Friday, February 5, 2016

A Review of the Series Premiere of DC's Legends of Tomorrow

 Last month, DC's latest TV series, Legends of Tomorrow, premiered. This new series, which is a spin-off from both Arrow and The Flash, has the distinction of being the first TV show in the Arrowverse to feature a large team.

Title Card for Legends of Tomorrow
The premise is that Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill), a Time Master who is from East London of 2166, has traveled to our time to assemble a team to stop an immortal villain, Vandal Savage, from conquering the entire Earth in his time. What makes this team unique is that it consists of both heroes and villains. As Hunter gathers his team, he informs them that in the future, they are not just considered heroes, but legends (which inspires the name of the show).

Rip Hunter, played by Arthur Darvill
The roster of Hunter's team includes: “The Atom”, Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh); “The White Canary”, Sara Lance ( Caty Lotz); “Hawkgirl”, Kendra Saunders (Ciara Renee); “Hawkman”, Carter Hall (Falk Hentschel); “Captain Cold”, Leonard Snart (Wentworth Miller); “Heat Wave”, Mick Rory (Dominic Purcell); and “Firestorm”, who is composed of Martin Stein (Victor Garber) and Jefferson Jackson (Franz Drameh).

Unlike Arrow and the Flash, the Pilot of Legends consisted of two parts. While both episodes do serve to introduce the cast and are definitely serial, each does consist of a distinct story line, and could easily function as a stand-alone episode.

With the exception of Rip Hunter, all of the characters have been previously introduced in either Arrow or The Flash. For me, having already had time to get to know some of the characters, such as Ray Palmer, Sara Lance, Martin Stein and Leonard Snart, I began the series more invested in them than I might be otherwise.

However, while one of the strength of this series is bringing in characters that have already been established and are fan favorites, having so many characters featured is also one of the weaknesses. While Rip Hunter is obviously the leader of this team, each of the other characters seems to be vying for attention. The problems is, most of these characters would make a good lead character on their own, and the result seems to be that each of them gets a little attention, but none of them gets enough; the result being that the pilot episodes feel bogged down with all the characters.

While the series does follow most of the themes set up in the original trailer for the series (see my previous post about the trailer if you need a refresher) a couple of important elements were missing. For one, the team was introduced to Rip Hunter by the Arrow and the Flash in the trailer, while the Flash is completely absent from the pilot episodes, and Green Arrow, who has little more than a cameo appearance, knows nothing of Rip Hunter.

The Arrow and the Flash as they appeared in the first trailer
The trailer also has Martin Stein referring to himself as “half a hero,” at least implying that while he was on the team, his other half as Firestorm was not (though Firestorm does appear in at least one of the action scenes).

I can easily forgive the fact that Hawkman is absent from the trailer, as this does little to change the set up. And everything else, from Captain Cold mocking the suggestion that he could be thought of as a hero to the main mission of stopping Vandal Savage from taking over the world at some future time to the team being considered “Legends,” are all there.

I was pleased with most of the special effects, which were up to par with those seen in Arrow and The Flash. The one exception to this was with the Atom. His regular flying and fight scenes were up to standard, though I found most of the scenes showing him changing size to be low quality and unrealistic looking compared to the other special effects.

The chmistry between Hawkman (played by Falk Hentschel) and 
Hawkgirl (Ciara Renee) is further explored in the Pilot 
I did enjoy the chemistry between Hawkgirl and Hawkman, which continued smoothly from their introduction to one another in this season's Arrow/Flash cross-over. I also found Martin Stein, Captain Cold and Heat Wave to be very true to their characters as they had been established on The Flash. I especially like the way that villains Captain Cold and Heat Wave initially clash with the heroes of the team, and I hope that this is carried out longer, rather than being too quickly resolved.

Villains Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) and Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell)
add an interesting dynamic to the team.
I was uncertain about how true to form White Canary's characterization was. She seemed different than the way I remembered her when she was a recurring character in the second season of Arrow, though I will grant that her death and subsequent resurrection may have had quite some effect on her personality.

White Canary (Caty Lotz) seems different than she was in Arrow,
though she has been through a lot.
I found myself disappointed, however, in how the Atom was characterized. For the most part, the humorous, happy-go-lucky billionaire scientist/inventor seemed to be missing. Granted, he has gone through his own drama, having been missing and presumed dead for six months. But if he was able to remain optimistic after the murder of his fiance (as was depicted in Arrow), I don't believe his six month imprisonment by Damien Darhk would do that much more to get him down.

The Atom (Brandon Routh) seems to have lost much
of his humor and cheerful attitude we saw in Arrow.
Without giving them away, I will say that there were a couple of plot twists (one in each episode of the Pilot) that I did not see coming. While the first one I think would have been better served by being built up for at least a few episodes, I found myself both shocked and impressed with the second one. Despite having mixed feelings about it, I do see it as something that definitely has the potential to strengthen the series.

I do have to admit that the Pilot episodes of Legends of Tomorrow did not have me hooked in the same way that the pilots of Arrow and The Flash did. And I think part of it may be that it was so hyped up and had so much build up in the current seasons of Arrow and The Flash that it may have set the bar higher than they could realistically reach.

The Legends team definitely holds a lot of potential
I will definitely still be following this series, and I have hopes that the quality improves as we see the team get more established and as the characters begin to gel. This series definitely has a lot of potential, and although it didn't deliver quite as well as they could have with the Pilot, I have hope that the series will get better as the season goes on.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Once Upon a Loose End

I've been a fan of Once Upon a Time since about episode four of season one. I love all the little nods to Disney movies and I think they've done a clever job of telling these fairytales in a fresh way. That being said, I will be the first to admit that the writers often bite off more than they can chew and end up with some loose ends. So today I'm going to address ten loose ends that I'd like resolved (my list goes longer than ten, but we'll start here).

1.    Maleficent and Briar Rose: Season 4B resurrected Maleficent and we got to see her reunite with her long lost daughter and we got to see in flashback how she and Regina became friends. However, I'm still questioning why she cursed Briar Rose (Aurora's mother) in the first place. Is it because she wasn't invited to a party? Or is there some deeper reason? I'd like to know why and with Maleficent still in Storybrooke, I'm hoping that we'll find out at some point.
2.    Will Scarlet in Storybrooke: Season 4 made Will Scarlet (aka the Knave of Hearts) from the Wonderland spin-off a main character. They promised to explain why he was there after his happy ending with Anastasia in the finale of the spin-off and yet all I got from him being in Storybrooke was him being a petty thief, a drunk, a replace to for Little John, and a rebound boyfriend for Belle. I was sorely disappointed with his use (or lack thereof) since I loved his character in Wonderland. He's so clever and witty and they missed out on properly using him. What happened to Anastasia? How did Will get back to Storybrooke? I'd like to know.

3.    Tinkerbell in Neverland: In Season 3A we saw Tinkerbell helping Regina in the Enchanted Forest and then we have a gap in her timeline until she encounters Hook in Neverland in the mid-season finale flashback. How did she get to Neverland? What did she do for Pan? We didn't really get much there other than a bunch of vague implications. Unfortunately, the actress who plays Tink is busy, so we won't likely get to that one any time soon.
4.    Ursula, sea witch or teen drama queen: Season 4B gave us Ursula the Sea Witch, who was apparently evil enough to match wits with Maleficent and Cruella. However, all we really saw of her past as a villain before becoming one of the Queens of Darkness was being rebellious and running away from home. Does turning herself into a squid and running away from her helicopter parent of a father really qualify her to be considered "evil"? I'm sure there's more to it, but I'd like to see why exactly we were supposed to fear her.

5.    The Red King forgotten: So it's from the spin-off, but I'd like to see what happened to the Red King. Last we saw of him, he was marrying Anastasia (who had just agreed to learn magic from Cora, the Queen of Hearts). There were implications that something would happen to him, but the next thing to happen with Anastasia chronologically was that she was working with Jafar to capture Cyrus. Did Anastasia do him in? Did Cora crush his heart?
6.    Cruella DeVil in the Enchanted Forest: I have several questions about Cruella. First off, how did she get to the Enchanted Forest? Somehow between killing her mother (and her dogs) and forming the Queens of Darkness, she got from 1920s England to the Enchanted Forest. My best guess is that Rumplestiltskin sent Jefferson to retrieve her shortly before the flashbacks in the Season 4B mid-season premiere.

7.    Cruella the Grieved Villain: In the Season 4A mid-season finale, we see that the Queens of Darkness are sick of losing. I've already addressed that we know next to nothing about Ursula's past, but what about Cruella? Last we saw of her before meeting her new girlfriends, she was pretty victorious, having manipulated Isaac into giving her magic and subsequently killing her mother. Was losing her ability to kill really that big of a deal to her that she'd consider herself among the villains who were sick of losing to heroes? I get that she's crazy, but she's clever enough to manipulate people into doing the killing for her. Was that really not satisfying enough for her or did something else happen to get her to that place?
8.    Queen of Hearts and her Ex: At some point before Regina manipulated Jefferson into taking her to Wonderland to rescue her father, Cora captured Henry and held him hostage. We know she wasn't in love with him, so the purpose of that capture is kind of ambiguous (Regina claimed the Queen of Hearts saw her as a threat, but Regina was a compulsive liar, so I'll take that with a grain of salt). Why did Cora kidnap Henry? Under what circumstances? Was she trying to keep him hostage in order to use him as leverage to get back to the Enchanted Forest?

9.    The Lady of the Lake: Towards the end of Season 5A, we saw Lancelot leave Camelot to seek help from his mother, the Lady of the Lake. Presumably this meant he, like the people of DunBroch, were not caught up in the curse. That being said, I'd be really disappointed if it was simply a throwaway line to get Lancelot away from the curse. It just seems like it'd be a waste.
10.  King Arthur of Camelot: In Season 5A we saw Arthur and his kingdom of Camelot brought to Storybrooke by Hook's curse. Arthur gave our heroes some trouble, but last we saw of him, he was locked up in jail. The writers have said (if I remember correctly) that we'll see more of them and that we'll get Camelot resolved more later. However, they also promised that with Will Scarlet, so we'll see. Just seems like a waste in a way to have brought them to Storybrooke. That being said, that's kind of how I feel about Season 5A in general. We seem to be right back where we started before Emma became the Dark One. But that's a rant for another time.

Like I said, I'm sure there are more loose ends that I could come up with, but those are the first ten that come to mind. I'm probably awfully pessimistic in that I don't expect them to tie these all up. However, they'd all require the right opportunity and the right circumstances to resolve and based on what these writers did with Lost, it's not likely they'll tie everything up (and I was actually fine with how Lost ended). Still, I can hope that they'll address some of these at least. I think the writers think they can do more than they can (like biting off more than they could chew with the Queens of Darkness), but hopefully they can keep the show alive long enough to give us a good conclusion to the story.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The First Doctor

I’m back with another Doctor Who post! Actually, it’s the first in a series. Over the past few months I’ve been watching a bunch of Classic Doctor Who, whatever was available and that I could reasonably get my hands on without breaking the bank (Hulu and Netflix DVDs have helped out a lot). I’ll be discussing each Doctor in turn, addressing my favorite story from each season, my least favorite story, and one story (or on the rare occasion two stories) that I believe deserve honorable mention (often my second favorite story, but also stories that have long-term significance). I’ll also comment on my favorite and least favorite companions. So with that, here I go:

The TARDIS team is coerced into helping
find "The Keys of Marinus"
Season 1
Top Story: The Keys of Marinus
By the time I got “The Keys of Marinus” from Netflix DVD, I was into the Second or Third Doctor on Hulu and I was getting a little drained of six-episode stories, so this story was refreshing. Even though it was six episodes long, each episode was a different setting, different subplot, making it more interesting and faster moving. Overall, this is one Classic Doctor Who story that would be easy to watch over multiple sittings, whereas many Classic Doctor Who would work better in one sitting.
Flop Story: The Edge of Destruction
It’s one of the first stories of the series and from my understanding it was made out of necessity. While this story did begin to bond the Doctor, Susan, Ian, and Barbara as friends instead of allies of necessity, it was kind of boring. If I understood correctly, the “villain” of the story was more cabin fever and the TARDIS’s protective mechanisms more than anything. This story also really didn’t help my dislike of Susan. She was completely crazy in this story for seemingly no reason. It just seemed like everyone on the TARDIS was completely irrational in this one.
Ian and Barbara meet the First
Doctor in "An Unearthly Child"
Honorable Mention 1: An Unearthly Child
The second, third, and fourth parts of this story aren’t the greatest, but I had to mention “An Unearthly Child” since this is where it all began. At the very least, I recommend watching the first episode so that you get a taste of where the Doctor began (he wasn’t always so adventurous and fun-loving) and how he actually kidnapped two of his first companions!
Honorable Mention 2: The Daleks
Another one that needed mention was the introduction of the Daleks, one of the most popular Doctor Who aliens. While a bunch of the elements of this story have since been abandoned in the Daleks’ design, the overall Dalek creatures haven’t changed much in 50 years.

The Doctor invites Vicki to join them
in the TARDIS in "The Rescue" 
Season 2
Top Story: The Rescue
Just on the heels of leaving Susan in the 22nd Century, the Doctor, Ian, and Barbara meet Vicki. In contrast to Susan, she was competent, clever, and brave. In this episode, she is being tricked into staying on her crashed spaceship by the only other remaining survivor, Bennett, who turns out to be a homicidal maniac who had killed her parents and the people of that world. By the end, the Doctor and his friends invite the orphan to join them in their travels. It’s only two episodes, so it’s a nice easy watch, which I liked.
Flop Story: The Web Planet
I’m not sure what it was about this story, but I had a hard time getting into it. The Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Vicki get attacked by the Zarbi on Vortis. Whatever the reason, whether it was the costumes, the story, the giant bugs, or whatever, I was not particularly a fan of this one. However, it is worth noting that the Zarbi later returned in the 50th Anniversary Comic “Prisoners of Time” again encountering the First Doctor and his companions.
Susan gets left in the 22nd Century
in "The Dalek Invasion of Earth"
Honorable Mention: The Dalek Invasion of Earth
It wasn’t on Hulu or Netflix DVDs, so I ended up buying it on iTunes. I figured it was worth it since this was the first time we said goodbye to a companion. After defeating the Daleks after their invasion of Earth in the 22nd Century, the Doctor learns that his granddaughter has fallen in love with a human she met, so he leaves her behind to live her life with him. Even though I wasn’t a huge fan of Susan, it was sad to see the Doctor say goodbye to his granddaughter. I would definitely be up for seeing her again in the modern series. I think she’d go really well with Peter Capaldi.

The Doctor cures the common cold
in "The Ark"
Seasons 3-4
Top Story: The Ark
In the distant future, with the impending destruction of Earth (maybe the same event we saw in “The End of the World” in Series 1?) there’s an Ark traveling through space with the remainder of humanity. The Doctor, Dodo, and Steven arrive on the Ark and accidentally infect the people on board with Dodo’s cold, so the Doctor has to figure out a way to save a civilization whose immune systems can’t handle the common cold. At the end of the second episode, the Doctor and his companions leave, only to end up on the Ark again considerably later, finding the Monoid servants now in control of the human race. Like “The Keys of Marinus” this story was really easy to enjoy, as it was in smaller chunks, instead of one long one.
Flop Story: The Gunfighters
I think it was the ridiculous nature of this story that made me dislike it. I really got sick of hearing the song about The OK Corral and it felt like they were just playing with cowboy clichés, as they made Doctor Who into a western. Out of principle, I watched the whole thing, but I wouldn’t watch it again.
The Doctor meets the Cybermen
for the first time in "The Tenth Planet"
Honorable Mention: The Tenth Planet
This one got honorable mention for the first use of the Cybermen and the first regeneration of the Doctor, both of which I really enjoyed. One thing I didn’t like was how little the Doctor was involved in it. It’s understandable, because William Hartnell’s health was failing, but I think if he had been up for it, the story would have been that much better. But then again, that’s the whole reason we got the regeneration into the Second Doctor, out of necessity. I will say that having seen more “advanced” Cybermen, it was interesting to see their weapons not connected to their bodies. As the Cybermen do, I’m glad that they’ve been upgraded over the years.

First Doctor Companions:
Susan Foreman: The Name of the Doctor (flashback) - The Dalek Invasion of Earth
Barbara Wright: An Unearthly Child - The Chase
Ian Chesteron: An Unearthly Child - The Chase
Vicki Pallister: The Rescue - The Myth Makers
Steven Taylor: The Chase - The Savages
Dodo Chaplet: The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve - The War Machines
Polly Wright: The War Machines - (2nd Doctor)
Ben Jackson: The War Machines - (2nd Doctor)

Ian and the Thals in "The Daleks"
Favorite Companion:
It’s a toss-up between Ian and Steven, but I’d choose Ian. I like the “action hero” aspect to both of them, but there’s something about Ian being one of the first companions that probably speaks to me. Also, he’s shown himself to be clever, often being able to keep up with the Doctor and match wits at times.
Dodo trying to be tough
in "The Gunfighters"
Least Favorite Companion: I’ll admit that I didn’t get a good sampling of her, but I really didn’t like Dodo. It was almost like she knew the Doctor liked her and she acted like it. Again, I only saw her in three full stories and a single episode of “The Celestial Toymaker” but all the same, I found her to be a really flat character. It was like she was Susan without any character development.

Alright. That’s all I have for the First Doctor. For the non-Whovians, I’ll be back with a non-Doctor-Who-related post next week. For the Whovians, be looking for my post on the Second Doctor, coming soon. In the meantime, here’s some links for if you’re interested in getting a glimpse of the First Doctor:

The First Doctor "returned" for a flashback in "The Name of the Doctor"

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas Who? (Doctor Who Christmas Specials)

Merry Christmas... Well, 4 days ago it was. Having just watched the new Doctor Christmas special on Friday night I thought a good idea for is week's post would be the Doctor Who Christmas specials. Ever since the reboot in 2005, we've had a Christmas special of Doctor Who each year, giving us a total of 11 Christmas specials as of is past weekend. So yeah, here we go. Spoiler alert up to each episode unless otherwise indicated!

The Christmas Invasion (Minor spoilers up to Series 4)
Main Setting: London, Christmas 2005
Just on the heels of the Ninth Doctor regenerating, Rose and the Tenth Doctor arrive in London just in time for Christmas. More specifically they arrive just in time for the Sycorax invasion of Earth. However, the Doctor is in a post-regeneration coma, so he's not much help in stopping them... At first. One thing I really liked about this episode was the return of Harriet Jones from the Slitheen attack in "Aliens of London"/"World War Three". It also featured the return of UNIT, who would later be more prominent during Martha Jones's time with them and during the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctor eras. One thing I didn't like about this episode was the fact that the Doctor was unconscious for most of it. I know that was the whole point... It just got a little boring, like all that was happening was him asleep and Rose crying. I know that post-regeneration sickness happens (like with the Third and Twelfth Doctors) but at least they played a major part during their initial stories despite being down for the count. This one felt almost more like the Doctor was an afterthought or that it came together a little too easily at the end. That being said, the Doctor's interactions with the Sycorax was a pretty good representation of what he would be like throughout the rest of his tenure.

The Runaway Bride (Spoilers up to "Turn Left")
Main Setting: London, Christmas 2006
At the end of "Doomsday", the Doctor has just said a tearful goodbye to Rose when suddenly he sees a random woman in a wedding dress in the TARDIS. Enter Catherine Tate as Donna Noble, my favorite companion. The comedic timing of the Doctor and Donna is just wonderful and quite honestly it's a refreshing to have a companion who isn't in love with the Doctor. Specifically about this episode, I loved Donna's innocence when she found out her fiancé had used her. She honestly loved him and didn't understand why he'd lied to her. It goes with what we see in Series 4 that even though Donna talks big, she doesn't have a lot of self-esteem. We also see in this episode just how crucial that companion is for the Doctor. Specifically, as we later see in the alternate reality in "Turn Left", the Doctor wouldn't have gotten out in time had it not been for Donna. This is easily one of my favorite Christmas specials. It's light, but fun, and how can you beat the Tenth Doctor on a Segway? (By having him fight off monsters with a water pistol, like he did in "Fires of Pompeii")

Voyage of the Damned (Spoilers up to "Turn Left")
Main Setting: The Titanic, Christmas 2007
Martha has just left and just as the Doctor takes off BAM! He gets hit by a ship that appears to be the Titanic. Is the TARDIS the iceberg the famed ship hit? No. It's actually a space cruise ship named after the original Titanic. But of course this ship starts to "sink" as well and the Doctor and a few others have to get through the wrecked ship to save it from crashing to the Earth killing the survivors and at least a chunk of England (as we saw in the alternate timeline in "Turn Left"). Of course, along the way many of the Doctor's new friends die, but they eventually make it and the Doctor is able to stop the ship from crashing into Buckingham Palace. Though this ended up being her only appearance, I liked having Astrid as the Doctor's companion. Adventurous and brave, she was the perfect companion... Until they killed her off. But at least she died being heroic, making it possible for the Doctor to save countless lives.

The Next Doctor (Minor spoilers up to "The Day of the Doctor")
Main Setting: London, Christmas 1851
The Doctor has recently left Donna behind after wiping her memories and is now traveling alone. As he arrives in 1851, he hears someone calling his name... Though it's someone else she's looking for. Turns out it's someone who appears to be a future incarnation of the Doctor. As the story goes on we find out it's not the Doctor but a man named Jackson Lake who took on the identity of the Doctor after some Cybermen-induced trauma. Though not the Doctor, Jackson manages to help the Doctor save the day from the Cybermen. I will say I love the premise of this episode, in that the Doctor runs into a future incarnation of himself. We've seen him encounter past versions of himself ("The Three Doctors", "The Five Doctors", "The Two Doctors", and "Day of the Doctor"), but never a future version. I think it would be a clever way to introduce the new Doctor before he regenerates, kind of like Peter Capaldi's cameo in "The Day of the Doctor". I also really liked having a male companion for once. There was Rosita as well, but I felt Jackson was the main companion. It just adds a different dynamic to the show. Also, it was a very interesting use of the Cybermen, having them in the past. I've watched all of modern Who and I'm currently in the Fourth Doctor era of classic Who and to my recollection this is the only Cyberman story to not be set in the future or the present.

The End of Time (Spoilers up to "The Day of the Doctor")
Main Setting: London, Christmas 2009
The Master is back, Gallifrey is coming, and the Doctor knows he's soon to die. The story starts out with the Doctor returning to Earth after being shown a vision of the Master by the Ood. He's back and he manages to turn the entire human race (apart from Donna and her grandfather Wilfred into copies of himself). It later turns out that this is all part of Rassilon's master plan to escape from the Time War and ascend above their current capacity. Fortunately, the Doctor was able to stop him (with some help from the Master) and send the Time Lords back into the Time Lock. This story was interesting as it was two parts (one aired on Christmas and one on New Years), making it longer than other Christmas specials. In a way, I felt that it was too long as a result... Though on the other hand I don't know how you could have shortened it either. It was interesting to see the Time Lords and the Time War for the first time in the modern series. In a way, this sort of set the stage for "The Day of the Doctor". My first couple times seeing this story I wasn't a fan of the Doctor's death. I felt it was drawn out unnecessarily. Since then I've warms up to it. I'm still not a fan of David Tennant's Doctor dying, but I like how he took the opportunity during his slow painful death to check on all of his past companions (we learn in the Sarah Jane Adventures story "Death of the Doctor" that he visited ALL of his companions, not just those from his tenth incarnation.

A Christmas Carol
Main Setting: Sardicktown, Christmas 44th Century
A spaceship is crashing to the surface and cannot stabilize because of the icy cloud layer. Turns out a cranky old man, Kazran Sardick, can control the cloud layer, but since he's a Scrooge he refuses to help the Doctor save Amy, Rory, and everyone else on the ship. Getting inspiration from Charles Dickens, the Doctor travels back along Kazran's timeline to act as the Ghost of Christmas Past (and later the Ghost of Christmas Future) and help him change. With the help of the Ghost of Christmas Present (Amy), a beautiful woman named Abigail, and Kazran's younger self, the Doctor is able to save the ship and they help it to land safely. As I mentioned with both Mickey's Christmas Carol and the Muppet Christmas Carol last week, Charles Dickens's story is a powerful tale of change and redemption. The Doctor Who rendition is no exception. Granted that it's partly from the Doctor meddling in his past, but we see a great change in how Kazran views human life from the beginning to the end. It's fun and light (despite impending doom) and as much as I held reservations about Matt Smith as the Doctor, it was a great first Christmas Special for him.

The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe
Main Setting: United Kingdom, Christmas 1941
The Doctor comes in to help Madge Arwell, who he feels he owes a favor to, but in the process ends up getting her two children stuck in the future on a planet that is about to be burned by acid rain. Only the strength of motherhood can get them back to safety. I'm a big fan of the Chronicles of Narnia, so I really enjoyed this one. Though there were no explicit references to Narnia, this episode was constantly alluding to it (i.e. Children being taken out of London during World War II, a magic wardrobe (the TARDIS), a snowy forest, and trees talking). It gave Narnia fans something extra in the episode, though the episode would be interesting for anyone, in my opinion. One thing I really loved from this story was the explicitness of calling motherhood a strength. In the church, we've heard a lot of talk about the attack in the family and I think I prime part of that is how motherhood is degraded in favor of career, education, etc. However, in this story, motherhood is a strength powerful enough to take a planet's worth of tree spirits through the time vortex and to safety (that's kind of a big deal). Also, as much as I didn't like Amy, I was pleased with how Madge convinced the Doctor to go to Amy and Rory at the end, to be with the people who care about him, instead of letting them believe he's dead.

The Snowmen
Main Setting: London, Christmas 1892
Amy and Rory have been trapped in the past and the Doctor is alone and heartbroken again. With the help of Vastra, Jenny, and Strax he isolates himself in Victorian England. However, a barmaid/nanny named Clara pulls the Doctor out of isolation to help defeat the Great Intelligence and their evil snowmen. Clara ends up dying in the process, but not before the Doctor realizes that he once met her before as Oswin Oswald at the Dalek Asylum. This sets him off on a mad chase to find this impossible girl. One thing I really liked about this episode was that it was the first real time I was made to care about Vastra, Jenny, and Strax. Their appearance in "A Good Man Goes to War" didn't sit well with me, since we had never seen them before and then all of a sudden we're supposed to know this lesbian couple and Strax the Potato. In each appearance since that episode, I've loved them, but that first one... No. This episode was when I specifically grew to love Strax ("Madam Vastra was wondering if you were needing any grenades... She might have said help."). I never thought I could have a favorite homicidal potato before I was introduced to him. Now, I love it!

The Time of the Doctor
Main Setting: Trenzalore, The Future
The Doctor has just found out he may have saved Gallifrey and now all of a sudden there it is... Or so he's told. Turns out that it's Trenzalore where he's supposed to die. The Doctor ends up staying on Trenzalore in the town of Christmas defending the people from invading Cybermen, Sontarans, Daleks, Weeping Angels, etc. who are all bent on stopping him from releasing the Time Lords. Finally as the Doctor begins to die of old age, the Time Lords send a new set of regenerations through the crack in space to save the Doctor, just in time for him to regenerate into the Twelfth Doctor. One thing I really liked about this one was how, though we as Whovians often complain about Moffat, he tied up the loose ends of the Matt Smith era with the Silence, the cracks, Trenzalore, and the oldest question. To me it gave Matt Smith a nice send off, ready for Peter Capaldi to take over. Also, as much as I didn't like her, it was cool to see Amy Pond return to bid farewell to the Doctor (even if he was just hallucinating). It was a nice book end for Matt Smith's time. One last thing: RIP Handles.

Last Christmas (Minor spoilers up to “Hell Bent”)
Main Setting: North Pole, Christmas 2014
The Doctor, Clara, and a team of scientists are being attacked by Dream Crabs at the North Pole. Only one person can save them and help them wake up: Santa Claus. It was great to see the Doctor and Clara back together, especially after how unsettled I felt at the end of series 8. I needed closure desperately. With them back together, closure didn't need to happen for another year. I liked how the Doctor did with proving to the scientists and Clara that they were all dreaming. Though, that being said, I felt like a lot of the dream-related stuff that happened in this episode could have been taken directly out of Inception. Overall I liked the story and the theme of every Christmas being last Christmas was great... I just wasn't into the dream within a dream thing. I smell plot holes. One final note: I did like how the Doctor and old Clara pulling the Christmas cracker apart was reminiscent of Clara and the old Doctor pulling a Christmas cracker apart he previous year.

The Husbands of River Song
Main Setting: Mendorax Dellora, Christmas 5343
Finally we arrive at this year's episode. The Doctor arrives and is instantly pulled away to help his wife River Song (who doesn't recognize him) operate (or rather kill) her husband (don't worry, she only married the diamond). As the story progresses, the Doctor and River get deeper and deeper into trouble before River finally realizes she's been with the Doctor all along. Together again, and finally out of trouble, they spend Christmas night on Darillium, where the Doctor knows will be their last night together before she dies at the Library. Like I mentioned with "The Time of the Doctor" I really like how Moffat wraps up loose ends. It's been years since River was introduced and we saw her die. I think most people had given up hope on seeing the singing towers or the Doctor giving her the sonic screwdriver. However, Moffat made it happen. He both made us happy and angry at him for breaking our hearts. Oh well, such is Doctor Who. I really enjoyed the back and forth of River and the Twelfth Doctor. I wish we could see more of them together, but it won't be so. The ending scene with the Doctor knowing he'd never see River again was heartbreaking. I love our favorite psychotic archeologist. But that's ok. Maybe someday the Doctor will go see her at the Library and we'll get to see her again? Overall I loved this episode, though the fast paced nature took two times through for me to take in exactly what was going on. I absolutely loved the moment when River realizes that he's the Doctor. She realizes that he does love her and he always has. Also, their back and forth gets even better when she knows her husband is with her. Loved it! Also, it was nice to see Alex Kingston get credit during the title sequence after being on the show for so long.

Well, that's all the Christmas special. Check back next week. I'm gonna start some Doctor Who posts about Classic Who. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Very Disney Christmas

Hi. I'm Spencer and I'm a Mormon Geek (waits for reply of "Hi, Spencer")... Oh that's not what this blog is for? Oh well. I guess I'll just get into introducing myself and then into the meat of things. I am a Mormon Geek and I'll be taking over your news feed on Tuesdays. The things I geek out about vary, but right now I most geek out about Disney and Doctor Who (that one should be obvious from a guest post I did a while back). Anyway, enough of introductions. Time to get jolly with a Christmas-themed post.

Like I said, one of the things I geek about is Disney. I can out-Disney most people I know. At my last job I actually made the claim to a coworker that I can work a Disney quote into any conversation (this is especially true of The Emperor's New Groove). Today however, I'm gonna forego Disney Princesses and talking llamas in favor of something more timely: Disney Christmas specials and movies.

We see a lot of holiday specials floating around this time of year, including Charlie Brown, Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman, and so on. I'm just gonna focus on some Disney specials though (sorry, Charlie Brown). So here we go...

Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas
(Available for streaming on Netflix)
Can't beat Mickey and friends right? I'll come right out and say that two of the three segments of is show are a bit cliche, but overall it's still a great show. We get Mickey and Minnie in a version of The Gift of the Magi, featuring them, Pluto, Figaro, Daisy, and Pete. It's heartwarming to say the least and definitely worth the watch. In another segment we get Huey, Dewey, and Louie causing all sorts of trouble for Uncle Donald on Christmas Day, only to make the clichéd wish that Christmas was everyday. So mix that with Groundhog Day and you've got a recipe for disaster as the trio uses their repeating day to wreak some havoc without the consequences. Everything works out alright in the end, of course, and the trio learn to cherish Christmas. Finally, the third segment is Max and Goofy, both having their doubts in turn about Santa Claus. I liked his one for its uniqueness, however I take issue (probably because of the LDS view of faith) with both Max and Goofy trying to find proof to believe in Santa. Doesn't that defeat the purpose of faith? Overall, I liked this one. My only complaints are the clichés of Mickey and Donald's portions and the faith thing with Goofy's. If you don't over analyze these things like me, you'll be fine.

Snowed in at the House of Mouse
(Available for streaming on Netflix)
I remember watching the House of Mouse when it was on tv (I think I was in middle school, so disregard the fact that it's supposed to be a kids show... Because I don't care). The cameos of all the Disney characters and little animated Mickey and friends shorts just makes this show amazing. Pure Disney Magic. The Christmas special gives such a wonderful display of Disney Christmas shorts, perfect for any age. This show also includes the wonderfully classic Mickey's Christmas Carol. What better Scrooge than Scrooge McDuck? I remember him specifically from Duck Tales and there is definitely a reason he's named Scrooge. I love this rendition of Charles Dickens's story, accommodating for the personalities of each of our favorite Disney characters (nothing can beat Goofy as Jacob Marley).  Just watch it. Ok? Good.

Phineas and Ferb: Winter Vacation
(Available for streaming on Netflix)
Not a Disney classic by any means, but it is a must-view for me each year. We get some allusions to Christmas classics (Frosty the Snowman, for example) but we also get explicitly away from some other clichés (like the villain having a vendetta against Christmas). The thing I find most refreshing about this holiday special is that instead of being about Santa coming and delivering the presents and getting only his milk and cookies in return, Phineas, Ferb, and their friends go all out to show their gratitude for what they're getting. I think it's great to see a kids show promoting gratitude for what they get. I also really liked the concept that this show used to demonstrate nice kids vs naughty kids. Instead of being a good deeds vs misdeeds tally, they show at being good means being a good person with good intents and a good heart, because everyone makes mistakes. From a gospel standpoint, this is a soapbox of mine, the idea that we have to balance out our sins with our good works. That's not how it works. Just no. Nuh uh. Sorry. Period. I won't get on that soapbox here, but I'll just say that I like how the elves in this special explain it.

The Santa Clause
The whole trilogy. I'm not a huge fan of the third movie, because, like most movie trilogies that weren't planned as trilogies, it gets weaker the longer you go. That being said, this is the perfect Christmas classic. It's unique. It's fun. It's funny. Alluding to my comments about faith from "Once Upon a Christmas", I really like how they dealt with her concept of faith in this movie. Though everyone was telling Charlie that his belief about his dad being Santa was crazy, he knew what he knew and it was because of his faith in his dad (not just in Santa) that helped his dad have the faith to be Santa. If not all three movies, I recommend at least watching the first movie in the trilogy this season. It's packed full of references to Christmas carols (eg. "Santa Claus is Coming to Town") and other Christmas traditions (eg. "'Twas the Night Before Christmas") and taking a look at those things from how a child views them (eg. The North Pole being a pole). It's full of childlike wonder which is amazingly refreshing during such a stressful time of year.

The Muppet Christmas Carol
Like I mentioned with Mickey's Christmas Carol, this is a fun way to enjoy Dickens's Christmas classic. Gonzo (as Charles Dickens) and Rizzo give this movie the occasionally needed comedic timing, balancing out some of the darker parts of the show. Also, this movie has some amazing music.  The Ghost of Christmas Present and the townspeople sing the song "It Feels Like Christmas" and I can't help but smile and be happy when I listen to it. I think that song does an amazing job of capturing the feeling of Christmas. Finally, I have to mention how, like Mickey's Christmas Carol, this one does a great job of incorporating the Muppets' personalities into the characters of A Christmas Carol. I especially loved seeing Miss Piggy as Emily Cratchit. You will never see a sassier Mrs. Cratchit. Also her two daughters, Belinda and Betina, are a chip off the old block. Love it!

Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas
I know I said I'd forego Disney Princesses this post... Well, Belle is the exception (this will be even more true when Emma Watson plays her). This magical story takes place mostly in the middle of Beauty and the Beast. With the Beast having forbidden Christmas, Belle takes it upon herself to have Christmas anyway. The villain, Forte the Organ, is despicable and creepy. I probably hate him more than Gaston in the original movie. One wonderful theme of the movie is having hope and more specifically finding hope no matter the circumstances, like Belle did while she was a captive in the Beast's castle. Another perfect Christmas song appears in this movie as well. "As Long as There's Christmas" describes hope as the the best Christmas present we can give. Incidentally, as my roommate pointed out, hope was the first Christmas present. The Savior was born about 2000 years ago to give us hope of redemption from the Fall. Because of His Atonement, we have hope.

That's all I have for Disney Christmas specials. Next week I'll be back with the Doctor Who Christmas specials. In the meantime, what Christmas movies and specials do you watch every year (Disney or otherwise)?

Friday, December 11, 2015

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

One of the Christmas traditions in my family is every year each of us receives a Hallmark Christmas ornament. Over the years, I've developed quite the collection of these ornaments. And many of the ornaments I've received cater to my geeky interests.

My nephew Robby, receiving a Hallmark Christmas ornament
A few years ago, I purchased a small artificial Christmas tree. Unfortunately, due to its size, not all of my ornaments would fit on it. However, I found that there was still enough room to decorate my tree with a geek theme.

My Christmas Tree came pre-lit with lights
The last two or three years, though I've put my tree out for Christmas, I haven't felt motivated to decorate it beyond the lights that came attached to the tree. But this year, I did feel motivated.
And so now my tree is up and decorated--geek style!

My Christmas Tree decorated with ornaments
Part of the Star Trek and superhero themes
Part of the Star Trek and Star Wars themes
Part of the Star Trek theme
More of the superhero and Star Trek themes
Yet more of the Star Trek theme along with Mr. Monopoly and Bert of the Muppets

More of the Star Wars theme and...yes, you guessed it--Star Trek theme!
I also found that once I decorated my Christmas Tree with themes that matched my interests, I also felt motivated to continue decorating. So out came my ceramic Nativity set. Stockings were hung over the fireplace. And for the first time, I also put up some outdoor Christmas lights.

Traditional Christmas decorations, including a ceramic Nativity set
I even did some decorating outside this year
Though I am glad that I have some more traditional Christmas items that help me and others remember that Christmas is really about Christ, and I think it's important that these get put out as well, I'm quite pleased that anyone that looks at my tree can tell that I am a fan of Star Trek, Star Wars, Superman, Green Lantern, and the Avengers, just to name a few.

No doubt about it...
This is a geek's Christmas Tree!
So with both my geek and traditional themes on display, I'm pleased to say that in my home, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

It's beginning to look a lot like...