What I liked most about “The Vampires of Venice” episode of DOCTOR WHO was the characterization of the 11th Doctor and Amy Pond, because while the plotline was serviceable, if felt all too familiar.
The story saw the Doctor (Matt Smith) take Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) on a date to Venice in 1580, where they discover the cosmopolitan city has been sealed off from the outside world by Rosanna Calvieri (Helen McCrory), who operates a curious school for girls. It’s no surprise that Signora Calvieri and her “family” are vampires – but not exactly the kind of vampires one might expect.
“I got a bad feeling about this.”
I wonder how many LOST fans felt the same way as the final episode unspooled with the sort of musical montage that usually ends episodes. Well, in the words of Sawyer: “Sonofabitch.”
They did it.
LOST ended nearly perfectly.
The-powers-that-be chose to end the story, rather than merely answer questions. Here we the viewing audience were, wondering how the lingering questions were going to be addressed, but it looks to me that show-runners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse said, “Screw that, we’re closing all the character arcs.” After watching the characters finish their journeys, I’ll be damned if I can think of any nagging leftover questions that still seem to matter. I feel totally satisfied by the story. So what if we don’t know the original human name of the Man in Black. Walt was “special” because…well, because he was. Maybe all kids were revered because of the pregnancy thing.
Far more important to me, was the fact that the main characters reached some kind of closure. Almost everybody got happy endings in the Sideways universe, while events unfolded on the Island the way they had to. In a way, TPTB had it both ways: They gave the fans the sweet ending they wanted but also played out the brutal endgame on the Island. And on this show, it made total sense for Jack to die, yet still be happy. And the final funereal moments, when everyone was gathered in the church, made clever use of the concept of the hereafter to gather all the characters together no matter when they died. Everyone was dead. Some folks died before Jack (the Kwons), some long after (Hugo). “There is no ‘now’ here,” Christian told Jack. They all gathered because needed to be together. Jack needed all of them, and they needed Jack. And this was a true ending. As Jack told Hurley, “There are no shortcuts. No do-overs. What happened, happened. All of this matters.”
“We’re very close to the end, Hugo.”
As LOST winds down to its final precious hours, the bodies are piling up almost as fast as the reveals. The question is: Are the corpses and the answers worth it?
This week we saw Jack (Matthew Fox) step up and accept guardianship of the Island, prompting my new $64,000 Question: What took so damn long? I can understand if Jacob (Mark Pellegrino) wanted Jack to accept the job of his own free will, but…why did he wait so damn long to ask? Jack surely would have taken stewardship of the Island in exchange for letting everyone else get off. And the way Jacob casually dismissed Kate’s (Evangeline Lilly) question about why she had been crossed off the list – it was just a line of chalk on a wall and so the job is hers if she wants it – had me ready to scream. He was willing to give it to any of the candidates? Why let everyone go through so much pain and torture? Why all the mystical mumbo-jumbo? Why?
While last week’s episode, “The Time of Angels,” was arguably River Song’s story, the second chapter of this big DOCTOR WHO tale, “Flesh and Stone,” was clearly all about Amy. Once again, we saw the Doctor refracted through the important women in his life: his current companion and his future…what, exactly?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, the Doctor came up with a cunning plan to get out of last week’s cliff-hanger (He maneuvered it so everyone was able to fall up to the Byzantium using the ship’s artificial gravity. Great. What really made this episode for me was the touching scene between the Doctor and Amy when he left her in the clearing so he and River could go find the primary flight deck.
Honestly, I don’t think the world needs another Robin Hood movie. And apparently Ridley Scott, Russell Crowe and co. agreed, because their new Robin Hood is in no way, shape or form a Robin Hood movie.
There is no robbing the rich and giving to the poor, and while we do meet Little John, Allan A’Dayle and Will Scarlett, this Friar Tuck keeps bees and brews mead, and Maid Marion is a longbow-firing noblewoman trying to protect her land from bands of marauding feral children. Oh, and “Robin Longstride” never even meets the Sheriff of Nottingham!
The story follows Robin and his companions John (Kevin Durand – Keamy from LOST), Allan (Alan Doyle), and Will (ER’s Scott Grimes) as they attempt to return home with King Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston) after a decade of waging the Crusades. The king, of course, doesn’t make it, so Robin and the boys seize and opportunity to impersonate knights and ferry the royal crown back to England. Once in Nottingham, Robin discovers that not only does he like pretending to be Robert Loxley, he likes Loxley’s wife, Marion (Cate Blanchett), so he decides to stick around. Meanwhile, Godfrey (Mark Strong), decadent Prince John’s (Oscar Isaac) hatchet man, runs around apparently killing barons and pillaging at will. The nobles bluster about a charter of rights (a concept that would eventually become Magna Carter). And Godfrey is also acting as an agent provocateur for the French, who are looking to invade.
When the Doctor (Matt Smith) decided to take Amy (Karen Gillan) and her fiancée Rory (Arthur Darvill) on a romantic excursion to 16th century Venice, he did not count on running into a nest of vampires! Hence, the name of the next episode of DOCTOR WHO to air in the USA, “The Vampires of Venice.”
Follow this link to see a video preview of VoV, and this one to see promo photos on the Blogtor Who website.
Honestly, I dreaded the approach of this week’s episode of STARGATE UNIVERSE because the previews made it look like the silly old “alien makes you face your worst fear” cliché was in full effect. Sooner or later every show gets around to this hoary chestnut, and I figured SGU better just get it out of its system. To make it seem even worse, the fears glimpsed looked to be standard-issue dull; I mean, claustrophobia? Really? Why can’t some alien force somebody to face the terror of…speaking in public? Supposedly most people dread that more than dying!
Happily, the actual episode proved to be much more enjoyable than anticipated. Not stunningly original, but at least well-executed. As usual, the excellent cast stepped up with some terrific performances (special kudos to Elyse Levesque for her conflicted Chloe), and the direction kept the story moving at a good enough pace that the audience did not have time to linger over the overly familiar plot points.
The Weeping Angels are back! What more do you need to know for an outstanding episode of DOCTOR WHO? Okay, how about Steven Moffat is writing it – and he has brought back the enigmatic River Song for good measure.
I absolutely love the way Moffat incorporates actual time travel into his plotlines. He really takes the…er, time… to think about how to make it interesting. The sheer audacity of River Song’s plan is awe-inspiring, and another inventively brilliant gambit by Moffat. Her escape ploy makes perfect sense because it doesn’t matter when the Doctor gets her message – he has a time machine, and can arrive in the nick of…yes, time. The character of River Song (Alex Kingston) herself is intrinsically tied to all things “timey-whimey,” as she is from the Doctor’s personal future. “We keep meeting in the wrong order,” he tells Amy about her. And it is no small thing that River Song is a mystery to him; very few people have that honor. In part, this is because he refuses to learn much about her because she is a figure in his future. As River Song herself would put it, “Spoilers!” At least he is still that much of a traditionalist about the laws of time. (That’s quite a backpedal from “The Waters of Mars,” in which he declared the Laws of Time would obey him!) In order to keep track of the Doctor, River Song has pictures of all his faces –a sort of “spotter’s guide to the Doctor” – because he never shows up in the right order. (You might be tempted to suggest this time is the exception, because the 11th persona naturally follows the 10th, but think about what happened in “Forest of the Dead” – she should not meet 11 “next.”) Ever the cool customer, River Song plays it coy when Amy asks if she’s his wife.
So, now we know… lots of stuff. Whether anyone likes what we now know is an entirely separate matter, but this was an episode that gave fans what we have been clamoring for: tons of answers. Maybe not the answers many of us were hoping for, but answers, nonetheless.
In one sense, it’s hard to criticize the episode that finally revealed: the origin of Jacob; the origin of the Smoke Monster; why Jacob and the Man in Black hate each other; who set up the “rules” for their conflict; the origin/significance of the white and black stones; why MiB wants off the Island so bad; where the donkey wheel came from and what it’s for; what Jacob is guarding on the Island; what job the “candidates” are being culled for; the identities of “Adam and Eve”; and the source of the Island’s strange powers.
Turns out, it’s a kind of magic.
I’m guessing that there’s one aspect of this week’s STARGATE UNIVERSE episode that will be garnering the most opinions, and that is Ming-Na’s portrayal of a quadriplegic person. I am going to avoid the political aspects of the storyline – there are many people much better equipped to address those issues – except to say that I think the episode reflected positively on the differently-abled community.
The story saw Camile Wray (Ming-Na) used the long-range communication stones to swap bodies with hyperdrive expert Amanda Perry (Kathleen Munroe) after one of Destiny’s FTL drive units was destroyed by sabotage. Perry is a quadriplegic person who uses a wheelchair, and in her body Camile insisted on going home, where her partner, Sharon (Reiko Aylesworth) could lovingly care for her. (“You’re here,” Sharon said, patiently. “That’s all that matters.”) I thought Ming-Na was very subtle and sensitive in her portrayal. When I interviewed her about it last fall, she explained how she took the time to research the details (not all quadriplegic people have the exact same abilities) and come up with a portrayal that is true-to-life. And it shows. My impression was that she played the role wonderfully. I had the honor to meet Christopher Reeve several times, and based on that experience, I think Ming-Na captured the essence of someone in that situation. Her breathless speaking style was very similar to the late Mr. Reeve. (I bring him up not to drop names, but because he is the only quadriplegic person I have met in real life.) And there is another aspect to Ming-Na’s work in this episode: the brief snippet in which she portrayed Amanda in Camile’s body, and called Eli “Math Boy.” I thought she captured Amanda’s almost childlike thrill and bubbliness perfectly – a contrast her otherwise restrained work in the rest of the episode.