SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; S.H.I.E.L.D.; Inspector Spacetime; Community; House of Cards and the White House Correspondents’ Dinner; The Americans

Time Wars

Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS was being hyped as the first blockbuster episode of the spring season of DoctorWho but failed to deliver. It’s not that I didn’t like it, but my exceptions were just too high for what turned out to be a bottle episode. One problem was that there were just too many plot contrivances. To start with the TARDIS was placed in basic mode so that it could be captured. Then how do we explain how the Doctor winds up outside and Clara is lost in the corridors? I might forgive these as necessary to set up the story, but similar problems plagued the entire episode.

The Doctor said not to touch anyone or else time will reassert itself. I have no idea what that means, and feel they are going too far in making up rules for time as they go along. I can forgive contradictions as to whether the Doctor can change events or meet up with his former selves on rare occasions in order to provide for a good story. I didn’t buy Moffat’s explanation as to why the Doctor couldn’t travel back in time to somewhere other than New York and meet up with Amy and Rory, but I’ll let that pass as we know the real point was a farewell episode for the two. Throwing out a new concept of time asserting itself based upon who is touched seemed like pointless and arbitrary timey whimey stuff.  I might have accepted a cosmic reset button to resolve the episode  if the explanation and story were executed better but entire existence of the  Big Friendly Button was rather weak. There were so many other questions, such as why did future burnt Clara attack everyone, and how did getting burnt make little Clara strong enough to take on larger men?

doctor-who-7.10-journey-to-the-centre-of-the-tardis-mini-tardis

The highlight of the episode was Clara running through the TARDIS. The scene of the TARDIS swimming pool would have been more exciting if we didn’t already know it was coming. This created expectations of more than a quick glimpse. I did like the TARDIS library but The History Of The Time War with The Doctor’s real name sitting out makes it implausible that none of the previous companions other that River Song knew this. This did serve to foreshadow the mystery of the season finale, The Name of the Doctor: “You call yourself ‘Doctor? Why do you do that? You have a name. I’ve seen it.”

I also wonder who would have the knowledge to write this book.  Besides reading this secret, Clara also heard the story of her two other deaths. The memory should be gone after the cosmic reset, but we also saw that from the Van Baalen brothers that not all memories were extinguished. I won’t even get into the nonsense of convincing one of the brothers that he is an android.

As has been common in episodes leading up to the 50th Anniversary, there were references to previous episodes. This included past sounds echoing through the TARDIS. Clara also found the Doctor’s cot from A Good Man Goes To War and the model TARDIS Amy and Mel were playing with in Let’s Kill Hitler. There were other things we have seen before, including a crack in time and (almost) an exploding TARDIS.

Quote of the Episode: “Don’t get into a spaceship with a madman: didn’t anyone teach you that?”

Above is the Behind The Scenes video

Next week, Strax, Vastra and Jenny return in The Crimson Horror. Dianna Rigg, whose roles range from The Avengers ( 1960’s BBC series) to Game of Thrones, guest stars. Here is an interview with her. A spoiler-free review is posted here.

The BBC has released the official synopsis for Neil Gaiman’s upcoming episode, Nightmare in Silver:

Hedgewick’s World of Wonders was once the greatest theme park in the galaxy, but it’s now the dilapidated home to a shabby showman, a chess-playing dwarf and a dysfunctional army platoon. When the Doctor, Clara, Artie and Angie arrive, the last thing they expect is the re-emergence of one of the Doctor’s oldest foes. The Cybermen are back!

Gaiman also did a far better job of revealing TARDIS secrets back in The Doctor’s Wife.

Clark Gregg has revealed how Agent Coulson will be brought back in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

“In the pilot, it’s revealed Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the ultimate super spy, faked Agent Coulson’s death on purpose to motivate The Avengers. Some S.H.I.E.L.D. members were in on it (including, possibly, Maria Hill played by Cobie Smulders) but The Avengers were not. Their security clearance wasn’t high enough. Coulson was forced to hold his breath as part of the ruse and that’s a point of contention among his colleagues After the fact, Fury moved him to a remote location until things died down, and then he was reinserted into duty at the time of the show.”

I was hoping that we’d see Black Widow get in the shower and find Agent Coulson there, Bobby Ewing style.

Mayim Bialik of The Big Bang Theory will be joining the cast of the Untitled Web Series About A Space Traveler Who Can Also Travel Through Time. This is the web version of Inspector Spacetime with name removed to avoid copyright infringement against Community. Incidentally, Community had its best post-Dan Harmon episode this week with a Freaky Friday storyline. The episode was written by Jim Rash, who plays the Dean and shows he picked up a few things about how the show should be done during the time he has spent appearing on it. Rash is interviewed about writing the episode here.

The White House Correspondents’ Dinner showed the above parody of House of Cards, coincidentally the same week in which I completed watching the series on Netflix. The release of all thirteen episodes of the first season provided the advantage of allowing for binge watching. The disadvantage was the inability for blogs to discuss this on a weekly basis coinciding with most people watching as is the case with most television shows. Events became far more compelling in the final several episodes and I did wind up binging on the show this Friday night. Events in the slower-moving earlier episodes do become much more important. On the other hand, the shows leaves open much to talk about and it would have been interesting to read the views of others as the events unfolded.

MAJOR SPOILERS ABOUT HOUSE OF CARDS FOLLOW.

DO NOT READ THE NEXT SECTION UNTIL YOU COMPLETE THE FIRST 13 EPISODES

House of Cards might be seen as a completed story if seen as Frank Underwood going from being bypassed for the Secretary of State appointment to being chosen to become the next Vice President, which Frank wants to use as a stepping stone to the presidency. With filming beginning on a second set of thirteen, many things are still hanging which could jeopardize Frank’s appointment and perhaps lead to even worse consequences. The most serious would be revelations as to how he manipulated Peter, especially if the murder is revealed. Claire’s  legal problems could also create enough of a problem to prevent the appointment, even if the complaint was fabricated. I suspect that ultimately the season will seem more like the first half of a novel.

Initially the series seemed like a more cerebral, political version of Revenge. Later Underwood’s real plan becomes clear. When Underwood first set up Russo’s fall, I assumed it was in retaliation for Peter acting independent of Underwood, threatening to expose past manipulations. Presumably Underwood had planned this from the start, with Peter’s disloyalty  just providing the reason to put the final stages into motion at the time. When Underwood started to wipe his fingerprints off of Peter’s steering wheel I predicted what he would do next, but did it really make sense to murder Peter where security cameras might have shown him come in? Having Peter permanently silenced would be of benefit, but Peter no longer had the same ability to cause harm to Underwood.

My biggest nitpick about the show was the manner in which alliances changed so easily. Frank’s wife betrayed him and then quickly became loyal to their joint goals after returning home (a second way in which Peter’s death was of benefit to Underwood as long as everyone continues to consider it a suicide). More implausible was the degree of loyalty to Underwood showed by the President’s chief of staff in later episodes. I could easily see her performing a few favors for Underwood, even floating his name as Vice President, in return for his favor. It went too far with her actually scheming with Underwood and allowing the release of the secret schedule.

Other changes in loyalties were easier to accept. Backstabbing by underlings such as Remy didn’t come as much of a surprise. Zoe is far more interesting as a reporter digging into what happened as opposed to the slut who got her stories by sleeping with sources. Best of all was seeing Zoe convince Christina to help find out what really drove Peter to suicide. There is no doubt that this House of Cards will start to collapse around Frank Underwood when the series returns now that his earlier actions are becoming uncovered.

END OF SPOILERS

The Americans started in a more conventional, weekly format on FX at about the same time as  House of Cards was placed on Netflix. The finale airs this Wednesday, with a preview of the episode here.  It is my favorite new series of this season, centering around two Russian spies who pose as as a married couple during the Reagan era. Their neighbor across the street happens to be an FBI agent. I won’t say more, recommending that those who have not seen the series pick it up from the beginning.

Finally, here are Conan O’Brien and Barack Obama at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner:

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