Doctor Who Season 11 – Ep. 10 “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos”

The season finale approaches and the Doctor again faces her first enemy with her new face.

SUMMARY

The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) detects distress calls from planet Ranskoor Av Kolos (translated as “Disintegrator of the Soul”). The Planet contains a field which alters the perceptions of reality for any conscious being, but in practice appears to just cause amnesia. She and the TARDIS Trio head to the planet, with neurobalancers attached to counter the effects of the planet. When they arrive they find an amnesiac pilot named Paltraki (Mark “Robert Baratheon Flintstone” Addy) who threatens them until the Doctor puts a neurobalancer on him. He then receives a call from a woman named Andinio (Phyllis Logan) and Tzim-Sha (Samuel Oatley), the villain from the first episode of the season. He demands the return of an item that Paltraki had recovered from him in exchange for the rest of his crew.

EA - 1Baratheon.png
… He was also Bill Miller on Still Standing, which I also liked.

On the way to help find Paltraki’s crew, Graham (Bradley Walsh) informs the Doctor that he wants to kill Tzim-Sha as revenge for the murder of his wife. The Doctor tells him that if he does that, his adventures are over. He and Ryan (Tosin Cole) go to find the crew while the Doctor and Yaz (Mandip Gill) go to meet with Tzim-Sha and Andinio. Andinio is revealed to be part of a race called the Ux who are capable of manipulating reality, however, there are only ever 2 of them alive at a time. The other, Delph (Percelle Ascott), has been held captive by Tzim-Sha, who they obey because they mistake him for their creator god.

EA - 2Delph.png
They have cool eye effects. That’s how you know they’re powerful.

It’s revealed that the item from the ship is actually a miniaturized planet. Tzim-Sha has been using the Ux to shrink down and imprison planets that have defeated him, with Earth being his next target. However, the Doctor manages to convince the Ux that they’re being deceived before the shrunken planets start to cause breaches in reality from the impossibility of their size. Graham and Ryan find the crew and hold off an army of robots with the help of Paltraki. Graham stands off with Tzim-Sha, but declines to shoot him. Tzim-Sha tries to shoot Ryan, but Graham shoots Tzim-Sha in the foot to stun him and they lock Tzim-Sha in a prison chamber. As the group departs, the Ux ask Paltraki’s help in returning the planets they shrunk to the right places.

END SUMMARY

So, we had a really solid premise in parts of this episode, plus some great guest stars, but it just didn’t quite build up as well as it should. The planet that disintegrates the soul? Oh, it’s mostly just amnesia and migraines. The race that can bend reality? Oh, they’re tricked easily by a blue guy like they were the Aztecs and he was Cortes. The return of Tzim-Sha? He’s basically an asthmatic a-hole, like Darth Vader but without the powers or gravitas. His army of robots? Basically just cannon fodder for Robert Baratheon off-screen. This episode should have been explosive, but it ended up being more cap-gun than cannon.

EA - 3Bots.png
Ryan and Graham defeat them… by ducking slightly.

Graham’s refusal to kill Tzim-Sha was great, but much of the rest of the episode just didn’t connect with me enough and the stakes, despite being stated as being huge, never FELT huge. It’s like someone saying calmly “this bomb will explode and kill us.” Yeah, it gets the point across, but it doesn’t get the emotions across.

I also have to say, we kind of hit the point where I’m ready for the season to end. Fortunately, it’s the season finale, but this episode kind of exaggerated a few of the flaws of the past year.

First, we are not giving enough character development to Yaz. We have barely given enough to Graham and Ryan, but at least they had an arc that they finished with Ryan finally acknowledging him as a grandfather and Graham forgiving Grace’s killer. What was Yaz’s arc? What changes has she gone through? She’s so well portrayed by Mandip Gill that I almost forget that she is usually ancillary, including in this episode.

EA - 4Yaz.png
She does stare at other people talking well, but dammit, give her lines.

A major theme of this season has been trying to condemn hatred and I can’t fault that. It’s an element of the Doctor’s character and it’s a big part of what makes the show amazing. The most famous villains in the series are a species that live solely to hate everything that isn’t them and, aside from their designs, that’s why they’re memorable. However, in this season, they’ve gone out of the way to try and show that hatred is much of what has made everyone miserable throughout history and that a lot of that anger comes out of not understanding the other side. We’ve also had the Doctor going out of her way to try and be more merciful than some of her previous incarnations, particularly against monsters acting on instinct.

E3 - 5Protest

E6 - 5Gunman
Lot about hatred…

The problem with this theme coming from the Doctor kind of comes to a head in this episode: The Doctor is a mass murderer. The Doctor has killed armies and planets and species. Sure, she’s usually only done it when confronted with an unrelenting force that won’t stop, but she still has done it. Yet, her response to Graham wanting to kill Tzim-Sha or King James wanting to kill the queen of the Morax is basically to call them out as being murderers. Now, I’m fine if she was saying something like “I’ve killed a lot of people and it weighs on me” or “you can kill to protect people, but not in vengeance,” but her statement to him basically is “no killing. Ever.” Now, if the Doctor wanted to explain why she’s adopted this position now, that’s great. But that’s going to be really, really hard to deal with if the Daleks or the Cybermen or the Weeping Angels return, species that LITERALLY NEVER STOP TRYING TO KILL YOU.

I get where they’re coming from with this and it’s a great message to try and combat hatred, but even the great pacifists: i.e. Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Leo Tolstoy, Mr. Miyagi, all had to acknowledge that without some form of pragmatic violence, then pacifism is just claiming the high ground on a graveyard. Now, the Doctor, much like Batman, can often manage to defend herself non-lethally, which is optimal, but she has often had to cross that line in the past. This show is in one of the best positions to actually start addressing the ramifications of applications of violence, but this season kind of tried and failed in my opinion. Jodie Whittaker has the emotional range to pull that sort of episode off, and I want the show to take that chance.

Overall, this just wasn’t the climax the season needs. We have the universe at stake, but it felt like they were basically delivering a complicated pizza order. Still, it did have some good moments and it’s almost worth it to have Graham whine about only shooting Tzim-Sha in the foot.

I give it a B-.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Advertisements

Rick and Mondays – S2 E4 “Total Rickall”

Rick and Morty deal with an infestation of memory-altering parasites that take the form of wacky sitcom characters.

SUMMARY

Rick (Justin Roiland) returns home to the family to find Jerry’s (Chris Parnell) goofy older brother “Uncle Steve” (Tony Barbieri) at the table. Rick then shoots Steve, who is revealed to be an alien parasite that manipulates people’s memories. Rick warns that there are probably more of them and that they take on the role of wacky, zany characters. He’s supported by Mr. Poopybutthole (Roiland), a wacky, zany character who is now in the opening credits.

S2E4 - 1Opening
Seamlessly integrated. 

Rick locks the house down, writes down that there are only 6 people in the apartment, and puts the note on the wall, but soon a number of characters start appearing, including a Mr. Belvedere-style butler named Mr. Beauregard (Barbieri), Frankenstein’s Monster (Kevin Michael Richardson), and Summer’s (Spencer Grammer) magical ballerina lamb friend Tinkles (Tara Strong). All of the characters are introduced through “flashbacks” that resemble Family Guy cutaway gags. Rick and the Smith family soon are uncertain who is real, because, although the new characters are wacky and zany, so are the actual members of the Sanchez-Smith family.

S2E4 - 2Tinkles.png
It feels like even Frankenstein, a fellow parasite, thinks Tinkles is too far.

Eventually, Rick is threatening to shoot everyone and the parasites convince Morty (Roiland), Beth (Sarah Chalke), and Summer that Rick is a parasite… while also convincing Jerry that he’s a parasite and in a secret gay relationship with another parasite named Sleepy Gary (Matt Walsh). Morty is selected to execute Rick, but Morty realizes that the parasites cannot implant bad memories into people’s heads and shoots several of the parasites. Together, Rick, Morty, and the family go through the house, killing all of the parasites until only the family and Mr. Poopybutthole are left. Back at dinner, Beth shoots Mr. Poopybutthole who is revealed to not be a parasite. She tries to apologize at the hospital, but he declines to talk to her, saying only that he’s sorry that she doesn’t have any bad memories of him.

S2E4 - 3PoopyGunShot.png
That’s a hell of a gun, btw.

END SUMMARY

This episode is basically a hilarious parody of so many sitcom tropes at the same time that it almost matches the number of wacky characters. The idea that failing shows add off-kilter new characters to try and bring back some energy to the series is so old that The Simpsons did an episode about it featuring Homer (Dan Castellaneta) playing a new Itchy-and-Scratchy character called Poochie while also having a new “rad teen” character living in their house. That was in 1997. For the most part, this trope has been declining quite a bit in the past twenty years specifically because people started mocking it so ruthlessly. Still, this episode takes it and combines it with the “family member that has not previously been referenced” trope, but makes it into a sadistic infiltration plot by these shapeshifting, memory-altering parasites.

S2E4 - 4Poochie
And this was the best way to get rid of such zany add-ons.

It presents each of the parasites in a cutaway style much like Family Guy tends to use, which may be a shot at how modern shows always tend to play loose with continuity for the sake of making gags. Or maybe it was just funnier that way. Also, the characters get progressively more unconventional as the show goes on, following the typical trend on television writing that each character introduced tends to be incrementally crazier or more abnormal than the previous one, similar to “Flanderization.” We start off with the “goofy brother,” move to the stereotype cousin, and slowly continue until we have a Baby Wizard, a photography Raptor, and a Ghost in a Jar. The idea that the only way to find the “real” people is by finding terrible memories might be a shot at other shows for trying to keep sanitized backstories as opposed to Rick and Morty‘s gritty humor.

S2E4 - 5AllOfThem.png
… So EVERYONE is posing for the camera? Fourth wall be damned.

Mr. Poopybutthole being real is one of the best set-ups in television. It’s not the reveal itself. It’s HOW they decided to reveal it. It’s such a perfectly Rick and Morty tone shift that works so well because it’s a subversion of a subversion. The basic joke throughout the whole thing was that Mr. Poopybutthole was clearly an alien shapeshifter that had entered the show, while the twist is that he actually isn’t. This is even foreshadowed by the fact that he’s in the opening sequence, many of which are “bad memories” which the parasites can’t generate or alter. But the show then decides to take the shooting seriously, rather than as a comical error. They blow past any attempt to make a joke out of it and treat it like a REAL SHOOTING, despite the fact that, not 2 minutes beforehand, we’d been laughing at the ways that the Smith-Sanchez family was eliminating all of the wacky shapeshifters. So, even if you saw the twist coming, you almost certainly didn’t see how it would play out. It’s something many shows would never even consider, let alone pull off this well.

S2E4 - 6Dying.png
“Is this what dying feels like?” WHAT THE HELL, SHOW?

Also, can we just acknowledge that so many of the parasites are just inherently funny? Pencilvestyr? Reverse giraffe (voiced by Keith Freakin’ David)? Hamurai? Amish Cyborg? These are such great puns and sight gags. Their quips are also hilarious, including Frankenstein’s Monster’s line “I was on the wrong side of the pitchfork on this one.” The subplot where the Sleepy Gary parasite not only makes himself Beth’s husband and the parents of Morty and Summer but also makes himself Jerry’s secret lover is simultaneously horrifying and hilarious.

JOKER’S THEORY CORNER

Well, I was going to do a theory about what Mr. Poopybutthole is, but unfortunately Dan Harmon has already addressed that issue, saying that Mr. Poopybutthole is just a higher form of the memory parasites, so evolved that he can break the fourth wall and put himself directly into the show’s history when he wants. 

I already declined to address the popular theory that this episode, as well as the majority of “Mortynight Run,” follow a different Rick and Morty, since Dan Harmon also confirmed that the rocks in this episode are the same as the ones seen in that one and that they’re what carried the parasites.

Instead, I’m going to ask: Were the parasites the point?

So, we know that Rick has dealt with these parasites before, because he immediately recognizes what they are. He shoots “Uncle Steve” after only a few seconds, based on Jerry’s claim that he had been living there, but why was “shapeshifting memory-altering parasite” the first thing that Rick thought of? Because Rick had wanted the parasites. Think about it, Rick had brought that specific rock in from the garage, looking disappointed at it as he throws it away. When we first see him in Mortynight Run loading the car with rocks, he has a huge number, but he only throws away the one that had the parasites.

S2E4 - 7SteveShoot.png
Maybe you should have headed to Paris faster, Steve.

I think that Rick had brought the rock back not to harness the rocks (though that might have been a bonus), but because the rocks potentially were going to breed the parasites which he could then use to his advantage. After all, we know from the previous episode that Rick regularly captures and imprisons aliens for the purpose of exploiting them, and the ability to freely manipulate memories would be useful to anyone, particularly Rick. While in the garage, clearly, one or two of them hatched and escaped, with the first becoming “Uncle Steve.” Meanwhile, Rick determines that the rock is defective and throws it away, only to discover that the parasite inside it has escaped.

S2E4 - 8GreenRocks.png
That’s the eyebrow of a man who is done with his rocks.

Am I saying that the only evidence I have for this is that Rick knows what the shapeshifting parasites are and that he looks disappointed when he chucks out the rock? No, it’s that he doesn’t wing Uncle Steve. When Rick shoots Cousin Nicky, the second parasite, he shoots him in the shoulder because he’s unsure he’s a parasite, but when Rick shoots Steve, it’s straight through the temple. Rick is absolutely sure that Steve is a parasite. Could it be that Rick just knows that Jerry doesn’t have a brother? Unlikely, as A) this isn’t Rick’s original Jerry so it could be a possibility even if the original didn’t and B) Rick routinely proves he knows almost nothing about Jerry’s life, including not knowing what decade Jerry was born in (despite him being roughly Beth’s age). Is it that Jerry says Steve has been staying there for a year? Well, that’s likely to be what clinched it, but do you really think that’s enough to make Rick risk executing a potential family member? It’s Rick, so it’s not impossible, but I still think it’s likely that something made him think that parasites were the likely source of the new brother.

LEAVING THE CORNER

Since most of Rick and Morty is based on humor within the framework of nihilism and existential dread, I shouldn’t be surprised that this episode about how memory is the only way to really define our existence that involves wacky characters is one of my favorites.

Overall, I give this episode an

A

on the Rick and Morty scale.

Wubba-Lubba-Dub-Dub, I need a drink. See you in two weeks.

PREVIOUS – 14: Auto-Erotic Assimilation

NEXT – 16: Get Schwifty

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Futurama Fridays – S2 E8 “Raging Bender”

Bender somehow becomes involved in professional robot wrestling, despite the title being a reference to a boxing movie.

SUMMARY

The Planet Express crew heads to the movies where Bender (John DiMaggio) is a complete and total jerk to the other patrons. In particular, he won’t stop aggravating the guy in front of him, who appears to be a stereotypical nerd, including insulting his girlfriend. However, when he goes too far, the nerd turns out to be the giant wrestler The Masked Unit (Tom Kenny) who attacks Bender. The Masked Unit then slips on some popcorn and is knocked out. The commissioner of the Ultimate Robot Fighting League, Abner Doubledeal (Kenny), happens to be in the theater and offers to make Bender a wrestler.

S2E8 - 2MaskedUnit.png
He’s opening up a file of whoopass. That’s a quote.

Bender is excited at the prospect of being a wrestler until he realizes that he might actually get hurt. He tries to quit, but  Leela (Katey Sagal) uses her tragic past involving martial arts to convince him to stay and let her train him. Despite his incompetence, he does actually manage to win his first match… because it was fixed. It turns out that Robot Wrestling is fake and that the most popular fighter always wins. Bender, now wrestling as Bender the Offender, starts to dominate the league through his antics. Since it’s fake, he stops training, which annoys Leela. Eventually, though, his popularity wanes and Doubledeal decides to rebrand him as a loser, the Gender Bender, an effeminate transvestite. Bender refuses at first, but is then told that his opponent is Destructor (Maurice LaMarche), an unbelievably powerful killer robot who can beat him in a fake match or a real one if need be. He agrees to lose.

S2E8 - 3Destructor.png
Destructor’s use in combat is a war crime. And hilarious.

Bender begs Leela to help him win the fight, which she agrees to do only after learning that her sexist martial arts instructor Fnog (David Herman) is Destructor’s trainer. The bout takes place at Madison Cube Garden, but it turns out that Bender is completely outclassed. When Leela tries to call it off to save Bender’s life, she discovers that Destructor is being controlled by Fnog. Leela battles Fnog while Bender fights the uncontrolled Destructor, resulting in Leela KO’ing her tormentor and Bender getting flattened. Bender is in pain, but Leela is happy that she got vengeance.

S2E8 - 4Fnog.png
SWEEP THE LEG!!!!

END SUMMARY

I was a decent wrestling fan as a kid, because it was 1992, I was 5, and Ric Flair was the man. WOOOOOOOOO!!! Later, of course, I found out that A) it was fake, B) some of these guys were completely different outside of the ring, and C) they were still amazing athletes and performers. So, I wasn’t exactly happy about this episode which mostly portrays wrestling as involving effortless and cheesy performances. I’m not denying that wrestling performances are cheesy, they absolutely are. Sometimes in the best way, like Randy Savage (R.I.P.), sometimes in the worst way, like the Shockmaster (sorry Fred Ottoman, I’m sure you’re a good guy), but they often are. However, they are absolutely not effortless as Mick Foley (or Mankind) will tell you. These are damned impressive physical performers and dedicated method actors and they deserve that respect.

s2E8 - 5MachoMan.jpg
Oh yes, sir. Oh yes, indeed. I will snap into a Slim Jim today.

Having said that, I think the satire of wrestling in this episode is freaking hilarious. The robot characters are all insane stereotypes (Billionaire Bot, Chain Smoker, Foreigner… these are the actual names) just like in most 80s-90s wrestling, the heels and faces are clearly defined, they get re-branded as necessary, and the product endorsements are dead-on (Bender endorses a brand of French milk bath soaps). It’s mostly put forth in one single montage, but I think the line that stands out most for me is the Foreigner’s intro:

I’m not from here! I have my own customs! Look at my crazy passport!

It’s a perfect tribute to how wrestling is based on giving you characters that can be identified down to their whole histories and motivations within just a few lines. There’s no nuance, it’s just character archetypes, and that can sometimes be beautiful. Watch Glow on Netflix if you want an entire series built around justifying this as an art form.

S2E8 - 6ChainSmoker.png
The Chainsmoker is less creative, I admit.

Leela’s subversion of the Karate Kid-esque (Bender even does Crane Stance) master-student bond is a great B-plot. Despite being a prodigious martial artist, Leela is condemned by Fnog (which I assume is just a parody on the common fake-martial artist name Master Fong) just for being a girl. His sexism is so ludicrous that he awards the victory in the spar to Leela’s completely unconscious opponent, which makes his ultimate ass-whipping all the more of a foregone conclusion that is still pretty satisfying.

The episode also has one of my favorite minor C-plots involving Hermes (Phil LaMarr) and the brain slug. During vacation, Hermes apparently made a stop at the brain slug planet and a slug took him over. He then proceeds to blatantly try to get brain slugs onto the others in comically inept ways, only succeeding with Fry. Fry’s brain slug then starves to death. Given the later reveals in the show, it would be thought that Fry’s slug starved because Fry lacks the Delta Brainwave, but the commentary for the episode reveals that the joke is solely that Fry is stupid and nothing else.

S2E8 - 7BrainSlug.png
Hermes should have used a garlic shampoo.

FAVORITE JOKE

It’s a tie between Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot’s cameos at the movie, advising Bender not to talk during the film, and the title of the theater as “א-null-plex.” I’d write it correctly, but I’m having formatting issues and the picture’s going to be below anyway. See, א, which is pronounced “aleph,” is the mathematical symbol representing infinities in set theories. Aleph-zero, or Aleph-null, is the lowest infinite set, the countable infinite, which is what most people think of when they think of “infinite.” Basically, it means if there is a way you can set up a system with the numbers that has a correspondence to the natural numbers, like the multiples of 7 or the powers of 11 or the prime numbers. I’ll attach a fun video explaining this concept below, because knowledge is power. The joke here is that the theater is a pun on the theater term “multiplex” which, in most shows, is parodied as the “infiniplex.” Futurama is just taking it one step further by saying that this is specifically the smallest-level of infiniplex, because they like to wave their math d**ks around. Yes, they have math ducks.

S2E8 - 1Aleph.png
Math jokes are mathemagical.

As to Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot, the joke is obvious if you’ve seen Mystery Science Theater 3000. If you haven’t seen it, I’ve now done two reviews on it and it’s on Netflix. CHECK IT OUT NOW!

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 20: Put Your Head on my Shoulders 

NEXT – Episode 22: A Bicyclops Built for Two

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Netflix Review – Mystery Science Theater 3000 Season 12: THE GAUNTLET (Spoiler-Free)

MST3K returns in a glorious Thanksgiving Marathon to remind us of better times and also terrible movies.

SUMMARY

Jonah Heston (Jonah Ray) has somehow survived being eaten by a robot monster at the end of the last season, but he is still stuck on-board the Satellite of Love with his robot friends Crow T. Robot (Hampton Yount), Tom Servo (Baron Vaughn), Gypsy (Rebecca Hanson), and Cambot. However, he is still the captive of Kinga Forrester (Felicia “You Make My” Day) and TV’s Son of TV’s Frank, Max (Patton “You Make My” Oswalt) who have prepared the most sadistic torture imaginable: Binge-watching 6 terrible films in “The Gauntlet.”

MST3K12 - 1Cast.jpg
Heroes, one and all.

The films are: Mac and Me, Atlantic Rim, Lords of the Deep, The Day Time Ended, Killer Fish, and Ator, the Fighting Eagle. All of them are a special version of awful.

END SUMMARY

Many of you are aware that I love MST3K. At my brother’s wedding, my groomsman gift was a set of MST3K cufflinks. I’ve written papers on copyright law that referenced them on topics I picked just so I could mention Tom Servo in a legal essay. I was a backer in the kickstarter to revive the series and regret not giving more due to not having money. I considered robbing a series of consignment shops, but I believed that Joel and the Bots (or Mike) wouldn’t want me to commit crimes in order to get them back in space. I’m a fan, is the gist of this. One of my favorite things was always the Turkey Day marathons that would air either on Comedy Central or on local channels. After all, the first MST3K was aired on Thanksgiving, so nothing could be more appropriate. So, imagine how pleased I was when, on Thanksgiving, 30 days after the initial premiere, Netflix gave us an actual in-show marathon of glorious bad movies.

MST3K12 - 2Cufflinks
Yes, these are the ones.

Look, it’s not like I can really spoil these episodes. The entire point of MST3K is listening to the comics riff on the movies. However, there are certain rules behind what film makes a great MST3K episode:

1) The movie should have some gimmick or recurring element that they can make into a running gag.

2) Some of the dialogue should sound like it was written by an English poet, Google translated into Arabic, Yahoo translated into Greek, translated by a sixth-grade student into Japanese, then translated by a drunk guy back into English.

3) The more fundamental technical flaws the movie has that it refuses to recognize, the better.

4) Logic within the movie should be thrown out the window into a pile of flaming hippos. Why hippos? Because origami octopus butternut squash.

All of these movies meet these criteria and then some. Mac and Me, in particular, has been a movie that has been requested for riffing ever since people first decided that they liked hearing three grown men make jokes about cinematic tragedies.

MST3K12 - 3MacAndMe.jpg
This is the E.T. rip-off we didn’t deserve.

The key to this season is that it is meant to be binged. It’s shorter than any previous season except for the last episodes when Comedy Central ended the series and, even within the show, the Mads (Kinga and Max) are challenging Jonah and the Bots to try and sit through six bad movies in a row. Each of the episodes feeds directly into the next one, with the next film being “flushed” to the Satellite of Love at the end of the episode. If you do binge this one (and it takes like 9 hours to do that, so be prepared), it actually forms a solid narrative and has a number of surprising throwbacks to the entire history of the show and the fandom.

Take the time out of your life and watch this season. It’ll make you happy and help you forget about how horrible reality can be for most of a day.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Doctor Who Season 11 – Ep. 9 “It Takes You Away”

The Doctor deals with a girl’s missing father, only to find out that he’s even more lost than she could have imagined.

SUMMARY

The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and the TARDIS trio of Graham, Yaz, and Ryan (Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill, Tosin Cole) land in Norway in 2018. They find a cabin nearby that seems abandoned, until they find a blind girl hidden in the house named Hanne (Eleanor Wallwork) who has been terrified by a monster that she hears from the woods. They find out that Hanne’s father Erik (Christian Rubeck) has been missing for a few days. In the attic, they find a mirror that doesn’t reflect people, which the Doctor discovers is a portal to the Anti-zone, the buffer universal material that keeps universes separate. She goes into the portal with Graham and Yaz, while leaving Ryan to watch Hanne.

E9 - 1Mirror.png
Not that either of them is big on reflection… God, even I feel bad at that joke.

Inside the portal, they find a terrible alien called “Ribbons of the Seven Stomachs” (Kevin Eldon) who appears to be a scavenger. He tries to trade the Doctor information on Erik in exchange for the sonic, but attempts to backstab her on the way. He is eaten by one of the Anti-Zone’s resident creatures, the Flesh Moths (guess what they eat). Ryan discovers that the “monster” is actually just a speaker system that her father uses to scare her into staying home. He returns to tell Hanne, which she uses as an opportunity to knock him unconscious and follow the group. He wakes up shortly and follows her.

E9 - 2Ribbons.png
Ribbons is a very happy sort of demonic alien.

The Doctor, Graham, and Yaz find a mirror copy of Hanne’s home and, inside, Erik. He reveals that he intended to come here because a copy of his deceased wife, Trine (Lisa Stokke), lives there. However, it’s revealed that it can’t be her, because she remembers dying. While the Doctor is still trying to figure out the situation, they run into Graham’s deceased wife Grace (Sharon D. Clarke). Similar to Trine, she remembers dying, insists she knows she isn’t real, but also says that she is real. Graham is tortured by seeing what he knows isn’t his real wife.

E9 - 3Trine.png
This is a father who abandons his blind daughter after tricking her into agoraphobia. For booty.

The Doctor finally realizes what’s happening: They’re in the Solitract, a sentient universe which was severed from the regular universe because the Solitract interferes with the normal universe’s operations. It set up this “heaven” mirror-world in order to convince people to come to it and stay because it’s lonely. Graham finally manages to accept it and leaves. Erik refuses to leave, but the Doctor tells the Solitract that she’ll stay in his place. Erik is ejected. The mirror universe collapses itself and becomes a white room with a talking frog, the chosen form of the Solitract. However, the Doctor is incompatible with the Solitract, so she leaves, promising to be its friend even if they’re separate. Back in the normal universe, Graham and Ryan finally start to bond over Grace.

E9 - 4SoliFrog.png
This is the face of the universe.

END SUMMARY

I will admit at the beginning of this episode, I thought we were going to hit the final point for me. I thought that this was finally going to be the episode that was just too serious to feel like Doctor Who. See, this entire season, while I have enjoyed it overall has definitely been closer to the original Doctor Who episodes with William Hartnell which, while they were amazing for the time, isn’t quite the feel the show’s had since the reboot. They’re a little more serious, a little less campy, and a little less funny. However, while that’s been refreshing so far (for me at least), it’s bound to hit the point where it just feels not fun enough. With a missing dad, a mysterious monster, and a blind girl, I was about 30 seconds away from going “okay, we’ve hit the wall.” But then the mirror happened and Ryan said what is definitely one of the most “companion” lines ever: “We’d know if we’re vampires, right?” The delivery was flawless and immediately brought me back up a little.

E9 - 5WoollyRebellion.png
I also want to hear more of the war between sheep and humans.

From there, the episode goes through Ribbons and the Anti-Zone, which, if not particularly interesting and probably unnecessary, is at least well-designed and creepy as hell. Next, we get to the Solitract, find out that Erik actually isn’t a great parent, and witness Graham interacting with Grace again, and the episode suddenly has left-turned into super emotional. Bradley Walsh once again gives one hell of a performance as a man who has recently lost the love of his life. Then, we get The Doctor giving one of the better humorous monologues in the season so far when she explains how one of her seven grandmothers told her a fairy tale about the Solitract. The final scenes of Graham and Erik having to give up on their dead wives is another solid emotional scene, which leads into… the Doctor talking to a frog. We end the episode with Ryan finally acknowledging Graham as his grandfather, which, after all the buildup, is a solid tearjerker. Honestly, this episode is all over the place in terms of tone, but the comic scenes are exactly the kind of thing that I felt were missing from the show.

Doctor Who doesn’t have to be comedy sci-fi, of course. Some of the best episodes have horror elements or action, for example, but it always managed to balance that with some solid comic relief. This episode doesn’t quite nail the ratio as well as past ones, but it comes close. In a season filled with much of the darkness in human history, this episode at least was somewhat lighter at points.

Overall, it’s not a bad episode, but it doesn’t have the gravitas of the good episodes of the season. The sequence in the Anti-Zone is basically just filler that amounts to nothing and should have been cut. However, aside from that, this was still pretty enjoyable.

I give it a B.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Creed II: Rocky VIII = Rocky II + Rocky III + Rocky IV – Camp (Spoiler-Free)

Well, Creed II came out and I saw it after Thanksgiving with a group of degenerate reprobates. We also call them lawyers.

SUMMARY (Spoilers if you haven’t seen any trailers)

Adonis “Donnie” Creed (Michael B. Jordan) has been winning multiple fights following his loss by decision to “Pretty” Ricky Conlan (Anthony Bellew) in the last film. He’s also moved from Light Heavyweight up to Heavyweight, it seems, but that doesn’t really get mentioned. Finally, he’s fighting for the WBC Heavyweight Title once held by his father Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) and his trainer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). He wins the fight against the past-his-prime champion Danny Wheeler (Andre Ward) then proposes to his girlfriend, Bianca (Tessa Thompson). However, he is soon challenged to a fight by Viktor Drago (Florian “Big Nasty” Munteanu) the son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), the man who killed his father in the ring. Since this is a boxing movie, there will be boxing.

CreedII - 1DragoCreed.jpg
Guess which one’s parents were both above 6 Feet tall.

END SUMMARY

Okay, so, the Rocky series has been, well, uneven in the past. The first film is one of the most inspiring stories of perseverance and human will on-screen. The second film was… that movie over again but this time Rocky wins. The third film was the campy story of Rocky having everything, losing it all, then getting it all back. The fourth film is him winning the Cold War in the most campy way possible that’s still awesome. There is no fifth Rocky, but the sixth Rocky is almost as good as the first and has almost none of the campiness of its predecessors. Creed was close to the first film in terms of sincerity and inspiration.

CreedII - 2MirrorCreed.jpg
Ryan Coogler was pretty amazing at directing Michael B. Jordan… in two consecutive films.

So, if Creed was closer, spiritually, to the first movie, then it makes sense that this one would be closer to Rocky II, but the filmmakers decided to instead combine the next three films by having Adonis become champion, deal with the thought of losing it all (sadly, not to Mr. T), then confronting a person who killed someone close to him (albeit, by surrogate). However, while the film series became slowly campier, less realistic, and more prone to corny subplots or pointless characters, this film… mostly avoids that. I say mostly because one subplot in the movie is that Rocky keeps trying to get the city to replace a streetlight and it’s honestly weird that it comes up in 3 scenes without ever being resolved. Aside from that, the film is mostly serious, dealing with the emotional states of all of the characters.

Here are the real pros of the film:

Michael B. Jordan is a hell of an actor. Possibly the best that’s been in the series and given that Burgess Meredith was in the original, that’s a hell of an accomplishment. He can be funny, serious, threatening, sad, scared, or desperate and none of it ever feels contrived or out of character. Similarly, Sylvester Stallone actually gets to remind us that he is an actor of some pedigree when he plays the older Rocky, who is starting to view Creed as a surrogate son just as he faces potentially dying in the ring. Their interactions stay just as fresh as the last film.

CreedII - 3RockyCreed.png

Reintroducing Drago should have been a terrible idea, but instead of being the cartoonish villain he was in Rocky IV, we’re instead shown a man who lost everything because of one fight. Drago’s wife left him, he’s broke, he lives a terrible life in Ukraine, and his only comfort comes from dreaming of the day when his son will become a success. While they don’t actually make Ivan Drago particularly sympathetic throughout the film, they do a solid job of making his son Viktor, the focus of much of Adonis’ anger and insecurity, actually seem like he’s a victim of his circumstances rather than an outright villain. Unlike Rocky IV, we do actually see both sides going through an actual character arc, rather than just side-by-side training montages.

CreedII - 4Dragos2.jpg
Also, holy hell, these two are huge.

However, there are training montages and, while I’m sad that they don’t take place in the Ukraine mountains, they are excellent. Under Rocky, Adonis’ regiment is basically a form of torture masquerading as a workout. Through the magic of movies, though, this makes him stronger rather than causing massive internal organ failure. It’s awesome.

CreedII - 5Montage.png
I don’t understand how this training Ring got built, though.

The final fight of the movie is extremely exciting. After all the build-up, the film milks every blow, often in slow-mo, for everything that it’s worth. People were literally applauding at the end of the rounds in the theater, and I could not blame them. I like watching boxing, but this was much cleaner and more fun for casual viewers.

Also, everyone on Earth should want Apollo Creed’s gravestone.

CreedII - 6Grave.png
Best picture I could find, but trust me, it’s awesome.

Now for the cons:

The music in this is, for the most part, not as good as its predecessor. Or the original Rocky or Rocky III. For the record, only 3 people have ever done the music for the Rocky series, with Bill Conti doing every Rocky movie except for Vince DiCola’s Rocky IV compositions. Ryan Coogler’s collaborator Ludwig Göransson did both Creed and this film, however, the music in this just isn’t as pleasant or original. Partially because they did more music in Tessa’s style which involves being deaf. I was also deeply upset that there wasn’t a cover of “Livin’ in America” played during Creed’s entrance to fight Drago. His dad got James Brown to do it live, he could at least have gotten an impersonator.

While the last fight is pretty spectacular, the other boxing matches in the film don’t have the smooth steady-cam from the last film and, frankly, they look a little half-assed compared to the end. I understand that they wanted the last fight to stand out, but I also don’t think they needed to lower them as much as they did in order to do it.

Rocky’s streetlight will remain a mystery unless it gets brought up in the next movie.

Overall, it’s a fun movie. It’s definitely one of the lower Rocky films, but, since there’s really only one bad Rocky film, that’s still saying something pretty good. If you liked the series thus far, you’ll like this.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Futurama Fridays – S2 E7 “Put Your Head on my Shoulders”

Season 2 continues to have some episodes more focused on the other Planet Express employees and this one is on the ditziest, and only, Martian trillionaire engineering grad student in the show: Amy Wong.

SUMMARY

S2E7 - 1Opening.png
This is one of my favorite intro lines.

Amy (Lauren Tom) got all Cs on her report card and therefore decides that her parents should buy her a new car. She proceeds to buy a brand new Beta Romeo and take it for a spin on Mercury with Fry (Billy West). They proceed to run out of gas due to their own incompetence and have to call for help. While waiting for help, they start talking and realize that they have a lot in common, resulting in them having some extremely casual sex (“Wanna do it?” is Amy’s ultimate seductive line). After they tell the Planet Express staff, the team immediately begins to talk about how good Fry and Amy are as a couple. However, Amy tells Fry she enjoys “hanging out” with him which leads him to freak out about things becoming too serious. He tries to bring Dr. Zoidberg (West) along with them on a date, however, when Fry tries to break up with Amy, Zoidberg crashes the car. Fry’s body is badly injured, so Zoidberg sticks his head on Amy’s body. Despite this, Fry breaks up with Amy, who immediately goes back to dating other people.

S2E7 - 2Kissing.png
They still kiss weird. Or do I kiss weird and they kiss normal?

At the same time, in the B-Plot, Bender (John DiMaggio) attempts to create a dating service (after his initial plans to create a prostitution ring prove illegal). He charges people money to participate in his “computer dating” program, which is actually just Bender randomly matching couples. Zapp Brannigan (West) is the first among his desperate clientele, but eventually even Leela (Katey Sagal) joins. When Amy reveals she has a Valentine’s Day date, Fry also ends up asking Bender for help.

S2E7 - 3Dating.png
It consists mostly of punch-cards.

On Valentine’s Day, Bender does indeed provide Fry a date: Petunia the ancient hooker (Tress MacNeille). It turns out that all of Bender’s “matches” are just random lowlifes he found at a bus stop. Despite being an old prostitute, however, Petunia still believes that she’s too good for Fry and leaves. Amy’s date with a handsome banking industry regulator named Gary (Maurice LaMarche) goes very well, with the pair about to take themselves (and Fry) back to the bedroom. Leela saves Fry by stepping in and distracting Gary for the evening. Fry gets his body back and thanks Leela who says she enjoyed “hanging out” with him, something that he doesn’t object to.

S2E7 - 4Coffee.png
Most third wheel to ever third wheel.

END SUMMARY

Sometimes I almost feel like this episode was designed to destroy fans who were “shipping” Fry and Amy. Yes, they’re both young and kind of dumb. Yes, they talk similarly and are both slightly removed from the “real world” of the year 3000 (Amy by her wealth, Fry by his anachronism). So yeah, they make sense as a couple, except that they both would drag each other down. Neither of them has any ambition, focus, or sense of personal responsibility, the things that partners should bring out in each other, and when they’re together they just reinforce each others’ worst tendencies. Plus, they largely only connect on a superficial level to the point that Amy isn’t contemplating anything deeper and Fry gets scared from just thinking she’s considering it. That’s why it’s so great that they each end up with people that they connect more deeply with and that help them grow as people. Also, I was already shipping Fry and Leela hard by this point, so I like that this episode pretty much kills any implication that he and Amy might end up together. The asymmetry of Fry freaking out about Amy saying “hanging out” but Fry being pleased when Leela says the same thing really drove it home.

S2E7 - 5Leela.png
They’re cute, even when he has an Asian co-ed’s body. Maybe especially then.

Caveat: There is nothing wrong with casual sex, friends with benefits, hook-ups, or having non-sexual romantic partners or friends that are emotionally as close as lovers. As long as your relationships are healthy, it’s nobody’s damned business how you conduct them. You do you.

This is another example of the show taking a classic premise (guy gets scared of intimacy and is put into forced intimate situation) but putting a sci-fi spin on it. However, I think the best subversion is that Fry still breaks up with her quickly. In most sitcoms where the person is stuck with the person that they are planning to break up with, they struggle for a while to just deal with it to avoid the awkwardness (Check out… most of Seinfeld, really, if you want examples), but Fry, despite now being physically connected with Amy, just goes ahead and ends things. This leads to the hilarious fallout when Amy, rather than being devastated or thinking that Fry’s head is an inconvenience, just goes ahead with her dating life immediately.

S2E7 - 6Amydump.png
Also, Fry’s a dick to her in this episode. Boo, Fry. Boo.

This episode does play straight the old trope of a guy who is in a relationship believing that he is better off single only to quickly find out that he is less desirable than he thought and that the woman he just left is much more successful at being single. I’d say watch Seinfeld for this one too, but you could also just observe almost any relationship where both people are in their early 20s.

FAVORITE JOKE

Well, the real answer to this is when the episode smash-cuts from Bender clearly supposed to be thinking of his dating service and instead being revealed to be trying to be a pimp. “Stupid Anti-Pimping Laws” would be my bumper sticker if I drove a Cadillac. Sadly, that joke’s short, so here’s another one related to it.

S2E7 - 7DatingService.png
The best jokes are Math Jokes.

Bender’s dating service is advertised as being “Discreet and Discrete.” The first is the more commonly used homonym, meaning something that is not openly practiced or is clandestine. The second is a bit more… varied in how it could be applied. Discrete means something that is not continuous, but when applied to mathematics it typically deals with non-continuous math concepts, such as logic. There are a ton of separate sub-fields that could, theoretically, apply to a dating service: Combinatorics, Game Theory, Information Theory, Computer Science, etc. I think the fact that there are about a dozen ways to interpret this joke within Discrete Mathematics that all make sense is why I love this joke so much. Also, I have a soft spot for puns.

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 19: The Lesser of Two Evils

NEXT – Episode 21: Raging Bender

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.