Stranger Things: Eight Burning Questions Season 2 Needs to Answer

strangerthings

I loved “Stranger Things,” this summer’s sleeper Netflix hit. I loved the 80s nostalgia, loved the mystery and horror, loved the endearingly realistic pre-teen and teen characters. I especially loved Eleven. The bald, fragile-looking 12 year old who is actually the most badass character on the show. How can I not love Eleven?

(Also Barb. Poor Barb.)

And now, we know there will be a season 2! (Yay!) But season 1 left me with a lot of questions. I’ve seen some of these questions discussed in great depth in various online forums, but others…not so much. So for this blog entry, I’m ignoring the obvious questions (Is Eleven Alive? Is Hopper in league with the Department of Energy folks?) and focusing on the ones I haven’t heard too many people talking about.

1) If Eleven is the 11th super-powered child, where are One through Ten?

Are they dead or alive? Are they still at the DOE facility? Are they off fighting the Russians? Are their powers as strong as Eleven’s? Could they be even stronger? Seriously, how is no one talking about this?

2) Is it weird to ‘ship a romance between two 12 year olds when you’re a grown-ass adult?

Because I do. I completely do. The budding, innocent romance between Mike and Eleven was one of my favorite things about the show. (The moment where Mike assures Eleven that she’s still pretty even after she’s lost her wig melts my heart.) I just want Mike and Eleven to go to the Snow Ball together. If Eleven can go through the night without snapping the arms of all the mouth-breathers, it will be a success.

3) Why doesn’t anyone ever offer Eleven a tissue?

I could attribute this to the fact that her best friends are 12-year-old boys, and they probably wipe their noses on their sleeves/pants/the dirt/whatever happens to be convenient, but c’mon! There must have been a little old lady in Hawkins somewhere who would have taught Eleven to stuff a few into the sleeve of Nancy’s dress.

4) Does Eleven have a connection to Chief Hopper’s deceased daughter?

We see flashbacks of Chief Hopper’s daughter in the final episode when she’s dying of cancer. She’s bald from chemo. Eleven has a shaved head. Could be a coincidence. Or maybe not. Also, Hopper seems to be leaving “presents” for Eleven in the woods–Eggo Waffles, mostly. Could this have something to do with whatever deal he made with the Department of Energy folks to get him and Joyce released from custody? Or is it more personal?

 5) Were 80s parents really this negligent?

In 2016, our helicopter-parent inclinations get a lot of shit, but if this show’s parents are actually representative of what parenting was like in the 1980s, I can see why we went in the other direction.

 

strangerthingsbarb

Sadly, I think I had that shirt in high school. Hell, I think I might still have that shirt now.

When Barb disappears, Nancy has the following conversation with Barb’s mom:

 

NANCY: Have you seen Barb today?
BARB’S MOM [sounding worried]: No, I thought she was with you!
NANCY: Uh, oh yeah. I think she’s, uh…at the library.
BARB’S MOM: Oh, okay! [Blithely goes about her day.]

Then when the Hawkins PD (more on them later) conclude that Barb’s run away from home, we hear not word one from Barb’s family. I guess it was no big deal for your teenager to disappear without a trace in the pre-Amber Alert era. I mean, she can take care of herself, right? She’s almost graduated from high school. Never mind that she’s busy being eaten by a monster slug from the inside out.

But maybe Barb’s family was just crappy, right? Except Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler, the picture of nuclear family perfection, are so oblivious that they fail to notice that their teenage daughter has snuck two different boys into her bedroom in one week, and that their pre-teen son has a girl living in their basement. (And it’s not like Mike tries very hard to hide her. At least Elliot made the effort to keep E.T. in the closet!)

Joyce Byers is obviously a devoted mom, clinging to her sureness that her younger son is alive when everyone else thinks she’s crazy. But she’s so busy chopping holes into her walls and talking to Christmas lights that she fails to notice her older son has been stockpiling ammo and bear traps.

With parents like that, it’s a wonder any of us survived to adulthood.

6) How the hell are the Hawkins PD’s deputies still employed?

Because they must be the most moronic, incompetent—not to mention insensitive—police officers of all time. Seriously.

First, a 12-year-old kid disappears, and they act like it’s no big deal. Whatever. He’s probably around here somewhere. Maybe he ran away? Could he be hiding somewhere? Is he with his deadbeat dad? Anyway, he’ll turn up eventually. Probably.

But even after Chief Hopper realizes that this isn’t just a case of childish mischief, his deputies continue to act like the douchiest of all the douches. (Describing a frantic mother with a missing child as “crazy” is just not cool, and also kind of sexist.)

And then, there was their reaction to Barb’s disappearance. After literally no investigation at all, they conclude that she’s run away. Yes, because socially awkward teenagers with big glasses and mom jeans run away all the time. As a former socially awkward teenager with big glasses and mom jeans, I can tell you that we were way more likely to be doing extra homework or hanging out at the library on a Saturday night than running away to parts unknown. I mean, c’mon…this is a girl who almost cut her hand off while trying to shotgun a beer. (Sidenote: That is also totally something that would happen to me.) Do you really think she just decided to ditch her car at the bus station and take off? Fifteen years after my high school graduation, I have yet to do anything that badass.

strangerthingssteve7) Did the cool, popular boys back in 1983 really have Steve’s hair?

Because seriously, it looks like a Flock of Seagulls reject had a baby with an Elvis impersonator. Just how much mousse does it take to get it looking like that every morning, Steve? How many hours do you spend with your hair dryer? Makes me kind of glad I was still in diapers in 83.

8) Why did the monster kill Barb, but spare Will Byers?

Because seriously, it’s not like hiding in his clubhouse amounted to some mad survival skills on Will’s part. Of course, given that bloody slug Will puked up into the sink during Thanksgiving dinner, maybe he didn’t survive after all…

“Gilmore Girls”: Why Rory Gilmore Needs to Remain Single

GilmoreGirlsLike many of you, I am psyched about the “Gilmore Girls” revival. “Gilmore Girls” was staple TV viewing for me during the early aughts, and one of the few shows I managed to keep up with during college. (Do you know how difficult it is to keep up with a weekly TV show when you should be studying and/or drinking?) I always felt a kinship with Rory. I was a little bit older than Rory, but a little bit younger than her portrayer, Alexis Bledel. Like Rory, I was bookish, ambitious, and kind of nerdy. Also like Rory, I was a serial monogamist during my high school/college years.

Much speculation has been made of the fact that all of Rory’s beaux—”Nice Guy” Dean, bad boy with a brain Jess, and WASPy Logan—will return for the miniseries. Who will Rory end up with?

Which brings me to the crux of this blog entry: I am very much hoping that, at the end of this miniseries, Rory Gilmore is single. I don’t mean that adult Rory should join a convent or anything like that. But when the final credits roll, I’m hoping that Rory is not married, not in a relationship, and doesn’t have any serious romantic prospects on the horizon—and she’s just fine with that.

There’s a lot of arguments I could make to this. But the main thing it comes down to is this: it seems like every movie I see, every book I read, every TV show I watch, featuring a protagonist that is a Woman of a Certain Age revolves around said woman’s quest to find herself a man, and how she’ll be a pathetic, lonely cat-lady if she doesn’t. For the record, the median “certain age” seems to be about 27. We don’t even get to make it to our 30th birthdays without hearing about biological clocks and how all the “good ones” are either married or gay.

Rory was 16 when the show debuted in 2000, which means she’ll be about 32—the same age Lorelai was when the show premiered—during the revival (God, I feel old now!), putting her squarely into Woman of a Certain Age category.

Young Rory was no stranger to dating and relationships. But that was never what drove her character. Instead, she worked her ass off to get into Harvard (even though she ultimately chose Yale) and to become a journalist like Christine Amanpour. She rejected a marriage proposal from Logan after her college graduation and instead accepted a job offer as a reporter covering Barack Obama’s campaign.

(Sidenote: I remember that, at the time of “Gilmore Girls” finale, Obama still seemed like a longshot. I wondered what would happen to Rory after the campaign inevitably ended. Guess we all know how that turned out!)

I’d like to think that adult Rory will be very much the same way. That’s not to say that she won’t date or that she’s taken a vow of celibacy, but that it isn’t at the top of her list of priorities. And if her former boyfriends waltz back into her life and turn her head again, I want her to have a Kelly Taylor/“90210” moment and say, “I choose me.” (Of course, unlike Kelly, Rory isn’t going to end up with a cokehead three weeks later.)

Millennials are getting married later and later, and some are choosing not to get married at all. And yet, women are still bombarded with media—not to mention well-meaning family and friends—who seem to think that the Hallmark Channel Original Movie way of life is the ideal. But it’s just not for everyone. And we’ve got to stop teaching young women that being with someone—anyone—is better than being alone, because it’s not.

So that’s what I want Rory to be: a role model for young women who haven’t met their special someones yet or maybe don’t want to get married at all or maybe just don’t care one way or another. At the end of the “Gilmore Girls” revival, I want Rory to ride off into the sunset alone and be just fine with that.

Bruce Campbell on “Doctor Who?”

On April Fools’ Day, Evil Dead star Bruce Campbell pranked both “Doctor Who” lovers and his own fans hard by posting this on Twitter:

Bruce Campbell Doctor Who

When a friend of mine posted it on Facebook, so many thoughts whirled through my head: Does this mean Bruce Campbell is going to be the new Doctor? Or are they creating an American version of the show? How will this affect the continuity of the show? But wait, are they throwing over Peter Capaldi? They can’t throw over Peter Capaldi! Peter Capaldi is amazing!

 Those thoughts were shortly followed by: Maybe I should wait until April 2 to worry about this…

Either way, Campbell probably didn’t expect the reaction he got. Basically, fans—both on the “Doctor Who” side and the Evil Dead side—were super excited about the possibility that Campbell might come to the show. (My fiancé, who is a huge Evil Dead series fan, got almost giddy—until I pointed out that it was most likely an April Fools’ joke.)

But just because it started as an April Fools’ joke doesn’t mean it has to stay that way, right? (I’m still holding out hope for that Hugh D’Ambray book that Ilona Andrews—sorta—promised us.) Plus, BBC has, allegedly, been looking for ways to drum up excitement about the 11-year-old series (not including Original Recipe “Who”) as viewership has started to decline. This could be a good way to do that!

So here’s how I think it could be done:

For over 2,000 years, a man in a blue box has wandered the universe. Sometimes a protector. Sometimes a warrior. Sometimes a hero. But always a Doctor.

But on Christmas Day, two timelines will collide, and the Doctor will run into another man in another blue box. A man who made different choices. A man who is a very different Doctor. He’s brash. He’s angry. He’s violent. He’s American.

What happens when the only person who can save the universe is the person you always feared you’d become? What happens when your worst enemy is…yourself?

Okay, it’s clunky, but you get the idea.

Basically, what I’m picturing is that Bruce Campbell could guest star in the Christmas episode of “Doctor Who” as…the Doctor. I’m thinking that at some point in the Doctor’s history, he made a very critical choice, and his timeline essentially split in two. One timeline progressed in the direction we know and love, leading to the charmingly grumpy Peter Capaldi Doctor. The other timeline led the Doctor to become much darker and more violent, leading to the Bruce Campbell Doctor.

See, here’s the thing: I don’t think the Doctor could exist as an American hero. He’s just so outside of our John Wayne/Bruce Willis hero paradigm (i.e. an armed-to-the-teeth cowboy with a quick trigger finger) that an American version of the Doctor—a pacifist who refuses to carry a gun and prefers to defeat his enemies with his wit—just wouldn’t fit here. Which is why I would never advocate an American version of the show. I think, if the show became an American production, the Doctor’s personality would change, become more Americanized.

Bruce Campbell’s Evil Dead character is pretty much the epitome of the American hero ideology. Ash is a character who chopped off his own hand and attached a chainsaw to it so he could go plow through some more zombies. Yeah. Very not-Doctorlike.

But in creating an alternate timeline Doctor, the show could play with this very idea. One of the primary tensions of the Doctor’s character is that he could be the violent, Bruce Campbell-esque hero…but that he’s chosen not to be. And sometimes he seems to question whether that path was the right one. And in having the two timelines converge, the Doctor has to reckon with his own baser impulses, with the person he could have been.

I wouldn’t want Bruce Campbell’s Doctor to be a “bad guy,” but he’d be very different than the Doctor we know and love—though still with that core Doctorness there. He’d still talk a lot, and like to show off his intelligence. But I think he’d be a lot more suave and slick than the current Doctor. Take the effortless cool of the 9th Doctor, the charisma and charm of 10, and the devil-may-care attitude of 11. Mix that in with a hell of a lot of arrogance, and you’d get the Bruce Campbell Doctor.

And I think his path would prove tempting to the Peter Capaldi Doctor, like maybe this other guy has done better at the whole Doctor thing than he has. Of course, by the end of the show, Bruce Campbell’s Doctor would see that the real Doctor’s path is the better one.

Basically, it’s “Doctor Who” meets Sliding Doors.

Steven Moffat, if you’re listening, I’m totally available as a writer, story consultant, or just a fangirl who squeals loudly whenever Peter Capaldi walks into the room. Whatever.

“Lucifer” Needs to Embrace the Supernatural

lucifer

Given that I am the author of an urban fantasy series that casts a demon as its heroine, and the angels as the bad guys, it makes sense that I was crazy excited about the new Fox series “Lucifer.”

Note: I’ve heard the Neil Gaiman/Sandman comics referenced a lot when talking about this show–specifically how much the show has digressed from the source material. I’m not familiar with the comics–oversight on my part, I know–so I’m going to focus exclusively on the show, and how I think it could improve.

The premise is simple: Lucifer Moringstar (Tom Ellis), the devil himself, has gotten burned-out (no pun intended…okay, maybe a little pun intended) on the whole Hell thing. So he quits, moves to Los Angeles, and becomes a club owner. He ends up, through unbelievably contrived circumstances that I won’t bother to get into here, working as a civilian consultant for the LAPD, partnering with Chloe Decker (Lauren German), a former actress turned outcast detective.

The show’s got a charismatic leading man, oodles of sexual tension, plenty of humor, and a murder of the week. Problem is, I’ve seen this show before. It’s called “Castle.”

Now, don’t get me wrong: I love “Castle.” It’s one of my go-to comfort food shows, when I want to sit back and relax and not think about anything. But the “Castle”-like aspects of “Lucifer” are the show’s weakest. For some reason, the powers-that-be have decided to take a supernatural fantasy and try to shove it into a cop procedural. And, not surprisingly, it’s not working.

My thought is this: “Lucifer” needs to move away from the cop show device and embrace its supernatural side.

Last week’s episode was the best of the series, so far, because the murder of the week was more of an afterthought. A security guard at a self-storage company is killed, and a container is stolen–a container belonging to none other than Lucifer himself.

Lucifer won’t reveal the contents of the container to Chloe–who doesn’t believe Lucifer is who he says he is–and she struggles with her attraction, her urge to trust him, and her rational mind telling her she shouldn’t. Lauren German has always felt like the weakest link in the cast to me. As Chloe, her range of emotions seems limited to “mildly irritated” and “I just smelled a fart.” But after last week, I’m wondering if she just hasn’t been given good enough material to work with, because Chloe’s struggle between belief and disbelief added some nuances to the character that I hadn’t seen before. She’s still my least favorite part of the cast, but hopefully we’ll be seeing some development of the character soon.

We also got to see Amenadiel flirt with  Lucifer’s therapist, Linda (Rachel Harris, making the best of a thankless role), trying to covertly worm his way into Lucifer’s head to get him to return to Hell. In the last couple of episodes, Amenadiel has gone from being a one-note character to someone I want to see more of, and I give most of the credit here to D.B. Woodside, who you may remember as Principal Wood in season 7 of “Buffy,” among other things. We know his flirtation with Linda is fake and calculated. But as Amenadiel has acted more human, he’s felt more human to me. And I want more of this. Is it all an act, or is Earth beginning to wear down the self-righteous angel, too.

But Lucifer is at its best when its squarely on the shoulders of its star, Tom Ellis. And in last week’s episode, we got to see him pivot from apathy to rage to joy to despair. And he was brilliant. The more the show focuses on Lucifer’s struggle between his King of Hell side and his emerging mortal conscience, the better it is. We’re also starting to get some hints about Lucifer’s backstory, about how God’s favorite son was exhiled to Hell.

And I love to see Lucifer’s conflict about his own role in the heavenly saga. He continually affirms that humans make their own choices to do good or evil, that he doesn’t influence them as often believed. He says he left Hell because he was tired of punishing people all the time, yet he seems to enjoy punishing the guilty. At the same time, he’s capable of showing mercy and restraint. It’s an interesting conflict, and I want to delve much, much deeper into this character than we have so far. Ellis is great when he’s playing arrogant, cocksure Lucifer, but I think he’s better when he’s playing enraged, despairing Lucifer.

And this is the interesting stuff, what I’m really tuning in to see. I don’t care about the murder of the week. If I wanted that, there are sixteen versions of “Law and Order” running in perpetuity on TNT. (Plus the aforementioned “Castle.”) But supernatural intrigue? An angel who may be playacting human a little too well? The burned-out King of Hell developing a conscience? That’s what I want to see!

(Not to mention that Amenadiel keeps warning Lucifer that bad things will happen if he doesn’t return to Hell. Lucifer has apparently been in Los Angeles long enough to be a fixture there. And so far…no bad things. No wonder Lucifer is having trouble taking Amenadiel seriously–so am I! If there genuinely are consequences to Lucifer’s abandonment of his post, we need to see them. Maybe this is the long game the writers are playing? Maybe this is end-of-season stuff? Either way, we need something that make Amenadiel’s warnings seem less like empty threats–not to mention that it will add higher stakes to the drama.)

“Lucifer” still seems to be coming into its own–like I said, last week’s episode was great, and this week looks like a continuation of that–but I hope, in doing so, it’ll jettison the cop show premise altogether. It’s just not necessary. Instead, “Lucifer” needs to embrace its supernatural side and let Lucifer really delve into his inner conflict: to reign in Hell or run a trendy nightclub on Earth. And it also needs to up the stakes, big time.

“Lucifer” is still a show worth watching…but it could be so much better.

 

Panelists Needed to Discuss “Women of Doctor Who”

Doctor Who Women

Do you know the women of “Doctor Who?” Would you like to geek out in front of a live audience? If so, I am looking for you!

On March 18-20, I will be attending Wizard World Comic-Con in Las Vegas, where I will be moderating a panel on “Women of ‘Doctor Who.’” We will be talking about all our favorite females (Rose Tyler! River Song! Missy!) and whether the criticisms of gender depictions in the show are justified. And of course, we will be addressing the most important question: should the next Doctor be cast as a female?

I’m looking for people who know and love “Doctor Who,” but aren’t afraid to criticize it. You also need to be comfortable speaking in front of an audience.

My area of expertise is the “regenerated” (post-2005) “Who,” so that’s going to be the primary focus of the panel, but I would love to get some people who are more familiar with the classic series so we can talk about that as a basis of comparison. I also want this panel to be as diverse and inclusive as possible.

Right now, I don’t know when the panel will take place, but I should have this information soon and will let you know as soon as possible.

As a presenter, your conference admission will be covered, but your transportation and hotel will not, so you will need to make your own arrangements to get out to Vegas.

If you are interested, please contact me via e-mail—bethwoodwardwriter [at] gmail [dot] com. Tell me a) what interests you about this panel; and b) who your favorite female character on “Doctor Who” is and why.

If you have any media presence, or anything you’d like to publicize at the panel—books, comics, artwork, movies, a blog, etc.—send that information along as well, with links if possible.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

“Doctor Who” Series 9 Wrap-Up

Doctor Clara pic

Wow. So that was quite a season.

On the plus side, I got almost everything I wanted. More callbacks to earlier seasons, including those that weren’t written by Steven Moffat? Check. The amazingness of Maisie Williams’ character? Peter Capaldi really being given a chance to shine? HUGE check. Clara’s exit? I think we’re checking that one twice. We’ll get into that in a second.

But first, I’ve got to give a shout-out to Peter Capaldi, who was friggin’ amazing this season. If anyone remained unsure whether Capaldi could embody the Doctor the way, say, David Tennant did, this season should have answered that question. I could never get into Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor. While there were some standout episodes (“Amy’s Choice”; “Vincent and the Doctor”), I just couldn’t connect with him the way I did with Tennant. But I think that had more to do with Moffat’s more fairy tale style of writing–following Russell T. Davies grimmer take–than Smith’s performance.

So I was a little concerned when Smith transitioned into Capaldi. But in the 12th Doctor’s era, Moffat’s direction has taken a darker tone, and I like it. But Moffat is, I think, kind of an optimist at heart, and so while individual stories might be dark, the ultimate trajectory will be more hopeful.

Shhh! Spoilers…

Which brings me to Clara’s departure.

Two weeks ago, I praised “Face the Raven” for doing what very few “Who” episodes have been bold enough to do: kill a companion. It was a brutal episode that left me inconsolable. It was also a fitting end to Clara’s character: the mortal woman who aspired to be the Doctor finally overplayed her hand. The callback to Danny Pink was so appropriate for her character, and you get it: Clara had never really stopped mourning Danny, and to hide from her pain she threw herself into her adventures with the Doctor with total recklessness. That recklessness ultimately gets her killed.

Last week’s episode, “Heaven Sent” was just a brilliant piece of television. Hands down. It will go down as one of the best episodes in “Who” history, of any season. Peter Capaldi did almost the whole episode solo, and you see his grief, his pain, his fury, his fear, all rolled up into this wibbly wobbly timey wimey Doctor-y ball.

And this week, in “Hell Bent,” we get to see how that all played out. The Doctor spent 4.5 billion years stuck in his own confession dial, for one reason and one reason only: to save Clara.

I’m not going to recap the episode–but if you’re curious, you can read about it here. I, personally, have mixed feelings about it. Moffat, ever the optimist, manages to (sort of) resurrect Clara. When last we see her, she’s traipsing the universe in a 1960s diner-shaped TARDIS, with Maisie Williams’ Ashildr/Me as her companion. She’s frozen in time, stuck in the moment right before her last heartbeat. (Amazing that she’s not a little bit pissed at Ashildr, since it was her harebrained plan that got Clara in that whole “death” mess to begin with.)

On an emotional level, it’s a pretty powerful episode. While the message is more hopeful than “Face the Raven” or “Heaven Sent,” Clara’s pseudo-death is not without consequences. Both the Doctor and Clara realize how bad they are for one another–the Doctor having nearly destroyed the universe to save her–and so in a callback to Donna Noble’s tragic departure, he resolves to erase her memory and deposit her back into her normal life. But in a twist, it’s the Doctor’s memory that gets erased, which makes those diner scenes all that much more terrible: he knows he’s missing something, but not what. And for once, it’s not the Doctor being left behind with just the memories.

But Clara will live, in this frozen state, having resolved to go back to Gallifrey to return to her death “the long way around.” I’m not sure whether it’s a cop-out or not, on Moffat’s part–maybe a little, but not entirely. The loss was still there, if not as profoundly as before. That’s not the main problem I had with the episode.

This episode was like a sweater (or a jumper, if we’re being British about it) with a piece of yarn hanging off of it. Once you start pulling on that yarn, the whole thing falls apart.

Writing wise, story wise, the episode crumbles. Clara gets her happy ending, but at what cost? Will the universe ultimately start destroying itself because she isn’t really dead? Does that mean she can come back? (Please don’t, Moffat. Let’s not cheapen this departure by bringing her back dozens of times, one of my pet peeves of the Davies era.) And now that the Doctor has ousted the president of Gallifrey, who takes over? And what happened to the hybrid? If the Doctor/Clara combo really was the hybrid, as was implied, doesn’t that mean that Clara’s newfound adventures will cost billions of lives? Is the show just going to ignore this??? And was Ashildr brought onto the show just to be faux-Doctor Clara’s companion? Would the Doctor’s fledging memories of Clara–he got a picture, after all–be enough to cause that universe-destroying rift?

And finally…the Doctor has lost companions before. Many of them. We even get a callback in this episode to Amy and Rory. He wouldn’t destroy the universe for Rose Tyler. He wouldn’t create final paradox for Amy Pond. So not only would he destroy the universe for Clara, he’d do something completely antithetical to his persona–pick up a gun and shoot someone.

But maybe that’s just the conceit of “Doctor Who.” Each companion becomes the most important being in the Doctor’s universe…for a time. But the companion changes, and the Doctor endures, which is why he is so lonely. Maybe in forgetting Clara, he got the good side of the deal after all.

Ugh.

But…I guess I can’t complain too much. This series gave us some amazing episodes. Besides “Heaven Sent,” which should immediately be propelled into the legendary category, we had “The Girl Who Died”/”The Woman Who Lived.” And then of course, “The Zygon Invasion”/”The Zygon Inversion,” which gave us the Capaldi monologue which, for better or worse, has never looked more profound than in recent weeks.

It was a pretty amazing season overall, with an amazing actor playing the Doctor. And we get River Song back for Christmas. Who could ask for more?

Final Thoughts

*Moffat, if you ever manage to get Coleman back, even if just for a short (especially just for a short), please, please, please show her having sexytimes with Jane Austen.

*Funny that two of the series (and the show’s) best episodes came after one of the show’s all-time worst: “Sleep No More” sucked. Big time.

*The sonic screwdriver is back!

*I wish we had seen more Missy, and I hope she’s back next season. She basically walked away with the first two episodes of the season, so much so that I worried that the Doctor/Clara combo alone just wouldn’t be interesting enough anymore. That was for about two seconds. Capaldi and Coleman nailed it this year.

*I’m glad that this season was Capaldi’s season, but I feel like a lot of Clara’s arc was neglected instead. Whatever happened to Orson Pink? Did that change because of Danny’s death? And the connection between Danny’s death and Clara’s recklessness was never explicit enough for me.

*Peter Capaldi has come to rival David Tennant as my all-time favorite Doctor. Just…wow.

Doctor Who, What Are You Doing to Me?

Doctor Who S9

“Doctor Who,” that was just…cruel.

I started watching “Who” back in 2013. I needed something fun and lighthearted to watch after my mother’s death. (I’d been binge-watching “Homeland” before that–there’s nothing lighthearted about that.) Then I saw “Doomsday,” and my whole ‘fun and lighthearted’ theory was shot to hell.

You see, “Doctor Who” is a show that can tear your heart out sometimes. Not often–most of the time it is exactly that fun, lighthearted show I wanted: sometimes funny, sometimes creepy, often nonsensical. But sometimes, it’s a killer.

SPOILERS for anyone who hasn’t seen series 9, episode 10 yet…

So Clara Oswald is dead, felled by the raven. Actually, she was felled by her own increasing risk-taking behavior, and by Ashildr’s hubris. But whatever.

Clara has grown on me a lot over the last several season. As the companion to Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor, she was very underdeveloped as a character–more of a plot device as a person. But as the companion to Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor, she’s grown in leaps and bounds.

Her character arc put her front-and-center last season: the pull between the adventure the Doctor offers, and the love of Danny Pink (and the relatively safe, boring life that would have been). She tried to be both the companion and the lover, and she succeeded at neither–and the attempt indirectly cost Danny his life. I don’t think she ever got over that loss.

I just wish the show had made that a little more explicit. Clara’s growing sense of adventure turned into straight-up recklessness this season. It was as if, without Danny, Clara decided to wholeheartedly throw herself into her life as the Doctor’s companion, completely leaving her footprint on Earth behind. Yeah, she might have still had a job and an apartment there, but she always had one foot out the door–and on the TARDIS. And I think that was because she was running from her own grief.

But that’s my own assumption. Danny got nary a mention this season–until last night, when one of Clara’s last statements was, “If Danny Pink can do it [die with bravery], so can I.”

*Sniffle.*

(Also, one minor plot nitpick: why couldn’t Clara just pass the chrono-lock on to yet another person? Like, she was standing there surrounded by nearly-immortal people. If Ashildr/Mayor Me had taken it, her body would have likely healed itself anyway. If the Doctor had taken it, he might have been killed, but he would have just regenerated into a new Doctor, because that’s what he does. One line–just ONE FREAKING LINE–would have solved this: It can only be passed once. Yeah, it’s completely arbitrary, but so was everything else about this game Ashildr was playing.)

Although rumors have been flying that Clara would die for a while now, I had no idea how sad I would be when it happened. With that in mind, this next statement might come as a surprise…

I hope she stays dead.

One of my chief complaints about the Steven Moffat-era of the show is that things often don’t have lasting consequences. River Song dies? That was only her first episode. Osgood? Well, only one of her died, the other one is still fine–and now there are two of them, again, since her beloved sister is, apparently, replaceable. Rory Williams gets sucked into a crack in reality? He’ll be back a few episodes later as a robot, and then in another twist I still don’t understand, made real again. The Doctor is on the verge of death and on his final regeneration? Don’t worry, he’ll just get a whole new set of regenerations. Even the Time War–the catalyst for much of the Doctor’s actions in the reincarnated series–was negated by the 50th anniversary episode.

Hell, how many times has Clara herself died, in any of her timelines?

So yes, I want this death to stick. Like Clara, I want her death to mean something. The relationship between the Doctor and his companions has always been a tenuous one. Not all of the companions come out of their time on the TARDIS better for it. The 10th Doctor’s run explored this quite a bit. Rose got stuck in a parallel dimension. Donna had the memory of her time on the TARDIS erased completely, and if she ever remembers she will die. Martha Jones fared slightly better, but maybe because she realized she would forever be pining after the oblivious Doctor–and trying to live up to the ghost of Rose Tyler–and left on her own terms.

The Doctor takes his companions on grand adventures. But the Doctor will live indefinitely, and his human friends will die, so each of those friendships has to end. No matter what else the companions do or experience, it’ll never quite live up to their time with the Doctor. And humans–as the show often ignores–are so very breakable.

So Clara Oswald should stay dead, much as I hate it. Story-wise, it’s the bold choice, and it’ll give Peter Capaldi a chance to shine.

The Doctor endures, whatever his face. His companions don’t, because they can’t. This is one of the great tensions of “Doctor Who,” and I’m glad Moffat is addressing it head-on this time.

Jessica Jones and F*cked-Up Heroines

Photo source: Netflix

Photo source: Netflix

I’ve been hearing about the new Netflix series, “Jessica Jones,” for the last couple of months now. And I. Can’t. Wait. It kind of looks like “Veronica Mars” (which I also loved) meets Marvel. It can’t be a coincidence that Krysten Ritter, who plays Jessica, also played a supporting role on “Veronica Mars,” and returned in the movie last year? No, absolutely not.

But I think what really appeals to me about it is that, just from what I can glean from the trailers and the little bit I’ve read about the character’s backstory in the comics, Jessica seems…incredibly screwed up. Also, incredibly badass.

Exhibit A:

Did she just take out a bar full of huge, drunken men; turn on Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation”; and take a shot while her knuckles were still covered in blood??? Oh yeah, I think she did.

Exhibit B:

Note the whiskey bottle on the nightstand. Also, I kind of want to do that to my alarm clock every day. Of course, my alarm clock doesn’t go off at 3:00 in the afternoon. (I’m also loving the dissonance between the sickly sweet song and the clock smashing. Awesome.)

Of course, there’s also David Tennant, which always helps…

Yes, he’s the bad guy, but even in this voiceover he’s still almost unbearably sexy. And is it weird that I half expected him to offer to whisk Jessica off in the TARDIS to see all of time and space? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

But I think one of the biggest reasons this series appeals to me is because it seems, more often than not, that heroines have to be perfect and likeable all the time. I do believe that imperfect or unlikeable female characters have a harder time being accepted in our cultural landscape than male ones, and it bothered me.

The Demon Within is coming out in less than seven months now, and it has one of those imperfect heroines. Dale is, quite frankly, really screwed up, and I spend so much time in her head that I forget sometimes just how screwed up she is. She blacks out and kills people. And even if it’s people who, arguably, “deserve” it, normal, psychologically healthy people don’t do this, because we realize it’s not the way to live in a  functional society. And instead of facing the music the first time she killed–when she was still a minor and might have gotten off easier–she changed identities and went on the run, avoiding the law for more than a decade and killing six more people.

In spite of all this, I find Dale to be, at times, both likeable and sympathetic. She wants so badly to be a normal person, but her own mind is out of her control sometimes. On the other hand, she’s got a core of protectiveness for others that she can’t eliminate, and it’s seeing other people being hurt/victimized that trigger her blackouts.

But ever since I wrote the first draft, I worried that readers would have a hard time accepting a character like Dale.

But seeing the trailers for “Jessica Jones”–just the fact that this show exists–shows me that maybe there’s room for characters like Dale: fundamentally flawed, fucked-up, and female.

PS: Can I say that I’m absolutely loving the depiction of NYC shown in the below teaser. It reminds me a lot of Sin City, but a little more cartoon-y. Not quite realistic but totally atmospheric. It seems like the creators realize NYC can be a character in and of itself.

Just One of Those Weeks

photo 1

I’ve been pretty busy over the last week or so, and I’ve been exhausted. Some quick updates:

–“Doctor Who” series 9 is amazing, and I’m glad that many of my pre-season wishes have already started to come true. This looks like it’s going to be Capaldi’s season, and Michelle Gomez has, in the first two episodes, stolen every scene she’s in. With news of Jenna Coleman’s upcoming departure, I’m starting to read a lot more into her interactions with the Doctor. So Clara died, again. Foreshadowing, or just coincidence?

–Part of my hectic week was dealing with kitty illnesses. Our elder cat, Annabel, has had kidney disease for the last 2 1/2 years. Last week, she stopped eating, became lethargic, and was hiding under the bed. We took her to the vet and they found out her kidney values had spiked to double what they were a few months ago. After two days at the emergency vet/vet hospital, a day of fluids, and some appetite stimulant, she’s gotten back to normal. They discovered her blood pressure was high, and we have her on meds now, which has also seemed to help. But otherwise, they don’t know why her values spiked, or what caused her illness, whether it’s just a part of her disease or if something else triggered it. That’s the bitch of kidney disease: it’s degenerative, so you’re always just waiting for that other shoe to drop. But Annabel is doing much better now, so we’re just taking things day by day.

–Speaking of, one of the things that makes me happy is that my fiancé feels the same way about animals–and specifically, about our animals–as I do, that they are part of our family. Volunteering at the animal shelter teaches you very quickly that not everyone feels that way. But J. does, and I don’t think I could marry anyone who treated them otherwise.

–Had a very lively discussion on my Facebook author page the other day about what movies/TV shows/books should be “required viewing” to have more of a cultural consciousness/awareness. One I forgot to mention on the page: the Harry Potter series. Certainly they’re not my favorite books, but you’re really living in another universe if you don’t get all the Muggle references that you hear nowadays.

–Speaking of required viewing, I am very much looking forward to the “Jessica Jones” television series that will be debuting on Netflix in November. The premise reminds me of my beloved “Veronica Mars,” but it looks like it’ll be even more badass than that. And hey, I do know a thing or two about violent, eff-ed up heroines. Plus, David Tennant. Need I say more?

“Doctor Who” Series 9 Wish List

photo

“Doctor Who” is almost back!!! I can’t wait!

Last year, before the season started, I had a bit of an informal wish list, of sorts. I wanted Jenna Coleman’s Clara Oswald to be developed more as a character. (She was.) I wanted some romance that did not involve the Doctor. (It happened.) I was also feeling in the mood for a bit of a tragic ending for that romance. (That also happened.) Being the writer that I am, I imagined a plotline where said romance ended when the lover was turned into a Cyberman. The Cybermen have always seemed like some of the most tragic villains on the show: humans who retain some semblance of their former memory and identity, but lose everything that makes them human. So much fodder for tragedy there.

It didn’t go down exactly as I imagined it—in my mental fan fiction, the lover chose to be turned into a Cyberman, but that’s not how it worked out for poor Danny Pink. Also, in my mind, the Doctor’s companion with the tragic romance was…me. But whatever. It was close enough that I wondered if Steven Moffat was reading my mind, and I was quite happy with the season as a whole.

This time around, I wanted to put my wish list into writing just in case the telepathic link between me and Steven Moffat (hello, sweetie) isn’t as strong as it was last year. Plus, well, if I do turn out to be right, I can pretend to be psychic and start making some side money from reading tarot cards.

So without further ado, my wish list for “Doctor Who” season 9.

1) I want to find out why the Doctor chose that face. When the 12th Doctor emerged at the beginning of last season, we’re given some hints that there may have been a reason behind the Doctor coming out as Peter Capaldi. “Why have I chosen this face?” he asks himself at the beginning of his first episode. Sure, it could have just been post-regeneration disorientation talking, but good fans know that Peter Capaldi appeared on the show long before he was the 12th Doctor—as sculptor and family patriarch Lucius Caecillius Iucundus in “The Fires of Pompeii” during the 10th Doctor’s run. Coincidence? Maybe. But everything that we know about this Doctor leads me to believe that, on some subconscious level, the Doctor chose to be this man. (Tor.com has a theory about this. Unfortunately, the link to the updated article—which included the War Doctor and the 12th Doctor—doesn’t seem to be working anymore.)

2) I want this to be the Doctor’s season. After spending season 7 as a cipher/plot device, season 8 was really Clara’s time to shine—and Jenna Coleman rose to the occasion beautifully. But here we are, a year into the 12th Doctor’s reign, and I still don’t feel like I really know him. What makes him tick? Is he really as gruff as he seems, or is that a façade? How dark is he, really? Capaldi has played the hell out of the Doctor, and it’s time for him to get the spotlight.

3) I want the show to address the Clara quandary. Last season, we met Orson Pink, a man from the future who looked remarkably like Danny Pink and who mentioned one of his ancestors was a time traveler. At the time, it looked like Clara and Danny might have their happily ever after and have children in the future. But we know now this isn’t the case. So is Clara now pregnant with Danny’s baby? (A sidenote: there was speculation that Coleman would leave at the end of last season. She has, of course, decided to return, but in the NewWho life cycle of companions, she is likely reaching the end of her time on the TARDIS. Could a new baby mean an exit for Clara? And what will this mean for the already dark, broody Doctor?) Update: In the time since I originally wrote this, BBC has confirmed that Jenna Coleman will exit sometime this season.

4) I want River Song back! Fans have mixed feelings about Alex Kingston’s River Song. I was always pro-River, but anti-River and the 11th Doctor, mainly because Kingston and Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor had zero chemistry. (For the record, I thought Kingston had more chemistry with David Tennant in the one episode they spent together.) River’s story might have ended, but the nice thing about River’s character is that, as a partial Time Lord herself, she can show up anywhere in the Doctor’s timeline—and he in hers. I would love to see how Kingston would play off of the stoic, much older Capaldi. Update: Rumor has it that Kingston will be returning in the Christmas special.

5) I want Jack Harkness back. Because the show was always better when John Barrowman was strutting through the world, and we still need to find out whether he’s really the Face of Boe.

6) Going along with the last two, I want more callbacks to earlier Doctors/companions/etc. One of the most fascinating and compelling things about “Who” is that it has 50 years of history to reference itself to, a fact which Moffat’s predecessor, Russell T. Davies, took advantage of regularly. But since Moffat has taken over, he has avoided throwbacks—the 50th anniversary episode notwithstanding. You don’t want the show to be so self-referential that new fans are alienated, but throw something in for the longtime viewers as well. Matt Smith was not the beginning of “Doctor Who!”

6) I want Maisie Williams’ character to ROCK! She looks pretty badass in the previews. Who is she? Could she be someone from the Doctor’s past? She called him Old Man—the Doctor’s daughter, perhaps? Or maybe his long-absent granddaughter, Susan? Capaldi does seem to have a lot of affection for that character. Foreshadowing, maybe?

7) I want a new companion. Much as I’ve grown to love Jenna Coleman, I think her time on the show is coming to an end. I want to see someone new and compelling, someone who has a completely different dynamic with the Doctor. Maybe someone who isn’t a young, attractive female, for once? Update: See above.

8) I want the show to explore the sexual tension between the Doctor and the Master/Missy. Because, c’mon, you know there was always something there, long before the Master regenerated into a female form. Don’t believe me? Just watch the scenes between David Tennant and John Simm again. So. Much. Sexual. Tension. And if any character on television should be pansexual, it’s a 2,000-something year old Time Lord.

9) I want an amazing stand-alone episode. Some of the best episodes of the new series have been the stand-alone, often Doctor- or companion-lite episodes that used to pop up about once a season or so—“Blink” and “Midnight” come immediately to mind. During the 11th Doctor’s run, the series seemed to get away from this format. But last season, we returned to it in the episode “Listen.” Both Capaldi and Coleman are fantastic in the episode, and it’s what cemented, for me, the 12th Doctor as the real Doctor. These types of episodes are what the show—and Moffat—do best, so let’s keep doing it!

10) I want David Tennant back!!!! We already found out in the 50th anniversary episode that the Doctor will re-visit his favorite incarnations—and the 10th Doctor simply did not want to die. So bring him back! Or have the 10th Doctor and the 12th Doctor bump into one another somewhere in the time stream. These things happen when time is both wibbly and wobbly. Much as I love Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, David Tennant is, and remains, my Doctor.

Yeah, it’s probably not gonna happen. But a girl can always hope, right?