Diversity Panels I’d Like To See

The Bias

Generic “diversity panels” are boring.

I get it: you schedule “Women in Gaming” and “Disability in Genre Fiction” with the best of intentions. You know these are hot topics of discussion in the fandom community right now, and you want your con to add to the conversation.

But these generic panels don’t so much add to the conversation as recap it. It’s impossible to go into a subject as broad as “Race In Science Fiction” in any depth in a one-hour slot, and without knowing how well the audience has educated themselves on the topic, the panelists generally just end up summarizing the background reading.

What makes this worse for panelists is that, as members of underrepresented groups, we’re in high demand for this kind of “diversity homework.” We get scheduled for these panels instead of panels on subjects related to our actual expertise or current projects. While folks with…

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Upgrade Failed – Recap and Review of Doctor Who’s “Nightmare in Silver”

I really, really wanted to love this episode. It’s credited as written by Neil Gaiman, a tremendous author and the man responsible for the excellent Doctor Who episode, “The Doctor’s Wife”!

Sadly, this installment did not impress me so much as it exasperated me with character missteps, plot holes, questionable direction, and erratic pacing. SPOILERS GALORE! SO MANY SPOILERS! SPILLY-SPOTTY SUPER SPOILY STUFF!


At the end of the previous episode, The Crimson Horror, there was an Absurd Contrivance: the two children for whom the most recent iteration of Clara works as a nanny managed to find photos of Clara through time, on her travels with the Doctor and one photo of the Victorian governess version of Clara*, then blackmailed her to take them on TARDIS trips to avoid them telling their parents that she’s a time-traveller.

That’s such a bullshit story development that I could probably spend an entire blogpost on it, but I’ll try to summarize the crap of it: they posed for photos? somehow the children found the photos of Clara among the billions of photographs since the invention of the camera? nobody’s seen people with strong family resemblances before? why would it matter if the kids told their parents this ludicrous story? why does Clara have to stay with them, if they respect her so little that they’d blackmail her? There. That’s just off the top of my head.

So this episode starts off with the TARDIS appearing on “Hedgewicks World” [sic] and the Doctor, Clara, girl, and boy popping their heads out. Because, apparently, a 1000-yr-old Time Lord can’t help but go along with the impotent blackmail threats of bratty Earth children. And the bratty Earth children are wholly unmoved by the fact that they just teleported through space. The girl is aggressively unimpressed and makes me wish she’d “accidentally” fall into a dying star. Compare them to the children in The Doctor, The Widow, and The Wardrobe: those previous youngsters accepted time and space travel readily, yes, but were also amazed by it.

Then a Mad Hatter character appears. No explanation of why or how he came to be here, save a passing comment about his needing a lift to get off world. Nearly as soon as he appears, he’s chased off by the Emperor’s soldiers, who turn out to be as frightening and capable as a deck of cards. But they do considerately provide exposition that the Emperor is gone somewhere. But characterization suffers again as this Doctor doesn’t seem to mind working with soldiers, being around weapons, nor tossing off salutes.

Mad Hatter reappears and gloms onto The Doctor’s group for little apparent reason, but perhaps in hopes of getting some money off of them? And yet, he’s been there for six months or more without starving to death. How? If he merely wanted them to transport him to another world and offered his tour guide services in exchange, that would at least make sense toward his motivations. If he mentioned that the soldiers gave him rations to live, that also would’ve helped. Anyway, he shows the group to an opening out to the grounds of the amusement park “world”.

And then we come to a frequent flaw in space travel stories: this “world” appears to be no bigger than Disneyland. What about the rest of the planet? What about areas you can’t walk to in a few minutes? What’s going on in all those sections? Quick comments about how the world was 99% water and only this part had ground to walk on, plus previous rides being geared to the water but long since being shut down, would have fixed that weird gap of information.

Then there is a bit of editing peculiarity, when the Mad Hatter says, “Welcome to my sh–” and then continues, “Webbly’s World of Wonders!” Is it a ship? A shoppe? A shed? I feel like there may have been a cut scene where he shows them his SHIP, indicates that it no longer flies, and explains that he converted it into a museum in hopes that some passersby would pay him enough so that he could hire transport off the planet. Instead we just see a room full of junk with no real explanation of why it’s there or what Webbly does with it all.

It’s apparently full of waxworks of people and things. Why? How? People are still impressed by that in some future where a planet can be an amusement park? Once again, it feels like there’s a cut scene where there might have been more explanation and then, with no segue, Webbly asks for a chess player. Then there’s another strange part where he throws his hat onto a bit of kitsch and it falls right off and disappears. Why was that part kept in? Why have him remove his hat at all? He leads the group to a chessboard with prepared pieces and one side adjacent to something covered in a cloth. Easily deducible that this will be some chess-playing-device. The sound editing is poor as Webbly goes for the reveal and it’s hard to hear what he says over the score. “Behold, the enemy”? Did an amateur edit this episode?

But when the cloth is pulled away, The Doctor panics that it’s a Cyberman and… makes Clara and the kids duck down? That makes no sense. If he were really afraid it were dangerous, wouldn’t he pull out his sonic screwdriver or make everyone run or both? But I guess that takes us into the title sequence.

Webbly pops up behind the Cyberman bust to tell us that there are no more living Cybermen. Instead this is an empty shell that can destroy you at chess. How? Annoying girl eyerolls, “Magic!” Because that’s what a 21st century girl would guess instead of “remote control” or “it’s a trick”? Really?

We see a couple of cybermites blinking a bright cyan blue on one of the waxwork figures, somehow close enough to get a good view of the visitors but also far enough away that nobody notices the bright blue blinking lights?

Then Artie tries to play the CyberOpponent and immediately falls for Fool’s Mate. That was literally the first gambit I was taught in chess club, but this kid who’s being painted as a nerdy type who competes at chess missed it? Then Annoying Girl guess this “trick” is done with mirrors. Not wifi or wires, but mirrors. That’s supposed to be clever and not idiotic? But we discover that Porridge (the wonderful Warwick Davis) is playing the Cyberman via a simple remote control device, yet has to hide inside a mirrored compartment under the chess table instead of, for example, ANYWHERE ELSE. Really?

As everyone leaves the chess room by unspoken agreement, the video cuts make it seem like a bunch of brightly blinking cybermites just passed on the wall by The Doctor’s face and yet nothing is said about it. Sigh. Webbly tells us he has three Cybermen and they all have that Iron Man Drone look that we saw on their last Doctor Who appearance. While the Doctor sonics one, the others look at a wax figure of the Emperor and Porridge tells them about him. At this point, nobody asks Porridge where he came from, why he’s agreed to remotely play chess for Webbly, nor how he knows so much about stuff. And, in fact, nobody ever asks any of those questions throughout the episode (though the last question is implicitly answered by the reveal at the end).

Porridge guides the group back to the landing area where he could run The Spacey Zoomer “ride” for them. Before they leave the World of Wonders, Angie compares the Imperial Shilling to the Emperor. Not sure why that’s necessary as they’re _supposed_ to look the same. Then there’s an ominous cut to the two full-sized immobile Cybermen who… do nothing. No cybermite activity, no turning of a head or flickering of a light — nothing.

Porridge turns on antigrav and the kids float around for a moment and I guess that’s the Spacey Zoomer ride. Clara attempts to take photos of them with her phone, holding it like she’s never done such a thing before. Do they even HAVE a director for this episode?

Then, Clara does the most intelligent thing anybody does in this episode. She tries to take the kids home. The Doctor denies them their escape for NO GOOD REASON! I get that he wants to investigate cyber-activity, if he’s picked up on it. And kudos to him for that. But he has a TIME MACHINE. He can take Clara and the kids to safety and then come back on his own to defeat the Cybermen! It would literally take him no time at all to do it! Instead, he leaves these helpless, stupid humans within range of evidence of one of his greatest enemies? Arrest that Gallifreyan for Endangering Minors and Incompetent Negligence. Ugh.

But that’s okay, right? He’ll leave the kids in the universe’s safest guest bedroom, namely any room of the TARDIS — an artificially intelligent weapon of mass destruction that we’ve been shown can protect itself from harm, even from intruders. Right? Nope. He’ll leave them in an unfamiliar and unsecured room that contains two Cybermen and a Cyberman torso. And Clara will have no problems with that, either. But he’ll tell the bratty children not to wander off, because of course that’s the smartest thing to tell bratty children you want to stay in place. Ugh.

Back in the chess room, which seems like it’s really close to the other room, but I guess it must not be, Webbly resets the chess board only to be grabbed by the thing that shouldn’t move unless Porridge moves it. But he yells for help, right? Nope. How about when the scary cybermites appear? He’s going to yell for help, then, and hope The Doctor and Porridge come running, yes? Nope. But surely when they crawl on him, he’ll yell! Nuh-uh. Not until a disembodied voice says “Upgrade in progress” does he finally cry out — but apparently not loudly enough for the kids IN THE OTHER ROOM to hear him. Sure.

In that room, the horrible girl seems to have gotten over her fear of whatever she’d need to be rescued from, complains about her phone not getting a signal IN A DISTANT TIME AND PLACE, then makes the insanely stupid comment that she was told not to wander off by someone who wandered off. As if no other adult warning to children ever precludes the adult being able to do something children can’t or shouldn’t. Like driving, drinking, smoking, having sex, or using any complicated equipment. Nope, she’s never heard such hypocrisy before. At least I got hopeful that cybermites scurried over her phone! Maybe one will jump from her phone into her head and make her stop being a moron? Nope. She even makes the overused and trite, “She’s not my mum,” comment. Ugh.

Finally, there’s a pleasant scene. Porridge eloquently answers Clara’s questions about this planet and the Cybermen and the horrible actions that had to be taken to defeat them previously. Admittedly, the foreshadowing of Porridge’s reveal in his own remarks is a little clunky, but it’s delivered so well that I don’t mind it one bit.

Then we cut to the barracks where Angie apparently wandered in. The set looks very similar to the analogous set in The Doctor’s Daughter, like a church that’s underground. These incompetent soldiers demonstrate some of their incompetence in not questioning that electromechanical parts have gone missing. Really? Nobody says, “Let’s track down the thief!”? Nope. Just, “You must have replacement parts!” And then there’s a soldier who says the weather controller is malfunctioning and causing storms, heatwaves, and snow. What? Where? Is this ever referenced again? Ugh.

Angie walks in and says she’s bored. And nobody shoots her. To be fair, it would be unreasonable to shoot a random girl, but it’s also unreasonable for that girl to walk into a military barracks and say, “Hello? I’m bored!” I really wish someone had shot her in the face. I may not be good with kids, I dunno. And then referring to Porridge as “that little bloke” is enough to tell the soldier in charge that it’s the missing emperor? Because in the entire universe, there’s only one little person?

There’s a reasonable scene in which Artie is afraid of being in the dark with wax monsters, turns on the light, and then gets caught by a cyberman.

Back to worst girl in history, the soldier in charge asks Angie for information about the little bloke and before Angie can describe Porridge, Clara and the Doctor walk in. Then, for no discernible reason, Angie protests that “she always has to turn up and spoil everything!” What? Spoil what? Nothing’s happened! Did Angie hate Clara back on earth? Why does The Worst Girl hate Clara so much? Angie also says, “Why can’t you just leave me alone?” which I would have taken as a request to leave her behind on A DIFFERENT FREAKING PLANET when everyone else leaves because what a little shit.

But then a new-and-improved Cyberman appears, now with superspeed! How does this one have superspeed? No explanation or reason is given. So, they’re all going to have superspeed? Nope. So, this one’s going to keep using superspeed to destroy every opponent on the planet? Nope, we’ll never see it again after this incomprehensible scene. What? It takes Angie. Nobody says “Good riddance” which strikes me as a missed opportunity. Despite the Cyberman appearing to move at light speed (the laser bolts are stuck in midair as it goes), Clara knows where it’s gone and tries to chase after Angie. Meanwhile, The Doctor is still pointing his sonic screwdriver where the Cyberman used to be, for several beats. But seriously, Directors are totally useful, you guys.

The Doctor asks the Captain of the soldiers why they suck and the Captain says they were sent to this dead planet because they suck, so they wouldn’t get into trouble. The Doctor somehow is disappointed despite NOT LIKING SOLDIERS.

Doctor puts Clara in charge of the soldiers and tells them not to blow up the planet. Turns out, that was their actual plan. Despite them only appearing to occupy about 0.00001% of even the smallest planet, that’s their go-to move. Okay.

Angie’s protest to superspeed Cyberman? “Put me down, I hate you.” Ugh.

We’re told the castle where the soldiers and Clara will defend themselves is ‘comical’. I don’t recall anything comical about it! Porridge comes in and his presence seems to convince the Captain to go along with Clara’s commands as her superior as decreed by The Doctor. It’s pretty sexist that a man has to tell one woman to listen to another and then the problems go away, but that’s a pretty tiny problem in the grand scheme of this episode, so let’s go on. Besides, Warwick Davis comes across as intelligent, brave, commanding, and compassionate here, so I had no head of steam over this bit in any case.

The Doctor returns to the waxworks room, sees no children, spots a tiny cybermite and immediately goes to it, the cybermite does not scurry away, and he talks to it. A still cybermite? Ridiculous. He should’ve sonic’d it first so it wouldn’t move and then maybe talk to it. Or just skip the talking part and use its transmat link to teleport to wherever the kids and Webbly are hiding. Webbly says they needed children.

Clara and troops stomp over to the Not-comical Castle, because this “world” can be traversed by foot, apparently. And tall, ginger fellows in spectacles are apparently still goofy in a future universe where a galaxy was blown up by humans. Sure. Clara makes a straight-faced joke that she doesn’t think the Doctor knows what he’s doing. Okay, that was good.

Webbly explains that during the war, before the galaxy full of Cybermen was blown up, damaged Cybermen were brought… to Hedgewicks World?… for repairs. The Doctor jumps to a conclusion that people routinely disappeared from the amusement park for their repairs. Okay. Webbly says children’s “infinite potential minds” are perfect for rebuilding a Cyberman planet. What? But The Doctor’s single brain is apparently all they need, so Webbly throws some cybermites at him to upgrade him (they can do that to non-humans now).

As The Doctor gets borgified by the cybermites, his Cyber personality acts and sounds all nefarious, like a comic-book villain. This despite every other Cyber personality being calm and, well, robotic. I am skepticalpants. But the Doctor’s personality fights back and thus begins an internal battle in his mind.

The artwork and effects used to show us this internal battle is quite lovely. I liked the sepiatone Gallifreyan text in particular. It was also nice to see the organic brown tones behind The Doctor’s internal image versus the blue geometrical lattice designs behind The CyberDoctor’s internal image. But, sadly, the peculiar behavior of the latter leads him to eschew the traditional label of CyberPlanner in favor of… Mr. Clever. Really? I did like the visuals of The Doctor’s various incarnations. Yay, Eccleston! And then The Doctor and Mr. Clever make a deal for control of The Doctor’s brain via a chess game’s outcome.

One of the pathetically awful soldiers comes across a Cyberman and yells, “Don’t move! I’m in the army!” I guess that was supposed to be funny, but it’s just painful. Does the bad guy superspeed after her? Nope. That apparently was a one-time thing. Instead, it detaches a hand and sends it after her. Because that’s somehow more efficient than just catching the soldier without self-disassembly? Absurd Contrivance.

Captain of the soldiers says Cybermen have been extinct for a thousand years. But apparently, human technology still isn’t advanced enough to be able to take them out with standard weapons? That’s like a 2013 soldier being unprepared to fight a hun or a gladiator. Except that a 2013 soldier could EASILY take out a hun or a gladiator. Come on!

Anyway, they have one anti-Cyberiad gun and a few hand-pulsers. Never mind that Cybermen tend to travel in packs and can shoot you faster than you can sneak up on its head. Ugh. There’s a tiny briefcase thing that can blow up a planet, mind you. No standard weapons good enough to take out Cybermen, but a laptop case that can destroy A PLANET. WTF? And it can be triggered by voice command or a remote detonator. That remote detonator seems insanely unsafe. Come on. Then Porridge takes a hand pulser (sure, why not, they only have six but okay) and the Captain angrily bosses him around, despite thinking he’s her emperor. What.

The Doctor uses gold to silence Mr. Clever (really, a thousand plus years of upgrades and they haven’t fixed that problem?) and commands CyberWebbly and CyberKids to come with him and his chess set as they escape the mysterious blue room of Cyberness.

Back at the Castle-that’s-still-not-comical, Captain reveals to Porridge that she recognized his imperiousness, then the two of them reiterate to Clara that imploding a planet is the only consistent way to eliminate Cyberiad threats, which apparently gives Captain the courage to set off the bomb by voice. Except, for no discernible reason, she starts moving with the bomb before she finishes reciting the detonation command. It can blow up a planet; where you’re holding it couldn’t possibly make a difference. But conveniently, she carries it past a window that a Cyberman with perfect aim happens to be staring at, and he kills her with one shot. Absurd Contrivance.

A stupid soldier attempts to hand-pulse a Cyberman’s head, but it was sitting removed from its body and the body kills the soldier before putting the head back on. Then another (or the same?) Cyberman takes out two more soldiers before chubby soldier shouts at it. For some reason, Clara needed him to do that before shooting the bad guy with the anti-cyber gun instead of… just shooting it? Maybe she assumed it had superspeed, not knowing the effects budget for this episode was already used up?

The downed soldiers pop back up as Cyber-controlled soldiers and chubby soldier tells Clara to save her shots since these idiots can be taken down by some previously unseen soldiers with hand pulsers. Clara asks chubby if he thinks there are more Cybermen and he smiles because he’s apparently both prescient and insane.

The Doctor is walking around because this planet is tiny and runs into the soldiers and Clara because this planet is miniscule, but he quotes Rory as he says, “Don’t shoot! I’m nice!” He asks to be immobilized with some very clunky dialog, but to be left with his hands (and arms) free to finish his chess game with Mr. Clever. Really? Tying him to a chair? Ugh.

Anyway, The Doctor tears off the gold patch and Mr. Clever regains control of his mouth and tells Clara she’s the impossible girl. Meanwhile, a pencil and pad of paper have magically appeared at The Doctor’s right hand and he writes Clara to hit him so he can take control of the mouth back. Sure, why not.

Clara thinks to drop a main power cable into the moat surrounding the Completely-Serious Castle so as to electrify it. A soldier turns a wheel to pull up the drawbridge that we’ve never seen. Mr. Clever mentally commands a very large number of Cybermen to awake and attack. But not in superspeed. Just forget the superspeed, okay?

The emperor of the universe has found a hot pot of soup and ladles some out for Clara, but The Doctor calls to her before she can have any. So. Not sure why this scene is here at all.

Mr. Clever is very obviously in charge of The Doctor’s body, but Clara still trusts him a bit because she hasn’t been paying attention for five episodes, I guess. He wants the remote detonator. Clara’s braincells spark up enough that she doesn’t immediately hand it over, but die down again as she leans really close to him so he could kill her with his bare hands if he chose (or at least could grab the detonator). But somehow she figures out that The Doctor would never say affectionate things to her. What. It doesn’t matter because Mr. Clever still uses the left arm to destroy the remote detonator. There is a bureaucratic joke about Clara losing the detonator despite having signed for it. It is kinda funny.

The electrified moat turns out to be pointless. Despite the anti-cyber gun only having a dozen rounds versus the hundreds of visible Cybermen, chubby soldier is given it and told to shoot them. Sure.

Mr. Clever emotionally rails out loud against emotions when The Doctor trades his queen (yeah, they’re still kinda playing chess) for the release of the CyberKids. Mr. Clever does release them, but then directs CyberWebbly to kill them. Fortunately Emperor Porridge comes in and smacks Webbly with a handpulser before he’s kicked over to land near the Doctor’s right hand. Webbly wobbles but he doesn’t fall down. The Doctor tells Angie to look after Artie.

A stupid soldier attempts to sneak up on a Cyberman who’s leveled up and gained Owl Head Turn, so gets spotted and then the soldier makes a ridiculous face as she’s caught. Are all the soldiers who fail turning out to be female? It feels like it, Moffat you pig.

Chubby tries to shoot a Cyberman again, but they’ve now upgraded past the point where the gun can hurt them, so basically everyone’s totally fucked now.

The Doctor claims he can checkmate in 3 moves, taunting Mr. Clever. Clara swings a mace at a Cyberman who pulls it away in laughably easy fashion. As the Cyberman army is mere feet away from Clara and the remaining soldiers, The Doctor verbal pokes at Mr. Clever that he may not have the processing power to WIN A GAME OF CHESS. Obviously, the computer that is Mr. Clever suffers from insecurities, so it makes all the cybermen devote 100% of their processing power to help him WIN A GAME OF CHESS. Seriously.

Mr. Clever claims he’s not cheating by asking for help from millions of other brains to WIN A GAME OF CHESS, just pulling in local resources. Then, The Doctor, who hasn’t been able to manage full control of his body when he wasn’t fighting Mr. Clever + a million backup computers, manages to pull Porridge’s hand-pulser off the ground, pull his sonic screwdriver out of his pocket, amplify the hand-pulser, and then slap it against his own face. That seems like four moves. Five if you could putting the pulser on his hand. But Mr. Clever claims The Doctor cheated anyway, because that’s what’s important when it’s survival on the line: fair play. The Doctor replies that he took advantage of local resources. Those lines were clunky and just put in to mirror the two circumstances and I’m sad about this.

The Doctor insults Clara which makes her trust him and tells us stuff about her psychology and about Moffat’s, too.

Everyone freaks out because the Cybermen will be coming back online shortly and now everybody’s on board with blowing up the planet (of which we’ve still only seen maybe one square kilometer), but how can we set off the bomb when restless Captain got herself killed and foolish Clara let Mr. Clever destroy the remote detonator? Angie’s obviously the only person smart enough to realize that Porridge is the emperor and makes the leap to the conclusion that he could also set off the bomb. And despite Porridge acting brave and noble, he wasn’t going to admit it on his own, despite the impending threat of his worst enemy coming back in force a thousand years after their extinction. Absurd Contrivance.

With reluctance and no good reason given for why he doesn’t want to be Emperor, Porridge declares his identity and tells the bomb to go off. Apparently just doing that is enough to somehow inform a ship to warp to their location and teleport them all out in less than 80 seconds. That’s one hell of an FTL radio transmitter for a briefcase bomb.

When they arrive, The Doctor remarks that it’s a nice ship, albeit a bit big and not blue enough. Then he requests they transmat his TARDIS onboard, too. Then the planet “implodes” though it looks like an explosion. And the emperor is sad that he’ll be lonely again.

But let’s not end this episode without some rampant sexism! The emperor proposes marriage to Clara despite having known her for less than a day and the worst girl in the universe says you should always ignore your ability to be independent and instead commit yourself to a loveless marriage if you can get a regal title out of it.

And despite being absolutely horrible in every way, The Doctor gives that girl a replacement phone from the TARDIS, so basically the best gift anyone in 2013 could probably ever get. Remember, the cybermites crawled all over her old phone and… wait, nothing came of that. Except I guess Angie got a free upgrade.

You know what? Not enough sexism. Let’s make the very last statement from The Doctor include commentary on Clara’s very tight skirts despite the fact that she’s been wearing a flouncy one over black hose this whole episode. Good ol’ boy, Doctor!

And as Warwick the Emperor commands his ship away, we see a bit of Cyber technology floating through space and flashing blue because of course we do.

In conclusion, I hope that the dear and genius Mr. Gaiman only gave over a first draft of this story and that it was mutilated into foolishness by somebody else.

*Not once did Clara ask The Doctor why there was a photo of her in Victorian England when she hadn’t ever been there yet. Sure, he could’ve explained it away with, “Oh, we’ll go there on a future trip!” but it wasn’t even brought up.

EDITED TO ADD: Neil Gaiman’s been answering some questions on twitter about this episode and while Moffat didn’t seem to add much to his story, there were apparently many cuts. I like to think the logical problems would’ve all disappeared if all the original scenes were retained. That is entirely guesswork based on my affection for Mr. Gaiman’s writing.

Boringwoman, a review of Batwoman, Vol. 2: To Drown the World

Batwoman, Vol 2: To Drown The World

I hadn’t picked up a DC new 52 comic yet, but I’d read on the internet about how the Batwoman title was the best of them. Really?

I got this via a goodreads advance copy giveaway and since I didn’t know the story yet, I got ebook versions of issues 1-5 (since this volume is a collection of 6-10 in a hardback omnibus). The first five issues don’t do an origin story, though the first has a clever 2-page splash as a flashback and every issue does the boilerplate “this is the origin” blurb at the beginning. My main takeaway from the first five issues was that the artwork was pretty but felt inconsistent in quality from page to page. The story was interesting in a soap-opera / Kick-Ass sort of way.

Then I got to these stories in Volume 2. The artwork is better and more consistent, but the figures are occasionally posed in garish ways that jarred me out of the narrative. I don’t mean some bad guy picks up a character and twists them around (though that happens), I mean some human stands or kicks or punches in a way that the bodies look wrong. In an attempt to convey more of the story in ink than in dialog, there are visuals that don’t make sense, concurrent panels that seem to miss several frames of key action, and scenes of movement that are so noisy as to be nonsensical. It’s like the comic version of Transformers 2 on an IMAX screen.

Perhaps the flow of the art could be forgiven if the story itself were well-scripted, but it’s decidedly not. I’ll give credit to the author for not making a big deal out of the sexualities of any characters depicted, but that’s about his best accomplishment. The narrative neither unfolds in a linear, suspenseful, nor revelatory fashion. It feels chaotic, as if on each page the writer thought, “Oh, I need to include a scene about this. Wait, did I put in this scene, yet? I’ll put it in now.” There’s no structural payoff, there’s no artistic relevance to the order of scenes.

And all of that could even be forgiven if the reader were given any reason to empathize or root for any of the characters. Nope. Sure, I want the bad guys to be stopped from doing the bad things, but I’m given no reason to care who does it. I don’t care if Batwoman, the Police, or the Feds do it. Hell, I’d welcome Batman coming in, shoving everyone out of the way, and taking care of business himself. At least I know why Bruce Wayne does what he does and I buy that he can do it.

The writer relies upon an assumption of empathy or loyalty to his main character that certainly didn’t exist with me. I never felt inclined to say, “Hell, yeah!” when Batwoman punched someone, threw a toy, survived gunfire, kissed someone, or got laid. The artwork excelled enough to make me want to look, but not enough to make me care.

The whole character feels weak, frankly. Okay, she survived a trauma similar to Bruce Wayne’s: her mother and twin sister get brutally killed… but her father’s alive. Not as bad. She went to West Point. Not as badass as spending every day from the age of 8 until his twenties training in every form of combat a billionaire’s money can buy. She gets kicked out of West Point for being gay and… decides to become Batwoman? What about all the hundreds of other people who’ve been drummed out of the military for being gay? Are they all Batpeople, too? No, of course not.

Unless a later issue somehow divulges information about what makes Kate Kane more than any other military school non-graduate, I just can’t see any reason to care about her stories. Certainly, these five issues didn’t do it for me.

originally posted at: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/513697645

Don’t Mock My Log – Recap & Review of Doctor Who “The Power of Three”

I’m going to build out this writing as I rewatch and loop back to rewatch again this latest episode of Series 7 of the Doctor Who modern era. We’ve had the Asylum of the Daleks (disliked), Dinosaurs on a Spaceship (mostly liked), A Town Called Mercy (slightly disliked), and now The Power of Three, the fourth episode, written by Chris Chibnall. NOTHING BUT SPOILERS, YO!

I’ve had strong opinions about…well, every episode of Doctor Who I’ve seen since Christopher Eccleston saved Billie Piper in the first reboot story in 2005. But I’m driven mad by this latest episode because it could have been an excellent one and it failed in numerous ways that a good editor should have spotted immediately!

The structure of the story is unusual but not unprecedented. Much like Rose Tyler narrating “the day I died”, Amy Pond tells us about the time the Doctor came to stay a while. And just like Doomsday in the second series, this narration is just at the beginning and the end.

Amy and Rory are living in the house they got from The Doctor as a present and we see a nice glimpse at the consequences of their unprepared travels: bills, expired food, out of household essentials. It’s July.

I’ve read someone, maybe Moffat or Darvill, comment on how these companions are unlike previous ones because of how The Doctor pops in and out of their life. That’s true! The main part of each series had them traveling with the Gallifreyan constantly, but there are times when he goes away and has adventures and then comes back, usually around the ends of each season. This season, he’s doing it between each episode and “The Ponds” are well aware of their split-personality lives.

As the prelude ends, we see a black cube form out of nothing in mid-air inside Amy & Rory’s bedroom and float to land on a side table. Narrator Amy calls this “the year of the slow invasion” and I want you to remember how evocative that phrase sounds.

After the title sequence with the annoying logo filled in with cubes (I find this a childish trend), we have Brian “Pond” ringing the doorbell to wake his son and daughter-in-law to tell them about the cubes.

“What are they?” “Nobody knows.” “Well, where’d they come from?” — we never get an answer! Come on. It’s 2012. We see in just a few minutes later on the show that they appear just fine on video feeds. So there’s no footage of them appearing and floating down to wherever they land? Nobody was awake anywhere in the world to see it happen? Bullshit. Furthermore, later there’s a TV announcer who declares that it could be a marketing campaign, implying that they definitely didn’t see the cubes form out of thin air in an unearthly fashion. Either the prelude should have shown all the electronics fail and then come back with a cube in place, or there should have been acknowledgement that people saw the cubes appear the way we saw it happen.

Also, nobody mentions how they feel. Kate Stewart later talks about tests they’ve done which don’t harm the cubes and obviously they’re light enough to pick up with ease, but there’s also a comparison drawn to iPads. You know what people talk about with a new iPad? HOW IT FEELS! Is it plasticky? Metal? Cold? Hot? Does it feel unearthly and people just got accustomed to it or does it feel like a lego? This is a minor thing but it takes just a second to address and differentiates a MacGuffin from a real thing.

The Doctor appears… on a playground set? And calls it the Invasion of the Very Small Cubes. Not as nice as Amy’s phrase, but a funny one. Serviceable. Notice how The Doctor is wearing a watch with the face on the inside of his left wrist? When did that start? Why does a Time Lord need a wristwatch? He glances at it a couple times in this episode and I don’t know why.

People are taking the cubes into offices and homes? I call shenanigans on that, too. If something inexplicable appeared both inside and outside of homes everywhere in the world, I’d immediately search through my house to find them all and then toss them all in the nearest dumpster. I’d also use tongs. That shit could be dangerous! …Unless I were a college student. Then I might use them to build a bookcase or a desk. If they could be glued together. Did anyone try that?

“What do you think we do when we’re not with you?” “I imagine mostly kissing.” I like the expression Rory got at that. And yeah, if kissing’s a child-friendly euphemism. I also chuckled at Amy still being the libidinous gal she is, with her wish to be surrounded by soldiers while clad in just her underpants. I adore Kate Stewart, in charge of UNIT?, both as a character and her performance by Jenna Redgrave. Sadly, her meeting with the doctor is where she explicitly states she doesn’t know how the cubes got here. See above, re: bullshit.

Was there product placement here? Flickr, YouTube, and Twitter are cited explicitly. I do love The Doctor’s disgusted face at twitter, but I can’t help but wonder: are these things that an 1100 year old Time Lord would know about? They are infant concepts in comparison to human history alone, not to mention the age and span of the universe (which our time-traveller himself will reference later in the story).

The cubes arrived as the sun rose? But all around the world? The sun rises constantly around the world. It’s a globe, you know. The Doctor should really be aware of things like… how planets orbit stars. Come on.

How did Brian eat or go to the bathroom for four days in the TARDIS? Are things in stasis in the TARDIS? We’ve seen Amy and Rory “go to their room” so sleep apparently happens in there. Did less time pass inside than out? But if that were the case, why would The Doctor tell him it’s been four days? If this was just a plot device to have Brian present when the Ponds were invited to travel through time — that could have been done by having him just stay with the Ponds in their guest room or something. And it felt peculiar that Amy didn’t turn around to face Rory and the Time Lord when Rory was talking about the importance of his job. So rude!

Anyway, The TARDIS takes its thief away and we see on the news that a week passes with no conclusions. And then it’s October? And Amy’s asked to be bridesmaid to a female-female wedding. That’s a nice touch. I also like that we hear “Titanium” and wish someone earlier had said, “These cubes appear to be made of something like titanium but indestructible!” Then Rory’s asked to be a full-time nurse? I like that, too. I also like that he’s thoroughly fulfilled as a nurse. That’s a lovely and admirable career.

Then there’s “Brian’s Log” (hahah, that’s great!) but we see it at day 67. I guess that’s possible (if this is the beginning of the month and we started at the end of July) but I wish it were more like day 80 if this is October. That’s a good character beat showing Brian’s diligence, free time, and respect for The Doctor and I like it fine.

Then we see the little girl in the emergency waiting room with a cube in her hand. Now it’s December. This plot point is freaking stupid and pointless. It’s like Chibnall had a plan to make her interesting and then lost the idea after multiple drafts. Then two apparently identical hospital workers with hexagonal mouth-holes kidnap a perfectly fine, slightly older gentleman. Why? Another inexplicable plot device.

There’s a weird bit that’s supposed to show us how the cubes have just been accepted as things to have around, apparently. Still shenanigans. And then it’s June and it’s Amy & Rory’s wedding anniversary and Amy does some exposition on what looks like a Samsung Galaxy S III and says it’s been nine months-ish. Did I miss a thing that said “September” when the cubes appeared?

Also, it’s been six months that the girl with the cube was in the waiting room and the old man was kidnapped. What?

Then some adventures through time. Another Doctor/Rory kiss. Notice that they almost never leave the Earth? In fact, over all the 11th Doctor’s adventures, it seems like 90% are on Earth. Bah. Not sure why Amy and Rory having changed clothes is a tip-off to Brian. If they’d gotten more tan or more pale or had different haircuts–I’d buy that! Then The Doctor asks to stay with Amy. And Amy gets a very cute smile.

July, Day 361. Wait, so it HAS been a year since the cubes appeared? Dammit, this time thing is pissing me off. And then, the nice plotline of Brian observing the cubes has no narrative payoff! Yeah, he notices something happen, but so does everyone else at the same time. He’s just wasted 361 days. If he’d been scripted as immediately picking up his cellphone and telling The Doctor, to give him a little forewarning, that could have been written as the way the two-hearted hero was saved from being shot by the cube unawares! Or something! But nope.

Amy Pond touches the active cube. Rory just tries to look at it. One of those people has a better developed sense of safety. I like how The Doctor pronounces hover and his reference to K-9. I like that a lot. And what do you do when a cube is flying around shooting lasers and destroying things? You ignore it and leave it to destroy your home. WHAT?

I did like Kate Stewart’s “Ravens of Death” and the cube that played The Chicken Song. And I adored that Kate is Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart’s daughter. So, so lovely!

361 days. 47 minutes. You know what those numbers are, divided by 7? Nothing in particular. COME ON. 343 and 49 and then a little pattern would be built. That would be cleverish!

See how the power went out at UNIT? That’s how the cubes should have appeared. See how it’s possible? And yet, that was missed. And then the number 7 appears on the side of a cube. That’s lovely how THE ALIENS USE ARABIC NUMERALS! Come the freak on! The most spoken language on earth is Mandarin Chinese. You know how to write 7 in Chinese? It looks like a plus symbol. + That would have made sense. Or you know how symbols are arranged on playing cards so you can see seven of a thing? That also would have made sense. But nope, it’s a numeral seven in a language only some Earthlings use.

And then, by the way, what’s the damned logic in telling the people you’re trying to kill when you plan to kill them? There’s no logic to that! That is stupid as stupid can be! There is no point to the cubes counting down at all. As soon as they stopped being active (testing, scanning, etc.), they should just immediately lash out and attack. And why did the power return when the cubes hit 6? So that the intended victims could save themselves? That’s stupid, too! And then when The Doctor and Kate Stewart know there’s a countdown, they spend minutes talking about what to do. The Doctor should have just started yelling, “Get everyone away from the cubes! Now, now, now!” There was no point to him listing methods and having a discussion about it. And then nobody does anything about it. Kate and Amy just stand there looking at him.

Brian Pond is shown wanting to be helpful to Rory and in the midst of a panicking hospital, then walks into a hallway where nothing’s happening. What? And the girl with the cube is still around. She’s been there for about seven months, and nobody’s done anything about her? Is this a commentary on the NHS? Then the pointless hexagon-mouths rush past Brian Pond while carrying nothing on their stretcher, but stop when he calls to them. Why? It’s an evacuating hospital; it would make perfect sense for orderlies to rush around and ignore a fellow who appears in fine health. But then they attack and kidnap him. Why? To get Rory onto the ship, too? But that didn’t go anywhere or serve any purpose. You do see several kidnap victims, though. Who, by the way, get blown up on this ship and nobody cares.

Meanwhile, The Doctor gets into a room with a cube that counts down to naught and opens. Why don’t they say naught instead of zero, by the way? There’s also naught inside! But ten seconds after the cube opened, the nearest HUMAN heart got attacked. Even though The Doctor doesn’t have a human heart and is no longer anywhere near the cube, HIS heart got hit and nobody else’s? Each cube can only attack one heart? What the crap kind of ineffective technology is this? Why aren’t the cubes also flying around shooting everyone?

We do get to see and hear some amusing things as the Gallifreyan tries to deal with only one heart working. But why did he shut down the android girl-with-cube? What purpose does that serve? Nobody ever says. What happens to her on the floor after the rest of the work is done? I hope she becomes The Vision in Avengers 2. I did like the defibrillation bit and his dancing after, though.

Isn’t it nice how Rory and Brian get saved and every other kidnap victim is allowed to just lie around and nobody cares? What’s up with the Tally? Why does anyone care about whether or not humans leave Earth? Have other species been eliminated? What have the Shakri been doing for the 1100 years of The Doctor’s life? If the Shakri is just a hologram, why or how was it “shooting” at the intruders at first? And where were the hexagon-mouths during all the pointless chatter? And if the Shakri was just a “talking interface”, how did it know The Doctor by name? Were the Shakri defeated by less than a minute’s waving of the Sonic Screwdriver? Kate Stewart was JUST telling the secretary general that they only have each other and it turned out that whole segment of her talking to her govPhone was pointless, too.

If you want to say it’s just a coincidence that one of the seven portals to the alien spaceship is in Rory’s hospital, I’m fine with that. That’s a time-honored sort of contrivance — people end up randomly in the place where they can be useful or in danger. Okay. But why have seven at all and why kidnap people through the portals? If the writer had gotten rid of the stupid countdown and other pointless parts, and made the days 7 x 7 x 7 and the minutes of activity into 7 x 7, and mentioned there were 7 kidnappings, there could have been a little exposition on the Shakri’s ship.

“Of course!” The Doctor could have said. “The Shakri are Gallifreyan bogeymen obsessed with sevens! Existing in seven dimensions at once so if they want to anchor themselves to a time and place, they have to exchange matter with seven slightly time-shifted versions of that era. Seven kidnapped people in exchange for seven android lookouts and you get the added benefit of more information about the humans.”

There. See? You don’t need to kidnap Brian and waylay Rory at all. You can just track the signal from the heart attacks to the hospital, knock out the girl-android just in case she’s also going to attack people, and follow the signal to the portal. The hexagon-mouths could be shown as androids lying around in an “off” state since they’ve gotten 7 kidnap victims already!

Anyway. At the end Brian, who said they shouldn’t all just go off and leave their lives behind, says they should all just go off and leave their lives behind. And Amy wraps up her narration by saying blah, blah, look at us, we’re awesome three people, BOOM title tie-in! Except Amy and Rory haven’t done a damn single useful thing this whole episode. The Power of a Sonic Screwdriver, more like. So I even hate the stupid title. Should’ve gone with, “The Year of the Slow Invasion”.

I liked the humor and character beats for Kate Stewart, Brian Williams, and the Ponds. The Doctor was fun in a few places. But so much of this was repetitive or pointless prattle. It easily could have been my favorite of this half of the series because of the return to Pond Life, but it was spoiled by plot holes and wasted opportunities. There wasn’t even a mention of the Silence falling — have they mentioned it at all this series? Hopefully, next week’s final episode with the Ponds (and the last before the Christmas Special) will give us something of better substance than the same old Weeping Angels.

Score: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 6/10