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This Has All Happened Before….

Every time I glance up, it seems another name-brand pop culture item from the past is making a come back.

This week alone brings news that The Greatest American Hero is getting its long in development reboot and that Bryan Fuller would like to revive the original British version of The Avengers.  )Oh yeah and Star Trek is coming back in 2017, but I ranted about that the other day.)

With a revival of Heroes (which I still haven’t watched yet but have DVRed each episode.  It’s hard to forget how disappointing those last three and a half seasons were)  currently airing and The X-Files about to get a new season in January, it seems like reboots are all the rage these days.   Hollywood is content to offer us familiar things and hope that our memory is cheating a bit and that we only remember what we liked about them and not why they went away in the first place.   (more…)

Doctor Who: Mummy on the Orient Express, Flatline

Since I’m behind on my Doctor Who reviewing, I’m offering commentary on “Mummy on the Orient Express” and “Flatline” in one post.  It’s two posts for the price of one!

Mummy on the Orient Express

mummy_orientIn the 80’s, the production team wanted to introduce audiences to a more alien, less likeable Doctor who would slowly mellow over time and become more and more liked by the audience.  The result was the sixth Doctor and the plan didn’t exactly go, well, as planned.  Colin Baker’s era was one of the most polarizing in the classic series run and led to the show becoming the target of a great deal in internal criticism at the BBC and the show going on hiatus for eighteen months.

With the Peter Capaldi era, I feel like that in addition to destructing the character of the Doctor, Steven Moffat has taken on that task of giving us a more alien, less likeable Doctor and is showing us how it could have and should have been done.   With “Mummy” we look into the question of just how the Doctor goes about solving the problem or defeating the alien threat facing him in each story.   Do the ends justify the means?

In this case, it’s a high body count (nothing new, just watch any story by Robert Holmes) that piles up before the Doctor can come up with a way to stop the Mummy from killing everyone on the train.    Does the Doctor have the right to ask each of these various people to sacrifice themselves in the interest of obtaining data on how to defeat the Mummy and Gus, who has lured the Doctor into this particular trap (interestingly, the Doctor has turned down multiple invitations to come on board and solve this until Clara threatens to leave him.  More on this later).   The Doctor realizes there is a way to stop the Mummy, but it takes data (in this case the death of innocent people) to give him the pieces he needs to solve the puzzle.

Of the stories we’ve seen this year, this one feels like it comes closest to the classic Who model of the “base under siege” story.  In fact, I’d say it felt a great deal like the Tom Baker era story “The Robots of Death” with people trapped in an isolated, locked-room location and a force coming to kill everyone on board.    Having the Doctor chose to take Clara into what can be summed up as “the most typical of classic Who models” for what she wants to be her last hurrah in the TARDIS is interesting.   The Doctor doesn’t give her a tour of the marvels of the universe and all the beauty within it, but instead a classic battle against the forces of evil that he faces.   And in doing so, he gives her a bit of insight into who he is now and just how alien he truly he is.  He also feeds her addiction to traveling with him — the excitement of the discovery and just how these various monsters are defeated. (more…)

The Jake Locker Era Is Over

6858710A couple of years ago, I entered an on-line contest to predict the Titans’ first pick in the NFL draft.  After listening to some debate on local sports radio, I decided that Jake Locker was the guy and entered the contest.

Days later, the Titans picked Locker and my name was randomly selected from the correct predictions for the grand prize — tickets to a Titans game and the chance to go out to camp and meet Locker.   Due to the NFL lockout, the opportunity to head out to camp instead turned into pre-season tickets and the chance for Locker to autograph a jersey for me during a pre-game ceremony.

I’ve kept that autographed jersey hanging up in my closet since that time, waiting to see if Locker would become the next big thing and it might be worth framing the jersey and putting it on display.

Three years later, I feel like I should have just worn or it sold it on E-Bay immediately to cash in while Jake Locker’s stock was high.

Today we got news that the Titans have decided that Zach Mettenberger is their starter for not only Sunday’s contest against the Texans (who we can only hope they give us two minutes like they did to the Steelers on Monday night) but for the rest of the season.    It’s a clear signal that barring an injury the Jake Locker era in Tennessee is over.   And it’s also a clear indication that the Titans are throwing in the towel in the season and evaluating what needs they will have to address in free agency and the draft (in short: a lot!).

So, for the rest of the season, we’ll be treated to the offensive equivalent of pre-season games as the Titans try to figure out where they go from here.   I’m sure there will be some great moments in there and I’m sure there will be some so full of futility that I’ll thank the geniuses who created NFL Redzone for coming up with such a brilliant idea and then bringing it into my home each week.

The Locker era is done.  I wanted it to work out and there were some flashes of what could have been.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go wash my jersey and get it ready to wear….

Doctor Who: Kill the Moon

killthemoonThere must be something about the Doctor using a Scottish accent that makes him go dark, alien and manipulative.

As I’ve said all season, it feels like Stephen Moffat is deconstructing the character of the Doctor to answer the question, “Am I a good man.”   I have a feeling after the events of “Into the Moon” that Clara’s answer would be slightly different than the one she gave a few weeks ago.   She’s probably gone from uncertain to convinced that this new Doctor isn’t really a good man after all, but instead a dark, manipulative character.

It’s interesting to imagine how this story might have played out with other modern Doctors.  It’s easy to see the David Tennant or Matt Smith Doctor figuring out a way to save the alien creature that is hatching from the moon.  In fact, I felt like there were call backs to Matt Smith’s second episode and the space whale with the Doctor’s speech about finding a new name after he’s forced to kill the space whale because that isn’t what the Doctor is or does.    Contrast that with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor who is initially enthusiastic about the discovery but then takes a hands-off approach on the decision on whether or not the young alien hatchling will live or die.  It even gets to the point that the Doctor abandons Clara and Courtney, leaving them to make a momentous decision without his advice or wisdom.

In some ways, “Kill the Moon” felt a bit like Torchwood’s “Children of Earth” in that we are presented with a situation to which there is no right solution — just varying degrees of wrong.  Seeing the Earth people be of one mind to kill the creature rather than risk the possible destruction of Earth was a chilling one.   Coupled with Clara’s conflict over what should be done (I almost wish there had been one single light left on to give us some hope) and her impulsive decision to save the creature, there were moments in the final few minutes that almost felt suffocating.

And yet, unlike “Children of Earth,” the Doctor arrives in the end to say that everything worked out as it should.   Humanity has its moment to look upward and be awed by the universe again.  This story sets into motion the future Earth empire that we’ve seen in other stories with humanity spreading out to the stars.

Of course, it does bring up the question of what did the Doctor know and when did he know it.  Citing a grey area and certain points in history that can’t be altered ,the Doctor refuses to give Clara the assurance that everything will work out, regardless of what her decision is.   It brings up the interesting question of whether or not he’s testing Clara, knowing full well how everything works out.  Or if he’d have come in to save the creature had Clara chosen not to abort the countdown.

It leads to a final scene in the TARDIS that echoes Ace’s anger at the Doctor in “The Curse of Fenric.”  In both cases, the Doctor is keeping details from his companions and allowing them to make decisions, observing them and possibly testing them.  And in both cases, the companions figure this out and blow up at the Doctor, demanding answers.  And while Ace demands answers mid-story, Clara’s wrath comes in the form of rejecting the Doctor and telling him not to come back.    Whether or not she’s truly done with the Doctor remains to be seen.  Danny believes she isn’t because he can still make her angry.    And I have a feeling that the Doctor may try to win Clara back — or at least have her parting with him be under better circumstances.

It should be an interesting ride to the end of the season.

Running the Middle Half

A little over a year ago, I was less than two weeks away from participating in my fourth straight Middle Half Marathon when I tried to avoid tripping over the cat in the middle of the night and ended up with a fractured great toe.   The injury sidelined me from the event, but I made a promise to myself that I’d back out there in 2014.

That promise was fulfilled today when I completed 13.1 miles through beautiful Murfreesboro.*  And while it wasn’t a personal best or a record setting performance, I will still able to complete the course in a few minutes under the time I had  decided on in my mind.

* The course really is a scenic one and I really enjoy the various sites along the way as a nice distraction from the “Dear heavens, why did I decide to run 13.1 miles?!?)    I also like that the course loops back on itself a couple of times so you can see other runners who are in front of you and those behind you.    Seeing people you know who you can give a thumbs up to and who can give you one back is a treat.   That and I always respect the hell out of those people who finish in what I consider absurd amounts of time — like the runners who are tearing it to finish in an ninety or so minutes and are cruising to mile six while I’m settling into mile three and the heart of my iTunes playlist. 

I began running the Middle Half a few years ago when I completed an indoor triathlon and wanted something else big to test my overall fitness level, endurance and a big event to work toward.  As the bumper sticker and t-shirt say, “I run half marathons because I’m only half crazy” and I’ve determined that 13.1 miles is about the longest distance I want to run.**

** Unless being chased by a bear or doing some extraordinary to save the lives of small children.  Then, distance is out the window. 

I admire and respect those who can and do run more — even more so my friends who do IronMan competitions.   You have my undying respect and admiration, but I can honestly say the thought of doing an Iron Man just intimidates the heck out of me.  For one thing, it’s a huge commitment of training and planning.  For another, you’re not allowed to have any type of listening device out there on the course while running.  And really part of the fun of planning for a long run (for me anyway) is picking out a playlist and then adding and subtracting to it as the big day looms on there.

There are a lot of random thoughts that wander through your mind as you run 13.1 miles.    A lot of them aren’t unique to me, but some are.  I figured I’d share a few here.

  • There’s always a point at which I question my sanity in doing this and swear off ever running more than three miles in a row ever again.   This year, that didn’t really happen until the final mile and at that point I could see the end point looming on the horizon, which helped me put these thoughts aside.
  • No play list is complete without Rocky Top.  And preferably multiple versions (I’ve got the original, the UT band playing it and the dance mix in mine).  You can never have too much Rocky Top while running.   Early in the race, I like to pretend I’m running for a big TD as the Vols beat Florida or Alabama and the band is encouraging me onward and faster.
  • No matter how tired I am from running, signs promoting fandom of Alabama or Florida still annoy me.
  • Putting “Don’t Fear the Reaper” and the theme from “MASH” on your playlist may seem like a good idea at home, but when you’re out there running, having these songs come up isn’t as helpful as you might think.
  • Am I the only one who puts musical scores from my favorite movies and tv shows in the list?  You can’t go wrong with themes from various Star Trek shows and Doctor Who and I defy anyone to not put a John Williams musical cue or two on there and not given a boost.   The Superman theme or the Imperial March have given me a bit of a boost many times while out pounding out the miles.
  • While I have a certain time I’d like to finish in, I don’t get obsessed with it out on the course.  Yes, I use RunKeeper and it’s nice to look back and see how things unfolded.  But I feel like some of my fellow runners get too focused on how fast they’re doing or their pace and don’t take a moment to enjoy the run…or the scenery…or to savor how good that gulp of Gatoraide really was, even when you generally don’t like the lemon-lime flavor, but it’s all that you had and it could be be the BEST GATORAIDE ever!
  • No matter where I put certain songs in my list, they always come up at the moment I need them most.   The Mars Cheer by the UT band and certain songs by Casting Crowns and Poe.
  • Today was my first half marathon in rainy conditions and I found it ironic to listen to “I Sure Can Smell the Rain” and “Set Fire to the Rain” while running in the rain.
  • I respect family and friends who are willing to hug a runner at the end of an event.   I know that I wouldn’t want to hug me after I’d just run for close to two and a half hours…cause I stink.
  • The longest portion of the race is the walk back to your car once you’ve completed the course.

I’m sure there were others, but that will do for now.   I’m tired, my legs are sore and I need a nap.

But I’m glad I made it back.  Not sure what the future holds (again no Iron Man), but I may be back out there next year, ready to tackle 13.1 miles yet again.

“The Light at the End” & “The JN-T Memoirs” — Audio Reviews

Doctor Who: The Light at the End (Standard Edition)Doctor Who: The Light at the End by Nicholas Briggs

While I loved just about every last moment of “The Day of the Doctor” (including getting a bit lump in my throat at a certain surprise scene), part of the classic Whovian in me was still a bit disappointed that we didn’t an appearance by all the remaining living Doctors. I realize that time has passed and that seeing the Doctors older might interfere with our memories of them (since they’re all ageless on the DVD releases), but I still think it would have been fun to see the Doctor run into some of his previous selves from the classic series run.

Leave it to Big Finish to fill in the gap with a year of connected audio stories, a series of adventures from the audio Doctors centered around the year 1963 and the jewel in the crown, “The Light at the End,” featuring all the remaining classic series Doctors and their companions in a huge, sprawling, convoluted and utterly enjoyable adventures that celebrates the fiftieth anniversary in style. The story even manages to find passable imitators of those Doctors no longer with us so we really can have a sprawling story featuring each of the first eight Doctors in a rousing adventures.

Interestingly, the story centers around November 1963 and several adventures by various Doctors all converging together. The script has just enough continuity nods and Easter eggs to the classic era, all while managing to tell a solid little tale. Of course, a lot of my enjoyment of this story could be the nostalgia factor alone and the realization that this is as close as we’ll get to the Doctors getting back together for one last reunion before we push on to the sixtieth anniversary. (more…)

Doctor Who: Into the Dalek

intothedalek“Fantastic idea for a movie. Terrible idea for a proctologist.”

“Dalek” was an early classic for the new Doctor Who, ranking among my favorite stories of all-time.  So a story that features callbacks to that classic Christopher Eccleston era story was already going to be right in my wheelhouse.  Add in another superb performance by Peter Capaldi and some interesting bits about just who this new Doctor is and you’ve got another winner for this new era.

I know I’m probably in the minority on fully embracing and loving this one, but then again, I was quick to embrace and love “Victory of the Daleks” at the start of the Matt Smith era.  And while that episode hasn’t held up as well as my initial reaction, I still think it’s a lot better than most fans give it credit for.

“Into the Dalek” finds the Doctor brought in to heal a malfunctioning Dalek — one that has become “good” instead of wanting to exterminate everything it encounters.   Conflicted about what he should do, the Doctor brings Clara onto the scene because she’s a “carer” and does his caring for him.    Not sure if there really can be a “good” Dalek, the Doctor and Clara agree to be miniaturized and head inside the Dalek to fix what’s gone wrong and hopefully find some redemption for the Daleks as well as the Doctor.

In a story that calls to mind not only “Dalek,” but also “The Invisible Enemy,” the Doctor and Clara’s journey inside of a Dalek proves to be a fascinating one, not only because we have to contend with Dalek antibodies but we also get a look around inside the internal portions of the blobs of hate in bonded poly-caribide armor.  Much of the episode centers on just how alien and distant this new Doctor is, including his disdain for soldiers (setting up something when the Doctor and Clara’s new love interest Danny Pink cross paths, I’m sure) and the fact that he doesn’t believe there can be anything good in a Dalek.  In the end, the Doctor and Clara reconnect the memories that made the Dalek “good” and send it back among the Daleks as a changed Dalek — one that exterminates the fleet invading the ship and then convinces the Dalek fleet that all the humans have been exterminated.

The Dalek gets a look inside the Doctor’s mind and proclaims that he would not longer make a good Dalek as we heard during Eccleston’s era but that he is a good Dalek.  His hatred of the Daleks is so all-consuming that he’s become not much better than his mortal foes — the Doctor even references that it was his original visit to Skaro that defines who he is and when he became more than just a name he chose for himself.

It all adds up to some great speeches for Capaldi.  Of course, the episode also includes a lot of scenes that we’ve seen referenced in the trailers including the aforementioned “carer” and the “Am I good man?” question.   It seems as if the question may be one that the entire series is going to have to address and look into.  It may also come into question when and if we find out who Missy is and why she’s choosing certain victims of the Doctor’s influence to bring back.  Interestingly, she’s chosen two people so far that the Doctor doesn’t hold in high regard — the clockwork robot and a solider.  Is she collecting people the Doctor has dismissed to teach him a lesson or to create some kind of force to go up against him later in the season?

After a solid debut in “Deep Breath,” “Into the Dalek” is a nicely crafted hour that works well on just about every level.  I love the new storytelling pace that allows the show time to breath and to allow things to sink in a bit.  I also love the work Capaldi is doing  and the solid scripts he’s getting.   We’re two for two in this new era and this is one Doctor Who fan who is wholly satisfied.