Weapons are a-tumbling... Two-pronged calligraphy hits the snow... Neatly typed, before the tape rolls... Looking at the peaches... By his own pen... The tracks pass through the snowy wilderness no more than they do the old west... And then there is form...
(If you don't expect spoilers, you don't know me very well.)Item 1: First off, I did love it, but one thing that struck me is how this was actually the first Christmas special that was actually about CHRISTMAS. The four previous attempts used Christmas as window dressing, but were essentially about other things. In The Runaway Bride, RTD felt compelled to throw a wedding because Christmas just isn't enough of a special occasion, and Voyage of the Damned is a Christmassy as a knee to the groin. Perhaps filming it in the summer put some minds off the season, who knows. With A Christmas Carol, we're actually given a Christmas story, not a story that takes place at Christmas. Moffat uses the fun of time travel not only to recreate Dickens' classic story, but to visit a number of Christmas Eves across space and time. It's a tale about giving a little boy hope for the future in order to melt that future man's heart, not just to save the starship crew that hangs on his decisions, but to save the man himself.
Item 2: One of the things that makes this a true Christmas story is the joyful fantasy of it. The Doctor mentions Mary Poppins at one point and yes, that's exactly what this is like at times. This Victorian planet doesn't just have a Scrooge figure in Kazran Sardick, but fish that thrive in fog, and a shark with its own little story arc who carts the newly-minted TARDIS crew around through the clouds. Lullabies that sing fish to sleep, the miraculous way in which time travel is used, the Doctor making snowmen... The episode is grand fantasy, and very much in the Moffat Fairy Tale style. That shark is never jumped, my friends, because the magic of Christmas is in on fun. Again, compare to the dark streak of other Who Christmas specials.
Item 3: Not enough Amy and Rory! Not a complaint, because this story wouldn't have worked with them next to the Doctor, but it would have been nice to see the starring companions a little more before the new season. Seeing Arthur Darvill's name in the credits did bring a smile to my face though. Good no ya, mate!
Item 4: At the end of The Big Bang, the Doctor gets a call that sends the TARDIS to a story that contains the Orient Express, the Queen of England and an Egyptian goddess... in space. That story is never told (nor were the rumored Yeti in this episode), but could the spaceship be the "Orient Express"? Coming off the untold tale, the characters stay on for a little honeymoon roleplay and disaster strikes. Neat idea because it puts a bow on things (though the captain doesn't know Amy so...). Not so neat because it robs me of seeing a train in space.
Item 5: I enjoyed the Star Trek parody. Or don't you think the opening scene looked like a cross between The Next Generation and J.J. Abrams' film? Lots of lens flares on a glossy white bridge, touch-sensitive consoles, and even a Geordi figure with an optical prosthesis. You know, it's stuff like this that feeds my dreams images of the TARDIS landing in other shows and movies.
Item 6: In the didja notice department... Didja notice the way Kazran's tie changed in the "present" depending on how close he was to the Doctor in the "past"? Cute. So yes, there are a lot of paradoxes in this story, and the more timeline conscious among you might be wondering how that all worked. We already know that history is not fixed in the Whoniverse. The 10th Doctor is always going on about fixed points that must not be changed (intimating that they can be) and Doc11's era has been consistently reminding us that "time can be rewritten". What we haven't really seen much before is the timeline updating itself before our eyes, and I think that's what some people have problems with. In Smith and Jones, for example, we see the Doctor do the tie trick before he actually leaves to do the tie trick. That's because we're seeing things from Martha's point of view in the updated timeline. Like we got the "television feed" AFTER the entire events of the episode. Blink is another good example. It's Sally Sparrow's point of view and we our "feed" is from after all the changes were made. In this (as with the way memory works re: the cracks in Cold Heart and The Big Bang, though the creation of the cracks is from an objective POV), we're getting the updates as they happen. The POV is that of the Doctor AND Kazran (who witnesses the changes being made so can't help but feel the updates being made). So if at first Kazran is a bitter old man because he was beaten by his unloving father, by the end, he's embittered because of his lost love. If at first, Abigail's family want to see her out of her coffin because she loves Christmas, by the end, they appeal to Kazran because he's actually let her out before. If at first Kazran refuses to use his pipe organ to save the ship, by the end he's unable to because his father never gave him its use. What we see are the small incremental updates that will build into this final changed timeline. To someone on the outside like Amy, it would probably seem like the timeline was always the final one. Kazran has some sense that things are changing, but once they've changed, he accepts the new timeline as if it were the real one. There is only a moment of confusion as the waves of time crash on his shores, but then the update takes hold. Works for me.
Item 7: Now it's come to my attention that a certain portion of the fanbase is up in arms about the Blinovitch Limitation Effect. This more or less states that a time traveler cannot touch him or herself in another time zone without some kind of explosion happening. It happened to the Brigadier in Mawdryn Undead, but you know what? Nowhere else, ever. New Whovians without the benefit of a Classical education will point to Father's Day and scream about the Reapers, but that's a non-starter. The Reapers are only there because time was collapsing due to an egregious paradox created by Rose. When she touched the baby, there was no explosion. It just further weakened time and allowed a crack for the Reaper to get through. By The Big Bang, there are no longer consequences to touching oneself (re: Amy). So what is the Blinovitch Limitation Effect, and is it still in play. I have a couple theories. If still in play, and given how little it has affected time travelers over the last 47 years, you could say that it's more a "rule" than an "effect". Time Lords are instructed not to allow people to cross each others' timelines because they can have dangerous effects (as opposed to "will have"). In Mawdryn Undead, it's possibly the method of time travel that creates a potential temporal energy release. In Father's Day, none of that, but the Reapers are at the church doors. In A Christmas Carol, two Kazrans hug with no effect. Can have, not will have. The Doctor knows what he's doing. He's older now and this incarnation is more savvy about time travel tricks than previous incarnations. If the BLE is no longer in effect, that can be explained too. In The Big Bang, the universe was recreated, possibly with differences. Since the TARDIS became an engine for the restart, it could have updated a few of the time travel rules. In the new universe, such things are just more manageable. Item 8: So what did Abigail die from? This is, admittedly, one of the niggling questions left by the episode. It's not clear whether she's actually dying from a disease - of which there is no sign - for which a number of days left to live can be so exactly derived, or that the freezing/thawing process severely shortens one's life, which seems like a terrible deal to make. Are all coffins equipped with day counters? If she can't be frozen and thawed again, that's fine, but that once thawed she has only one day left to live? The real answer is in the fairy tale. Abigail is a magical princess cursed to live only one more day and Kazran must choose exactly which day. It's part of the opera. Magical Christmas nonsense. Technobabble-heads can of course find a reason (though perhaps a convoluted one), but only because Doctor Who lives in a "science fiction" space. It's still tantamount to looking for why Sleeping Beauty pricks herself when she knows about the curse.
Item 9: Fish bites! You might have noticed the tiny fish that bite the Doctor in the back of the neck are never pictured in all their CGI glory. Could be something weird that gets explained during the next series (à la Doctor with jacket on/off in Flesh and Stone), but there's no reason there couldn't be mosquito-sized flying fish. From a story point of view, they're trying to make the Doctor shut up while Abigail sings. From a Doctor Who point of view, they're getting revenge for his eating fish fingers in The Eleventh Hour. From a Dickens point of view, are they... humbugs?
Item 10: Speaking of references, Moffat likes to always include bits for older fans. Though the first Doctor got a lot of play in Series 5, A Christmas Carol has a couple of nods to the fourth. The reaction to Kazran's mention of isomorphic controls is the same as Doc4's in Pyramids of Mars, and there's young Kazran's scarf (see above). Doc4 was also the first to fail at card tricks. Any I didn't spot?
Item 11: Of course, one of the most exciting things about the Christmas specials is that we get the first trailer for the new season. Here it is!
Lots to look forward to, including a trip to the U.S. that makes great use of locations it seems. Although it's great to see the Ood, and River Song, and President Doctor, and Roswell aliens, the Doctor in prison, more historicals, an Ambassadors of Death reference(?), etc., the most intriguing thing to me is the split second reappearance of the makeshift TARDIS from The Lodger. Yeah, I'm just built that way.
Source: Project: Rooftop (2010) Type: Fan-made Elseworlds"They say the mighty Steel Man was born from a rock struck by lightning, a child of Dragons. He was discovered and brought up by a kindly peasant couple, who raised him as their own. He belongs to the world of the yokai - but his gentle heart loves the human world just as much."
If I worked at DC, I might grab redesigns over at the excellent Project: Rooftop blog and pay some of those artists to develop their ideas into cool an unusual graphic novels. Alex Mitchell's Chambara JLA (all magnificent seven at the link above) is just such a project. Way cool to this Kurosawa fan!
Name: Special Agent Jack Bauer Stomping Grounds: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia ("Bums: Making a Mess All Over the City") Side: Evil Breed: American longhair Cat Powers: Born in a pool of gasoline, on a piece of rusty scrap metal. Has been known to jump through barbed wire into a vat of hot tar. Outranks you. Skills: Eat 7, Sleep 4, Mischief 7, Wit 1, Indestructible 9 Cat Weaknesses: A taste for gasoline. The offensive smell.
Source: Just Imagine Stan Lee's Superman (2001) Type: ReimaginingIf Stan the Man wasn't using Superman's name and iconography, we would be calling this reimagining an analog. Salden is a police officer from a super-advanced, high-gravity planet who accidentally follows a (bald) criminal (who killed his girl) onto a "space-time bender" powered by a green element. He finds himself on Earth where our weak gravity gives him the ability to fly and great strength and speed, and where our thin atmosphere gives him the equivalent of super-senses. To boot, the guy's super-intelligent and learns English in a manner of minutes. Only 26 letters in the alphabet? Rudimentary! Lois Lane also features as an eager agent for this overnight media superstar. She names him Superman while Clark Kent is a name he chooses for himself based on street signage.
I think Stan Lee's best bit is why this Superman becomes a superhero (aside from already being a cop). He wants Earth to start putting money into their space program so that he can eventually get home. However, he finds that we spend most of our money on fighting crime and wars! So he'll get THAT under control, and hopefully a Terran space-time bender will be just over the horizon.
Adam Hughes designed this Superman's look, knowing that the art chores would go to John Buscema. So he made him look tough and rugged, as befits Buscema's art. Stan wanted a Kryptonian Clint Eastwood. Hughes' uniform was inspired by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's, but that's rather subtle in the finished product. The scar on his face makes an "S" shape, an idea from editor Mike Carlin.
The Just Imagine Secret Files show that no matter who Superman really is, he's gonna make people freak out about his ability to lift cars.
Source: Action Comics #595 (1987) Type: ReplacementJohn Byrne didn't just revamp Superman villains to fit in his new continuity, he also tried to give Supes new legacy villains. Superman's Rogues Gallery could definitely use the help. The Silver Banshee didn't QUITE work out. She's still around, but isn't especially considered a "Superman villain". Maybe she was flawed from the start. The original concept gave her a magic voice/touch combo that can kill anyone, so long as she hasn't already killed them.
Yes, it's an odd weakness required to make her first story work. She kills Superman, but when he returns as a ghost, she can't then kill that ghost. Not because a ghost is technically already dead, but because she can't kill the same person twice. Good thing for the hero impersonating Superman's ghost, eh? Can you guess who it is? Think fast, because I'm about to tell you in the next paragraph.
If you guessed the Martian Manhunter, then you were right! Take a leftover Christmas cookie from the jar. He can change shape and walk through walls, so there you go. And don't worry, Superman got better. She only voiced him into a deep coma. Super tympanic membranes and all that.
5. Luthor administration internal memos on the final solution to the "Kryptonian problem" 4. 40 years of Project: Captain Atom reports all stating "Still waiting" 3. Cadmus Project versus S.T.A.R. Labs secret league handball scores 2. Batman Inc. wages: How the Robins got the screw and the #1 WikiLeak in the DC Universe... 1. Task Force X cream pie and cream pie clean-up budgetsNow you know the truth.
What I bought for myself: Futurama Season 5. What my good friend Mel gave me for Christmas: Castle Season 1. Thanks Mel! What my gaming buddy Marty gave me: A plastic Flash from a Kinder Surprise! It's Wally West, dude!
Movies: Went to the theater Christmas night to see Yogi Bear---no, I can't type that with a straight face---to see True Grit, the Cohen Brothers' remake of the John Wayne classic (or if you prefer, their adaptation of the Charles Portis novel). While nowhere near my favorite Cohens film (it may yet grow on me), it had their trademark mix of comedy and tragedy, strong performances (Jeff Bridges creates yet another fun character, Matt Damon is surprising as the dumbass Ranger, and Hailee Steinfeld steals every scene she's in) and quirky decisions that will either take you out of the film or elevate its worth. In this case, the controversial elements will be the lack of contractions (straight from the blank verse-sounding novel apparently) and the low-key ending (that shows the consequences of the revenge story in a way few movies do). The more I write about it, the more I liked it. Certainly, it's made me interested in the Oscar-winning original which I admit not to have seen.
DVDs: My memory of The West Wing was that after Aaron Sorkin left at the end of Season 4, the series lost its spark (at least until Season 7 refreshed it with a new race for the presidency). So it took me a while to 1) buy Season 5 through 7 on DVD, and 2) watch them. Reassessing Season 5 today, I attribute my flagging interest simply to fifth season blues. Sure, the dialog is generally not as crisp as it once was, but I found the episodes kept my interest throughout and the acting was as always, stellar. Highlights included the government shutdown, the search for a new Chief Justice and the mockumentary about C.J. The DVD has a few deleted scenes, commentary on three selected episodes, a featurette on President Bartlet, and a making of the Gaza episode.
The Season 6 DVD set's production values take a dive as the English subtitles disappear (I hate that, especially in shows with hard to follow dialog) and the background material gets ever slimmer. Three episodes have commentary tracks and there's a featurette on C.J. Craig (that interviews actual press secretaries), but no making of materials or deleted scenes. As for the season itself, its shuffling of the cast can sometimes be awkward, and making both Leo and Bartlet sick reduces the appeal of these two powerful characters, but the show gets some momentum going again with the introduction of the primaries and the promise of a whole other presidential race in Season 7. Watched once a week, I remember that the White House stuff made me impatient for the campaign stuff, but on DVD, that's hardly a problem.
Season 7 ramps things up with the Alan Alda (Vinick)/Jimmy Smits (Santos) presidential campaign and manages a couple of high wire acts. On the one hand, while the show treats Santos as the "hero" candidate, it makes Vinick a viable replacement for Bartlet thanks to the Alda's star power and gravitas. It feels like it really is anybody's game. The other miracle is that the last few episodes satisfyingly give closure to the main cast, while also setting up four more viable seasons for the show (not that it was considered). I would have followed the show had it gone Republican - plenty of untapped potential - and also respond well to the proposed cast on the Democratic side. The only disappointments are in the DVD package. Gone are the commentary tracks, and the east coast version of the live debate episode isn't even mentioned. You can watch The Debate from the director's truck, but that's again the west coast version. An entirely redundant and boring feature (50 minutes of snapping fingers basically). The only good feature is a 25-minute behind the scenes on the live show.
I also flipped Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, a fun little indie-style comedy filtered through the comic, indie rock, kung fu films and video games. Technically, there's a lot to admire, especially in the way the film borrows liberally from other media (the comic especially) to create transitions. The break-neck pace is especially impressive. I'm not quite geeking out over it as others did last summer, perhaps because the video game stuff is largely lost on me (I'm too old for those particular game references), but I still enjoyed it. The Blu-ray apparently has lots of making of stuff, but my standard DVD copy doesn't really need it. The 4 commentary tracks (director Edgar Wright sits down first with comics originator Bryan Lee O'Malley and the other scriptwriter, then with his D.P., and the cast is split into two different tracks) do a good job of telling me everything I'd want to know about the making of the movie. There's also a large number of deleted scenes (with commentary), a blooper reel and a large art gallery (which includes a photo blog and a comics-to-film comparison). Fun stuff.
Audios: Memory Lane by Eddie Robson has the 8th Doctor, Charlie and C'rizz once again land in a kind of prison (the characters even refer to this redundancy), but this one is at least imaginative. Trapped inside an astronaut's memories, the TARDIS crew must navigate a recursive maze and figure out both what's happening and how to get out of it. The resolutions are rather clever and this is perhaps the best use of C'rizz in a while. I'm still not sold on his long-term usefulness as a character, reminding me of Kamelion of all things, but there you go. Robson becomes a major architect of the 8th Doctor in stories to come, which is promising.
Before I sit down to watch this year's Doctor Who Christmas special, I thought it'd be nice, for tracking purposes, to list my Top 11 Doctors in order. I want to see where these same Doctors will rank in a year from now after not only a new 11th Doctor series, but also my regular ingestion of classic Who DVDs, audios and novels. Now, I don't have a list from this time last year, but I have a sense of which Doctors rose and which fell, so I'll attempt an analysis at the end.
1. Sylvester McCoy (7th) 2. Matt Smith (11th) 3. William Hartnell (1st) 4. Peter Davison (5th) 5. Colin Baker (6th) 6. Christopher Eccleston (9th) 7. Patrick Troughton (2nd) 8. Jon Pertwee (3rd) 9. David Tennant (10th) 10. Tom Baker (4th) 11. Paul McGann (8th)
Analysis: In the past few years, the 7th Doctor has never really gone down below second place in my mind, and he still sits atop the list. While the current Doctor is always quite high on my list - because he's the exciting one still getting new tv stories - Matt Smith blew everyone out of the water in his first series. He'd do well regardless. I love his alien awkwardness. Hartnell has risen steadily throughout the year thanks to the release of quite a few of his stories on DVD. Davison and Colin Baker do rather better than they should thanks to their Big Finish audios, which are way better than their television episodes. There's also some good will attached to the actors' commentaries on the DVDs. Like it or not, they influence me. The biggest surprise, I'm sure, is how low the more popular Doctors have dropped. This, my friends, is due to overexposure. I haven't made secret the fact that, in retrospect, the RTD era has many things that bug me, which has dropped Tennant in 9th place and Eccleston in 6th. Tom Baker's ego continues to make his Doctor trend downward, but I expect Pertwee to spike in 2011. I'm warming up once again to his Doctor. (See how fickle Who fans can be?) It's traditional to put the 8th Doctor in last, but I've usually had him higher on account of his audios. However, the ones I've listened to of late (I'm up to the 2006 season) have been repetitive and lackluster, and I could say the same for McGann's performance in them.
Stay tuned for the 2011 edition in 12 short months! And for more Doctor Who material this week!
Source: Superman vs. Muhammad Ali (1978) Type: Alternate timelineDC Direct should mine my Reign of the Supermen for action figure ideas. Superman would boxing gloves would be a sell-out, and probably cost less than the statue they made of this cover.
Hey DC Direct! Don't forget the bruising! Have a good Boxing Day everybody!
Source: DC Universe Holiday Special #1 (2009) Type: Analog/Holiday CheerI think it's my favorite DCU Christmas story, and it seems so familiar. Scientists on a doomed ice planet put their baby in a rocket and send it to Earth. The baby is found by kind-hearted people and the boy is raised as one of us, on a farm in rural North America. One of us, yes, but for his amazing powers. He keeps them to himself, but longs to do more... to help people, to change the world for the better, to reward those that are nice and punish those that are naughty.
He leaves home to find himself and does, in the Arctic circle, thanks to his lost world's legacy. And the world was never the same again. Merry Christmas everyone!
From "The Man in Red" by Matt Cherniss, Peter Johnson, Ivan Reis and Joe Prado.
Christmas holds an important place in the What If? canon thanks to It's a Wonderful Life, so what better on Christmas Day than a What If story about... the Punisher's murdered family?! Happy holidays!
What If vol.2 #10 (February 1990) Based on: Marvel Preview #2 The true history: After returning from Vietnam, former marine Frank Castle has a picnic with his family in Central Park, where his wife and two children are caught and killed in gangland crossfire. This tragedy inspires him to become the Punisher, scourge of the underworld. Turning point: What if the weather turned bad on that sunny picnic afternoon? Story type: Momentary difference Watcher's mood: Empty inside Altered history: When clouds unexpectedly move in to ruin the Castle family picnic, they leave and thus avoid the crossfire of the gang war that would have killed all but one of them. Frank Castle, looking for a place to put his military experience to work, takes a job as a New York City cop, one that is sympathetic to costumed vigilantes, but who is himself by the book. So when he finds out just how many cops are on the take, it's a bit of a shocker. Struggling with the issue, he reports to his precinct captain, fellow former Marine Carmody. Carmody asks him to silently collect evidence on this matter, but what Frank doesn't know is that Carmody's a crooked cop too. At home, Frank's two kids continue to grow up, and his little boy becomes a big fan of superheroes. He even dresses up as one (his own invention) at Halloween. One night, Frank is visited by both extremely good and extremely bad luck. The bad: Crooked cops are sent by Carmody to riddle Frank's home with bullets and torch it. The good: He was in the bathroom at the time, and a similarly-shaped friend from the Marines was sleeping over unexpectedly, leaving the evil boys in blue to think Castle was dead. He isn't, and starting with Carmody himself at Frank's own funeral, he starts gunning down crooked cops. And so it goes, cleaning up the streets first of corruption, and then of crime (presumably), eventually taking his boy's costume idea, and becoming the Punisher. A couple scars more on his face, but the only one that counts is the one on his heart. Man, destiny can be a bitch. Books canceled as a result: None. The Punisher did not get a series immediately after his first appearance, so he need not have lost a single issue. These things happen: Never. Not even in this What If? Frank's family must die.
Next week: What if the Fantastic Four All Had the Same Power? My guess: Three of them retire to create science/have babies/cry, leaving Johnny as the Fantastic One.
Source: DCU Infinite Holiday Special #1 (2007) Type: Elseworlds/Holiday CheerFrom the desk of: Rudolph, Reindeer (Red-Nosed) To: Santa Claus Re: Grievance
Dear Mr. Claus
I have worked at the North Pole Christmas Corp. as a reindeer (fog prevention) and have been a member of Local 10305 for 71 years.
It is my understanding that under the contract between Local 10305 and North Pole Christmas Corp., employees are not to be replaced in their duties unless too sick to perform them. So it is with immense frustration that we have learned of Mr. Superman's role in this Christmas' gift deliveries. While we fully support your right to request a substitute, that substitute may not also perform the tasks of other employees. I believe your actions in this case violate my rights under our contract.
On December 26th 2010, I went to my union delegate, Blitzen, and told him about the situation. It is on his advice that I am bringing a class action lawsuit against the North Pole Christmas Corp. for work and dignity lost.
Please inform me in writing by January 15th, 2011 to indicate how the North Pole Christmas Corp. will treat this grievance.
So fat, so furious... Tuning up for an unbroken gray history... Sanjuro travels between percussive houses... Just because the bugs go down the drain doesn't mean they're not out to get you... Dream paint swirls... Pulsing with the electricity of music... And on the side of the ship... It may all evaporate at any time...
Source: Superman vol.1 #417 (1986) Type: Imaginary storyImagine a planet Mars that is closer to John Carter's than to J'onn J'onzz. Now imagine little baby Kal-El crashlanding on that planet Mars instead of Earth. Further, imagine that little baby kicking a number of warriors' asses and their warlord adopting him on sight, a warlord whose emblem looks like the S shield we know so well. Well, no real need to imagine it, because Elliot S! Maggin put that thought to paper during Superman's lame duck year: Raised as Skaggerak, Son of Norr, he would grow up to be a great warrior, and would wear the red and blues found in his rocket in service of his father, uniting the whole of Mars' many tribes under the same tyrannical regime. And when there were no more tribes to conquer, they looked to the stars, or rather to the blue planet we call Earth. They built ships, came to our home during the Holidays and delivered their ultimatums. But Skaggerak wondered if they were conquering Earth with respect to its customs and wanted to learn more about us. He put on glasses, a white wig and a beard and visited a soup kitchen. When a street Santa fell ill, a policeman gave him the opportunity to replace him. And so he learned about us. He found that we could both be thieves AND generous. That we could be honest AND liars. We had the potential to be peaceful AND warlike. Thinking on the thieving, lying warriors who raised him, Skaggerak turned against them and attacked the Martian fleet. From that day forward, he would be Superman, the champion of Earth, defending his second adopted world from his first. It was a Christmas miracle.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, It's a Clinical Depression Christmas Charlie Brown... All fine holiday fare. But why don't more people retell the story of when a Martian came to Earth and saved us from more Martians? We should never forget the classics!