Tuesday 18 June 2024

Tales of the TARDIS: Pyramids of Mars

Following The Legend of Ruby Sunday, Tales of the TARDIS returns to the Pyramids of Mars.

Aboard the Remembered TARDIS, the Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) revisit the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) adventure from 1975 as they battle Sutekh (Gabriel Woolf) in an omnibus edition with updated music and special effects.

Phil Collinson, Executive Producer, says: “Revisiting the rich history of Doctor Who is endlessly thrilling and this is no exception. It’s so exciting to bring back TALES OF THE TARDIS again, and to revisit a classic enemy of the Doctor. Gabriel Woolf as Sutekh, returning to terrify a whole new generation of children in a blistering season finale is what makes this show so special and appeal to so many across the generations.”

From my formative Whovian years, Pyramids of Mars sees Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen at the peak of their powers!

The iconic voice of Sutekh, Gabriel Woolf, discusses bringing the terrifying villain back to the Whoniverse in the season one two-part finale: "It felt sort of inevitable in a way. I’d never lost Sutekh because of the fans. They’ve kept him alive, organised conventions all over the place, so it feels kind of natural."

The special one-off Tales of the TARDIS premieres in the UK on Thursday 20th June on BBC Four and BBC iPlayer.

New episodes of Doctor Who stream every Friday on Disney+ outside the UK and Ireland and every Saturday on BBC One and BBC iPlayer. Season one is available for pre-order (affiliate link).

Will you be watching Tales of the TARDIS? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday 16 June 2024

Doctor Who: The Legend of Ruby Sunday

After a standalone episode, Rogue, we’re in the end game with the first part of the season one two-part finale.

Series showrunner Russell T Davies borrows from his playbook and conjures up Army of Ghosts. This time featuring a classic villain that stalked my childhood nightmares during the Fourth Doctor’s (Tom Baker) era.

As many fans (myself included) predicted, Sutekh (Gabriel Woolf) strikes back and the god-like alien’s cliffhanger return was foreshadowed in The Devil’s Chord. Some fans might suggest he’s a deep cut from Pyramids of Mars, but this also applies to the Celestial Toymaker (Neil Patrick Harris) who returned in The Giggle.

Pyramids of Mars is one of my all-time favourite classic Doctor Who serials and I’d urge everyone to watch the one-off Tales of the TARDIS featuring Ncuti Gatwa (Doctor Who) and Millie Gibson (Ruby Sunday) on BBC Four and BBC iPlayer on Thursday.

The TARDIS lands at UNIT HQ, which owes much to Marvel Studios’ Avengers. There’s a deeply affecting reunion between Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) and the Doctor discussing her fan-favourite father, the beloved Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney).

From there, it’s all about the build-up, where it almost gets derailed due to too many plot twists. From the mysteries of Mrs Flood (Anita Dobson) and Susan Triad (Susan Twist) introduced in Wild Blue Yonder to Ruby Sunday’s biological mother and the Pantheon of Discord overshadowing it all. Davies' deliberate misdirections aside (keep everyone guessing), there’s enough material for three or four seasons. Season two recently finished filming, so this may be further explored.

Someone needs to apply the TARDIS handbrake!

That said, I’m invested in this TARDIS crew and was on the edge of my seat (my younger self would have been behind the sofa hiding from Sutekh’s glowing green eyes). UNIT's Time Window explored Ruby's Christmas Eve abandonment on VHS tape with a low-resolution creepiness comparable to The Ring. The Legend of Ruby Sunday is a timey-wimey tour de force taking my Doctor Who story almost full circle!

The fly in the ointment is that a shorter season (see Marvel Studios and Star Wars spin-off series on Disney+) means not everything feels entirely earned, which is why Rogue was a left turn (I can see why Davies did this before the two-part finale). I just wanted to spend a little more time with the Doctor, Ruby and fabulous friends (old and new) before the big bad arrived with a nightmarish flourish worthy of Steven Moffat.

The Fifteenth Doctor had never met Rose Noble (Yasmin Finney) before, and this was a missed opportunity after she had met the Fourteenth Doctor (David Tennant). Also the Fourteenth Doctor and Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) are in this timeline. Will we see them again?

Oh, Sutekh’s appearance was more Scooby Doo than Doctor Who! Ultimately, it didn't detract from the refreshing audacity to eschew the Daleks or Cybermen for Fourth Doctor nostalgic chills and thrills therein.

From The Star Beast to Sutekh, what’s old is new again in the Davies Disney era. And I’m here for it sans Space Babies. The 60th anniversary celebrations aren’t over yet.

New episodes of Doctor Who stream every Friday on Disney+ outside the UK and Ireland and every Saturday on BBC One and BBC iPlayer. Season one is available for pre-order (affiliate link).

Have you watched The Legend of Ruby Sunday? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 14 June 2024

Doctor Who: Rogue

Doctor Who has a storied history with period drama. The Girl in the Fireplace has been my favourite episode since 2005. Doctor Who goes Bridgerton in Rogue.

Nick Smith, our US-based veteran Whovian, is on a timey-wimey adventure.

Taking the Short View's Andrew Lewin has materialised over from The WELL - we would be honoured if you would join us!

Guest post by Andrew Lewin

Love them or hate them, we’ve had quite a lively run of episodes in Doctor Who season one!

From the childishness of the Space Babies to the musical antics of The Devil’s Chord, the high suspense stillness of Boom and the mysterious folk horror of 73 Yards, and an on-the-nose satire of the corrosive effects of social media in Dot and Bubble. There was plenty to talk about in each case.

This week, not so much. Or maybe that’s just me? Once Rogue established the 'Doctor Who meets Bridgerton' premise, that was pretty much it. Perhaps the problem is that I’m not a fan of Bridgerton and have never watched it, or its spin-offs or copycats, so for me this just looked like exactly what I would expect an episode of Doctor Who set in Regency-era England to be. The two shows' energy and vibe are comparable, so I didn’t think it gained anything from the ‘crossover’, nor lost anything if you didn’t ‘get it’ as a viewer.

It was exactly how a Russell T Davies costume period drama episode would look – although the twist, in this case, was that it wasn’t written by RTD but by Marvel Studios' Loki director Kate Herron and comedian Briony Redman. Herron also worked on Sex Education so she clearly knows how to write for Ncuti Gatwa, and he duly gets his best material of the season so far in this episode.

The meta aspect of the episode is that the bird-like shapeshifting aliens called the Childur (led by the wonderful Indira Varma) are happily cosplaying their favourite Netflix show, with added fatalities, but someone is there to stop them. No, not the Doctor and Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) – they just happen to stumble in on a situation which is already being taken care of by a bounty hunter called Rogue, played by US stage and screen actor-singer Jonathan Groff (I know him best from his show-stealing cameo as King George from the original Broadway production of the brilliant Hamilton).

So away from the Bridgerton visuals we actually get a cute romance between Rogue and the Doctor, which is beautifully played with lovely performances from both men. Some may say that this incarnation of the Doctor is too sexually assertive and should be more, well, dorkish, but there’s still plenty of the familiar Doctor we know and love underneath if you go looking – and I don’t mean by that the sequence of holographs of past guises to which RTD impishly adds Richard E Grant (Withnail and I) just to cause a storm in online forums.

No, it’s more how this Doctor drives Rogue mad with a Kylie track in a way that feels quintessentially Troughton-esque (even if his miming of the lyrics is positively filthy) while his panicked response to Rogue’s proposal couldn’t have been a better comedic performance if it had been delivered by Matt Smith.

Of course, the elephant in the room is that we have the Doctor showing romantic (okay, let’s not be coy, downright sexual) interest in a man. You can imagine how some of the less enlightened corners of the media and fandom were going to react to this latest evidence of RTD’s wokery. But it’s 2024 for heaven’s sake, surely we’ve got over such prudishness by now? Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor helped get us past that sort of thing with her feelings for Yaz (Mandip Gill). Other fans have churlishly complained that Rogue is just a pale imitation of Jack Barrowman’s Captain Jack Harkness, but while both are American and gay that’s about where the comparison ends.

One might as well state that Rose and Ruby are exactly the same person while you’re at it!

(Actually, that is something that’s crossed my mind at certain points. They are very similar: they came from similar social backgrounds and one-parent families with a dominant mother, they’re 19-year-olds and blonde and short and gobby, and even the names – Rose and Ruby – are practically an invitation for the rushed reviewer to stumble over and mix up if they’re not really careful and moreover lucky. So what’s with the similarity? Is it a lack of imagination on RTD’s past? A sense of nostalgia for his first time in charge of the beloved BBC sci-fi show? Or an intentional overlap? I guess we’ll have to wait and see. After all, not long to go now until the end of the season hopefully provides some answers; or knowing RTD, probably not.)

But there seems very little duplication between Rogue and Captain Jack!

Jack was unabashed, out and proud, ebullient and outrageously flirty to a fault. Rogue on the other hand is much more serious and focused, touched by past trauma and loss, making him more reserved, vulnerable and introspective. And yet for all that, he’s the one most closely in touch and honest about his emotions than the Doctor who is caught by surprise by what develops - for all his overt surface flirting from the get-go.

For once the Doctor is not the one in charge, not the one who gets to hold the other person’s hand and tell them to “Run”! If anything, the Doctor is the companion in this episode – the Captain Jack figure – and it’s Rogue who becomes the strange, mysterious alien hero of the piece. He’s even got a costume that any Time Lord incarnation would regenerate for.

There’s more than enough substance there to justify a return appearance for Rogue although I suspect we’ll have to wait a year for it. In fact, this episode felt that it was holding back on the relationship front, and also on any of the series arc business or the many mysteries of Ruby Sunday who was rather put to one side this week. Instead, the episode disguised itself amid the fun and frolics of the Regency frocks.

That made it enjoyable and entertaining, but oddly the least substantial of the six episodes in this season. When I watched the episode again a second time (as I’ve done with them all this year), I didn’t feel I got anything more out of it on the repeat round, which I had done with the previous stories. Again, maybe that’s missing out on the Bridgerton dimension.

In fact, I found it hard to pay attention and not drift off during the second viewing. I know it’ll be controversial to say this, but I think Space Babies had more heft to it than Rogue! This is not to say I didn’t enjoy it perfectly well and that I’m eager to see the return of the eponymous bounty hunter as soon as Groff’s availability makes it possible. Just that I’m hungry to get to the serious business of this week’s first part of the season one finale.

Gosh, time goes by so quickly, doesn’t it?

New episodes of Doctor Who stream every Friday on Disney+ outside the UK and Ireland and every Saturday on BBC One and BBC iPlayer. Season one is available for pre-order (affiliate link).

Have you watched Rogue? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 13 June 2024

Silo season two at AI-focused WWDC

An Apple TV+ showcase during Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) included a preview of Silo season two.

Whereas Foundation was a shiny macOS screensaver that failed to resonate with this sci-fi fan, Silo’s a prestige drama filled with conspiracy and clawing claustrophobia, themes I’ll never tire of since The X-Files’ heyday!

Featuring a stellar cast surviving day-to-day in a detailed lived-in universe reminiscent of 10 Cloverfield Lane and Fallout (Prime Video's live-action adaptation uses an iPhone-based Pip-Boy), I can’t wait to discover the mysterious dark secrets of this labyrinthine Silo.

The Cupertino-based tech titan announced Apple Intelligence (AI) - a canny flex from the iPhone maker - this week and the share price has hit a new record high with pundits predicting the company will be worth $4 trillion in the future. Artificial intelligence continues to spark controversy. AI is deeply embedded in our daily lives, from deepfake technology to replacing creatives in the pursuit of profit.

Hugh Howey, the creator of Silo, speculates entirely AI-generated productions are only a few years away: “We are less than a year or two away from giving AI a film script and then watching that film the same day. Production costs are going to go to ZERO. Within 5 years, great-looking films will be made this way. Within 20 years, almost all films will be made this way.”

Are you watching Silo on Apple TV+? Are you looking forward to season two? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 11 June 2024

Indiana Jones at Xbox Games Showcase

During the Xbox Games Showcase, Lucasfilm Games showed off a new trailer for Indiana Jones and the Great Circle.

Read the official synopsis:

"Uncover one of history’s greatest mysteries in Indiana Jones and the Great Circle, a first-person, single-player adventure set between the events of Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade. The year is 1937, sinister forces are scouring the globe for the secret to an ancient power connected to the Great Circle, and only one person can stop them - Indiana Jones. You’ll become the legendary archaeologist in this cinematic action-adventure game from MachineGames, the award-winning studio behind the recent Wolfenstein series, and executive produced by Hall of Fame game designer Todd Howard."

Indiana Jones and the Great Circle was first teased back in 2021. It’s being developed by MachineGames, the developers of the Wolfenstein franchise. The game became an Xbox exclusive following Bethesda’s acquisition by Microsoft. The game is set between Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade, as Indiana Jones sets out to uncover the mysteries around a legend, The Great Circle.

Troy Baker (The Last of Us) channels Harrison Ford as the titular archaeologist later this year on Game Pass.

Are you looking forward to Indiana Jones and the Great Circle? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday 10 June 2024

Star Wars HasLab Mos Eisley Cantina

"Mos Eisley spaceport. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious."

On Friday, Hasbro officially announced the next Star Wars HasLab during a fanstream. For months, fans (myself included) speculated what it would be and Hasbro accidentally confirmed it a few weeks ago.

Return to Tatooine. Inspired by Star Wars: A New Hope, this HasLab celebrates an iconic part of Star Wars history and brings the Mos Eisley cantina to life, featuring a fully modular, interchangeable design for £399.99. Wuher and the Tonnika sisters are included with the base offering and Greedo, Nabrun Leids and Arleil Schous are the three stretch goals.

Fans wanting to expand the cantina further can back the deluxe version featuring an extra wall, booths and furniture for £499.99.

Calling back to the original 1970s and 1980s Star Wars collectables, this offering features Kenner branding and package design for a nostalgic display. Like many fans, I wanted the classic cantina playset for my Hammerhead, Snaggletooth, Walrus Man and Greedo action figures.

This project needs 8,000 backers to begin production and will run from 7th June, 2024, until 8th July, 2024 at 11:59PM ET. If successful, the project will begin shipping around Fall 2025.

Pipeline reveals included Luke Skywalker, Ben Kenobi, Han Solo and Chewbacca.

Will you be backing the Star Wars The Vintage Collection Mos Eisley Cantina HasLab on Hasbro Pulse? Will you be backing the Base or Deluxe version? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday 7 June 2024

Tales of the TARDIS

Tales of the TARDIS returns with Ncuti Gatwa (Doctor Who) and Millie Gibson (Ruby Sunday) for a special episode before the season one finale. Six episodes of the Whoniverse spin-off series were released to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the BBC's beloved sci-fi series last year on BBC Four and BBC iPlayer.

Will showrunner Russell T Davies bring back a classic villain in the 75-minute special? My money is on Sutekh (Pyramids of Mars) following The Devil's Chord.

The special one-off Tales of the TARDIS premieres in the UK on Thursday 20th June on BBC Four and BBC iPlayer.

New episodes of Doctor Who stream every Friday on Disney+ outside the UK and Ireland and every Saturday on BBC One and BBC iPlayer. Season one is available for pre-order (affiliate link).

Will you be watching Tales of the TARDIS? Who do you think is the season one big bad? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday 4 June 2024

Alien: Romulus is an Alien and Aliens hybrid

On Tuesday, an official trailer dropped for Alien: Romulus.

Read the official synopsis:

"While scavenging the deep ends of a derelict space station, a group of young space colonizers come face to face with the most terrifying life form in the universe."

The upcoming Alien franchise movie, directed by Fede Álvarez (Evil Dead), is set between Alien and Aliens and is a hybrid of both.

“To ask an Alien fan to choose between them is a perverse question,” he tells Empire magazine. “So I thought, ‘How do I do both?’” Brace yourself for a thrilling mashup of a haunted house in space and war movie. “There’s a moment where the characters are walking around areas familiar from the Nostromo,” says Álvarez. “Then they cross through that building and on the other side: boom! You’re in a hallway that looks like Hadley’s Hope [from Aliens].”

Originally intended to go straight-to-streaming on Hulu and Star on Disney+, Alien: Romulus is only in cinemas on 16th August.

What did you think of the official trailer? Are you looking forward to Alien: Romulus? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday 2 June 2024

Doctor Who: Dot and Bubble

Dot and Bubble is a Doctor Who (Ncuti Gatwa) and Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) cameo episode following the Doctor-lite 73 Yards.

Series showrunner and writer Russell T Davies (Years and Years) pens a razor-sharp social media satire following an unlikable self-absorbed influencer, Lindy Pepper-Bean (Callie Cooke), living her best life with online-only friends in an always-on app-enabled world, Finetime.

This Black Mirror homage reminded me of meeting a so-called influencer who took umbrage that I didn’t know who they were at an invite-only event in the noughties. Later, they apologised for their belligerent behaviour, but it was a warning of things to come.

The tech bubble, the affluent all-white youngsters inhabit, is a homogenised and stratified echo chamber. Dot and Bubble is a cautionary tale where Lindy's selfishness and racism are brutally unmasked with tragic consequences, and the Doctor doesn’t win in a story that riffs on classic serials The Macra Terror and The Faceless Ones.

Amidst the psychological and sociological commentary subverting audience expectations, there are plenty of pop culture Easter eggs for sci-fi fans (myself included), from Logan’s Run to Star Wars - I was spoilt. I’ll never look at my Echo Dots, dotted throughout my home, the same way again. "Alexa..." Oh, wait!

New episodes of Doctor Who stream every Friday on Disney+ outside the UK and Ireland and every Saturday on BBC One and BBC iPlayer. Season one is available for pre-order (affiliate link).

Have you watched Dot and Bubble? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday 1 June 2024

Doctor Who season one finale in cinemas

Doctor Who fans (myself included) can watch the two-part season one finale on the big screen!

Read the official press release:

"Experience time and space on the big screen with Ncuti Gatwa as The Doctor and Millie Gibson as Ruby Sunday and celebrate an epic two-part end of season finale at your local cinema on Friday 21st June 2024.

Be among the first to watch the final episode, Empire of Death, which promises to blow your socks off!

The Doctor and Ruby Sunday have faced the Bogeyman, fought against Maestro, and survived the battlefield of Kastarion 3. In the epic two-part season finale, the Doctor and Ruby arrive at UNIT headquarters on a top-secret mission and a long-buried secret awaits …

Screening starts at 11pm with The Legend of Ruby Sunday, followed by Empire of Death."

Russell T Davies, returning series showrunner, couldn’t contain his excitement: “This is a great big rip-roaring finale with the Doctor, Ruby, and friends old and new fighting the greatest enemy of their lives. I can’t wait for everyone to see it!”

New episodes of Doctor Who stream every Friday on Disney+ outside the UK and Ireland and every Saturday on BBC One and BBC iPlayer. Season one is available for pre-order (affiliate link).

Are you watching Doctor Who season one? What are your thoughts? Will you be booking tickets for the two-part finale on the big screen? Let me know in the comments below.