during the library scenes. Extremis is a great episode; it places the world in dire peril, and sets everything up for the next stage in this intriguing saga!

Star Trek The Next Generation Mirror Broken #1 Review

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Star Trek The Next Generation Mirror Broken #1

Review by Paul Bowler

Get ready to boldly return to the Mirror Universe in Star Trek The Next Generation Mirror Broken #1 as Captain Jean-Luc Picard resolves to seize command of the Empire’s deadliest new warship, the ISS Enterprise! It is a quest fraught with deception, intrigue, and murder – with allies and enemies vying for power at every turn. Picard aims to use the Enterprise to restore the Empire to its former glory, the challenge he faces is immense, but fortunately he has a cut-throat crew on his side that will do whatever it takes to succeed!

IDW Publishing’s new six part Star Trek: The Next Generation Mirror Broken mini-series, written by David Tipton and Scott Tipton, and illustrated by J.K. Woodward, kicks off in fine style with this exciting first issue. The Tipton brothers are a winning team when it comes to writing Star Trek, having already brought us many popular Star Trek comic books, including the Star Trek / Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive crossover series and the FCBD Star Trek TNG Mirror Broken special (which was also the prequel to this mini-series).

The Tipton’s take on the Mirror Universe is a fascinating and insightful one, particularly as their was never a TV episode featuring the STTNG crew in this alternative dimensional pane. Star Trek TNG: Mirror Broken shows how the aftermath of the STTOS crews’ adventure in the episode Mirror Mirror (1967) that led to that universes Spock’s more logical and tolerant rule over the Terran Empire, was ultimately overrun during the Klingon / Cardassian alliance that was eventually forged during the TNG / DS9 era. With most of its fleet in ruins, the balance of power in Alpha Quadrant has shifted, and the Terran Empire has been driven back to Earth.

Captain Picard and the crew of the ISS Stargazer are among the few remaining starships of the fleet left defending the Empire. Following a run in with a Cardassian vessel, the Stargazer visits the Mars shipyards of Utopia Planitia, where Captain Picard learns about a new warship that’s secretly being constructed for the Empire, and it’s a ship that could shift the balance of power in his favour!

Star Trek TNG Mirror Broken presents us with a sleeveless, pumped up, and ruthlessly ambitious Captain Picard. Even the familiar Picard phrases have a far more sinister, edgier, inflection to them. Picard has been playing the long game, and it looks like the Captain’s steely patience is about to pay off. We also meet some of the other TNG crewmembers in this issue, including the alluring Inquisitor Troy, the efficient Commander Data is ever present with his seemingly stoic penchant for Borg-like perfection and adaptations, there’s a decidedly cunning version of Barclay as well, and the downtrodden La Forge seems equally as cunning as Picard.

Well known for Fallen Angel, longtime Star Trek artist, J.K. Woodward’s art is a perfect choice to illustrate IDW’s STTNG Mirror Broken and realize a darker version of the Next Generation crew in the grittier reality of the Mirror Universe. From the scene setting opening flashback, to the brooding introduction of Picard, J.K. Woodward’s stellar artwork instantly transports you right into the heart of this Mirror Universe saga. The likenesses of all the characters are stunningly realized, the bridge of the Stargazer feels alive with activity during the fight with the Cardassians, and the scenes with La Forge, Picard, and Data on Mars crackle with suspense.

As this year is the 30th anniversary of Star Trek The Next Generation, it makes this Mirror Universe comic book epic all the more exciting, and its great to see these Mirror Universe versions of Picard and Co reunited for this daring escapade to take the Enterprise for themselves and make the Terran Empire great again. Star Trek The Next Generation: Mirror Broken #1, with its intricately crafted storyline by David Tipton and Scott Tipton, and stunning art by J.K. Woodward, certainly gets this IDW mini-series off to a terrific start, and a must read for all Trek fans this new comic book day. Make it so!

Publisher IDW Publishing

Writers David Tipton & Scott Tipton / Art and colors by J.K. Woodward

Letters AndWorld Design / Cover by J.K. Woodward

War For The Planet of the Apes: Final Trailer Released!

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War For The Planet of the Apes: Final Trailer

Check out the awesome final trailer for 20th Century Fox’s War For The Planet of the Apes! In War for the Planet of the Apes, the third chapter of the critically acclaimed blockbuster franchise, Caesar and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless Colonel. After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. As the journey finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the Colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both their species and the future of the planet.

Directed By Matt Reeves, and staring Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Amiah Miller, Karin Konoval, Judy Greer and Terry Notary, War For The Planet of the Apes is in Theaters – July 14, 2017

Doctor Who Oxygen Review

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Doctor Who Oxygen

Review by Paul Bowler

[Contains Spoilers]

Oxygen finds the Doctor, Bill, and Nardole responding to a distress call that leads them to a huge space station, Chasm Forge, on the far reaches of the galaxy. After becoming trapped on board they discover that the crew, except for the four remaining survivors, have all been brutally murdered. But the dead are still stalking the corridors! In this future where oxygen is a valuable commodity sold by the breath load, and space suites are worth more than their human occupants, the new TARDIS crew must confront the most nefarious of evils…

The fifth episode of series ten, Oxygen, marks the welcome return of writer Jamie Mathieson to the series with another exciting and scary adventure. Mathieson made his debut with his impressive script for 2014’s Mummy on the Orient Express, and he also wrote the highly innovative Fatline (2014), and most recently The Girl Who Died (2015). Also making their return to Doctor Who is Charles Palmer, the director of 2007’s Smith and Jones, The Shakespeare Code and the acclaimed two-parter Human Nature / The Family of Blood.

Kicking off with a nod to Star Trek’s iconic-voice over, Oxygen soon has the Doctor, Bill, and Nardole donning spacesuits after their arrival on Chasm Forge, a vast mining station in deep space overrun by a spacesuited army of the walking dead. The Doctor and his companions, along with the stations four surviving crewmembers, must fight for their lives as the undead horde closes in, but what has caused this terrifying outbreak to occur? Just like the pervious episode Knock Knock, Oxygen is another spookily atmospheric episode, although with Oxygen the horror is far more full-on and intense – especially where the space zombies are concerned.

The political, corporate, and capitalist undertones that permeate Oxygen’s stark vision of the future are equally as chilling realized as the hostile environment of space itself in this episode. Ironic computer statements punctuate the narrative with a satirically charged social commentary, it seems oxygen has become big business in the future, and here on Chasm Forge the very air that you breathe is one of the most valuable assets of all!

Oxygen makes space feel edgy and dangerous in again in Doctor Who as writer Jamie Mathieson jettisons the more familiar Sci-Fi tropes the series usually adopts for a decidedly more scientific and accurate portrayal of the harsh realities of space. A whole scene during one of the Doctor’s lectures at the university is given over to establishing some of these facts, which in turn gives added credence to the dangers encountered on Bill’s first proper adventure in outer space as events on board Chasm Forge begin to spiral out of control. The script also cleverly separates them from the TARDIS and puts the sonic screwdriver out of commission – so there’s not going to be any easy way out for the Doctor, Bill, and Nardole this time!

Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie make a terrific team as Time Lord and companion respectively, they get some really powerful and emotional scenes in this episode, and it’s good to finally see Matt Lucas taking a more active role alongside them in Oxygen as Nardole since his character has felt a little sidelined since The Pilot. This is also an extremely challenging episode for Bill, as the terrifying situations she faces on Chasm Forge test her – and her faith in the Doctor – to the limit, none more so perhaps than the heart-stopping horror of being exposed to the vacuum of space. Trapped on this space station where human life is weighed up against the value of a spacesuit and oxygen is credit highly prized above all else, even the Doctor encounters a crisis unlike anything he’s faced before when Bill’s spacesuit malfunctions and the Time Lord gives her his suits helmet to save her but the prolonged exposure to the vacuum affects his eyes and blinds him!

Oxygen features a good cast of supporting characters: with Justine Salinger as Tasker, Katie Brayben as Ellie, Mimi Ndiweni as Abby, Kieran Bew as Ivan, and Peter Caulfield as the blue-skinned Dahh-Ren. Although their character development is a little sparse, they prove sufficient to drive the narrative where necessary, and it is probably the wry Dahh-Ren who makes the biggest impression of all the surviving crewmembers.

Zombie-like monsters with a deadly electrified touch in Oxygen are also really impressive. Whether shambling along dark corridors or walking en masse across the hull of Chasm Forge, the make up effects for these bloated, decaying, lifeless-eyed creatures are quite a frightening sight to behold. This army of the walking dead has actually been created by their own spacesuits, which have deactivated their organic component, but most horribly of all they carry on working regardless because of the sophisticated programming running their suits. The Doctor later discovers this is a ruthless algorithm used by the company, the lives of the crew have become too inefficient, and its deemed more efficient by the mining company to have the dead cadavers working in the automated suits instead of the living so as to maximize the company’s profits.

There are a number of Who references to look out for in Oxygen, most notably the Fluid Link, which Nardole tries to uses to sabotage any further attempts by the Doctor to leave Earth again and neglect his oath to guard the Vault. The Fluid link was first mentioned in the 1963 episode, The Dead Planet, where the Doctor stated the link has gone wrong and the TARDIS couldn’t operate without a functioning fluid link which also requires Mercury to operate. This was actually a ruse by the Doctor (William Hartnell), the link wasn’t faulty, but it allowed him to convince his companions to go along with his wish to explore a strange alien city. But the planet they had landed on turned out to be Skaro, and soon the Doctor would encounter the Daleks for the first time in the programmes history. In a more recent connection to the series, we also get to see the picture of Bill’s mother again from Knock Knock which she glimpses in her minds eye as she begins to succumb to the vacuum of space. Incidentally, director Charles Palmer is also the son of Geoffrey Palmer who had roles in Doctor Who and The Silurians (1970), The Mustans (1972), and Voyage of the Dammned ( 2007).

Having been forced to abandon Bill to a fate that seemingly saw her become one of the space-suited zombies, the Doctor and the surviving crewmembers become trapped. At the last moment the Doctor revenge hacks the computer and links their suits to Chasm Forge’s systems, if they die, the station will explode, so killing them would be the more expensive option and the company’s profits will be wiped out. This ingeniously uses the company’s own warped corporate economics to their advantage, effectively turning the tables, and the zombies give their own oxygen supply over to the living survivors – including Bill who was only really stunned – to keep them alive and save the station.

Nardole later repairs the Doctor’s eyes and they return to the university. However, once Bill leaves the room, the Doctor suddenly has a grave secret to tell Nardole. It would seem Oxygen is going to be something of a life-changing experience for the Time Lord after all, because his vision hasn’t returned, he’s still blind!

With great performances all round, Oxygen is a taut, excitingly crafted adventure from writer Jamie Mathieson, the drama and peril the Doctor, Bill, and Nardole face in this story certainly puts this new TARDIS team through the wringer, and the outstanding direction of Charles Palmer keeps you on the edge of your seat as the action steadily progresses. All in all, Oxygen, with its scary zombies-in-space premise and impressive special effects, proves to be another thrilling addition to series ten, and the shock cliff-hanger concerning the Doctor’s sightless predicament sends everything spiralling off on an entirely new and unexpected tangent few could’ve predicted.

And here’s the ominous Next Time trailer for Extremis!

Images belong BBC

All Star Batman #10 Review

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All Star Batman #10

Review by Paul Bowler

The Dark Knight detective faces a new, deadly enemy in All Star Batman #10, an unpredictable foe, one whose attacks are seemingly impossible to counteract! Batman uncovers a dark scheme from decades past, but inconceivably the architect of this insidious plot could well be one of his closets allies of all! All Star Batman #10 reunites Scott Snyder with his American Vampire collaborator Rafael Albuquerque for this stunning new Batman story arc: The Last Ally!

Interspaced with flashback to a rooftop chase across the pond in London and Batman and Alfred’s present day escapade in Miami, All Star Batman #10 hit’s the ground running, and doesn’t let up for a moment. The Batmobile is driven like an old pro, there’s an enemy with a familiar face to be caught, and the crowd goes wild before you‘ve even finished turning a few pages. Hell, you’d be forgiven for thinking that’d be enough full-on Bat-action for one issue alone, but this is Snyder and Albuquerque we are talking about here, and like Batman in this issue they sure know how to grab our attention with a scene stealing entrance!

Having got word something dangerous is being smuggled into Miami, Bruce and Alfred go all good cop bad cop to get the information they need, and their subsequent attempt to infiltrate an old fort off the coast sequestered by a quartet of leaders from Miami’s most feared crime families puts Bruce in terrible danger. Initially what feels like an Oceans 13 heist coated with Miami Vice glamour and menace, soon becomes a deadly game of pirates, and before you can say shiver me timbers all hell breaks loose as the bullets start flying!

This storyline is going to delve into Alfred’s past, an exciting concept in itself, but what I really liked about this issue was how Scott Snyder used the narrative to highlight the surrogate father / son bond between Alfred and Bruce. There are certain points in this issue, usually right in the thick of the action, where Alfred’s reminiscing feels genuinely heart-warming and quite moving. However, these moments are also powerfully counterbalanced with Alfred’s steely determination, especially during the interrogation scene, where we gain further insight into his character and just how far he’d be willing to cross the line if need be.

The pencils and inks of Rafael Albuquerque’s artwork brings the first chapter of The First Ally to life in glorious fashion. The action is often fast and furious, with concisely structured page layouts relaying Snyder‘s vision with the same flawless synergy their collaborations always bring, as story and art seamlessly fuse as one. Rafael Albuquerque’s spectacular art effortlessly draws you in, you’d swear can almost hear the roar of the crowd as Batman ejects form the Batmobile, there’s centrally no doubting that Alfred means business either, those flashbacks have a unique favour that perfectly encapsulates the era, and the high-tech security of the fort soon becomes engulfed in a slow-motion barrage of gunfire with a yo, ho, ho, and a bottle of rum. The colors by Jordie Bellaire beautifully complement Albuquerque’s art, from the dusky hues of London from times before to the bombastic tones of the opening chase sequence, though to the vivid shades of the Miami skyline, and the ice blues and greys of the fort showdown, Bellaire’s colors sublimely enrich every single scene.

Killers-In-Law, written by Rafael Albuquerque and Rafael Scavone, featuring art by Sebastian Fiumara, and colors by Trish Mulvihill, is the new backup story which accompanies this new All Star Batman story-arc, involving Bruce Wayne going deep undercover to infiltrate the Russian mafia. It’s an edgy, brutal, bare knuckle story, one that plays its cards close to its chest, insomuch that it fills in just enough back story to keep us guessing how everything is going to slot together with The First Ally story-arc.

Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque round off The First Ally: Part 1 in fine style. You might say that Bruce’s good taste in art is his saving grace in this issue, but it also puts him smack-bang in the middle of a heart-grabbing mystery, one that Snyder brilliantly blindsides us with as past and present collide in the most unexpected way possible. The First Ally is another masterpiece in the making from Snyder and Albuquerque, with its gritty storytelling and outstanding artwork, All Star Batman #10 doesn’t just exceed expectations, if anything, it drives right through them!

Publisher DC Comics

Writer Scott Snyder / Art and Cover & Variant cover by Rafael Albuquerque

Colors Jordie Bellaire / Letters Steve Wands

Variant Cover Sebastian Fiumara

Blade Runner 2049 Official Trailer Released!

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Blade Runner 2049 Official Trailer Released!

Warner Bros have released the full official trailer for Blade Runner 2049, the Blade Runner sequel is set 30 years after the first film and judging from this first full trailer the movie looks amazing.

Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.

Blade Runner 2049, starring Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James, with Dave Bautista and Jared Leto

Blade Runner 2049 in theaters October 6 2017

 

Doctor Who Knock Knock Review

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Doctor Who Knock Knock

Review by Paul Bowler

[Contains Spoilers]

Knock Knock sees new companion Bill deciding to house share with her student friends. It looks like the perfect house, so there’s nothing to worry about, even though it’s surprisingly cheap, and the Landlord is a bit strange. The Doctor believes something is very wrong here. As the wind blows and the floorboards creak, there’s also a tower in middle of the building, but why doesn’t there seem any way to get inside it?

The fourth episode of Doctor Who’s tenth season, Knock Knock, is a terrifically eerie, atmospheric tale, written by Doctor Who newcomer Mike Bartlett (best known for the BBC hit drama Doctor Foster and his Olivier award-winning play – King Charles III), and the episode is directed by Bill Anderson.

Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie continue their adventures as the Doctor and Bill, as they explore the mystery of this house where the trees begin creaking, even when the wind doesn’t blow, and the floorboards move and seem to have a life all their own. Legendary British actor David Suchet (Poirot) also guests stars in this episode as the mysterious Landlord, a strange, disturbed man, who guards a terrible secret.

For such a surprisingly spooky episode, Knock Knock begins innocuously enough, as Bill, along with five of her friends attempt to find somewhere they can live. Following some disastrous, and rather hilarious viewings, they finally settle on affordable digs in an old house offered by the Landlord. But outdated sockets and poor mobile signal reception are just the start of their problems, in this house, with its creaking floorboards and woodwork, peculiarly freaky drafts, and tower that’s off limits to all tenants. As night falls the spooky happenings in the house close in and its time for Bill’s oddly cool “grandfather” to help them out.

The Doctor is soon on the case with Bill and her friends to confront the Landlord and the dark mystery lurking in the house, and Time Lords suspicions are soon confirmed. It seems the building is eating people, Bill’s friends start disappearing, there are weird alien woodlice creatures inside the walls, and why is the Landlord so protective of his daughter’s well-being? Knock Knock masterfully builds the chills and thrills, and the intricate plot certainly gives our little grey cells plenty of food for thought as well. So, when the woodlice creatures begin to emerge and the Landlord reminds them that they’ve signed the contract and “its time to pay…” it heightens the palpable sense of horror and mystery surrounding him and the house even further.

Even though the plot separates them for a time, the charisma Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie brings to the Doctor / companion relationship still shines through and just seems to get better and better with every episode of series ten. The addition of Bill ‘s friends Shireen (Mandeep Dhillon), Harry (Colin Ryan), Paul (Ben Presley), Felicity (Alice Hewkin), and Pavel (Bart Suavek) in this episode also gives added depth to her character as well as their perfect student house-share becomes a nightmare for them. Its great to see the Doctor becoming part of Bill’s everyday life too, he even helps Bill move in, and gets to know her friends!

Matt Lucas only appears as Nardole for a short scene, which leads to a pivotal moment in the ongoing Vault story-arc for the Doctor. The Time Lord seems to know who is inside the Vault, and whoever they are they seem to share the same taste in music – specifically Beethoven. Of course, it goes without saying that David Suchet is superb as The Landlord, an awkward, unsettlingly pallid looking character who prowls around the house with a tuning fork and touches the walls in a bizarre manner. The genial, yet coldly menacing Landlord is the primary villain in Knock Knock, and David Suchet’s marvellous performance makes the character as chillingly disconcerting as he is tragic, and his scenes with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor are simply magnificent!

The unsettling, giant woodlice creatures attracted by high-pitched sounds that emerge from the woodwork are alien insects of an unknown origin. They can interact with wood on a cellular level and hide in the Landlords’s creaky old house, waiting to strike on then unsuspecting human victims he’s lured to stay there over the years. Even the Doctor, who christens them “Dryads”, hasn’t seen anything quite like them before. However, the main monster in Knock Knock is the gangly female creature Bill and Shireen find in the tower. Eliza (Mariah Gale) is the Landlord’s “daughter”; she has been quarantined here since she grew gravely ill. The alien woodlice infecting her wooden body are keeping her alive, her tragic circumstances have left her terribly lonely and isolated, and Eliza has no idea about the innocent people the woodlice have consumed to preserve her own life.

There are plenty of pop culture references to look out for, including Indiana Jones, I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, and even Scooby Doo. Knock has the distinction of being the first Doctor Who story to be made available in binaural 360 soundscape, and subsequently released on the BBC iPlayer after the standard episode had aired on BBC One. The exterior location used for the Landlord’s creepy house in Knock Knock were filmed in the same location in Newport, South Wales, used for the Wester Drumlins, scenes in Stephen Moffat’s 2007 episode Blink – the story that introduced the iconic Doctor Who monsters The Weeping Angels. When Bill moves into her new room, she refers to events in The Pilot, Smile, and Thin Ice as she talks to her mum. The Doctor also states at one point that, “Sleep is for tortoises!” Something he remarked upon The Talons of Weng-Ching (1977). The Doctor also mentions a “Klarj neon death voc bot” at one point, perhaps a vague reference to a variant of the voc robots seen in The Robots of Death (1977)? The episode Knock Knock has enabled David Suchet to fulfil his wish to appear in Doctor Who, he’s also worked with Peter Capaldi many times before, and Peter Capaldi guest starred in Poirot – ‘Wasps Nest’ in 1991.

In a surprise turn of events, the Doctor and Bill eventually discover that Eliza is in fact the Landlord’s dying mother. He found a box containing the woodlice under a tree in the garden when he was a young child and used them to keep her alive. Tricking people to stay here so he could feed the woodlice and keep her alive, his mother remained youthful, though her memory clouded and her body transformed into wood, while he grew old as they’ve lived together in the house for seventy years. The conclusion of Knock Knock wraps everything up in a convincingly satisfying manner when Eliza finally learns the truth. She takes control of the woodlice, persuading her son to accept their fate together, whilst freeing the Doctor, Bill, and her friends as the house crumbles away.

Mike Bartlett’s suspenseful first foray into Doctor Who with Knock Knock is a Sci-Fi / Old Dark House mash-up of the highest order. With its brooding atmospheric setting and sets, this is easily the darkest episode of the series so far. Its jam packed with horror film clichés, thrilling excitement, humour, great special effects, and Bill Anderson’s taut direction gradually builds the action and scares right up until the end. Knock Knock continues the strong run of stories in series ten, the mystery of The Vault continues to build significantly in the background, and there’s a real sense now that we are on course for a truly outstanding season.

Images belong BBC

Netflix debut official trailer for Marvel’s The Defenders!

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Netflix debut official trailer for Marvel’s The Defenders!

Check out the awesome new trailer for the Defenders series, can’t wait for this new series form Netflix!

Marvel’s The Defenders follows Daredevil (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Luke Cage (Mike Colter) and Iron Fist (Finn Jones). A quartet of singular heroes with one common goal – to save New York City. This is the story of four solitary figures, burdened with their own personal challenges, who realize they just might be stronger when teamed together. The Netflix original series will launch globally on August 18, 2017.

 

Doctor Who Thin Ice Review

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Doctor Who Thin Ice

Review by Paul Bowler

[Contains Spoilers]

The Doctor and Bill travel back in time in Thin Ice to Regency England, in London, to the last of the great frost fairs on the frozen river Thames. But while the time travellers take in the sights, they discover that revellers and children have been mysteriously disappearing on the ice. Bill finds the past can be more like her own time than she expects, and something is lurking in the inky depths of the Thames, waiting for the ice to crack…

Continuing directly on from the final surprising moments of the last episode, Smile, Thin Ice, sees the Doctor and Bill donning stylish period garb as they visit London during 1814 in the third episode from Series Ten, written by Sarah Dollard (the writer of 2015’s Face The Raven), and directed by Doctor Who newcomer Bill Anderson (whose previous TV work includes Mr Selfridge, Taggart, and Silent Witness).

Based around the spontaneous frost fairs that happened on the frozen Thames during the 1300’s and 1800’s, were all walks of life came together to celebrate this icy wonderland in the heart of London, but suddenly ended when the Thames froze in 1814 and never froze over again. It’s that underlying mystery that Sarah Dollard’s wonderful script explores, as the Doctor and Bill set out to enjoy the jubilant surroundings of the frost fair. But when it becomes apparent there are strange lights under the ice luring people into the depths of the Thames, the Doctor and Bill, with the help of some street urchins, embark on a dangerous quest for clues. Someone of great power schemes to get as many people as they can to the frost fair, hiding their true motives, Bill finds out that not all creatures are from space, and in the inky gloom beneath the ice an ancient creature lurks.

Peter Capaldi is in his element here as the 12th Doctor, sporting a dark suit, and dashing top hat, he looks right at home in Regency England and its not long before the Doctor is caught up in the mystery of the strange disappearances beneath the ice. Bill is from 2017, so naturally she finds London in 1814 takes a bit of getting used to, but she looks resplendent in her period dress and soon embraces the carnival atmosphere of the frost fair, and Pearl Mackie gives a wonderfully endearing performance as Bill experiences her first adventure in the past. She continues to ask the Doctor some interesting and pressing questions as well, which in turn continues to build on the refreshing Doctor / Companion dynamic between them. The nuances of time travel Thin Ice present affords the Doctor a chance to explain the somewhat unpredictable nature of the TARDIS, and Bill also learns that there can be a darker side to the Doctor’s adventures.

Nardole (Matt Lucas) once again only appears fleetingly to berate the Doctor for neglecting the promise that’s been keeping the Time Lord on Earth, and there are further – somewhat chilling – hints concerning the ongoing mystery of The Vault. However, Thin Ice does have a good supporting cast of characters to look out for: Peter Singh plays The Pie Man, Nicholas Burns is the villainous Lord Sutcliffe, and from the young gang of pickpockets Asiatu Koroma gets some good scenes and character development as Kitty

After enjoying the sights of the frost fair its not long before the Doctor and Bill set out in diving suits and get to work checking out the mysterious lights under the ice. The time travellers adventure takes them into the inky depths of the Thames itself, where the Doctor and Bill finally get to the bottom of the mystery as they encounter a gigantic snake-like-creature! The monster in Thin Ice is a giant underwater leviathan, captured and chained by the ancestors of Lord Sutcliffe, and the creatures dung has been used as a superheating biofuel in industry to build his families wealth. The snake’s symbiotic bond with the glowing fish that tend it has been used by Sutcliffe to lure people to the frost fairs in order to secretly feed the imprisoned beast.

Thin Ice includes a delightful number of subtle Doctor Who related references and themes. The Doctor casually informs Bill that he’s been to the frost fairs before, which coincides with what River Song told Rory in A Good Man Goes To War (2011). Although the species of the aquatic sea creature in Thin Ice isn’t specified, the Star Whale from The Beast Below (2010) is the most recent example of such giant a creature in the series, the Loch Ness Monster appeared in Terror of the Zygons (1975), but Nessie was actually the Zygon’s cyborg Skarassen, and it also went on to emerge from the Thames like the sea snake does in Thin Ice. When the 12th Doctor says, ‘your species hardly notices anything’ it harkens back to similar statement the 7th Doctor made in Remembrance of the Daleks (1988) about humanities “amazing capacity for self-deception.’ The Time lord once again uses the alias ‘Doctor Disco’ which he first used in The Zygon Invasion (2015). Bill mentions concerns about the Butterfly Effect, a concept that was referred to by Martha in the Shakespeare Code (2007). Bill’s first steps onto the ice of the frozen Thames seem to mirror Martha’s initial caution on emerging from the TARDIS in that episode, and to a lesser degree there are also echoes of Rose Tyler’s first footsteps in the snow as she visit’s the past for the first time in The Unquiet Dead (2005).

Their discovery of the snake creature in the Thames and information Kitty knows about Dowell, soon leads the Doctor and Bill to Lord Sutcliffe, but he takes them prisoner. Once they escape, and while the Doctor sets out to free the creature and foil Sutcliffe’s plans, Kitty and her gang help Bill evacuate the frost fair before Sutcliffe can detonate the explosives. There are impressive and moving scenes as the Thames ice snake is finally freed when the ice brakes up, and Lord Sutcliffe’s fate provides a very fitting from of poetic justice for his actions as the conclusion of Thin Ice gives Kitty and her friends the chance of a better life.

Thin Ice is a fantastically paced and very traditional feeling episode. Sarah Dollard’s scrip embodies the core values of the Doctor’s morality, and it tackles some particularly strong themes at times – including racism, the social class system, and ecological issues. The costumes and sets are absolutely stunning as well, and director Bill Anderson skilfully keeps the drama and suspense building throughout the episode. Peter Capaldi gives what is arguably one of his finest performances yet as the Time Lord, including one of those awesome powerful Doctorish speeches (after the Doctor stands up for Bill and punches the vile Lord Sutcliffe in the face) that Capaldi does so well, and Pearl Mackie is really settling into her role as Bill Potts.

The coda with Nardole talking to the ominous – and rather familiar sounding – knocking coming from The Vault rounds off this episode in fine style, and is sure to fuel the speculation about who, or what, might be inside it. Doctor Who’s tenth series really feels like its getting on track for something very special, especially with the Doctor’s new travelling companions introductory trilogy of adventures set in the present, the future, and the past are now completed, the Doctor’s and Bill’s adventures in time and space can really begin in earnest!

Images belong BBC