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Review: Doctor Who Series 7.5 Episode 7: Nightmare in Silver (Spoilers)

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In every series of Doctor Who, there comes a time when an old enemy must be revisited. Though the second half of Series 7 would seem to have fulfilled this requirement with “Cold War,” the episode focused on the Ice Warrior Skaldak, it was decided that Neil Gaiman‘s episode would be about the classic Cybermen. This had me worried for several reasons. In almost every episode of New Who that has featured these baddies, their stories have been near carbon copies of one another. They have been characterized by a lack of imagination in terms of plotting, and little to no evolution of the Cybermen themselves. Which is why “Nightmare in Silver was, hands down, the best Cyberman episode that we have had in a long, long time (as well as one of the best episodes of Who overall).

Doctor Who - Series 7BNeil Gaiman has said that the Cybermen had always been one of the scariest Who villains of his childhood. For this episode, he was tasked with restoring them to their former creepy glory, and succeeded admirably. These new Cybermen have lost the clanking, steampunk nature inherent in their previous iterations, and have become creatures of evolution. Reminiscent of the quickly-evolving tech industry of today, they adapt almost instantaneously to new weapons and obstacles and send out updates to every single soldier with the “patch.”

Hedgewicks-TicketThe episode takes place on a theme park planet called Hedgewick’s World of Wonders that was destroyed while humans battled Cybermen thousands of years prior. The Cybermen were vanquished, at the cost of the galaxy that they had inhabited. The entire galaxy that the Cybermen took over was obliterated. Scientific improbability aside, this is a new reaction to the Cyber threat – the futuristic version of total war. It shows ruthlessness – and a certain selflessness – present in the future human race that we have not seen often in Who.

486731_531756970193775_438965392_nThe Doctor takes Clara, as well as Angie and Artie – the two children for whom Clara is nanny – to the theme park, not expecting the devastation they find. A few soldiers remain on the planet to guard against a potential resurgence of their old foe. They also encounter a chess master with dwarfism named Porridge (played by Warwick Davis), who operates a seemingly defunct Cyberman to frighten people. The group readies to leave, but the Doctor decides last-minute to investigate the strange metal bugs infesting the place. These turn out to be Cybermites – tinier versions of the classic Cybermats – and partially convert Angie and Artie into walking coma patients, to be used to build more Cybermen later. And then the ‘mites find the Doctor.

Doctor-Who-713This is when Matt Smith shines as an actor. He is partially converted into the leader of the Cybermen, or the Cyberplanner, because of his extraordinary mind. However, the Doctor is strong, and a battle for supremacy over his body and brain ensues. The marvelous interior of the Doctor’s consciousness – where Doctor and Cyberplanner threaten and snarl at each other – is split between golden Gallifreyan lettering (on the Doctor’s side) and electric blue energy (on the Cyberplanner’s side). Finally, the two agree to play a game of chess for control over the Doctor’s body. Throughout this scene, Smith switches back and forth between Doctor and Cyberplanner (who has christened himself Mr. Clever), a seemingly endless dance of two incredibly intelligent foes. The two are simultaneously polar opposites and completely indistinguishable from one another, which was a frightening choice on Smith’s part and only emphasized his incredible acting prowess.

Mr. Clever is temporarily incapacitated when the Doctor slaps a golden ticket onto the circuitry on his face, because apparently the Cybermen still haven’t fixed that annoying weakness to gold and cleaning fluids. Meanwhile, Clara has taken charge of the soldiers – who turn out to be a nearly incompetent punishment platoon – as Cybermen reawaken from beneath the surface of the world. She and her motley army station themselves in a castle surrounded by a moat, and take stock of Clara_cyber_guntheir resources: one gigantic anti-Cyber gun; five hand pulsers which, when placed on the back of a Cyberman’s head, render them inert; and a bomb that has the capacity to blow up the planet. The Doctor joins Clara shortly with Angie and Artie in tow (still comatose yet able to walk). Clara ties him to a chair so that he can finish his chess game with Mr. Clever, then goes off to muster her troops. Continue reading

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Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane Signing Event at Symphony Space NYC

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Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus.

I met Neil Gaiman at a signing event for The Ocean at the End of the Lane at Symphony Space in New York City last night. He talked with Erin Morgenstern about the process of writing his first adult novel in years, and how his own childhood had informed much of the book. “It’s all lies,” he said (referring to Ocean), “and it’s all true.”


Here, Neil Gaiman is signing my copy of The Sandman.

Gaiman proved yet again that he is a master of anticipation, for he seemed to know exactly what the audience wanted and when the audience wanted it. (Of course there were surprises thrown in. It wouldn’t have been as fun if we knew exactly what was going to happen next.) He was wonderful at improvising, throwing jokes and anecdotes into the discussion. But most amazing of all was that he was completely and utterly genuine in his delivery. (Not that this is unusual for him, but there are plenty of other creators who do not stray from the confines of insincerity.) There were actually moments when he paused in his delivery, as if searching for the right word, or thought, or memory, which only further proved his 15783514candor. He did not spout hackneyed catchphrases, and there was no branding or Lockhart-ian posturing. Just Neil.

I just started reading Ocean last night, and – though only three chapters in – I can say with absolute certainty that it is one of the best books I have read in a long while. Gaiman’s use of language never fails to impress, and the memories awoken by enchanting depiction of sensory details stay alive within the mind. I look forward to what the remainder of the book holds. (If all goes according to plan, I will have a review up soon.)

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Teasers and Theories for “The Name of the Doctor”

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Yes, the Doctor Who Series 7 finale airs tomorrow. So here’s a roundup of all the tidbits the BBC has decided to throw our way. Allons-y!

That…pretty much sums up every single episode of Doctor Who. However, we do know now that Madame Vastra (and by extension Jenny and Strax) are involved.

Strax Reports

This one has very little concrete information. The “psychic medium” of whom Strax speaks could be an important plot element…or not. I can’t help but wonder if this person has anything to do with the mysterious “woman from the shop” who gave the Doctor’s phone number to Clara.

Tea Party

Clara meets River, and there is an inevitable clash. And then Strax lets off with one of his carelessly obtuse one-liners. Oh, Strax. I sincerely hope the Paternoster gang gets their own spinoff sooner rather than later.

On to the TV trailer:

“I’m Clara Oswald, and I was born to save the Doctor.” Gives you shivers down your spine, doesn’t it? This strongly supports my theory regarding the Doctor’s new companion and her impossibility. I’ll discuss this after I’ve shown some more trailers. Also, the Great Intelligence has returned! Finally. I’m somewhat disappointed that he/she/it didn’t show up previously in the season (though perhaps there will be an “aha” moment when we realize that, in fact, everything that happened to the Doctor after he met Clara for the firstScreen Shot 2013-05-17 at 9.23.00 PM time was somehow engineered by the GI for some greater purpose).

At the very end, we see an odd column of writhing red electric tendrils in place of the TARDIS console that proceeds to explode (implode?). This could mean any number of things, seeing as we have no idea what it is. Perhaps the TARDIS has been cannibalized again. The fact that River tells Clara “whatever you’re thinking of doing…don’t” is somewhat worrying, as it implies that perhaps the two are being taken far away from the action to preserve their lives, somewhat like when the Ninth Doctor sends Rose back to her own time to spare her from the battle at Satellite Five in “Bad Wolf.” Though I really hope Moffat isn’t reusing that plot device…

She Said, He Said Prequel:

This is possibly the most intriguing promo/trailer thing that we have been awarded, because it is a window into both characters’ views on each other. I also enjoy it because it backs up my theory regarding Clara Oswin Oswald. But we’ll get to that.

Clara tells the audience not to fall in love with the Doctor, which is as close to her admitting her true feelings for him as we’ve gotten so far. However, he’s a married man. This struggle – between his wife (River) and the woman she probably views as something close to a mistress – will likely have some kind of role in the episode. Trailer #5 (the awkward tea party scene with River, Clara, Vastra, Strax, and presumably Jenny) seems to support this.

However, it’s the Doctor’s monologue that holds the gold. “[Clara]’s perfect. Perfect in every way for me…She’s always brave. Always funny. Always exactly what I need. Perfect. Too perfect.” What could it mean? Perhaps the next trailer will tell.

Now, the “Next Time” trailer that played right after “Nightmare in Silver:”

Warning: past this point there is some serious theorizin’ as to the nature of Clara, the Great Intelligence, the Whispermen, and the Doctor’s name. Continue at your own risk.

Strax says “die, reptile” to Vastra. Something has turned him against her, and I have a feeling it’s the Whispermen. My guess is that they can manipulate feelings and/or thoughts – potentially feeding off of them – to turn friends against friends and perhaps even convert guys who were previously of the good persuasion to the bad.

Now, on to the real meat of the trailer. The Great Intelligence obviously wants to know the Doctor’s name. We’re not sure why, because we’ve been told time and time again that bad stuff goes down if the Doctor ever reveals this. Perhaps it is the secret that unlocks the meaning of life, the universe, and everything (because 42 just isn’t gonna cut it).

I’m going to make a deductive leap here and say it’s likely that the Great Intelligence engineered the events of “The Snowmen” in a kind of Xanatos Gambit to coax the Doctor out of the shell he created after the events of “The Angels Take Manhattan.” He knows that the only way he’ll be able to discover the Doctor’s name is to lure him to the Fields of Trenzalore, where, according to Dorium Maldovar, “no living creature can speak falsely or fail to answer.” (“The Wedding of River Song“)

Now, this is where Clara comes in. In the TV trailer, Clara says “I was born to save the Doctor.” In the “She Said, He Said” prequel, the Doctor describes her as “too perfect.” So here’s a potential scenario: modern-day, normal Clara sees the Great Intelligence about to triumph over the Doctor – about to find out his name and rain destruction down upon the earth – and artificially placed herself throughout the Doctor’s timeline in order to save him when he needed saving most, and to inspire him to keep fighting. She was meant to die every time. (I’m assuming this is what the glowing pillar of tendrils is all about – her going back in time, somehow splitting her essence to protect the Doctor.) When he has to cross his own timeline, he could be trying to save the previous versions of Clara from destruction after she does this. And then the paradox created by him messing with time catapults us into the 50th anniversary special for timey-wimey goodness.

Have fun with “The Name of the Doctor!”

If you’re interested in more Who-related articles, check out my other episode reviews: “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS,” “Hide,” “Cold War, “The Rings of Akhaten,” and “The Bells of Saint John.” (My review for “Nightmare in Silver” will be a bit delayed. Sorry! I hope to have it up ASAP.)

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Four Reasons Why the Doctor’s Name Won’t be Revealed in 50th Anniversary Special “The Name of the Doctor”

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1. The show would have to be renamed.

Doctor Who is centered around the idea that the Doctor doesn’t have a real name, just a self-awarded title. If he suddenly got a name, they wouldn’t be able to call it Doctor Who anymore.

tumblr_mm4uqdinNf1s6k3z5o1_4002. The uproar would be absurd.

If the Doctor’s name was revealed, Moffat would have to face the wrath of thousands of angry die-hard fans. People don’t want the mystery to be spoiled.

3. There’s no way the chosen name would please the majority of fans.

People have individual preferences based on a million different factors in their lives. If a name was picked, a vast number of people would not approve of it for one reason or another.

4. It’s much more fun not knowing, and the Moff is aware of this.

-The-Shakespeare-Code-Gifs-doctor-who-33215974-245-200Mystery is what makes people return to movie theaters and television sets, buy new products and go new places and see new things. We love wondering at the enigma that is the Doctor, trying to figure out all that we can about him at every opportunity. Names have power, as noted in “The Shakespeare Code.” Once something is laid out on a cold marble slab, analyzed and defined – then it loses its magic.

So, what will happen instead?

We will find out why the Doctor’s name can never, ever be revealed. The consequences of the mere possibility of the unveiling of his name will be so great that there will be no doubt that it must remain secret.

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Review: Doctor Who Series 7.5 Episode 6: “The Crimson Horror” (Spoilers)

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Doctor-Who-Madame-Vastra-Jenny-and-StraxSince both Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures left the air, there have been slots open for new Doctor Who spinoffs. “The Crimson Horror” gives us a taste of the most obvious – and potentially greatest – choice. With plenty of innuendo to go around and witty one-liners flying everywhere, as well as a certain Sontaran‘s endearing obsession with violence, the return of the JennyVastraStrax triumvirate in 19th century Yorkshire is a witty glimpse into a world that deserves its own series.

doctor-who-season-7-episode-11The beginning of the episode is curiously Doctor and Clara-free, which – although frightening at first – is a refreshing change. We are introduced to the conundrum of the week: the Crimson Horror and its ensuing trail of bright red bodies in the river. An undertaker presents to the team the belief that the last The_Crimson_Horrorimage a soon-to-be-corpse sees is forever burned across their retinas in an image known as an “optogram.” Vastra discounts this immediately as superstition. However, with the help of unexplained (but very Victorian-looking) technology, the eyes of the latest stiff are found to reflect a very familiar face – that of the Doctor himself.

Doooooo-weeeeee-doooooo… Continue reading

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May the Fourth be With You!

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Yes, it is the birthday of the famous pun – as well as one of the two Star Wars Days in May! Fans consider the day to be significant partially because of its relevance to the May Fourth Movement, an anti-imperialist political and cultural campaign originating in China and echoing the themes of the original movies.

When Margret Thatcher was elected as Britain’s first woman prime minister, her party placed an advertisement in the newspaper which read “May the Fourth be with you, Maggie. Congratulations.”

So go and re-watch all the old films. (Not the prequels. We do not speak of them here.) Grab some popcorn and your Yoda plushie. (Yes, I know you have one. Go get it.) Plop down, put your feet up, and bask in the nostalgia of those opening strains of the theme…

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Review: Doctor Who Series 7.5 Episode 5: “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS” (Spoilers)

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Besides the 50th anniversary special feature-length film/episode 3-D thing, “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS” immediately caught my attention when scanning episode titles before Series 7.5 premiered. Fans have been teased with the endlessness of the TARDIS since the beginning of Who, and though several rooms have been revealed in the past, “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS” was an episode that promised to focus exclusively on the interior of the ship that has been a pillar of the show since 1963. Every fan of Doctor Who has their own preconceptions of what rooms the TARDIS holds – myself included – so naturally there was bound to be some disappointment involved. How could a television episode live up to that title? But before we get there, let’s start at the beginning.

doctor-who-series-7-hide-promo-pics-34The Doctor begins the episode by commenting on the hostility between Clara and the TARDIS. This has been a recurring theme throughout the second half of Series 7, and one that will no doubt be connected to the fact that Clara keeps popping up in different times as different versions of herself. The TARDIS seems to react aggressively towards anything with an unnatural timeline, and Ms. Oswald would appear to fit the bill. In previous series, the Doctor’s companion and the TARDIS have had little to no interaction. The fact that this is suddenly reversed is a compelling development. The Doctor is insistent that the two get along, and shuts the TARDIS down to “Basic Mode” so that Clara can fly it.

What piqued my curiosity about this scene was that Clara seemed able to pilot the TARDIS relatively well in the previous episode, “Hide.” No, it was not River Song-level flying, but it was impressive nonetheless. So the fact that she suddenly needs training wheels is somewhat confusing. But I digress.

Screen Shot 2013-05-04 at 6.12.59 PMThe crew of a passing scavenger spaceship notice the TARDIS on their radar and reel it in with a magnetic tractor beam, hoping for loot. This seems to cause the TARDIS to go haywire. Amidst the mechanical havoc around her, Clara notices an egg-shaped metal object rolling across the floor and bends to pick it up – then drops it almost immediately as if burned. The console room shakes and then goes dark.

“Please tell me there’s a button you can press to fix this!”

“Oh, yes, a big friendly button!”

Continue reading

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Review: Doctor Who Series 7.5 Episode 4: Hide (Spoilers)

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The Caliburn Mansion...

The Caliburn Mansion… actually the interior of the Diogenes club!

…is actually the interior of the Diogenes club!


The Doctor has turned into a teenager. Aliens, beware…

The folks at the BBC have done it again, airing yet another episode of Doctor Who on April 20th. Titled “Hide,” this week’s romp through the Doctor’s world centers around supernatural events occurring in and around the mysterious Caliburn mansion, where Professor Alec Palmer (Dougray Scott) and Emma Grayling (Jessica Raine) are investigating the “Witch of the Well” who is rumored to be haunting the place. Emma uses her empathic abilities to reach out to the specter, while the Professor snaps photographs and takes readings on a wide range of odd devices.

The news that Neil Cross would be writing this episode made me rather nervous. After the rather ham-handed grandiosity of “The Rings of Akhaten,” I suspected that he would try to transfer the same techniques to “Hide.” Which rarely, if ever, make a successful ghost story. Episodes are made thrilling and truly frightening notGhostbusters through gigantic plasma spheres with jack-o’lantern faces, but with a creak in the dark room, a shadow passing across a window, a camera angle that gives you the feeling that there’s something right behind you, a brief returns to normality before being assaulted yet again by tense forays into the dark unknown. And, thankfully, “Hide” included all this and more.

Sexual tension you could cut with a butter knife.

Sexual tension you could cut with a butter knife.

The characters were the central focus of the episode, which was a welcome relief from the giant scale of the episodes that have characterized Series 7. The tension between Emma and Alec as they fumble their way through a budding romance is lovely, though Raine’s acting falls somewhat flat at times. However, their relationship offers a mirror to the Doctor-Clara dynamic, as love story signals conflict with Emma’s warning to Clara about the Doctor: “There’s a sliver of ice in his heart.” Which one?

The Doctor does his classic about-face as he has a “Eureka!” moment and runs into the TARDIS with Clara. We see a brief montage of that exact spot on Earth throughout the millennia as the Doctor snaps photographs of the place where the Caliburn mansion was/is/will be. Continue reading

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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Trailer (Recap)

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Slated for release on November 22nd, we are finally awarded several tidbits from the movie Catching Fire in this trailer (which was released on the 14th). Doubtless there will be many more like it in the coming months.



This trailer focuses on the preamble to the Quarter Quell as opposed to the Quell itself, which I think was an interesting choice. We are shown a heck of a lot of courtyard scenes, which look like they were all shot in the same place. We also see President Snow and Plutarch Heavensbee (I am refraining from making snarky jokes about the pretentiousness of this name, I really am) discussing the fate of Katniss Everdeen. I liked that the trailer wasn’t all action and explosions and running (though done well, those kinds of trailers can still be great). The destruction of the symbol that is Katniss is a sophisticated subject to use for the first trailer. However, I do wish there’d been some other shots spliced in with all the courtyards and Peacekeepers.

How could this trailer be more awesome?Screen Shot 2013-04-20 at 11.32.32 PM

I would have liked to see more news coverage of the story, similar to that one shot where we see Caesar Flickerman exclaim “Katniss EverDEEN, the Girl on Fire!” in front of a huge screen as she walks through a party sporting yet another ridiculous hairstyle. Also, although I understand that refraining from displaying footage of the Games both heightens the hype for the movie and retains dramatic tension for people who’ve read the books, some action shots interspersed between courtyard scenes could have been cool. For example: Peeta and Katniss walk out onto a stage in some District‘s courtyard. Brief cut to a chase sequence within the Quarter Quell. Cut back to the courtyard, where we see a clapping crowd. Snow is talking to Plutarch about Katniss. He continues, voicing over a quick shot from the Quell. Cut back to the courtyard. Etc. Also, I wish there had been more levity. Yes, there are some Serious Topics being covered here. Yes, there wasn’t much humor in the book. Yes, this is just a two-minute trailer that in no way represents the entire movie. Still, as any fan of Joss Whedon will tell you, humor breaks tense moments and does not have to detract from the overall seriousness of a film. Showing these moments in the trailer gives people incentive to see the film. We go to the movies to be entertained, and humor is definitely entertaining.

So, all in all: this was an enticing first trailer that leaves a little to be desired in terms of shot variety but still gets us excited for the sequel to Hunger Games.

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Happy Birthday, Leonard Euler!

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Leonhard Euler Google DoodleToday is Leonhard Euler‘s 306th birthday! As Pierre-Simon Laplace said, “Read Euler, read Euler, he is the master of us all.” A true polymath, he pioneered in mechanics, fluid dynamics, optics, and astronomy. We have him to thank for much of our modern mathematical notational conventions, as well as infinitesimal calculus and graph theory. Euler’s Identity is considered by manyf897005615c391e14cd50112cda44665 to be the most beautiful equation in all of mathematics. So join me in wishing a happy birthday to one of the most influential dead mathematicians of all time.

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