Sunday, April 25, 2010

Obesity of the Daleks

Doctor Who Episode 5.3: Victory of the Daleks

As you see, here I follow the tradition of setting the titles to "xxx of the Daleks"...
  • Bringing Daleks back once and for all is clearly the right thing to do. You just can't keep on
    killing them off completely (apparently) after 45 or 90 minutes every year, only to invent more and more convoluted ways of bringing them back again next year...

  • Redesigned Daleks: I don't really like them, but clearly I have no say about this, I don't even watch the classic series. The main problem is that they are now too plastic-y; they should be metallic. Also the head and the neck's proportion isn't quite right w.r.t. the rest of the body. But I'm not too bothered by it: in any case, Daleks are the sillyest alien that humankind have ever created (come on, pepperpots?? with a sink plunger?!) so no matter how ridiculous looking they are it doesn't matter too much.
  • Plot: the story barely makes sense, but this is like other alien stories where the aliens always create incredibly convoluted and stupid plans when they could just blast the Earth out of existence in 30 seconds (or 20 minutes... according to the Doctor anyway.) But then you don't have a story to tell so I suppose this is not avoidable.
  • Spitfires in space: I can just about accept the "gravity bubble" technobabble; after all the purpose of the episode is to put all British icons (Churchill, daleks, spitfires) together.
  • Daleks with union jack: this is pure genius.
  • I don't like Mark Gatiss' writing. Last time "The Lazarus Experiment" was a disaster to me. In that story and in this one, it is like "Crisis 1 arises, solved after 10 minutes, then Crisis 2 arises, solved after another 10 minutes, and so on", rather than developing slowly towards one big climax near the end. Daleks pretending to work for humans is a potentially very interesting idea, but they revealed their true intention after 15 minutes or so into the episode!
  • I don't know what Steven Moffat is doing in this series: they are releasing far too many trailers so that when you watched the episode, it feels empty because all the good stuff have already appeared. I mean he was the one who put in the "spoiler" joke in the Series 4 Library episodes! Imagine if the Smilers and the spitfires in space were never in any trailers...
All in all, we have 2 fairly weak episodes. I hope the next one will be good; even half as good as Blink will be magnificient. Otherwise I should probably stop writing this as it is going to
embarrass myself...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Snooker World Championship 2010

So I was at Sheffield again to watch the first session of the Marco Fu vs Martin Gould match.

I arrived very early and while walking up there, Mark Allen (who was going to play at the other table) walked right across in front of me.

I sat in row G this time, a bit closer to the tables. Probably wasn't caught on TV, I hope.

As for the match itself... well. Fu never failed to disappoint me. It started quite well for him, but perhaps it was only the other guy starting rather shabbily. At one point Fu was leading 4-1, but he did not manage to take advantage of this; during the latter half of the session Gould clearly showed sign of much increased confidence and pull it back to just 4-5 behind. It was therefore not surprising that when the match resumed the next day Fu eventually lost 9-10.

It appears to me that Fu's playing style has always been very "forced" and uncomfortable unlike many other players who play much more naturally. He is having a dreadful season; I have no idea how he managed to get into top 8 last year, and it looks like he may still be lucky enough to hang on to a top 16 place.

On the other hand, I can't quite believe what I'm seeing about that Martin Gould: at the time of this writing he is already 11-5 up against Neil Robertson. He just gets down and makes all sorts of insane pots and never misses a thing!

Friday, April 16, 2010

"Forget" or "Protest"

Doctor Who Episode 5.2: The Beast Below

The following is the message I recorded for myself. After typing them, I will press the "Forget" button and forget about this episode...

  • There is one thing good about this episode: the pre-title opening sequence was brilliant. Probably the best since, er, Turn Left? Genuinely terrifying.
  • Plot is the most important thing I look for in any science fiction/fantasy. One of the reasons that I like Steven Moffat's scripts is that they all begin in a completely mad and bizarre manner but by the end of the 45 minutes everything fit together and actually make sense. Unfortunately, this episode doesn't make any sense, as already pointed out by so many people so I won't bother repeating. What a disappointment when this is something from Moffat.
  • He has another usual problem of tending to put too many ideas into one story when any one of them is good enough for an entire episode, resulting in many good ideas being casually thrown away. Sometimes it works great like Blink: time travel and several "predestination paradoxes"; "quantum locked" stone statues; DVD easter egg with one half of some dialogue; that half dialogue fitting in two different situations; all in under 45 minutes! But perhaps there are cases that don't work... I had thought that these brilliant ideas will be "diluted" as he took over and became executive producer with 6 stories to write instead of 1 or 2. However here it is not diluted, in fact there are enough stuff to give 2 episodes. The Smilers are terrifying, but do not tie to the plot whatsoever.
  • The part where Amy votes is confusing: the fastforwarding gave the impression that the information is somehow fed to her so quickly that she made the choice subconsciously, when in fact (apparently) it isn't the case.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Amy (is about to be) in Wonderland

Doctor Who Series 5 Episode 1: The Eleventh Hour

I don't usually write Doctor Who reviews since (i) so many people have done this and there is really nothing original I can add and (ii) this will take too much time. Instead of writing a coherent article I will just write down some random points.
  • As usual Steven Moffat has a remarkable ability to turn everyday objects creepy. From stone statues in Blink, to cracks in the wall this time (by the way, there is plenty of that in my flat...), and invisible (or rather unnoticeable in this case) room in your very own house. Enough to scare any kid. This also taps directly into kids' terror, like the "monster under the bed" thing in The Girl in the Fireplace.
  • At the same time, as the Grand Moff and many others have said so many times, it was indeed also very "fairytale", not just the story concept but also the visual effects and music.
  • Moffat has created a complex character in Amy Pond; there is much more to analyse then her skirt length. Unlike most other stories, time travel is always an integral part of Moffat's plot, and it is "The Girl in the Fireplace" all over again. This time the little girl was disappointed by the doctor, and her personality was consequently shaped in subtle ways while she grew up, which are all very reasonable when you think about it, and gives a more natural explanation as to why she is willing to go with the doctor, comparing with previous companions (a kid believing in a time machine is much more plausible; and she waited 14 years...)
  • The heart of little Amelia, though, was still inside the grown-up Amy. The doctor's return allowed Amy, and the viewers, to let out their "inner child" again. This is best summed up in the dialogue:
    "I grew up."
    "Don't worry, I'll soon fix that."
    Moffat is in fact the one who fixes this for every grown-up viewer!
  • I was skeptical about Karen Gillan's acting, but it seems so far so good. The "then why did you say five minutes!" speech was quite powerful. And the girl who played young Amelia deserves special mention; her performance was so excellent it is hard to believe she had no prior acting experience.
  • Murray's Gold's music for the episode is once again superb. (Sometimes you have to wonder why these people are working for the BBC; surely they are destined for bigger things?) From the scene where Amelia packed her little suitcase waiting the doctor to come back; to the TARDIS left Amy behind for the second time; to Amy finally walked into the new TARDIS; all are accompanied with little sequences of music that are exceedingly simple but very effectively conveys the emotion and that are also, once again, very fairytale, very Tim Burton, very Alice in wonderland (never in my life have I thought of writing these words in my blog! "Alice goes down a rabbit hole" is the first and last thing I know about it. I know the other Alice, the one who cryptographically communicates with Bob, better...)
  • The alien plot was somewhat disappointing. Although many would say this is not the main point in this episode, one would expect Moffat to pull out something better than this, given the quality of all his previous contributions. Still, you never know; numerous mad conspiracy theories are already being rumoured, based on (quite reasonable) observations like contradictory signposts on which years the events happened and the crack pattern shown on the TARDIS console etc. In the past it was always fans reading too much into these, but this is Moffat, he never put things in for no reason. The "silence will fall" etc are far too straightforward, clearly Moffat is up for something more twisted than this?
  • Nobody seem to question why this is called the eleventh hour? Even this makes sense, in three different ways at the same time!