The theme of this week's buys is people fighting the supernatural on tv. I got the Sarah Jane Adventures Series 2 and for really, really cheap, all seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I've probably watched less than a season of Buffy over the years, but I've never disliked it, and recent Whedon discoveries like Firefly and Dr. Horrible made me jump at the chance of getting all seven seasons essentially for the price of a single season of Star Trek. Why not.
DVDs: Flipped Spooks/MI-5 Series 1, and even with only 6 episodes, I thought it was an engrossing success. After that shocker in episode 2, I was hooked for life. As the series is still going on, I think it's gonna cost me a pretty penny to get up to date. And it was lovely to catch Hugh Laurie (House) and Naoko Mori (Torchwood) in "before they were stars (to me)" moments. There are tons of extras on the discs, with clever "you are the spy" menus that make them all seem like Easter eggs (I eventually found that the skip button could release me from watching the overlong animations). In addition to commentary tracks, there are all sorts of featurettes, interviews and hidden credits (the show airs without credits... ooh, secretive!).
Our Hong Kong movie showing this week was Infernal Affairs 3, at once an immediate prequel and sequel to the original film, whereas IA2 took place so long ago, it really just stands on its own. Tony Leung and Andy Lau are back and in great form, though sadly, the characters of Wong and Sam are very minor players this time (which is fine, given they got starring roles in the previous installment. People talk about diminishing returns, but there are still some great scenes and awesome stylistic touches (the dual psych appointment for example). The DVD does have fewer features though, with no commentary and only a short (but good) featurette to call its own.
Big Finish Doctor Who audios: My, how that ipod is proving useful! Wanting to find out a little more about new companion Hex, I decided to listen to a few more 7th Doctor stories. The first of these was the quite strange Dreamtime by Simon Forward, which made impressive use of Australian mythology. I didn't always understand what was going on, but strong sound design and sufficiently interesting images made it a winner overall. It basically starts with the TARDIS landing on Ayres Rock flying through space on a small asteroid and goes on from there. Good because it was so unusual, though I was disappointed the "clutch" aliens weren't actually the Chelonians from the New Adventures (they're Forward's creations from The Sandman, which I skipped, but will go back to soon).
Then came Live 34 by James Parsons and Andrew Stirling-Brown, one of those audios that actually uses the audio format in a clever way. Gone is the Doctor Who theme, and instead we get a series of radio broadcasts (on Live 34) that tell the story of impending revolution on a colony world through news items, interviews, and investigative reports. It's a fun experience that unfortunately (and perhaps necessarily) devolves into long exposition in the last chapter. Still, lots of nice touches, from sound dropping out to censored words, as well as a real live news presenter lending his voice to the faux radio station. As someone who used to produce similar radio news programs, I can vouch for the fact it actually SOUNDS like such a broadcast (until the last bit at least) and I could tell just what was going on behind the scenes in the studio just by experience.
I don't know what kind of episode Edward Young's Night Thoughts would have been on tv, but it was commissioned for Season 27, which never happened. I guess it would have turned out something like Ghost Light. While I appreciate the attempt at a moody, thoughtful horror story, I've got to call this one a failure. Despite the atmosphere, nothing really happens for two chapters, and then the whole thing turns into melodrama that had me turning my eyes into my head. The only thing worse than the ham-handed revelations was the time travel physics on show that are so far past nonsense that they plunge head first into drivel. But at least something happens in the last half.
Simon Guerrier's The Settling is Hex's first foray into history and of course, he tries to change it by preventing a massacre. It's a great vehicle for his character, using his compassion and self-doubt to good effect. And is that a crush on Ace he's nursing? Fun dynamic. While I'm a fan of pure historicals, and I like that the audios do routinely go down that route, as a North American, this one lost me in parts. I'm afraid Oliver Cromwell is not as big a historical figure here as he is in the UK. Made me learn more about history, which I suppose is the whole point! Also, top marks on the very evocative music. Very nice.
Switching gears, I listened to The Sandman, Simon Forward's story that ties into Dreamtime (yeah, I got them in reverse). Though it has an intriguing premise, with the 6th Doctor consciously being an entire species' bogeyman, the various aliens' voices are just plain annoying. For the same reason that I find Dalek stories a little trying - screaming distorted voices - I had trouble with this one. Anneke Wills (60s companion Polly) plays one of those voices, but you can't tell it's her, nullifying any cool factor her participation might have generated. Good ideas, good imagery, irritating execution.
Hyperion to a Satyr entries this week include:
Act I Scene 2 - Ghost Stories according to the text
New Unauthorized Doctor Who CCG cards: 31 new cards this week, completing the Adventures in History set with cards from The Time Meddler and The War Games among others. That tally also includes cards from Relative Dimensions 5, my annual "boutique product" featuring cards from extracanonical sources like novels and audios. Here's Hex:
Someone Else's Post of the Week
Doctor Who's Character Sheet is up for discussion on Hero Press. Make sure to click the link to the pdf to read all the wonderful "Traits" your favorite Time Lord has. This is making more and more excited about the upcoming role-playing game!