The 4th Doctor – Season 18, Serial 4 – “State of Decay” – The Doctor and Romana Against Ancient and New Vampires

For the first review for Vampire Weekends (Some reviews will be posted before the weekend initially since started event later into October then I wanted) I was curious to see what other ways “Doctor Who” had done vampires as there is always the sci. fi. twist in the supernatural in the show. I had already reviewed “The Vampires of Venice” during the 11th Doctor’s run so it was fun to go to Classic Who and find “State of Decay.” This is a more classic vampire tale in some ways but also stays true to the sci. fi. nature of “Doctor Who” and is part of what makes the show so fun. Without getting into spoilers I do recommend this serial as it is a good story even if I wish it didn’t have Adric and that they’d expanded on some story elements further.

The serial was directed by Peter Moffat and written by Terrance Dicks.

Trapped in E-Space the Doctor (Tom Baker) and Romana (Lalla Ward) investigate a mysterious medieval planet ruled by three ancient mysterious beings who have repressed all knowledge on the planet as they discover their origins and who they serve.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Vampire Planet and the Mysteries of E-Space – The TARDIS is trapped in E-Space and the Doctor and Romana having to find a way out back to their universe is a good base challenge. Add onto that a mysterious medieval planet run by vampires that has advanced but old technology as a part of it and you have a compelling premise.

The Rebels – Among the rebels you have Tarak who drives the fight and helps the Doctor and Romana and is killed for it, the old leader Kalmar who is convinced by seeing the King Vampire in the technology the Doctor helped fix and Ivo the village leader who joins the rebels after his son is eaten by the Three Who Rule. These are the most compelling of the rebels and work as support characters.

The Three Who Rule – The Three Who Rule were originally human astronauts called into E-Space by the King Vampire so they could help him return and conquer the galaxy. They are fascinating though we never see their path to corruption only them as having ruled for 1000 years over the humans already on the Vampire Planet. Camilla and Zargo were the face of the rulers as King and Queen but Aukon was the true ruler as he was in contact with the Ancient King Vampire who had given them their psychic powers, super strength and had mutated them. He was able to shut them both down even when they were in a bloodlust and ready to kill Romana and Adric. They are all such fun villains and I wish we could have learned more about who they were before before they were mutated as Zargo and Camilla love one another so I was curious if it predated their mutation and if it existed when they were still humans.

The Idea of the Ancient Vampires – The idea of ancient alien vampires who ruled the universe is cool the Time Lords being the ones to stop them works too as well as their reach being so vast all alien cultures had vampire myths. It is a shame the vampire leader’s portrayal wasn’t better.

K-9 – K-9 is funny and great as leads the storming of the castle and we get emotion from him too as he hates failing the Doctor. Easily the most underrated hero of the episode and even saves the rebels in the end.

Romana – Lalla Ward is wonderful as the Romana. She has just as much sass as the Doctor and only got captured because Adric was hypnotized. She also is on par with problem solving as the Doctor. I can’t wait to see more stories with her. She’s one of the best companions.

The Doctor – Tom Baker is amazing as the Doctor. He is funny and had some great sarcastic jokes to the Vampire Lords and also has moments of empathy too as we see him compliment Romana for helping him find the answer to stop the King Vampire and we see his leadership when he rouses the rebels to fight and attack the tower. This story really showed why he is one of my favorite Doctors.

The Cons:

Adric – Adric is a stowaway on the TARDIS and his doing so just causes problems. Romana only got captured because Adric was captured and she was trying to save him and he is just arrogant and mean in every interaction with her and the Doctor. What an awful companion.

The Missing Corruption Story Behind the Three Who Rule – Why did the Three Who Rule give into the power offer of the King Vampire? I get the immortality draw but beyond that why did they give up their humanity to enslave their fellow human beings? There was a missing step that we never see and was never explained in their path to corruption from scientists and explorers to monsters.

The King Vampire Presentation – We get what looks like a giant bat on the scanner in the rebel camp and giant hand in the summoning area of the planet. There isn’t any scare factor and the prop for the King Vampire looked like a toy. It was a shame as I could see they wanted to go for a monster that Time Lords feared the execution was just awful though.

If we had learned more about the corruption of the astronauts and seen how they lost their humanity the story would have been stronger. They were once scientists so why did they give that up for power? If that had been answered the serial would have been great, even with how annoying and unnecessary Adric is to the story. The serial is still good though and the 4th Doctor and Romana are fantastic together.

Final Score: 8 / 10 A solidly good Classic Doctor Who story.

“Agent Carter” Season 1 – A Solid Espionage Thriller That Just Needed to Flesh out the Ideology of the Villains

“Agent Carter” season 1 is a solid espionage show with the potential to be great. This MCU has some standout performances with Haley Atwell’s continuing to be memorable as Agent Carter, D’Arcy as Edwin Jarvis and Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark. They carry the show when the action isn’t and I do recommend this show to any MCU fan.

The series was created by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.

The story follows Agent Peggy Carter (Haley Atwell) as she must face the sexism in the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR) and dealing with the actions of the mysterious Leviathan when Howard Stark’s (Dominic Cooper) inventions are stolen, leaving him a fugitive seeking Agent Carter’s aid.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The espionage thriller is great and Agent Carter having to face Leviathan and her co-workers gives high stakes and an arc for the show as she proves herself to those around her. It works.

Action with Consequences – This show kills a lot of SSR agents and civilians. You feel the threat of Leviathan from the get-go and most characters you meet are dead b the end of the season. I did not expect this much murder in an abc show.

The SSR Agents – The SSR agents are given depth over time but most start out as pretty bland and annoying. Jack and Daniel get the most development and survive the season. Their boss and quite a few co-workers don’t. They aren’t incompetent though, so that helps.

Howard Stark – Dominic Cooper’s Howard Stark is super memorable and fun. He’s a playboy inventor who like his future son Tony creates most of the problems by his recklessness. We also see he blames himself for Steve’s disappearance and it takes Peggy helping him through that guilt to find himself again and for good reason as he has Steve Roger’s blood which he gives to Peggy at the end of the episode.

Edwin Jarvis – James D’Arcy’s Edwin Jarvis was my favorite character on the show. He is the reluctant partner in adventure but is risking it all for Peggy by the end. He is a good friend to both Peggy and Howard and I loved seeing how the show developed that friendship. His dry humor is also a joy and the chemistry he has with Peggy Carter.

Agent Peggy Carter – Haley Atwell is amazing once against as Agent Peggy Carter. Her arc is facing her grief over the loss of Steve Rogers and learning to trust and make friends again outside of showing the SSR how much they need her and facing their awful sexism. We get to see her meet up with the Howling Commandos in Europe as well as we learn more about Leviathan and see the proto-Black Widows.

The Zola Reveal – Zola is in the same prison with the Leviathan Doctor and we see how comfortable he is, most likely having already put forward his plan to infiltrate the SSR and later SHIELD. Toby Jones is simply fantastic as this mad scientist.

The Cons:

Forgettable Supporting Cast – Most of the SSR agents have memorable moments but are forgettable. It is sad given how often they die. There was just something missing beyond the text of the episodes. They needed more dimension.

Leviathan’s Lack of Philosophy and Ideology – Leviathan wants to destroy the United States and that is all we know. Is that really all their ideology is? Right now they are a far less interesting HYDRA.

Leviathan’s Agents – Like Leviathan the agents are surface. We have a Doctor who hypnotizes people and lost people from Stark Tech and Dottie, a proto-Black Widow abused to become a weapon. Both have interesting backstories but are only one-dimension presentationwise. It is a shame as these are the villains of the season.

If Leviathan’s ideology had been better explored and Dottie and the Doctor feel like more than a one-dimensional threat the show could have been great. Even the more forgettable SSR agents got explored and the leads are all fantastic. I’m excited to watch season 2 and this is a good first season worth checking out for any MCU fan.

Final Score: 8.3 / 10

“Star Wars: Visions” Season 1 – Intriguing Stories With Beautiful Animation That Fit Right Into the Star Wars Universe

“Star Wars: Visions” is a great anime anthology show that I hope gets more seasons. This series gives stories that fit so well into the Star Wars Universe. I’ll be grading each episode individually in this review and listing them from the episode I liked least and ending with the one I liked most and give a final score for the season at the end. So this is a SPOILER review of season 1 of the show. Before I get into SPOILERS this is a show I highly recommend though. The stories are compelling and the animation is beautiful. They really chose great collaborators for this series.

So without further ado, here are the reviews.:

9) “The Twins”

Ep. 3, Directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi, Written by Hiromi Wakabayashi and animated by Studio Trigger.

The premise to this episode is promising with two twins born from the dark side of the force and used to create a superweapon. Sadly that is where it ends as the brother is randomly good and any logic is thrown out the door with them fighting in the vacuum of space and the brother surviving being on top of a ship and jumping to hyperspace. Leaps of logic can be explained but not without setup. The writing sucks and nothing is explored. The animation and voice acting are good at least.

Score: 5 / 10

8) “T0-B1”

Ep. 6, Directed by Abel Góngora, Written by Yuichiro Kido and animated by Science SARU.

This episode is harmless and takes no chances. Really my biggest issue is how a robot can use the force is never explained. This is a fun adventure though and the Jedi professor is killed so there are stakes.

Score: 7 / 10

7) “The Elder”

Ep. 7, Directed and written by Masahiko Otsuka and animated by Studio Trigger.

“The Elder” is beautifully animated and poses some cool ideas in the ex-Sith Elder. Sadly it fails in stakes as the apprentice survives when he should have died so the Jedi Master is back to status quo by the end.

Score: 7.2 / 10

6) “The Duel”

Ep. 1, Directed by Takanobu Mizuno, written by Takashi Okazaki and animated by Kamikaze Douga.

Stylistically this is the most unique of the episodes. The reason I don’t rate it higher is how much was planned. Our not-Jedi fights a Sith Bandit Leader and seems to be collecting Kyber Crystals. The mercs were defending the village from the bandits but the not-Jedi doesn’t interact until it looks like they are losing. I wanted more clarity whether it was all chance or the not-Jedi’s plan all along. Still the duel is great and the aesthetics of the episode rock.

Score: 7.8 / 10

5) “Tatooine Rhapsody”

Ep. 2, Directed by Taku Kimura, Written by Yasumi Atarashi and animated by Studio Colorido.

This episode is fun as a Padawan escapes from Order 66 and is taken in by a rebellious Hutt who’s forming a rock band. In the end Boba Fett takes in the Hutt but the band rescues him with their first finished concert and Jabba becomes their sponsor. This episode is so good and wholesome. Only reason it isn’t higher is the music from the band doesn’t always work. They are good but not great.

Score: 8 / 10

4) “Akakiri”

Ep. 9, Directed by Eunyoung Choi, Written by Yuichiro Kido and animated by Science SARU.

“Akakiri” is a great story with not great execution. It has a Jedi return to a planet to help his former lover and he saves her and the planet but joins the dark side. The problem is pacing and execution as it largely depends on flashbacks and the Sith is one-dimensional.

Score: 8.2 / 10

3) “Lop and Ochō”

Ep. 8, Directed by Yuki Igarashi, written by Sayawaka and animated by Geno Studio.

This is an episode with consequences that I wish had gone deeper as Lop was an Imperial slave given freedom by Ochō and her father yet they work with the Empire until the father rebels but Ochō goes full collaborator. The characters and action are all good though and it sets up future drama between the adopted siblings as they are the ones in full control of the family legacy as Lop is now a Jedi standing against the Empire.

Score: 9 / 10

2) “The Village Bride”

Ep. 4, Directed by Hitoshi Haga who co-wrote the episode with Takahito Oonishi and animated by Kinema Citrus.

This episode is an explorations of Jedi philosophy as a Jedi and her partner return to her former Master’s homeworld and face a bandit threat as the local village is trading the princess for peace and we see her marriage to her love beforehand and her drive from duty. In the end the Jedi saves her and we see how the people are connected to the force. The princess and her husband and the Jedi and her friend are the compelling relationships explored. It is a great episode.

Score: 9.4 / 10

1)”The Ninth Jedi”

Ep. 5, Directed and written by Kenji Kamiyama and animated by Production I.G.

“The Ninth Jedi” is a great episode with so much misdirection. It starts with a mysterious man who looks like a Sith calling all Jedi to a Jedi Temple where lightsabers are being constructed again after the form was lost. It is later revealed most of the Jedi are Sith and the one who called them is a Jedi. It is a great episode that sees 2 young characters learn what it means to be a Jedi. I loved this episode and the misdirection only makes the story stronger.

Score: 10 / 10

This is a series I highly recommend I can’t wait to see what future seasons brings.

Final Score: 8.8 / 10

Captain Benjamin Sisko – An Exploration of Why He is My Favorite Captain in “Star Trek”

Captain Sisko is my favorite captain in all of “Star Trek.” This is a character who has an amazing character arc, is a father, mentor, friend, Emissary and starfleet Captain navigating a pre-war Starfleet and Starfleet at War against both the Klingons and later the Dominion. All these aspects and more defined him as he was one of the Captains honest about humanity’s history of oppression (specifically the United States’s history where his family is from) and it informed his decisions and how he always tried to act with justice in every situation and grew over the course of the show. I’ll explore these aspects more below and am so grateful to Avery Brooks for bringing this amazing character to screen.

Also this will contain SPOILERS for the entire run of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”

Father and Mentor – One of the defining aspects of Benjamin Sisko from the very first episode of “Deep Space Nine” is his role as a father and mentor. We see him raising Jake as single father and how he supports Jake as he eventually becomes a Federation journalist. He is also mentor to countless members of the crew with the standout being example Jake’s Ferengi friend Nog. He is the one who helps guide Nog to the reasons he wants to join Starfleet and after supports him as he continues to rise in the ranks after the Academy (and he is the one to write Nog’s recommendation to the Academy). This role he plays as father and mentor is demonstrated in the time he makes for people to get to know them or simply to be with them, like with his son and the many adventures they have over the course of the show. He is truly a great example of both roles in fiction as a whole.

Captain – Benjamin Sisko begins as a Commander of Deep Space Nine but is eventually made Captain over the course of the show and given a ship with a cloak known as the Defiant. It is fascinating to see how he gets there as he has to navigate the politics around Bajor, Cardassia and those like the Dominion in the Delta Quadrant. Major Kira his second-in-command and representative for Bajor wants him gone initially but comes to respect him for the choices he makes as a leader. It is his leadership as Captain that really stands out as he guides his crew through both the Klingon and Dominion Wars and navigates Starfleets relationship to the many groups in the region. His perspective evolves over time too as he is at first hostile to the Maquis but especially due to a personal betrayal when his security officer Eddington joins them but comes to see their perspective both through his later wife Cassidy Yates and in Eddington’s last stand to save his people from the Jem’Hadar and Dominion who have come to wipe them out. He also becomes more ruthless in many ways too as he lives with a lie and actions he helped create to pull the Romulans into the war and break their neutrality because he was tired from all the friends and people who had been lost. He also didn’t give the cure to the Founders for their illness, agreeing with Starfleet to withhold it while the conflict was still in full swing. While at the same time he was a big part of keeping the peace between the Romulans and Klingons who hated one another and prior to the Dominion War preventing some Starfleet Admirals from overthrowing the Federation government. He was a Captain who made a lot of difficult decisions but made the time to get to know his crew and his friendship with those like Jazdia were some of the deepest on the show. It was Benjamin’s being there for his crew and accepting the weight of his decisions while before war always attempting to keep the peace which is a big reason I respected his time as one. He also had to navigate his role as a Starfleet captain while being a representative to the prophets/wormhole aliens and what that meant to Bajor and his role as Emissary.

Emissary – The role of the Emissary added a level of complication to the life of Benjamin Sisko that he never asked for. He was considering resigning from Starfleet until the Wormhole Aliens/Prophets force him to confront his trauma from the death of his wife at the Battle of Wolf 359 from the Borg. This healing begins here though and through this role as Emissary we see him navigate Bajor’s politics and religion. This leads to him coming in conflict with Kai Winn at times who was only after power and saw him and the Federation as a threat against her’s being checked but also it lead to him going against the Federation as he keeps them from joining on the Prophet’s prompting when they predict it will only lead to more sorrow for Bajor if the Dominion sees them as a threat. He learns his mother was one of the Prophets which also changes his relationship to them and his role and relationship to Bajor, a planet he comes to know as home. Eventually his role comes to a head when his enemy and former occupier of Bajor Dukat becomes the Emissary for the Pah-Wraiths (The aliens who were trapped by the Prophets and seek only destruction) as after the Dominion War he stops them from destroying the galaxy, and is taken by the Prophets in the process. Seeing him navigate this role and teach as well as learn from the Prophets was a compelling aspect of his character and a fitting end too given his conversation with them in the pilot of the show.

Confronting History – One of the great things we see Benjamin Sisko do through the show is confront humanity and specifically the United States’s racist and classist history. We see this in “Past Tense” when he takes on the role of Gabriel Bell leading to the Bell riots and class and homelessness reform and later as Benny Russell a 1950’s sci. fi. write who is writing “Deep Space Nine” and the story of Captain Sisko. The racism and oppression of then is confronted showing it still living in the structural racism and racism against African-Americans and people of color in the present and Sisko calls that to account with Vic Fontaine’s holo-program’s era and setting and from that the racism that must always be confronted and faced to be changed. Sisko’s fight against racism, injustice, class and discrimination is just as relevant as it was when it first aired. It matters.

Loss and Sacrifice – The final aspects that I’ll be exploring that make Benjamin Sisko so dynamic are his sacrifice and the losses he experiences. We see how the loss of his wife in Wolf 359 defined him and eventually shaped his choosing to become commander on the station. We see the loss of Jazdia reaffirm his role as Emissary and reconnect with his family and their history. We also see how the loss of people hardened him too given his not letting Odo heal the Founders until the Dominion War is over and his lies and actions to bring the Romulans into the war against the Dominion. Loss hardened him but did not remove his love and empathy as he marries Cassidy Yates and even has a son with her though even that he loses in the end as when the Prophets saved him after he stopped Dukat and the Pah-Wraiths I don’t think he was corporeal anymore as the Prophets aren’t and they saved him. He was like them so the Benjamin Sisko who was died to save the galaxy. It is a powerful and fitting story for the greatest of captains.

All these aspects lead to the dynamic character that is Captain Benjamin Sisko. Out of all the Captains in Starfleet how much I like them compared to Captain Sisko isn’t even close and I think his final sacrifice fits the character and the story with Dukat and the Prophets that began in the pilot. Benjamin Sisko is such a dynamic character and even this can’t give the character justice but it is my small way of exploring, explaining and honoring why he is my favorite captain in “Star Trek.”

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Season 6, Episode 26 – “Tears of the Prophets” – Bittersweet Victories and Tackling Purpose

“Star Trek Week” continues with “Tears of the Prophets.” “Tears of the Prophets” is a great episode but not a favorite. This is a story with some great ideas and consequences but doesn’t fully explore what those exactly are. This is in Season 6 so the Dominion War is in full swing so we see what cost the war is having on our characters. Both the heroes and villains have moments to shine and the action is fantastic and an episode I recommend.

The episode was directed by Allan Kroeker and written by Ira Steven Behr and Hans Beimler.

The Federation has an opportunity to turn the tide in the Dominion War but the choice to do so may lead to unintended consequences in the War.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The idea of a chance for a great victory for the Federation but at a cost both known and unknown is compelling. We are deep in the war and the episode doesn’t shy away from that.

The Action – The action in Chin’toka against the Dominion fleet and Cardassian orbital weapons platforms are great. We see so many ships destroyed and victory is won through intelligence and outsmarting the weapon platforms. The united fleet is shown to be needed too as Klingons, Romulans and Federation all lose ships in the battle to win.

The Defiant Crew – We got Garak onboard who expresses that not everyday one can liberate one’s own homeland. He also finds the vulnerability to the platforms as Nog is at the helm and O’Brien is the ones ro come up with the plan to trick the weapons platforms to destroy their own power source as Major Kira leads after Captain Sisko needs to leave the battle. The crew are all fantastic and Captain Sisko is great at leading the initial battle.

Weyoun and Damar – Combs’s Weyoun and Biggs’s Damar continue to be two of my favorite characters on the show and it was fun to see them in action this episode. We see Weyoun doubts about the Cardassians as allies (they were losing to the Klingons and had lost to the Federation in an earlier war so that should have always been there to some degree I’m guessing). I loved Damar doubting the Founders and continuing to try and show-up Weyoun who was consistently trying to find reasons to put him down. They really have a great dynamic and I love where their story ends up.

The Federation Alliance – We have Senator Letant and the Romulan Star Empire as the cautious party that is needed to win, General Martok who is reckless and Admiral Ross and Captain Sisko as the middle perspective of the need to win against the Dominion to stop their production of ships and soldiers. The Alliance politics are handled well and I like how Letant and Martok both get the chance to throw in some good barbs against each other as the Klingons and Romulans really do hate each other.

Gul Dukat – Alaimo continues to be amazing as Dukat as after “Waltz” he has become a Pah-Wraith cultist seeing them as his way to destroy Bajor and Captain Sisko. He clearly wielded influence still too as Weyoun and Damar both agreed to help him get the artifact and Damar still believes in him to some degree as you see Dukat as his mentor still meant something. He is very much a villain but it was the Pah-Wraith who wanted Jazdia dead not Dukat, which was an interesting touch and showed Dukat still was complex.

Jazdia Dax – This is Jazdia’s last episode and in this she has so much hope before here death as she learns her and Worf can have kids together. It is so sad that she dies and Terry Farrell owned this character so well. She captured her brains, caring, passion and drive so well and I like that Jazdia got moments with her friends through the episode before a Pah-Wraith possessed Dukat killed her. Dax does still live on though as Dr. Bashir does save the symbiont.

Captain Sisko – Avery Brooks plays a Captain conflicted so well as in this the Prophets warn him not to lead the mission to take Chin’toka. In the end he does after Admiral Ross forces him to choose though as we learn he’d been covering for Sisko being both Emissary and Starfleet Captain. Jazdia’s death breaks him though as he takes his baseball and leaves to his father’s restaurant on Earth as the Prophets have gone silent and he sees himself as the reason why.

The Cons:

Lovesick Quark and Dr. Bashir – I thought they were over this and good with being her friend. This is a writing cliche I hate and I didn’t like seeing Quark and Dr. Bashir being so immature. The hologram lounge singer Vic Fontaine was right to call them out for being clueless in the episode.

The Powerplay of the Pah-Wraiths – So Jazdia died and the Orbs stopped communicating with the Bajorans. I get this should feel bigger but it doesn’t given we just saw the Federation Alliance get deep into Cardassian and Dominion Space from the victory Captain Sisko was around for. For this reason they needed more of a win as they’ve done a lot less than the Prophets.

This is a great and flawed episode and one I highly recommend. This is the final of Season 6 and it has to accomplish a lot, most of what it does. It is really only the lovesickness plot and the Pah-Wraith consequence needing to be more that hold it back from being a favorite episode. “Deep Space Nine” is one of my favorite shows and the ideas and conflicts in this episode are a big reason why that is.

Final Score: 9 / 10 If Dr. Bashir and Quark had not been annoyingly lovesick and the Pah-Wraiths victory had done more this could have been a favorite episode. Still a great episode though.

“Good Omens” Season 1 – A Great Adaptation Exploring the Power in Choice and Destiny

“Good Omens” is a great adaptation of the book it is adapted from. The fact that one of the writers, Neil Gaiman is the creator is on display as these fantastic characters are brought to life on the screen. If you haven’t rad the book Good Omens I highly recommend doing so as this show captures why it is one of my favorite stories. I’d also recommend this show for Michael Sheen and David Tennant’s performances as they are the best parts in a show with so such a great cast. It is definitely worth your time and captures the tone of humor and drama of the book so extremely well.

The series was written and created by Neil Gaiman who co-wrote the original book with Terry Pratchett.

The story follows the angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and the demon Crowley (David Tennant) as they work to avert the apocalypse.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Tone and World – This is Gaiman’s and Pratchett’s world brought to life in the humor, factions of angels, demons and humans with an element of seriousness in the core relationships. This tone of comedic characters and moments meets drama works too and captures the feel of the book so well.

The Characters – The characters are what made the book great and this applies to the show as well due to some good writing and great performances. I’ll go into some of those here.

Gabriel – Jon Hamm’s Gabriel is great as the arrogant angel who just wants the war and final battle to start so the winner can be decided. He adds a level of threat to his performance and his talking down to Aziraphale and those around him works so well.

Death – Brian Cox’s performance as Death reminded me so much of Death in Discworld, Pratchett’s other work. He is serious but also not driven like the other Horsemen as when they are defeated he mentions he will always be around. He is incredibly chill and it made him standout.

Adam and Friends – Adam is the Anti-Christ who turns his hellhound into a dog named Dog whose arc is choosing to be human which he finds through his friends and choosing his adopted dad as his real dad over Lucifer. It is a great arc and Sam Taylor Buck does a good job as Adam.

Anathema and Newton – Another core relationship is Anathema the witch driven by the prophecies of Agnes Nutter as he is her descendant and Newton the descendant of the witchfinder who burned Agnes Nutter. They have a great arc as Newton finds confidence and Anathema destroys the prophecies, choosing her own future. Jack Whitehall and Adria Arjona both do a great job.

Aziraphale and Crowley – Sheen’s Aziraphale and Tennant’s Crowley make this show and make the book. They are the best couple and best friends. Their chemistry is fantastic and you see how they balance each other out as Aziraphale makes Crowley empathetic and Crowley makes Aziraphale crafty and rebellious. They complete one another in all the best ways and are two of my favorite characters on television.

The Power of Choice – Choice and the belief within choice is a defining theme of the book and show. Anathema, Adam, Crowley and Aziraphale all choose their own destiny and show the power in that choice and that is is greater than prophecy and the forces of Heaven or Hell.

Small Great Character Cameos – We have Benedict Cumberbatch voicing Lucifer in his brief but wonderful appearance and Derek Jacobi voicing Metatron. Both are small scenes with a big impact due to the amazing performances. Cumberbatch gave Lucifer sorrow when Adam rejected him as his son and Jacobi brought so much gravitas as Metatron.

Okay:

The Horsemen – Besides Death the other Horsemen are unmemorable. They try hamming it up and they do okay but none of the performances standout as much as Death. Pollution, Famine and War are all okay but I wish they’d done more or had more charisma.

The Demons and Angels – Like 3 of the 4 horsemen most of the demons and angels are standard. Beelzebub and Michael are big deals but none of them bring the gravitas of Gabriel or Metatron. They aren’t bad but for being otherworldy beings they don’t make much of an impact.

The Cons:

Pacing – This show could have been an episode shorter and would have been better as the show doesn’t rally pick up until near the end of episode 2. With a bit more finesse in the writing the show would have been perfect and solved this issue.

This was a great adaptation of one of my favorite books. There were so many standout performances that capture how memorable these characters created by Gaiman and Pratchett are. I’m worried about a season 2 but hopefully the writing here will be on display in that new season. This was a great show and is one of my favorites and is well worth your time.

Final Score: 9 / 10 A solidly great adaptation.

Smallville – Season 10, Episode 2 – “Shield” – Machinations of the Suicide Squad

“Smallville” really did a lot of the DC superhero stuff before the CW shows did as this episode gives us it’s version of the Suicide Squad. I had fun with this episode and appreciated it at least trying to approach larger themes and that it never framed Cat Grant as right as in this she’s a terrible character. So this was an enjoyable return to the show.

“Shield” was directed by Glen Winter and written by Jordan Hawley.

The story follows Clark (Tom Welling) as he must protect a new co-worker who might be replacing Lois (Erica Durance) at the Daily Planet while Oliver Queen (Justin Hartley) investigates Rick Flag (Ted Whittall).

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Exploring Heroism – One theme that is explored in the episode is what heroism means. In this season anti-vigilante laws are common and because of it Clark and Oliver are running up against hate from people. From here they tackle whether to look after only their friends and loved ones or everyone. It runs as a theme through the story.

Exploring Trust – Trust is another theme as Lois is working abroad in Egypt and we learn Chloe faked her own death. In both cases Clark and Oliver learn to let go and to trust their partners in their journeys as we see that is what love is.

Superheroes and Coming Out – Vigilantes and superheroes are framed as a “lifestyle” and words you often here from conservatives targeting LGBTQ people. This episode was written in 2010 and the writers must have known that there would be that association. Because of this it was a positive affirmation of LGBTQ people as Cat Grant the one expressing the prejudice was clearly shown to be in the wrong thankfully. she was prejudice and discrimination wrapped up in cats and pink like a Professor Umbridge from Harry Potter.

Clark Kent / The Blur – Clark is the only really good character in the episode as the Suicide Squad and Oliver are okay but feel one note or not wholly defined in the story. Clark does and Tom Welling carries this episode. He’s the most compassionate character in the story.

The Suicide Squad – We learn at the end of the episode that the Suicide Squad was putting tracking devices onto the heroes. Deadshot’s target wasn’t Cat but Clark, Plastique targets Carter / Hawkman and Rick Flag shoots the tracker onto Oliver. What their agenda is is unknown but all are believed dead so can do their missions under the radar. This version of Deadshot is like a cowboy and stands out the most of the group. Plastique is the undercover operative and Rick leads and recruits as he tries to recruit Oliver to their team. The plan from Rick seems to be to have a black ops group to stand against the threat coming and do the jobs others can’t.

The Cons:

The Special Effects – We get some bad explosions and slow-mo. It made the show look cheap when they were used too and I can see why the show avoides them.

Hawkman Kisses Lois – Carter Hall / Hawkman is talking about love and imagining his lost wife where Lois is and ends up kissing Lois. She smacks him thankfully. Why did they put this in? Carter was fine until he kissed her. He apologizes but the moment he kissed her his sad romantic story and lore feels false.

Cat Grant – Cat Grant escaped an abusive boyfriend and is taking care of her son. She’s also really prejudiced against vigilantes and is a surprisingly cruel character. When she isn’t bashing heroes she’s bashing Lois for defending them. I hope in the show she gets better given how much she likes Clark and he is one of those heroes.

Special effects, Cat Grant and Carter’s kissing of Lois are the biggest issues that kept this from being a good episode. It was still fun though, especially whenever heroism was explored as an idea or the Suicide Squad was in action. It was a shame we didn’t see them do more beyond putting trackers on the heroes.

Final Score: 7.3 / 10

Arrow – Season 2, Episode 16 – “Suicide Squad” – Moments of Good Brought Down by Flashbacks

Seeing how much I loved James Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad” and how compelling and how well they worked as a concept in film I decided to explore how well they’ve worked in the DC shows (live-action and animated) and with that we are starting with “Arrow.” “Arrow” is a show I get the appeal of, it is darker in theme and we get a lot of great Batman villains in it and I do like the comic book Green Arrow as well as the times I’ve seen him in most animated shows and films. You can tell this is early “Arrow” and I can see why I never got to season 2 after watching this. There are some good ideas here but the writing and presentation keep it from reaching good or great. I’ll explore what I mean by that deeper into the review.

The episode was directed by Larry Teng and written by Bryan Q. Miller and Keto Shimizu.

The story follow Arrow (Stephen Amell) as he faces threats from Slade (Manu Bennett) who has arrived in Star City. At the same time Diggle (David Ramsey) is pulled into A.R.G.U.S. by Amanda Waller (Cynthia Adia Robinson) to stop a Warlord he saved in Afghanistan as he must work with former criminals he put away who are part of Waller’s Task Force X.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Threat of Slade – The driving force behind Arrow’s actions through this episode is the threat that Slade will kill his friends and family. It feels real and Manu Bennett does a good job selling it as he stalks Arrow on one of his daily missions. This created the tension that worked best in the episode.

Task Force X / The Suicide Squad – Task Force X / The Suicide Squad is fun in this when they can finally act. The problem is we mostly see Waller and behind the scenes and Diggle and Lyla are the face of the mission and we know they won’t die. Deadshot was annoying but he was humanized in regards to his money going to his daughter and Jai Courtney White’s Bronze Tiger did get to make a kill. Shrapnel was wasted though and served no point on the mission. Waller is great though as the driver of the mission and I liked her having history with Arrow.

Moments of Arrow’s Humanity – Arrow is constantly dealing with his fear of losing people and it drives his actions from pushing Sarah Lance away to his going to any means including working with Waller to stop Slade. In the end he and Sarah continue their romance. Ammell is good as the hero not trying to kill even if the drama is a little predictable.

Diggle – Diggle felt like the heart of this episode as he is the one questioning Waller and helping Lyla realize where she stands. He is also always looking out for his friends and even saves Deadshot, his former enemy. David Ramsey does a solid job being the heart of the episode.

The Cons:

The Flashbacks – All we get is where Lyla and Diggle met and when he saved the Warlord. It felt pointless and like it was just making the episode 40 minutes. Nothing we learned gave us anything new about the characters. They were the same people in the past as they are now.

The Warlord – He’s presented as possibly redeemed but is still just as bad making Diggle’s conflict over his actions in the war framed as wrong. There isn’t much self-awareness here and the character feels flat and is just a bad villain who in the end is just after money.

Slade’s Lack of Action – Slade talked a big game but didn’t actually do anything this episode. Instead he’s letting Arrow find out who he is which is dumb if he wants revenge. He’s clearly tracking Arrow so why doesn’t he act?

Shrapnel Doesn’t Do Anything – Sean Maher was wasted. We don’t even get to see what Shrapnel can do. Slipknot did more in Ayer’s “Suicide Squad.” Why have a great actor if you don’t let him do anything? They could have cut some of the romance plot to strengthen the B Plot and the story would have been better for it.

In the end this story was okay. I liked when the Suicide Squad actually got to do missions and when we weren’t in flashbacks the action was driving forward. I feel like given the title of the episode more emphasis should have been given to the B plot and more characters explored beyond Deadshot. The episode drags and it shouldn’t given the premise and threat of Slade. Tighter writing could have made this story good or great.

Final Score: 6.3 / 10

Star Wars: The Bad Batch – Season 1, Episode 15 – “Return to Kamino” – The Ideology of Crosshair

“Return to Kamino” or “Finale, Part 1” that would have been a favorite if not for the cliffhanger and the feeling that the stakes kind of fall apart at the end. The episode is still great and does a lot with the characters, so it is one I recommend. I can’t wait to see how the last episode wraps things up now that the show is getting a season 2.

The episode was directed by Nathaniel Villanueva and written by Matt Michnovetz.

Crosshair uses Hunter to trap Clone Force 99 in returning to Kamino.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Returning to Kamino – Crosshair setting the trap on Kamino was fitting as we get a lot of callbacks to the pilot episode and see just how empty the planet is now that the Empire has taken all the people and technology off. Clone Force 99 feels freaked and it is only through Omega’s knowledge of Nala Se’s secrets that they are able to secretly get on the base.

Nala Se’s Lab – We get a moment in Nala Se’s secret lab where we learn Omega and Clone Force 99 were made. There is sadness and wonder in the scene and you can tell how much Omega misses Nala Se as well as the clones uncomfortablenss facing their own mortality and origin.

The Confrontation – In the confrontation with Crosshair when he springs his trap we learn he got rid of his chip but is still very much an Imperial fascist as he believes Clone Force 99 is superior and blames the rest of the squad for leaving him behind and not joining him. It is tragic but Crosshair is clearly a villain who I think will likely get some form of redemption and die next episode. His connection to his squad humanizes him but he dehumanizes others in his belief of Imperial ideology where he sees himself as better than everyone else. It is a great scene and to counter his hurt Hunter takes him with them as they make their escape.

Kamino’s Destruction – The final scene is Rampart destroying Kamino’s capitol, ending their influence as a faction as their technology and people have been incorporated into the empire. It is a chilling scene showing just how powerful the Empire is as Clone Force 99 attempt their escape as the buildings are destroyed.

The Cons:

Crosshair’s Lack of Plan – Crosshair takes out his dark trooper squad mates and after blaming his former squad gives them nothing as to why they should join the Empire. He had a complete lack of plan beyond trapping them and that was dissappointing. He had nothing to offer them.

Cliffhanger Ending – Kamino is getting destroyed as Clone Force 99 is still trapped on the planet. They are most likely all going to escape as even Crosshair still has a role to play so the tension of them being trapped ruins the cliffhanger as they will get rescued or use one of the underwater tunnels to barely escape and get back to their ship.

This episode was great at exploring who Crosshair was and had become and would have been better if his plan had been better of the cliffhanger had felt like it had actual stakes. Both those things kept it from being a favorite, though the Empire destroying Kamino really illustrates that the era of “The Clone Wars” is long gone.

Final Score: 9 / 10

“Doctor Who” Doctors Tier List

This is my first Tier List for the blog and it was fun to make. The list originally included the War Doctor, Jo Martin Doctor and the Valeyard but I just want to count the numbered Doctors since they are the Doctors whose episodes I review. It also keeps things less complicated as including the Valeyard opens up including the Dream Lord. The numbered Doctors who have series and films are more likely to be known by people and the numbered Doctors are the Doctors who have complete arcs for the most part that we see. I’ll get into the reasons for why I did the ratings below and also share the Tier maker.

Here is the Tier Maker:

https://tiermaker.com/categories/tv-and-movies/doctor-who-4810

Here are the Doctors and the reason I have them on the list as I do. Also Jodi Whittaker’s 13th Doctor isn’t done yet and there is still more of Classic Doctor Who I will be watching that could change this rating. This has been pretty solid so far though and I’ll include my “Top 5 Favorite Doctors in “Doctor Who”” below. I also don’t hate any of the Doctors, some I just like more than others.

C Tier:

Sixth Doctor / 6th Doctor – Colin Baker’s 6th Doctor made a bad first impression. He was easily the cruelest of the Doctors and that caused me to initially dislike him. He did grow on me over time though as it was shown that regenerating had caused him to be unstable. I still dislike his mismatched outfit and he is my least favorite of the Doctors. Colin Baker’s later episode do give him the complexity of the Doctor though and I wish he’d gotten better stories.

Fifth Doctor / 5th Doctor – Where Colin Baker’s 6th Doctor could be cruel and active Peter Davison’s Doctor was kind and passive. He also suffered from an issue another Doctor on this list has. He has too many companions so it was hard to get to know what drove him or for the companions themselves to be fully developed. He was easily the most human of the Doctors and still captures the Doctor as always running away as at one point he is once again made President of Gallifrey and promptly runs away. His passivity and companion cluttering made it difficult to know or appreciate this Doctor fully.

B Tier:

Eleventh Doctor / 11th Doctor – Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor could be the kindest and the cruelest of the Doctors and was always very attached to humanity. My problem on why he isn’t higher is his treatment of Clara where he fetishizes her as “The Impossible Girl” and hits on her and his refusal to open up fully with his companions given how much he asked of them. Smith was good but he was all of Moffat’s worst tropes in how he treated Clara and some companions and his need to be portrayed as untouchable superhero, even when he was wrong. If you can win a fight just by saying who you are multiple times, it takes away the flaws and relatability of the character and keeps him from being rated higher.

Thirteenth Doctor / 13th Doctor – Jodi Whittaker’s 13th Doctor has some of the problems of the 5th and 11th Doctor. She’s got too many companions like the 5th Doctor and is super special and wins because of it like the 11th Doctor. She also goes between kind and cruel similar to Matt Smith’s Doctor. For me the reason I rated her higher is she does open up eventually and she never objectifies her companions. I’m curious to see where the rest of her story goes as before the last plot reveal in the last season final it felt like Chibnall had finally found the flow and voice for the character.

First Doctor / 1st Doctor – William Hartnell is the classic and I loved that unlike his later incarnations he had to win through brains and intelligence and couldn’t sonic screwdriver himself out of situations. He was distant from humanity (a trope in Doctors I like) but became attached over time and never stopped being the rebel calling out Gallifrey and people they run into on organizations for their flaws. His biggest flaw is a lot of what came out of the era as he abandons his granddaughter Susan at one point and there is some sexism that comes out in some of the text of some episodes (a fact the 12th Doctor calls out). I rate him higher than 11 and 13 because his flaws are more apparent and the fact that this Doctor couldn’t depend on magical plot devices to solve problems unlike 11 and 13 who can sometimes solve problems just by saying their name. The 1st Doctor never got that luxury.

Eighth Doctor / 8th Doctor – Paul McGann has one of the worst Doctor stories (The Film he was introduced in) and “The Night of the Doctor” a short episode of how he regenerates into the War Doctor. He is the most human of the Doctors, at one point expressing he is half-human. I loved the vulnerability Paul McGann gives the character and his desire to save people. He really deserves a mini-series and I hope one can be made someday as that could probably put him higher on the list.

Seventh Doctor / 7th Doctor – Sylvester McCoy is amazing as the detached Sherlockesque Doctor. Most of the stories I’ve watched weren’t bad but he was the strongest part in them. Like the 1st Doctor he had to think his way out of situations and outsmart his enemies. He is often described as the chess master and it is fitting. He is also more guarded about his identity and keeps who he is from Ace. I hope he is brought back in a special at some point as I’m curious how this Doctor who is the most alien in a lot of ways would interact with the others. He is by far the most mysterious and I like how intelligence is how he solves his problems.

A Tier:

Second Doctor / 2nd Doctor – Patrick Troughton’s 2nd Doctor is probably tied with 9th Doctor at this point if I were to re-do my “Top 5 Favorite Doctors in “Doctor Who.”” Troughton has the cleverness of the 7th Doctor but is still very human as he plays the clown to trick his enemies. He also clashed with the 3rd Doctor and being around himself brought out the grumpy side of his personality. He was also one of the Doctor’s who was very attached to his companions and I loved how his time with them shapes him as they reveal his courage, empathy and rebelliousness. His story also ends in tragedy too as his regeneration into the 3rd Doctor is forced upon him by the Time Lords. The more stories I watch from this Doctor the more I appreciate Troughton and what he brought to this fantastic character.

Ninth Doctor / 9th Doctor – Christopher Eccleston is wonderful as the first Doctor who was “Last of the Time Lords.” He is the Doctor facing his trauma and PTSD and he has an amazing arc as he goes from someone full of rage ready to kill, to a person who will refuse to kill the Dalek Emperor. The Time War and the consequences of that war shaped him and out of it he is trying to find hope again. He lives for the adventure as all Doctors do, but being with Rose forces him to confront himself and his pain and rage and it gives us one of the best arcs in the entire series.

S Tier:

Fourth Doctor / 4th Doctor – Tom Baker is a classic and the reason for it is he captures both the Doctor’s detachment from humanity but also his willingness to confront the big questions. He has the chance to end the Daleks for good and chooses life and we see him constantly forced by the Time Lords to solve the problems they want him to. His protesting of this but also willingness to embrace his role as a leader in Gallifrey sets him apart from other Doctors. I think this comes out of his time in exile as the 3rd Doctor. He is cautious and doesn’t push the Time Lords the way other Doctors do. He is also Sherlockesque as Baker captures his love of a good puzzle to solve and of course his standing for life in the universe against the Cybermen and Daleks.

Third Doctor / 3rd Doctor – I love Jon Pertwee’s 3rd Doctor. He is the Doctor forced to stay on Earth in exile until the Time Lords change things and this time brings out the Doctor’s humanity in his empathy but alienness as he calls out the problems humans cause. I liked how he helped the Brig but that they clashed as he takes his exile in stride and hates authority. Seeing the Doctor forced to be in one place and the limitations that come with that made Pertwee all the more memorable as his brains and intelligence and depending on his human allies showed a vulnerability many of the Doctors were missing. There was a sadness and tragedy I loved about this Doctor from his leaving Jo when she gets married and him not saying a word to him being confined to Earth when all he wants is to travel all of space and time. Pertwee gives this Doctor so much dimension, making him a favorite.

Tenth Doctor / 10th Doctor – David Tennant’s 10th Doctor is the Doctor who got me into “Doctor Who” as a whole. I loved his cleverness, anger, sadness and relationship to the universe and his companions. He had the arrogance of the 1st and 11th Doctor but had consequences for that arrogance as when he tried to shape time and space to his will he would lose people and companions. He was defined by the Time War and his inability to save Gallifrey made him reckless at time as he was very much a Doctor who lived in the moment or got so connected to companions he would form relationships to new companions as a rebound. The 10th Doctor is always running and it is that running from is regret that makes him so vulnerable and interesting. He also isn’t as forgiving as some of the other versions of the Doctor as he will give a warning but will go to death or worse as other options as a reaction to those warnings being ignored. In this way the 10th Doctor is terrifying as his own vulnerability and loneliness made him reactive compared to his past and future selves. The 10th is so attached to being alive regeneration scares him and him finally making peace with that fear once again defined what made him so human, interesting and one of my favorite Doctors.

Twelfth Doctor / 12th Doctor – Peter Capaldi is my favorite of all the Doctors. I loved how he called out his past self for his sexism and his grappling with the mistakes of the Time War, 10th and 11th Doctors. The 12th Doctor strives above all to be good and to save everyone. He is the Doctor who has grappled with what he’s done during the Time War and grown from it, rather than reacting to it like the 10th and 11th Doctor. He is full of regret and the desire to not make the mistakes of the past. We see this in his detachment from Clara and putting down firm boundaries to not make past companion mistakes and just how much he believes in the good in others as he gives both Davros and Missy (his version of the Master) a chance for redemption and to grow and Missy unlike Davros takes that chance and puts in the work of growth, redemption and healing. I loved how this Doctor would risk it all because it is good and right and how his detachment came from a place of learning and not ego, unlike his past versions. Capaldi’s 12th is my favorite Doctor and everything I think the Doctor strives to be. Flawed, an idiot with a Box and doing good because it is right and that people are worth fighting for.

This was a fun Tier List to make and unpack and I’m curious what yours is if you are a “Doctor Who” fan as well.

Here is my “Top 5 Favorite Doctors in “Doctor Who” list as well.

Top 5 Favorite Doctors in “Doctor Who”