Doctor Who – Series 10, Episode 7: “The Pyramid at the End of the World”

  • “I wouldn’t have voted for him. He’s orange.” Managing a jab at Trump without it actually sounding political and thereby offending people – nicely done.
  • At first, the cuts back-and-forth to the agrofuel facility are just as distracting as the cuts to Missy were last episode, though not quite as bad as it was clearer this time around that these scenes would have a point eventually. Eventually it really pays off: I like how the relevance of what’s happening comes clear gradually, and the idea that the world is going to end just because one scientist’s glasses were broken and her colleague came to work with a hangover.
  • When studying Earth for their simulations, the Monks apparently noticed that half of all blockbuster movies these days culminate in a pillar of light rising into the sky, and decided to follow the trend! All part of the plan.
  • I spent some time thinking about whether the Monks’ plan was actually clever or unnecessarily complicated – eventually, when it all comes together, I decided on the former. The presence and location of the pyramid, and the weird Doomsday Clock warning, make sense when the Monks’ ultimate goal is taken into consideration. As for the incredibly complex simulations, apparently that’s just something that these aliens do.
  • It’s certainly new, unnerving and twisted that the Monks aim to take over the world through consent motivated by love, rather than going in guns blazing like most aliens, or even a covert operation like the aliens in The Fear Saga. Though they should have given more thought to whether humanity would agree to being ruled by a race of walking corpses.
  • I liked the dynamic that the three soldiers provided. Shame they all had to die.
  • There’s so much good stuff in the last 10-15 minutes. First there’s how the Doctor figures out which lab the emergency will take place at. Then there’s that nice hopeful moment where it looks like the day is saved and the overconfident aliens have been foiled again – only for the audience to suddenly think “Oh, crap” as the Doctor finds himself facing a lock where he can’t see the numbers. And finally, this inevitably leads to an unexpected downer ending where Bill hands over the planet rather than let the Doctor die. Aside from the irrationality of love, she seems to be basing this decision on the hope that the Doctor will just save the planet like always if he lives – but worryingly, that’s the kind of thinking that got Clara killed.

This episode loses points for its slow start as we wait for the Monks to really do something, but once we’re inside the pyramid, things get a lot more interesting. As with last week, this script is trying to be clever – but this time, it’s much smoother, and the writing much more impressive. Rating: 4/5.

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Manchester

Today has been a dark day.

As I write this, 22 people are confirmed dead from last night’s Manchester Arena suicide bombing, one of them an eight-year-old girl. Any terrorist attack is a awful, frightening thing, but it causes a particular jolt when it happens in your own area. What especially shook me when I saw the news this morning was that my parents were supposed to be going to the Manchester Arena this week, to see Take That. (Those shows have now, understandably, been postponed.)

Even with all the terrorist attacks that have taken place worldwide in recent years, it feels impossible to comprehend what kind of sick mind could decide to detonate a bomb at a concert full of children. It makes you feel helpless. It makes you fear for the world more than ever.

But in the aftermath, the goodness of humanity has shone through as well. From Manchester residents offering their homes to stranded concert-goers, to taxi drivers offering free transport, people have been banding together and looking to do whatever they can to help. And that’s why, in spite of those that caused this tragedy, I continue to have hope.

My thoughts go out to all those affected by what has happened.

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It’s Been A Great Year For Reading So Far!

I set myself a target of 40 books for this year’s Goodreads Reading Challenge, the same as 2015. (My target for 2016 was slightly lower at 35, as I was also doing a Harry Potter re-read that year.) So far, I’ve finished 19 books, in spite of not listening to audiobooks as much since getting a new job, as I’ve been driving to work instead of taking the bus. They’ve been a mix of fiction and non-fiction, and some of them have been really fantastic – so I thought I’d share my favourites for the year so far.

Fiction

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

This novel is set in the not-too-distant future, where humanity’s bad habits have finally caught up with everyone, and society is coming apart at the seams thanks to overpopulation, climate change and energy crises. With the world being such a unpleasant place, most people spend all of their free time (or even working hours) inside a massive virtual reality construct called the Oasis. The story begins with the death of James Halliday, the wealthy and reclusive creator of the Oasis: in a posthumous message to the world, he reveals that he has hidden an Easter Egg inside the Oasis, and the first person to find it will inherit his entire fortune. Five years later, our teenage protagonist Wade Watts uncovers the first step on the path to the Egg – but as he progresses on his quest in cyberspace, he also faces danger in the real world.

This is a great book on so many levels, beyond how compelling the main story is, and how much potential there is in a setting with thousands of virtual worlds to explore, challenges to complete and enemies to take on. There’s plenty of gaming action, as well as humour from the everyman protagonist: Wil Wheaton, who narrates the audiobook, is an excellent fit for Wade. Most of the challenges that must be completed to obtain the Egg are based around Eighties pop culture, from movies to music to – especially – games: even though much of it was unfamiliar to me, there’s an incredible amount of detail in this regard, inspiring me to look up many of the games, etc that were mentioned to confirm that they were real.

On a more sombre note, the dystopian real world of this book is depressingly easier to see as our eventual future than the more traditional totalitarian regime of various young-adult novels – as is the general populace’s response of using technology as a means of escape. Naturally, in this world where an incredibly detailed universe with endless possibilities is at most people’s fingertips, questions are raised about the value of reality, the meaningfulness of existence in the two worlds, and whether the Oasis is really any less “real” than the dying world outside: the answers may seem obvious at first glance, but as you read the book, it’s not that clean-cut.

This novel is highly recommended, especially for nerdier audiences.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

After hearing Rachel Wagner talk about Anne of Green Gables on her social media – in preparation for the Netflix series Anne With An E – I decided to give this 1908 classic a go.

Elderly siblings Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, who live on Green Gables Farm on Prince Edward Island, decide to adopt a boy to help with their work – but through some mix-up, they end up with a red-headed eleven-year-old girl named Anne Shirley, who proves just too charming to turn away. Taking place over five years, the story has an episodic format as it covers various scrapes that Anne gets into, yet it still maintains forward momentum: Anne visibly grows and changes in how she speaks and sees the world, and when she makes mistakes, she learns from them.

There’s a great deal of charm to be found in this book: from the picturesque rural setting, to the relatively innocent conflicts that Anne experiences – from being wrongly accused of stealing a brooch to breaking her ankle thanks to a dare. Some of these incidents manage to be pretty funny, such as Anne trying to rid herself of her red hair and inadvertently turning it green instead. Then there’s Anne as a person: she’s such a great character. She could have been either sickeningly sweet or an absolute brat, but she’s neither. She often acts without thinking and has a streak of pride that causes some problems, but she has a good heart, a precocious vocabulary and a boundless imagination that makes her very endearing. I suspect she might annoy me if I knew her in real life – much of the book consists of Anne describing/explaining something to Marilla in a chunky, detailed paragraph, followed by a one or two-line reply from Marilla, often along the lines that Anne talks or imagines too much – but she’s lovely to read about.

Meanwhile, Anne With An E turned out to be a thoroughly disappointing adaptation: unneccessarily bleaker than the source material, and making changes which failed to impact significantly on the more faithfully adapted parts even when they should have. I lost interest halfway through the fourth episode. Apparently the 1985 miniseries is much better, so I’ll have to track that down.

Non-fiction

I Have Asperger’s by Erin Clemens
Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it on this blog before, but I have Asperger Syndrome. I’m often on the lookout for opportunities to learn more about the autism spectrum and other people’s experiences with it, and this year, I’ve found these books. I’ve also read Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin, which was very interesting itself, but I liked these two a bit better.

I Have Asperger’s is a collection of posts from the blog of Erin Clemens, where she goes into a variety of topics related to the condition: how she sees the world differently from neurotypical people, the difficulties that Asperger’s can cause in different situations, day-to-day events, and her advocacy work. As well as being both honest and positive, it’s clear enough that I think someone who doesn’t have Asperger’s can get a good idea of what it’s like from this.

Neurotribes, meanwhile, is largely a history of autism in society. Starting with the studies of Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger, it describes how these conditions were diagnosed, initial beliefs as to their causation, and how they were often treated. Various case studies are used to demonstrate how societal attitudes towards autistic people have changed – there’s a chapter on the significant impact that the movie Rain Man had in this regard. Other chapters explore how autistic people in turn have impacted the world, having played an important role in the development of computers and the origins of the fandom concept. Just about everything in this book fascinated me, and it left me wanting to do more research into the topics covered, which is one of the best things that a non-fiction book can do.

Bring Back The King: The New Science of De-Extinction by Helen Pilcher

This is another one I listened to as an audiobook, narrated by the author, biologist Helen Pilcher. With human activities currently bringing about the sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history, the idea of de-extinction – bringing extinct animals back to life – is a highly relevant one, and in this book, Pilcher does a great job of explaining the subject in an comprehensible (and, when appropriate, humourous) way to a general audience. She devotes each chapter to different life forms – dinosaurs, woolly mammoths, Neanderthals, thylacines, passenger pigeons, etc – and explains both whether they could be brought back, and whether they should.

For each one, it’s made clear that the process is far from simple, with many practical considerations to consider: if woolly mammoths were to be revived, for example, it would require much invasive work on Asian elephants (the mammoth’s closest living relative), which are themselves in danger of extinction. But even though it’s fully grounded in reality and doesn’t pull any punches when describing the man-made environmental crises that are making this research necessary, this book still manages to offer some optimism for the future.

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Doctor Who – Series 10, Episode 6: “Extremis”

  • Well, I wasn’t expecting Missy to turn up so quickly in this episode. And it’s Missy in the vault, too? I wasn’t expecting that reveal mid-season, either.
  • Should have known this episode was written by Steven Moffat, with that execution fake-out. (“Ah, you thought the Doctor was being executed, didn’t you? Psych!”) At this point, the episode was already reminding me of Season 4 of Sherlock – which is not a good thing.
  • A murderous mystery within the Vatican, with a possible connection to CERN – are we sure this episode wasn’t written by Dan Brown?
  • I found myself thinking of what the Veritas might say that would drive anyone who read it to commit suicide. Maybe, “We’ll keep getting Transformers sequels for the next hundred years.”
  • I must be too on edge for when John Simm’s Master is going to turn up, now that we know it’s not him in the vault. First I thought he was the priest at Missy’s execution. Then I thought he was the shadowy figure in the portal.
  • I was plagued by frustration for much of this episode – and some of it was fuelled by the Doctor’s constant dishonesty about his blindness. I know the Doctor has to lie from time to time, but he doesn’t normally do it so continously.
  • If that’s the oath the Doctor swore, to guard Missy’s not-dead body for a thousand years, I can understand him feeling edgy and wanting to get out and about again. As for his decision to prevent Missy’s death in the first place…well, he’s often been inconsistent with how he treats his enemies. Missy caught him on a good day, I guess.
  • Oh my God, when that CERN scientist asked Bill and Nardole to think of a number, I thought of 36 as well!!
  • And suddenly, after all the other confusing turns in this episode, we get the twist thrown at us that it’s all a bunch of simulations! It barely feels connected with anything else.
  • Oh no, Planet Earth is under attack again! By a bunch of bland, nameless aliens that we know nothing about. Who wasted a great deal of time building complex computer simulations to decide how they’re going to defeat humanity and the Doctor, when there should surely be a simpler way to figure out their strategy if they already have the information necessary to make those simulations in the first place.
  • The executioners running away from the Doctor when they see how many fatalities are attributed to him – it would be cool if we hadn’t seen it done a whole bunch of times before.
  • Can’t believe I’m saying this, but Nardole is one of the better things about this episode. His function is now established, and he even manages to be a bit cool.
  • I also liked the Doctor’s remark about needing to be strapped down to read Moby Dick (“Just shut up and get to the whale!”), and that mass suicide scene in CERN was pretty chilling.

This episode was trying too hard to be clever, and instead came off as a mess. The switching back and forth between non-linear events, and the random twists, were just frustrating. For a long time, the story didn’t seem to be moving forward – sometimes it wasn’t even clear what the story was. The first five episodes this season at least provided some entertainment, but I really didn’t enjoy myself watching this one. Rating: 1.5/5.

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Doctor Who – Series 10, Episode 5: “Oxygen”

  • The opening for this episode certainly does a good job of setting the scene, particularly with regards to its monsters. The suit-zombies are very Resident Evil with their tilted heads and slow walks, and certainly creepy if not really scary.
  • So we’re continuing with the season’s initial setup of the Doctor as a university lecturer. To be honest, I’d be a bit more invested in this oath he’d taken – and his apparent irresponsibility in going on adventures in the TARDIS – if we’d actually seen it; but then that would spoil the surprise which most viewers have already guessed.
  • Once again, Nardole has no real need to be present at all – even his supposed purpose for keeping the Doctor in line is weak, given that the Doctor just ignores him – but I did find a few of his lines funny.
  • By complete coincidence, some guys in my office were talking this week about why people in zombie movies always cluelessly walk up to the first shambling, moaning, blankly staring zombie and ask if they’re okay. That crossed my mind as the Doctor and co walked straight up to the first dead body in the suit.
  • “Fear keeps you fast!” The Twelfth Doctor really needs to make up his mind as to whether fear is good or bad.
  • The suit asking for feedback on performance certainly helped to sell its corporate background. All that it was missing was advertisements.
  • That was some good acting from Pearl Mackie when Bill was exposed to the vacuum – and Peter Capaldi played being blind very well too.
  • I was a little disappointed that we skipped over the struggle through the outside of the space station, fighting off the zombies with lasers – though I guess it wouldn’t have been anything we hadn’t seen before.
  • Tip for Doctor Who writers: if you’re doing an episode midway through the season, don’t seriously try to pretend that you’re going to kill off the companion (or the Doctor, for that matter). It never works.
  • Compared to last episode’s twist, which brought a new emotional impact to the story, this episode’s twist about the suits being deliberately directed to kill their human occupants felt as sterile as the extreme capitalist process directing matters. Maybe it’s because the last episode of Classic Who I watched was Colony in Space, which also dealt with an interplanetary mining corporation with no value for human life – only in that one, the villains had faces and I actually cared about the people on the receiving end.
  • Still blind? Didn’t see that coming! (Too soon?) Are we going to have a Daredevil Doctor for the rest of the season until he regenerates?
  • And Missy is in the next episode apparently! Yay, I guess.

Doctor Who episodes set on space stations do often end up being bland, but this one was a decent, compelling adventure. Rating: 3.5/5.

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Doctor Who – Series 10, Episode 4: “Knock Knock”

  • Wouldn’t we all utilise the TARDIS as the perfect removal van, given the chance?
  • I really like this initial concept of a bunch of students together in a haunted house. It brings back nice memories (of being a student, not being in a haunted house). It also offers more potential than that other haunted house episode, Hide, one of the most utterly forgettable episodes ever.
  • “I get nervous when there’s no reception. Like something bad’s going to happen.” Don’t we all in this day and age.
  • David Suchet gives a really great performance throughout as the Landlord, gentlemanly but unnerving. His presence gives a little more flesh to the story, even before the twist at the end.
  • Indeed, the acting is good all-round in this episode – you really feel Felicity’s panic as she tries to climb out of the window.
  • “Don’t be scared. It doesn’t help.” But Doctor, what happened to “Fear is a super-power” from Listen?
  • Of all the things I was expecting to see possessing the walls of the house, giant woodlice with glowing antennae wasn’t on the list. Interesting surprise.
  • Sometimes Doctor Who tries to be creepy and it only vaguely works. And then sometimes we get things like wooden Eliza and I don’t feel comfortable looking at the screen.
  • The twist that the Landlord is not Eliza’s father, but her son, is brilliant. It gives a whole new, very sad perspective on the situation – we all have to say goodbye to our parents at some point, but he was just a little boy; of course he would do anything to save her. Now he’s spent his entire life fixed upon that purpose and he’s not allowed himself the chance to really grow up, as his crying in his final moments shows.
  • Yeah, it’s got to be the Master in that vault. For some reason, the communicating via piano gave me Moriarty vibes, particularly Pop Goes The Weasel. Presumably there’s some additional security measure if the Doctor can walk through the door without getting jumped. And is this situation now meant to be mirroring the one with the Landlord and Eliza – because if the Doctor feels too sorry for his prisoner, bad things will probably happen.

This was a brilliant first episode from writer Mike Bartlett: not only did it have an especially good script, but everything else – from the acting to the visuals – worked just as it should. Rating: 4.5/5.

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Kerbal Space Program: I’m Getting The Hang Of This

When I last blogged about Kerbal Space Program, I was having difficulty just getting my spacecraft into orbit, let alone landing on other worlds. A few weeks later, however, after getting to grips with the mechanics and watching some more tutorial videos on YouTube, reaching orbit is now second nature, and I’ve been able to raise my ambitions.

Even with my struggles in Sandbox Mode, I still decided to try Career Mode – where you are given a limited amount of money to work with, and have to complete specific contracts and earn “science” to unlock more parts – to give myself some clearer direction. In the early stages, I felt it necessary to complete just about every contract available – and some of those included flying aeroplanes to collect data at specific waypoints. Unfortunately, no matter what I tried, my planes refused to rise from the runway. Then I right-clicked on the wings and realised that I wasn’t extending the flaps; that did the trick. Such are the pitfalls of a game with so much detail. After a contract which involved flying a plane halfway across the planet, landing it on a plain, and driving it around to reach ground waypoints, I haven’t completed any aeroplane contracts, being in a position where I can pick and choose.

Naturally, the more you achieve, the more difficult the contracts become. For example, sending one Kerbal tourist on a suborbital space flight in a remote-controlled capsule was simple, but what about four? The only available capsule only carried one, so (not realising I was permitted to send each tourist on a separate flight) I stuck a couple of two-person cabins beneath the capsule. Unfortunately, this caused problems on re-entry: the spacecraft became inclined to point nose down and came in too fast for the parachutes to open safely, with the result that the hapless tourists ended their experience by slamming into the ocean at a few hundred miles per hour. I managed to overcome this with some manual effort to keep the spacecraft nose-up during descent, and the tourists lived to presumably share their photos on Kerbal Facebook. Then there was the first contract to rescue a Kerbal stranded in space: I accepted before realising that the Kerbal in question was orbiting further out than the Mun, the nearer of Kerbin’s two satellites. Getting out there was a challenge, as was the delicate orbital dance of rendezvous necessary to complete the mission. But worst of all was getting the Kerbal to spacewalk from one spacecraft to another; the controls were a nightmare. When performing rendezvouses, I try to park the spacecraft no more than a few dozen metres from each other to minimise frustration.

Eventually, there came the really exciting stuff: contracts to fly by, then land on, the Mun. My first intended Mun landing had to be aborted as I was also trying to complete a contract involving a rendezvous in Munar orbit, and as it turned out, I did not have enough fuel for both. I did at least get to try a high-speed re-entry with a materials bay attached to the bottom of the capsule, which required keeping the spacecraft right in the middle of the retrograde marker to prevent it undergoing intolerable stress and exploding. Soon after, another landing craft was dispatched to the Mun, with nothing else to do but land. Many failed attempts and re-loads ensued as I tried to cancel out both vertical and sideways speed. The first few times, the whole craft plowed into the surface and exploded; eventually, it was going slowly enough that only the bottom half blew up, and the capsule came to rest in one piece but with no way to ever get off the surface again. Finally, I managed a soft touchdown – only the craft came to rest on its side. Once my heroic Kerbalnaut had had a little wander and planted a flag, I proceeded to retract the landing legs and try to take off sideways. It wasn’t easy – if the craft hit a bump, it would explode – but I just about managed it, and my Kerbal came home to tell the tale.

The next spacecraft to visit the Mun was an unmanned probe, there to take temperature readings. Once that was done, rather than sending it on a suicide dive to the surface, I decided to try a soft landing and let it transmit an extra sliver of science to Kerbin. After a few more failures, I got the hang of keeping the probe in line with the retrograde marker as it came down; the probe had no landing legs, yet I managed to land it right on its nozzle! I launched another manned mission and, using the same technique, successfully brought it down on its feet, in the middle of a large and scenic crater. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a total success: the lander had enough fuel left to return to Munar orbit but not to get back to Kerbin, so I had to send a rescue mission.

I’ve since sent more spacecraft to Kerbin’s second satellite, Minmus, a much smaller moon the colour of mint ice cream. Despite being further away, Minmus provides an easier environment than the Mun as there is lower gravity and speed involved; I managed to land successfully first time there. I’ve also progressed from rendezvous to docking, which – like EVAs – has led to some frustration with the controls. The most recent contract – to recover space junk with a giant claw – also met with difficulty on re-entry, as the interlocked craft tended to rotate while entering the atmosphere and subsequently disintegrate. Eventually, there came an attempt where the craft was high enough that it was not slowed sufficiently by Kerbin’s atmosphere and flew back out into space, only to orbit around and re-enter again; on the third re-entry, it had lost enough speed to come down with everything intact.

So, I’m still enjoying this game a great deal: not just because of the fun involved, but because it’s giving me a whole new appreciation of the mechanics of spaceflight. Looking at an image of the Cassini probe’s planned orbits between the rings and atmosphere of Saturn, I can visualise and understand it in a new way thanks to this game. It’s one thing to read about the manouvers that set a spacecraft on a correct path, but as with most things, you can learn even better by trying it out for yourself!

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Titanic Month: Conclusion

Having introduced Titanic Month with a video, I decided to conclude it with one as well! I’m pleased with how this one turned out, especially with a better video editor.

I didn’t feel it was fair to do a film-by-film ranking of everything I watched, so instead I divided the productions into three categories: those you can skip, those you might enjoy depending on what you’re looking for, and those I would generally recommend. I ultimately felt that James Cameron’s Titanic, A Night to Remember, and Titanic: Blood and Steel were the best things I watched, with 1953’s Titanic getting an honourable mention.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my reviews, and please check out my video below!

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Film review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Heading into 2017, the runaway train that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe shows no signs of slowing down. This year has seen the release of Iron Fist on Netflix, with The Defenders coming soon. For this particular cinema viewing, there were trailers for Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok – and in case you’d forgotten about DC, Wonder Woman was in there too, with Gal Gadot trying to muster as much enthusiasm as possible in her trailer introduction. Even the Marvel Studios logo that opens the film has been amped up, with dramatic music and shots of its most familiar characters. So, does the latest offering – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – live up to expected standards?

Following the events of the first film, the Guardians of the Galaxy – Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) – are now heroes for hire, though still very snarky and not above stealing from their customers. While fleeing with some ill-gotten gains and a prisoner – Gamora’s adopted sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan) – they end up encountering Ego (Kurt Russell), a god-like being who introduces himself as Peter’s long-lost father. Leaving Rocket and Groot to fix their damaged ship and guard Nebula, Peter, Gamora and Drax head as guests to Ego’s Planet – but while Peter grows to embrace the idea of having his father in his life, it turns out there’s a catch involved.

As with the previous one, the characters are easily the best thing about this film. With all the attention that’s been given to the adorableness of Baby Groot, I was worried that he might get all the focus like the Minions in the Despicable Me franchise – and in fact, the opening credits take place over a Baby Groot dance sequence while the other Guardians battle a monster in the background. But thankfully, Groot doesn’t take over the film: all the characters get their time to shine, with a more-or-less even amount of screentime, though I would have liked a little more of Ego’s empathic servant, Mantis (Pom Klementieff). There are some hilarious interactions: I especially liked the scenes between Rocket and Peter’s old boss/surrogate father, Yandu (Michael Rooker). It’s not all jokes, though: there are heartfelt moments too, particularly with Peter as he explores his daddy issues. But not all the characters get so much development: Drax, for instance, spends a high proportion of his screentime yelling or laughing. In fact, there’s a lot of yelling and laughing all around in this movie’s action scenes – sometimes there’s a sensory overload, which isn’t helped by the camera going all over the place.

The biggest weakness is that the story is pretty weak. Once the group splits in two, Rocket and Groot end up with some proper problems to sort out, but everything that happens with the others on Ego’s Planet feels more directionless until the end of the second act. Also, the film offers the exact same sarcastic, self-aware humour as the first movie – and while many of the jokes do work (the characters’ laughter is pretty infectious), others feel more stale. Also, given the generally comedic tone, there are a couple of revelations at the climax that are really dark and just don’t fit in the jigsaw, particularly as we switch back to tongue-in-cheek comedy for the action that follows.

By the way, the Stan Lee cameo in this movie should be particularly pleasing for the fanboys. Plus Sylvester Stallone is now part of the MCU, though he only has about 2-3 minutes of screentime and it’s one of those performances where it’s hard to understand what he’s saying. And as usual, be sure to stay through the end credits – there’s actually several additional scenes rather than the usual one or two.

I would rank Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 very slightly below the first one – most of its elements are the same, and while they’re not as fresh, it’s still enjoyable overall. Rating: 3.5/5.

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Doctor Who – Series 10, Episode 3: “Thin Ice”

  • I’m still waiting for Bill to really stand out as a character from other companions, but I do still like how she’s progressing with each adventure: from looking astounded upon arrival at the Frost Fair, and telling the Doctor, “I’m going to try everything” like she’s on holiday, to her response as she comes to see the Doctor’s darker side. She’s also fulfilling a traditional companion role by making human connections more effectively than the Doctor does, when she talks to the orphans.
  • Having Bill around does seem to be doing the Twelfth Doctor some good, as he has some more cheery moments. But for much of this episode, he reminded me strongly of the Ninth Doctor: first his experienced, pragmatic attitude towards death, then leaving the audience in no doubt that he does still care about life. There’s a strong central theme of compassion throughout this episode, which definitely works: I loved Twelve’s little speech to Lord Sutcliffe – when Twelve delivers speeches, they tend to be awesome.
  • I liked the scene where the Doctor and Bill see the beast underwater for the first time and there’s no dialogue. The reminder of what the orphan boy’s hat looked like was unneccessary, though.
  • I can’t remember the last time we saw the psychic paper.
  • Some more explanation for the beast would have been nice: who managed to trap it in the Thames in the first place? Were those others of its kind calling as it swam away, implying that it is terrestrial in origin and there’s a whole population of them?
  • I understand the Doctor telling Sutcliffe, “I preferred it when you were alien” – we all know there are humans without compassion, but it’s still easier to accept evil aliens. It reminds me of an episode of Supernatural where Dean says he would rather fight a monster than an evil human: monsters he understands, but humans are just crazy.
  • Not a great moment for the visual effects department when Sutcliffe falls through the ice – more suited to a SciFi Channel movie!
  • If we’re only going to get Nardole in small doses like in this episode and the last, I suppose I can accept him. Though I would still argue against having Matt Lucas’s name in the opening credits.
  • Whoever’s in the vault knocks four times just as the episode ends. And given that we already know John Simm is coming back….oh yeah.

After two disappointing episodes, this one was more enjoyable. It felt more like a standard Doctor Who adventure, and that simplicity works in its favour. Rating: 4/5.

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