“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.

“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

“Penny Dreadful” Season 1 – Horror Camp, Problematic and Fun

Season 1 | Penny Dreadful Wiki | Fandom

    “Penny Dreadful,” Season 1 was quite enjoyable. I’ve read all the books it pulls inspiration from “Dracula,” “Frankenstein” and “The Picture of Dorian Gray” to name a few and I like the twist it took on the characters from these stories while creating it’s own lore. The casting for this show is absolutely fantastic. Eva Green could have carried the show on her own but Harry Treadaway, Billie Piper and Timothy Dalton bring so much nuance and depth to the characters they inhabit. There are problematic areas of the show that come out in the time period it takes place in (The Victorian Era of England) and I’ll get into that deeper into the review.

The show was created by John Logan who produced the show along with Sam Mendes.

The story follows Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) and explorer Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) as they recruit others in their quest to save Malcom’s daughter Mina from a mysterious supernatural force.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Mysteries – There are a few mysteries that provide the basis for the show. There is the mystery of who has Mina (we learn it is Vampires), what is the aim of the evil force that inhabits Vanessa, What is Dorian Gray’s endgame? Who is responsible for the brutal murders? (It looks like both vampires and later on we see werewolves as a possible culprit too). These are the mysteries that drive the show and from these mysteries what choices it will prompt our characters to make.

Dorian Gray – Reeve Carney plays Dorian Gray and like Dorian Gray from the book he is a character who is all about new experiences and doesn’t care about people beyond how he can use them. This makes him an antagonist or at least an anti-villain but we don’t know his aim beyond the seeking of new experiences. He ends up sleeping with half of the main cast and each time it is when they are at their most vulnerable and in the case of Vanessa triggers her possession. His very nature is dangerous and Reeve plays him so well as this unaging, intelligent, beautiful and selfish man. I’m curious to see where his story will go in Season 2.

The Team – The Team works largely because of their relationships with each other. You have Sir. Malcolm and Sembene who have history in Africa together and Sembene holds him accountable to having to possibly kill Mina if she can’t be saved. You have Vanessa who was Mina’s friend and is like an adopted daughter to Sir. Malcolm. You have Ethan who is running away from his past in the United States and holds a dark secret but connects and falls in love with Brona a woman dying of tuberculosis. You also have Dr. Frankenstein and the 2 creatures he makes and his history with both of them.

Dr. Frankenstein, Proteus and Caliban – Harry Treadaway does such a fantastic job of making Frankenstein a man disconnected from people and obsessed with creating life of his own. We see him succeed in this when we first meet Proteus who he creates and who he lets name himself and we even see Proteus begin to recall the life he lived before his death. Sadly it is cut short by Frankenstein’s firstborn creation Caliban. Caliban is tortured and was born out of pain and holds nothing but resentment for his creator. This changes when in the end the only person he can turn to is Dr. Frankenstein and they come to an understanding. These two relationships are complicated and illustrate how broken Dr. Frankenstein is as in the end his creations are reflections of him in the actions they do and the actions he does for them.

Ethan and Vanessa Ives – One of the healthiest relationships on the show is that between Vanessa and Ethan. Vanessa is the one who is willing to believe in Ethan and he believes in her in turn. They have a deep friendship and in the end it is Ethan who rescues her for rescuing him when he is able to cast out the possession with a trinket Brona gave him as she was dying. It is a powerful scene and I appreciate how honest their relationship is. He tells Vanessa about Brona and she supports their love. It is touching and really the only healthy relationship on the show.

Ethan and Brona – Ethan and Brona is a sad tale. They become a couple pretty fast but run into trouble when Dorian triggers Brona’s self-doubt as he had slept with her earlier and it is after her lashing out at Ethan that he also sleeps with Ethan. Neither of them know this about one another but they are both running away from their guilt about their pasts. In the end Brona is killed by Dr. Frankenstein who promises he will bring her back in immortality, of course Ethan doesn’t know this and it is her death and his isolation from the team as well as being hunted by men sent by his father that trigger him turning into a werewolf and him slaughtering an inn…leaving him as the possible secondary antagonist next season.

Sir. Malcolm and Vanessa Ives – This is the most toxic relationship on the show that eventually pays off into some sort of balance. Sir. Malcolm uses Vanessa to find Mina but in the end chooses her over Mina who has been lost to the darkness and become a vampire. The arc getting here involves the two of them hurting each other so much as they both reel from how they hurt their family and one another. Vanessa is willing to confront her guilt and Sir. Malcolm truly isn’t until the end. Vanessa is a good character where I’d say Sir. Malcolm is not, at best he’s a protagonist who functions as an anti-villain because of his past and current actions.

The United States Colonialism – Through Ethan we learn about the death of the indigenous people in the Indian Wars in the United States and thankfully it isn’t glorified. Whenever it is talked about it is with shame and guilt and Ethan clearly has PTSD for fighting in the wars. We learn about the children missionaries stole from their tribes and lost generations…I hope we learn more as this is a huge part of Ethan’s identity and I appreciate that the show recognizes the atrocities that it was.

The Cons:

Sir Malcolm’s Colonialism – Sir. Malcolm goes to Africa with his son and we learn that he raped and pillaged his way across the continent. The only time this is called out is when Vanessa is possessed, no character calls out Sir. Malcolm for the evils he committed in Africa has a colonial “explorer.” This is easily the most problematic element of the show and I really hope next season calls him out. I’m also left wondering where Sembene’s story falls into this and I hope we get the story of why he follows Sir. Malcolm.

The Era’s Sexism – Sexism is a fairly common trope in this series and it is largely expressed in how Vanessa is “protected.” The way Brona is used by Dorian Gray and others in her past (her abusive fiance) and Sir. Malcolm’s dismissal of any woman but his willingness to still use  and abuse them. It is disgusting and again, Sir. Malcolm is not called out which I hope happens later…same goes for Dorian Gray.

I enjoyed “Penny Dreadful” a lot. This is my kind of horror trash and the casting perfection and mysteries are largely what make it work. I can’t wait to see where these character arcs go as I care about them. My favorites are Vanessa and Brona but even the other supporting characters have nuance and depth to them even if they are nothing more than awful people. In the end I’d say this show is worth checking out, you should just know the problematic elements going in as it is the biggest problem I have with the show.

Final Score: 7.7 / 10

The 10th Doctor – Series 2, Episode 2 – “New Earth” – The Value of Life and Personhood

Newearth2

   “New Earth” is an episode with a lot of good ideas and character moments, but can’t seem to know what tone it wants to take, which brings it down. It is still a good episode and one I would definitely recommend. You get to know Tennant’s 10th Doctor more and see how Rose and 10’s relationship is becoming more romantic than friendship. It also has a great appearance by Cassandra and a cameo by The Face of Boe and tries to deal with the issues of personhood and life.

    The episode was directed by James Hawes and written by Russell T. Davies.

   The story involves the Doctor taking Rose to New Earth but things are not as they appear as they find a darker underbelly to Paradise and an old enemy Cassandra returns to get revenge on Rose and the Doctor for past wrongs against her.

The Pros: The Comedy – The comedy in this episode is really good, especially the back and forths between the Doctor and Cassandra and Rose and Cassandra and when Cassandra is in their bodies…her sexualization of Tennant and deciding she likes it is hilarious as well as her finding the good in being in a “commoner” body when she inhabits Rose.

Chip – Chip is Cassandra’s Igor, a slave that is completely devoted to her well being. Sean Gallagher does a wonderful job in this role as a character who is vulnerable, devoted and also deadly when he needs to be. His death means something too as he is able to give Cassandra her one happy memory. I wish his character had been given the chance to create an identity beyond her though.

Cassandra – Cassandra (the “Last Human” living in stretched out Skin from last season) has an arc in this, the arc is learning to see outside herself and it takes her a long time to get there…from letting out the plague Clones that are used to create the cures by the Sisterhood and jumping between Rose, the Doctor and a plague victim’s body she eventually comes to see just how alone she is which finally forces her into Chip and her last act of giving herself her happiest memory and dying with peace in the arms of the woman she used to be before she lost her body.

Rose – Rose doesn’t do much this episode but what she does is better than her in Series 1. She is no longer the victim and is fighting to save both the plague victims, herself and the Doctor even as Cassandra takes control of her at multiple points. This episode really shows how she has come into her own as a companion after her time with the Doctor’s 9th Incarnation. “The Christmas Invasion” she didn’t do much…it was all the Doctor saving the day. Billie Piper also does a fantastic job playing Cassandra and Rose. She really does have a lot of range when given the chance.

The Doctor – The Doctor is all about the value of life in this and everything he does is to protect it. From the plague victims, to the people being treated in the other wards and even the Sisterhood all he does is to protect everyone. We also see his drive for justice as he offers to get a Cassandra a body but she must stand trial for her crimes. This doesn’t stop him from being compassionate though as he gives Cassandra a final moment with her past self. It is a moment of forgiveness that you don’t really see all that much from this Doctor who is still reeling from the Time War. The Doctor also has a vain moment where he checks his after Cassandra possessing Rose makes out with him, it’s pretty brilliant and shows how the Doctor can be pretty vain. David Tennant of course is always brilliant as the Doctor.

Sentience and the Value of Life – The plague victims were clones created by the Sisterhood in order to cure the humans who arrived on their world. They saw it as the most efficient way to do so as they saw creations as things that were not sentient. The Doctor and Rose are the answer to this and advocate and heal the victims of their wrongs leading to the Sisterhood being imprisoned. A dilemma is presented on the value of life but not really explored fully, though what the victims are going through and how they are raised shows that even if there is nothing in the mind but survival every blank slate can feel and grow since no person is fully a blank slate. As long as thought and feeling are there and it is alive, it is valuable life.

Okay: The Doctor Saves – The Doctor saves everyone using all the cures made from the victims. It is the Doctor Triumphant but clashes with the tone of death surrounding the episode. For this reason it was hard to fully enjoy as it felt a bit too happy, contrived and forced…which will bring me to the Sisters of Plentitude late.

The Face of Boe – Makes an appearance but doesn’t really do anything. He was pretty much just there to come again later and to be reminded of the value of life by the Doctor and to remind us the Doctor is the last of the Time Lords. The last of (enter species here) is a theme of the episode as we see Cassandra as the last of the people from her era pass, the Face of Boe leave and of course the fact that we are traveling with the Doctor.

The Cons: Tone – The tone is all over the place, we get some great humorous moments when Cassandra is possessing bodies but we also have human experimentation in the humans created to be lab rats and slavery via Chip…these ideas are brushed over for humor and we never get to see the issues explored.

Sisters of Plenitude – Contrived, forced and don’t feel fully fleshed out. Theses aliens feel like Russell T. Davies had an idea of cats, nuns and aliens and decided to combine them all together with no idea of how their civilization, culture or history actually works. They enemies just because they don’t understand humans? Was he thinking that cats are sociopaths so make a species like that? I have no idea where Davies was going with this enemy but they are weak, which is a problem for most of his original aliens.

The Russell T. Davies Alien Problem – The Judoons, Slitheen and countless others feel like ideas and not species. We don’t really get their motivation as they are one dimensional archtypes and the Sisters of Plenitude are no different. This is a major problem Russell T. Davies has and I’m going to make this a post in my reviews whenever it comes up. The Sisters are thrown together as a jab at anti-authority for the sake of anti-authority and present a false dilemma meant to show that they are just cruel sociopaths obsessed with order and keeping the status quo. Was not impressed at all.

   This was a fun adventure and I liked a lot of the ideas it presented even though the Sisters of Plenitude are a terrible antagonist…at least Cassandra got fleshed out more and got an arc before she went away (which is more than can be said in regards to some enemies during the Matt Smith Era). It is better than “The Christmas Invasion” for sure and I appreciate how Rose and the Doctor’s relationship develops this episode, even though it does have some story problems that keep it from being great.

Final Score: 8.2 / 10

12 Days of Doctors – The 10th Doctor – Series 2, Episode 1 – “The Christmas Invasion” – The Doctor as a Super Hero

christmas_invasion-1

We continue 12 Days of Doctors in the count up to 12th’s first adventure with David Tennant as the 10th Doctor in his first Adventure “The Christmas Invasion.” David Tennant was my first Doctor and the Doctor who got me into both the current series and Classic Series because of how masterfully he played the Time Lord of the Doctor. He also has some of the best arcs this season, especially in Series 3 which has the most solid arc in the series thus far in my opinion.

The writer for this episode is Russell T. Davies and the director is James Hawes.

The story is that the Doctor is dealing with his new regeneration as the Sycorax attack Earth on Christmas in order to conquer Earth. From here it is up to Rose, Mickey, Jackie and the Prime Minister Harriet Jones to deal with this new threat as the Doctor is out of commission going through the cost of having just regenerated.

Doctor and Companions

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The 10th Doctor / The Tenth Doctor – For an episode about us meeting the new Doctor, we don’t actually spend that much time with him, since he is out of commission finishing the regeneration for most of it. When we do see him and who he is, which is mostly at the end it is a man who is arrogant (destroys the Prime Minister for defending Earth), kind (defense of humanity) and savvy (he uses “Lion King” to describe humanity’s potential). He is also the youngest looking of the Doctors up to this point and has the youthful energy of a younger man. David Tennant owns this role, but the problem is how he is written, which I’ll go into later. It is really here where the Doctor as a super hero who doesn’t need help to save the day really starts to show…which carries on in the series and later with the 11th Doctor.

Rose Tyler – Rose is good in this but the writers don’t give her much to do. Most of her arc is accepting this new Doctor as the Doctor, which is important but she doesn’t get to fight the Sycorax and only stalls for time for the tea to take affect (which she doesn’t even realize it’s doing).

Prime Minister Harriet Jones – Reveals the darker side of the Doctor after she destroys the Sycorax ship at the end. Which it makes sense why she does, as she tells the Doctor, “Your not always around and we need to be able to defend ourselves.” The Doctor rewards that with getting her fired leading to the rise of a powerful enemy later in the series. Thanks a lot Ten. She is an awesome character, and the only human with any agency.

Torchwood – They lost a third of their men we hear but they still manage to destroy the Sycorax ship in retaliation for the innocents killed and the fact that the Sycorax are space orc thugs.

Okay: The Minor Companions – Jackie and Mickey are there getting used to the new Doctor. Their roles are similar to their first appearance as the reasons to get Rose to stay. Mickey has some great moments with her as does her mother since it is nearly Christmas, but they don’t get nearly enough exploration as they deserved, which is strange since the Doctor is out of commission for most of the episode.

Cons: The Sycorax – These guys are space orcs. Both in design (skulls and capes) and intent (enslavement of the human race). Why the Doctor expects them to respect their word is beyond me, given their leader goes back on it and tries to kill him during the Fight for Honor at the end. These guys never show up again, which I think is good. They are a weak concept and there is nothing unique about them. They are mindless baddies just out for conquest with a lazy design.

The Doctor as a Super Hero – This is a trend I can’t stand that was especially prevelant in Matt Smith’s time as the 11th Doctor, but really starts here. There are all these human characters, but the only one who can save the day is the Doctor. So we see humanity getting schooled by the aliens up until the Doctor wakes up and when they do stand up he shuts them down. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen. I’m saying this as a fan of the Tenth Doctor too, he was my first Doctor and David Tennant is fantastic, it is just how he is used which is the problem. The Doctor always works best when he needs to be rescued, when he’s a Time Lord not Superman. This episode and some others, he is Superman and it is a trend that hurts the story further down the line, that really starts here in the new series.

I would recommend this episode nonetheless, it is a great introduction to the 10th Doctor (my Doctor) and also a fun adventure, even if the Doctor is way too overpowered and the villains are pretty lame. It at least establishes Torchwood and humanity as able to fight back…which we haven’t really seen since UNIT has yet to appear in this series.

Final Score is 7.8 / 10

11th Doctor

12 Days of Doctors – The 9th Doctor – Series 1, Episode 1 – “Rose” – The Consequences of the Time War

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We continue 12 Days of Doctors with “Rose” and the first adventure for the 9th Doctor. “Rose” is the episode that brings the Doctor back on the air, this time under direction and show runner of Russell T. Davies. The episode was also written by Russell T. Davies and directed by Keith Boak.

Before I get into the details of the episode, I love it. It has mystery in how the reveal the main premise, and the minor characters are treated with respect (Jackie and Mickey) which makes Rose’s world real that she leaves behind…which we hadn’t seen as much before with past Doctors. Suffice to say, I can see why this series planted the seed that keeps the modern Doctor Who and continuation of the series running to this day.

The story of “Rose” is that Rose is pulled into the Doctor’s world when he arrives on the scene to save her from an attack by Autons (the plastic men from “Spearhead from Space”) who are here to colonize Earth since the Nestene Consciousness’s worlds were destroyed by the Time War that the Doctor fought in. From here the Doctor and Rose must face this threat with each other and Rose tries to make sense of this mysterious stranger and help the Doctor save the day.

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Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The 9th Doctor / The Ninth Doctor – Christopher Eccleston is like how his Doctor describes things, “Fantastic!” He has a chip on his shoulder from the War (the details of which we learn later in the series) but even here we see how he is trying to write the wrongs of the Time War he fought in, and how impossible it feels for him. He still doesn’t kill as a first resort and though he is standoffish, he is kind. He clearly cares for Rose and for humanity as he defends humanity by their potential to the Nestene Consciousness on why they deserve to live. I know he didn’t stay because of trouble with the Producers and others on the show, but I wish he’d gotten more than a season. The 9th Doctor had the most complete arc, which we see the beginning of here. He is the PTSD Doctor healing from the war, and it is here with Rose that the healing really starts. Without a doubt, one of my favorite Doctors.

Rose Tyler – A controversial companion because of how she is romantically involved with the 10th Doctor later and other things, shows herself a very good companion in her first episode. She saves the Doctor from the Nestene Consciousness and is willing to leave her life behind to go on adventures with the Doctor by the end of the episode, even being in a romantic relationship with Mickey and caring for her mom aren’t enough to keep her there. She also sees the things the Doctor misses, like the Ferris Wheel being the giant device the Nestene needs to control the plastic in the city. Suffice to say, she starts out great! Rose will get her own blog post another time.

The Minor Characters – Mickey her boyfriend is well meaning but kind of oblivious making him a very human character, and he does see the big picture too as he is fine with Rose adventuring with the Doctor. Jackie is the concerned Mom who is single and lonely, but also practical, once Rose’s work get’s destroyed by the Doctor when he is trying to stop the Nestene Consciousness, Jackie is the one trying to help Rose get money and find work.

The Nestene Consciousness – It is great seeing this antagonist again, though the bad CGI was worse than the tentacles that were props used in “Spearhead from Space.” I’ll take real props and models over okay or bad CGI any day. Still a great character though, this creature is a survivor from the Time War and just trying to live. It knows it is more powerful than us so sees it having a right to Earth by that alone. As a desperate refugee you can kind of see how desperation probably lead it to thinking that way. RIP Nestene Consciousnesses of the Time War.

The Consequences of the Time War – The Nestene is the first of the refugees we will meet and shows us for the first time, the Doctor is not all good and has done and been a part of great wrongs…the Time War being one of the greatest of these. Because of these he and the Universe is scarred and episode shows that without explicitly telling us. It is brilliant.

Okay: The Doctor’s Past Regenerations – We see that the Doctor has lived for a long time when a conspiracy theorist shows Rose pictures of the 9th Doctor throughout Time. Sadly there is no reference to the other Doctors, which I think doesn’t help the episode. We get that later, but this time it would have been nice to see that the 9th Doctor was connected to the ones before.

Con: The Special Effects – I’ll stress what I said before, give me models and props over bad CGI anyday. The bad CGI shows in this first season and doesn’t help the case at all. In many ways it limits creativity and the realness of it since the Doctor is just talking to a Green or Blue Screen in the end. If it was good it wouldn’t be so bad, but when there is bad CGI it really stands out.

I recommend this episode for sure. Christopher Eccleston is great as the Doctor, and the episode begins Rose’s arc into self confidence and the Doctor’s healing and dealing with the consequences from the Time War…which is an arc I’ll be covering later and eventually doing an entry about. This is where I think people should start who don’t know about Doctor Who, it introduces you to the world, the Doctor and the adventure as well as setting a few arcs in motion that payoff later in this new series.

My Final Score for this episode is 9 / 10. It is very good.

christopher eccleston Ninth Doctor