Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Top 5 Series from the Sylvester McCoy Years

DoctorWho7-silhouetteAfter the dust settled from all the backroom infighting, Doctor Who survived for another season. The only casualty being Colin Baker was out and Sylvester McCoy was in as the Seventh Doctor.

McCoy was older, and reminds me more of a cross between the quirkiness of Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor, the flamboyance of Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor, and the darker moods of Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor.

There certainly was a dark undertone to the Doctor in most of the scripts during the McCoy era. This might be a byproduct of using so many writers who had never written for Doctor Who before. Additionally, there was a new Script Editor.

It’s a shame that the show ended when it did. Special Effects were pretty minimal at best, and looked pretty bad compared to other shows of its time; Star Wars being a perfect example. A large part was due to the shoe-string budget producers were stuck with.

Something changed with Season 26 because things didn’t look as dated. A perfect example were when the Daleks shot people. I had to double check whether I was watching a special DVD with new effects, or not. They looked crisp.

* * *

1 – REMEMBRANCE OF THE DALEKS - The best Dalek themed series in quite some time. The pace kept me interested pretty much from beginning to end. Not nearly the campiness in some of the earlier McCoy series. Neat Easter eggs if you know much of the series history and pay attention to it.

2 – BATTLEFIELD - King Arthur in present day! Been done before in TV. But, the twist being they’re aliens. Worked very well to keep me entertained. Just the right length for what they had. When Ace pulled the sword I wondered where they were going with it.

3 – TIME AND THE RANI - So much better than the very first “Rani” program. According to the DVD extras, the authors wrote this series for Colin Baker, which makes me wonder what had to be cut to make room for the regeneration skit. The wardrobe part of the regeneration seemed dumb. With Tom Baker it worked. With Sylvester McCoy it seemed just like a copy of the first.

4 – PARADISE TOWERS - Too much campiness with this one. The cleaners are dressed in uniforms that resemble Nazis, and the head guy looked like he had a Hitler mustache in Episode 1, which becomes a full mustache by the end of the series. Plot isn’t too bad. Wonder if New Who’s “Beast Below” drew upon this for inspiration. Sure wouldn’t mind seeing having the Doctor visit this place again to see how things changes, especially with the 13th Doctor being a female now. A bit of a Road Warrior vibe to it.

5 – SURVIVAL - Pretty simple mystery plot, morphing into a story of survival (hence the title). Sure wish we’d visited the cheetah people on a different circumstance. I think they’d be kind of cool to get to know, especially if it had been the Fourth Doctor. The Master skates through yet again. Wish they’d come up with a way to leave him dead. An OK way for the series to go out (though they might not have known about it at that time). Not great. But, not horrendously bad either.

6 - Delta and the Bannerman
7 - The Happiness Patrol
8 - The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
9 - Silver Nemesis
10 - Dragonfire
11 - The Curse of Fenric
12 - Ghost Light

* * *

And so this ends my end-to-end run through of all episodes of Classic Doctor Who. It took three months, and that was pretty much most of what I actually watched.

There were many enjoyable episodes. But, it was clear that the longer the show ran, the longer in the tooth it started becoming. I suppose that’s to be expected. How many different plot lines could there actually be? Additionally, the BBC saddled them with a meager budget, which didn’t match pace with other science fiction shows of the time.

The final series DVD, Survival, briefly mentioned some plans for Season 27, which were intriguing. (Ace going off to Gallifrey to be trained as a Time Lord). But, had the show continued, it’s quite possible it might have died a few more episodes down the line, and prevented the relaunch of the series with Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor.

* * *

DoctorWho8-silhouetteI’d be remiss if I didn’t mention 1996’s The Doctor Who Movie. But, I have issues with it, and am glad it never made it to series form.

After a few attempts to entice the BBC into restarting the series, the American Fox Broadcasting Network approached them about possibly restarting the series for American television. This idea was rolled back to a 90 minute movie which would serve as a pilot to judge interest.

So much was changed when compared to the original series. Kudos to them for bringing back Sylvester McCoy for a regeneration sequence. But, it had such a violent ending to the Seventh Doctor, albeit typical of American television.

We were introduced to Paul McGann, as the Eighth Doctor. His portrayal, for the most part, made me think of past Doctors, and I see myself easily getting used to him. But, I wish they hadn’t introduced the whole love interest aspect (two things American television is good for, sex and violence). Judging from the ending, Had the movie spawned an American television series, he would have apparently had a difference companion, which means they wasted the time sexualizing a character who had been pretty asexual for over 30 years.

Taking nothing away from Eccleston, I really wish McGann had had the opportunity to return to his role when the BBC restarted the series. He would have still been young enough. At the very least, I would have liked to have seen a regeneration sequence, though I can imagine Russell T. Davies decided that it would have confused most viewers who had never seen Classic Who.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around The Master being some kind of snake creature that takes over bodies, more like the Mara in Kinda and Snakedance, than another Time Lord. Eric Roberts played the human character well. But, it was strange.

the movie felt too American, if that makes any sense. There was a flavor to Classic Who, which was British, and it goes beyond the accents and locations to make up that flavor. It just didn’t feel right.

Top 5 Series from the Colin Baker Years

DoctorWho6-silhouetteColin Baker holds the distinction of being the first person to play a character in a Doctor Who episode, and then eventually take on the lead role. (Peter Capaldi did the same when he appeared in the Fires of Pompeii and later became the 12th Doctor).

When we’re first introduced to him the confused Doctor is not nearly as bad as with Davison, and we’re hoping things are getting better. Sadly, we are introduced to the mean side of the Doctor as we’d never seen before, when he attacks his companion, Peri, accusing her of being a spy. He even goes as far as grabbing her by the throat and throwing her around.

This didn’t sit well with me, and apparently not with the audience when it aired back in the mid-1980s, garnering complaints from parents and watchdog groups.

Matching this chaotic nature of the Doctor was his choice of outfit. The cricket sweater was discarded for an eclectically colored jacket, which even the companion joked about it resembling a “coat of many colors” like the Holy Bible’s Joseph had.

Not to be outdone, Peri, his first companion dawned a tight pink number, which could’ve just as easily been spray painted on, and must’ve cause some consternation for parents being that the show was moved back to the Saturday afternoon time slot it enjoyed during the first four Doctors.

Two things to note when judging the Colin Baker era. There was a concerted effort to cancel Doctor Who by the new BBC Drama chair Michael Grade. After much fan hatred, they backed off, and brought back after an 18 month hiatus. This lopped off a whole year’s worth of Doctor Who series, and is the main reason why Colin Baker’s run is only 11 series long.

Secondly, is the underlying behind the scenes disagreements that the DVD extras talk about. Producer John Nathan-Turner had a preference not to bring back veteran series writers for whatever reason.

This came to a head during The Two Doctors and The Ultimate Foe. Robert Holmes, considered by many as the best Doctor Who writer of the time.

During writing The Ultimate Foe, Holmes was unable to complete the two episode series, and so script editor Eric Seward wrote one of them. But, disagreements with Nathan-Turner caused him to pull out of the project, leaving the production in a bind.

The married writing team of Pip and Jane Baker were called in, given pretty much nothing from the first script, and then commissioned to write the final episode with three days time.

* * *

1 – TIMELASH - Pretty good. Pretty obvious from the beginning who the bad guys are, and it keeps the interest all the way till the end. Good resolution, and I love the twist at the end.

2 – VENGEANCE OF VAROS - Apparently this one was controversial due to all the violence that’s running pretty much beginning to end. But, it is an important part of the plot. Sil is a bizarre character. I liked him at first. But, the more I heard his gurgling voice throughout the show, the more annoying it became. Very glad this was only two episodes (albeit the new 45 minute versions).

3 – TERROR OF THE VERVOIDS - This was the best of the “Trial of the Time Lord” series. It harkened back to the better Doctor Who series, and could’ve stood on its own without the ‘Trial’ wrapper. The Vervoid costumes weren’t that particularly bad. The new companion with no backstory was pretty jarring.

4 – REVELATION OF THE DALEKS - This was kind of a fun one. The DJ guy was the best character in the show. The new Davros was a bit trippy though. Surprised Doctor Who made a whole series wrapped around the subject of death, though it didn’t stay maudlin all the time, which helped.

5 – MIND WARP - Tough one to watch. Sil is back. But, his unique laugh is grating on the nerves this time around. Some second tier characters which appear and then just disappear. Knowing Peri was going to die before seeing this series made me sad as she was one of the more fun companions to watch, though they apparently changed the very ending after some pressure, and both her and the King’s characters didn’t really die. I love Brian Blessed’s character. Another larger than life portrayal. But, why’d he have to yell so much?

6 - The Two Doctors
7 - Attack of the Cybermen
8 - The Mysterious Planet
9 - The Twin Dilemma
10 - The Mark of the Rani
11 - The Ultimate Foe

Top 5 Series from the Peter Davison Years

DoctorWho5-silhouetteGetting used to Peter Davison after spending a month watching Tom Baker was really hard.

It was interesting that the idea of the bumbling discombobulated Doctor really came into play with Davison. Yes, there was a bit with Tom Baker. However, it was nothing compared to what the viewer went through at the beginning of Castrovalva.

Over Davison’s run the Doctor never seemed to click like he did during Tom Baker’s term. The Tardis seemed to be constantly breaking down, or simply going where it wanted to.

It was also during this time, that companions seemed to grow on trees, having three of them at a time being commonplace. Unfortunately, having so many people share the spotlight with the Doctor just watered down things. Plus, none of the companion characters seemed to be as well developed as Tom Baker’s Sarah Jane Smith.

But, beyond that, they introduced Turlough, who I think had to be one of the worst companions ever. The whole premise that we was supposed to be killing the Doctor is reminiscent of The Master, only with a yellow streak which had him running away from danger every time anything went wrong.

* * *

1 – CAVES OF ANDROZANI - Tightly written. Has a lot of qualities of the Phantom of the Opera, including Jax’s mask. Everything looked good except the scene where the Doctor is retrieving the spider venom. That was pretty hokey. Davison had nowhere near the run that his four predecessors did, and I think it says something that his final show was what many consider his best.

2 – THE FIVE DOCTORS - Much better than the first “reunion” show though it was disappointing that Tom Baker wasn’t really in it, only using unaired footage from Shada. The stand-in for William Hartnell as amazing. Too bad that Jamie only had a cameo part due to contract conflicts. Wish it was another half hour in there, and they’d delved more into the tomb of Rassilon.

3 – FOUR TO DOOMSDAY - Such a rich story from nearly the very beginning. Sets were great. No real “monsters” per se so makes it easier to enjoy without the hokey makeup. One of the better ones in a long time from beginning to end.

4 – CASTROVALVA - Very nice start to the new Doctor. The script wanders for quite some time. But, it keeps busy. Very pretty looking. Constant music bed in the background is definitely different that what was done before.

5 – PLANET OF FIRE - Finally wrapped up Turlough, even though he was weak in this show too. Good backstory that was rolled into the plot line. Sure looked like the Master was finished off, though we all know he’ll eventually come back.

6 - Black Orchid
7 - Snakedance
8 - Enlightenment
9 - Warriors of the Deep
10 - Kinda
11 - The King’s Daemons
12 - Frontios
13 - Mawdryn Undead
14 - Terminus
15 - Resurrection of the Daleks
16 - The Visitation
17 - Arc of Infinity
18 - Earthshock
19 - The Awakening
20 - Time-Flight

Top 5 Series from the Tom Baker Years

DoctorWho4-silhouetteTom Baker was probably the very first Doctor I was exposed to thanks to KQED, in San Francisco. I can vaguely remember watching the show. I think it was on Saturday afternoons on the local PBS channel, KQED.

With his flowing multi-colored scarf and oversized floppy hat, Baker took the character to flamboyant levels high above that of the dapper Pertwee. It was the 1970s, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise.

Each week enriched the character of the Doctor, keeping even the most ardent fan interested.

Sadly, midway through the Tom Baker era, the Doctor seemed to be a little tired at times. Gone were his trademark outfit, and even his delivery seemed to be not as crisp. (Yes, he had a scarf. But, it was nearly the same color as his new jacket, so wasn’t as noticeable).

* * *

This Doctor took quite a while to go through as he was the longest running of any of the actors to play the role. In all Tom Baker appeared in 172 episodes. To keep that in perspective for NuWho fans, David Tennant only had 47 episodes. The Top 10 were really hard to finalize. I ranked things as I went along, and then when it came time to publish this list a few of them were shifted up or down depending on what I remembered.

1 – SEEDS OF DOOM - Very tightly written and keeps the interest from beginning to end. Almost wish this was a six part series. Effects were great, which helped carry things along.

2 – GENESIS OF THE DALEKS - Love/hate relationship with this one. The Kelads clearly are a symbol of the Nazis, which I get. But, the Thralls seem to be a representation of Israel and the IDF. Nice tight script by Terry Nation which explains how the Daleks came to existence. Now the episode where the Twelfth Doctor meets the young Davros makes a bit more sense.

3 – THE SUN MAKERS - I can see why this is Louise Jamison’s favorite series. Leela spends a lot of time on camera, including when not with the Doctor. K-9 is growing on me. Plot line keeps bouncing around so keeps the interest.

4 – THE MASQUE OF MANDRAGORA - Pretty well done historical piece with the sci-fi injected in. The first few minutes had me scratching my head, especially when they ended back in the 1500s. But, the it was blended well, with no over acting on anybody’s part.

5 – ROBOT - So far this is the best first episode for any of the first four Doctors. Despite being hokey at times, it keeps the interest. Probably helped having former script editor Terrence Dicks write the story.

6 - Planet of Evil
7 - The Talons of Weng-Chiang
8 - The Brain of Morbius
9 - The Ribos Operation
10 - The Androids of Tara
11 - The Horns of Nimon
12 - State of Decay
13 - Horror of Fang Rock
14 - The Robots of Death
15 - The Face of Evil
16 - The Hand of Fear
17 - Warriors’ Gate
18 - Logopolis
19 - City of Death
20 - The Keeper of Traken
21 - Terror of the Zygons
22 - The Pirate Planet
23 - The Stones of Blood
24 - The Power of Kroll
25 - The Destiny of the Daleks
26 - The Invasion of Time
27 - The Armageddon Factor
28 - The Ark in Space
29 - The Invisible Enemy
30 - The Deadly Assassin
31 - Underworld
32 - Shada
33 - Pyramids of Mars
34 - Creature from the Pit
35 - Full Circle
36 - The Android Invasion
37 - Image of the Fehndahl
38 - Meglos
39 - Nightmare of Eden
40 - Revenge of the Cybermen
41 - The Sontaran Experiment
42 - The Leisure Hive

Top 5 Series from the Jon Pertwee Years

DoctorWho3-silhouetteWith Patrick Troughton deciding to not renew his contract as the Doctor, several changes were made.

Jon Pertwee assumed the role, becoming the third Doctor. Where Troughton was short, dark hair and frumpily dressed most of the time, Pertwee was taller, dressed like a dandy with a grey bouffant hairdo. The two couldn’t look any further apart.

It was also decided to return the Second Doctor’s two assistants to the place in their lives where they first met the Doctor, effectively wiping their memories of any adventures they’d had with him.

Besides the clean slate of actors, another major change was the switch to color. The previous six seasons had been filmed in black and white, which made the 1960s seem so much longer ago than the rest of Classic Doctor Who.

With all the monsters and exotic sites in glorious color, it was sure to be a feast for the eye. Unfortunately, due to BBC belt tightening, it was decided to have the Doctor banished to Earth. Rather than the Doctor going to the monsters, the monsters would have to come to him.

While they did loosen up on that requirement a bit, the Pertwee Years definitely do not have the variety of sets of any of the other Doctors.

I was a bit disappointed that his first companion, Liz, was only around for a few series. But, their writing her off was providential because the actor turned out to be pregnant and would have had to leave anyways. Whereas Liz was a brilliant scientist in her own right, Jo Grant was ditzy, and got on the Doctor’s nerves immediately. However, by the time she left the series, she’d matured quite a bit.

* * *

Unlike the Swiss Cheese availability of the previous two Doctors, all episodes are accounted for from the Pertwee Years. If DVDs are not available, they can be viewed on the Britbox streaming service.

1 – THE TIME WARRIOR - A really simple script, and a great mashup of historical and science fiction genres. The first appearance of the Sontarans, and not overdone. Almost wish it had another episode just to give us more information on the Sontarans.

2 – PLANET OF THE DALEKS - A good game of Cat and Mouse from beginning till end. At first I thought it was the same planet as in Mission to the Unknown. But, it’s not. Looked like Jo was a goner.

3 – THE DÆMONS - This would be a good one to watch on Halloween. Very unusual compared to most Doctor Who series that were done back then. The Master looked particularly creepy when dressed in the robes. Azal looked a bit on the fake side. But, that was more than made up for by Bok, his little silver colored henchmen! One of my favorite extra characters in the whole series!

4 – THE SEA DEVILS - Another episode which seemed pretty unique. Loved the fortress location, and the Sea Devil creatures. Seemed rather pirate-like. The connection with the Silurians is still not believable for me. But, I can get past that one. One of the better scenes is where they’re emerging from the sea, in a chain mail type outfit. The whispery voice was funny.

5 – THE CURSE OF PELADON - Loved some things in this series. Hated other things. The Ice Warriors reminded me of Marvin the Martian from Disney cartoons, and were really dumbed down. Didn’t seem right compared to previous treatments of them. While Alpha Centuri looks just as comical, it was fresh with no backstory. Kudos to David Troughton. He played the conflicted Peladon nicely. I think my favorite part of the series was the Doctor’s hypnotic song when encountering Aggedor.

6 - The Monster of Peladon
7 – Doctor Who and the Silurians
8 – Invasion of the Dinosaurs   
9 - Colony in Space
10 - Planet of the Spiders
11 - Terror of the Autons
12 - Carnival of Monsters
13 - The Green Death
14 - The Mutants
15 - Inferno
16 - Death to the Daleks
17 - Frontier in Space
18 - The Three Doctors
19 - The Time Monster
20 - The Claws of Axos
21 - Day of the Daleks
22 - The Mind of Evil
23 - Spearheads from Space
24 - The Ambassadors of Death

Top 5 Series from the Patrick Troughton Years

DoctorWho2-silhouetteIn 1966, due to William Hartnell’s failing health, a change was made in who played the Doctor.

There was concern with recasting such an iconic character, and so producers came up with the unique idea that Time Lords regenerate at the point where their bodies are weak and cannot continue, rather than dying off.

Replacing Hartnell was Patrick Troughton. The final episode sees Hartnell falling to the ground, with his face awash in a white glow as it slowly morphs to that of Troughton in an extreme close-up.

Unfortunately, video of this regeneration is lost, and only snippets of it exist.

* * *

As bad as Hartnell’s missing series count was, Troughton is even worst, with a huge portion missing.

Once again I’ve had to rely on recons heavily to be able to view all of Troughton’s series.  Below of the Top Five series, followed by a numerical listings of the remaining series.

Unlike the Hartnell Years, there was no bottom group which stood out are particularly bad. The War Games is a good example. It’s looked upon as one of the iconic series of classical Doctor Who. I ranked it as low as it is on a good part that it was way too long in my eyes compared to most series (it bulges out to 10 episodes!).

1 – THE MOONBASE – The Cybermen are back after their home world of Mondas had been destroyed in the previous season. By this time Jamie, the Scotsman from the 1700s is still getting us to the idea of traveling through time. It’s funny to see his reactions during this trip to the Moon. Like a kid in a candy store he goes bounding about, and ends up knocking himself silly. His first meeting with the Cybermen is comical as he rationalizes that they are the “Phantom Piper” a legend from his own place and time.

2 – THE POWER OF THE DALEKS – At the beginning we can tell there’s something big coming up. But, we’re not quite sure what. Then they make their appearance! Despite the humans acting like they have the situation firmly under control, you just knew it was going to go bad for them, with the Doctor having to bail them out. The pace of this Dalek series was much better than the previous attempts. Its such as shame the original recordings have been lost and we’ve had to rely on animations and reconstructions to watch this series.

3 – THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMEN – Another one of those rather unique looking episodes, being set in a Tibetan monastery. The Yeti were not the main bad guys. But, rather filled the henchmen role, and looked nothing like the real Yeti is supposed to be like. The big balls of fur with chicken feet and not real face gave them a comical appearance as they slowly lumbered towards their targets.

4 – THE TOMB OF THE CYBERMEN – A flavor of a dig in Ancient Egypt with the sterile environment of a laboratory. When the actual actors come wriggling out of their individual sarcophagus it sends a shiver down the spine. The one thing I didn’t like was the costume change of the Cybermen. The leader looked like a rigger with a hardhat.

5 – THE ICE WARRIORS – Our introduction to those formidable reptilian Martians who seemed so invincible. The fact the Earth society is so advanced, yet can’t seem to fight off the attack from the Teutonic looking Ice Warriors is what does it for me.

6 - The Underwater Menace
7 - The Web of Fear
8 - The Wheel in Space
9 - The Enemy of the World
10 - The Mind Robber
11 - Fury from the Deep
12 - The Seeds of Death
13 - The Krotons
14 - The Space Pirates
15 - The War Games
16 - The Evil of the Daleks
17 - The Invasion
18 - The Faceless Ones
19 - The Macra Terror
20 - The Dominators
21 - The Highlanders

Top 5 Series from the William Hartnell Years

DoctorWho1-silhouetteAfter the July’s season finale with Peter Capaldi, I came to realize it’s going to be a long time before this year’s Christmas Special, and then a lot longer until Jodie Whittaker’s debut as the 13th Doctor, sometime in the Fall of 2018. What would I do?

To ease the withdrawals, I decided to visit the classic Doctor Who seasons, broadcast between 1963 and 1989. (Doctor Who episodes since 2005 are nicknamed NuWho to differentiate them from the original shows).

When I was growing up the local Public Broadcast System stations had carried the early Doctors, and I can vaguely remember watching some of them on Saturday afternoons with my father. But, I couldn’t tell you which ones we’d watched. They were most likely from the time of the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker.

Besides that, I’d only seen a handful of episodes when I rented some DVDs from the local library a few years ago, so there was a vast amount of Classic Who waiting to be discovered.

As luck would have it, the Alameda County Library System has a huge collection of Doctor Who DVDs available.

On July 8th I took up the task to watch every Classic Doctor Who episode in order, from the pilot (An Unearthly Child) to Survival, when Doctor began what is known as “The Wilderness” by Doctor Who fans. At that point, the show went on a long 16 year hiatus, with only the American-based Doctor Who Movie (1996) to quench the thirsts of fans.

*  *  *

On November 23, 1963 an event happened which would effect the world in years to come. The British Broadcasting Corporation premiered a brand new Saturday afternoon television program, Doctor Who. Cast as the lead role was veteran actor William Hartnell.

Ratings much lower than hoped for, along with a more famous event from that date, nearly scuttled the program as quickly as it began. Fortunately for us, BBC Head of Drama, Sydney Newman, had faith and didn’t cancel the show.

Originally, they had figured the show would run for only a few weeks. An addition to the Saturday children's programming time. they had no idea it would become the hit that it would, and so many people would be talking about the show nearly sixty years later!

* * *

Here are my Top Five series from the William Hartnell era. To rank them I watched all available DVDs for those seasons which are still fully intact, along with fan reconstructions posted to the internet.

Unfortunately, the price of video tape was at a premium during the early years of Doctor Who, and the BBC management had a general feeling that once a show was broadcast, it would not be rebroadcast. As a result many first and second Doctor episodes were wiped for reuse in taping other programs.

Thanks to diehard Doctor Who fans who audio taped the sound, along with taking photographs off their TV screens, we have Recons, where the missing episodes were reconstructed to reflect what the show looked like. The recons made by Loose Canon Productions, are considered some of the best efforts out there.

My rankings are generally based upon story-line, and not production qualities.

1 -  THE WEB PLANET – Probably not a Number One choice for many people. For me, the relationships between the regular cast and alien creatures works very well. It has a Magnificent Seven feeling to it.

2 – MARCO POLO – It’s really sad this is one of the series where the original episodes have been completely lost. The Recons give the richness of this series, and color production photos that exist portray all the glory of the sets, with their color and details.

3 – THE TENTH PLANET – Our introduction to the Cybermen, who might be my favorite of the major reoccurring bad buys. It’s entirely possible this one shows up as high as it does because of the recent reappearance of the Mondasian Cybermen in NuWho, with their heads looking more like something out of a surgical theater than a steel machine. The voices are creepier than the mechanical ones as well.

4 – THE CELESTIAL TOYMAKER – The Doctor and companions are in peril from a powerful enemy, who tantalizes them with the possibility of escape simply by solving some riddles or games. The unique part about this one is that the Companions take up most of the screen time, rather than the Doctor due to Hartnell being on vacation at the time of shooting.

5 – THE GUNFIGHTERS – I’m pretty sure there are plenty of people scratching their heads over this one, or saying I’m crazy. At first the ballad, which seemed to play every few minutes drove me up the wall. But, after a while it it grew on me. This episode is tight from beginning to end, and very unique compared to most historical Doctor Who series.

The remaining Hartnell Years series are listed below. It should be said that a good chunk of them are very close in ranking, and could easily have jumped places for very little reasoning. The bottom seven were definitely disappointments to me, and probably won’t be watched again unless there was a specific reason.

6 – The Daleks
7 – The Myth Makers
8 - The Aztecs
9 - The Savages
10 - The Reign of Terror
11 - The Time Meddler
12 - The Romans
13 - The Rescue
14 - The Crusade
15 - The Ark
16 - The Daleks’ Master Plan
17 - The Smugglers
18 - The Sensorites
19 - The Dalek Invasion of Earth
20 - The Chase
21 - The War Machines
22 - An Unearthly Child
23 - Galaxy 4
24 - Planet of Giants
25 - The Space Museum
26 - The Keys of Marinus
27 - The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve
28 - The Edge of Destruction
29 - Mission to the Unknown

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Do Us a Flavor…It’s back!!

potatochips4I guess Frito-Lay learned from last year’s mistake, and chose to bring back their annual Do Us a Flavor contest, where people submit their favorite tastes for new potato chip considerations (not to mention a chance to win some cash!!).

I never got around to submitting my Sizzling Shawarma this year, will just have to wait till 2018 to win the big bucks!

The three finalists are now appearing on local grocery store shelves. This time around there are only three flavors to choose from, and each one is from a different product line. While the latter does make it a little hard to compare chip feel (crunchiness, thickness, etc.), it does make it easier on the pocket book for those of us who don’t normally buy chips except when trying the unique blends thought up.

For those not wishing to partake, or interested in this year’s options, here are my thoughts:

CRISPY TACO  - Aroma upon opening the bag is definitely reminiscent of browned ground beef like when you’re making tacos at home. As for the flavor? WOW!! Spot on taste of a taco with meat, lettuce, shredded cheese and a mild to medium taco seasoning (Don’t ask me how they do it because we probably don’t want to know).

The flavor was very pronounced when first eating them. But, gets more muted with the more you consume. I’d definitely buy this one again down the road.

KETTLE COOKED EVERYTHING BAGEL WITH CREAM CHEESE – I love this kind of bagel in the morning with a cup of coffee so was looking forward to trying this flavor out. Let me say that the chips are nicely crunchy with none of the usual oily consistency a lot of the kettle cooked varieties have.

Sadly, that’s the kindest thing I can say. When opening the bag, it has a slight aroma which reminds me more of those shrimp chips you find in Asian markets than bagels. There’s no hit of onion, garlic or sesame. Eventually you might pick up some sesame. But, that’s only after eating a whole bunch, and even then it’s only slight. Definitely disappointed.

WAVY FRIED GREEN TOMATO – Not sure if it’s planned scarcity, or what. But, there’s always one flavor that seems to be so hard to find. This year’s entry in that category is the Wavy Fried Green Tomato. I have tried multiple grocery stores to find absolutely nothing stocked. I even asked a Frito-Lay driver. But, he wasn’t even aware of it. Finally, I reached out to my Facebook friends, and through the magic of crowdsourcing I found out that Walgreens carries them.

Let me preface all this by saying I haven’t eaten fried green tomatoes in nearly 20 years. It was some time after the award winning movie came out because I can remember watching it on VHS.

The sniff test revealed the plainest of all three flavors. If you blindfolded me, and then had me smell these and a bag of regular chips, I probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference to save my life.

Tomato flavor does come out when eating. Not huge. But, enough that it reminded me of the occasional times I’ve sliced up a big beef steak tomato to slap on a burger. There’s also a hint of pepper after a bit, and what I’d describe as a light mustard.

* * *

My clear favorite is the Crispy Taco.

Perhaps my Left Coast leanings towards Mexican comfort food swayed the decision. But, it was a smack dab bullseye for what it was supposed to be, whereas the Fried Green Tomato was more subdued and the Everything Bagel was a big miss.

People in the USA have until October 8th to vote for your favorite flavor at

Sunday, July 16, 2017

And the 13th Doctor is….


To use the words of River Song, “SPOILERS!!”

So if you really don’t want to know who the next Doctor Who lead is stop reading immediately (and stick your head in a bucket of sand because December is a long long way away).

* * *

A lot of Doctor Who fans were hoping we wouldn’t hear the identity of who would be replacing Peter Capaldi until the annual Christmas Day special. Then all of a sudden, the BBC announces it would be revealed today.

Either they got spooked that it would be leaked, as the past few have been, or there was a backroom deal made and they will be magically showing up at Comic-Con next week, or perhaps a combination of the two.

Ever since Capaldi announced in January he was leaving Doctor Who, the speculation has ramped up over who would be the next Doctor. With that speculation came multiple names of who might be stepping into those shoes. Some guesses were pretty solid actors, while others were far fetched.

Adding variety to this change was the big push to have a female assume the role for the first time. There had been speculation that a woman, or at the very least a non-white actor, would be chosen, ever since the show was resurrected in 2005.

But, it should be noted that it was not until 2011’s episode Let’s Kill Hitler, that the possibility of changing race was added to cannon. Then a couple of years later the idea of changing gender was canonized when we were introduced to Missy, in The Bells of Saint John. (As it turned out, Missy was a regeneration of the Doctor’s arch nemesis, The Master, who we’d last seen seven years prior).

Both of those additions to canon were made by outgoing executive producer Steven Moffat, who happened to also be the writer for both stories.

* * *

Around 5:30 am (PDT) all eyes were fixated on BBC One to get the answer. Viewers’ television screens switched to a forest. A figure dressed in a charcoal gray hooded coat slowly walked away from the camera. Excitement grew with every methodical step. The person had an obvious svelte build. But, that’s all we could tell.

Thirty seconds in a white right hand came up meaning the 13th Doctor wouldn’t be David Harewood or Idris Elba. Seven seconds after that a glimpse of an obviously feminine left eye told us the next Doctor would be the first female Doctor. But, would it be Jodie Whittaker, Olivia Colman or Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who odds-makers were projecting as the first female Doctor. (An interesting fact is that all three of these woman played roles in Chibnall’s Broadchurch.)

The hood was slowly removed to reveal Whittaker as the next Doctor!

As quick as a flash of lightning, the Internet was ablaze with people applauding the choice, as well as those condemning it.

Chibnall is now publically saying the 13th Doctor was always going to be a woman, and Whittaker was his first choice. How much of that is reality vs just trying to stand 100% behind Whittaker is up for conjecture. But, if so, it means he was just stringing popular choice Kris Marshall along; providing he ever met with him to begin with.

* * *

So how do I feel about this major change in direction?

I will admit to being a little disappointed about it. But, unlike some, I’m certainly going to wait to see how things pan out when Season 11 airs sometime next year. Besides, as the sixth Doctor Colin Baker tweeted, “…she IS the Doctor whether you like it, or not!”

It’s been quite some time since I watched Broadchurch so Whittaker might turn out to be the best thing to happen to the show since David Tennant (ironically also of Broadchurch).

A lot of fans seem willing to blame Capaldi, the most recent Doctor. Me, not as much. To me, the show seems to have been hit or miss over the past few seasons. Some episodes were great, while others lacked any kind of spark from the get-go.

I think it would have made more sense to cast a well established male actor, such as Tom Hiddleston, Colin Ferrell, or even Ben Daniels, though the latter is probably pushing the upper age limit of who they’d probably consider, as the viewing audience seems to skew towards those 30 and under, with nearly as many women as men tuning in. Then spend the time on tightly written story lines, rather than what might be looked at as a gimmick used to grab lots of attention.

Should the show tank even further, it will be too easy for the detractors to blame the idea of a female Doctor as being the reason for the failure.

The previously mentioned Elba would have been fantastic as the first black Doctor. But, he’s got his hands full with bringing Steven King’s The Dark Tower to the big screen, along with a follow-up television series.

Another important part of the puzzle hasn’t been revealed yet. Who will the Doctor’s new Companion be?

The Companion is a person who encounters the Doctor by happenstance, and then joins them in their travels around the universe.

Chemistry is very important so perhaps it hasn’t been decided upon, and they want to wait so the potential actors can read against Whittaker. The previous companion, Bill Potts (Perl Mackie), was a breath of fresh air over the previous few Companions. But, only she lasted only one season.

Moffat had apparently wanted to leave Chibnall with a clean slate, which is why he got rid of Capaldi, Mackie and Matt Lucas (Nardole) all in one fell swoop. But, I’d suggest that perhaps Mackie’s character being gay might’ve lead to unwanted controversies with the first female Doctor.

Moffat killed off Potts in episode 11, only to bring her back within the sappy closing moments of the season finale, so it’s certainly possible we haven’t seen the last of her; nor Nardole for that matter, who was marooned on another level of the Mondasian colony ship.

* * *

Will some people label me as a misogynist, homophobe, or both, because I’d rather have another male Doctor? I’d hope not. But, it won’t surprise me either if it happens as It seems easier to do so than to actually listen to any opposing viewpoint on something as inconsequential as a television series.

Monday, June 19, 2017

And the Oscar goes to… (2017 edition)

Here we are again. The annual blog entry with my thoughts on the Best Picture nominations at this year’s Academy Awards!

Please note that, with the exception of seeing Arrival in the theater, I watched all the films on either DVD or streaming as they became available so reviews were written over several months.

Comments are based on personal preferences, and don't take into account popularity at the box office.

So without further ado here are my thoughts on this year's Best Picture Nominations for the 2017 Academy Awards presentation.

arrival-posterARRIVAL Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is an eminent linguistics professor, who has been called upon in the past by the United States government. After classes are interrupted by the arrival of several ships from outer space, her life is turned upside down as she’s hired to try and communicate with the aliens.

Unlike many first contact type films, we are introduced to the aliens almost immediately, and a majority of the film deals with Banks and the other scientists trying to establish communications.

The big problem I had with this film was that is seemed physically muted and dark throughout. Apparently this was done intentionally. But, it made the film hard to  watch, especially the darkness even in scenes that would have been brightly lit otherwise.

The ending was rushed and unsatisfactory. It was as if they were going along then someone said they needed to wrap it up immediately. I was left with several burning questions that weren’t answered.

fences-posterFENCES Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) has a life where it seems everything is coming at home, and is in constant turmoil. He tries to get other people to see it his way by trying to explain it away.

Fences is a straight adaptation of the August Wilson play. Wilson also wrote the screenplay. Wilson’s screenplay is very rich, capturing every nuance from the play.

But, herein lies a problem. Most of what is seen on the screen are long scenes of dialog as one would see when going to a play. There were only a handful of times when there’s silence, allowing the viewer’s eye to soak in the situation.

Another issue is the camera seems to always be in motion. Even close-ups have an ever so slight movement which is noticeable and distracting once you notice it, and it’s not the case of it necessarily being handheld. It’s something along the lines of what Ken Burns introduced with The Civil War.

The ensemble cast was the best part of this film. Washington decided to reassemble the same cast who performed the play so many times on Broadway. They, along with newcomer Jovan Adepo (The Leftovers), brought performances that fit like a glove.

hacksaw-ridge-posterHACKSAW RIDGE Like most American males, Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) wanted to due his duty, and signed up for the US Army. The issue for Doss was that his religion forbade his touching a gun and taking another life. Despite multiple challenges from his trainers he made it through Boot Camp and was assigned to the Pacific Theatre of War, and the Battle of Okinawa.

Garfield was a great choice for Doss, with his small stature and meek delivery. He was completely believable in the part.

I appreciated that the original screenplay concentrated on two parts; the challenges of Boot Camp, and then a two day period from Okinawa. Most war films want to come to a conclusion of the war. But, that would have watered down Doss’ amazing contributions, and the lives saved.

Special Effects were incredible, capturing the intense violence and gore of military combat. Bodies were ravaged with realistic intensity which might make some viewers queasy.

hell-or-high-water-posterHELL OR HIGH WATER Tanner and Toby Howard are a modern day cross between Bonnie & Clyde and Robin Hood. Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) is just a few days short of his retirement from the Texas Rangers, and would nothing more than to catch up with the unknown criminals before he has to turn in his badge.

The film starts out with a couple of robberies interspersed with some down time. Unfortunately, the down time is frequent, and quite slow.

Dialog between Ben Foster (Tanner) and Chris Pine (Tobey) is tight like you’d expect from a couple of brothers who took different paths in life. But, just didn’t make me sympathetic to what they were doing.

The stark New Mexico scenery is a great stand-in for west Texas, including the small towns. The brightness and clear blue sky exudes the feeling of a hot summer environment.

hidden-figures-posterHIDDEN FIGURES Three unassuming African American women battle stereo types and racial oppression to help send American astronauts into space.

When I first heard of this film, it looked cute, almost sappy like at times. But, I was pleasantly surprised.

The screenplay was based on the Margot Lee Shetterly non-fiction book of the same name, and it did a great job of creating an inspirational story, yet kept us balanced by not sugar-coating the terrible treatment of African-Americans by society of the time.

All three lead actresses (Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe) did not overplay their characters, following the balance in the screenplay.

Another thing worth mentioning is the soundtrack, which helped punch up certain scenes, which would have been so bland without the well chosen songs.

I would have liked to have seen a little more about Mary Jackson’s night courses, and any challenges she faced. But, ultimately that might’ve bogged the film down, which was already over two hours in the theatrical version.

la-la-land-poster LA LA LAND Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) both have dreams to make it big. After running into each other several times in one day they fall madly in love. The question is will their relationship strengthen their dreams, or dash them?

Every so often musicals seem to pop up in Hollywood, and then they do, they’re the talk of the town. They’re unique and so easily stand out.
I wish I could say I jumped on the La La Train too. But, I can’t. The opening ensemble number was great, and I was looked forward to what was about to come. Unfortunately, there weren’t nearly as many musical numbers as I’d expected. Several times the background music comes up hinting at a musical number, only to move on to something else.

And while I understand the ending, it was way too long, yet predictable.

PrintLION Saroo goes looking for work with his older brother. After nodding off he awakes and goes searching for his brother, to no avail. He then checks for him on a train, which ends up taking him to Calcutta, which is over 900 miles from home.

Lion is basically divided into three parts. The first part follows Saroo’s wandering Indian streets in hopes of finding his mother and brother. The second part covers his coming to his adoptive homeland of Australia and the new life it brings, and then the third his search to find where he was from, and the family he left behind.

Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire, The Newsroom, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) gave yet another strong performance. But, the thing that drew me the most was young Sonny Pawar, who plays the young Saroo in his very first role. You are drawn in as he screams his brother’s name in vain.

Filming in the streets of Kolkata, and other parts of India, brought a raw look to the film which stood out from the other Best Picture nominees.

manchester-by-the-sea-posterMANCHESTER BY THE SEA After the tragic loss of his brother, Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) has his life turned upside down when he’s named the guardian of his nephew Patrick.

Over the next two plus hours the viewer is thrown back and forth between the present day and flashbacks from past relationships with his brother and ex-wife (Michelle Williams), and that’s pretty much it.
Just when it seems like issues are going to be resolved, the film is over, leaving the viewer to wonder if things actually worked out.

Affleck does a great job capturing the somber Lee, who has been dealt with a world of hurt over the past decade, or so.

The other gem of a performance is Lucas Hedges, as Lee’s nephew. The teen angst of unexpectedly losing a parent, and the confusion it creates for the young man work well against Affleck’s somber role.

What puzzles me is the nomination of Williams for Best Supporting Actress. Most of the nominees had pretty small contributions to their films so perhaps it was just a lean year. But, Williams had at best two scenes that were longer than 60 seconds, and one of those was basically nothing more than swearing on camera.

moonlight-posterMOONLIGHT From a young age Chiron felt something different. He would sneak subtle glances of other boys his age, which brought him bullying from classmates as well as his mother.

The best way to describe this film is as several vignettes that are strung together that the viewer follows along with Chiron as he meanders through life.

The most standout of the cast was Mahershala Ali (Crossing Jordan, Treme, House of Cards) as Juan. It’s a shame he was gone no more than a third of the way through the film. I would love to have seen more of the relationship between him and Chiron. He could best be described as an anti-hero, who was doing what he thought best for the young boy, and was obviously pained when confronted by Chiron over his drug sales.

* * *

So what would have been my choice for Best Picture?


This was probably the toughest year since I’ve started doing a Best Picture review. Despite any flaws mentioned above, most of the films left me entertained.

It came down to Hacksaw Ridge, Hidden Figures and Lion. All three films kept me interested from beginning to end. But, the exotic location, and the magnetic innocence of the Sonny Pawar is what through the balance.

Previous entries:
And the Oscar Goes to… (2013 edition)
And the Oscar Goes to… (2014 edition)
And the Oscar Goes to… (2015 edition)
And the Oscar Goes to… (2016 edition)

Friday, January 20, 2017

A Change in Direction – Inauguration 2017


And so the 2016 Presidential Election have finally came to an end. Donald J. Trump was elected by the Electoral College, beating Hillary Clinton despite her having more popular votes. Unfortunately for Clinton the president is selected by the Electoral College, not the overall popular vote.

Today I watched the inauguration for most of the day. I had to laugh a bit at all the people saying not to watch it, or coming up with ideas such as leaving their television sets on because it would “drive Trump crazy” over low ratings. Ignoring the fact that they efforts wouldn’t have had any bearing on the ratings,

I have news for them. Trump couldn’t care less. He was the one with his hand on the Bible. It he who took the Oath of Office. It is he who will be sleeping in the White House tonight.

People are already comparing photos of today’s crowds with those of Barack Obama’s first inauguration, using that as some kind of indication that  nobody was there.

It makes no sense to compare the two. First off, the weather was terrible compared to way back in 2009. But, beyond that, you cannot compare the inauguration of the first African-American president with today’s event.

The 2009 crowd, estimated to be around 1.8 million people was the single largest event crowd ever in assembled in the United States. But, let’s be honest. How many of those people were there because he was the first African-American president? I don’t say that to be mean or racist. It’s on honest question. Heck, if I lived on the East Coast I might’ve even made the effort to be there.

Don’t get me wrong. I was not a Trump supporter. But, I look at all these efforts to somehow diminish the situation, or even somehow reverse it, and shake my head. He will be the president of the United States for at least the next four years, unless he resigns or is impeached and removal from office. 

Let him have his day today. Tomorrow will be a new day, and the first day of the 2020 Presidential Election campaign.

So what did I take from today’s speech and festivities?

When Trump was inside the Capital he ha a glazed look on his face. The same look that he had back in November when it first hit him that he’d won the election. That night he seemed rather magnanimous in his victory speech, and more subdued. I was wondering whether he would repeat that today. Turned out to be not so.

The speech was less of an inauguration speech, and more of a campaign speech with some of the words tweaked for the occasion. I said that to myself just a few minutes in. None of the political commentators said the same thing until legendary Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward did a few hours later, which was reassuring.

The president usually uses the speech as an opportunity for reconciliation throughout the country. Not so with this speech.

Trump painted a rather gloomy picture of the current state of the American country, and went on to pledge to eradicate ISIS from the face of the Earth.

I’m hoping that I am wrong. But, after hearing that statement I’m going to predict there will be “boots on the ground” within Syria and western Iraq by the end of 2017. Those of you who voted for the man and have children of prime drafting age should be saying your prayers now because efforts to reestablish the draft cannot be far behind.

Trump has made known some of the goals during his first 100 days in office.

Obamacare, in its current form, will be going away. But, the question is what will be left? The Republican controlled government is ready to repeal Obamacare with nothing to immediately replace it. But, there are undercurrents that this might not happen immediately. In fact, the first executive order signed was to “ease the burden” of Obamacare. What that exactly meant is unclear, and nobody is talking tonight.

The item with the biggest impact on our nation for the long term is filling the vacancy in the U.S. Supreme Court created by the death of Anton Scalia.

As of last fall Trump had a list of twelve candidates he considered to be his short list. Hopefully, he has had unofficial conversations with those people so that the list is whittled down to two or three names, and we can move forward.

Mind you I’m not suggesting there should be a rubber stamp of whomever he places into nomination. But, I’m hoping the opposition can be mature enough to have their hearings, and then vote.

Tonight Trump took a few moments to rail on the press. I had hoped the rhetoric was going to slow down. But, it hasn’t. I can’t even blame it on a few too many celebratory glasses of champagne since Trump does not drink alcohol.

My prayers for the next few days is that protests will be peaceful. You have an absolute right to protest. But, you do not have the right to willfully take a baseball bat or ball pin hammer to a store front. If you do not want to police breaking up a protest then police yourself. It is the anarchists amongst you who are forcing them to react.