Doctor Whosday – S12 Xmas Special “Revolution of the Daleks”

The Doctor gets rescued by an old friend in time to confront an old enemy.

SUMMARY 

After the Scout Dalek was destroyed on New Year’s Day 2019, it was intercepted by agents of Jack Robertson (Chris Noth), the shady businessman from “Arachnids in the UK.” Robertson has the Dalek analyzed and repurposed into defense drones used to suppress riots along as part of a scheme with politician Jo Patterson (Harriet Waller). The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) is in prison since being caught by the Judoon, waiting for decades while trying to figure out who she really is. She is rescued by Jack Harkness (John f*cking Barrowman!) and returned to Earth, only to find out that it’s 10 months past when she left. In the interim, the Tardis Trio (Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill) have gotten upset at being left behind. They discover the Dalek threat just before the Doctor returns. At the same time, Robertson’s scientist Leo Rugazzi (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) grows a Dalek from the cells in the shell, only for it to take over his body and grow dozens of other Daleks. As the Doctor, Jack, and the Trio confront Robertson, they find out that the Daleks have taken over the defense drones and are taking over the UK. Hatching a plan, the Doctor summons another Dalek ship which destroys all of the cloned Daleks for being “impure.” The group then manages to destroy the Dalek ship and trap the Daleks in a spare imploding TARDIS. With the Earth safe, Ryan and Graham decide to stay behind and the Doctor and Yaz set off back into the stars.

I can deal with almost anything if I get more Barrowman.

END SUMMARY

This special was a bit of a surprise on a lot of levels, including both the presence of John Barrowman and the fact that it signaled the departure of Walsh and Cole from the series. Walsh was one of the better parts of the last two years of Doctor Who, so I’m curious how, or if, they’ll be able to replace him. It was also a surprise that they were able to finish filming it during Covid-19, but apparently part of it is that at least some of the shoot occurred before quarantine. Still, I’m impressed they got it out.

I mean, I do buy them quitting as characters.

As far as the special goes, I actually thought it was well done. It managed to balance the Doctor’s more gentle philosophy over the last two series with the fact that Daleks generally cannot be reasoned with. As the Doctor is trying to figure out who she is following the events of the last season finale, she can focus on doing the thing that the Doctor does better than anyone in the universe: Beat the hell out of a shallow allegory for Nazism. This episode doesn’t really have the monologues that the previous Chibnail episodes relied on, but I think that is a helpful respite for both the characters and the audience. This episode comes at the end of an absolutely crap year and, frankly, I didn’t need a long morality speech. I wanted to see the Doctor trick a bunch of Daleks into being folded into a singularity and banished from reality. Chris Noth returning as the seemingly unkillable douchebag billionaire was just a nice bonus.

What government would spend this much money to gas rioters? Oh, right…

Overall, it didn’t do much to move the canon along, but it was a fairly entertaining hour and change. That’s all I wanted and that’ll do for now.

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A New York Christmas Wedding: It’s a Wonderful Bisexual Life – Netflix Review

It’s not quite the LGBT Hallmark movie it advertises, but it’s got some good points.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Jennifer Ortiz (Camilla Harden/Nia Fairweather) is a former Goldman-Sachs trader who has recently left to work as a veterinary assistant and is engaged to a man named David Wilks (Otoja Abit). During a dinner with her future in-laws (Tyra Ferrell and Tony D. Head), Jennifer finds David’s mother is insisting on controlling the wedding plans. Frustrated, Jennifer goes for a run and witnesses a man named Azrael (Cooper Koch) get hit by a car. Jennifer walks with him and he promises that tomorrow she will have changed perspective. She wakes up the next day only to find that she is engaged to her former best friend Gabrielle Vernaci (Adriana DeMeo). Gabrielle and Jennifer had a falling out when they were in High School and Gabrielle had died soon after. It turns out that Azrael is an angel and has transported her to an alternate Earth for a few days to show her what life might have been life if she had made some different decisions earlier in her life. Unfortunately, it seems that in this reality Jennifer and Gabrielle’s wedding is being complicated by Gabrielle’s desire to be married by their childhood priest Father Kelly (Chris Noth), who is barred by the Catholic Church from marrying two women. So, which wedding will Jennifer end up seeing?

That’s not the face of a woman having fun with her future in-laws.

END SUMMARY

I admit that I was really intrigued by the advertisement and premise of this film. While the idea of waking up in another world where you made different choices has been done to death, I actually think this movie distinguishes itself by having such a massively pronounced difference between the two realities. Jennifer’s life with Gabrielle wasn’t just different in the sense of being engaged to a different person, almost every aspect of it had diverged. Most films with this kind of premise take some stance about people ultimately being who they are no matter the circumstances, but Jennifer doesn’t have the same job, history, or social life in the alternate world. In some ways, I think that’s probably more accurate to how things would actually play out, so I give the film credit.

First reality Jennifer would not have worn that dress, and that’s a shame.

Actually, I give this movie a decent amount of respect for several things. Obviously, it should be respected for being an LGBT entry into the “Christmas Made-For-TV Movie” genre, something that is woefully light. Perhaps even more interestingly, both of the leads are bisexual, which is also an underrepresented class outside of Cinemax at 2 AM. It’s also one of the first movies in the genre in which the two leads are Black and Latina, even among heterosexual films. It also does a great job in casting. Not only are the child versions of the two leads both very well done, but most of the background cast actually looks appropriate for the location (Queens, NY). They’re not all the standard “above average” extras that we see in most Hallmark Christmas movies, and they’re much more diverse.  All of the performances between the leads seem sincere and the dialogue is much more natural than you would expect from a film like this. 

The Sassy Gay Angel somehow works pretty well.

Part of the weakness of the movie is that it appears to have decided to pull a bunch of extra weirdness out of nowhere and for almost no payoff. I can’t really describe it without spoilers, but let’s just say that for a movie involving an angel sending a person to an alternate reality, they still made some very odd choices. I’ll also have to say that the film does suffer a bit from trying really hard to force its message more than it probably should. Then again, it’s a message that doesn’t impact me directly, so maybe it would seem more apt if it did. Oh, and the camerawork and some of the editing is fairly amateurish. Most of the time it fits in fine with the movie, but sometimes it gets distracting.

Some of Chris Noth’s decisions are right, but also sadly unlikely to be true.

Overall, I will say that this movie is about 50% good and 50% weird and off-putting. I almost say it should be watched just because it is different, but it also just kind of drops the ball about two-thirds of the way in.

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

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Doctor Who Season 11 – Ep. 4 “Arachnids in the UK”

The Doctor fights spiders, because why should I be allowed to sleep again?

SUMMARY

It’s the near future or near past… either last week or next week. The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) returns to Sheffield with her companions, Graham, Yaz, and Ryan (Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill, and Tosin Cole). They decide to go to have tea with Yaz’s family, the Khans. However, the Doctor and Ryan go to retrieve a package for the family that was left with a neighbor and find out that the neighbor has been cocooned in giant spiderwebs by, you guessed it, giant spiders. They’re joined by arachnologist Jade McIntyre (Tanya Fear), a friend of the deceased, who says she has been observing odd size and behavior by spiders in the area. The audience, and soon the group, learn that the source of the spiders is the basement of a hotel run by American Jack Robertson (Chris Noth), who just fired Yaz’s mom Najia (Shobna Gulati) because he’s a rich a-hole.

E4 - 1Spider.png
If I have to suffer, you have to suffer.

After the Doctor and the TARDIS Trio (or Team TARDIS as the show says) arrive at the hotel, they quickly find out that there are giant spiders everywhere and that, in a bizarre twist, they’re just old-fashioned B-movie monsters that have grown from toxic waste. Yes, it turns out that the billionaire hotel magnate bought a coal mine, turned it into a landfill for toxic waste, then built a luxury hotel on it. Well, ultimately, the spiders end up not being a huge problem because the queen spider grows so big she can’t respirate using book lungs. However, Robertson shoots it to death before it can die naturally, just so he can say he did and bolster his potential political career.

E4 - 2Gun.png
Admittedly, he DOES kill the mostly-dead spider. 

At the end of the episode, the Doctor plans to leave, but the three join her and ask to come along. They depart to places unknown.

END SUMMARY

Last episode, I had to laud the writers for having the guts to not use another allegory to get their point across. This episode, I’m telling them that they should have thought of a better one. The Spiders are basically a consequence of human ignorance and giving one person the ability to disclaim responsibility through use of corporate veils, which is a great thing to comment on… but they end up mostly just saying that this guy is a dick.

E4 - 3Noth.png
Which Sex and the City fans already knew.

First, if you want us to feel sorry for the spiders, and they kind of do, don’t pick spiders. They skitter and most people are afraid of them. If you’re going to spend the episode saying “spiders don’t eat people” and other stuff like that, you can’t also HAVE THEM DOING THAT THE WHOLE TIME. That’s like spending the movie going “the guy in the hockey mask just wants hugs” while watching Jason Vorhees slaughter people. I get that they’re mutants, but the Doctor repeating that they’re harmless around the corpses of their victims just makes her seem stubborn. Also, this marks the first time that I think Doctor Who has ever actually obeyed the “Square-cube law,” which makes giant animals nearly impossible, something that seems out of place in a show which has a blue box that doesn’t obey any laws of physics.

Second, Chris Noth’s Robertson is out of place. The character isn’t bad, in fact I hope they use him again, but he’s completely wrong within this story. He’s a greedy, rich industrialist who is planning on becoming president of the US solely to spite Donald Trump, with whom he shares a great number of idiosyncrasies. He’s selfish, a coward, a germophobe, and appears to not actually have any empathy for anyone or anything. The problem is, he’s never as wrong as you expect a villain to be, but they also don’t really point out why a system that allows someone like him also has issues. Basically, they just say “this guy’s a dick” but don’t try to do anything with that point. It’s really driven home when the Doctor gets angry at him for shooting the dying spider, but he literally just walks out without really suffering at all or caring about the deaths, as he is pretty much immune from consequence. Now, if the episode had done more to point out that he’s not immune because of who he is, but that he is who he is BECAUSE he’s immune, that would have helped. But, maybe next time.

E4 - 4Noths.png
The best part is when she thinks he’s Ed Sheeran.

Actually, Robertson continues the line of mediocre villains this season. Tim Shaw, Ilin, Krasko… none of them are the level of memorable foe that this show usually produces. I appreciate that they’re letting Jodie Whittaker and company get their feet before they throw them against some of the old enemies, but dammit, give us some better bad guys in the meantime.

On the other hand, we had some development in this episode and those character moments are amazing. We have Ryan doing shadowpuppets in the background while the Doctor deals with Jade to crack the new mystery in one of the most genuine moments in the show. Graham visits his now empty home and sees visions of the woman he loved trying to give him some comfort. Yaz is revealed to have interesting relationships with all of her family members. The team really is coming together.

E4 - 5Shadowpuppets.png
I hope that Tosin Cole was just messing around. It’s such a nice moment.

Overall, gonna give this episode a B-. It’s not bad, per se, but it could be a lot better, as this season has proved.

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

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