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“Star Trek: Discovery”: Was It Worth the Wait?

Back in 2015, CBS announced the premiere of a brand new Star Trek show, Star Trek: Discovery, the first since Star Trek: Enterprise was canceled in 2005. Set roughly ten years before the events of The Original Series, Discovery follows the journey of the impulsive young officer Commander Michael Burnham (who, confusingly, is a woman) as she comes to terms with her parents’ death in a Klingon attack on a scientific outpost and struggles to honor her logical Vulcan upbringing while still embracing her human heritage. Yes, after her parents died, Michael was somehow adopted by Ambassador Sarek…the same Sarek who is Spock’s father. This makes her Spock’s foster sister, and if you’re wondering how Spock can suddenly have a human foster sister after 51 years (let alone why Sarek would agree to adopt a human child), you’re not alone. Then again, I only watched the free premiere, so maybe it was explained in part 2.

This was only one example of the parts I found troublesome. Time and again the cast and crew insisted Discovery was set in the Prime timeline, yet everything about it looked and felt as though it belonged in J. J. Abrams’ Kelvin timeline. The tech and uniforms were way too modern to be just two years after the events of “The Cage” (TOS’s first pilot episode, later reused in the two-part episode “The Menagerie”). They apparently kept some of the sound effects from TOS, but coming from such highly advanced technology, it sounded jarring and out-of-place. Just because it makes the same boops and beeps as the Prime ships doesn’t automatically mean it’s set in the Prime timeline. Try harder.

I didn’t much care for the Klingon redesign, either. Their look is already so iconic, why mess with it? It’s like suddenly making Vulcan ears round and giving them funny noses instead.

And maybe I’ll catch some flak for saying this, but it’s my blog, so I’m going to–I found it vaguely annoying that they had a woman in command of the Shenzou. It’s nothing against Captain Georgiou–heck, I think the show should have been about her instead of Commander Burnham–but at this point in the Prime timeline, ten years before TOS, women were not allowed to command a starship (don’t believe me? Go watch “Turnabout Intruder”.). Obviously that rule changed, or else we wouldn’t have Janeway and Voyager, but at this point in the Prime history, a woman in command of a starship simply wouldn’t have been a thing. I could easily have overlooked this thanks to Georgiou being awesome, but it was just one more instance of non-canon-compliance they were asking the audience to overlook.

The episode itself actually wasn’t too bad–the show has a lot of potential. I would probably continue to watch it, maybe even overcoming my objections to the canon alterations, if it were broadcast on TV the way every other Star Trek series has been. But it isn’t. CBS has seen fit to make Discovery a paid-access show; the only way to watch the season will be to subscribe to their All Access streaming service. Although Discovery was good, it wasn’t great–certainly not great enough to make me subscribe to their streaming service. And it’s sad because it really feels that CBS doomed Discovery before it even premiered by making this decision. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of other people out there who feel the same way I do, that the show was good enough that I would watch it on TV but not good enough to make me pay a monthly fee to watch it. If/when it has low viewing figures, Discovery will be pulled, and the powers-that-be will claim that audiences just aren’t interested in Star Trek anymore. No, what we’re really not interested in is your corporate greed.

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Some Thoughts on “Doctor Who: The Doctor Falls” *Contains Spoilers*

Why, oh, why does Moffat hold out on us? He can write good stories when he wants to! And this was undoubtedly one of his best, from Missy and the Master’s interactions with each other to Nardole’s character development to Heather’s return to Capaldi blowing everyone out of the water and proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is the best of the modern Doctors.

Seriously, Twelve’s monologue about how he refuses to change yet again is one of the highlights of season 10 (and of his entire tenure as the Doctor). And I loved all of the callbacks to previous companions and regeneration scenes (including “I don’t want to go” and “I will always remember when the Doctor was me”). And that special appearance by One at the end–oh, man, I have never looked forward to a Christmas special so much as I am this year. My excitement is almost enough to drown out my sorrow at the upcoming regeneration.

I’m a bit sad that Bill and Nardole won’t be back with the new Doctor. I quite liked how Nardole’s character has evolved since we first met him in “The Husbands of River Song”, and as for Bill, I think this was her strongest performance in the show. I really wish she had stayed at least one more season. I didn’t start to like Clara until she was with Twelve, so I wondered if I might start to like Bill a little better if she was paired with a different Doctor. Either way, Pearl Mackie’s performance as CyberBill was outstanding and one not soon to be forgotten.

The Master and Missy together was every bit as electrifying as expected, proving that a multi-Master story has been long overdue. Part of me was hoping for a spinoff with the two of them causing havoc through time and space…up until Missy triggered her own regeneration, and the Master shot Missy with the laser screwdriver to prevent her going to help the Doctor. Are we ever going to see the Master again? He implied that Missy wouldn’t be able to regenerate because he shot her with the full strength…but that doesn’t mean Missy didn’t try after the Master left. I do hope we see the Master again. I guess the big question is will Missy continue being a woman, or will she return to being a man?

Well, folks, thus ends season 10. It has been my honor and my privilege to serve as your reviewer for these last twelve weeks. We’ll all just have to hang in there until the Christmas special (unless I find some Classic Who to review in the meantime).

Anyway, allons-y!

 

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Some Thoughts on “Doctor Who: World Enough and Time” *Contains Spoilers*

This is it, folks–the finale is upon us! Though it is a bittersweet reminder that we are just that much closer to saying goodbye to Capaldi, finales are still exciting, heart-pounding forays that hurl us into the conclusion of season-long story arcs. And this was an episode that, even though I knew certain things were coming–still left me in happy shock.

Most people already knew the plot–the Doctor decides to test Missy’s decision to be good and sends Bill and Nardole with her to answer a ship’s distress signal, and during the course of answering the signal, they encounter the Mondasian Cybermen and the old Master. But the way in which this was all executed was brilliant.

The idea of Bill and the Doctor being on the same ship but in different time zones definitely added a new dimension of desperation. What’s been a few minutes for the Doctor has been years for Bill, which makes her final declaration of “I waited for you” all the more heartbreaking. (Confession: since the Cybermen in “The Tenth Planet” had names, I had to do a brief check to see if that episode had any Cybermen named Bill. It didn’t.) And Bill being turned into a Cyberman–well, let’s just say I found that as shocking as when Missy killed Osgood in “Death in Heaven”. What really drives this home, though, is that there very likely won’t be a reset button–no two Osgoods like in “The Zygon Invasion”, no extractions from timelines like in “Hell Bent”. There’s a very strong likelihood there is no going back from this development–this will be permanent.

That Master reveal, although I knew it was coming, still managed to surprise me. I figured the Master was probably being held prisoner somewhere in the ship, but, nope, he was right in the middle of the action, helping to create the Cybermen! And remember, too, that these Cybermen are the ones responsible for the First Doctor’s regeneration, so this is getting to be quite the wibbily-wobbily storyline. Missy’s reaction was fascinating to watch, too, because she has clearly forgotten these events…but she clearly enjoys being back with her old self.

And this is going to be completely random, but hooray for the Venusian Akido making a comeback!

Next week, we hurl onwards to what’s sure to be an exhilerating conclusion in “The Doctor Falls”! More Master/Missy goodness! More hints about Bill’s ultimate fate! And maybe–just maybe–a resolution to those tantilizing regeneration teasers!

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Some Thoughts on “Doctor Who: The Eaters of Light” *Contains Spoilers*

Before I get into the latest episode, I have to freak out about the trailer for next week’s episode before I explode.

AAAAHHHH, MONDASIAN CYBERMEN!!!!!! AAAAAAAAHHHHH, JOHN SIMM!!!!!!! WE’RE GONNA HAVE TWO MASTERS SHARING THE SCREEN, AAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

There, that’s better.

Okay, so we’ve got Picts and Romans facing off in “The Eaters of Light” as well as a wasted opportunity to see the Twelfth Doctor in Pictish war paint (Nardole indulges himself, though). Bill accomplishes her mission of finding the missing Ninth Roman Legion, but she, the Doctor, and Nardole also encountered the titular Eaters of Light. The Picts had warriors whose lifelong mission was to defend a transdimensional portal that allowed the Eaters to enter our world, but Kar, the latest Gatekeeper, decided to let an Eater through the portal with the hope that it would destroy the Roman army threatening their land (and figuring the army itself could kill the Eater). But although the Eater destroyed the army, the army was not strong enough to destroy the Eater, and now Romans and Picts alike–heck, the entire world!–are in danger.

This episode was written by Rona Munro, who wrote the last-ever Classic Who episode “Survival” with the Seventh Doctor and Ace. To date, this is the only time a writer has contributed to both old and nuWho, which I think is completely awesome, and they need to do more of it in the future. Since the Master also appeared in “Survival”, this may explain why Missy felt more like a classic Master than in other episodes.

Speaking of Missy, I am so glad the Doctor is not blindly trusting her. I know he wants his friend back, but Missy’s done so much evil that he knows he can’t blindly trust her. We’ve thought we could trust her before, and it turns out it was all part of some clever scheme. Missy’s got to try extra hard to prove herself, which is probably what leads into next week’s episode (where we see the Doctor leave Missy in charge of an adventure with Bill and Nardole to help her).

“World Enough and Time” is the first half of the two-part season finale, and can you believe it’s time for the finale already? I still don’t think I’m ready for Capaldi to leave…but I am definitely stoked about the Mondasian Cybermen and John Simm’s return–complete with a Master goatee! It will be interesting to see two different versions of the Master interacting with each other, more importantly to see how this affects Missy. Will she abandon her quest to become good, or will she ultimately prove to the Doctor that she can change? Time will tell, I guess!

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Some Thoughts on “Doctor Who: Empress of Mars” *Contains Spoilers*

Before I launch into the review, I have a rant to get off my chest. *Inhales deeply* WHY DOES BBC AMERICA NEVER SHOW THE “NEXT TIME” TRAILERS!? WHY DOES IT NEVER DO ANYTHING RIGHT!? YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO SHOW THE TRAILER FOR THE NEXT EPISODE AND NOT SOME PROMO FOR THE SHOW THAT’S ON NEXT! YOU HAVE DUTIES TO THE AMERICAN WHOVIANS! WE HAVE RIGHTS! ARE YOU TRYING TO PUNISH US FOR THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION!? WE WILL NOT BE SILENT!

Okay, I feel better now. Anyway, “Empress of Mars” is Mark Gatiss’s first episode since last season’s disappointly dull “Sleep No More”, and he totally made up for it. The Doctor, Bill, and Nardole discover that “God save the Queen” was spelled out on Mars circa 1881, so naturally they have to investigate what happened. It turns out they find a troop of British soldiers who came to Mars via the crashed spaceship of an Ice Warrior. The Ice Warrior, whom they call Friday, promised them gems beyond their wildest imagination, but, alas, there are no gems to mine. But there is another reason Friday persuaded them to take him back to Mars–to resurrect Iraxxa, Empress of Mars.

I think this is by far one of the strongest Ice Warrior stories we’ve ever had. Even in Classic Who, we really just got stories of the mighty warriors they were of old. Here we actually got to see how deserving they were of their fearsome reputations. Plus, it makes their decision to pursue the ways of peace in “The Curse of Peladon” all the more interesting (and their reversion to war in “The Monster of Peladon” not all that surprising). And speaking of the Peladon stories, it was a thrill to see Alpha Centauri again.

I’m still not convinced of Missy’s goodness, and this week’s episode only strengthened my suspicions. I can’t help but suspect that she was the one who somehow caused the TARDIS to malfunction knowing that Nardole would seek her help when he was unable to fix it himself. Rule number one is the Doctor lies; rule number two is Moffat lies, and I’m pretty convinced that rule number 3 is the Master lies.

Next week, the Romans return in “The Eaters of Light”! They probably won’t be Nestene Romans, which means no chance of Nestene Rory, but I suppose we’ll make do.

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Some Thoughts on “Doctor Who: The Lie of the Land” *Contains Spoilers*

Last week, Bill made it possible for the Monks to invade Earth through a well-meant desire to restore the Doctor’s sight and allow him to escape from a laboratory that was about to explode. This week, we see the consequences of her agreement with the Monks–they’ve tricked the entire human race into thinking they’ve always been there (when it’s really only been about six months), and life is basically 1984 with aliens. To make matters worse, the Doctor is siding with the Monks, releasing videos to encourage the humans to keep submitting to the Monks’ authority and turn in anyone who dares to suggest the Monks are unfriendly invaders. It’s bleak, to be sure, but Bill and Nardole are able to save the Doctor, who now must seek help from the only person in the universe who’s as clever as he is–Missy.

It’s difficult to gauge for certain just how sincere Missy is in her declarations of wanting to be good because if there’s one thing we’ve learned in 53 years of Doctor Who, it’s that you can never trust the Master. Never. No matter how sincere the words or actions, you always have to assume the Master is looking out for numero uno. Considering all this, it will be interesting to see how long Missy’s intentions of being good will last once she crosses paths with Simm Master later in the season.

I must say that was a brilliant fakeout with the regeneration scene. Way to freak us all out with the threat of a surprise regeneration halfway through the series, BBC–which reminds me, there’s still been no word on who will replace Peter Capaldi, and I kind of hope it stays that way. I’d love for the next Doctor to be a completely unexpected surprise.

Next week, we’re off to Mars in “Empress of Mars”! Yay, Ice Warriors! I’m so glad Moffat decided not just to bring them back but to make them recurring villains as well. Classic Who had so many good monsters that it’s nice to go back and revisit. Admittedly there were a few duds, but there were also some good ones, and the Ice Warriors were one of those good ones.

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Some Thoughts on “Doctor Who: The Pyramid at the End of the World” *Contains Spoilers*

I’m back at (more or less) my usual time! And, boy, was there a lot of stuff that happened in this week’s episode. And that cliffhanger! Ugh! A week feels like a long time to wait for a resolution.

We see the Doctor return in his role of President of the World when the UN comes to him (well, comes to Bill, actually, in the hopes she can persuade him) for help in dealing with the 5,000-year-old pyramid that appeared in the middle of a war zone overnight. It turns out that the Monks from last week’s episode have determined it was time to make their move in the invasion of the Earth, but they’re not invading in the usual way. They will not take over by force; they will assume control of the Earth only if they are asked. And the motivation must come from love, not from fear or strategy or anything else. This naturally doesn’t sit well with the Doctor, but hardly anyone listens to him–not even Bill, who is the one who ultimately makes the deal for the Monks to take over the Earth. They can have the world so long as they restore the Doctor’s sight.

I’ll be honest; I was a little disappointed in Bill for making the deal. Time and again she refuses to listen to the Doctor, and now the entire planet will pay for it. It’s sad to see just how little she trusts him, especially after everything they’ve already been through. Her stubbornness may well prove to be a point of contention between her and the Doctor in future episodes. Then again, she is more of a student-figure than we’ve seen in previous seasons, so a lot of this, too, plays into her learning curve. She must learn when to listen to the Doctor and when to make her own choices. Undoubtedly Bill will turn out stronger and wiser for this moment, but that doesn’t necessarily make it less disappointing at first.

Is it too early to put in a request for a new companion for the Thirteenth Doctor? Because I liked Erica, and I hope she gets to travel in the TARDIS either with this Doctor or the next one. She was cheerful and clever–even the Doctor thought so, and when the Doctor says someone is clever, there’s a good chance that’s true.

Just when I think I’ve accepted the fact that Capaldi is leaving, he goes and plays his guitar and does insightful monologues, and I get sad about his departure all over again. I’m going to miss our Doctor Disco. Maybe they’ll bring him back for the 60th anniversary special or something.

Next week, we see how Bill’s deal with the Monks has altered the rest of the world in “The Lie of the Land”. Missy’s back! We learn whether or not Nardole survived! And it looks as though we’ll get an answer for that regeneration scene shown in the trailers!

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