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[Sherlock Review] The Empty Hearse (no spoilers, honest)

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After two years of waiting, the US fans of Sherlock will have to wait another two weeks for Season 3 to start with The Empty Hearse.

When we last left our heroes, Watson arrived to witness Sherlock jump off a building to make sure Moriarty’s goons didn’t kill Watson, Lastrade or Mrs. Hudson.

The death of Sherlock Holmes in The Final Problem has been played out across much of the reboots over the years. Jeremy Brett’s run being the one I remember the most. Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows being the most recent and enjoyable since both Robert Downey Jr and Jared Harris were fun to watch even if the plot got a little laughable in spots.

The Reichenbach Fall doesn’t take us all the way to Switzerland and instead The Final Problem is played out on a rooftop giving our hero the only option left to him to save his friends. In the end, Sherlock falls, dies and is buried. And in the final moments shown to be quite alive.

There’s a phrase in DC Universe to explain how Batman does the things he does: He’s Batman. And like the costumed Detective, Sherlock is the same way.

The tone of The Empty Hearse is less morose than it’s predecessor, The Empty House. Two years have passed and everyone is getting on with their lives. Fresh from the seven minute short entitled Many Happy Returns, Lastrade continues to happily shoot down wild theories from Anderson that Sherlock is solving crimes across Europe. Watson, now with mustache is getting ready to propose to Mary and just where is Sherlock, exactly?

The return of Sherlock is less of a surprise this time round. Instead of Sherlock regaling Watson of his continental adventures we’re shown the events which is much better than being told it. The set up and the pay off is laugh riot. Honest to god, a laugh riot.

And I’m not just talking about Martin Freeman flipping off the audience (check the Hobbit DVD extras for his outtakes of flipping off the audience) the episode on a whole is fun to watch and is welcome breath of fresh air after the disappointing Doctor Who season.

For much of the episode the Detective Duo are separated until the unnamed antagonists reach out and the episode gets moving. The use of Moran was a nice touch even if he isn’t chasing Holmes like before.

The episode on a whole was very V for Vendetta, minus the bald Natalie Portman. Using the London Underground as a set peice reminded me of Skyfall.

In the end, I’m happy Gatniss and Moffat have dulled some of the edges of Sherlock and made him more human. This is a good thing. You make the highly functioning sociopath more likable while still solving crime and keep the humor within reason.

Here’s hoping the quality of the next two episodes are just as good.

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[Doctor Who] The Day of the Doctor

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It has been fifty years since William Hartnell premiered in the Unearthly Child.

I can thank WGBH out of Boston for being here.

In the eighties my family was glued to the television set at 7pm on weeknights for 30mins of Cybermen, Daleks and a Timelord played by Tom Baker.

The Day of the Doctor revisits a fixed point that has been elephant in the room since the series restarted: The Time War. Timelords vs. Daleks and Doctor #8 being at the middle of it all until one day he decides drop his pacifist notions and by way of a elixir of life from the Sisterhood of Karn, becomes a war doctor.

The downside of seeing Paul McGann regenerate into John Hurt is that it’s not part of The Day of the Doctor special itself. Don’t get me wrong it’s a great snippet that should be how we start off this special.

Instead we get a classic opening. As in, the old black and white opening turning to color as we find Clara, played again by Jenna Coleman is now a school teacher near to Foreman Junkyard that started it all 50 years ago. This is slightly perplexing because the last time we saw the Doctor and Clara at Trenzalore and the whole timeline with the Intelligence trying to kill them all.

The Doctor and Clara are picked up, literally, by a UNIT helicopter and brought back to London where trouble is a abrewing in the form of a three dimensional painting called Galifrey Falls or No More. It should not exist. This brings up bad memories for the Doctor obviously and the we are shown the final day of the war as John Hurt puts the hurt on some Daleks and steals “the moment” a galaxy eating machine that has a personality.

He steals it because he plans on using it to end the war and in doing so treks to this far off place that if I didn’t know better was his home but no one mentions who, what, when or why so I’m going with his childhood home.

The moment is steampunk-type box with clock gears and it’s personality is none other than the Bad Wolf herself played by Billie Piper.

The dialogue between the two of them is getting off to rather good start when the plot pulls them away when a time vortex opens and a fez pops through something neither of them were expecting unless you’re the audience and you know exactly how Moffat’s mind works.

Everything is out of time/space so going back to the Doctor and UNIT where Kate Stewart played by Jemma Redgrave brings the audience up to speed on the Doctor’s affair with Elizabeth 1.

Somewhere between Voyage of the Damned and Partners in Crime, Doctor #10 visited Queen Elizabeth and the two are having a lovely time playing kissy face when Zygons try to take over the Crown. And while running away from these shape shifters is when #10 and #11 meet up with hilarious results until the War Doctor arrives through the time vortex the fez came through and quickly all three are dumped into the Tower of London as prisoners.

I should also make mention that John Hurt steals every single scene he’s in and for some reason there wasn’t enough in the budget to spike #10’s hair so he may look odd. If the scarf was #4’s trademark then the hair is trademarked for #10.

Soon the Zygons threaten to derail the plot but the Doctors fix the on coming invasion quickly and get back on track to the real problem at hand: The War Doctor is about to blow up all of Galifrey to stop the war. The prop department had a good time with this episode from the Black Vault that is TARDIS proof with certain Doctor items to having 3 Tardi next to each other with different paint schemes and designs.

The three actors, John Hurt, David Tennent and Matt Smith really act with each other. Having all three of them stuck in the Tower of London to bounce off each other was a great idea because there are no explosions or SFX, it’s just them and their baggage and Bad Wolf just watching them all.

Clara and Bad Wolf are mostly in the background and while they’re there for most of the big scenes they get the short end of the stick since the dopey Elizabeth plot is given so much.

UNIT and their secret vaults are a great idea since Torchwood inception and execution was fumbled and they are practically no longer even in the picture. I hope the areas introduced are used again next season.

As for the overall plot: It’s really all over the place and really when you have a Doctor team up most of the plot goes out the window. Part of me and probably my mother would ask this: Ditch Queen Elizabeth and get the Doctor/Donna back in there. Donna zingers would have helped or even Wilf.

This episode thankfully gives the Doctor his call to action without blowing up the universe, or gathering the heroes to save the universe or the hero’s journey shenanigans that most season finales are there for.

Instead this episode was about one man trying to figure out what’s the right thing to do in the time of war.

The Curator idea I loved before the Curator showed up. I wished for more Curators but as you’ll see the extra special video at the bottom of this post helps.

Does The Day of the Doctor make up for the lameness of Season 7. Nope.

Season 7 should have built up to this but instead this episode is rather stand alone. Like neatening up dangling plot lines.

The Christmas Episode should be interesting since it’ll be Matt Smith’s last and Peter Capaldi’s first. I’m hoping for a grim Christmas episode or least one without the sweet tooth.

And for a extra special treat: A 30min film written and directed by Peter #5 Davidson which features a good deal of the Whovian cast both past and present.

The Five(ish) Doctors –

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[Doctor Who Review] The Name of the Doctor

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Ever since the second half of this season of Doctor Who started the quality of the writing has taken a giant step backwards. The overall arcing plots that we’ve come to know and enjoy disappeared to replaced with one rather tepid plot: Who is Clara Oswald and why is she impossible?

This has made her into a mix of River Song/Rose Tyler-type but without the puppy dog eyes when it comes to luvin’ the Doctor.

Steven Moffat’s MO since he started is time traveling out of sequence is fun fun fun for the entire family. Something like Memento mixed with Back to the Future.

I was ready to write this episode off.

Until the pre-credit sequence has Clara greenscreened into 1 adventure per Doctor.

And, even as far back as the Doctor and his granddaughter stealing the TARDIS before The Unearthly Child episode.

Yeh. They went there.

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[Doctor Who Review] The Crimson Horror

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Diana Rigg has been busy this season from Game of Thrones to Doctor Who she has got her bases covered. Each of the characters at polar opposites of each other.

In The Crimson Horror she plays a scientist Madame Gillyflower that has created her own perfect little town called Sweetville that is taking the best the brightest and using goo from the 65 million years ago to turn them into mindless slaves and she’s going to take over the planet.

Yeah, it’s one of those plots.

Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax learn about the odd dealings and begin to investigate and find something peculiar: the Doctor was the last thing the victim saw before dying.

Through undercover work and sneaking around Jenny finds out why: the Doctor and Clara found out about the odd dealings too and decided to investigate and were captured.

Overall, Diana Rigg steals the episode with her blind ambition even harming her own daughter Ada played by her own real life daughter, Rachel Stirling. Ada’s arc through the episode follows dots from sub-serviant blind daughter to taking back her life.

The trio of Vastra, Jenny and Strax are happy sight enough so to ignore the blatant GPS directions from Thomas Thomas. This could have been a Doctor-less episode and it still would have been good. And I think the audience would have applauded the idea.

Cybermen from Neil Gaiman next week followed by the finale on the 5/18.

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[Doctor Who Review] Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS

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I’m happy to see a ship in the bottle episode in the TARDIS. Last season’s Doctor’s Wife was more psychological while this was more action oriented I thought. It is the one type of episode that could easily be stretched out into a multiple episodes and I wouldn’t bat an eye since Doctor Who has been around for 50 years and after 900 years the Doctor must have an metric ton worth of baggage and possibly even a stowaway civilization on board.

The set designers pull off some nice rooms: the observatory, the aforementioned pool, the library, a giant tree that can manufacture anything you want and the TARDIS’s engine room which impressed me more than her center.

Unfortunately, it’s the leaps in logic that’s making me re-watch the last five minutes and I’m starting to agree with my mother: Is this half of the season sucking.

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[Doctor Who Review] The Rings of Akhaten

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2nd episodes for companions have followed a certain formula since Rose and #9 jaunted off. Save Cardiff in Episode 1 and go somewhere mind blowing in Episode 2.

The Rings of Akhaten falls somewhere between Love and Monsters and Fear Her on my I want my 40mins back Doctor Who scale of suck.

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