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Review: Doctor Who Series 7.5 Episode 3: Cold War (Spoilers)

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On Saturday, April 13th,  the newest episode of Series 7.5 of Doctor Who was aired (Sunday the 14th, for those hailing from the United States). The story takes place on a sinking Soviet submarine (alliteration FTW) during the Cold War. The quarters are cramped and tensions are running high as the vessel slowly fills with water and an Ice Warrior named Skaldak – who believes himself to be the last of his kind – runs rampant. Or perhaps slithers, as he does in fact vacate his armor and travels through tSkaldakhe sub making very Basilisk-y rasping sounds. This is the first time we have seen an Ice Warrior without a helmet, and the face is quite cool (though depressingly humanoid, as most TV aliens are). The clawed hands reaching down from the rafters (do submarines have rafters?) were exceedingly cheeseball and would have been right at home in an early episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Series 1 of Doctor Who.

MUSINGS

I enjoyed the comparison of (and contrast between) the “real” Cold War – the period of political and military tension between the Western Bloc and the Eastern Bloc taking place in the outside world of this episode – and the “cold war” occurring within the sub, which was in essence a game of chicken between several trigger-happy (cattle prod-happy?) naval officers, a really cranky Martian, an ages-old Gallifreyan and his 21st-century companion who were both anticipating Vegas and were instead confronted with a wet, cramped submarine and a lily-livered TARDIS…and twelve nuclear missiles.

ice-spaceship-1-1The ending was a charming example of deus ex machina – an Ice Warrior spaceship appears, looking very much like the classic interpretation of a flying saucer (except with some bitchin’ purple lights lining the edges). It then draws the submarine up to the surface of the ocean with a tractor beam and Skaldak beams out, refraining from remotely blowing up the submarine and showing everyone that yes, friendship is magic.

The Doctor-Clara dynamic is fantastic – Matt Smith and Jenna Louise-Coleman play off each other extraordinarily well. Most characters have a chance to throw out several grintacular one-liners, and the script is intelligent and smooth. (Thank you, Mark Gatiss.) The professor, played by David Warner, is an endearing refresher as a kid stuck in an adult’s body. (His one question to Clara upon discovering that she is a time traveler is “Ultravox – do they spilt up?” Love that guy.) Also, was it an accident that Clara hums “Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran when she gets nervous? Bad Wolf allusions, anyone? There are rumors flying everywhere about the 50th AnniversarDoctorLaughFunnyy special/series finale, so this could be relevant or just a red herring. Also, the Doctor seems to be carrying around a doll that looks very much like Rose Tyler. In the final scene, the Doctor finally explains why the TARDIS mysteriously disappeared – he implemented a protocol called HADS, or Hostile Action Displacement System, which teleports the TARDIS out of danger – and it was brilliant. Plus the Doctor gets to do annoyed-little-kid facial expressions. Smith’s acting is fantastic as always, and he and Clara defeat an enemy without violence, which was nice. (This was also the case with “Rings of Akhaten,” and I appreciated it.) However, the fact that Clara let the Doctor tell her to stay put was just infuriating. No self-respecting companion ever heeds the Doctor’s words. Ever.

So, all in all, a very well-scripted episode that could have had more dramatic tension, but in the end was satisfying and gave us several red herrings.

Read my dissection of two trailers for “Cold Warhere, my review of Episode 2 “The Rings of Akhatenhere, and my review of Episode 1 “The Bells of Saint John” here.

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Two Trailers for Doctor Who Series 7.5 Episode 3: The Cold War

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A classic villain is brought back in the upcoming episode of Doctor Who: the Ice Warriors! (Hence the title “Cold War.”) More specifically, Grand Marshall Skaldak. (This particular Warrior is not from Classic Who, but the concept of “Grand Marshall” is.) Anyway, let’s jump right into the trailers!

This first one is the “next time” trailer shown after “The Rings of Akhaten.”

There’s a great deal of information encapsulated in these 36 seconds:
the Doctor and Clara are aboard a sinking submarine armed with no less than 12 nuclear warheads and an angry Ice Warrior who evidently is intent on detonating them all. The last cut is of a scaly hand reaching towards a very smug-looking red button, whose purpose is presumably to trigger the missiles. We also see a rather bleak shot of Clara’s head lolling, eyes closed, looking very cold and wet and not very alive. Random aside: the premise reminds me very much of the Angel episode “Why We Fight.”

The next trailer on the list is the TV spot.

New information in this one: the Doctor was aiming for Las Vegas when he lands in the sinking submarine. Also, he seems to know who Skaldak is, proclaiming “this one is [dangerous]. He’s got nothing left to lose.” This could reflect a level of personal involvement with Skaldak’s plight. Or maybe Skaldak has just gone insane, and thus has no qualms with nuking Earth.

The description of this video reads: “On a Russian submarine in 1983, a frozen alien warrior is waking up, just as the TARDIS materialises.” So, Skaldak was dormant for who-knows-how-long before waking up, possibly as a result of the TARDIS’ rather hasty landing.

All in all, this episode looks like it has the potential to be pretty great. Neither of the trailers include much dialogue, but hopefully the writers have bounced back from the unimaginative script of “The Rings of Akhaten.” If you’re interested in more Doctor Who-related posts, check out my review of Series 7.5 Episode 1 (“The Bells of Saint John”) here, my review of Episode 2 (“The Rings of Akhaten”) here, and an early dissection of the trailers for Series 7.5 here.

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Review: Doctor Who Series 7.5 Episode 2: The Rings of Akhaten (Spoilers)

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First of all, I’d just like to make the point that this episode has been getting way more negative reviews than it deserves. “The Rings of Akhaten” is a rollicking space-y adventure complete with Star Wars-ian alien fauna and some seriously awesome visual effects from the masters fromp017c9sc The Mill. The story structure is not revolutionary, but neither is it absurdly nonsensical like several of its predecessors. (“Fear Her,” anyone?) I believe the word here is ‘dependable’ – Moffat took a framework that has succeeded in the past and re-worked it. That said, there are several plot holes and gaps of logic – flying a space motorcycle through the void without a space suit, for one. Not to mention several occurrences of underwhelming dialogue. Before we get there, however, let’s backtrack a bit…

SUMMARY

The episode begins with the Doctor observing the meeting of Clara’s parents – a clichéd but ultimately sweet rendition of the “dramatic rescue of the damsel in distress” trope…except in this situation, Clara’s father is the damsel. Smacked in the face with a maple leaf, he decides it’s a great idea to meander into oncoming traffic flailing his arms about. His future wife pushes him out of the way in the nick of time…and true love ensues.

rings-akhaten-dave-ellie-4Cue montage of Clara growing up (come on, we haven’t had one of those in ages). We see her mother giving her the “101 Places” book we saw in “The Bells of Saint John” (and now we know the origin of the leaf that constitutes the first page). Her mother then inexplicably dies (hopefully we’ll learn more about that later, as it is a major character shaper).

Cut to present-day TARDIS, and the Doctor is asking Clara what she would like to see. There is ssssssssssaaaaaaaaaaaa_zpsc13a1018some fierce buildup as she ponders this question, and though her answer – “something awesome” – seems somewhat anticlimactic, the Doctor responds with his usual enthusiasm and begins dancing around the TARDIS console while pressing buttons and pulling levers in the standard takeoff sequence. (Interestingly enough, the order in which he does it all is actually the same episode to episode. And yes, I’ve double-checked this.)

doctor-who-rings-of-akhaten-overnights-mainThe Doctor takes Clara to the Rings of Akhaten – seven planetoids orbiting a gas giant. Their visit coincides with the Festival of Offerings, which the Doctor passes off as the alien version of Pancake Tuesday. In reality, the Festival “celebrates” the aligning of the planetoids with a live performance by the Queen of Years, the young Merry GejelhMeet_the_brand_new_Doctor_Who_aliens_from_The_Rings_of_Akhaten (played wonderfully by Emilia Jones). The Old God – christened “Grandfather” – resides in a golden pyramid on an asteroid, and the song is meant to placate him, acting as a lullaby. We see Clara in her “governess” role again as she comforts Merry and assures her that, despite her fears, she will not fail her song.

Merry is stolen away by Grandfather via tractor beam while she is singing and is taken to the pyramid. The Doctor and Clara arrive just in time (riding 0aforementioned nifty space motorcycle, paid for with Clara’s mother’s ring because of its sentimental value) to convince her not toThe Rings of Akhaten sacrifice her soul. Then, just as Grandfather is about to

escape his glass cage… Continue reading

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Top Neekly April Fool’s Day Pranks of 2013

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April Fool’s Day is an age-old tradition. Pranks are, at this point, a given for April 1st. If you’re interested in a little background (courtesy of Wikipedia)…

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The Internet has been buzzing for the past few days over some of the most well-executed pranks – and none are more so than those of the tech community. So, without further ado, here are my top several neekly April Fool’s Day Pranks of 2013! In no particular order…

April1frmryrsTwttr

Twitter announced that it will henceforth be a two-teired service. Anyone can use “Twttr,” but you only get consonants and the letter “y.” Upgrade to the premium service, “Twitter” for $5/month, and get unlimited consonant and vowel usage. Twitter also linked to this tool, which turns regular speech into an incomprehensible, vowel-less mess. Enjoy.


Eco Trees

Samsung announces its newest product. “SMARTSamsung-Electronics-announces-availability-of-Eco-Trees-a-smart-companion-for-a-richer-sustainable-healthier Eco Trees intake CO2 and release oxygen to support a healthier environment. In the process it also uses a natural filtering system to eliminate pollutants. Eco Trees also help keep the humidity at a pleasant level. These features are fully automatic and require only the addition of water and S (Solar) Beams.” I see what you did there, Samsung.
original-1

 

Virgin Atlantic Glass-Bottomed Plane

British Virgin Atlantic customers flying in their newest plane model, Little Red, will be afforded an unparalleled view of the British countryside through the floor of the glass-bottomed plane.

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Review: Doctor Who Series 7.5 Episode 1: The Bells of Saint John (Spoilers)

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SPOILERS AHEAD. SPOILERS, I SAY! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

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Clara and the Doctor in “The Snowmen.”

Doctor Who Series 7 returned to televisions worldwide on March 30th with the invigoratingly flashy midseries premiere “The Bells of Saint John.” With all the hype leading up to it, however, some disappointment was inevitable. This episode was tasked with introducing Clara Oswald yet again, this time as the Doctor’s 21st century to-be companion. (For those who are unfamiliar with the mythos surrounding Clara, the Doctor has met different versions of her across different times.) “The Bells of Saint John” also promised a riveting adventure and strong story to boot.

spoon1The central plot itself foundered somewhat when it was asked to support the forgettable monsters known as the “Spoonheads” as well as fail to explain why “The Great Intelligence” (played by Richard E. Grant)photo wanted people’s souls all of a sudden when snowmen seemed to entertain it just fine only a few hundred years prior. Viewers never learn how the soul-snatching actually works – there isn’t even a pseudo-science explanation delivered hastily by the Doctor. Plus, the plot and story structure both seem like reiterations of “The Idiot’s Lantern,” and why on earth did Miss Kizlet want Clara to have computer skills if her sudden awesome hacking prowess ended up being the mysterious corporation’s downfall? (By the way, Celia Imrie was wonderful as Miss Kizlet. When UNIT is cleaning up the scene after all of the Spoonhead controllers have been wiped, and she looks up and asks for her parents…I wanted to cry and laugh at the same time.) Continue reading

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Doctor Who Series 7.5 – An Abundance of Trailers

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BBC’s Doctor Who will be returning on March 30th. All fans of the show have had this date marked on their calendars for months now, but BBC has continued to release media teasing the upcoming season (half-season, really). The trailer for Series 7.5 has been out for a while now. In case you haven’t seen it, here it is:

This one is very focused on Clara Oswald. She is Doctor’s new companion, introduced in “Asylum of the Daleks” and again in the Christmas special “The Snowmen.” In both she is the same woman…but from two different times.

On March 16th, another trailer for the season was released via BBC’s YouTube channel, titled “New Series 7 Launch Trailer 2013.”

This one seems to be more “scary finale”-themed…because if the Doctor is afraid, then you should be too. Plus it’s got that bass-y sound from Inception that has taken the place of music in trailers these days… Continue reading

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March 26th is a Joyful Anniversary for Neeks

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Today is the anniversary of two great happenings in neekly history. Brace yourselves.

Leonard-leonard-nimoy-17314437-1280-800Happy birthday, Leonard Nimoy!

Yes, the man who played Mr. Spock in Star Trek: The Original Series and Spock Prime in Star Trek (2009) was born on this very day in 1931. That makes today his eighty-second birthday. Live long and prosper, Mister Nimoy!

The following is a series of pictures of Nimoy throughout his life…set to the song “Highly Illogical,” found on the campy CD “Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock’s Music from Outer Space.” I thought it a fitting tribute.

Happy birthday, Doctor Who reboot!

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Technically Season 28 of Doctor Who, Season 1 of the 2005 relaunch with Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor and Billie Piper as his companion, Rose Tyler, marked the resurrection of the formerly-popular TV series. At first low-budget and even cheesier than Season 1 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and that’s saying something), Doctor Who has evolved into a well-written, well-acted, well-made work. Steven Moffat has done a terrific job making the show accessible to just about everybody, while also appealing to long-time viewers.

Ah, nostalgia. Live long and prosper, Leonard Nimoy. And Allons-y, Doctor! May Season 7.5 be as good as its first half.

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First Ender’s Game Movie Poster Released via Yahoo! Movies and Ender’s Game Tumblr

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Harrison Ford plays Graff. Despite the fact that the colonel is supposed to be rather disgustingly overweight, I think Ford can pull it off.

Harrison Ford intimidates Ender as Hyrum Graff. Despite the fact that the colonel is supposed to be rather disgustingly overweight, I think Ford can pull it off.

At noon today, after fans had been chewing on several rather mundane photos of Battle School from Summit for a while now, Yahoo! Movies released the first ever Ender’s Game movie poster. The poster can also be found at the official Ender’s Game Tumblr. What the poster brings that the previous photos didn’t is our first look at the Battle Room. Now, if you haven’t read the book, the Battle Room was written as a large, closed, cubic room with zero gravity in which the students at Battle School played a tactically challenging game very similar to laser

Hailee Steinfeld as Petra Arkanian chats with Asa Butterfield as Ender Wiggin in the cafeteria. I'm appreciating the S.H.I.E.L.D.-esque scoreboard in the background.

Hailee Steinfeld as Petra chats with Asa Butterfield as Ender in the cafeteria. I’m appreciating the S.H.I.E.L.D.-esque scoreboard in the background.

tag. Except, you know, while floating around. The writers evidently thought that was too mundane, making the room spherical and transparent. Even though I feel some remorse over losing another aspect of the book, the final product looks pretty awesome. But if they screw up any scenes within the Room itself, no amount of movie magic can save them from the wrath of the rabid fans.

In the poster you can see Continue reading

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Tiny Implant in Interstitial Tissue Sends Blood Test Information to Smartphone

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This tiny device constantly monitors the composition of a patient’s blood and sends the information via radio waves and/or Bluetooth to your smartphone and your doctor. The device is surgically inserted, using a needle, into the interstitial tissue (don’t worry, I didn’t know what it was, either). The patient wears a patch over the implant which contains its batteries, receiving signals from the implant and sending them to the receiver. According to Dr. Giovanni de Micheli, director of the Integrated Systems Laboratory at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), the device is able to detect five compounds in the blood which can shed vital information on a patient’s current health. The implant can supposedly predict heart attacks hours in advance, monitor glucose levels in diabetics, and detect cholesterol, among other uses. Micheli hopes to have a commercial model ready within several years, but in the meantime researchers hope to begin testing the device on patients in intensive care.

What does all that boil down to? A modern-day tricorder may be just around the corner.

Here’s an interview with Dr. Micheli and Dr. Sandro Carrara about the implant:

Source 1, Source 2

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