Jul. 19th, 2017 07:29 pm
rich_jacko: (Doctor Who)
[personal profile] rich_jacko
I am still cross with the last episode of Doctor Who. For so many reasons, chief among them that it squandered all the ingenious concepts and twists of World Enough and Time in favour of a tired "The Doctor defends a village from the monsters" non-story; the lazy conlectus ex machina ending; and the Doctor's inexplicable refusal to regenerate.

That last one is a real shame. How fantastic would it have been to learn the identity of the 13th Doctor by actually watching her regenerate during the show, rather than through a pointless media circus and dialogue-free trailers?

Ah well, we are where we are.

So, Jodie Whittaker. As I said over on that Facebook, it's nice that we finally have a Doctor who's from Yorkshire. ;o)

My immediate reaction to the casting was the same as it has been for most of the recent Doctors (Peter Capaldi excepted) - "That's interesting. Who's she?" I neither think this is the best thing ever to happen to the show, nor the worst thing. As always, I reserve judgement until I see what she's like in the role.

The reactions to the change in gender have been entirely predictable. But you'd have to have been seriously not paying attention if you hadn't noticed any of the many ways this moment has been prepared for.* Frankly, it would have been a surprise if they hadn't cast a female Doctor this time. But complaining about the choice of new Doctor is nothing new. I'm not sure the sexism about the 13th being female is fundamentally any different from the ageism about the 12th being too old or the 11th being too young. People will always find something to whinge about, especially online.

* No, it's not the end, any more than it was in 1981. ;o)

I am absolutely certain that in four years' time or whenever it's announced, the choice of 14th Doctor will be met with either:

"How could they cast another woman? Does this mean we'll never have another male Doctor again? It's an outrage!"


"How could they go back to casting another man? Does this mean we'll never have another female Doctor again? It's an outrage!"

Heh. This is what I said in 2013 in response to complaints that the 12th Doctor wasn't cast as a woman:

  • "The Doctor is firmly established as a male character. There have been one or two throwaway lines, but I don't think there's ever been a serious suggestion that Time Lords can change sex when they regenerate. None of those we've seen in multiple regenerations (the Doctor, the Master, Romana, River (part Time Lord!), Borusa, etc.) appear to have ever done so."

Funny in hindsight. I have (and indeed had) no objection to there being a female Doctor; the important thing is that they cast someone who's right for the role. But I didn't buy into the view that casting another man was some sort of snub, when it had never been firmly established that, in-whoniverse, changing gender during regeneration was actually a thing which could happen. (Those who wanted it to be clung strongly to the Corsair, but one throwaway line by a guest writer is not a lot to go on, especially given Rule 1...).

The show has, of course, moved on a long way since then. Re-gender-ation is now a firmly established part of the mythos. The fact that we hadn't come across it previously is explained in that remaining the same gender still seems to be the most common outcome. However, changing gender happens frequently enough to be cause for no more than mild surprise (see the General's regeneration in Hell Bent as evidence for both these points). That's more than fine with me. And it did build the case that there should be a female Doctor sooner or later.

Am I nervous about the next series? Of course I am. There's a new Doctor and a new head writer at the helm, and that's always cause for uncertainty. I am sorry to see Peter Capaldi go, as he has been an excellent Doctor. And while Steve Moffat seems to have been running out of ideas for a while now, Chris Chibnal's record as a Whoniverse writer is rather mixed, to say the least - 42? Superb episode. The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood? Hmmm, not bad. Dinosaurs on a Spaceship / The Power of Three / Pond Life? A bit too soapy for my tastes. Torchwood series 1 and 2? Probably best forgotten...

I also worry slightly about how the change in gender is going to be handled. I really hope they don't make some dreadful attempt to "feminise" the character. So long as Whittaker's Doctor continues to be eccentric, reckless, brilliant, alien, the smartest person in the room, filled with a powerful sense of justice, ruthless to those who deserve it, compassionate to everyone else, full of wonder at the universe, young and old all at once, and a mad woman with a box, she'll do alright. :o)

My other worry is that we get a whole series of "girls are better than boys" gibes. One is fine, as a humorous way of acknowledging the change in gender, before moving on (see Missy, and the General again). But I fear they may decide to make it a running gag, which would just end up offending everyone. Let's hope not.

As I said earlier, we shouldn't pre-judge. Change has been an essential part of the show throughout its 54 years. The dawn of a new chapter in its history is always cause for excitement as well as trepidation. This one is no different in that respect. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Films round-up

Jul. 16th, 2017 03:21 pm
rich_jacko: (River Tam XKCD)
[personal profile] rich_jacko
The Mummy - Tom Cruise stars in this reboot, which attempts to be a darker, more serious horror film than the previous Brendan Fraser franchise. And therefore completely misses the point. All the tongue-in-cheek nonsense was what made it so enjoyable! Fortunately, it doesn't manage to be completely serious. Russell Crowe's brief role as a certain Dr Henry Jekyll being a case in point. ;o) There's occasionally an inventive idea, such as Ahmanet (Sophia Boutella)'s ability to command a sandstorm - and that also works with sand which has become glass... It's okay, as these things go, but not one I'd recommend.

Gifted - I liked this. An obscure little film about a 7-year-old maths prodigy (Mckenna Grace) being raised by Captain America Chris Evans. Mary's precociousness ("3+3? Really?") and somewhat wilful sense of ethics make it hard for her to blend in at a normal school. (I did wonder if this was going to be "Goblin Child: The Movie" ;o) ). Then her grandmother (Lindsay Duncan) turns up with grand plans for Mary's future, and a bitter custody battle begins. Jenny Slate and Hidden Figures' Octavia Spencer also star. It's a sweet film, with performances which ring true, highs, lows, and some great laugh-out-loud moments. "Good morning, Miss Stephenson!" ;o)

Baby Driver - A new Edgar Wright film usually means, "Shut up and take my money now!" This is no exception, and easily one of my top five films this year. Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a whizz behind the wheel, and works as a getaway driver for a mob boss (Kevin Spacey). Permanently tuned into the music through his headphones, he's alienated and mistrusted by his fellow crooks, chief among them Bats (Jamie Foxx). Baby dreams getting away with his would-be-girlfriend Deborah (Lily James). The film starts off fairly light-hearted, but inevitability things take a turn for the worse. It feels very much like a '90s Tarantino film, and Quentin has given it his seal of approval. Plus it has an epically brilliant soundtrack thoughout. Go see it.

Despicable Me 3 - Gru (Steve Carell) was sorely missing from The Minions Movie. It's great to have him back, teaming up with twin brother Dru (also Carell) against new baddie, Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker). The problem is the writers don't seem to know what to do with the rest of the cast. Lucy (Kristen Wiig) has a lame sub-plot, fretting about being a good mom; the girls have so little to do, they mainly just play on their tablets (which may be realistic, but isn't what I go to the cinema to see); and Dr Nefario has been written out entirely (admittedly by a brilliant gag). The minions have their own mini-adventure, completely disconnected from the main plot (although them singing Gilbert & Sullivan is genius). Bratt is a decent enough bad guy, and I enjoyed the '80s gags, but he's rather too similar to Vector from the first movie. Sadly, this franchise appears to have run out of ideas.

Wonder Woman - I'd heard good things about this, so I made it the first entry in the DC Cinematic Universe (TM) I actually went to see. Indeed it is pretty decent. Diana (Gal Godot) herself and military sidekick Steve (Chris Pine) make an effective lead duo. The film handles the concept of a hidden island populated entirely by warrior women pretty well, and World War I gives it an interesting backdrop. But, even after 20 years, DC still seem to be struggling with the spectre of Batman & Robin. The comic book elements are subdued and it tries too hard to be earnest and worthy, as if it's ashamed of its pulp fiction origins. It's also at least half an hour too long. Only in a few fight scenes does it properly cut loose.

Spider-Man: Homecoming - Being overly serious is not something you can accuse Marvel of. This latest chapter spins out of Captain America: Civil War. At first it feels like a high school movie, and I thought, "Marvel, what are you doing?" But then it kicks into high gear and becomes a joy to watch as Spidey (Tom Holland) tries to prove himself to his mentor, a disapproving Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr, clearly having a ball and almost stealing the film). Throw in Michael Keaton as an excellent and surprisingly low-key baddie, a great twist, and some fantastically nerdy t-shirts, and we've got another winner. And Stark Industries definitely makes the best toys. Stay tuned for the credit cookie, which made half the audience collapse in hysterics. :o)


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June 2017


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