Category Archives: bbc america

Orphan Black – Don’t Believe the Hype

BBC America has been pushing this at us for quite some time now. The impression is that this is the next big thing, and you better get on board right away. There has been little description of what is actually was about until very recently. It finally premiered this past Saturday night, right after the much anticipated debut of the second half of the seventh season of “Doctor Who.” My first impression – don’t believe the hype.

It sounds like it might be fun. A woman finds out she may have been cloned and has multiple clones of herself walking around living different lives. The actress Tatiana Maslany is certainly charismatic, and versatile to be playing various characters against herself. And it’s shot in Toronto, a city I share somewhat of a kinship with as Biff Bam Pop! is based there. These are good things, but there’s really little here that kept me interested. It’s predictable, and that is something that the next big thing really shouldn’t be.

One episode, filled with violence and sex, and the usual scifi trappings, and it just didn’t grab me. I’ll look forward to “Doctor Who” next week, and “Copper” later in the year until BBC America can give me something to really get excited about.

But that’s me. For another view, you can hop on over to the aforementioned Biff Bam Pop! and check out my friend’s Marie Gilbert‘s review.

Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol

As it has since the beginning of the post-millenium series, “Doctor Who” returns for Christmas with a new special, a teaser of the season to come. This time, it’s a Dickensian Christmas-themed trip on a honeymoon spaceliner with returning cast Matt Smith and Karen Gillan as The Doctor and Amy Pond. Arthur Darvill also returns as Amy’s newlywed husband, Rory. At least that’s what might be expected from the previews, and the episode’s title, “A Christmas Carol.”

We begin on board a plummeting spaceliner, this being “Doctor Who” all spaceliners are doomed, but we find Amy and Rory arriving from the bridge of the ship, from the honeymoon suite, in meter maid and Roman soldier outfits (!), telling the crew everything is all right because they’ve called for help. Yeah, you guessed it, The Doctor, cue opening credits.

The spaceliner is careening into a planet whose atmosphere is controlled by an evil old man who refuses to grant entry, dooming the passengers of the ship, unless The Doctor can change his mind. Between the Dickens references, the Victorian steampunk culture of the planet, and the more obvious “A Christmas Carol” parallels, this is not what you think it is, and goes in a completely different direction. And I would expect nothing less from writer/producer Steven Moffet.

Yes, this is Dickens’ classic tale of redemption, but not in the way you think. While Amy and Rory are here, they are barely here. The story revolves around Michael Gambon as the Scrooge template, Kazran, whose past is altered helter skelter. Gambon is terrific here, as are his younger self Laurence Belcher and the love of his life Katherine Jenkins.

Steven Moffet spins a wonderful but bittersweet time travel tale that also mirrors last year’s season finale. It’s almost as if Moffet decided that if “Doctor Who” is a show about time travel, let’s make it a show a time travel gosh darn it – and he pulls out all the tricks. The result is delightful, and the Christmas tradition continues. I can’t wait for the new season to start.

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Doctor Who: Amy’s Choice

This is a very intriguing episode. In “Amy’s Choice,” the Doctor and his friends are trapped in two parallel dreams – one of now in a doomed TARDIS, and one five years from now with a pregnant Amy married to Rory in ‘the village that time forgot.’ The challenge – figure out which dream is real before they die.

The nemesis that places the Doctor in this trap is the mysterious and self-proclaimed Dream Lord, played by Toby Jones. He’s one of my favorite character actors. I loved him as Truman Capote in Infamous and he recently was verified to play the villainous freak Arnim Zola in the upcoming Captain America feature film. Here he plays a foe the Doctor apparently knows as the only person in the universe who hates him as much as he does.

Toby Jones gets all the good lines in the form of insults against the Doctor, similar to the Valeyard. He calls upon all of his names like the oncoming storm, etc., but while I prefer my ‘Kid Who’ for the ‘Junior Doctor,’ I certainly do have a fondness for ‘him in the bowtie’ as well. And it’s not just Jones, Matt Smith and Karen Gillan as well as Rory played by Arthur Darvill, all have excellent dialogue in this Simon Nye script.

Rory this time out kinda falls into Mickey territory a bit in this episode, but I still like him. He has presence, which puts him above Mickey’s comic relief in my book. He only has that whiny quality when confronted by the Doctor as a romantic rival. It’s refreshing as it sort of reminds me of how the Christopher Eccleston Doctor reacted when Captain Jack Harkness was hitting on Rose.

“Amy’s Choice” has terrific performances by all, a rough ending and then a soft ending, and of course more monsters worthy of making us all hide behind the couch. The same danger as usual but with a lighter touch than usual – I wouldn’t mind having Simon Nye return as a writer. His “Men Behaving Badly” vibe fits “Doctor Who” better than I thought it would.

We also get to see a bit more of the multi-level multi-color Soul Train set of the new TARDIS control room. Fun.

So until next time, “under the circumstances, I’d suggest… run!”

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Doctor Who: The Vampires of Venice

This week’s episode picks up right where the last ended. The Doctor is trying to set things right with companion Amy Pond and her-hours-away-from-her-vows fiancée. Although, is he trying to set things straight or is he just trying to get her off his back? Let’s face it, the Doctor’s been through this before, most recently with Martha, and he just wants to nip this in the bud as soon as possible. And in fetching fiancée Rory from his bachelor party, he makes his appearance in a very interesting manner. It has to be seen to be believed.

The Doctor sets them up on a date, in the perfect place – Venice, albeit sixteenth century Venice, but it’s still Venice. As always happens they get caught up in strange events that only the Doctor seems to attract – in this case, Senora Calvierri and her family of seeming vampires. At first I had to wonder if this was related to the Great Vampires, foes of the Time Lords who were encountered by the fourth Doctor in the episode “State of Decay.” Of course, as has been the theme of this fifth season, nothing is as it seems.

Vampires are perfect fodder actually for writer Toby Whithouse, who not only brought back Sarah Jane and K-9 a few seasons back, but also created the paranormal BBC series “Being Human.” However, old school fan that he is, his grasp of the newest season unfortunately feels a bit weak.

Matt Smith seems to be channeling David Tennant throughout the episode. It may be that this was written for Tennant or before Matt decided how he would play his Doctor. Amy is once again the companion of the week with little added to her character this time around. I think, so far, that only Steven Moffet can make her come alive.

Fiancee Rory on the other hand is intriguing. I love that he takes everything in stride, from the TARDIS being bigger on the inside to the whole time travel thing – he lets very little of the usual Doctor Who madness even phase him. What does bug him is the fact that everyone seems to think the Doctor is Amy’s fiancée and not him. Priceless. I actually like Rory a lot, especially when he calls out a monster by insulting its momma. Love it.

One thing is for sure, Moffet definitely wants us all hiding behind the sofa this season. We get a few more clues to the overarching plot for the whole season with the Pandorica, the Silence, and the crack in Amy’s bedroom. I have to say I was a bit disappointed in this episode’s climax as I thought it was too similar to that of “The Idiot’s Lantern,” but still it was fun. And don’t forget to keep an eye out for the Doctor’s library card!

Until next time, remember – stop talking, brain thinking, hush.

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Doctor Who: Flesh and Stone

When last we left the Doctor, Amy, River and a handful of assorted Space Marines, sorry, I mean future age priests with guns and body armor, they were in a maze of the dead, surrounded by an army of Weeping Angels, and it looked like the Doctor was about to bring a crashed starliner down onto their heads with a gun. And then the words ‘to be continued’ bitchslapped us back to reality. Two things writer Steven Moffet does well are scary and cliffhanger – the first part of this two-parter were chockful of both.

The resolution is sooo Doctor Who and very logical to the world he operates in, so I won’t give the cliffhanger away, but let’s just say we get to follow these folks for another forty-five minutes, and it’s a key element of the story. And in that forty-five minutes we see one of the other things Moffet does well – things get very complicated. Not only is Amy infected by the Angels, but we see the return of the crack in time and space from her home in the first episode this season. Seems it all ties together…

This episode brings about a bizarre paradox in the powers of the Weeping Angels. You can’t blink. You can’t look into their eyes. How hard is it not to blink? How hard is it not to look into someone’s (or something’s) eyes? How hard is it to watch something with no light? And how hard would it be not to open your eyes? Try it after you watch this episode and then be even more afraid.

The mystery of who River Song really is deepens as one of her priests threatens to tell the Doctor who she really is. Her hesitation at this, and also at saying that she trusts the Doctor is quite telling. Curiouser and curiouser. There is so much more to her than even before. Is she not just the Doctor’s wife, but also his murderer? Should I start taking bets that she’s the Rani now?

Until next time, walk like you can see.

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Doctor Who: Victory of the Daleks

Here we are, episode three of the new season of “Doctor Who.” I must say that I still don’t understand all the hating on the new theme. For some folks that seems to be the only thing wrong with the new series. I quite like it. I don’t hear the screams of ‘techno’ that some people complain about either. I hear the same old strings and synthesizer beats as always. And while I myself am still not thrilled by the TARDIS made from the D and W in the logo, I love the opening sequence. The lightning and spinning TARDIS add a level of precarious danger that I quite like.

“Victory of the Daleks” is not only the first time Matt Smith encounters the Daleks, but it’s also the first non-Steven Moffet-scripted episode of the season. I was a bit afraid there might be a change in tone or character, but writer Michael Gatiss brings the Moffet Who quite admirably.

WWII Prime Minister Winston Churchill calls on the Doctor for help, a bit that both demonstrates that the PM knows The Doctor intimately (even about his regenerating) and that the TARDIS is still a bit wonky (he arrives a month late). It seems that the UK has a new secret weapon against the Axis – a Brit scientist has ‘invented’ something that looks very much like the Daleks.

This episode includes a terror only a Brit or a student of history could appreciate, and be terrified of – the Daleks turn the lights on all over London during the Blitzkrieg. That must have made some older adults hide behind their couches over in the UK. In the meantime The Doctor involuntarily creates a new model of multi-colored Daleks. More colorful, maybe, but more dangerous, we’ll see.

The new Daleks are just a small bit of what has made this new season something different. From the new inside of the TARDIS to the fine blue wood of the Police Box outside to these new Daleks, everything has been brighter and more colorful. It’s something, that like the ‘too-young’ Matt Smith, is mis-leading in flat 2-D photographs, but vibrant and exciting in action. I like it.

Trust me, you haven’t lived until you see Spitfires attacking a Dalek saucer in space (shades of Warren Ellis!), The Doctor use a cookie as a TARDIS self-destruct device or seen Daleks serve tea. This one is a hoot. And of course, next week can only be better, and scarier – as Steven Moffet’s Weeping Angels return. And River returns as well. This should be good.

Matt Smith gets stronger in the role with every moment. Karen Gillan has a role here, but she really doesn’t have much to work with personality-wise. Her listing may as well read ‘Doctor’s generic companion’ this time. And Ian McNiece, the newsreader from HBO’s “Rome,” is a brilliant Winston Churchill.

Oh, and if you’re looking for a review of the first episode “The Eleventh Hour,” that aired for the first time in the States on BBC America last night, click here, and for the second episode, “The Beast Below,” click here. This is a great time to be a Doctor Who fan.

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The Waters of Mars

David Tennant’s run as The Doctor nears its end with “The Waters of Mars.” Sans a regular companion, the lone Doctor lands on Mars in 2059, and visits the first, and apparently doomed, Earth colony there. Slowly the colonists become infected and turn into water gushing monsters, with the story becoming a bunker drama.

The robot that keeps saying “Gadget gadget,” drives me nuts and makes me think of nothing but Inspector Gadget saying “Go go gadget,” takes me completely out of the story. Not good, but luckily it doesn’t last long. That aside, the drama is powerful, intense and horrific – not your usual Doctor Who fare. It’s also a very depressing and tragic episode, a note to remind us of the end coming for the current Doctor.

The best part however is the implied return of some of The Doctor’s oldest enemies. If Russell T. Davies has done anything with this series, it has been to resurrect more than a few of the golden oldies and give them a new spin. And remember, water always wins.

While British TV audiences were treated to “The Waters of Mars” a few weeks back, it airs here in the States on BBC America on December 19th. Be there.

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Waters of Mars

David Tennant is spiraling toward his final episodes as The Doctor. “Waters of Mars” airs on the BBC this coming Sunday, and sooner or later in the States…

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Torchwood: Children of Earth – Sneak Peak

One of the most anticipated panels of this year’s New York Comic Con was the Torchwood panel featuring special guests all the way from the UK, lead actress Eve Myles and director Euros Lyn.

For those not in the know, “Torchwood” is a BBC series that originally spun off from the wildly popular new incarnation of “Doctor Who.” Kind of like “The X-Files” meets Men in Black with a quirky, very sexy, sometimes scary, adult adventure vibe, Torchwood is an undercover operation that investigates aliens on Earth, and defending us from the ones that mean us harm – which is unfortunately, most of them.

The panel was hosted by the very cool Whitney Matheson of USA Today’s Pop Candy blog. MTV was also there, and BBC America was actively interviewing audience members before the guests showed up. Announcements were made that both the second season of “Primeval” and “Ashes to Ashes,” the sequel to “Life on Mars,” were coming to BBC America this year.

Then we saw a preview of “Torchwood: Children of Earth”

Yeah, baby. It was followed by a few soundbyte-short interviews with cast members, including the mysterious Mr. Frobisher who will be a major part of the upcoming mini-third season. Composed of five one-hour episodes that make up one whole story, the season has the team brought to the edge by an invasion they were created to stop – “a horrific force, a devil coming back to mess with Torchwood.” Then, to roaring applause and cheering, Whitney introduced director Euros Lyn and actress Eve Myles, better known as Gwen Cooper of Torchwood.

The camera flashes were mind-boggling and must have been doubly so for Ms. Myles. I don’t think she had any idea how popular the series had become in the United States. It is, in fact, BBC America’s most popular show. She was indeed the star here, more charismatic and happy to be on hand than other celebrities I have seen on past TV and movie panels. Eve seemed absolutely delighted to be here.

First up for discussion was the end of Season Two where two major characters and cast members were lost. Euros Lyn stressed that is a separation between the old Torchwood and the new Torchwood. They miss the characters/actors no longer with them but this is a new story, a new situation. Move forward, not back.

Questions roll in from the audience like wildfire, as do gifts and autograph requests for Eve. What is John Barrowman, who plays male lead and Torchwood boss Captain Jack Harkness and is considered by many to be the world’s sexiest gay man, really like? “John farts a lot” is Eve’s starting response. The audience hears nothing after that. She later says, “John is beautiful,” and “it’s a cheeky program” when asked who will be kissing who this season. Who will John kiss? “He goes from tables to chairs.” When asked to relate the first time she met John she coyly answered, “I can’t” to much laughter.

What will we see? Who will be back? Fan favorite PC Andy will be back, as will Gwen’s husband Rhys taking a bigger role this time out. The Weevil won’t be back this season, and although it was planned, neither Mickey nor Martha Jones from “Doctor Who” will be appearing because of scheduling difficulties. Both Eve and Euros assured us there are great new characters coming though.

A female fan asked what her favorite American genre series was, Eve confessed to being a huge “Buffy” fan, which is why she had such a geekgasm when James Marsters was on the show. The two women then drooled over the idea of a Captain John action figure coming out. Pun intended, we are talking about “Torchwood” after all.

Speaking of the adult aspect of the show, one ‘cheeky’ questioner asked the guests on the panel if they would be interested in going out and getting f***ed up tonight. We Americans… sigh… Finally a fan made Ms. Myles completely speechless by saying he’d go gay for Jack. See what these Brits are doing to us? 😉

“Torchwood: Children of Earth” premieres on BBC America in the coming year, hopefully sooner rather than later.