This is coming from someone who lived through the Second Cold War. I was born in the ’60s … grew up in the ’70s … and came of age in the ’80s, when Ronald Reagan branded the USSR “the evil empire” and I was fully convinced World War III would break out in the days following Leonid Brezhnev’s death.  I still miss the future that I was promised as a child, with the overall acceptance of differences from the original Star Trek, the fully occupied moonbase from Space: 1999, and the sheer wonder of exploration from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

But I also remember The China Syndrome, happening almost in conjunction with the Three Mile Island accident. And I have very vivid memories of Saturday Night Live‘s satire of that, back when SNL was actually funny.

And I remember Chernobyl. It was a sobering real life experience, happening a few years after the one-two television punch of The Day After and Threads.

But apparently, I was never told the whole story.

The HBO/Sky miniseries about Chernobyl is fantastic. The first two episodes play out like a suspense thriller … and then the third episode turns it all around … and makes you realize you’re actually watching a five-hour horror film.  Except it’s all true.  Yes, certain characters have been created as compromised characters, being an amalgamation of real life people that were involved in the accident, the attempt at resolving it, and the subsequent investigation … but from the research I’ve done, the miniseries depicts situations that actually happened … and what actually happened … was downright horrific.

After seeing three of the five episodes, I can’t recommend this highly enough.  This is extremely compelling storytelling, and I am both eagerly anticipating and dreading how the final two episodes will play out.



Doctor Who: The Woman Who Fell To Earth

As requested, my thoughts on this season’s Doctor Who premiere, The Woman Who Fell To Earth (although … you’d never know that was the title of the episode cuz THERE’S NO FUCKING CREDITS!!!).  These are the comments that I typed up in an email to a friend of mine, plus my friend’s response, plus my reaction to my friend’s response.

* * * * *

I have to preface all of this by saying I have not been eagerly anticipating this season at all.  Not in the slightest.  I’m not pulling a full fanboy tantrum and refusing to watch it (c.f. Ian Levine), but I am keeping my expectations as low as possible.  I had low expectations for Capaldi’s last season and I ended up enjoying the hell out of it.  However … for Smith’s and Capaldi’s casting announcements, I knew right away each of them would end up being a good Doctor (and yes, they were great Doctors, it’s just that they both suffered from a hell of a lot of bad writing).  In this case, I had no prior experience with Whittaker’s work, so I had no idea whether or not her casting was a good or bad thing.  People hated Colin Baker, and I ended up liking his Doctor.  People liked Sylvester McCoy, and I have to say his is still my least favorite Doctor.  Whittaker could end up being another Peter Davison.  Or maybe she’ll end up combining the most annoying aspects of C.Baker and McCoy.  I can’t make any conclusion about that based on a single modern Who episode, especially one that is deliberately cluttered with post-regenerative foolishness in the name of the character’s journey of self-discovery.  The Christmas Invasion did a good job of that.  The Eleventh Hour did a fantastic job of that.  Deep Breath should be renamed Deep Sigh.  As for this one ….

Thoughts as I watched it:

This really felt like an episode of Sarah Jane Adventures, not Doctor Who.  I kept expecting Luke, Mr Smith & K9 to show up.

Is that thing that Clyde … er, Ryan … discovered, is that a giant Hersey’s kiss or a giant turd?

Okay, now with Rani … er, Yasmin … a constable, now I’m getting an early Torchwood vibe.  I know this is supposed to be all shiny and brand new, almost like a reboot, but right from the very beginning this is starting to look and feel like a mishmash of rehashed RTD ideas.

So the Doctor falls from orbit onto/into a train … and survives?  Uninjured?!?  HOW?!?  SERIOUSLY?!?  So much for suspension of disbelief.  This has obviously been going the slow burn route to try to get us caught up in the development of these characters before the new Doctor is introduced.  However, doing it this blatantly unrealistic (and unexplained – or did I miss the explanation?) and downright killed any ability for me to get caught up in either characters or events.  Chibnall should know better.  From what I’ve heard about his work on Broadchurch — I really do need to watch that someday — he is (supposedly) a far far better writer than that.

(But then again, I have no idea whether or not he actually wrote this because THERE WEREN’T ANY FUCKING CREDITS!!!)

The description of regenerating (specifically, experiencing the beginning of a new incarnation) was pretty intriguing.  Reminiscent of Eccleston’s monologue to Rose about being able to feel the Earth moving through space.  Kinda good, but alas, Eccleston did it better.  Either that, or I just liked it more the first time around.  Heavy sigh.

“Best guess: two species at war, using earth as a battleground.”  Heavy sigh.  I liked it better when it was the Sontarans vs the Rutans.

“I am special.  I am valued.” …. Heavy sigh ….  I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people LIKE me!

I’m kinda impressed that Whittaker did her own stunts.  I always respect that.  But I wouldn’t have known that fer sure just by watching the show.  This is one case where I’m glad that I cheated and read some of those Radio Times questions before I watched this.

The unexpected death came across as a cheap attempt at emotional manipulation, rather than a valid emotional kick in the pants.  Adric is the obvious first thought here, but I think Katarina’s death is a more apt comparison and far far more moving, even considering that the majority of that sequence is lost.  I still get shivers when I see her arm flailing, desperately reaching for the airlock switch.  Here I’m left wondering would she really still be able to speak coherently after a fall like that?  (Yes, Baker could do so after the fall in Logopolis, but 1 he’s a Time Lord and 2 he fell onto grass-covered dirt.  So I had suspension of disbelief there.  In tonight’s case, she fell directly onto concrete, or at least asphalt.  Far higher splat potential there.)

Whittaker’s description of how she copes with her family being gone brought back memories of Troughton saying something similar to Victoria in Tomb.  Sorry, Troughton did it better.  At least I didn’t have to strain my ears to understand his accent.  Heavy sigh.

And her being rather insistent that her family is gone — do we take that to mean Susan is dead, too?  We never had any confirmation either way as to whether or not Susan got caught up into the Last Great Time War.  And since Capaldi had her pic on his desk, I was hoping that meant we’d see the Doctor finally go visit her (or her come and find him) at some point.  Carole Ann Ford may be ancient now, but she ain’t dead yet.

So overall, upon first (slightly scattered) viewing, I’d have to rate it a solid meh with a handful of heavy sighs.  The missing opening titles really has me wondering what show I’m watching.  What do I think of Whittaker as a Doctor?  Dunno, jury’s still out.  Took me three eps to believe Eccleston was the same Doctor that I watched way back when.  Can’t remember how many for Tennant.  Smith was the Doctor for me right before the end of The Eleventh Hour.  Capaldi, just two.  At least Whittaker isn’t gurning about whilst playing the spoons.  So she’s got that going for her.


“I’m gonna withhold comment for now except this: check the scene where the alien explains what it’s doing to The Doctor and company, then go review a scene in either in the first or second acts of the 3rd season Lost In Space episode, ‘Hunter’s Moon,’ where the alien describes his purpose on the Robinson’s planet.”


And … oh good grief!  Motherfucking Chibnall cribbed the alien’s motivation ALMOST WORD FOR WORD from that 1967 Lost In Space episode!!!


I am seriously not looking forward to the rest of this season.  Feh!



Well, gee whiz, that’s a bit of a disappointment … news broke yesterday that CBS cancelled BrainDead.  So … time to dig into my backlog and write this one up.  The paragraphs below were written before the cancellation announcement.

BrainDead has got to be the most brilliant show that I’ve seen on broadcast television in an extremely long time!  Invasion Of The Body Snatchers meets All The President’s Men by way of space bugs!

Everyone was excellent; Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Danny Pino, Tony Shalhoub, Aaron Tveit, Johnny Ray Gill … I could go on to name all of them, but hey, just look ’em up on Wikipedia or IMDB.  And the absolutely most brilliant aspect of the show was to have Jonathan Coulton sing for the recaps of previous episodes.  The show made me laugh, the show made me yell at the TV (in a good way), the show made me want to see the next episode right away without having to wait a week … I’m racking my (remaining) brains trying to think of anything that I didn’t like about the show, and I honestly can’t think of anything.

Alas, the overall ratings weren’t quite up to par, so I’ll be very surprised if we end up seeing any more episodes.  Especially since Tony Shalhoub has reportedly signed on for the Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s The Price.  On one hand, that’s a bad thing, because I’ll really miss this show.  On the other hand, that’s a good thing … they were able to wrap things up well enough in this thirteen episode run that the season finale could easily function as a series finale.  If it ends there, I’ll be happy with the quality of the thirteen episodes that we have.  That’s far far better than shows that don’t know when to stop and keep going long after their entertainment value has worn away (Big Bang Theory and Red Dwarf, I’m a-lookin’ at youse!).



I typically stand wholeheartedly against anyone doing a remake simply for the sake of remaking something, especially when the original was not only pretty darned good but also something that I have a bit of a soft spot for.  Zack Snyder managed to win me over with his version of Dawn of the Dead, a film I desperately wanted to hate just because I thought that the original film should never ever have been molested by a remake.  And now here comes Jonathan Nolan and HBO to molest Michael Crichton’s classic Westworld.

And y’know what?  It works.  It’s in the process of winning me over.  The pilot episode seriously intrigued me.  I always loved Crichton’s original film, and this new interpretation looks like it could visit some pretty interesting (and rather dark) places.  I would love to see them address the various aspects of artificial intelligence and questioning reality that the creative brains behind Caprica and Virtuality suggested those shows would eventually visit.  I’m not even missing Yul Brynner.

Speaking of Ronald D. Moore, yes indeed, I have to say that this new series appears to do for the original film what Ron Moore’s reimagined Battlestar Galactica did for the original ’70s Galactica series.  The third episode here is bogged down by too much dippy exposition and some dodgy de-aging CGI, but it also includes the most chilling moment thus far:

“Analysis: what prompted that response?”
“I don’t know.”

So … three eps in and I’m enjoying it enough to ride it out for the rest of the first series.  The production value is impeccable; the interior of the park looks even better than Deadwood, and the behind-the-scenes parts of the park look far sleeker, colder, more sterile and more chilling than any of the behind-the-scenes bits of the original Delos.  The cinematography for the location shoots is gorgeous.  And Evan Rachel Wood is just amazing.  As long as we don’t dive back into dippy exposition, I expect I’ll enjoy the rest of the run.


Designated Survivor

A horrible terrorist attack decapitates the US government and leaves Jack Bauer as President.  And he’s completely and utterly unprepared.

That’s an extremely intriguing premise.  And the pilot episode was extremely well crafted, for the most part.  I respect television shows that make me yell at the TV in a good way, and the ending of the pilot did exactly that for me.  It left me wanting more, and wanting more NOW, making me wish head over heels that they had gone with a two hour pilot.  Plus I was hoping against hope that someone would work the line “I’m gonna need a hacksaw” into the script.

And then the second episode aired.  Ugh.  So much for that.

I had two problems with the pilot: 1) I find it very hard to believe that horrendous amount of damage could be done to the capitol building by any means other than an airstrike.  And they made it clear that it was not an airstrike.  2) I really do not care about Maggie Q’s subplot.  At all.  I really do not care about Maggie Q’s character.  At all.  You don’t need to make the investigation into the attack a significant part of the show.  Let’s just focus on the hell that Kiefer Sutherland’s character is going through and the hell of how his family reacts to being completely and utterly uprooted.  But no.  We have to add the police procedural aspect to the show, and we have to have the main police procedural character moping over a potential loss.  Sorry, not interested, don’t care.  At all.  Why do we even have to have this B story?

And episode two now has the wife and kids getting annoying, so the “how the family reacts” aspect has suddenly become grating.  In spite of the fact that we’ve got Deirdre from Ronin here as Jack Bauer’s wife.

And then we come to episode three: “The White House has just been hacked!”  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!  Oh dear … that’s actually funny … but not in any sort of good way.  It’s funny in an oh-dear-the-writers-think-they-actually-know-something-about-computer-security-but-that’s-not-really-how-any-of-that-works way.  “Usually a frequency analysis should pinpoint any infected modalities” … what in the holy FUCK is that supposed to mean?!?

“Mommy, what are these?”  “Oh, those are just headache pills, sweetie.”  “I guess Leo gets a lot of headaches.”  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!

“Look.  The greatest act of terrorism was just perpetrated on our soil, and I need to know what happened.  And if we don’t play dirty we don’t stand a chance.”  Okay … so much for the 4th Amendment.  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!

And Maggie Q gets mopier.  Lovely.  Nope, don’t need that.  Not at all.

The only good thing about this series is the fact that they included Kumar (Kal Penn), who was actually part of the Obama administration for a while.  That attempts to lend some semblance of credence to this … but … not enough.  Not nearly enough.

Y’know, I was really looking forward to this, especially with Kiefer Sutherland coming back to TV, but I gave it three eps, and now I’d much rather be watching season two of BrainDead.


Jessica Jones

With my recent disappointment with Luke Cage, I realized another level of disappointment: that I never took the time to write up all of my thoughts about Jessica Jones.  Time to dig back into my backlog and post some of these older thoughts.

If Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the best film to come out of the MCU, I have to say that Jessica Jones is the best TV series to come out of it.  As wonderful as Krysten Ritter was in the title role and as fantastic as Mike Colter was as Luke Cage, David Tennant was at his swarmiest, creepiest, get-under-your-skin-est best as Kilgrave.  He even outdid James Nesbitt’s performance in Jekyll.  As much as I enjoyed Tennant in his time as the tenth Doctor, Kilgrave — for me — is Tennant’s defining role.  I never expected Marvel to outdo Vincent D’Onfrio’s Kingpin in villainy, but Kilgrave boosted it up to a whole ‘nother level.

My only complaints?  There are a few rough spots in the middle of the storytelling arc (Jones trying to get herself imprisoned in order to trap Kilgrave?  Handcuffing a cop at gunpoint in front of a lawyer?  Really?!?).  And my only real disappointment with this show is the final resolution with Kilgrave; that was just a little too final.  I know they were going for some semblance of personal resolution to allow Jones to move on with her life, but … it’s still disappointing.

In spite of that, I enjoyed it tremendously.  It’s good to see a superhero with flaws, because that reminds us that these superheros (or at least some of them) are still human.  So I’ll accept the complaints that I listed above as being due to the various human flaws in Jones’ character, especially considering this is really the first time we’ve seen a superhero depicted as struggling with the super equivalent of PTSD.  So yes, I’m really looking forward to the next season, but I’m concerned about how they could possibly one-up what they’ve done with Kilgrave.


Luke Cage

There’s a first for everything.  In this case, this is the first Netflix/Marvel series that disappointed me.  Both seasons of Daredevil were fun and Jessica Jones was surprisingly compelling.  But not Luke Cage.

I was really hoping it would live up to the hype.  The first three episodes were great, and I can see how people would describe that as the MCU’s take on The Wire.  Unfortunately, episode four was packed with an unnecessary and not-quite-relevant flashback/origin story that derailed the main storytelling arc.  Then they up and kill the show’s best antagonist, while the next couple of “major twists” are telegraphed ahead of time.  And the one thing that is not telegraphed is a blast from Luke’s past that essentially pops up out of nowhere.  I mean, c’mon, if you’re going to pack a whole lot of expositionary flashbackery into the fourth ep anyway, why not drop a hint or two of foreshadowing for what eventually forms the climax of the story?  The next few eps tried to recover but then it all pretty much went downhill after that one particular death.

And is it just me, or does scene after scene after scene of thugs shooting at a bulletproof super-strong guy just get boring?  Action scenes are supposed to be exciting, not dull.  Yeah, I see how they added a sequence in the third ep that was reminiscent of Daredevil‘s hallway fight (or stairway fight, depending on what season you’re watching), but Luke Cage‘s big action piece there was nowhere nearly as exciting as the corresponding scenes in Daredevil.

Then further flashbackery ends up interfering with the climactic fight itself.  No, dammit, we don’t need that.  Let the fight play out the way it will play out, as it is.  Throwing further flashbacks into the middle of the action ends up interrupting the action, which interrupts the storytelling, which pulls this viewer out of the moment and makes him wonder what new stories might be out there on Google News.

I am particularly disappointed here because of how powerful Mike Colter’s performance was in Jessica Jones.  He was fantastic in that.  He was … okay … here.

Another first: this is the first Netflix/Marvel series that had me watching it on one monitor whilst I was actively using a web browser in another monitor.  Daredevil entertained me enough to keep my attention.  Jessica Jones had me riveted to the screen for the most part.  Luke Cage had me reading the news, my email, and forum posts with one eye during a solid two-thirds of it.  That’s not a good sign for Iron Fist, whenever that ends up being released, since I was a whole lot more hyped for Luke Cage than I ever was for Iron Fist.

Sigh.  Bring on The Defenders already, please.  And Jessica Jones season two.