The Doctor Who Christmas Special: Twice Upon a Time—An Allegorical Reading

The Whoniverse is about to change—we all knew that. Peter Capaldi’s run as the titular character is ending, show runner Steven Moffat is leaving, and Jodi Whittaker will become the first female doctor in the show’s long history. This last bit, you may have heard, has been the subject of much discussion among the Whovians, many of whom have been, to put it more mildly than the 12th incarnation of the doctor would, worried. Moffat sent a message to these folks in his and Capaldi’s final episode: These “worries” are unfounded, and antithetical to his vision of the long-running science fiction program. Thus, in addition to nostalgically looking back to the past, Twice Upon a Time cleverly sets up the show’s future.

Twice Upon a Time picks up where the last season ended. The Doctor is dying, but refusing to regenerate. He ends up at the South Pole where he encounters the First Doctor (who is masterfully played by David Bradley). The two doctors have to solve the mystery of glass-like avatars who are stealing the memories of the dead to unfreeze time, and return The Captain (Mark Gatiss) to World War One, his proper place in the timeline. On the one level, it is the perfect vehicle to send off Capaldi’s doctor: The aliens’ ability to access anyone who has died allows for sentimental appearances from old companions, and the presence of the First Doctor—and his Tardis—invites the kind of allusions to classic Who one would expect from Moffat’s swan song. On another level, however, Twice Upon a Time can be read as an allegory for the state of the Whoniverse, and Moffat’s final statement about what it can and should be.

This allegory is accomplished through the juxtaposition of Capaldi’s doctor with the original doctor. Throughout his tenure, Capaldi has been compared to Hartnell’s version of the character. He was older, grayer, darker, more alien than his most recent predecessors, and his episodes were replete with more classic Who references than theirs, as well. And, indeed, when seen next to each other, they are indeed similar. They have both arrived at the same place with the intention of stopping their regeneration.  Both are considering dying rather than letting someone else become The Doctor. However, when presented with the mystery of The Captain, they are forced to at least temporarily postpone this plan and work together. It is in this partnership that the differences between 1 and 12 are revealed.

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Despite the episode’s nostalgic tone, the humorous banter between Capaldi and Bradley carries much of the episode. From the opening sequence, where the two doctors argue over who is THE

Doctor, the subject of the Doctor’s identity is hinted at at the forefront. Is the original the best? Or is the latest version, the culmination of years of experience and growth, superior? At the beginning, it seems like 1 is in charge. He gets the better of the exchanges, and seems to be more comfortable in the role of leader. He identifies himself as “The Doctor” and calls 12 his “nurse” in one particularly funny scene. As the show goes on, however, 12 ascends to the leadership role. Ultimately, it is he who solves the mystery, and it is his plan that provides satisfying, Christmassy resolution to the Captain’s predicament. The first doctor fades into the background and Capaldi is left alone on screen, first for his teary reunion with certain past companions (spoilers) and then for his powerful final monologue and regeneration scene.

The shift in power in the Tardis is accomplished through the progression of the above-mentioned banter. While the First Doctor seems to be getting the better of the battle of wits early on in the program, as it progresses, his jokes begin to fall flat. His views on women, and their role in the Tardis, are at best anachronistic, and at worse offensive. He professes, among other things, that the women are fragile (made from glass) and that it is the female companion’s role to “tidy up” the Tardis. These comments are met with rebuke from the 12th Doctor, as well as from Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie), who makes her return in this episode. As the First Doctor’s worldview is revealed to be out of place in time, the 12th ascends, representing what The Doctor does and should currently believe. The First Doctor’s anachronistic sexism echoes that of a certain segment of the fan base who would reject the 13th Doctor, the first female incarnation, without giving her a fair chance. The First Doctor may not be happy about the upcoming change—either in the context of the show where he is about to regenerate for the first time or in the context of the allegory where his refusal to regenerate reveals his reluctance to progress—but then he would not have been happy sharing the Tardis with Rose, Martha, Donna, Amy, Clara, or Bill, none of whom would be doing his housekeeping. Imagine how he would have felt about Captain Jack Harkness, then consider if you’re being close minded about The Doctor’s gender.

After Capaldi’s regeneration, we get our first, brief glimpse of Jodi Whittaker as The Doctor. Though she is on screen only briefly, she appears comfortable in the role. Her only line of dialogue recalls the 9th Doctor, and her fall from the Tardis into open space may symbolize the endless possibilities that come with a new doctor and new show runner.

There are no monsters in this year’s Christmas episode—no Cybermen, no Zygons, no Weeping Angels. The only Dalek who appears is, nominally, on the Doctor’s side. Even the glass avatars of the dead—the supposed antagonists of the episode—turn out, to The Doctor’s consternation, not to be evil. What, then, is the doctor fighting against? In the end, it is his fear of the future, his fear of change and the unknown, things the whole Whoniverse encounters every time the Doctor regenerates. These fears are cleverly alluded to in Capaldi’s final speech. Early in the monologue, he says (and perhaps it is Moffat speaking through him), “Yes, yes, I know they’ll mess it up without me,” and then implores the new doctor to “wait a moment. Let’s get it right.” He then offers his advice for being a successful doctor: “Never be cruel, never be cowardly. And never ever eat pears! Remember – hate is always foolish…and love, is always wise. Always try to be nice and never fail to be kind.

As long as The Doctor is able to, “Laugh hard. Run fast. Be kind,” everything is going to be ok.

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A. A. Rubin lurks in the shadows. You may have thought you saw him in the back of the bar, or going into the subway station, but when you looked back, he was gone. His fiction has appeared in Pif MagazineScrivener’s Pen, and The Hopper Review. His short story “White Collar Blues,” which originally appeared in Skyline, was nominated for The Carve Magazine/Mild Horse Press Online Short Story Anthology Award by the editor. His debut graphic novel will be released by Golden Bell Studios next year. He can be reached at: birdman33@gmail.com and on twitter as @thesurrealari .

 

 

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Holy Moly

updated cast info

Movie (P)Review

Shazamshazam old school

According to the “Hollywood Reporter” Zachary Levi has been cast as Shazam! Levi as you may well know was the star of the NBC hit TV series “Chuck” and is in the role of Fandral in Thor: The Dark World and reprises that role in a  week in Thor: Ragnarok. This will prove interesting jumping from a supporting role in two Marvel/Disney movies to star in a WB/DC comics feature film opposite Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as his arch enemy “Black Adam”. Even though the powers that be claim “Black Adam” will not appear in the film, which is possible since now added to the cast is actor Asher Angel has confirmed that he will portray Billy Batson, the younger alter ego of the hero in the film & Mark Strong is in talks to take the role of the villainous Dr. Sivana. Shazam is one of the oldest superhero’s…

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Lightning Strikes the CW

black-lightning_finalBLACK LIGHTNING First-Look Image


WOW! What a great time to be a true comic book fan! Growing up I had some great shows and cartoons. Live action super hero shows were few and far between compared to today, we had reruns of the classic Batman 66″ TV series, the 77″ Wonder Woman series with the still beautiful Lynda Carter {now playing the president of the USA on Supergirl} Shazam & Isis were our “live action” super heroes along with the occasional syndicated run of the George Reeves “Superman”. Today of course TV & Movies have become geek friendly and people just can’t get enough! Just to name a few Fox has Gotham, The Gifted, Lucifer & Legion HULU has Marvel’s Runaways of course Netflix has Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Defenders and soon the Punisher! The CW is waist deep in the DC universe Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow,The Flash,Supergirl & now Black Lighting! By now it’s no secret that Black Lighting won’t take place in the “Arrow-verse” but that doesn’t mean we won’t see other DC characters from the comics appear in this series, in my opinion this has been a long time coming. I was a fan of the character since I was a kid, seeing him co-star along side Batman multiple times in Brave & the Bold and others in various titles not to mention his own series as well but we never got him in the various seasons of the “Super Friends” shows but instead got a kid friendly version named Black Vulcan. Recently they announced that Chantal Thuy has been cast as Grace Choi, this character first appeared in the 2000 run of “The Outsiders” she was later to be revealed to be descended from the amazons. Needless to say she is a heavy hitter. Not a show regular but CW will say she’ll be a recurring character  on the series.

Even though “Black Lighting” has been around since the 70’s he’s been revamped a few times. His modern origin can be found in the mini series Black Lighting Year One this is also where they get a lot of the premise for this new CW show. His short lived original solo series {12 issues} broke ground at DC to be the first hero of color to have their own series, paving the way…eventually for Cyborg and John Stewart two of DC’s most popular characters. It’s what I would consider essential reading for this character, he also co-starred in Worlds Finest, Detective & JLA and was even offered membership in the league but he turned it down and just flew solo so to speak but years later became a member of the league for a time. A pivotal turning point in the characters life was when he lost his powers when an innocent woman was killed during a gun fight he was involved in. Luckily he decided to keep fighting the good fight even without his powers and was enlisted by Batman to help him save Lucius Fox. That’s when we find out it’s all in his head it was just his guilt over that woman’s death that suppressed his powers but with the aid of Batman gets his powers back. In 1983 when creators Mike W. Barr, Jim Aparo & Alan Davis brought Batman & The Outsiders to life “Black Lighting” became a founding member of the “Outsiders”. As of recent we see him in the New 52 where he was teamed up with the “Blue Devil” which is currently available in TPB and well worth your time. As of now he’s made his appearance in DC’s Rebirth in a new mini series called Black Lighting: Cold Dead Hands a 6 issue mini series that started on November 1st but with his adventures coming to the CW in 2018 can his reemergence on a new team be far off? This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the character on tv he’s been animated quite a few times in DC animated feature films and tv series such as Young Justice, Brave and the Bold, Justice League: Crisis on 2 Earths, Public Enemy’s and more.

So if you want to learn more about Black Lighting here’s some suggested reading:

Black Lighting’s original 1977 solo series

Black Lighting vol 2 1995 solo series

Black Lighting Year 1 {6 issue mini series}

DC Presents vol 3 Black Lighting & Blue Devil

Batman & The Outsiders vol 1

Black Lighting: Cold Dead Hands {2017-2018}

Holy Moly

Shazamshazam old school

According to the “Hollywood Reporter” Zachary Levi has been cast as Shazam! Levi as you may well know was the star of the NBC hit TV series “Chuck” and is in the role of Fandral in Thor: The Dark World and reprises that role in a  week in Thor: Ragnarok. This will prove interesting jumping from a supporting role in two Marvel/Disney movies to star in a WB/DC comics feature film opposite Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as his arch enemy “Black Adam”. Even though the powers that be claim “Black Adam” will not appear in the film, which is possible since now added to the cast is actor Asher Angel has confirmed that he will portray Billy Batson, the younger alter ego of the hero in the film & Mark Strong is in talks to take the role of the villainous Dr. Sivana. Shazam is one of the oldest superhero’s I for one think fans have waited long enough to see magic lighting strike!

shazam tv show (2)

HASCON: Interview with Mark Wahlberg & Isabella Moner

Our man Jim DePaul was on-site at Hasbro this past weekend for HASCON, Hasbro’s premiere family event adjacent to the corporate office in Providence, RI.

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing

He got a chance to speak with Mark Wahlberg and Isabella Moner from ‘Transformers: The Last Knight’

With Mark, Jim talked Transformers The Last Knight, Stuntwork, being a Dad, The New England Patriots and being confused for fellow Bostonian Matt Damon. You can see that interview below:

With Isabella, Jim talked about the home video release of ‘Transformer: The Last Knight’, nostalgia for tactile media and Mark Wahlberg: Father Figure. You can see that interview below:

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TRANSFORMERS ‘BUMBLEBEE’ EXCLUSIVE: Lorenzo di Bonaventura CONFIRMS one MAJOR change G1 fans have been waiting for.

Johnny C from Movie (P)Review got a chance to meet and speak with Lorenzo di Bonaventura at HASCon this past weekend in Providence, RI.

Lorenzo di Bonaventura HasCon Pic

Having spent a decade helping bring HASBRO’s Transformers to the big screen, he was very excited to talk about the Robots in Disguise history in cinema, including exclusive details on the upcoming BUMBLEBEE spin-off movie due out December 2018.

But one of the most exciting details he shared was that the visual aesthetic of the Robots will be overhauled in this new iteration of the Transformers, set in the 80’s, putting them closer to their G1 counterparts.

Promotional imagery for the HASCon Convention may have given us a first look at this newly overhauled design.

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Joined by Mark Wahlberg, Isabella Moner (Their interviews will up be soon!) promoting the Home Video Release of ‘TRANSFORMERS: The Last Knight’

Check it out below!

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American Gods, Episode 1: A Show In Which You Can Believe

Viewers of the first episode of American Gods (Saturdays 9ET, STARZ) likely find themselves in the position of one of the two primaries: Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle), the laconic ex-con who is first being introduced to the strange world of American Gods, or Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane), the man who has been living in this surreal universe for a long time. There is plenty in the premiere episode to entice both sets of viewers, who will likely make the leap of faith necessary to return for the second episode and beyond.

I am firmly in the Wednesday camp. My first-edition copy of American Gods, the Hugo and Nebula winning novel by Neil Gaiman upon which the series is based, was read for the first time when the book was released in 2001, and most recently over the past few weeks in preparation for watching the show and writing this review. As such, my standards for any adaptation, much less a big-budget, well-hyped premium cable adaptation, were high. The premiere episode more than lived up to my expectations, as I have seldom seen an adaptation as true to the book as this one.

Every important scene from the opening chapters of the novel, from Shadow’s release from prison, to Wednesday’s introduction on the airplane, to Shadow’s fight with Mad Sweeney (Pablo Shrieber) is there, as is much of the dialogue from the original novel. Even the Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) scene, which had the potential to be disastrous in this medium, was done, and done well. Long-time Gaiman fans will likely be satisfied with the fidelity of the story to the original.

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The casting, likewise, is masterful. McShane is compelling as Wednesday, and it is his charm and range that largely carries this episode. He is able to make the viewer believe in his con, even when said viewer knows the outcome. He is clearly having fun with the role, and his performance did more to sell me on the program than anything else that happened in the first episode.

Whittle seems born to play Shadow, and his laconic intelligence, moral compass, and gritty toughness form the perfect counterpoints to McShane’s Wednesday.

Even the minor characters are near dead ringers for the way I imagined them when reading the novel.

The show is far from just a nostalgia fest for long-time Gaiman-readers, however. There is plenty here that is new and interesting even to the most seasoned of Gaiman’s fans.

The episode is visually interesting, which is no surprise coming from something associated with Gaiman. Anyone who has seen even one of the pre-released teasers got a feel for the surreal atmosphere created by the show’s visual and audio aspects. But beyond the Dave McKean-esque credits and the cinematography of the dream sequences, there are a number of visual motifs which run throughout the episode that only those viewers already familiar with the source material will understand. For example, the imagery of gallows and hangings that run throughout the episode reflect as much on Wednesday’s true identity as the they do on the racial issues from America’s past that comprised a portion of the discussion about the show on social media during episodes airing Saturday night. One can only hope that writer/creators Bryan Fuller and Michael Green continue to utilize this type of dramatic irony to communicate with those familiar with the source material.

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Additionally, there are a number of scenes that have been updated to fit the times. As Gaiman, who is an executive producer of the TV program, discussed during a release event for his book Norse Mythology at Town Hall back in February, many of the deviations from the show’s source material were necessitated by the long gap between the book’s publication in 2001 and the show’s release in 2017. The scene when Shadow is kidnapped by Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) is a perfect example. Technical Boy needs to convey a cutting-edge image of the newest technology available, and the descriptions of him found in the book would not work in today’s environment. The scene, however, retains the spirit of the original (Technical Boy 2.0, if you will), as do most of the updates that are not letter-perfect adaptations of the novel.

Most of the adaptations are either of this nature, or, as Gaiman discussed at the same event, were necessitated by the switch in medium from novel to television. There are, however, a small number of deviations from the original that felt wrong. Chief among these is the portrayal of Audrey (Betty Gilpin), Shadow’s ex-wife’s friend. The scene between Audrey and Shadow at the graveyard deviates wildly from the corresponding scene, which takes place at the funeral, and completely changes Audrey’s character. While, according to an article published by the A/V club (http://www.avclub.com/article/neil-gaiman-why-he-asked-american-gods-cut-blowjob-254491) Gaiman was able to intercede with the show runners to keep Shadow’s reaction to changed Audrey true to his original character, the change seems out of place with the spirit of the show, and is an unnecessary distraction during an important character-building scene for Shadow.

There are other minor deviations that bothered me, including the opening “Coming to America” sequence—and I wish there could have been some acknowledgement of Shadow’s desire to take a bath–but overall, the adaptation is as true to the book as one could hope. Let’s hope that future episodes continue that fidelity, unlike, for example, Game of Thrones, which started out true to the source material, but quickly deviated from it in many of the key storylines.

Viewers in the Shadow camp—those who are coming to the show for the time— are likely intrigued, but confused, which is exactly where they should be after the first episode. The decision not to reveal the major conflict in the series (who is Mr. Wednesday preparing to fight; who are the “we” of whom Technical Boy speaks) does create mystery and suspense, but I wonder if there is enough grounding to hold viewers who do not possess the background knowledge of those in the Wednesday camp. Hooking these viewers is essential if the show is to become, as many have already predicted, the next big thing on TV.

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Still, I imagine that the quality of the acting described above will be enough to hold these viewers for a couple of more episodes, at least. The characters are intriguing, and these viewers will likely want to find out what happens to them.

Whittle’s portrayal of Shadow is tailored well for this purpose. As the show’s moral compass—ironic as he is an ex-con—he is the character in whom we are supposed to invest. He is believable enough, and charismatic enough to carry viewers through the delayed exposition as they, along with him, learn this new reality.

It is McShane, however, who is likely to carry the program, and through his dazzling performance is likely to be enough to make viewers forget what they don’t know until it is time for them to know it. By that time, they’ll be invested, drawn into his world, like Shadow, unable to leave.

The first episode of American Gods hints at the possibility of greatness. All of the elements are there, from spot-on-performances by the cast, to the spectacular visual effects and cinematography, to the perfect source material. Will the show deliver on the promise of the first episode? It’s impossible to prove for sure after just one episode, but it’s something in which viewers can surely believe.


Ari Rubin lurks in the shadows. You may have thought you saw him in the back of the bar, or going into the subway station, but when you looked back, he was gone. His fiction has appeared in Pif Magazine, Scrivener’s Pen, and The Hopper Review. His short story “White Collar Blues,” which originally appeared in Skyline, was nominated for The Carve Magazine/Mild Horse Press Online Short Story Anthology Award by the editor. He can be reached at: birdman33@gmail.com and on twitter as @thesurrealari .

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