Thursday, June 29, 2017

Doctor Who Season 10, Episode 11: World Enough And Time

Wow! Now THAT was an episode! Holy Christ!

This week on Doctor Who, it's the penultimate episode of Season 10, and man, what a story it was. I have no idea how Moffat's gonna write himself out of this corner!


We're now just one episode away from the end of Peter Capaldi's run on the show. I have to say, I wasn't a huge fan of him when he first started, because his "stern, grumpy" Doctor was quite a jolt after the friendly Tenth and often goofy Eleventh. 

But Capaldi softened quite as he grew into the role, and I'll honestly miss him. That seems to be the pattern I experience every time a new actor takes over the role of the Doctor: Shock, Dislike, Gradual Acceptance, Enjoyment and then Sadness.

With the exception of the three part Monks misfire, Season 10 of the series has been a vast improvement. The plots have been simpler, the concepts more grounded, and the writing more focused. I guess showrunner Steven Moffat was saving his best for last.

This season also benefited greatly from the addition of Pearl Mackie as the Doctor's new companion Bill Potts. So far she's been a shot in the arm, and just what the series needed. I wouldn't mind seeing her stick around for a couple more seasons, but after the events of this episode... I don't know if that's possible.

Season 10 also saw the addition of Matt Lucas as Nardole, the Doctor's comic relief companion. I like Nardole quite a bit, but it's obvious the writers have absolutely no idea what to do with him. He spent the beginning of the season constantly reminding the Doctor of his oath to guard the mysterious Vault. Unfortunately once that storyline was resolved, he's spent the rest of the season literally standing around in the background, like a glorified extra. Hopefully if he sticks around for Season 11, they'll think of something for him to do.

I was glad to see the return of the original 1966 Mondasian Cybermen in this episode. For my money, they were the creepiest versions ever, as they were extremely disturbing and unsettling.


I feel like the show's never really taken advantage of the whole "body horror" concept of the Cybermen. In each subsequent appearance, the Cybermen became more and more robot-like, as if the writers forgot there were supposed to be chopped-up people inside their cybernetic suits. By the time they appeared in the Modern Series, they were pretty much just Daleks in Iron Man armor. Luckily this episode takes them back to their horrific roots.

And now a word or ten about spoilers. Back in the 1982 Doctor Who story Earthshock, the BBC went to great lengths to conceal the fact that the Cybermen were the big bad in Episode 1. Of course that was much easier in those days, since newspapers and TV Guides were the closest thing to social media back then. The point is, when the Cybermen appeared at the end of that episode, all of Great Britain uttered a huge gasp of surprise. Fans still talk about that ending to this day!

Cut to 2017. The BBC gleefully announced that the original Mondasian Cybermen would appear on the show months before Season 10 even aired. Same with the appearance of both Michelle Gomez as Missy and John Simm the Master. And of course they trumpeted the fact that Peter Capaldi would be leaving the show and regenerate sometime during the Christmas Special.


Holy crap, is there anything left that they didn't tell us?

OK, I get that there's a lot of crap out there that's demanding the attention of the viewers, so it's necessary to hype the show and get people interested in watching. But surely there's a way to entice them WITHOUT publishing the goddamned scripts twelve months before they air. Jesus Christ, the BBC even released a freakin' POSTER for this episode, featuring both versions of the Master on it! I miss the days when the Cybermen could unexpectedly appear and knock the audience out of their chairs in utter surprise.

MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Plot:
We begin on a desolate, snowy planet (possibly Mondas?), as the TARDIS materializes on the surface. A disheveled-looking Doctor staggers out, collapses to his knees and begins glowing gold with regeneration energy as he screams "Noooooo!" Cue opening credits.

Apparently the cold open was actually a flash forward to the final episode of the season (or beyond), as we cut to a massive cylindrical spaceship, four hundred miles long and a hundred miles wide. As the camera flies past it, we see various levels of the ship through the windows. The lower levels contain industrial-looking cities, while the higher levels are filled with Earth-type environments— mountains, plains, etc. The ship is perched in front of a massive black hole, and it's reversing engines in a desperate attempt to escape its gravitational field.

The TARDIS materializes on the bridge of the ship, and Missy, Bill and Nardole exit. This is a "test run" for Missy, to see if she really can be a good girl and stop being evil. The Doctor hangs back inside the TARDIS, monitoring her progress.

Missy announces to the empty bridge that she and her "pets" are responding to the ship's distress call. A jittery blue skinned alien named Jorj appears, indicating that "the ones below" have detected a human and are on their way up from the bottom of the ship. He demands to know which of the three is human, and Bill sheepishly admits she's the only one. Jorj apologizes in advance, saying he has to kill her in order to prevent "the ones below" from entering the bridge.

The Doctor sees what's going on and flies out of the TARDIS, trying to reason with Jorj. It doesn't work, and he fires his raygun at Bill, blasting a huge smoldering hole clean through her body! She looks down at her chest for a few seconds for effect, then falls over.

Cut to a flashback of the Doctor explaining to Bill that he wants to give Missy a chance to reform. He tries to talk her into accompanying Missy on a mission and help keep her in line. Bill refuses, saying Missy scares her. She finally agrees, but makes the Doctor promise she won't get killed. He tells her he'll try.

Back on the ship, a group of mummy-like figures exit the elevators and collect Bill, who's somehow not quite dead. The figures assure the Doctor that she'll be "repaired," but refuse to let him come along. Before they take her away, he implants a message in her subconscious: "Wait for me."

Nardole scans the ship and says the bottom levels are teeming with life forms. Jorj says that's impossible, as the ship was just launched and only has a skeleton crew of fifty. The Doctor says the enormous population below are actually the descendants of the crew. 


The Doctor explains that the massive gravity of the black hole is actually distorting time itself. Time's moving incredibly slowly at the top of the ship, which is nearer the black hole. Four hundred miles away at the bottom of the ship, time's moving normally. Because of this, two days have passed on the bridge since the ship was launched, while centuries have gone by on the lower decks.

Bill wakes up in a hospital ward at the bottom of the ship, and sees a cybernetic chest plate has been grafted onto her body. This doesn't seem to concern her all that much, as she gets up and takes a walk. She wanders into a ward filled with patients whose faces are completely covered in gauze masks. One of them taps out the word "PAIN" over and over and over on an electronic vocal device, which may be the creepiest thing I've ever seen on this show. Bill looks out the window of the ward and sees a decayed city, under a vast metal ceiling with "1065" painted on it. Apparently this is the level she's on.

Bill hears footsteps and hides behind a curtain. A nurse enters, along with Zathras from Babylon 5, er, I mean the odd-looking Mr. Razor. He notices Bill hiding, and after the nurse leaves, tells her to follow him.

He takes her to his apartment, where he shows her a live video feed of the Doctor and the others on the bridge. Bill notes that they appear frozen, and Mr. Razor explains the ship's time differential to her. He says she's been in the hospital ward for months, while only seconds have passed for the Doctor on the bridge.

Bill apparently decides to share Mr. Razor's flat, living with him for over a year (!). They pass 
the time by watching the Doctor, Missy and Nardole on the monitor as they slowly approach the elevator. 

Bill asks Razor about the creepy patients in the ward. He says that over the centuries, the engines have polluted the atmosphere at the bottom of the ship, causing the inhabitants to sicken and die. The hospital then began altering the population to help them survive the toxic environment. All this is in preparation for Project Exodus, an expedition to the top of the ship. When Bill asks why she can't simply take an elevator to reunite with the Doctor, Razor says her cybernetic heart will only work within the confines of the hospital (?).

Eventually the Doctor and the others enter the elevator and start on their way down. Bill asks Razor to take her to  meet the Doctor when he arrives. He agrees, but then betrays her by taking her to an operating room, where she's captured by a group of cybernetically enhanced patients. The Surgeon appears, holding an elaborate headpiece. He tells her the device won't remove the pain caused by the cybernetics, but will make her not care about it.

The Doctor & Co. arrive at the bottom of the ship. The Doctor and Nardole look for Bill, while Missy stays behind to hack into the computer and gather intel. Razor enters the control room and confronts Missy, saying it took him a while to figure out who she really was. He says she's been on the ship before, and that the Doctor will never forgive her for what she did to Bill. Missy has no idea who Razor is or what he's talking about.

The Doctor and Nardole wander into the operating room, where they see a figure in the shadows. It clomps toward them, and the Doctor sees it's an original model Mondasian Cyberman.

Missy calls up a file and sees that the ship isn't from Earth as they thought, but from Mondas. Razor then whips off the mask he's been wearing for years, revealing he's the Harold Saxon incarnation of The Master— the one who preceded Missy.

The Doctor tells the Cyberman he's looking for Bill Potts. The Cybermen stops and says, "I AM BILL POTTS!" in its horrible singsong electronic voice. The two Masters then enter the room and stand next to Cyber Bill. The Master welcomes the Doctor to the Genesis Of The Cybermen. Inside the Cyberman's mask, we see Bill shed a single tear.

Thoughts:

• The cold open might have been more effective if we hadn't just had a "fake regeneration" scene a couple weeks ago in The Lie Of The Land

Yes, I realize that Peter Capaldi's leaving the show and the Doctor's due to actually regenerate soon, but I can't help but feel this is yet another fake out. The BBC's already reported that he won't regenerate until the 2017 Christmas Special, so that doesn't bode well for it happening next week in Episode 12.

Maybe this regeneration scene is actually from the final seconds of Episode 12, and the Christmas Special will pick up right where it left off?

• Sigh... I reeeeeeeally could have done without all the lame "Doctor Who" jokes and lines at the beginning of this episode. Showrunner Steven Moffat has specialized in this joke for the past five or six seasons, but he really went overboard with it this week!

For several years now I've been saying that every time Moffat makes a "Doctor who?" joke on the show, he owes me $20. Congratulations, dude! You just paid off one of my credit card bills!

What bothers me most about all this is the fact that the general public really does think the character's name is "Doctor Who." It's been a personal crusade of mine the past couple of decades to educate people that he's just called "The Doctor." No "Who" required, thanks. And then Moffat goes and writes an entire scene implying that's the Doctor's name after all. Feh.


I can understand why the public's confused about the Doctor's name though. After all, the show's called "Doctor Who," so it's only natural to assume that's the character's name as well. Plus he's actually been referred to as "Doctor Who" numerous times in the show's history, both in the stories themselves, as well as in the credits.

Back in The Highlanders, the Second Doctor called himself "Doktor von Wer" (German for "Doctor Who"), and in The Underwater Menace he signed his name "Dr. W." And the Third Doctor drove around in a car with a "WHO" personalized license plate. Why would he have that if it wasn't his name?


So the "Doctor Who"name situation isn't without precedent. But having Missy try to convince Bill that the Doctor's name is Who is a little too meta for my tastes, and brought the episode to a screeching halt. 


• When Bill says the Doctor considers her a friend, Missy's appalled, saying, "Ew, Doctor! Think of the age gap." She then tells him that "Time Lords are friends with each other, dear. Everything else is cradle snatching."


This brings up an issue the show rarely examines: the fact that even a hundred year old human is a child compared to the extremely long-lived Doctor. This was an especially seamy situation during the early days of the Modern Series, when the then-thousand year old Doctor fell in love with the nineteen year old Rose Tyler. Yeah, he might have looked like David Tennant, but he was several centuries old. What the hell would he possibly have to talk about with an air-headed teen?


• This isn't the first time the Doctor's found himself in a place threatened by a black hole. In 2005's The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit, the Doctor and Rose landed on Krop Tor, a planet precariously balanced in orbit around a massive black hole.


• At one point Jorj suggests his ship may have been boarded by something that came out of the black hole. Missy tells him, "Nothing comes out of a black hole!"


Eh, that's not quite true, at least in the Whoniverse. Wayyyyy back in 1972's The Three Doctors, the Doctor and several of his friends traveled through a black hole to an antimatter universe, where they battled the renegade Time Lord Omega. They eventually returned to their own universe by going back through the black hole. 


Missy wasn't present during that adventure, so maybe she doesn't know it's possible to escape one.


• Missy apparently has a "sonic umbrella," which she brandishes in this episode. She's been carrying the umbrella around since her first appearance, but as near as I can tell this is the first time she's used it as a sonic (I may be wrong about that one though).


• Jorj appears to be from the same blue-skinned race as Dahh-Ren from Oxygen. Whatever their race is called, it seems to be a running joke on the show that they all have human-sounding names.

• The Doctor assumes the colony ship is from Earth, since it's filled with humans (except for Jorj). At the end of the episode, Missy discovers the ship and its inhabitants are actually from Mondas, a twin planet of Earth.

That means Mondasians must be absolutely identical to humans then, right? Jorj says the Surgeon detected Bill's "human" life signs on the bridge, and is sending up a squad of proto-Cybermen to retrieve her. If Bill was the least bit different from a Mondasian, the Surgeon wouldn't bother with her, would he?

• I'm struggling to understand how Bill could possibly survive a ten inch hole blown completely through her chest. 

And she most definitely IS somehow still alive, the episode confirms it. When Nardole states that Bill's dead, the Doctor says, "Those things are going to repair her, so clearly she isn’t." Plus the Doctor's able to implant a message into her subconscious, implying she's not quite dead yet.


Later Bill wakes up good as new with a Cyber-heart implanted in her chest. Seems like the Surgeon would have had to fix a lot of other damage while he was at it. Like replacing a good hunk of her spinal column, and probably her lungs as well.


• Although the "Ship Experiences Time At Different Rates" plot was interesting, it wreaked havoc with the plot at times. Seconds after Bill appears on the bridge, the Surgeon detects her and sends up a squad of proto-Cybermen to capture her and bring her to the hospital ward at the bottom of the ship.


But time's moving much slower on the bridge than in the hospital ward. Much, much slower. It probably took the Cybermen a couple of years to travel to the bridge and back. Does that seem right? Would the Surgeon really bother sending a crew on a mission that took that long?


• Shortly after its launch, the colony ship encountered a black hole and reversed course in a desperate attempt to back away from it. In order to do so though, twenty of the crew had to go all the way down to the engine room at the bottom of the ship, and physically push a button marked, "Reverse." Does that sound right?


Shouldn't they be able to control something major like that from the bridge at the top of the ship? If not, why have a bridge at all then? 


It's like this spaceship is a 1900s ocean liner, with a Captain who has to relay orders to a crew below decks when he wants to increase speed or turn.


That's not the only flaw in this poorly-designed colony ship. At one point Mr. Razor says, "This was a good place once, hundreds of years ago, when the settlers first came here, but this ship is old, everything is dying. Our world is rust. Our air is engine fumes."


So... there're no exhaust vents in the ship? The engine pour their fumes right into the habitat levels? That's... that's not a good design.


• The Doctor realizes that due to the time differential at the opposite ends of the ship, the team sent to the bottom to reverse engines ended up reproducing and populating the lower levels. It's now filled with thousands of their descendants.


Jorj says the team consisted of twenty crew members. Is that enough people to create a viable, genetically heathy population? Maybe that's why everyone at the bottom of the ship is so unhealthy! They're all inbreds!


• A few weeks ago in The Lie Of The Land, I noted that the Doctor was wearing a very worn and threadbare coat. I assumed it was tattered because he'd been a captive of the Monks for several months.

He must have liked the look of his scruffy jacket, because he's wearing it again in this episode!


• I don't know whether to blame Steven Moffat or actor John Simm for this, but one of them reeeeeeally liked the late Tim Choate's performance as Zathras on Babylon 5. Mr. Razor doesn't look all that much like Zathras, but his accent, broken speech patterns and even his body language are virtually identical.

Plus, Zathras' first appearance was in a time travel episode of B5, where he played an eccentric caretaker on a miles-long space station!

• I'm struggling to wrap my head around The Master's plan here. Apparently at some point in the past, he encountered the massive Mondasian colony ship and decided, "What the hell, I'll just hang out in there for a few decades." Note that he had no idea he'd ever cross paths with the Doctor there, so he's not there for revenge. Maybe he saw the whole "time differential" thing happening on the ship, and decided to stick around and observe what happened?

Also, for some reason, once he arrived on the ship he donned a weird disguise, even though it's unlikely anyone onboard would have ever looked at him and said, "Hey, you're the Master!"

When the Doctor finally arrives on the ship, the Master somehow recognizes him, even though he's never seen this particular incarnation before. I guess he probably saw him step out of the TARDIS and figured it out. Also, he somehow recognizes Missy as a future version of himself, which is even more impressive. 

Evidently he then decided to screw with the Doctor by befriending befriend Bill, hanging out with her for over a year, then betraying her and handing her over to the Surgeon for Cyber-conversion.

I could see the whole Bill thing being part of an elaborate revenge plot against the Doctor after he arrived, but I have no idea why the Master was on the ship before that.

• After Bill wakes up in the hospital ward, she sees two chronometers side by side on the wall. Both display how much time's passed on the ship since it was launched. The one on the left shows the elapsed time on the bridge. The one on the right displays how much time's passed on level 1056, where Bill is.

A few things about these chronometers...

First of all, they were obviously installed AFTER the ship was caught in the black hole. They had to be, right? There'd be no other reason to have two clocks measuring time at both ends of the ship, unless they PLANNED to get caught in the black hole!

Secondly, when Bill first sees the chronometer, two days have passed on the bridge since the ship was launched. Amazingly, 365,035 days have gone by at the bottom of the ship. Assuming Mondasian days are the same as Earth's, that means 1,000 years have elapsed at the bottom of the ship since it took off! No wonder the place is falling apart!

That means one day on the bridge equals about five hundred years below.

Bill then begins living with Mr. Razor, where they spend their days watching the Doctor move very, very slowly on the bridge. Bill looks at the chronometer again, and it now reads 365, 433, meaning it's been 398 days since she woke up in the hospital ward with her new Cyber-heart. 

Note that Mr. Razor says she was in the hospital ward for "several months" before she woke up, so it's possible she's been on the ship for two years. Somehow I got the impression she was there a lot longer than that.

• When Bill first wakes up in the hospital ward, she wanders into a wing filled with faceless patients. One of them constantly taps out the word "PAIN" on a little Speak N' Spell device.

This was an extremely creepy and unsettling scene, like something out of a nightmare. Kudos to everyone involved!

• When Bill first sees the Doctor on the bridge monitor, she asks Mr. Razor why the image is frozen. He tells her they're not frozen, but moving really, really slow. He says, "They are at top of ship. Top of ship very slow. We are at bottom. Bottom much faster. Very fast bottom."

Welllll, that's not quite true, Mr. Razor. Time IS moving very, very slowly at the top of the ship, but it's moving at normal speed (or close to it) at the bottom. Nitpicky perhaps, but there is a difference.


• Moffat uses this episode to tweak the traditional Cybermen origin a bit. Way back in 1966's The Tenth Planet, we were told that billions of years ago, the Earth and Mondas were twin worlds, orbiting around one another. Mondas was a complete duplicate of Earth, right down to the shape of its continents (which oddly enough, appeared to be upside down!). The inhabitants of Mondas were identical to humans as well.

Then at some point in the distant past, Mondas was knocked out of orbit and sailed off into deep space. As you might imagine, this was bad for the planet's environment, and the Mondasians began dying off in droves. In order to survive, they began replacing their bodies with cybernetic parts, until they were more machine than man. They removed all emotions from their minds as well, in order to "preserve their sanity."

Eventually the Mondasians developed a planetary drive system, so they could fly their world around the galaxy. They then began conquering other planets, turning the inhabitants into Cybermen (just like the Borg!).

When Russell T Davies revived the show in 2005, he must have thought the Cybermen's "twin planet" origin story was too silly for modern audiences. In Rise Of The Cybermen/The Age Of Steel, Davies reintroduced the Cybermen, but revamped their origin so they now came from a parallel universe.

Moffat's script seems to restore the Mondasian "twin planet" origin, with a few tweaks. He's dropped the "Rogue Planet That Can Be Driven Through Space" idea, as the Cybermen now originate on a four hundred mile long colony ship.

• Kudos to the makeup/costume department, for coming up with a "modern" version of the original Mondasian Cybermen.

There's no denying that the original Cybermen were very creepy, with their bandaged faces, unsettling singsong modulated voices and their normal-looking human hands.

That said, those first costumes were pretty crude by today's standards. They honestly looked like the crew raided a junkyard and glued various car and air conditioner parts to the actors. 

These new costumes do an amazing job of honoring the Cybermen's original look, while updating them for modern audiences.

• This episode also solves a minor problem I've always had with the series. Virtually every time the Doctor's encountered the Cybermen over the years, they've always been the latest, most advanced versions.

Why would that be? The Doctor's got a freakin' time machine, for corn's sake! You'd think every now and then he'd run into an older version of the Cybermen for a change.

Thankfully, this episode finally, at long last, rights this grievous oversight.

• On the bridge, the Doctor uses "Venusian Aikido" to overpower Jorj. This is a shoutout to the Third Doctor, who often used it during his run on the show.

Nardole's line about needing four arms to properly perform Venusian Aikido is a reference to Doctor Who novelizations from the 1970s. In those stories, the Doctor boasted that he was one of the few two-armed beings who'd mastered the discipline.

• At one point Mr. Razor confronts Missy, whips off his disguise and reveals he's the Master. This is in keeping with the Classic Series, in which the Master was fond of using disguises to, er, disguise himself.

• The biggest question of the episode is why the hell Missy doesn't immediately recognize the colony ship, and why she doesn't remember living on it for decades as the Master.

In the past, it's been established that when the Doctor meets a future version of himself, he'll forget about it once the episode's over. Take The Day Of The Doctor for example, in which the Eleventh Doctor teamed up with the Tenth Doctor (along with the War Doctor). 

One would think that since Ten was the earlier model, he'd remember the time he ran into Eleven, but he didn't. For some reason— call it cosmic censorship, selective memory or writer fiat— once Ten went back to his own time period, he had no memory of his encounter with his future self.  

But just the opposite's happening here. The Master is the previous version, and Missy's the current one. For some reason, Missy has absolutely no memory of ever being on the colony ship, while the Master seems to know all about her— even the fact that the Doctor's trying to de-evilize her!

So what the hell's going on here? Is it possible that this version of the Master isn't the previous one after all? What if he's the NEXT version? Maybe at some point in the future, Missy regenerates into the John Simm Master again. That would definitely explain her selective amnesia in this episode, but I doubt that's what's going on here.

The real reason why Missy doesn't remember of course is, once again, "plot contrivance." If Missy remembered being on the ship before, then everyone would have realized who Mr. Razor was the second he showed up, and Moffat couldn't have done his big reveal at the end.

Hopefully this is something that'll be cleared up in the next episode. It'll probably be written by Steven Moffat though, so don't bet on it.

• When the Doctor sees Bill's been turned into a Cyberman, Nardole says they could use the TARDIS to go back in time and rescue her. The Doctor says, "This close to a black hole, we'll never be able to pilot her accurately."

Sigh... this is yet another plot contrivance. The Doctor can pilot the TARDIS anywhere in time or space, except when it's inconvenient to the storyline

• At the end of the episode, the Master tells the Doctor he's 
witnessing "The Genesis Of The Cybermen."

This is obviously a not-so-subtle reference to the Tom Baker story Genesis Of The Daleks, which aired in 1975. It's the one that introduced Davros, creator of the Dalek race.


It may also be a nod to a proposed storyline called Genesis Of The Cyberman, which was written in 1981 by Doctor Who script editor Gerry Davis. For whatever reason, then-showrunner John Nathan-Turner rejected the script and it was never filmed.


• We've had multiple Doctor stories before, in which he met previous incarnations of himself. As near as I can tell though, this is the first time we've had a multiple Master episode.

• At the very end of the episode, we see a closeup of Bill inside her Cyberman headgear, as she sheds a single tear (out the wrong side of her eye). This tear then runs out the lens of her Cyberman mask.

So Moffat just explained why every model of Cybermen seen after The Tenth Planet has that "teardrop" cutout in the corner of their eyes, didn't he? It's because they're in constant pain, or remembering their humanity.

And here I thought the teardrop was to show a Cyberman had killed someone...


This Week's Best Lines: 
Missy: (bursting from the TARDIS) "Hello! I’m Doctor Who! And these are my plucky assistants, Thing One and the Other One."
Bill: "Bill."
Nardole: "Nardole."
Missy: "We picked up your distress call and here we are to help, like awesome heroes!"

Bill: "Yeah, we’re not we’re not assistants."
Missy: "Ok, right, so what does he call you? Companions? Pets? Snacks?"
(apparently Missy's a fan of Dr. Seuss!)


Missy: (seeing Jorj) "Oh, hello, what have we got here?! You’re probably handsome, aren’t you? Congratulations on your relative symmetry."
(this line confirms the idea that Time Lords have no idea whether a particular human is attractive or not, something the Twelfth Doctor struggled with when Clara traveled with him)
Jorj: "Who are you?"
Missy: "Well, I am that mysterious adventurer in all of time and space, known only as Doctor Who, and these are my disposables Exposition and Comic Relief."
(that may be the single most meta line in the fifty-plus year history of Doctor Who)

The Doctor: "Nardole agreed."
Nardole: "No, I didn’t."
The Doctor: "You did in my head, which is good enough for me."

Bill: "So, Time Lords, bit flexible on the whole man/woman thing, then, yeah?"
The Doctor: "We are the most civilised civilisation in the universe. We’re billions of years beyond your petty human obsession with gender and its associated stereotypes."
Bill: "But you still call yourselves Time Lords?"
The Doctor: "Yeah, shut up."

Bill: "So promise me one thing, yeah? Promise you won’t get me killed."
The Doctor: "I’m sorry. I can’t promise you that."
Bill: "Thanks!"
The Doctor: "I mean, look, you’re human, and humans are so mortal."
Bill: "Cheers!"
The Doctor: "I mean, you pop like balloons. I mean, one heart. It’s your most important organ, and you’ve no back up. It’s like a budget cut."
Bill: "You’ll try and keep me alive?"
The Doctor: "Within reason."
Bill: "Thanks, mate!"
(Moffat must have just watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey right before he wrote this scene. Also, I love the line about humans popping like balloons)

Bill: (indicating the proto-Cyberman who keeps tapping "PAIN") "What about him?"
Mr. Razor: "It’s all right. They don’t feel pain."
Bill: "I think they do."
Mr. Razor: "Yes, they do."
Bill: "So why did you say they don’t?"
Mr. Razor: "It was a clever lie, but you see straight through me."Mr. Razor: "Do you want the good tea or the bad tea?"
Bill: "What’s the difference?"
Mr. Razor: "I call one good, one bad."
Bill: "Er, I’ll take the good one."
Mr. Razor: "Excellent, positive attitude. Will help with the horror to come."

The Doctor: "Right, we need to find out more about this ship."
Nardole: "On it."
The Doctor: "No. Missy, you do it. Nardole, you come with me."
Nardole: "But I'm the computer guy. That's always me."
The Doctor: "Sorry, she's cleverer."
Nardole: "She's more evil."
Missy: "Same thing."
The Doctor: "It really isn't."
Missy: "Oh, it is a little bit. A little bit the same."

Missy: (to Mr. Razor) "Hello, ordinary person. Please maintain a minimum separation of three feet. I’m really trying not to kill anyone today, but it would be tremendously helpful if your major arteries were out of reach."

The Master: "Hello, Missy. I’m the Master, and I’m very worried about my future."

Missy: (to the Doctor) "This is not an exodus, is it? More of a beginning, really, isn’t it?"

CyberBill: "I waited."
The Master: "In fact, do you know what I’d call it? I’d call it a genesis."
Missy: "You’ve met the ex?"

The Master: "Specifically, the Genesis of the Cybermen."
(somehow the Master refrains from winking into the camera when he says this)

Is That Your Shell, Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

Mondo toys is producing a series of 1/6 scale (approximately 12" high) action figures of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The figures are based on the look of the original comic book characters.

I'm just gonna go ahead and say it— toy companies, it's time to stop trying to sculpt tails on TMNT figures. I don't care if it's comic-accurate, please stop.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

It Came From The Cineplex: It Comes At Night

It Comes At Night was written and directed by Trey Edward Shults. He previously wrote and directed the low budget indie film Krisha (?)

So what's the film about? Welp, despite the fact that it's being advertised as a horror film, It Come At Night is anything but. Contrary to its marketing, there are no monsters, zombies or cannibalistic mutants in this movie.

It's more of a bleak, hopeless, post apocalyptic family drama, along the lines of 2009's The Road, except not good. That's right, this is one of those, "The Real Monster Is MAN!" movies, in which we see characters placed in impossible situations, who'll do whatever unspeakable things it takes to survive.

That could have made for a compelling film, if the topic hadn't already been covered to death for the past seven years over on The Walking Dead. We get it already! Humans are assholes who are capable of horrific acts of violence and depravity. Next topic, please!

This is the perfect example of a "slow burn" film— one that moves along at a glacial rate, as it takes its sweet time telling its story. I'm not a huge fan of such movies, but I can tolerate a deliberate pace as long as it's leading toward an amazing ending. Unfortunately, It Comes At Night has no such payoff. In fact it doesn't end so much as it just stopsas if the director ran out of time, money, film or all three.

This is most definitely a character-driven film, as there's virtually no plot whatsoever. The closest it ever comes to a proper storyline is in the third act, when the chapters argue over whether someone left a door open or not. Seriously!

My dislike for the film comes from the highly deceptive trailer, which promised a completely different movie than the one we get. The trailer strongly implies there's some kind of titular "It" hiding in the woods, which comes out at night to prey. In reality there's no such thing anywhere in the movie, which was frustrating and disappointing to say the least. 

I honestly wish I'd never seen the trailer and had gone into the film blind. I'd have liked the movie much more, and wouldn't want to track down every existing copy and burn them all as I do now. Do yourself a favor— if you plan on seeing this movie, DO NOT watch the trailer before you go!

The film clocks in at a brief one hour and thirty seven minutes, but seemed more like four hours.

So far critics seem to universally love It Comes At Night, praising its bare-bones plot, raw-nerve tone and moody cinematography. Audiences are split pretty much right down the middle, with half loving it and half wondering what the hell they just watched. 

Supposedly this film had a budget of $5 million dollars, which I refuse to believe. That money certainly isn't up there on the screen, as the entire movie is filmed in a small home in a wooded area, lit mostly with battery-powered lanterns. I'm confident I could shoot a similar-looking film in my own house.

Against all reason and logic, the film is a modest hit, grossing $13 million against its $5 million budget. Due to marketing and other hidden costs, these days most films need to gross twice their production budget just to break even. I doubt this rule of thumb applies to It Comes At Night though, as I can't imagine them spending $5 million to advertise this thing. So I'm gonna guess that that $7 to $8 million of its gross was pure profit.


SPOILERS, I GUESS!

The Plot:
As the film opens, a virulent plague (I guess?) has wiped out most of the country (maybe?). Paul (played by Joel Edgerton), his wife Sarah, teenaged son Travis, father-in-law Bud and dog Stanley are holed up in a remote house in the woods, waiting out the disease. Sarah comforts Bud, who's contracted the plague and is covered with boils. She tells him it's OK to "let go."

Paul and Travis, wearing protective gloves and masks, take Bud deep into the woods in a wheelbarrow. Paul shoots Bud in the head to put him out of his misery, and burns his body in a shallow grave. This traumatic event causes Travis to start having horrific nightmares (most of which are shown in the incredibly misleading trailer).

A few days later, Paul hears someone in the house at night. He investigates and finds a man rooting around for food. He knocks him out, drags him outside and ties him to a tree, leaving him there overnight to see if he's suffering from the disease. The next day Paul interrogates the man, whose name is Will. He claims to have a wife and child, and they've been living in his brother's house (Plot Point!) some fifty miles away (!). Will says he was out searching for fresh water, not realizing Paul's house was occupied. He tells Paul he and his family have plenty of food, and offers to trade some for water.

Paul and Sarah discuss what to do with Will. Paul doesn't trust him, but Sarah says having more people around would make it easier to defend their home from others. Paul agrees to take Will back to his house to check out his story. Paul loads up his truck, and he and Will take off.

Everything goes fine until they're suddenly attacked by gun-toting woodsmen along the way. Paul crashes his truck into a tree, gets out and sees two men approaching. He shoots and kills one, while Will beats the other man to death. Paul suspects Will was in on the attack, but he swears he's never seen the men before. They push the truck back on the road and continue on their way.

Several days later Paul returns to his house with Will, his wife Kim and young son Andrew. Plus a goat and several chickens. Apparently Will convinced Paul they're not infected and pose no threat. Sarah and Travis welcome their new borders.

That night at dinner, Paul explains the rules of the house. He shows them the bright red door, saying it's the only way in or out of the house, and it's to remain locked and closed AT ALL TIMES (Another Plot Point!), and only Paul and Sarah have the key. They keep their weapons locked in a small armory, and always go out in groups of at least two. Lastly, and most importantly, they NEVER, EVER GO OUT AT NIGHT, unless it's an absolute emergency. Why this particular rule is in place is apparently none of our concern, as it's never addressed.

Days go by, as the two families get to know one another. After a while though, cracks begin to show in the happy facade. Will teaches Travis how to chop wood, which generates jealous looks in the stern and rigid Paul. Travis, being a horny teen, becomes attracted to Kim, going so far as to awkwardly flirt with her. His nightmares also continue.

One day while chopping firewood, Stanley begins barking at something in the woods. Paul tries to take Stanley inside, but he snaps at him and runs into the woods. Travis chases after him, but eventually loses sight of him. A furious Paul catches up with Travis, and yells at him for running off by himself. Will looks around briefly for Stanley, but doesn't see anything. Paul insists they return quickly, as Stanley knows the way home.

That night Paul and Will share a drink and get to know one another. Will mentions being an only child, which contradicts his earlier story that he was staying in his brother's home (told you it was a Plot Point!). Travis has another nightmare, and wanders through the house, unable to go back to sleep. He finds Andrew asleep on the floor in Bud's old room, tossing and turning. He wakes Andrew and takes him back to his parents' room.

Travis hears a noise downstairs, and thinks it may be Stanley returning. He goes down to investigate, and sees the red door's open. He runs back upstairs to wake his parents. Paul and Will go downstairs, and find a sick and bleeding Stanley lying on the floor. Fearing the dog is infected, Paul sends Travis upstairs. He then takes Stanley outside and shoots him.

There's then a family meeting, as Paul demands to know who let the dog out, er, I mean in. Travis says the door was ajar when he came downstairs, and suggests Andrew may have opened it while sleepwalking. Kim insists that Andrew doesn't do that, and says Travis must have opened it while half asleep and doesn't remember. Paul realizes they'll never get to the bottom of it, and suggests both families stay in their respective rooms for a couple of days. Mostly so they can all calm down, but also to make sure no one's infected.

The next morning, Travis eavesdrops on Will's family, as Andrew constantly cries and Kim says they need to leave. Travis tells his parents that Andrew's sick, and may have passed on the disease to him. Paul and Sarah don their protective gear and knock on the door of Will's room, demanding to see if Andrew's sick. Will tells them to get lost, but Paul insists. Will opens the door and points a gun at Paul, taking him captive.

Will says there's nothing wrong with them, but demands their fair share of supplies so they can leave. Paul agrees, and he and Will head downstairs. Sarah appears out of the shadows, surprising Will as Paul grabs his gun. Paul marches Will and his family outside. Will suddenly attacks Paul, hitting him over and over in the face with a rock, until Sarah shoots and kills him.

Kim grabs Andrew and runs into the woods. Despite Paul's savage beating, he's able to rise up and fire after Kim. He hits and kills Andrew, as Kim sobs uncontrollably. Having lost everything, she begs Paul to kill her. Paul grants her wish, shooting her in cold blood, while Travis looks on in disbelief. Travis runs back into the house, where he vomits blood into the sink.

Some time later, Sarah tells a visibly diseased Travis it's OK to "let go." Gosh, it's like poetry, ending the same way it started! Paul and Sarah, both infected, then sit at the dining room table, staring at one another. Roll end credits, as the audience groans and shuffles out of the theater.

Thoughts:
• Whoever came up with the highly misleading marketing campaign for It Comes At Night is either a genius or an asshole
—  possibly both. I get the feeling they looked at the finished film, realized it didn't stand a chance at the box office, so they simply decided to promote it as a completely different movie. Kudos to their chutzpah, I guess.

Every piece of this film's advertising is a complete fabrication. Heck, even the title— "It Comes At Night" is a big fat lie. There's no "It," and nothing ever comes at any point during the film. Especially not at night. They no doubt decided that title sounded better than "Let's Argue About Who Left The Door Open While We Wait To Die."

Props to whoever came up with the film's poster as well. Design-wise it ain't much to look at, but the concept is amazing, as it demands the viewer's attention and draws the eye right into it. What's the dog looking at there in the inky blackness? Some kind of nocturnal monster? A shambling, animated corpse? Bigfoot? A bunny calmly nibbling on grass?

Apparently whatever he sees is none of the audience's business. In the film, Stanley the dog does run into the woods after something, but whatever he's chasing— and whatever injures him— is never addressed.

Too bad there're more scares in the poster than in the actual film.

The aforementioned trailer is just as deceptive and manipulative as the title and poster. It features quick flashes of disturbing images, in an effort to bamboozle the audience into thinking they're going to watch a standard zombie film.

Unfortunately NONE of these "scary" images appear in the "real" world of the film. Instead they're seen only during Travis' nightmares. I cannot emphasize this enough— anything that's remotely frightening in the trailer is "all just a dream."

• Paul's family has an unusual dynamic— he's white, while his wife Sarah and son Travis are black. This is never commented on or acknowledged in any way during the film, which I assume was supposed to be a progressive statement in itself. 

• Paul and his family are terrified of the mysterious plague, and rightly so. To keep from becoming infected, they wear gas masks and gloves whenever they go outside, and wash up with antibacterial soap when they come back in. 

Annnnnd then they let their dog Stanley tromp around outside and waltz right back into the house. Travis even lets him sleep in his bed! So much for all their precautions!

• Will tells Paul that he traveled a whopping fifty miles from his brother's home, looking for water. FIFTY MILES! That's a hell of a long way to go for a drink! Is potable water really that scarce in this world? Surely to Thor he had to have run across a few bottles of water before he got that far away. How long has this disease been around?

And did he really walk the whole fifty miles? He must have, as he never mentions a car or even a bike!

• After Will and his family arrive, Paul runs down the rules of the house for them. Their most important rule of all is "Never, Ever, EVER Go Out At Night."

Sounds pretty compelling and creepy, eh? This ironclad rule implies there's something horrible in the woods, something that only comes out under cover of darkness. Something Paul and his family have seen or heard, that terrified them. What could be lurking out there in the inky blackness?

Nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

As I said earlier, there are no monsters, zombies, or anything else even remotely interesting in this movie. Apparently the only thing lurking in the woods is the characters' fear of the unknown. How spectacularly disappointing.

• There's some really bad editing going on in the scene in which Paul and Will are attacked while driving though the woods. It looks for all the world like a lone man comes running out of the woods, as Paul shoots at him. We then see Will beating someone in the head with a rock, which I assumed was the lone attacker. 

A bit later we see him throwing two men into a shallow grave. I guess there were actually two men who attacked? Maybe if I watched the movie again this scene would make more sense, but that ain't happening.

• At one point Stanley the dog runs off into the woods after something. Later that night, he somehow gets back in the house, and lies dying on the floor, covered in blood. It looks like he's either sick with the plague or has been attacked— it's not clear which.

So many questions here. How'd Stanley get back in the house? Did Andrew hear him and let him in? If he didn't open the door, who did? Did Stanley get sick and come home to die? If not and he was attacked, what did it? Once again, it's apparently none of our business, as none of these questions are ever answered.

• So far I've been pretty hard on It Comes At Night (and rightly so). Are there any pluses?

Eh, a couple. The film isn't the least bit scary, but it does feature an oppressive and unsettling tone, similar to that of 2016's The VVItch. I didn't think much of The VVItch when I first saw it, but it's grown on me over the past year or so, and I have a newfound appreciation of it. So any similarity to it can only be a good thing.

There's also a bleak hopelessness to the film, as we see the characters simply going through the motions of their everyday lives. They're existing rather than actually living. It makes one question whether surviving in a post apocalyptic world would actually be worth it.

That's all I got!  

• The final scene, in which the infected Paul and Sarah sit at their kitchen table, silently staring at one another, is taken right out of John Carpenter's 1982 version of The Thing. Hey, if you're gonna steal, might as well steal from the best!

It Comes At Night is a low budget, slow-burn film that starts out promisingly, but sputters and comes to an abrupt stop in its third act. I wanted to like it, but unfortunately my enjoyment was tainted by the highly misleading marketing, which promised a horror film but instead delivered a survivalist family drama. Do yourself a favor and don't watch the trailer beforehand. I give it a C.

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