The Dragon Prince – Book Three: Sun – When the Past Meets the Present

The_Dragon_Prince.jpg (273×364)

      “The Dragon Prince” finally got good this Book! We get a serious exploration of characters, war and peace and are also given nuance in the choices that many of the characters make. I really hope the next four Books can keep this up as there is a lot this season sets up, even though some major arcs are also brought to a close. This Book is good and I definitely recommend checking it out. If the writing continues as good as it was in this Book I think the show may have finally found it’s voice.

The story picks up with Ezran becoming King as 3 of the other nations want to retaliate against Xadia for attacks on their leaders. During this Callum and Rayla make their way into Xadia to find her home and to reach the Dragon Queen.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Broken Sun King – The Book kicks off with us meeting Sol Regem the ancient Sun King who once ruled the Dragons and Xadia. After he was blinded in battle by one of the first humans to wield dark magic he lost his state as King and was left on the border as a reminder as the cost that Xadia had gone through. His hatred is so deep that the Dragon Prince Azymondias existing means nothing as he plans to kill Callum or kill them all. This sets the tone of the Book as we see characters driven by the trauma over war keeping the chance of peace from ever happening.

The Elves of Xadia – We get to see a lot of the Elves this Book and it is awesome. We meet the Moonshadow Elves and learn more about their culture as well as the culture of the Sunfire Elves and how driven they are by their belief in the light and we see how powerful they are as the force defending the border to Xadia. In each faction we get glimpses of their power structures and beliefs and we even get to meet a Skywing Elf named Nyx who is a really fun trickster and of course Aavaros the Startouched Elf. We truly get to experience Xadia.

Viren’s Power Grab – Viren’s power grab at the end of the last Book is successful. His dark magic caused so much chaos that 3 Nations came to make war on Xadia and in the end his allies in the court force Ezran to trade places as he begins his march with Aavaros upon the Elves and Dragons. We see him win multiple times through the episode as through Aavaros he corrupts the source of power belonging to the Sunfire Elves and destroy their city. It is only at the very end that he is stopped by Rayla and Callum but his story isn’t over as though his magically empowered army was defeated his daughter resurrects him.

The Defeat of the Storm Dragon King – Part of the Book involves Viren telling Aavaros about how the Storm Dragon King was defeated. It was really well done as we see him empower King Harrow’s hatred and help King Harrow defeat the Dragon King, turning him to stone. At this point Viren goes to destroy the Egg but changes his mind when Rayla’s mother convinces him that he should keep it alive because of the magic that empowers it. These scenes are all wonderfully done and I love how they develop this fascinating world.

Rayla’s Exile – In this Book we learn that after the failed killing of Ezran that the Moonshadow Elves believed that Rayla had abandoned them. Because of this when she comes home, no one can see her as she has become a ghost as punishment for her failure. It is really well done as we meet the husband of the leader of the assassins and see why he is believed dead but Rayla still gets a moment of peace with her mentor before leaving to reach the Dragon Queen. It is a powerful and touching scene and we see her face the trauma of exile in her sorrow and how she lashes out at Callum initially. The show gives what happens justice and I like that it wasn’t ignored.

Soren’s Change – Another major arc this Book is that of Soren. We see him join Team Callum after Viren gaslights him and says he never told him to “kill the princes.” This clear lie changes Soren and begins working against his father to the point that he is fighting Claudia and his Father in the last episode and is ready to give down his life for Ezran. His arc reminds me of Jamie Lannister as he starts out arrogant and selfish but changes into one of the more nuanced characters in the show. I knew he was going to change sides but I felt they wrote it well.

Aavaros and his History – Aavaros is the powerful Mage who taught humans dark magic and because of it was imprisoned in the mirror. We see his hatred for Xadia and his history with it too as before he kills the Sunfire Queen he whispers what happened to her grandmother. To him all beings are just tools for power so I’m curious to see what his endgame is and what defines his philosophy as there is still so much more that can be told. I really enjoy him a villain.

The Final Battle – The final battle is amazing. We have the remnants of the Sunfire Elves teamed up with Team Callum and in the end Ezran brings back dragon allies from a dragon they saved last Book and Soren stands as their defense. During this the Sun Empowered Humans are near elementals and practically invulnerable to fire and only die to swords and arrows after a lot of hits. There is a huge cost in this battle and it doesn’t shy away from how strong Aavaros is and how powerful Viren has become. In the end Viren is defeated but he nearly steals the Dragon Prince’s power before it happens and in the Claudia brings him back from the dead as we are left with the possibility of Aavaros being born into our world.

Rayla and Callum – Rayla and Callum work so well together this Book. Their friendship evolves naturally into a relationship and you see how Callum’s belief in her helps give her confidence and her defense of him allows him to explore his relationship to magic and learning new spells. They compliment one another as she is much more guarded than Callum but they open up about their traumas and the trust that has already been earned pays off in a really beautiful love story.

The Cons:

The Jokes – The jokes are still cringe and the weakest part of the show. I’d be good with them doing away with them completely. Everytime there are jokes the show goes from flowing really well to tryin way too hard. At this point this is where the weakest writing is.

The Cost of the Final Battle not Addressed – Ezran steps down as King because he wants to save lives, but in the final episode he is killing people who were changed into monsters against their will as he flies on a dragon. This felt hollow and as amazing as the last battle is the cost of what Viren did to the armies of 4 nations is never addressed. So many elves and humans died but the show chose to ignore that as the Dragon Queen woke up. A recognition of this would have made this Book great.

I love how this Book faces how some wounds from war never go away and from it that conflict may always be a possibility. We have Sol Regem blind and full of hate, we have Viren and his obsession to save humanity leading to him losing his humanity and all those who follow him who he changes into monsters. This Book has a real cost to it and character choices have consequences. This is the show fully realized and if the writing continues to improve this could easily become a favorite show. This Book was good and I recommend it.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10 This was a good Book that had the potential for greatness. All it needed was less jokes and addressing the amount of people who died in that final battle, given how important it was at the beginning of the Book.

“Penny Dreadful” Season 3 – Great Character Beats With Incomplete Endings

Eva Green in Penny Dreadful (2014)

    “Penny Dreadful” is a show that doesn’t quite stick to landing. This season we are introduced to more characters (all of whom are interesting) and the cast is seperated after the end of Season 2, so it is at a disadvantage given the main cast having scenes and playing off one another is part of what made the first season as enjoyable as it was. There are a lot of things that I liked about the final season and a lot of things I found disappointing. I’ll get more into that below. John Logan said that this was his vision for how he wanted to end the show, but given all the things that do not work, I have trouble believing that was the case.

The story picks up after Season 2 with Malcolm traveling to Africa to bury Sembene, John Clare in the North, Ethan being transported back to the United States to face justice for his crimes, Victor seeking help from his past friend Jekyll to deal with Lily and Lily and Dorian beginning their path to power as Vanessa faces her depression and isolation. Dracula also begins making his moves to bring about the apocalypse.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Vanessa’s Depression – Vanessa’s depression is what starts out the show and as someone who faces it himself it was powerful to see. The empty house is a mess and she is simply eating to exist. It takes a visit from Lyle telling her to see a therapist to pull her out of it and you see how it never goes away, it is simply faced.

Dr. Seward – Dr. Seward (played by Patti LuPone who played the Cut-Wife in Season 2) is such a great character. She is the one who helps Vanessa heal and his is a brutally honest character with a dark past. In the end she becomes friends with Vanessa and comes to believe she has multiple personalities with Vanessa’s core personality and that of Lucifer and Dracula. Her story ends with her on the new Team Vanessa when the apocalypse finally comes. She survives the show too.

John Clare’s Story – John Clare’s story starts out slow but has some amazing payoffs. He starts in the North and remembers some of his life prior (his wife and child). He seeks them out and after an amazing talk with Vanessa eventually reunites with them. It is his first brief moment of happiness as his wife accepts him but it comes at a cost. Their son is dying and she asks for John to go to Victor and resurrect him after his death. He refuses sighting that his life is a curse and that their son is finally at peace. This leads to him being alone once more and the last time we see him is mourning the death of his friend.

Vanessa’s Conversations – Vanessa’s conversations are some of the best parts of the show and have been since the first season. We get some wonderful conversations with John Clare, Dracula, Dr. Seward and Catriona to name a few. Eva Green carries this show and it is because of these conversations and relationships. If these relationships and scenes didn’t happen I would have hated this season as Eva Green’s Vanessa is the heart of the show.

Vanessa and John Clare – I’m giving Vanessa and John Clare their own section as we have two of the best conversations with them this season. We have when he is the orderly at the asylum and her only advocate for her who comes to be her friend and as “The Creature” where they discuss being outcasts and that it is worth taking a chance on happiness given that not taking a chance just means they’ll be the same alone they are. The scenes are amazing and Eva Green and Rory Kinnear deserved more scenes together.

Hecate – Hecate is the one character who carries over from last season and is the devil on Ethan’s shoulder. They end up falling in love as we learn about the family abuse they’ve been through and both of their murderous pasts. In the end she is killed but this season redeemed her character as she isn’t as stupid as she was in Season 2 and is Ethan’s protector throughout their time in the United States.

Catriona – Catriona is the newest member of Team Vanessa and is recommended by Lyle when he goes to Egypt for his work and to retire and be safer from persecution. She is such an awesome character. She is a fighter and her scenes with Vanessa feel like dates as their chemistry is amazing and you can see why they trust one another. This friendship is short and I wish we could have learned more about her time as a warrior. She studies death and is the one who helps Vanessa find out who Dracula is.

Ethan and his Fathers – Ethan and his relationship to his fathers are one of the storylines that work this season. We have biological racist Jared Talbot played by the always fantastic Brian Cox, who is a dark reflection of who Malcolm once was. You have his Apache father Kaetenay played by Wes Studi who is also a werewolf and Ethan’s vengeful side and you have Malcolm who is that balance and his connection to Vanessa. In the end Malcolm spares from patricide and kills Jared Talbot and in the end makes some form of peace with Kaetenay.

Dracula – Dracula was a character I thought I’d hate, given when I first saw a picture of him I was unimpressed. This season that was the point. He is so average and unassuming that it makes him so threatening given how he uses his thralls and his arc is fascinating too as he falls in love with Vanessa. This was an interpretation I didn’t expect and even though I hate that he isn’t defeated at the end, the leadup to the ending is really great. He takes the appearance of a zoologist Dr. Sweet and we learn that he’s a shapeshifter who takes different forms through time. In the show we sadly never get to see his true form though. He always stays in the form of a man even if he empowers some of his abilities. Christian Chamargo did a wonderful job.

Lily Frankenstein – Lily Frankenstein is my favorite role I’ve seen Billie Piper play and I’d love to see her play the Doctor the Master in “Doctor Who,” ideally opposite Eva Green in the opposing role. This season we see her revolution to destroy corrupt men as she recruits prostitutes to kill abusive and horrible men and pushes Dorian out of power in their relationship. This sadly blows up in her face when she is captured by Victor when Dorian betrays him to her but Victor does not change her and lets her go and we are left as she and Dorian are facing each other at the end. This season we learned about the daughter Brona lost and what inspires her pain and vengeance. She is easily the best character this season and her death cult really deserved an entire season for Team Vanessa to face.

The Cons:

Missing Scenes – This season feels unfinished. There are scenes missing in many core relationship arcs through the film. Lyle after recommending a therapist to Vanessa only shows up to leave. We never get a scene of her thanking him. We don’t even see Vanessa in the penultimate episode so we don’t know why she went full “Mother of Evil” or if she is still fighting within herself. Victor never meets up with Vanessa even though they are friends in the same city and he never takes up Lyle on offer to help. We also never see the see leading up to Dorian’s betrayal when he calls upon Victor’s aid.

The Ending and Fridging – Vanessa is killed by Ethan and Dracula escapes and Lucifer never shows up (even though his role was setup with Hecate and Ethan). There are far too many missing pieces and the fridging of Vanessa wasn’t needed. We basically just got a repeat of the Mina story from Season 1, just replace Malcolm with Ethan and it is the same beats. Vanessa deserved so much better.

Lily and Dorian – Lily wanted a revolution but Dorian just wanted to be entertained when at the end of Season 2 it seemed like they had bigger goals. Hell, Dorian even mentions wanting to rule the darkness but that doesn’t connect to Dracula or Lucifer. The whole role of immortals is never fully explored and we are left with nothing when Lily and Dorian reunite once more. Lily is my favorite character on the show and in the end they do nothing with her plot since Dorian neutralizes her and than the writers forgot how to end their story.

Victor Frankenstein and Jekyll’s Plot – Victor is the worst character this season and Shazad Latif’s acting is the only thing saving the underwritten character of Jekyll. Jekyll never transforms into Hyde by the way and Victor is a worthless antagonist to Lily for the entire season as he pines after her. Thankfully he doesn’t ruin her character too with Jekyll’s serum which would have stolen her memories…but that is the only thing I can say. Harry Treadaway was wasted this season.

This season started out really strong and the character moments for Vanessa, John Clare, Ethan and Malcolm are all fantastic. Sadly toxic Victor and the ending do bring down the season. Dracula and Ethan’s dad are at least better villains than the witches of Season 2 but in the end I’m giving it the same score as Season 2. It had the chance for greatness, especially with all the threads and characters and it did not payoff those arcs. I’d still recommend watching it for how the show ends though, if you’ve enjoyed the ride so far as I did. I still like the show but the flaws through all seasons are very obvious.

Final Score: 7 / 10 An incomplete show that was still a fun ride.

The Dragon Prince – Book Two: Sky – When the Past Defines

Dragon Prince Season 2

“The Dragon Prince” Book 2 is a huge improvement over Book 1. Book 1 was only worth it because of the premise and that premise remained unfulfilled by the end. This season changes everything as we get amazing backstory to the world, there are less awful jokes and we are introduced to a fascinating new character as well. That is all I’m saying for now as if you were questioning whether to watch onward from Book 1, I would say yes. Book 2 makes it worth it.

The story picks up where we left off with Claudia and Soren hunting Callum, Ezran, the Egg and Rayla as Callum seeks to learn about primal magic and Ezran teaches Ozymandius the young Dragon Prince how to fly. Viren plots to bring the other 4 kingdoms into war against the Elves as he explores the mysterious mirror.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Battle at the Breach – The battle at the Breach is really cool as we get to see the Sunfire Elves and their general face off against the amazing deaf General and Callum’s maternal aunt Amaya. The humans are fighting a losing battle but she manages to survive each time, even when the Sunfire elves pull off a successful ambush. In the end Amaya decides to destroy the Breach and succeeds, though ends up captured by the Sunfire Elves in the process.

The Flashback about the Titan’s Heart – Viren goes against the Council and falsifies the King’s signature to call a meeting of the Kingdoms so that he can recruit the soldiers he needs to bring war the the Elves. During this episode he tells the story to the young Queen of Duren whose mothers’ died in the quest to get the Titan Heart as the human lands were set to lose 100,000 to famine without the magic of the Titan’s Heart. It is here where Callum and Ezran’s mother is killed too, by the King of the Dragons. It is a powerful episode and we see Viren’s courage and how his relationship with King Harrow developed. It was really well done and I wish he’d succeeded in convincing the Queen as it would advance the plot in an interesting way.

The Mysterious Mirror – The mirror is a cool plot as we meet a mysterious Startouch Elf named Aaravos. We have hints of his origin as the one who taught humans dark magic and he plays Viren and uses him to implement chaos among the human kingdoms to bring about the war. I’m curious to learn more about his motivation as he is so much smarter than Viren and is the most fascinating antagonist thus far.

Callum’s Arc – Callum has a great arc this season. His arc involves finding the primal magic but his journey to get there involves him using dark magic once and rejecting future use of it and accepting the death of King Harrow and the lessons learned as he and Ezran are the best chance for peace as they aren’t bound to the past. It is really well done and I really liked Callum this season. He and Rayla were both great.

Okay:

The Supporting Cast – Besides Callum and Rayla most of the supporting cast are just okay. Queen Sarai is a tough fighter but we don’t learn much about her before her death and we learn that Soren and Claudia are from divorced parents and how that shapes them and their motivation. All these are neat ideas but the characters still don’t feel as interesting as the big bads or the two mains. This was a problem last Book but at least it is better written this time.

The Cons:

The Jokes – The jokes are still awful and they need to get away from them. They are the weakest part of this series.

The Obvious Evil Plot – Viren is so obviously a bad guy and I hate how stupid evil he became. He really thought faking the King’s signature wouldn’t lead to him going to prison? It was a shame and I hated how inept he was this season.

Why Does Viren Trust Aaravos? – This is more on Viren’s idiocy. He is trusting someone and that trust hasn’t been earned (a point he brings up to Aavaros). I guess it is desperation that makes the deal happen but that desperation only happens because he suddenly got very stupid.

This Book has so much promise. It ends with us arriving in Xadia and facing the once great Sun King of the Dragons while Viren is prison and Ezran returns home  to take his place as King. So many big events happen and I can’t wait to see how the events payoff  in the next book. If the writing continues to improve this has potential to become a favorite show…which is amazing given how bad it started. Can’t wait to see what future stories are written.

Final Score: 7 / 10 This was a huge improvement over Book 1. The characters got more nuance and there were less jokes.

Top 5 Favorite Doctors in “Doctor Who”

New Doctor Brings New Doctor Who Logo, Insignia With Him | WIRED

     “Doctor Who” is a show whose strength lies in it’s ability to reinvent itself as the Doctor is an alien who can regenerate into a new form on each “death.” Each of these deaths brings with us an era and arc to the show. Making this list is one that I’ll probably have to re-do in the future as this is a show that hypothetically could go on forever, for as long as there are stories to tell with each new regeneration. This list is also incomplete as though I have watched many episodes from the Classic Era I have not seen everything and for the first two Doctors so much was lost over time so their stories remain incomplete. I’ve also not included books or audio-dramas and am only including my experience of the Doctors from the show. I don’t hate any version of the Doctor as each of them does bring something unique to their performance and explores an aspect of who this Time Lord is. I want you to know context of this list going in for that reason though you will find that I have favorite Doctors in both the Classic and Modern era and would not be surprised if the list changes in the future, especially since the 13th Doctor’s story does remain incomplete as well. This list is obviously my opinion but it is a glimpse in what appeals to me in the stories of this fascinating character of the Doctor. So without further ado, here are my Top 5 Favorite Doctors of “Doctor Who.” I’ll list episodes that highlight why I love them too.

Warning this does contain SPOILERS

5) The 9th Doctor / The Ninth Doctor

The 9th Doctor gives us the best complete Doctor story in the Davies era of “Doctor Who.” This is a Doctor reeling from all the lives he’s ended during the Time War and is haunted by survivors guilt and PTSD. His arc involves him learning to trust again through his relationship with Rose as well as facing his demons from the Time War when he confronts the Dalek Emperor and refuses to kill them again. He shows that he stands for life when at the beginning of the show he is far more willing to kill. We also get to see his pure joy when he is finally able to save lives during World War 2 and he is the Doctor who introduces us to the wonderful Jack Harkness. It is really his facing a single Dalek in “Dalek” that changes him the most and that is through Rose’s compassion that makes him the man who refuses to kill in his final episode. Christopher Eccleston gives us so much depth with this Doctor and I’m grateful we got this season with him. He truly was fantastic.

Episodes I’d recommend: “The End of the World,” “Dalek,” The Empty Child,” and “The Doctor Dances.”

4) The 4th Doctor / The Fourth Doctor

One thing I love about Doctors is how alien they are and the 4th Doctor is easily the most alien out of all my favorites. Tom Baker’s 4th Doctor is the only one to have a Time Lord companion in Romana and is comfortable being away from people. I think this is a reaction to the 3rd Doctor’s attachment to humans as often when the Doctor gets too attached his next incarnation will detach and could leave people abruptly and never show up again.  This is Tom Baker’s Doctor who could do an entire episode without a companion but also had many companions over his long run, with the most popular being Sarah Jane Smith. I enjoyed the Sherlock nature of this Doctor as he was crafty and often had to make the decisions alone as in the end he is the one who could have ended the Dalek threat before it began. His choice like the 9th Doctor illustrates his compassion though. At the end the day the Doctor is the one who saves lives and that is what drives the 4th Doctor the most beyond unraveling plots and the discovery of new things. It was tough to choose between him and the next Doctor on this list but in the end the next Doctor had more episodes I enjoyed and it was the limitations placed on the next Doctor that put him higher. The 4th Doctor had full reign from the Time Lords where the next one did not.

Episodes I’d recommend: “Terror of the Zygons,” “Genesis of the Daleks,” “Revenge of the Cybermen,” “The Deadly Assassin” and “The Brain of Morbius.”

3) The 3rd Doctor / The Third Doctor

Next we have one of our more human Doctors. Jon Pertwee’s 3rd Doctor is a Doctor exiled to Earth so the majority of his adventures are him without his TARDIS. This was as strength as limitations came to define just how excellent this Doctor is. This was a Doctor who had to count on UNIT and people and because of it revealed the flaws of humanity. This Doctor also traveled and dressed in style. When I think about the Doctor and his drive for peace 3rd is one of the first who comes to mind as he attempts to broker a peace between the Silurians and humans but UNIT destroys the Silurians anyway. He also felt strongly unlike the 4th Doctor as when his companion Jo leaves his sadness is what defines that leaving as he quietly exits the room. This is the Doctor who introduces us to Brigadier and Sarah Jane Smith who would be part of this show after his regeneration. This is also the Doctor who gave us the original Master and from that, there constant playing off each other and complicated relationship.

Episodes I’d recommend: “Spearhead from Space,” “Doctor Who and the Silurians,” and “The Dæmons.”

2) The 10th Doctor / The Tenth Doctor

One of the most common things you hear when you enter the “Doctor Who” fandom is who is your Doctor. Which Doctor introduced you to the show and is the reason you are a fan? For me that is David Tennant’s 10th Doctor. “The Impossible Planet” and “The Satan Pit” was the story that introduced me to “Doctor Who” and I was hooked after that. What defines this Doctor is his facing of the impossible and compassion for humanity but also his extreme arrogance. Like the 9th Doctor he was defined as “Last of the Time Lords” and that survivors guilt is really what is behind his arrogance and compassion. This is a Doctor who believes he is always right and can be almost villainous as “The Doctor Triumphant” when he is willing to change time because he can. David Tennant brought so much depth and nuance to this role and gives us not only an arrogant Doctor but when who full of loss and vulnerability. He loses his companion Rose who was his friend and love and hurts the companions who come after in his selfishness. He is also running from his mortality and death as when he is forced to regenerate for the first time he stays himself until he is finally forced to move on. This Doctor gave us one of my favorite companions Martha, who he was unfair too as she was his way to get over Rose and also introduced us to Torchwood, Harriet Jones, Donna Noble, Mickey Smith and one of my favorite character, River Song. The 10th Doctor also faced off against the Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, Davros, Rasselon and the Master for classic enemies and further explored the complicated relationship with the Master. Tennant truly owned this role and I appreciated how defining he is of the Davies era of “Doctor Who.” He was many peoples’ first Doctor and I’m glad he was mine.

Episodes I’d recommend: “Blink,” “Army of Ghosts,” “Doomsday,” “Human Nature,” “Family of Blood,” “Utopia,” “The Sound of Drums,” “Last of the Time Lords,” “Midnight,” and “The Waters of Mars.”

1) The 12th Doctor / The Twelfth Doctor

First place was the most difficult for me to choose as really the top 4 Doctors listed (3, 4, 10 and 12) are extremely close together for me. Each of them has their pros and cons but I really consider the top 4 to really be the perfect examples of the Doctor for myself. So, why did I choose Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor as number 1 if David Tennant’s 10th Doctor was my first Doctor? The reason behind it is because the 12th Doctor has the better story and changes over the course of his time on Moffat’s run. Capaldi’s Doctor has much of the detachment of Baker’s 4th to the point that Clara is the one who he uses to care because initially he cares mostly for puzzles and the big picture of saving the world. He had Nardole and Bill as original companions. This Doctor was the professor and even taught at University and would open many episodes like lectures. For some famous enemies he faced off against there was the Master, Davros, Rasselon, Daleks, Cybermen, Ice Warriors and Zygons. To this Doctor humans matter but all life in the galaxy matters so like the 3rd Doctor he is able to shine a light on the selfishness of humans and call it out where he sees it. He is also defined by his time during the Time War and because of this will always seek peace and the saving of others. He does with the Zygons and humans. His arc also goes from him not wanting to connect with his companions to having many and even having Missy (the current incarnation of the Master) as one. For how much he tries not to care he cares the deepest and unlike his past incarnations he isn’t running from what he did during the Time War. He instead uses the lessons from the Time War to save lives wherever he can and seek peace wherever possible. This is the Doctor who is the thinker, the one who can monologue can carry an entire episode on his own with his own inner monologue. No Doctor was able to do that before or has done it since. For these reasons, Capaldi is my favorite Doctor.

Episodes I’d recommend: “Listen,” “Into the Dalek,” “Mummy on the Orient Express,” “Dark Water,” “Death in Heaven,” “Last Christmas,” “The Zygon Invasion,” “The Zygon Inversion,” “Heaven Sent,” “The Husbands of River Song,” “The Empress of Mars,” “World Enough and Time,” and “The Doctor Falls.”

    I’m curious to hear who your favorite are. These were mine and I can’t wait to see what other stories are told in this amazing universe.

Top 5 Favorite Enemy Factions in “Doctor Who”

     It has been a while since I’ve written anything on “Doctor Who” so I decided to explore my favorite enemy factions the Doctor has faced. I’ll be pulling from some enemies who have appeared in both classic and modern who and will not be choosing individual entities like The Master, Davros or The Great Intelligence. My primary focus with this list is focusing on civilizations and exploring their appeal to me. It feels wonderful to write about all of this again as I enjoy both eras of “Doctor Who” and for me one of the greatest draws has always been the alien civilizations that have been created through the years and how sometimes they are used to reflect aspects of humanity or the Doctor in their missions. I have not read any of the “Doctor Who” books or listened to any of the audiodramas and am just pulling from episodes I have seen from both Classic and Modern “Doctor Who.” For popular enemies who did not make this list I’ll give a shout-out to the Sontarans and Cybermen who have unique cultures but at least in the case of Cybermen are often used by other people as minions. The Time Lords also did not make this list as more often than not they act largely as corrupt humans when they are antagonists. So without further ado, here is my list.

BBC - Doctor Who - The Weeping Angels are back

5th) The Weeping Angels

     First up, in 5th place are the Weeping Angels. They first appeared in “Blink,” during the Russel T. Davies era of the show and were created by Stephen Moffat. There initial introduction presented them as the compassionate assassins. The basic deal with the angels is the they transport you back into the past and feed off your potential energy that was left behind. Beyond their need to eat they aren’t that complex and we haven’t seen any hierarchy among them. It is for this reason that they are not higher on the list. They function as a monster faction but are unique monsters as they appear as statues when you look at them. Later episodes like “Time of Angels” and “Flesh and Stone” played them primarily up as the monsters simply wishing to feed and didn’t even use the time travel aspect, though there was a return to the time travel assassin nature once more in “The Angels Take Manhattan.” If they are to be brought up again I hope we see more complexity in their culture as they continue to be a fascinating threat, even if later episodes after “Blink” did dumb them down immensely. They have faced off against the 10th and 11th Doctor thus far in the show so there are still stories that could be told in future iterations or even Anniversary events where multiple Doctors could be present.

Doctor Who' Rogues Gallery: The Silence | Anglophenia | BBC America

4th) The Silence

The Silence are an enemy who has so far only faced the 11th Doctor. Originally created as genetically engineered priests made to take confessions for the Papal Mainframe a faction of them broke off and sought to end the Doctor in order to save the universe. This faction is creepy and a great threat as anyone who interacts with them forgets them when they stop looking at them. These enemies were created by Stephen Moffat and have so far only appeared during his era of modern “Doctor Who.” Unlike the angels who got dumbed down, this faction never reached the height of fear in their first introduction in “The Impossible Astronaut” and “Day of the Moon” but did remain a consistent complex threat. In Series 6 the Kavorian Faction shows up at the beginning and end and each time brings tensions as the heroes mark how when they see with tally on their skin. This is a faction I still see promise in, as they did fight with the Doctor in the terrible final “The Time of the Doctor” so there is more that could be done with them as either friend or foe. The fact that you forget them when you look away still leaves them ripe for story, and who knows how their culture could change over time and how they might find identity outside of the one placed upon them by the Papal Mainframe.

3rd) The Daleks

The Daleks are one of the most common and popular enemies in “Doctor Who.” This is a faction dedicated to the destruction of anyone who isn’t them and are mutants from Skaro created by the mad scientist Davros. The Daleks have been in countless episodes of “Doctor Who” and first appeared facing off against the 1st Doctor and have even faced off against the most recent 13th Doctor too. Over the years the most interesting things that have been done with are Civil Wars for leadership such as the Emperor Dalek, Supreme Dalek and Davros as the many leaders of factions and have even had moments of humanity in the modern era. I highly recommend “Dalek” and “Into the Dalek” as great examples of the Dalek’s potential for exploration beyond their drive to exterminate. The reason they aren’t higher on the list is due to the fact that they we got complex political machinations for power grabs the Daleks never grow beyond their superiority. They have individual episodes of complexity but as a faction are unable to get beyond power grabs and their original design. Still, they are popular and have continued to be used through Classic and Modern “Doctor Who” that I suspect we may get that complexity in the future.

2nd) The Zygons

The Zygons are a group of survivors. First introduced during Tom Baker’s run as the 4th Doctor these aliens first sought to conquer Earth after learning their planet was destroyed. These metamorphic aliens are able to shapeshift and infiltrate societies and their technology is all organic. They failed in their initial invasion and wouldn’t appear again until the 50th Anniversary Special “The Day of the Doctor.” It is in “The Day of the Doctor” where they are attempting to invade again until the Doctors (War, 10 and 11) forces a peace with Earth and they take human form and part of human society. This is until a faction wants to live as Zygons again and we get “The Zygon Invasion” and  the “The Zygon Inversion.” The 12th Doctor once again forces a peace (and gives the best Doctor speech on the horrors of war, Capaldi is one of my favorite Doctors and is amazing) but I’m curious where things are going to go from here. The Zygons are refugees whose culture has been subsumed by humanity and they cannot even be themselves to a degree from all that they see. I hope that is explored further as they are a species without a home and easily one of the craftiest factions the Doctor has faced and the faction that has now forced humanity to face it’s propensity for war twice that we know of. They have such a cool design and it is when their organic technology and diversity of thought is on display that really makes them stand out to me. They almost made my number 1 but didn’t because they are so often presented in the human shifted form and sadly have been forced to live in that form now for most of their time since returning to the show. They were also used as joke in “The Day of the Doctor” which also hurt where I placed them on the list.

1st) The Ice Warriors 

The Ice Warriors like the Zygons is a species of survivors. They were once a huge empire but when we meet them for the first time during the 2nd Doctor, they are introduced as the last of their species as their home planet Mars is now dead. Like the Zygons those thawed out of the ice try to conquer Earth and are stopped. We do not see them again until the modern era and the 11th Doctor’s “Cold War” where we see an ice warrior out of it’s mechanical suit held hostage on a Russian submarine. This species is dangerous in combat and in “Cold War” takes out any threat against it until the Doctor eventually reasons with it and it is rescued by a remaining Ice Warrior ship. We see them once more in “Empress on Mars” where like “Cold War” they are facing off against humans. Their Empress does not trust and it takes a lot of death, before there is finally peace. Unlike the Zygons who are forced to look like humans the Ice Warriors always stay as they are when peace is formed and there is so much more power in that as they are a unique culture. This culture is one built around a hierarchy, honor and an Empress as the leader. I have yet to watch a bad story with them and the episodes they appear in are some of my favorite of “Doctor Who.” I hope to see them in more stories as the complexity of diplomacy and finding peace has been illustrated beautifully with them twice.

That is my list. If you have one of your own I’d love to read them in the comments. This was fun to do as it has been quite some time since I’ve written about “Doctor Who.”

Freaks – You’re One of Us (2020): A Jumbled Start With Character Moments That Payoff in the End

Freaks - You're One of Us.jpg

     “Freaks – You’re One of Us” is a Netflix film that had the potential for greatness. The music is wonderful, the core characters and their relationships work and it really just falls apart in messaging and how jumbled it is in the beginning. This is not a long film but it feels long because of how long it takes for character advancing moments to happen. I’ll get into more detail below but without going into spoilers this is a film I’d recommend to anyone looking for a neat take on superheroes.

The film was directed by Felix Binder and written by Marc O. Seng.

The story follows Wendy who is taking medication after an incident from her childhood. After the mysterious Marek approaches her and proves superheroes exist she begins to explore that potential within herself.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack of this film pops. You’ve got a lot of popular 80’s songs that are covers that Wendy listens to on her walkman to and from work. This use of music adds an organic element to the story and also keeps the characters grounded. No matter what some characters may claim, they never stop being flawed human beings.

The Premise – The premise of superheroes having their powers being repressed by a pill and being outsiders isn’t anything new but this film still keeps it interesting as it is our world and no one believes in superheroes as they only exist in comic books. This is really what gives the characters and their arcs the potential for greatness.

The Main Characters – The main characters all work. You have Wendy and her family who is slowly coming into her power. You have Marek who escaped from the institute and is living as homeless man and is the one who shows Wendy the potential she has and there is Elmar who is a creeper co-worker who lives in comics and whose power acts as a corrupting mechanism. The three characters work and I wish them in their power had had more interactions as it is in those interactions that the film is strongest.

Marek – Marek is an immortal who is living in hiding after escaping an institute where his power was being repressed. We learn that his family died and he blames himself for it and has been unable to kill himself since that time. Wendy is the first character to give him hope and I really liked their friendship. She is there for his death when he is finally killed after the medication has been repressing his abilities. His final ask of Wendy is to rescue and awaken more people like them.

Elmar – Elmar is the villain of the picture. He lives at home with his dad and his dad’s girlfriend and blames his dad for him mom leaving. This resentment leads to escapism into comics and his dad is pushing him to have ambition. This takes a dark turn when he discovers his power and continues pursuing his co-worker Wendy. In the end he turns Marek’s location to the institute to isolate Wendy when they won’t become superheroes with him. His final act is nearly murdering his father and kidnapping Wendy’s family. She finally defeats him and his reign of terror comes to an end. He was a character with potential to become good but he never got out of his ego and selfishness so his character arc to villiany became obvious when Wendy and Marek wouldn’t join him.

Wendy – Wendy is our protagonist. She is bullied in her job and her only joy is in being a mother to her son as her husband and her are pretty disconnected from each other initially. It is when she is off the medication and defending herself and others that their relationship heals after Elmar attempts to kill her husband. At this point she is on the run with the rest of the members of the institute she managed to escape with and we see her planning to free more people but also knowing she can never be with her family again. It is a bittersweet arc but it works.

Okay:

Wendy’s Family – Her family is okay. They are kind of stock character types who don’t get beyond that but the actors do an alright job. They are good in the dramatic scenes they are in but in the quieter scenes the husband looked checked out at times. That might have also been the character but her family is not written as well as the 3 main characters.

The Cons:

Slow Start – The start is real slow and it takes a while before we start seeing the question of “So what?” being answered. So superheroes exist and have existed, what now? There is almost too much time spent establishing Elmar and Wendy when fewer scenes would have accomplished how disconnected they felt with their families and within themselves.

Message in Medication – The problematic element of the film is how it seems to be anti-medication. It could all just be a plot device but it is hard to separate that given how the institute full of superheroes is a hospital that looks like a psychiatric ward. The fact that the doctor in charge is presented as sympathetic and only wants to help also plays into this. Given the anti-science bent behind the premise it just strikes me as problematic and a bit toxic.

This was a film that had solid leads, presents the idea of superheroes in an interesting way and overall works as a film. It is nearly good and within the narrative there is so much potential for the story to really be great. It is really only the few but strong cons that bring it down and why I can’t rate it higher. If you are a fan of superhero films and seeing new approaches to the many premises that have arisen out of comics than this film is well worth your time.

Final Score: 7.8 / 10 I would say solidly good if the start wasn’t so slow. This isn’t a long film but it feels long.

Torchlight III: A Refocus on Narrative With More Gaming Options

Torchlight III on Steam

  “Torchlight III” is thus far the only game I have bought in early access. This is my second favorite of the 3 games in the “Torchlight Franchise.” The first game still has the best narrative and gameplay but “Torchlight III” has a better story and gameplay than “Torchlight II.” I’ll explore all of this deeper into the review but until then this is a game I’d recommend to any fan of the earlier “Torchlight” games or for folks who enjoy a good dungeon crawler.

Echtra Games developed “Torchlight III” with Perfect World Entertainment being the publisher.

The game takes place centuries later after “Torchlight II” with ember corruption having spread from the clockwork core and an ancient evil attempting to conquer the world with the Netherim. It is up to you as the Sharpshooter, Dusk Mage, Railmaster or Forged to stop them.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Gameplay – The gameplay mostly works. The only con I can say against it at this time is it does fall into the grindyness that most dungeon-crawlers suffer from but this one makes up from it from the themed zones, the challenging boss fights, the personalization of your fort and the variety of character classes you can play.

Your Fort – One thing that sets this game apart from the past games in the franchise is the fact you get a fort. In this fort you can re-distribute your skill points, build up defenses against elements (Fire, poison, etc.), enchant items and save armor sets. For these reasons I always enjoyed coming back here as I figured out how to make the most of the artifact I chose (Fire based) from which you choose your skills from. The game is still in early-access so I’m curious what new things will eventually be added too.

Character and Artifact Variety – One thing that works about this game is the character variety. I chose to play as the Forged who is a robotic warrior class but you also have the rogue-like Sharpshooter the Dusk Mage and the Railmaster. These characters do not play the same and I can’t wait to explore that different more in the future, as well as try out more of the artifacts and the skills they offer.

Pets – This game has a lot of pets and you earn more by defeating bosses. Each of them have different effects that boost your character in different ways. I started with a dog (one of the starter pets) but ended with a teal dragon. You can name them like in the prior games and you have multiple birds, mammals and reptiles that you pick up along the way. I’m really curious if we’ll get Nethrim pets when the game is finished given how powerful your character is by the end of the game.

The World – The world is the richest it has ever been as far as new characters and lore. You interact with scientists and towns that give flavor to the different regions and each region feels like it fits the location be it mountainous, swamp or the artificial ancient crafted world of the dwarves. Each region has a unique enemy being controlled by the Netherim, which made exploring it all the more fun as you find flavor text around the areas and see what drives the boss in the area. You also run into world bosses who fit the area and are a great challenge to level up your skills before the usually more difficult act bosses.

The Enemy Factions – The first faction you face are the goblins. They are fun to face and their primary element is fired. They are lead by the warrior Brall, she is a hunter with a large bow who summons a ghost wolf to fight alongside her in battle and is completely loyal to the mysterious “Mother.” There are the Hyvid who are an insect-like race whose larva can turn humans and goblins into zombies and are lead by the Harley Quinn like Sadista who killed their Queen and wants to overthrow “Mother.” The sister is Varis is the one who is the most competent as she uses human mercenaries to enforce her will and controls the Vultera, an advanced bird-like with the best technology in the game who have come to inhabit the dwarven ruins. We also hear about other worlds and creatures that the Netherim compete with for supremacy over worlds.

The 3 Sisters -The sisters are great and they all fight differently. Brall is the loyal fighter and you see why she admires the goblins. Sadista is sadistic and selfish but does succeed until you defeat her and Varis is the most successful and is shown to have cared for her sisters. We learn from her that all of them were probably humans who had once died but were raised by “Mother” into this new state where they are part human and Netherim. After “Mother’s” defeat Varis attempts to grab the ember heart and is pulled into the Clockwork Core when it reignites once more saving the world from the Netherim invasion. I suspect we’ll see her in a later game or expansion and “Mother” is still around she just doesn’t have a host body.

The Boss Battles – The boss battle are challenging. Ordrak from the first game is still the most challenging endgame boss but fighting Sadista and Brall (especially Brall) was a fantastic challenge that took learning the patterns of attacks and when they one-shot attacks would happen. The fact that was a warrior type meant early on I was in the thick of battle so Brall was the most difficult there. The final boss was also hard but at that point I had so many skill points into powerful abilities maxed out that I was able to defeat “Mother” in the new corrupted reincarned Odrak body that she was easier than Brall. There are also bosses of each type (Vultera, Goblin and Hyvid) who you fight and artificial robots too. They usually have patterns you can figure out and if they are at the end of a dungeon they are hardest if elites are summoned along with him.

The Cons:

On the Grind – There are some areas that are real grindy as you level up high enough to really stand a chance in the next area above your level. This does become easier once you hit a certain level and can fully empower certain skills but before that I stopped playing a few times because of how annoying the grind could be.

Who is the Main Villain? – We never learn who “Mother” is. I think the implication is she is some powerful type of Netherim and her leading the Netherim army but we learn nothing about her and her aims post-invasion. She is setup akin to Ordrak in the first game but we never see her interactions in-game beyond her children (Ordrak corrupted someone for example) and I wanted to learn more. She is the focus and has characters who know some degree who or what she is but that isn’t reflected as well as it could be in the text.

The Somewhat Cliffhanger Ending – So Varis has the Ember Heart and it is implied her being pulled into the Nether is going to transform her in ways she can’t protect. The final scene also shows the character who is implied to be “Mother” I think with her eyes and arms over the world. This is contrasted with the happy ending of your victory making it feel very much like a cliffhanger. So is this going to be Torchlight III or IV? This is big or me because the game is in early access and there is no guarantee they will make enough money to make future content.

I had a good time playing this game and I do hope we get more story in the future. I enjoyed the consistent enemies in zones, the sisters were fun antagonists and the skills and artifacts as well as character types give the game a lot of replay option. The variety of pets and ways you can decorate your fort helps too. This game isn’t great as there are story issues and the grindyness stands out but I still consider this a good game. If you’ve enjoyed the franchise so far, definitely check this out.

Final Score: 8 / 10

 

“Penny Dreadful” Season 2 – Some of the Best Character Moments and Worst Written Villains

   “Penny Dreadful” continues to be my trash and after this season I’m really curious to see how it all wraps up. This season is not as good as Season 1 and that is due largely to how the characters are written to get to the climax and the villains. God, I hate these villains. They are trash and do not work and I’ll get into the why below. I still think this show is worth your time though due to the strong character moments this season brings.

The show was created by John Logan.

The story picks up with Nightwalker Witches lead by Evelyn Poole targeting Vanessa and her team. At the same time Lily is finding her footing in undeath and John Clare seeks work once more as Inspector Rusk investigates the most recent spate of murders tied to Ethan.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Soundtrack – Abel Korzenioweski is an amazing composer. This season really illustrates it well too as some of the plot is real dumb but his soundtrack still elevates the emotion or threats of scenes. The opening theme song is also worthy of praise as it captures the melancholy tone of the show.

The Lore – This season has some great lore reveals. The greatest lore is reveal is Lucifer has a brother named Dracula who was also cast from heaven and thrown to Earth. I’ve never seen a gothic fantasy show do something like this. I’m very curious to see how this plays out later.

The Characters – The main characters and most of the supporting characters continue to be the strongest part of this show. John Logan is good at bringing nuance and depth to our protagonists and newcomers and this season that is fully on display.

Lyle – Lyle is wonderful. This flamboyant, gay and Jewish egyptologist is under Evelyn Poole’s thumb as a double agent at first but he uses every opportunity to fight back. He even kills one of the witches and is one of the few characters at the end giving Victor a listening ear. I thought he’d die this season but was very glad to be proven wrong.

Angelique – Angelique is one of the coolest minor characters this season. She is a transgender woman who works as an uptown prostitute who becomes the lover of Dorian Gray. She is wrestling against abuse and prejudice and for much of the series Dorian supports her, until he meets Lily Frankenstein and until Angelique finds his painting. Her death illustrates Dorian’s depravity in a way we haven’t seen in the show as it was only his inability to trust that lead him to do it. She deserved so much better.

Sembene – This is the season we get Sembene’s backstory. He is an outsider as he was once a former slave trader and we know he dealt with other beings like werewolves, as when Ethan is revealed to be one he accepts Ethan. Hs story ends in death when he is trapped when Ethan transforms in a very stupid witch’s plot. Like Angelique I wish we had gotten more of his story.

Ethan and Vanessa – One of the strongest relationships this season is that between Ethan and Vanessa. We learn Ethan is “The Wolf of God” and the one thing the forces of darkness fear. We also have Ethan’s inability to open up about being a werewolf to anyone outside of Sembene, but in Vanessa and Ethan’s protecting of each other we see a deep friendship become a complicated sort-of romantic relationship. I loved their scenes together and am curious if this arc is going to pay off next season.

Victor and Vanessa – Victor and Vanessa have a lovely platonic friendship that was needed on this show. Vanessa helps Victor in his courting of Lily (they even go dress shopping together) and she is one of the few he will listen to in facing his addiction. I hope we get more moments of this relationship next season.

Victor and his Creations – This season we see Victor’s guilt tied to his creations and the reasons why. He loves Brona who he turned into Lily Frankenstein but is so jealous that of course it will only end in tragedy. He also created Lily for John Clare (Caliban’s new name). John Clare is a constant shadow over his life as we see the guilt Victor feels in the pain in John’s creation and John’s killing of Proteus. His relationship to his creations is what defines him and when Lily becomes a powerhouse beyond his control he loses himself in addiction at the end of the season.

John Clare – John Clare has a healthy friendship this season, and it is with Vanessa Ives. She sees beauty in him and they talk philosophy and poetry and she even teaches him to dance. Sadly him being the monster leads to his job at a waxworks ending in him captured to be a freak on display. In the end he kills the owners and escapes, and after his understandable rejection by Lily and then her offer of power that he refuses, he asks Vanessa to run away with him. She is afraid to hurt him though and stays in London, leading to him heading north like in the novel “Frankenstein.”

Dorian Gray – Reeve Carney has really come into this role. The season starts out with a broken-hearted Dorian being greeted by Angelique. It is this forwardness that entrances Dorian and for much of the season he is building up her confidence in her as he claims to believe in her. Sadly this ends when he meets Lily Frankenstein and we see Dorian is only interested in what he sees as the newest person to entrance him who can give him new experiences. We also see the depths of sociopathy when he kills Angelique after she still loves him even after seeing the deformed, undead painting of his true self. It is this undead nature that brings Lily to him and at the end of the show they establish an alliance as undead faction with plans to rule all.

Lily Frankenstein – Billie Piper has some amazing range that is really on display this season. We see her rebirth from Brona into Lily and relearning herself and new identity in relationship to Victor. Her arc from here is transcending this as we see her murder a “john” and throw John Clare around when he attempts to force a relationship calling out the abuse of men before offering him power and a chance to rule. This offer ends up being accepted by Dorian, and when Victor tries to kill her we learn that for sometime she has remembered who she once was and has greater plans to rule as an immortal. It’s excellent and I can’t wait to see what she and Dorian do.

The Cons:

Contrived Main Character Idiocy – Most of the idiocy this season is tied to the witches and their plots. I really think the writers didn’t know what to do so they wrote the story to force character action, rather than characters making organic choices that made sense. This really comes to a head in the final episodes that I’ll get into below.

Characters Going Alone – Malcolm is under Evelyn Poole’s spell for much of this season and once he is freed he goes to face the witches alone, when he’s never done that before and last season the whole point was acting as a team and trusting each other. This happens again with Vanessa going alone to save Malcolm and finally Ethan goes during a full moon, knowing he’ll be a danger. He does this again when he turns himself in to Inspector Rusk. This only happened so we could isolate the protagonists to separate them at the end when nothing last season or this season would set this up. I hated it.

Sembene’s Death – Sembene dies from contrived character idiocy and characters going alone. We saw Ethan turn down going out twice before because of the danger of becoming a werewolf and him doing so is how Sembene dies as he is trapped when Ethan transforms. It is real dumb. He is also the only person of color on the cast so his death stands out even more as a toxic trope. Why couldn’t his story continue? He was in the main credits so the showrunners saw him as main cast.

The Witches – The dumbest part of this season is the witches. They are trying to have Vanessa become Lucifer’s wife but none of their tactics do anything to make that possible. When they aren’t failing in basic tasks, they are peacocking around like they’ve already won. They are never scary because they rarely succeed, and beyond staying young they can’t even really control others all that well. In the end nearly all of them are killed by Team Vanessa, with only Evelyn’s daughter Hecate escaping after she uses Ethan the werewolf to kill Evelyn. She clearly has plans for Ethan but I don’t care. She is just as idiotic as her sisters and she only lived due to most characters being hit with the “stupid stick” in the last few episodes.

This season isn’t as strong as season 1 but it has stronger character moments than season 1. In the end I’d still recommend watching on though as that is what I plan to do. I want to see how things end in season 3 as I care about Team Vanessa and see potential in the deep lore that was largely wasted this season.

Final Score: 7 / 10

The Dragon Prince – Book One: Moon – Fascinating World but Weak Characters

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      There are two things that lead me to wanting to check out “The Dragon Prince.” These two things were Aaron Ehasz (Head writer and co-producer behind “Avatar: The Last Airbender”) and the fact that it was a new fantasy show involving dragons, elves and humans. Fantasy political shows have always been a draw for me and with a writer with that caliber I wanted to give it a chance. I still plan to give it a chance but season 1 was only okay and I’ll go into the reasons why but for as promising as the premise of this show is most of the characters aren’t compelling currently and there is some real bad dialogue.

Aaron Ehasz created the show along with Justin Richmond.

The series follows a human discovering dark magic (magic that pulls it’s magic from sucking out life) and being forced to the other half of the continent of Xadia. Here the Dragon King enforced the peace at the border known as the Breach until humans killed him and his unborn child. The story picks up with Moonshadow Elves seeking retribution for these murders.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The World – The world of “The Dragon Prince” is really fascinating. You have multiple types of elves and human kingdoms as well as a neat magic system based in runes and of course the ongoing politics and war. Really the world was what kept the cons from this show being stronger as the world still remains compelling even after the writing and character missteps.

The Politics – The politics of humans wanting to live where they once did before combined with the nature of dark magic and the different elven factions and human factions (five kingdoms as of the time the show starts) is such an intriguing premise. The Moonshadow elves also partially succeed and do assassinate the King but the King is wholly to blame for that outcome, which I’ll get into later.

The Magic – The magic like Avatar is tied to elements but this time we have 6 elements which are (Sun, Moon, Earth, Sky, Ocean and Stars) with dark magic as the rogue element of these that pulls from life. How the magic is done in season 1 is by the drawing of runes or using artifacts which plays gives reality to the fantasy it is.

Viren – Viren is King Harrow’s adviser who is willing to switch bodies with him to save his life but after Harrow stupidly refuses decides he’ll takeover as he believes war and conquest are the only ways for humans to have security. He has moments of nuance but is mostly a snake who is evil for the sake of evil. The character is still fun though even if the writing makes him incompetent. He should have never sent his kids on the mission as they care about the princes and as long as they live he can’t takeover like he now wants to after Harrow’s death.

Callum – Jake DeSana (who voices Sokka in “Avatar: The Last Airbender”) is step-son to King Harrow and the main hero we follow as him learning the magics are a major plot point as well as him getting over his fear of elves. In the end he saves the egg of the Dragon Prince when he realizes the trapped storm he stole is what is needed to free him. He is one of the only two likable good guys thus far.

Rayla – The only other likable protagonist thus far Rayla. She is the Moonshadow assassin who fails to kills Prince Ezran and her arc is learning to trust humans (mirroring Callum’s learning to trust elves). It is handled well and I enjoy her clever dialogue and the little details like her fear of water and in season 1. Early in the season she makes a bond with bracelets with the rest of the assassin Moonshadow elves to kill King Harrow and Prince Ezran. After King Harrow is killed she keeps that secret but admits to the remaining bracelet existing because of her refusal to kill Prince Ezran. In the end the hatchling Dragon Prince releases the bond.

The Cons:

The Dialogue – Some of the dialogue and jokes are really cringey. You can see it trying to be “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and mostly failing. The best moments of dialogue are when characters aren’t joking. The dialogue really illustrates how amateur the writing feels. This is season 1, so I hope it improves. I’ve heard it does.

King Harrow’s Stupidity – The King has no sense of long term planning and just plans to die and let others die for him anyway in defending him. Given his part in the war and slaying the the Dragon King, him seeking peace would have had the strongest base. Instead he embraces his death leaving his step-son and son Ezran as orphans. Sadly he isn’t the only stupid character.

Most of the Supporting Cast – Most of the supporting cast is bland. Prince Ezran gets along with animals and nothing defines him beyond his pet Bait. This also applies to Viren’s kids who are awkward but not threatening so him using them as weapons to get the Dragon Prince Egg makes no sense. His son is an idiot and his daughter is more interested in the science of magic not power. This is a constant problem with many of the characters in the show. The show cares more about making them funny than making them threatening or having a bigger purpose beyond what we are told in the plot.

This show has promise. The world and Callum, Viren and Rayla are fun. I really want this show to succeed. A good, original fantasy universe is worth supporting. I really hope the next seasons get better though as this season only reached okay when it had the potential to be so much more. Here is to hoping it reaches the heights that exist in the premise.

Final Score: 6.4 / 10 Weak start but I plan to keep watching to see if it gets better. There is enough potential here for this show to eventually be good or even great.

Star Trek: The Original Series – Season 3, Episode 10 – “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky” – McCoy and the Quest for Truth

     “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky” is a a great classic “TOS” episode and also works well as just a great science fiction conflict. I was looking for an episode that explores Dr. McCoy and this one does so really well. This is an episode with multiple stakes that are juggled really well as we see both mortality on the individual and large scale level.

The episode was directed by Tony Leader and written by Rik Vollaerts.

The episode involves the crew of the Enterprise when they discover a generational ship on a crash course with an inhabited planet and must stop it. Dr. McCoy also learns he’s carrying a terminal illness and only has a year to live.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The generational ship full of people who have never known anything but the ship who may unknowingly destroy another civilization and McCoy facing his own mortality leads to great drama being created. We have the interpersonal relationship with the crew and how the crew interacts with the Fabrini people leading to an amazing story.

The Oracle – The Oracle is a great antagonist. It is driven by it’s programming and is able to defend itself extremely well. It is so driven by it’s programming that it is unable to accept any mistakes or the fact that it had made a mistake. The final fight against it is intense too as it tries to burn Spock, Kirk and McCoy in the room before they can use the book to shut it down. The Oracle has the upper hand through most of the episode which made it’s defeat all the more rewarding.

Captain Kirk and Spock – Kirk and Spock are the ones who help Natira realize the Oracle is wrong and they are the first to investigate the Oracle. We also get some good emotional moments where we see empathy in both of their eyes when Kirk mentions McCoy’s illness. It was a subtle moment but it made me appreciate Spock more who clearly showed carrying for Bones in the way he looked at him after hearing about the illness. This is an episode where the trio does a great job saving the day and in the end they discover on the computer’s harddrive a way to save McCoy as as well.

Natira – Natira is the leader of the Fabrini in that she is the one who speaks listens to the Oracle and enforces it’s will. Even with this indoctrination she received growing up she is willing to accept she is in a ship eventually and that there outside that the Oracle is hiding from her. She takes this responsibility deeply to the point that though she loves Dr. McCoy she does not return with him to the Enterprise.

Dr. McCoy – Dr. McCoy carries the episode as we seem him wrestle with the fact that he is dying and that when he chooses to stay on the ship to live out his last days he acts to help the Enterprise, even as he nearly loses his life in the process. We have moments of him facing his mortality with the other members of the crew and he clearly loved Natira. It is for these reasons it is really his episode as they would not have succeeded in stopping the ship without his sacrifice when he stayed behind and risked the Oracles wrath. In the end by saving the people on the planet and the truth saving the Fabrini people also leads to them finding the cure for McCoy and saving him as well.

This episode gives us an interesting people, uses our main three (Kirk, Spock and McCoy) in dramatic ways and provides a great antagonist in the Oracle and fantastic supporting character in Natira. The fact that this is a ship that can sustain itself and the Fabrini culture that has arisen from it fascinating too. Suffice to say, this is an episode I highly recommend.

Final Score: 10 / 10