August Update

This summer has flown by! I still have the list of planned posts I made back in June, but I hope to get them out sooner rather than later. Since then here’s a little bit about what I’ve been up to…

Recent Release: She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Season 3

Season 3 released on August 2 on Netflix with a whopping SIX episodes– down one from season 2’s SEVEN. I have a lot of thoughts about this. In one of my earliest posts, I expressed my frustrations with Miraculous Ladybug’s release schedule, and it’s no secret that Steven Universe dragged its feet, so I’ve actually found this rather refreshing. Since releasing season 1’s thirteen episodes November 18, 2018, season 2 dropped seven episodes on April 26. Although the episode count is still low, She-Ra has kept my interest piqued.

The problem with long wait times between new content is that it’s easy to get caught up in something else. Doctor Who is perhaps my favorite franchise, but these days I’m much more interested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with its fairly constant stream of content and announcements, but even now that those have slowed and become increasingly unclear or ambiguous, I am looking for new content to keep me occupied.

Marathoning: RuPaul’s Drag Race

I may have done some marathoning while cleaning out my house and crafting like crazy and most recently I’ve been catching up with RuPaul and the several seasons I’ve missed over the last few years. The thing I like about this particular competitive reality television program is RuPaul’s commitment to promoting loving oneself and one’s weirdness.

The show routinely depicts contestants overcoming their own personal demons or how the show lead to family reconciliations. Regardless of the veracity of reality TV, these heartwarming messages are the kind of thing that we should see more of. With so much hate-speak and anger, promoting love and acceptance is hugely important.

Also, I just love drag queens and have a lot of connections to the LGBTQ+ community. While Drag Race was originally more concerned with poking fun at the question of gender, it has since become a safe space for all forms of gender expression. In recent years, former contestants have come out as transgender and there have even been openly trans contestants. At the start of season 9 (which is what I’m currently on) Lady Gaga makes an appearance and explains how drag has affected her life, elevating it as an art form and an important form of self-expression.

Personal Note

Next week I start grad school (again!) and begin working towards an MFA in Film & TV Studies (hopefully with more emphasis on the TV). I’m very excited, but also nervous. I still have a long list of blog entries to write and publish but have no idea how much time I’ll actually have. To those who keep reading, I deeply appreciate it. I don’t know if I can quite explain what it means to me.

This blog has been a way for me to find my voice and put it out there. Confidence is something I’ve struggled with for a long time and having this platform has been a way for me to work on raising my voice. Learning people are actually reading has been even more exciting. Hopefully, my next post will be a proper review rather than another update!

Doctor Who “Resolution”

This year, Doctor Who aired a special on New Year’s Day. This is not the first time even in recent Who history of this happening. The last episode of Russel T. Davies’s run, “The End of Time, Part Two” also aired on New Year’s Day, concluding the story started at Christmas 2009. This is the first new Who Doctor to air a special on New Year’s Day instead of Christmas.

Going into the special, I was wary. There’s always been something softly appealing about the Christmas-y overtones and background of previous specials. Even when Christmas fades to the back, the episodes have always felt somewhat epic, just a little bit more special than any other episode. I was excited, however, about the possible return of the Daleks. The Daleks have been a Who staple since the first Doctor, appearing in the very second Doctor Who serial ever in 1963-4. The preview seemed to be setting up for such a reveal, but as I was already nervous, I was hesitant to get my hopes up.

Chris Chibnall made a clean break and a fresh start for himself this season by having episodes that did not use any previously introduced characters or planets (save for Earth). While Steven Moffat drew on his time as a writer under Davies, Chibnall decided to distance himself. While this is admirable, it left longtime fans a little off balance, though we could all agree that Jodie Whittaker was an excellent casting choice. In “Resolution” Chibnall brings back the Daleks and UNIT (though he makes a point of removing them as an easy plot device), drawing on the legacy of every previous Doctor Who showrunner.

But, here’s the thing, Chibnall did something that modern audiences hadn’t experienced in quite some time… He made the Daleks…

Scary!

I know, hard to believe, but true! For decades we’ve all heard the stories of how terrifying the Daleks were, of the cliché of children hiding behind the sofa. While there have been some episodes where the Daleks demonstrate why this was the case, and why they are the Doctor’s greatest enemy, overuse has made them a cliché. Both Davies and Moffat have made missteps with the Daleks (Dalek-Humans of Series 3, M&M/Skittles Daleks of Series 5), but Chibnall has avoided this by adding a new element to the Daleks, and has made them a special event, but not using them in Series 11.

I have to commend Chibnall for his choices. I’m really impressed with how he continues to bring his aesthetic in a way that has actually been rejuvenating. He perhaps pulls more on old Who more than his predecessors, both with how he composes episodes, graphics, and music, but does so in a way that is fresh rather than nostalgic.

SPOILERS AHEAD



Without giving too much away, Chibnall begins by setting up the Daleks as the greatest threat in the universe. Something that has been said over and over again throughout Doctor Who, but is this time backed up. Here, an ancient Dalek manages to take control of a human body and demonstrates how and why they are so dangerous. Now, the Doctor attributes some of these skills to the fact that this is a ‘reconnaissance scout’, which is a little bit unsatisfying, but understandable. It might be more frustrating if the Dalek just started exhibiting new powers for no apparent reason. After all, while this is a new showrunner and new Doctor, this is not a new incarnation of the show as a whole, such as when Davies made Daleks fly.

The episode moves a little slowly, but picks up speed as it goes, with the bulk of the conflict, climax, and resolution happening in the last half of the episode. (In fact, the problem is only solved completely in the last four minutes– I was very concerned my recording would end before the episode did.) Like Chibnall’s previous episodes, this one takes place in Sheffield and features familial ties and makes allusions to the working class. The guest characters, however, are archeologists, which I wouldn’t categorize as working class, although their work is directly related to the events of the episode. Once again family, specifically Graham and Ryan’s, is at the forefront, and while it seems a little too easy in some ways, the happy ending is not unwelcome (a way in which Chibnall continues to distinguish Doctor Who from his work on Torchwood).

Overall, I found the episode enjoyable. It was a thrilling return of the Daleks and great fun watching Jodie Whittaker exhibit the terror as well as the swagger that every other Doctor has demonstrated in the face of the Daleks. Her Doctor here is a little more jarring and a little less human, but that bravado evokes the previous new Who Doctors. Unfortunately, we will not be getting new episodes until ‘very early 2020’. My suspicion is that we will see another New Year’s Day special kick off Series 12, but only time– and the BBC– will tell.

Looking Back On 2018…

In just a few short hours we will be in 2019! It’s kinda hard to believe. This year feels like it’s lasted at least a decade, so let’s take a second to look back…

Here’s a short list: Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, Doctor Who Series 11, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Miraculous Tales of Ladybug and Chat Noir season 2, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Deadpool 2, Disney bought Fox, Guardians of the Galaxy 3 lost its director, Red Sox won the World Series, Game of Thrones dropped the trailer for its last season, we got a sequel to Mary Poppins over 50 years later, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Incredibles 2, American Horror Story crossover, Life-Size 2 almost 20 years later… the list goes on.

Once again it was a big year for revivals and nostalgia. In addition to She-Ra, Sabrina, Mary Poppins, and Life-Size, we saw the revival of Roseanne/The Conners, Murphy Brown, Magnum P.I., American Idol, Tomb Raider, Oceans 8, Charmed, Titans, and Halloween. Now, I may have been a little lax with my viewing. When I was in college, I once had a couple months where I was seeing a new movie each week. Right now, my life is not in a place where I can do that, so that will not be my New Years Resolution. No, instead, I will attempt to put out a blog entry each week and on time! (And I can promise that I will be seeing Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame the weekends they open!)

We’re also currently riding on the wave that is the aftermath of #metoo and its effecting the industry. People are speaking out and its becoming a wise marketing choice to use female and minority filmmakers. Wonder Woman did amazing things for female directors in 2017 and this year Black Panther opened the door for minority filmmakers and superheroes.

TV also got very political this year, with liberal Hollywood speaking out against President Trump and his policies (a trend I expect to continue). This was true even for shows like Doctor Who, which is a British program. His racist and sexist remarks have inspired plot points, such as Who‘s “Rosa” and the political and racial backgrounds of characters on primetime TV shows such as Charmed and Rosanne/The Conners.

So, what does this mean for the entertainment industry? Well, Disney is slowly but surely monopolizing the film industry and cornering the market on mega franchises. It’s no longer just Princesses, there’s Star Wars and the MCU– now with the addition of Fox’s character library (and making us all nervous about Deadpool 3). Meanwhile, Netflix went and canceled a bunch of programs, including all of its Marvel programs (save for Jessica Jones and Punisher), but also released 3 seasons/20 episodes of Nailed It!. NBC is making a comedy comeback with lineups that include The Good Place, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Will & Grace, while ABC stands by The Conners and snatches up American Idol, with no end in sight for Grey’s Anatomy. America’s Next Top Model is on VH1 now and Black Mirror just released a “Choose Your Own Adventure” episode…

2018 has been a year for reinvention and creativity. It’s been about branching out as production companies try to nail down what audiences are after. While many of us are reading news headlines with dismay, the entertainment industry is actually starting to step up with female and minority representation. Shows like Steven Universe, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, and Doctor Who (as played by Jodie Whittaker) are upping the ante on gender and sexuality representation. It’s an exciting time for TV and Film, with even more to come in 2019!



…Okay, so this is another late post, and once again a bit ramble-y, but as I stated above, New Year’s Resolution! For those of you who have taken the time to read my idle thoughts, thank you! This has been a labor of both passion and discipline and I’m really excited I’ve kept it going this long– and plan on more to come!

I’m expecting 2019 to be a big and happy year and wish you and those closest to you the same! Happy New Year!

Summarizing Series 11

The holiday season is a busy one! So I’m a little late on my blog post(s). Before I do anything else I want to address something truly important…

Doctor Who.

On December 9th, we were treated to the Series 11 finale of Doctor Who, the Thirteenth Doctor’s first, but certainly not last, series in the role. This series is critical not only as the first with a female Doctor, but because it is the first with a new showrunner (and with the first new composer since the show was revived in 2015). Months ago, I reviewed the first episode and speculated on what we could see next from Chris Chibnall and crew. Today, I’m following up on that.

In my earlier review, I noted the gritty, industrial quality to the set and lighting in “The Woman Who Fell To Earth”, which is set in Sheffield and features characters native to that region. I mentioned in my earlier that this is significant for two reasons: 1. because it also reflects Chibnall’s background, 2. because it eliminated any questions about Jodie Whittaker’s natural accent, which she uses in the role. I speculated that Chibnall’s Who would reflect the episodes he wrote under Russel T. Davies and Steven Moffat, which included working class characters, often in an industrial setting, and also referenced familial ties. I also wondered if we would continue to see the kind of lighting and colors that reflected Chibnall’s experience with crime dramas. Doctor Who is a show that allows for many different genres and tones, so it would be easy for Chibnall to take the episodes in whichever direction he wanted.

However, he didn’t. While it could always be argued that Doctor Who is its own sort of crime show, I would say that this series was just as procedural (or not) as those prior. The episodes did continue focusing on the working class and familiar relationships, though:

    • In “The Ghost Monument” we open with the same gritty, industrial setting that we saw in Sheffield, but it quickly shifts into something a little more foreign. Two of the characters we meet are clearly struggling members of the working class and both make references to their families and what that means to each of them.
    • “Rosa” features working class seamstress Rosa Parks and the start of the American Civil Rights Movement. We also get scenes in Rosa Park’s home while Ryan considers what this would mean to his Nan. The Doctor also confronts this week’s villain multiple times in a very Stand By Me-esque junkyard (with a couple small shout-outs to previous series).
    • In “Arachnids in the UK”, we meet Yaz’s family, including her mother, who works at a hotel. Yaz’s mother is a member of the service industry while we are treated to Chris Noth’s (Sex & the CityLaw & Order: Criminal Intent) portrayal of a Donald Trump-like figure (with a similar eye on the Presidency).
    • In “The Tsuranga Conundrum”, two key characters are essentially interstellar EMTs, another working class job. While Ryan struggles with feelings about his father, the other patients include someone pregnant, but unsure if they want to keep the child, and a brother and sister at odds. Familial relationships come into play for not only the patients, but for Ryan as well (something that happens throughout this series).
    • “Demons of the Punjab” takes place during the partition of India. One of the central characters is Yaz’s grandmother, who is about to get married. In the past we’ve had Who episodes that focus on the start of big historic events, or from the point of view of those who do the decision making. In many ways this reminded me of New Earth in “Gridlock” (series 3, episode 3). In “New Earth” (series 2, episode 1) we are taken to New Earth and interact with the upper class, while in “Gridlock” we see New Earth from a more working class perspective. Here, we see the effect of partition at the most basic level. “Demons” also features a misunderstood villain (possibly with connections to the finale– something I only realized as I was writing this) and conflict between family members throughout.
    • “Kerblam” was one of my favorites this season. In it, the Doctor and her companions investigate Kerblam, Who‘s version of Amazon. It requires them to go work in the warehouse with the rest of the working class, where we meet characters that are estranged from their families in some way. The main reason why these characters are estranged relates directly to the fact that they are working class/working at an Amazon-like warehouse.
    • “The Witchfinders” depicts a small village in 1612 that is currently experiencing a literal witch hunt. These small, not even working class, but farmers, are visited by King James I. A key component of the conflict is family members turning on each other.
    • “It Takes You Away” is an episode that focuses solely on a family. We don’t know much about their background, but the family we meet live alone in rural Norway. The aesthetics toggle between a cottage in the woods and a spooky, dark cave with lighting not unlike what we saw in the first episode. Here, Graham’s loss takes the forefront among the Doctor’s companions.
    • “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos” brings back that industrial feel from the first episode in full force. It draws a lot on the politics and societal structure introduced in “The Ghost Monument”. One could argue that this is the only episode that does not feature family in someway, or that it’s about the family you make.

I think it’s fair to expect that future episodes will continue to examine the working class, as well as explore family ties.

 

This series was also quieter than previous ones. From the music to the marketing to the overarching plot, Chibnall’s Who is just more understated than Moffat’s, or even Davies’. Although not as subtle as ‘Bad Wolf’, little hints are dropped throughout the series, with the destruction or movement of planets and continued references to the Stenza, the race of the villain, Tzim-Sha in episode 1. But, while the Doctor faced yet another possible universe-ending catastrophe, it did not feel as grandiose as previous series finales have.

The universe has almost been destroyed in a number of episodes, beyond just series finales. Even this series features an episode where the universe will be destroyed if the Doctor doesn’t do something. “The Battle of Ranskoor” feels a lot like that. It summarizes the series, and gives us a better idea of the aftermath of “The Woman Who Fell to Earth”, but does not feature the magical deus ex machina we’ve seen so many times before. Composer Segun Akinola, who took over for Murray Gold, does not give us big violin heavy choruses, but something that matches the rest of his work for the series, which is simply a lot more subtle.

Overall, I am still incredibly torn about this new Who. I love Jodie Whittaker– for someone who never watched the show, she manages to evoke many previous Doctors in her portrayal– and feel that she was the perfect fit for our first female Doctor. Chibnall’s work as showrunner, while evocative of Torchwood, is still very much Doctor Who. The ups and downs aren’t as dramatic, but it’s still a family show featuring a character who travels semi-randomly through time and space. I really enjoyed the new composer, and while the visuals take a little getting used to, I LOVE the new opening, which draws heavily on Classic Doctor Who, but with a modern spin.

That is I think what best summarizes this series: a little bit of the old and the new. (Not unlike his predecessors, but with different priorities.) The Doctor only spent a couple episodes trying to get her companions home, then interacted with their regular lives again, before they all decided to continue traveling with her. I am very much looking forward to what happens next…

On New Years Day! This episode’s preview strongly hints at the return of the Daleks and while I loved having a break from Daleks and Cybermen, I’m really hoping we get to see how Chibnall handles them. If he doesn’t use them, I do hope he uses another Classic Who villain/race. The original ran for so long and had so many interesting characters, I’d love to see some more of that brought in.

Happy Birthday, Parent/Guardian!

Today is my father’s 60th birthday and tonight is a BIG party to celebrate. In honor of this auspicious birthday, I’ve decided to write about birthday parties for parents/guardians.

It was a STRUGGLE! I could’ve sworn there were more than I found. Here are the shows I found with parent/guardian birthdays: Bob’s Burgers (2011-present)DuckTales (2017-present),  Hannah Montana (2006-2011), Jonas (2009-2010), Malcom in the Middle (2000-2006), Married… with Children (1987-1997), Phineas and Ferb (2007-2015), Roseanne (1988-1997, 2018), That 70s Show (1998-2006), The Simpsons (1989-present), The Worst Witch (2017-present)… I’m sure there are more that I am not aware of/couldn’t find.

[Note: I reference episodes of shows where the main characters are not solely the adults/parents.]

So, why am I talking about parent/guardian birthdays specifically? Well, because they often take time to reflect and demonstrate appreciation for what can be thankless work. As a teacher, I get paid for my work, but it often feels like both students and parents underestimate the amount of work that goes into teaching. For parents, most have to balance parenting and a paying job, and children don’t really understand what that means.

barely understand what that means…

I am a professed fan of Children’s Television, so I’ve chosen a few great examples below. I also like these episodes because they demonstrate or teach something to viewers. It also shows characters appreciating the adults in their lives.

 

Phineas and Ferb 1×19 “Mom’s Birthday” (Aired: Feb 29, 2008)

The concept behind Phineas and Ferb is that the brothers are determined to make the most of every day of vacation. In their quest to make every day the best day and live life to the fullest, they pursue outlandish projects. Some examples include: time travel, going to Mars, being one-hit wonders, turning their backyard into a beach, and turning their backyard into a ski resort in the middle of summer.

On this glorious day of summer vacation, it’s Mom’s birthday! And big sister Candice is desperate to come up with the perfect gift, but her brothers thwart her every attempt. Shenanigans ensue and the episode ends with a lovely tribute to Mom (one I think a lot of us can relate to).

 

DuckTales 1×13 “McMystery at McDuck Manor!” (Aired: May 25, 2018)

DuckTales is a revival of the beloved cartoon which originally ran for 100 episodes from 1987-1990 and a movie. The program depicts the adventures of Scrooge McDuck and his great nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie. The revival both harkens back to the original comic book and provides a twenty-first century update. It features the voice talents of Danny Pudi (Community), Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation), Bobby Moynihan (Saturday Night Live), and Kate Micucci (Steven Universe), with Scotland-native David Tennant (Doctor Who) playing the role of Scrooge himself in what can only be described as perfect casting. Like Tennant’s Tenth Doctor, this Scrooge is quick witted and physically agile, always searching for a new adventure.

In this episode we learn that Uncle Scrooge hasn’t wanted to celebrate his birthday since the death of his beloved butler– and the best party-planner– Duckworth (a dog…). Huey (red shirt), however, takes this as a challenge and is determined to top him, against Scrooge’s wishes. The disastrous party devolves into a whodunnit, with Huey now determined to prove himself the “best party planner slash detective”. In the end, a lesson is learned about being considerate of the wants of others… And that Duckworth is literally the best butler anyone could ever have ever– including Alfred.

 

The Worst Witch 2×08 “Miss Cackle’s Birthday” (Aired: Feb. 26, 2018)

I included this episode because she is the headmaster of a boarding school, and therefore serves as a pseudo-guardian during the school year. The Worst Witch is based on a book series by the same name and has previously spawned other adaptations, including a TV movie featuring Tim Curry. In the series, Mildred Hubble attends Cackle’s Academy, a magical boarding school for girls, where she is continuously demonstrates herself to be both the worst and best witch at the academy.

In this episode, Mildred’s best friend, Maud Spellbody, is directing a talent show in honor of Miss Cackle’s birthday, but isn’t happy with how it’s going. In an effort to help Maud, Mildred’s spell once again goes awry, with the help of her other best friend, Enid Nightshade. While Mildred and Ethel try to fix things, Mildred’s nemesis, Ethel Hallow, takes over the show, trying to make it more polished and less campy. What the students don’t know, is that Miss Cackle is facing a personal/professional crisis and is looking forward to the girls’ best, most campy efforts. Miss Cackle embodies the idea that it’s the thought that counts and in the end, her spirits are lifted.

 

Obviously if I’m talking about these shows that must mean I like them, but in case that wasn’t clear, I do highly recommend them. Currently, DuckTales is currently airing on Disney Channel while The Worst Witch can be found on Netflix. Phineas and Ferb is a little harder to track down, but worth the effort I assure you. All three programs have rich characters and demonstrate creative storytelling. (And who DOESN’T want to see a Platypus secret agent??)

 

Side note: In my October 27th post, I mentioned my intention to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and that I would share my final tally in today’s post… Welp, things did not go as expected. My final word count is not even close to 50k. Like, less than 20k. Yeah… I’m a little disappointed, but also remind myself of three important factors: 1. I’ve also been trying to stay on top of my blog entries. 2. This has been the busiest fall I’ve had in ages. 3. I’ve never actually written a novel before without a time limit. I’ve had something to do almost every weekend, which is incredibly rare for me. So, while I’m disappointed, I’m trying to look at this as a learning experience. Since I’ve never finished a novel before, that’s my new goal without the time pressure. And to write creatively more often.