The Walking Dead is back! This is reason enough to celebrate, but it’s even more exciting now that we have seen the premiere episode from new showrunner Scott Gimple. The season 3 finale was packed with super-intense drama, but this new season isn’t picking up directly after the showdown with the Governor at Woodsbury. Instead, it seems like a month or two has passed since the end of the Woodsbury settlement with the Woodsbury survivors blending with Rick’s group. Everyone has a role in this expanded society at the prison and it seems like things are going pretty smoothly (for once). Instead of Dictator Rick, we have a ruling council that discusses the issues facing the survivors. Additionally, the roles that people have been assigned seem to suit them. Their manufactured society is functioning well, which takes pressure off of the individuals. There are enough adults so that not everyone is needed for high-risk ventures into the outside world. Glenn and Maggie talk about the possibility of having a child and a life at the prison, now that the environment is more stable. Even Carl is doing kid things like playing, reading comic books, and talking to other children.
The two big plot points of the premiere are Daryl’s group expedition to the big Target/Walmart type shop and Rick’s encounter with a stranger in the woods. It seems like Daryl’s competence is making the group more confident in their outside world maneuvers. The group’s trip to the store for supplies seems to go really well until newcomer Bob Stookey confronts his alcoholic demons a little too harshly in the booze aisle and causes the wine rack to come crashing down on him. Unbeknownst to the survivors but knownst to us, there are a good number of walkers on the roof of the store, along with a fallen helicopter. The crash of the wine rack attracts the horde and the roof gives up, causing the walkers to fall from the sky into the store. There is lots of head squishing, skin peeling and other awesomely gory gore. The cutie that Beth was flirting with gets eaten because that’s just how it goes. The crashed helicopter on the roof finally falls into the store basically ruining the good thing the survivors had going with this seemingly fully stocked warehouse store.
Back to Rick, who is now pursuing simpler goals like becoming a good pig farmer. He is taking care of Carl and baby Judith, still healing from Lori’s loss and his temporary loss of sanity. He encounters a woman while gathering things away from the prison. She’s a lone survivor and begs Rick for help. Rick, thankfully, is a lot more hesitant to help a fellow survivor than perhaps he would have been pre-Woodsbury. I don’t know why he chooses to follow her at all, but Rick is Rick and so he demands that if the woman and her husband want to come back with him, he has to meet her husband first. Big shocker: the woman is actually crazy and was just looking to feed Rick to her now zombified husband. Rick gets away and back to the prison where he reflects on how close he came to her fate. It makes sense that Rick would take pity on the woman and let her have her wish, which was to be with her husband as a walker. She was so obsessed with her husband’s fate that she gave up living for herself – literally – she kills herself in front of Rick. Rick realizes how close he came to losing it completely in the last season, and while he still can’t seem to catch a break, he seems to be more conscious of his health and his role in the group.
What I guess will be a major plot in this upcoming season is the mysterious disease that first took the pig and then the bespectacled youth. I don’t know why there wasn’t a scene with Herschel the vet checking out the pig before it died. This disease seems to act very quickly, within a day, starting with flu-like symptoms that worsen until the infected is dead. How this disease was introduced to the prison group should be interesting. Maybe it is a tool of the Governor, who is still lurking about. Maybe it involves the CDC somehow. Either way, I predict we are going to lose a lot of friends. I also predict that some characters will be conveniently immune to this plague.
This first episode sets up a lot in its 43 minutes, from subtle exposition to new dangers to our favorite group of survivors. I appreciate the showing rather than telling that is going on in terms of more subtle storytelling. I feel like the Walking Dead has become more intellectual in just that first episode and I sincerely hope it continues the trend. Lori and Andrea are gone, Tyrese is a member of the prison (and one of my favs from the comics), Carol and Daryl have the most adorable relationship ever, and Michonne has a cool horse and more screen time. I feel like it can only get better from here.
Review: Doctor Who Prisoners of Time Vol.2 by Tipton, Tipton, Bond, Ridgway, Hopgood, Langridge, et. al
Review by: Prof. Jenn
This newest collection follows a mysterious cloaked figure as he ports himself through time to snatch the companions of the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Doctors for some nefarious purpose known only to him. It’s a gripping opening sequence as we are walked through several panels of earlier companions, trapped and apparently sleeping, behind glass and fear for the upcoming companions’ fate while waxing nostalgic about the earlier Doctors.
The art in this collection varies widely between the various artists, as you’d imagine, but they’re all equally high quality in both story and art. Well, except for the last one in the collection.
I was delighted to see a story featuring the 8th Doctor–he doesn’t get nearly the attention he deserves in the expanded Who canon, and it was neat to see him pop up after 5-7, right in order. But the art quality of this one was too cartoony without being charming (especially after having enjoyed the previous selections), and the storyline was so cliched as to be eye-rolling.
Bottom line: It’s a great collection, the last story notwithstanding. I can’t wait to see what happens next!
I was 11 years old when The X-Files originally aired on TV. The first episode I watched was “Squeeze,” the first ever and one of the creepiest Monster-of-the-Week episodes. I was actually way too freaked out by it to continue watching the series. A couple of years later, though, I turned into a super mature, emo, goth, Mexican teenager, so I gave it another shot and was immediately obsessed. For years, before they moved the show to the Sunday night slot, I would tell my friends I was busy every single Friday night, even when they aired repeats. I used to rent season 2 and 3 videos (yup, videos!) every so often so I could try to get my family into it. They got hooked. My brother to an annoying point, where he would pause my recorded VHS tapes to talk endlessly about those damn clones. My mom actually ended up coming with me to the theater to watch the movie. She might not want to know this, but I even used to make out to the soundtrack with my high school boyfriend. And no, I’m not embarrassed. My BBS handle was “Spooky” and, to this day, I can eat a whole bag of sunflower seeds in one sitting. Nowadays, I never fail to smile when I hear Mark Snow’s theme.
I’m not saying it’s a perfect show or the first of it’s kind. Its last season, unfortunately, is one I tell people to skip. But remember that The X-Files was on network TV, and it didn’t have the big budgets or shorter seasons Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad are lucky to have nowadays. The X-Files didn’t have all of these tools, yet it still ended up covering every single nightmarish subject imaginable. The show had it all: disturbed serial-killers, ghost apparitions in bathrooms, a deformed baby found dead after being buried alive. There were even more realistic nightmares with the mythology episodes. As I did with Q in Star Trek: TNG, anytime the Cigarette-Smoking Man showed up, I did the dance of joy because I knew this episode was going to involve more of the government conspiracy we all hoped would eventually be uncovered. As soon as Deep Throat, X or Marita Covarrubias showed up, I knew stuff was going down. Aliens! The mystery of whether or not we’re alone in this universe was fun and exciting, but I also think Chris Carter did a great job of harnessing our own paranoia over authority. Few of us really trust our government, and most of us are fearful of whether or not we’re being lied to and how much is being hidden from us. This has been and forever will be a part of life.
Finally, I have to point out that there is no TV relationship as great as Mulder and Scully’s. They were hilarious at times and had insane sexual tension, but what made them so special to me was that their love for one another was much bigger than romantic love. Their mutual friendship, loyalty and respect, that’s something that we rarely see on television between a man and a woman without sex getting in the way. Together, they went on a roller coaster journey where they continuously gained and lost faith in their own beliefs but never in each other, which is why I like to say: Trust no one. Except for your friends and family.
The truth is out there. Thanks to The X-Files for helping us try to figure it out.
Book Review: About Time 7 by Tat Wood / Dorothy Ail
Review by: Prof. Jenn
The About Time series claims to be “the most comprehensive, wide-ranging, and at times almost unnervingly detailed handbook to Doctor Who that you might ever conceivably need” (p.5). This claim is absolutely true–it’s exhaustive in its detail, backstory, commentary, critical analysis, and etc. of episode by episode. If you’re a Doctor Who fan, these are a way to bolster your nerdly knowledge (or at least solve arguments as a reference).
Volume 7 of About Time covers the very beginning of the new Who: years 2005-2006, Series 1&2. Each episode is gone through with a fine-toothed comb, one by one, with such discussion categories as: Which One Is This?, Catchphrase Counter, History, Deus ex Machina, Analysis, Continuity, and Things that Don’t Make Sense, among many others. There are also essays interspersed with the episode sections, which honestly got into a slightly annoying flip-back-and-forth-between-pieces like a magazine. It’s enlightening to know not only the TV production culture surrounding the creation of these eps, but also the actors’ backgrounds, combined with the connection of the stories and characters to the old Who. It’s a particularly nerdily useful thing when the author refers back to previous volumes so one can flip back and forth to see how monsters recur and evolve, how the Doctor has changed and yet stayed the same, between the old series and the new.
Bottom Line: I highly recommend the About Time series in general, and volume 7 is stellar in its detail.
Heroes of Cosplay is the SyFy channel’s new series about cosplay competitions at conventions. The show follows a select few cosplayers behind the scenes of the competition into their homes, studios and their creative processes. Each episode centers on a different convention, and the cosplayers must create a new look for each competition. Cosplay, for those who might not be familiar, is short for “costume play” and it is the act of wearing a costume to portray a character from a work of fiction. These costumes are often hand made and they can cost hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars and hours to create. Some cosplayers like to get into character by acting like the character they’re representing. Other cosplayers merely create and wear the costumes. Either way, the cosplayers are judged on “presentation” during the competition, as well as detail and craftsmanship.
The cosplayers the series follows are mostly professional and semi-professional costumers. Chief among them is the well-known costumer Yaya Han, who appears as a guest judge at each of the competitions in the series. She is introduced by her self-chosen title, “the Ambassador of Cosplay”, and she often shows up to give our cosplayers some (seemingly unsolicited?) advice, like a costumed fairy godmother. When I spoke with Yaya at SDCC, she stressed that the competitions were not rigged in any way to favor the competitors. Indeed, in the past two episodes, only one award has been given to any of the show’s stars (it was to Holly and Jessica for “best team” for their Dungeons and Dragons costumes). We see some of the creative process, though a lot less than I had hoped. There were some cool shots of Jesse vacuum forming his Steampunk Stormtrooper helmet, and a harrowing scene where Holly makes a head cast of Jessica to help sculpt her Tiefling horns. Most of the show focuses on (surprise) the drama and stress that goes into creating something on a too-short deadline for a competition.
The show has stirred up controversy in the cosplay community. The initial excitement for a reality show based on cosplay and featuring some of the cosplay community’s most talented names has faded since the show first aired and has been replaced with… resentment, mostly. It’s what happens whenever an unelected elite minority is chosen to represent a population: rebellion. The show was marketed as a documentary style, and it does catalog events and interviews like a documentary, but it is basically another competition reality TV show. It was not made for cosplayers, it was made for the large, existing reality television audience. From what I have seen so far, it’s modeled pretty closely after TLC’s Toddlers and Tiaras. This isn’t a bonehead move for SyFy, since Toddlers and Tiaras is a massively popular show. It’s also not a show that was made for its subjects. I don’t know how the child-beauty-pageant-going community reacted to Toddlers and Tiaras, but I bet it wasn’t all positive.
The strange thing for me is that this is the first time I have been familiar with the work of reality TV stars before the show aired. I know some of these people, or have met them at conventions. I follow them on Twitter and Facebook. I know what some of them are really like. Watching their personalities edited to fit the reality TV model is totally fascinating. To say that the drama is all manufactured is as ridiculous as saying that everything on the show happened exactly as it seems. There is inherently drama that surrounds competitions, and cosplayers are no different. However, some of the perceived cattiness is definitely a result of editing out of context remarks together. Most of the time it’s pretty transparent.
I don’t identify as a cosplayer, but I do consider myself part of the community. The cosplay community I know is mostly a welcoming, largely inclusive bunch that will tell you to wear whoever you want as long as you’re having fun. Cosplay competition is a very small part of the activity. You definitely do not have to have ever been judged in a competition to be considered a cosplayer. That the show is focusing on competition just makes it easy to package and market, and makes more relatable for those unfamiliar with the hobby. It kind of explains to the layman why anyone would spend the kind of time and money that our cosplayers spend creating a costume. I will tell you a secret (spoiler alert: not actually a secret), you don’t spend hundreds or thousands of dollars and hours creating something for a cash reward that might very well be less than the total cost of your costume and trip to the con. You do it because you love how you feel when you dress up as a favorite character: powerful, sexy, magical. It’s the process and the reward of a job well done. It’s the attention from children who believe you’re actually who you’re dressed up as and the “May I take a picture with you?” from excited fanboy/girls. Sadly, this is what the show is lacking so far.
We still have more to see from Heroes of Cosplay. Perhaps there are some redeeming surprises in store. The second episode aired recently and featured a couple of new faces. Heroes of Cosplay is on at 10pm on Syfy. You can find them on Facebook at (www.facebook.com/HeroesofCosplay) and on Twitter at (twitter.com/HeroesofCosplay).
A couple of weekends ago I had the great privilege of hanging out with the crew of the USS Loma Prieta (http://usslomaprieta.org/), a Star Trek-centered science fiction fan club based out of San Francisco. I attended their Battlestations event, which was a fundraiser for the club featuring game play of the Artemis star ship bridge simulator (http://www.artemis.eochu.com/
The event was held at WeWork Labs in SF, which was a nice space and perfectly suited to the event. The space allowed for two full Artemis crews to work together and co-op a mission. There was also a set up for a training bridge to help people new to the game get acquainted with the controls. The Artemis stations are very similar to the standard Star Trek bridge stations: Captain, helm, science, weapons, engineering, and communications. Each game takes 6 players on networked computers to work together with both their consoles and their physical communications to beat the game.
The simulation is awesome. That is actually the best word to describe it. Each console UI looks very different from the rest, and the game play itself is very realistic (based on my experiences as an actual starship captain). I suppose the next step in making it even more realistic would be to sync the Artemis game with a motion simulator under the bridge to simulate ship movement and enemy hits. Each crew member has a different, yet important job. Just like a real starship voyage, the crew is conducted by the captain.
One of the missions I played had my crew protecting our space stations from enemy attacks. I manned the communications station, and shouted incoming messages to the Captain through a microphone. I also participated in the Artemis version of Star Trek‘s “Kobayashi Maru” training exercise, which if you’re familiar with Star Trek, you will know is a no-win scenario. Needless to say, we didn’t win. My crew did last 7 minutes against the enemy ships, though!
The USS Loma Prieta puts on these events periodically for the public, but they also run Artemis sims as well as other Trek-related activities at their meetings. You can follow the USS Loma Prieta on Twitter at (https://twitter.com/
If you’re interested in the game but want to play at home or aren’t located in the Bay Area, you can purchase Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator for yourself! There is a free demo available on the Artemis website as well (http://www.artemis.eochu.com/
For the curious, here is a video from last year interviewing some of the USS Loma Prieta crew and showcasing some Artemis game play. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?
A few hours ago, The BBC announced who the 12th Doctor will be in the hit series, Doctor Who. So that means at this point that the entire internet knows. In case you’re new to the ‘Who, however, here’s a little info to clue you in. The 50th anniversary episode is coming up around Christmas time (that’s not 50 episodes, just for clarity, that’s 50 years since the series started), and current front-runner, Matt Smith, announced about two months ago that he was leaving the show at that time. If you listened carefully in that moment, you would have heard the thud of millions of Whovian hearts breaking a little bit, in unison.
However, that is the nature of the story: Timelords regenerate, and the story goes on. Today, we are welcoming Peter Capaldi as the twelfth Doctor to grace the series. Capaldi has had a long, celebrated career, and is welcomed with open arms by many fans. Just in case you need a little convincing, or are having trouble placing him, here are a just a couple roles you’re likely to remember him from.
John Frobisher was the Permanent Secretary to the Home Office and Torchwood Three’s liaison to the British government. (TV: Children of Earth: Day Two) He was later appointed informal ambassador to the 456. Passionate and driven, his job became increasingly difficult when all around him began to shirk any responsibility for the disaster that was unfolding.
This TV mini-series, based on the beautiful and brilliant novel by Neil Gaiman, aired in 1996, and also starred Gary Bakewell, Laura Fraser, and Clive Russell.
The band starred a young Peter Capaldi on vocals with an equally young Libby McArthur guesting on backing vocals (who was singer in, the pre His Latest Flame, Sophisticated Boom Boom with Jaqeuline Bradley). Temple Clark on Bass Guitar & Robert Livsey on Drums completed the line up. Trivia fact-Comedian Craig Ferguson had also played drums with The Dreamboys.
This little bit of trivia is just plain fun.
And, of course, like seemingly most British television actors at this point, Capaldi has already been in an episode of Doctor Who. Funny enough, it’s the same episode in which Karen Gillan first made her appearance on the show (as a cultist / soothsayer), long before she took on the role of Amy Pond.
Lucius Caecilius Iucundus was a man who lived in Pompeii before Vesuvius erupted in 79. Husband of Metella and father to Evelina and Quintus, Caecilius was a marble trader with political ambitions.
Of course, Capaldi has been in many, many other things throughout the course of his career, and even played the W.H.O. Doctor in the recent zombie flick, World War Z. I’m sure he will, no doubt, be a wonderful addition to the show. Still, it would have been nice to see a new face on the show, especially a less traditional one (I think we all considered Idris Elba at one point or another, right?).
Although, while I anxiously await Capaldi’s Doctor portrayal, personally, I really would have like to have seen Damien Molony take on the role.
I guess we’ll just have to see how things go with the Christmas Special on November 23rd.
Happy Sunday, everyone.
Comics Review: Two of Doctor Who
Skyjacks #2 by Diggle, Robson, Kuhn, etc.
Dr. Who Classics: “Nemesis of the Daleks” #s 1-3 by Starkings, Tomlinson, Sullivan, etc.
Review by: Prof. Jenn
This is a fun and exciting installment in the 11th Doctor comic series–we begin with the Doctor returning from a years-long mystery trip and it’s up to him and Clara to figure out what the heck is going on. There are friendly military to help (giving yours truly a fond nostalgic think-back to Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart), and you can’t deny a giant flying robotic pterodactyl. You just can’t.
The art is minimalist, with very thick outlines and a bare minimum of shading, etc. which is quite appealing and effective for the tight storyline.
Bottom Line: Recommended. Actually, I can’t wait to see what happens next!
I do enjoy the classic Doctor quite a bit, as the Old School versions are ones I grew up with, and thereby they hold a special place in my heart. The 7th doctor isn’t one of those in my childhood canon, though I do appreciate those eps in the TV series. “Nemesis of the Daleks” has an interesting premise, as we meet an enemy of the Daleks that could potentially be deadlier to the Daleks than even the Doctor. Absalom Daak is supposed to be charming rogue with a passionate goal of revenge, but he falls way flat as a character. His torrid backstory is cliched and his interaction with the Doctor is like a much less interesting 4th Doctor/Leela dynamic, with the Doctor attempting to make Daak more civilised and not violently impulsive, and Daak insisting his rough-and-tumble ways are best. I just didn’t find the story all that compelling.
The artwork is quite good–a mild Mignola-esque flavor and interesting fight scenes. The 7th Doctor looks enough like the actor that we know who it is, without it being a series of actor portraits, but character illustration instead. The art didn’t save the story, however.
Bottom Line: Skip this one, unless you are the kind of collector that is a completist.
Review: Queers Dig Time Lords, ed. by Sigrid Ellis and Michael Damian Thomas
Review by: Prof. Jenn
Now, when I get a book to review, I always make an effort to read it in its entirety before composing my review. This is because a) I’m thankfully a fast reader, and b) I feel that if I don’t read the entire book, I can’t really make a fair judgment on the book. So I read these in as close to one sitting as I possibly can. Maybe this habit stems from acting school, where my professors insisted we read the entire play from which we took our scenes and monologues. But I digress.
Queers Dig Time Lords is not the kind of book you want to read like this. It’s a collection of essays by various and sundry authors, spanning topics from how Doctor Who is gay-friendly, to how its fan-base is gay-friendly, to memoir-like musing on how the show helped the author through coming out, through queer character-analysis (especially a repeated celebration of Jack Harkness) and comparisons of the geek closet to the homosexual closet. But if you sit down with this book and read all the essays one after the other, it does start to get too repetitive for maximum enjoyment.
But that’s okay–this is the kind of book to come back to in short bursts time and time again, for scholarly reference, warm and fuzzy memoir enjoyment, and geek celebration. It’s a stellar collection, and anyone who’s interested in social studies, sexuality/gender studies, or just loves Doctor Who will welcome this book on their school or geek-themed book shelf.
Bottom Line: Highly recommended.
Comics review: Dr. Who Prisoners of Time #4 by Tipton, Tipton, Erskine and Kirchoff & Dr. Who #8 Space Oddity Part 2 by Fialkov, Domingues, Ponce, Gonzalez and Salmon
Review by Prof. Jenn
Part 2 takes up where we left off, with the Vashta Nerada having stolen the TARDIS. This can’t be good. But the Doctor always has a plan. Or at least, he thinks really well off the cuff.
This issue is a tighly-paced, exciting story with a fun Doctor-changes-history-slightly conclusion with all the fun 11th-Doctor quips and action you want out of a comic. And the moral that violence is never the answer.
The art is colorful and comicky, which is perfect for an action-packed plot like this one. The Doctor is rendered close enough to Matt Smith that we recognize him, without having to be a faithful portrait of the actor, but more an illustration of the character.
Bottom line: Recommended, especially for Dr. Who fans.
Prisoners of Time
What a treat, to see “my” Doctor rendered in comic form! I haven’t kept up with any of the comics featuring the classic Who regenerations, and this issue makes me want to start.
This is a classic 4th Doctor tale, with Leela and K-9 helping him solve the mystery of the problems found on a planet they landed on by mistake. And there’s Judoon, which is cool.
I would actually make the same comment about this art as above: the character portrayal, the bright colors, the tight pace matching the writing…
Bottom line: Highly recommended. It’s like watching a good old ep.