Tag Archives: Doctor Who

Time travel: the enjoyable stuff (#SFWApro)

RUNNING AGAINST TIME (1990) stars Robert Hays as a man obsessed by his older brother’s death in ‘nam a quarter century earlier; when he discovers Sam Wanamaker (looking very Einstein) has invented a time machine, he volunteers to become a guinea pig, avert Dallas in ’63 and thereby save his brother and America only of course Things Go Wrong … While a number of films emphasize the risks of materializing at the wrong location in the past, this is the only one I can think of where it’s a major plot point. It’s good, even though I’m unconvinced by the JFK Lives No Nam concept (but as Eric Flint put it at Dragoncon, it’s what’s possible, not what’s likely, that alternate histories are built on). “Maybe God just wants us to try harder.”

GROUNDHOG DAY (1993) wasn’t the first time loop film, but it deservedly became the archetype for the genre—well written, well acted and just all-around solid. Bill Murray plays the dour weatherman stuck reliving Groundhog Day over and over, during which time he overeats, commits suicide, performs the Heimlich, learns piano, changes a tire and learns he isn’t God, while Andie McDowell tries to figure out what the heck is going on.   I’ve heard arguments is really tragic because Murray wouldn’t even be human by the time he’d looped that long, but I like the film so phooey on the realists; thumbs up. “That’s exactly what makes me so special—I don’t even have to floss!”

RETURNER (2002) is a Japanese film in which a woman escapes back through time to save Earth from the alien conquest of 2084 by assassinating the alien’s point man in the present before he can summon his people. What she finds, however, is that the alien is actually a helpless child so the real mission is to stop a ganglord from killing him.This is familiar material for me at this point, though the twist about the alien does make this stand out from the pack. Visually it borrows too much from both ET and Alien though. “It’s a free sample from a drugstore.”

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Moving to TV, DOCTOR WHO: War Games was the finale of the Second Doctor’s run wherein the Doctor, Zoe and Jamie stumble into World War One, only to discover certain sinister players manipulating things. It soon turns out that the games involve people from multiple different time periods—and that behind it is at least one TIme Lord. A landmark for introducing the Time Lords and giving the Doctor’s origin, though it’s often dismissed as long and dull otherwise. I liked it a lot though, and I remain fond of Zoe as a companion (even here at the end of her run, her brains are still an asset). “You must have been a little tempted by the thought of being the ruler of an entire galaxy.” (all rights to image with current holder)

DAY BREAK was a TV time loop series in which Taye Diggs plays a detective who gets framed for murder, sees his girlfriend kills and learns from shadowy front man Joe Regalbuto that Diggs’ sister is next if he doesn’t confess to the crime he didn’t commit. And then the day reboots … This setup makes it stand out compared to the usual run of time loops, as the stakes are so much higher; also this actually considers that the looping might randomly end, so Diggs feels he’s limited in how recklessly he can act. The ending is also off from the usual, albeit confusing (I won’t go into details to avoid spoilers). Recommended. “They are making terms I can’t accept.”

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Some extra TV time travel (#SFWApro)

I finished watching the Lost Years DVD set of DOCTOR WHO which is obviously an older one, as it still refers to The Web of Fear and Enemy of the World as lost serials. This includes the one surviving episode of the unimpressive Underwater Menace, a couple of episodes of The Faceless Ones (decent—the once-contemporary English setting adds to my interest, as it did for The War Machines), the one surviving episode of The Evil of the Daleks (oh, how I’d love to see that again), one chapter of The Abominable Snowmen (promising) and one of The Space Pirates (not promising), plus two episodes of The Wheel in Space, a good Cybermen story (from what we see of it) that introduced pint-size brainiac Zoe (one of my favorite companions. Looking at my wife, I think dark-haired and uber-smart is definitely my type).

The final season-and-a-half of The Sarah Jane Adventures—the half due to Elisabeth Sladen passing—was entertaining to watch, as Sarah Jane’s son Luke heads off to college (a new alien child is introduced in the last season), a new mysterious good guy named The Captain shows up and Sarah Jane meets her predecessor as companion, Jo Grant, when they’re both invited to attend the Doctor’s funeral. A fun show, and the return of Jo alone would have made that season worth watching.

The first BBC season of Life on Mars completely outshines the American version—among other things, Philip Glenister as bludgeoning DI Gene Hunt is way superior to Harvey Keitel’s turn in the role, and John Simm is a superior Sam Tyler. That the season is only eight episodes long probably helped, as it avoids becoming a straight cop show as the US version often did (John Simm also does a bett. That said, it does suffer similar problems, such as the assumption framing a suspect is something no 21st century cop would accept. Overall though, excellent.

Sarah Jane

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Time travel, live on TV (#SFWApro)

I finished the first season of SAMURAI JACK, in which a samurai attempting to slay the demonic Aku (voiced by the veteran actor Mako) almost succeeds, until Aku hurls him into the distant future where Aku rules the world. Now, amidst cyborg bounty hunters, lost civilizations, robots and ETs, “Jack” must search for a way back to the past, while righting wrongs along the way. A good series, though the greatest strength is the funky visual style.

As part of a Lost Years Doctor Who DVD, I got to watch The Moonbase, in which the Doctor and the current companions (Ben, Polly, Jamie) arrive on the moon (it was supposed to be Mars) and discover the Cybermen taking over the base for their own sinister agendas. This is Lost because two episodes are audio only (I imagine it’ll be animated a la Reign of Terror eventually). Like The Invasion this gets that what makes the Cybermen scary is less raw power than their determination to turn humans into One of Them. This makes it superior to Seeds of Doom, which has a lot of plot overlap (seize a lunar base as the fulcrum for crushing Earth). “Just as well, we have enough madmen already around here.”

Two series I haven’t and won’t be finishing—I got just enough to get a feel for them: FLINT, THE TIME DETECTIVE is a very Pokemonish anime as it revolves around control of time creatures who are normally friendly (and hang out with Rodin, Babe Ruth, Dracula and other famous people) but can convert into vastly more powerful, belligerent beings. Didn’t grab me at all.

Neither did DNA2, in which a time-traveling scientist attempts to prevent a young man from turning into the “mega playboy” whose womanizing, impregnating ways will leave Earth massively overpopulated. Unfortunately instead of stopping him, the scientist has him turning into the “mega playboy” when women start hitting on him — can she put things right?

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I had better luck with the time-travel television (#SFWApro)

DOCTOR WHO: The Seeds of Doom brought back the Ice Warriors as a more malevolent force: here they’re out to leave their dying homeworld of Mars after exploiting Earth’s teleportation technology to take over the planet. This is a much better serial but the eponymous seeds are laughable (bursting balloons, nothing more) and the Ice Warriors still don’t impress me (their look doesn’t impress me the way the Cybermen or the Dalek do). Which may be why other than a couple of bit parts during the Third Doctor’s run they didn’t get an episode until the 21st century reboot. “Are you suggesting we psychoanalyze these plants?”

013138507297NOEIN is a 2005 anime in which 12-year-old Haruka and her friends witness mysterious alien warriors popping into reality hunting something called the Dragon Torque—and some of those time-travelers are versions of themselves, grown up. It turns out the present is ground zero for a battle between alternate futures, one of which, Shangri-La, is reducing the others to quantum indeterminancy and absorbing them. And Haruka turns out to be a key player in the struggle …. The kids are too wimpy, but the story works and the quantum physics technobabble is more interesting than most time-travel tales. “If I became you, I would never forget my good memories.”

The U.S. version of LIFE ON MARS (2008) has the same premise as the Brit original (which I’m in the middle of), a modern-day cop waking up back in 1973. This version is much heavier on the nostalgia in fashions and other elements from the era (that being my teenage years, I quite enjoyed that part) but a lot of the episodes are just routine cop shows, so I have to rate it inferior (and the ending doesn’t work at all for me, though I concede the British version would be too downbeat). And I notice that both versions treat the police tactics of 1973 (roughing up suspects, planting evidence) as a barbaric past no modern-day cop would consider acceptable. “Why does it always come back to David Bowie?”

(All rights to image with current holder).

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The good time travel films (#SFWApro)

Other than Terminator: Genisys which I caught last weekend.
REPEATERS (2010) puts the ethical question of time-loop films — does it matter what you do if the loop just erases it? — front and center. Three twentysomething addicts assigned to make peace with those they’ve wronged decide to just blow their assignment off, only to discover that they can’t get past the day. One of the trio decides this is an awesome deal (he can try crack, kill, rape a 15-year-old) and has no wish to end it, while another keeps hoping that doing the right thing is the way to go even if good deeds get erased too. Surprisingly good. “I just pissed in my pants—that has to mean something, doesn’t it?
11-minutes-ago-movie-poster-2007-101041940511 MINUTES AGO (2009) is a charming rom-com in which a scientist visiting the present from 48 years ahead is surprised to land in the middle of a wedding reception, more surprised that everyone there already knows him, and some of them know he’s a time traveler. Given that it takes him months to prep for a single 11-minute jump, why on Earth would he have come back to earlier in the evening. Could it have anything to do with the bride’s sexy friend who clearly knows him very well indeed? I saw the ending coming, but that doesn’t make this any less winning (though the time traveler knowing everything about the female lead when they met screamed more Crazy Stalker than Charming Eccentric). “Balloon animals are the perfect combination of art and snowflakes.”

(image rights reside with current holder)

Moving over to TV, DOCTOR WHO: The Invasion has the Doctor, Zoe and Jamie arrive in near-future England where sinister electronics manufacturer Tobias Vaughn (Kevin Stoney) who turns out midway through to be allying with the Cybermen in the optimistic belief he’ll end up in control of Earth once they attack. Constrained by its budget at times (the scenes of the Cybermen stalking London were effective, but Dalek Invasion of Earth had a more epic feel to it) this was a landmark for introducing UNIT, the task force headed by Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, introduced himself in the earlier Web of Fear. While UNIT would go on to define the Third Doctor’s era, this was the last Cyberman story until the Fourth Doctor tale Revenge of the Cybermen. “If there’s trouble around, the Doctor and Jamie are certain to step into it.”

The second season of AVENGERS: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes squeezes in a lot of big-name story arcs from the comic, including the Secret Invasion, the 1980s Operation Galactic Storm, the coming of Galactus and the Surtur story from Walt Simonson’s Thor run (only the opening story with Beta Ray Bill). It also resolves the time paradox Kang attacked the Avengers to prevent during the first season. Entertaining, though ending with Galactus was actually a bit anti-climactic (as they’d just stopped the Kree from blowing up the sun the previous two episodes, Galactus blowing up Earth doesn’t up the game as much as they insist). “I never thought about history much because I never imagined myself not being around.”

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Not much time-travel to review this week (#SFWApro)

On account of doing mostly Demand Media work, plus having two days off, as I posted yesterday.

MV5BMjA5NTYzMDMyM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjU3NDU2MTE@._V1_SX214_AL_ I picked up a Back to the Future trilogy set as an impulse buy (it is, after all, legitimately a work expense) and at TYG’s request, rewatched BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985) that afternoon (ironically, she didn’t care for it). Free of the need to actually study the film, I found it a real pleasure to rewatch as Marty McFly grandfather paradoxes himself out of existence, then struggles to fix things, in-between inventing rock and roll and discovering his mother likes drinking, smoking and parking. I’ll watch the whole thing plus special features eventually, but probably not until next year. “My dead city has sent me to you.”

Like Peggy Sue Got Married, ALMOST NORMAL (2006) toys with the idea that going back to your teenage years after 40 isn’t such a great idea (“I don’t think you want an older man.”) but doesn’t do enough with it. The protagonist is a gay, lonely 40-year-old, out but not entirely accepted, which leaves him wishing at times he was “normal.” Then he gets in a car crash (sometime I must list the number of time travelers hurled into the past by car accidents) and wakes up in his senior year … except in this timeline being gay is normal and “breeders” are despised. Whatever point the creators were hoping to make founders on the big plot twist of having the lead meet a female student and suddenly discover he’s bi. And I can’t see the ending resolution would be any different if the time trip (or hallucination as the case may be) hadn’t happened. “Tell me again how great sex with me in the shower was.”

Moving to TV, the first season of the anime THE MELANCHOLY OF HARUHI SUZIMAYA won me over with an opening parody of found-footage films (“We don’t have any footage explaining this, so it doesn’t make much sense.”). The series proper is the story of headstrong Haruhi who puts together a club of fellow students based on what anime Scooby Doo-type groups have (a girl with big boobs, a mysterious transfer student), unaware that the members include an alien super-computer, a psi and a time traveler (hence my interest). This is fun, but footnote only—however the second season looks to have more time travel (it’s hard to find at an affordable price, though, even used). “Anyone accepting defeat will have to run ten laps around the school!”

Continuing rewatching the Second Doctor, DOCTOR WHO: The Ice Warriors has the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria arrive on a near future Earth at a research station battling a new Ice Age (this is close enough to the second arc of Timeslip I checked to see if it had the same writer, but nope). Unfortunately, one of the researchers finds and thaws out a Martian whose plans to free his trapped ship from the ice conflict with the station’s plans to stop the glaciers. This was entertaining enough but the Ice Warriors are unimpressive adversaries, just a generic alien race (despite which they make several more appearances in the show). “At the time this man was entombed, there were only cavemen!”

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More bad time-travel movies and some good TV(#SFWApro)

If time is the fourth dimension, sticking with one through three looks pretty good this week.

The exception was BLUE MOON (1999), a kind of magical realist time-travel tale in which two couples vacationing at a small cabin in the Catskills discover they’re renting the same cabin—oh, and the younger couple thinks it’s 1959 and they have the same name as the older couple … This is the kind of talky drama (it plays a lot like it was written for the stage) that probably shouldn’t work, but the cast was good enough to cinch it for me, particularly Ben Gazzara and Rita Moreno as the older couple. It obviously says something that I didn’t get terribly frustrated during the long No Time Travel Is Impossible discussion I’ve already seen so many times. “I knew you were a Democrat the moment I laid eyes on you!”

HYPERFUTURA (2014) has a near-future dystopia’s Mad Scientist subject a human guinea pig to Pretentious Surreal Psychedelic Brainwashing that will also turn him into a “trans human” for some undefined time-travel mission. The psychedelics are old hat to anyone who’s been watching film as long as I have, and so pretentiously clever they made me think of the bar mitzvah film in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Krativz (hard to describe if you haven’t seen it, but so not a compliment). “Don’t go limp on me now—we need the money shot!”

MILLENIUM (1989) is a real disappointment as print SF writer John Varley scripted it from one of his own short stories. The core plot involves time travelers from a literally sterile future trying to restart the human race by rescuing doomed souls from fatal airplane crashes, only to have time traveler Cheryl Ladd draw the attention of NTSB investigator Kris Kristofferson (marginally less wooden than everything else he’s ever done). This starts well but slides into cliches and nonsense—and the ending where it turns out Ladd has a bun in her oven makes no sense and isn’t explained. And the ending voice over is worthy of a 1950s Z-movie. With Maury Chaykin and Daniel Travanti as investigators and Llloyd Bochner as a bureaucrat. “Those words will be engraved in the annals of understatement.”

NORMAN’S AWESOME EXPERIENCE (1989) is a decidedly non-awesome tale in which a freak accident sends a physicist, a manipulative model and her equally snotty photographer back to the Roman era where Norman fights against Rome (it’s very Connecticut Yankee in his ability to create fireworks, hot-air balloons and a printing press) and the snotty ones side with the empire. Incredibly tedious—they may have been shooting for anachronistic wackiness but the protagonist’s way too bland. “There’s a Roman legion attacking at any moment, so let’s get to work.”

HOUSE OF CLOCKS (1989) is a pointless Italian horror film in which two elderly sadists are killed by burglars, but their magic clocks rewind time so the sadists return to life to kill—and kill—and kill again! Forgettable.  “That’s not possible—we cut the wires.”

dw50revtombcybs1I finally began rewatching classic Doctor Who again—Tomb of the Cybermen has the Second Doctor and Jamie take new companion Victoria on her first trip, which lands them on the seemingly dead world of Telos, once home to the Cybermen. Unfortunately, a crew of archeologists fails to realize that unearthing the title burial place is just as suicidal as digging up mummies in horror movies …This is a fun one, though the Cybermen’s pet Cybermats don’t work at all (neither visually scary, not dangerous enough here). And one of the series’ rare black characters winds up dying heroically to boot. “Yours is the privilege to witness, for the first time, a union between mass power and absolute intelligence!”

(All rights to image with current holder).

Going slightly out of sequence The Krotons has the Doctor, Jamie and Zoey arrive on a backwards world where the mysterious eponymous creatures control the humanoid inhabitants under the guise of helping them (“Everything they learn comes from a Kroton learning machine.”) and have, of course, a Sinister Agenda. This is low budget, with a silly looking monster (the result of a Design a Monster contest for BBC’s Blue Peter) but Robert Holmes’ script (his first of many for the show) works well enough that I enjoyed it. “You can tell that the captain’s not at the helm, can’t you?”

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And the better movies (#SFWApro)

THE GOLDEN COMPASS (2007) is a much better adaptation than I expected as a plucky orphan sets out to save her friends from scheming Nicole Kidman and the sinister Magisterium (though the impact of severing the daemons is much less clear than in the book) with the help of mad scientist Daniel Craig, sharpshooter Sam Elliott and polar-bear warrior Ian McKellan. A great female protagonist (reminiscent of the lead in the 2010 Alice in Wonderland) and a solid fantasy movie—though given all the problems the source book’s anti-religious themes created, I can’t imagine the creators could have pulled off adapting the second and third book, where the themes are much more prominent. Not for the book as space forces me to restrict parallel world tales (which this is) to specifically alternate history (which I don’t think it is) “It’s only one small cut.”

RE-CYCLE (2006) is one of those where I remember enough details to think I caught it before, but not enough to be certain (and I can’t find any reference to my watching it anywhere, which is unusual). This visually striking film would double-bill well with Oblivion Island as it follows the adventures of a writer in the weirdly surreal world where all abandoned things (like her recent project) disappear to. Unfortunately this Korean film would also double-bill well with Doonby for the anti-abortion theme (it turns out the little girl the protagonist is hanging with is the fetus she “abandoned” by aborting it). Definitely for the book in any case. “So the spiritual world I was writing about really exists.”

SIMON OF THE DESERT ((1965) is a short satire by Luis Buñuel in which Satan, after repeatedly failing to tempt the titular stylite off his pillar, drags him to a modern nightclub … the point of which is rather lacking (I think the implication is we’re witnessing the End Times [“This is the final dance!”] but it’s hard to say). Too slight for detailed coverage even if it was full-length (but as it’s a famous creator, it may make the appendix). “If I repent, Simon, would God restore me to my former glory?”

Rewatching THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM (2008) was an interesting example of not stepping into the same river twice. The first time I caught this, I enjoyed the martial arts fantasy about an American teen drawn back into ancient China to help Jackie Chan and Jet Li liberate the Monkey King from an evil tyrant (though having Li and Chan play second fiddle to a bland white actor is absurd). However I now realize it’s a standard Time-Traveling Teen story, different from Excalibur Kid or Johnny Mysto, Boy Wizard only in the setting—though it is novel to have the hero actually learn to fight rather than just getting self-confidence. And given the hero saw his girlfriend expire in his arms, he really should have had a stronger reaction to meeting her exact double in the present.“He who speaks does not know, he knows does not speak—so you must be a master.”

DOCTOR WHO: The Reign of Terror is a partially lost serial from the First Doctor, now filled out with animation (they’ve done the same with Tenth Planet and Moonbase, but they’re not on Netflix yet). This story of the Doctor and his companions getting caught up in the French Revolution is familiar, but adequate (though the English accents the guest cast has sound really odd, especially when some characters come out as English spies). A nice touch to have Barbara admit she’s learned after The Aztecs that history changing isn’t an option.

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Time-travel Bonus Materials! (#SFWApro)

230px-MirainikkicoverFUTURE DIARY (2012) was an anime adaptation of the same-name manga (cover left, all rights with current holder). The protagonist, Yuki, is a 14-year-old chosen by the time-god Deus ex Machina as one of the contenders to replace the aging deity. Each contender has a cellphone diary that now predicts some aspect of the future; the 12 candidates must now attempt to kill each other until only one is left. I watched this mostly for entertainment (predicting the future doesn’t make the cut for my book) but some time-travel elements did creep in later. In any case, very entertaining. “I shall fight hard enough to create a miracle!”

The new season of DOCTOR WHO has the new Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara encounter a Mummy on the Orient Express, two-dimensional monsters and Robin Hood before battling a malevolent old adversary. Capaldi comes off closest to Baker, crotchety and extremely quirky. A good season overall; “Listen” was disappointing (like a bad knockoff of “Blink”) but I really liked “Flatline.” I also like Clara working at Coal Hill School, where it all started back in the first serial, “An Unearthly Child.” Thumbs up.  “Didn’t all those beautiful speeches just disappear in the face of a tactical advantage, sir?”

BRICK BRADFORD (1947) was a popular adventure comic strip back in the day, here transformed into a sub-par movie serial. Kane Richmond plays the two-fisted adventurer trying to keep a scientist’s anti-missile ray from falling into the hands of gangsters (surprisingly working for themselves rather than puppets of a Sinister Foreign Power as they usually were in those days). This turns out to require trips to the moon (this is the kind of show where the moon having an atmosphere doesn’t even require explanation) and to the past via “Time Top” (a gadget taken from the original strip, but the time-travel element is brief enough I can consign this to the appendix. “I alone will possess the power to destroy a world!”

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But here are some good things (#SFWApro)

DOCTOR WHO: The Mind Robber is a delightfully weird one in which the Second Doctor, Jamie and Zooey are trapped in a world of unreality where they encounter Lemuel Gulliver, Medusa, shapeshifting doors (“A door is not a door—if it’s a jar!”) and 21st century comic-strip characters (“I can’t disbelieve in someone I’ve never heard of.”). I remembered this one with fondness and it doesn’t disappoint. “Sword, sword, sword … words!”

THE YESTERDAY MACHINE (1963) ain’t good, but it is more interesting than anything in the previous post. Two college kids are attacked by Civil War soldiers in the woods, which leads a local reporter and a cop (played by one time Western star Tim Holt) to discover a Nazi mad scientist perfecting time-travel so that he can rewrite the outcome of WW II. Unfortunately this is the kind of low-budget film that pads the running time outrageously, from a dance number mid-film to the villain’s lecture on Nazi genius and “spectro-relativity.”

BLUE YONDER (1985) has a kid travel back to the 1920s to stop his grandfather (Peter Coyote) making the transatlantic flight attempt that will kill him. While a subplot involving crooks stealing the time-machine feels recycled from the worst of Disney’s live-action comedies, the body of the movie works well thanks to Coyote’s talent. For a family-centric time-trip, this is unusual in that it doesn’t give the lead any greater understanding of his parents (e.g. “Wow, now that I know how hard it was growing up with your father dead, I respect you more.”). With Art Carney as an eccentric. “I’m going to follow my instincts.”

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