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Latest Discovery: Babylon 5

This isn’t my “latest” discovery per se as I started watching sometime last summer, but it was only recently that I finished the first season (yes, I’m slow). Oh. My. Goodness. How did I go so long without watching this show!? It’s amazing! It’s an excellent blend of philosophy and science fiction, something I haven’t seen in a very long time. And from what I understand, it only gets better, which boggles my mind a bit because I honestly can’t picture it getting any better than it is now.

Babylon 5 is the story of a space station that was established to help humans and aliens work out their differences and disagreements on neutral ground. Commander Jeffrey Sinclair is tasked with keeping it all from falling apart at the seams. Fortunately he has two loyal helpers in the forms of his First Officer Susan Ivanova and his Security Chief Michael Garibaldi. The ambassadors come from far and wide representing the needs of their people, and naturally they don’t always see eye-to-eye. But in the midst of their everyday grievances, there are hints of something much bigger at play, something that will either force them all to work together or drive them apart as they take separate sides.

The first season ends on a cliffhanger–a mysterious force has wiped out an entire Narn outpost, and Ambassador Delenn of the Minbari has enshrouded herself in a cocoon-like structure, hinting at some sort of impending transformation. It’s pretty impressive stuff, and I won’t be delaying starting season 2. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

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Doctor Who Review: Resolution *Contains Spoilers*

Doctor Who has given us a New Year’s special instead of a Christmas special this holiday season. Did it make up for the lackluster season 11? There be spoilers below…

As the trailers might have given away, “Resolution” signaled the return of the Daleks. This was a rather surprising development since Chris Chibnall was very adamant about not including any of the classic monsters in Jodie Whittaker’s first season as the Doctor (which makes me wonder if the slew of negative reviews made him desperate). I must say the Dalek parts were the best thing about the whole episode, and Chibnall managed to do something creative and new with them. What would happen if a Dalek got separated from its case? Apparently the answer is use a human as a puppet until a replacement case can be constructed.

Other than that, it was basically like the rest of season 11–bleh and meh. Oh, and having UNIT meet an undignified end at the hands of bureaucracy? That’s a step too far, Chibnall (though hopefully Kate Stewart is secretly continuing operations somewhere). I hate to say it, but I’m actually kind of glad we won’t be getting any more episodes until 2020; maybe that will give them a chance to correct some of the blandness that infected these latest episodes. If we had to get any episodes at all this year, though, I’m glad we got something like this. It was great to see a Dalek in action again. Hopefully it is a portent of better things to come for season 12.

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Doctor Who Review: The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos *Contains Spoilers*

We have arrived at the season finale, folks, and…well, I wish I could say that lots happened, but this has been such a lackluster season that it wouldn’t really be true. Still, there were some interesting concepts explored in this episode, and spoilers about all of them await any who venture further.

Remember the Stenza warrior from “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” not-so-affectionately dubbed Tim Shaw? Well, we found out what happened to him. He never actually made it back to his own planet, instead arriving on Ranskoor Av Kolos and being mistaken for a god. The locals just happen to be a race that is capable of creating and building anything with the power of their thoughts, making them the perfect vehicle for his revenge. But Tim isn’t the only one looking for revenge; Graham has learned the man responsible for his wife’s death is here…and he doesn’t care what the Doctor thinks about revenge.

This episode still had some of the bland bits that have been a problem with season 11, but on the whole I think I liked it. Yes, it wasn’t as epic as “Doomsday”, “Journey’s End”, “The Big Bang”, or “The Doctor Falls”, but it wasn’t the completely terrible mess that earlier episodes this season have been. Tim actually felt menacing in this episode, and Andinio and Delph were two representrally atives of a fascinating species that I hope we see in future episodes. I wish they had found a way to follow up with the Timeless Child plot thread from “The Ghost Monument”, though. Perhaps that will come in season 12, which, we learned, definitely will not be arriving until 2020. Granted, I haven’t really liked Jodie Whittaker, but I still think it’s a mistake to put the new Doctor on hiatus so soon after she arrived.

Since this was the season finale, there won’t be any new reviews for a few weeks. We do, however, have the New Year’s special “Resolution” to look forward to.

Please be Daleks, please be Daleks…

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Doctor Who Review: It Takes You Away *Contains Spoilers*

And we have one more episode left, ladies and gentlemen! Excited? Sad? A mix of emotions? Well, at least we got a solid episode this week, an episode that I was worried would be terrible but actually turned out to be really good. As always, spoilers await any who venture further.

The TARDIS arrives in Norway, and it isn’t long before the crew finds trouble in the form of a boarded-up old cabin with a single occupant inside. Young Hanne is terrified of the unseen monster that prowls outside their cabin; she is convinced it has already taken her father and is coming for her next. Slight problem, though–there is no monster outside her cabin. Speakers have been hidden around the property to make Hanne think there’s a monster outside. Why would her dad terrify her into staying indoors and then disappear? Could it have something to do with the mysterious mirror portal in his bedroom? What’s on the other side?

This was by far the best episode we’ve had all season. Don’t get me wrong; Whittaker still gives a very bland portrayal of the Doctor, which disappoints me since I thought she would have developed a personality by now, but the writing and the overall story were very much Doctor Who. Even the conscious universe that took the form of a talking frog is the proper bonkers plot development I have come to expect from the show in recent years. And the mirror dimension is probably the first genuinely interesting thing we’ve seen all season; I hope they are able to revisit it in some form in subsequent seasons.

Far and away the best part of this episode was Graham. He’s been my favorite part of the show for awhile now, and this week solidified why. His strength, his loyalty to Ryan and the Doctor, and his love of sandwiches all work together to create the stirring story of a man who lost the love of his life but managed to find a reason to keep living. If Graham is the first of Thirteen’s companions to get the axe, I will protest. Loudly.

Next week is the season finale, “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos”, which teases the return of a familiar face…or at least a familiar voice. Will the finale make up for the lackluster episodes we’ve had this season? Only one way to find out!

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Doctor Who Review: Kerblam! *Contains Spoilers*

Review time once again, ladies and gentlemen! And I have to say that “Kerblam!” was not the train wreck I was expecting. In fact, I would go so far as to say it’s the best episode we’ve had all season, which is something I definitely was not expecting to say last week. As always, spoilers await those who venture further.

The Doctor, Graham, Ryan, and Yaz decide to investigate Kerblam, the galaxy’s largest retailer, after the Doctor receives a package from Kerblam with “Help Me” written on the packing slip (also, let us take a brief moment to pause in silence and rejoice for the return of The Fez). Kerblam runs on 90% automation, but having the robots in charge of the humans is not the best way to make the humans happy. The humans feel like they ought to be happy they have jobs since so many have been replaced by machines, but the resentment starts to build until young Christopher decides to strike back.

I have to say that for the first time in season 11, I felt like I was watching a proper Doctor Who episode. Still not completely sold on Jodie Whittaker, but this week’s script definitely felt more Doctorish than it has in a long time. And the future problems it presented are something we see echoes with now; people are already asking how the rise in automation will affect job employment in the future. Solid writing for the minor characters was a huge plus, and Christopher actually felt like a villain. So many of the threats we’ve seen so far haven’t felt threatening at all, so to have someone who posed a legitimate threat was refreshing.

With such a refreshingly good episode as this, it makes me excited to see what “The Witchfinders” provides next week. Of course, now that I’m looking forward to the episode, it will probably be terrible.

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Doctor Who Review: Demons of the Punjab *Contains Spoilers*

I freely admit how pessimistic and skeptical I have been about season 11. However, I do believe that this week’s episode, “Demons of the Punjab”, is the best we’ve seen so far–best but still not perfect. As always, spoilers await all who venture further.

This week’s premise was certainly tantalizing–after Yaz receives a broken watch from her grandmother, she convinces the Doctor to take her to her grandmother’s past and discover why her grandmother won’t talk about the watch’s previous owner and how it got broken. The TARDIS arrives on the eve of young Umbreen’s wedding only to find she is engaged to a man who is very much not Yaz’s grandfather. Tensions are already running high because of the Partition, but things really reach a boiling point when the Vajarians, a race of assassins, are spotted in the forest by the body of the man who was supposed to officiate at Umbreen and Prem’s wedding.

Like I said, tantalizing premise…which was let down by the fact the Vajarians aren’t assassins anymore; they are witnesses. After their own planet was destroyed with no one to mourn it, they decided to dedicate their lives to remembering those who die alone and unmourned. It sounds nice, but I can’t help but feel let down at the lack of actual threats or stakes in this season. Pretty much everything can be resolved simply and nicely with no risk whatsoever. About the only time where I actually felt that lives were at stake was last week.

In spite of my disappointment on that front, I still think this was the best episode we’ve seen so far this season mainly because it had a strong mystery element that pulled you in and made you want to learn more. Also, it was pretty much the first time so far where Thirteen began to display a personality of her own. It didn’t last very long, but there were about five minutes where, for the first time in a long time, I felt as if I was seeing the Doctor again. And it felt great. I hope we have more moments where the Doctor finally shines through.

I’m not sure how I feel about next week’s episode, “Kerblam!”, about the galaxy’s largest retailer. Both the title and the premise seem a bit silly to me. I guess we’ll know in a week.

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Doctor Who Review: The Tsuranga Conundrum *Contains Spoilers*

We interrupt 30 Days of Gregorian Chant to bring you a review of the latest season 11 Doctor Who episode, “The Tsuranga Conundrum”. I have to admit, it was interesting to watch this episode in light of the rumors that there might not be a Christmas special this year. That particular bit of speculation has certainly caused season 11 to be viewed with more scrutiny, and with everything that happened in tonight’s episode…I can’t say I blame people one bit.

The Doctor et al. get separated from the TARDIS after being injured in a sonic mine explosion and finding themselves aboard a hospital ship. Naturally, an alien threat finds its way onto the ship as well. Except it’s not a huge threat like the Daleks; it’s a little threat known as Pting…little as in size; in reality he’s quite dangerous due to his propensity to eat anything and everything mechanical. A lot of people compared him to Stitch from Lilo & Stitch, and I have to say the comparison is apt. I actually kind of liked it because it reminded me of Stitch, but I have to admit he’s no Cyberman.

If I’m being honest, this episode felt kind of meh. It was better than I had expected but still kind of meh. Nothing really grabbed my attention or made me go “Wow!” and after five episodes, that’s a problem. And Thirteen felt so weak in this episode; Astos and General Cicero had more commanding presences than she did. Why is she so flaky? Why are these episodes not good? Mind you, I did like the introduction of the alien species where the males give birth to other males and the females give birth to other females. And Ryan’s backstory about his troubled relationship with his father definitely shed some interesting light on his character. I think Graham could help fill that father-figure void if only Ryan would let him.

Overall impression–this series is going downhill. I don’t like saying it, but Chris Chibnall lacks the same creative, passionate spark that Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat did, and the show is suffering because of it. Next week’s “Demons of the Punjab” looks interesting, especially with Yaz coming face to face with her grandmother, but I really don’t know what to expect anymore.

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