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Film

Star Wars: Duel of the Fates – Screenplay Round-Table

Last week, I looked at the screenplay for the unproduced, Colin Trevorrow-written, Star Wars – Episode IX: Duel of the Fates. You can check it out here if you missed it. Not content to leave this fascinating window into another world with just a single visit, I decided to reach out to some friends, get them to read through the screenplay, and gather them all together for a round-table discussion on what they thought of it. I divided the discussion into six separate categories so that we can cover as much as possible. So, without further ado, let’s dig in!

Category I: How does this compare to your thoughts on The Rise of Skywalker?

  • Ashley: As I’m sure I’ll say many times within these segments, I liked different parts of them equally. After reading Duel of the Fates, I really loved the symbolism of dual thrones in Mortis representing balance within the Force. I liked that Rose actually had a role in this one! And I love that Luke made good on his word. Not sure what I’m talking about? In the last fight between Kylo and Luke in The Last Jedi, Luke told him, “Strike me down in anger and I’ll always be with you.” So, what does Force Ghost Luke do in Duel of the Fates? Why, he haunts our ever-spiraling buddy Kylo Ren! It just feels very on-brand for Luke. Who, by the way, is splitting his time with the continued training of Rey. I will say, I did not enjoy that more than The Rise of Skywalker, as I appreciated that Leia picked up Rey’s training from Luke in the final film. Something I did like within this script was the exclusion of Palpatine. Kylo Ren had his moment in the bad-guy sun (especially in the reveal that he was the one to kill Rey’s parents).  Overall, I saw more symbolism and completed character arcs in Duel of the Fates, but in a world without The Rise of Skywalker, I would never have Rey and Kylo’s fight amidst the thrashing seas of the sinking Death Star. If I wasn’t able to see Duel of the Fates on screen, I’m at least happy I can read it and imagine what-if.
  • Keigen: The Rise of Skywalker enjoyer (not defender) has logged on. Which is to say, of course there’s stuff that’s better in the Duel of the Fates script because much of The Rise of Skywalker is terrible. I especially liked Finn having something to do other than screaming Rey’s name, Poe’s characterization in general, and it weirdly feels more of a kind with both the other films in the trilogy than what we got was. It’s also dumb in a lot of ways, and not fun dumb but dumb dumb. So, uh, quite a bit like TRoS, huh?
  • Reagan: The Rise of Skywalker was easily the most disappointed I have ever been at a movie. It tops Hellboy (2019) in terms of how let down I felt. After how much I loved The Last Jedi it just felt like it was pandering to an audience that didn’t entirely include me because it sort of was. In many ways, Skywalker was the result of all of the (underserved) hatred that was directed at Last Jedi by fans who felt it was the worst thing to happen to Star Wars since the prequels. But the thing about The Last Jedi is that it has a theme, it has a point; The Last Jedi is about hope, about the fact that even in the darkest times, when everything seems like it’s ending and when it seems like the bad guys will win there is always hope. People will always resist. That message was beautiful, it made me cry for hours after I first finished The Last Jedi. Skywalker doesn’t have that theme; at times, it feels like empty pandering instead of something that actually has something it wants to say. Is it fun visually? Of course it is! Does it make me feel something? Not at all. Duel of the Fates in the meantime feels heartfelt and earnest, like it’s a proper follow-up to The Last Jedi instead of pandering to angry men on the internet.

Category II: What did you make of the Rey/Poe romance?

  • Ashley: I despised the Rey/Poe romance. It felt incredibly unnecessary. They’d shared little to no screen time together in the previous films and this sudden development was jarring to read and imagine. The Duel of the Fates script didn’t specify how much time had passed from The Last Jedi, making the whole thing feel incredibly forced. Most of Rey’s interactions in past films had been between Kylo, Finn, Luke, and Leia. Even though she and Finn seemed to share a friendship, I would have believed their romance far more probable being shoe-horned into this script than anything written with Poe. That being said, I don’t mind that they shared some adventures together in this script, I just would have enjoyed it far more if it was written platonically. 
  • Keigen: It’s almost certainly my least favorite thing in the script, and I like it less than anything in TRoS? And yet, it feels more true than the weird bickering they had in the film, and it is a bit funny for Rey to have been paired with each male costar throughout the trilogy. Along with that, the moment in the script where Rey used a mind trick on Poe was very effective, and I can see the argument that it works better if there’s romance between them. I think it may have helped the script with Poe’s characterization, and maybe I do like this more than “Mexican Cartel Poe” we got in TRoS. Still, it’s terrible, and my wife would like me to emphasize, worse than Reylo.
  • Reagan: While it’s better than Reylo by a mile, Poe and Rey just didn’t have any of the chemistry on screen that Poe and Finn had. I think that the Poe/Rey and Finn/Rose pairings are there to go “oh no Finn and Poe aren’t gay” more than anything else. Because here’s the thing, Finn/Poe? Should have been canon, in fact, I’ve decided that it is canon now. You’re welcome. Beyond the lack of chemistry between the characters, any romance between the characters feels like it’s there to check a box more than anything which is something that does a disservice to both them and the story. That being said Finn/Poe/Rey is the ultimate pairing and I will not be taking notes on this.

Category III: There are some previously unseen Force powers introduced in the screenplay. How well do you think these were handled?

  • Ashley: One of the moments was a scene where Rey and Poe are fleeing pursuers and hop in a boat. To propel them forward, Rey uses Force Wind, which made me laugh a little when I found out that was the official name (because I am a child). I believe the use of Force Wind was handled well in the sense that it arose out of an action scene and propelled the plot forward and seemed interesting. Outside of that moment though, I’m not sure how I felt about it. Force Lightning is a power of the Sith, but moving wind almost seemed like elemental magic? I guess there is energy in everything and the force is everywhere, so why shouldn’t a powerful Jedi be able to manipulate air? Upon some further research, I found out Force Wind is only new to film canon. Force Wind has been a “thing” since the mid-90’s within the Star Wars Legends universe and is another trait of the Sith. It seems like they supplanted Rey’s use of Sith powers in the Duel of the Fates script with Force Lightning in The Rise of Skywalker
  • Keigen: New force powers are a staple of new Star Wars, and the ones here are cool! They’re not video-gamey in the way that force powers can often be treated, and clearly, they were worth something for some of them to be carried over. Rey and Kylo both being trained throughout the script is really good stuff thematically and forms a backbone that would have been really cool to see. We get a lot of Jedi training throughout Star Wars, and not nearly as much Sith training. To get both in one film, featuring characters approaching mastery would have been a very cool feature. 
  • Reagan: Personally, I think that new uses of the force are necessary to any Star Wars media. Star Wars is and always has been a story in progress; we don’t know all of the rules of the universe. Showing new uses of The Force is just one of the ways we’re shown the boundaries of this universe. It’s like when something is discovered that alters our understanding of the laws of physics; we thought we knew the boundaries but turns out we were just guessing based on all of the available info and we guessed wrong. Basically, I think getting mad because “the force doesn’t do that” is stupid, after all, force healing is one of those things that just makes sense when you actually think about it for more than a minute. 

Category IV: Compared to The Rise of Skywalker, Kylo Ren remains an agent of the Dark Side throughout the screenplay. Did this work better for you?

  • Ashley: I actually enjoy the versions of Kylo that exist within both scripts. One of my favorite parts of the Disney sequel trilogy is Kylo Ren/Ben Solo. I love the emotional/fractured man-child that exists within the official scripts, but there is something to be said about the Kylo that grows within the pages of Duel of the Fates. He is a true villain up until the very end. Duel of the Fates allows Kylo’s redemption to more closely align with that of his idol, Darth Vader; a man who sees the light finally, but far too late. I am a sucker for a good redemption arc, so I think I prefer the conflicted Kylo we get in The Rise of Skywalker, but as my friends love to point out, he is indeed a war criminal, and perhaps his depiction in Duel of the Fates is more accurate to what his characterization should have been.
  • Keigen: Sort…of? I think because of his legacy, Kylo Ren is a character that interests me a lot, even if he doesn’t necessarily deserve the focus he gets, and hasn’t been utilized in a way that’s different enough from his grandpa. Moreover, TRoS especially hyper focuses on Kylo, to the detriment of the other characters and the plot, and he’s obviously a character that doesn’t really deserve to be redeemed. On the other hand, Duel of the Fates does even less with him, mostly keeping Kylo in a corner until Rey is ready to face him, and he still gets redeemed, or at least redeemed by Darth Vader standards. To me, this is mostly a wash, though, I think the Han conversation in TRoS is worth the bullshit, personally.
  • Reagan: I am a noted lover of a redemption arc but Kylo Ren needs one about as much as Hux does. From the start, I thought that Kylo would end up having redemption through death like Vader did, only becoming Ben once more by giving his life to save the galaxy. It would have been like poetry, it would have rhymed. But instead, in real life, we got “whiny emo war criminal decides to not be evil for true love and then dies the minute he has his first kiss.” The Rise of Skywalker was tailor-made to please as many people as possible, something that ended up weakening it considerably. Kylo’s redemption and love story with Rey was easily the worst element.

Category V: How did Finn and Rose’s mission to Coruscant come across for you? Did it do right by the characters?

  • Ashley: While there are moments I love from Finn in The Rise of Skywalker, I thought Rose and Finn’s escapades on Coruscant were far more fitting as a closing chapter for these two than anything they got in the film that was released. First and foremost, Duel of the Fates treated Rose as part of the main cast, something The Rise of Skywalker failed at. One of my biggest complaints about the film series as a whole was its misuse of Finn. Duel of the Fates course corrects, completing a character arc that sees him leading a band of ex-stormtroopers/First Order in the final fight. I much preferred this for Finn’s character; to see him standing up against his oppressors and not running from them. I’ll also sneak in here that I appreciated that Rose & Finn were included in the epilogue after the battle on Coruscant, something I felt The Rise of Skywalker was missing.
  • Keigen: I definitely think the Coruscant mission did right by the characters, especially Finn, who, for the first time in the trilogy, had something meaningful to do! That said, some of the stuff there felt contrived, and while I do love the idea of Finn going from Stormtroom to defector to Stormtrooper rebellion leader, I also feel like it’s the most obvious direction for him to go in. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing either, but much of this story would have been in the execution. Another small nitpick is that I’m not sure a dilapidated Coruscant really works for me, mostly for the fact that I don’t think the trilogy ever really sold me on this new war in general, let alone its ability to impact a planet like Coruscant, and the script doesn’t really touch on it either.
  • Reagan: Finn and Rose’s mission gives both of them actual character arcs like they deserved. Critically, it also gives Rose something to do, an element that was sadly missing from The Rise of Skywalker. The bones of Finn’s journey through Skywalker can be seen in Fates but here it’s more than anything he ended up getting in the actual movies. Rose, meanwhile, is allowed to actually exist here! Something that she doesn’t fully get the chance to do in The Rise of Skywalker. Rose deserved so much better, and she would have gotten it if this had been allowed to exist. 

Category VI: When it comes to the titular duel, how well do you think it worked in drawing to a close the Skywalker Saga?

  • Ashley: Answering this question gives me anxiety because I really like both respective scripts’ final duels. Duel of the Fates delivered on brutality. Kylo and Rey, instead of fighting together, are truly light and dark fighting to the death. Kylo blinds Rey, Rey chops off half of Kylo’s hand! There’s so much in this duel, it was fantastic to imagine as I read. Another glaring omission in this that was present in the Rise of Skywalker was the titular kiss between Rey and Kylo. It feels right not to be written in this one, as Kylo was well and truly a baddie until the end. I found it incredibly moving that the last moments of his life were giving Rey back the name she was born with. It almost felt more intimate than the kiss in the film. It also felt more in line with the narrative of Rian Johnson’s script; that Rey truly is no one – no one connected to the Skywalkers that is. That in and of itself is what I found to be the fitting end of the Skywalker Saga. There was a Force before the Skywalkers, and there will be a Force when they are all gone. A new generation of heroes will wield that power, write their own histories, and perhaps not succumb to the darkness that haunts their ancestors.
  • Keigen: This was, and would have been, the toughest part of making this film. Bearing the weight of capping off three films is too heavy for most films, let alone 9, and—wait, I just read Ashley’s answer and I wanna change mine. The sequel trilogy is more Star Wars than what is required. Return of the Jedi is a perfect ending to the Star Wars that existed, there really wasn’t a need for more. But if you were to continue the story, what should it be? What would the end of “The Skywalker Saga” have to do? Well, shouldn’t all the Skywalkers be dead? Shouldn’t they be either destroyed or succeeded? Wouldn’t that be the only meaningful way to continue the story, and to conclude it? 
  • Reagan: This is the second time I will say this but it’s like poetry. it rhymes. This duel is an echo of the ones that came before it (in many ways an echo of the duel between Anakin and Obi-wan at the end of Revenge of the Sith). I think this works well for nostalgia reasons but I think that the sequel trilogy was so beholden to nostalgia that it became a detriment, something that held it back rather than let it grow into something more. I think the line that sticks with me most is when Rey says “no one is no one”, that line would have been such a great tie-in to what Rian Johnson set up in The Last Jedi. It would have been more about the fact that anyone can be a chosen one, that it isn’t just a single family that has potential for greatness. The Last Jedi is the only Star Wars movie that has made me feel something for more than the runtime of a movie and I constantly mourn what was lost in the decision to make The Rise of Skywalker
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Film

Reagan’s Recs: Sci-Fi w/ Ethan Chamberlain

Welcome back to another guest edition of Reagan’s Recs. This month’s guest is Ethan Chamberlain who up until now has been entirely behind the scenes as my editor.

I haven’t known Ethan for very long, if memory serves (it often doesn’t) one of our first conversations was me pitching Reagan’s Recs to him. In that short time, however, I’ve come to consider Ethan a good friend; he’s always willing to send stupid jokes back and forth, even at the expense of his own sleep schedule. While planning for July, Ethan asked if he could take the July guest spot; what else could I say except yes? After all, Ethan has been the mastermind between Star Wars month, what better way to celebrate than by having him talk about sci-fi; a frequent staple of our conversations, what with our mutual love of Trek et al.

Ethan loves movies, and he specifically loves these movies. I’m glad that all of you get a little bit of insight into why he loves these movies.


Hi, I’m Ethan. While normally I’d be behind the scenes editing Reagan’s Recs, I’ve stepped in front of the imaginary camera this week to talk about some of my favorite sci-fi films. It’s been a joy working on these with Reagan so getting the chance to shout about these films is a real pleasure.

Now, when it comes to sci-fi, I have a deep-rooted love of the genre dating back to the first film I remember seeing in theatres, Star Wars – Episode II: Attack of the Clones. It was a life-changing experience getting to see all the varied worlds, people, creatures, and especially spaceships. Since that day I’ve never looked back and I’ve grown to appreciate what sci-fi can do when it comes to exploring themes of a social nature, be it head-on or via allegory. And not only that, I still geek out over all the new, exciting worlds that are out there to be discovered.

So let’s take a look at just a sampling of my favorite sci-fi films. You’ve probably heard of most, if not all of these, but hey, I enjoy them so you’re gonna listen to me wax poetic about them.

Contact (1997), dir. Robert Zemeckis

(CW: Strobe lighting)

While being the oldest film on the list, Contact is the most recent addition to my sci-fi top picks having watched it for the first time just this year. Let me tell you, I kicked myself for waiting this long to watch it. Zemeckis, perhaps best known for another sci-fi film: Back to the Future, brings an incredibly realistic sensibility to the central premise of the film, what happens when we make contact with extraterrestrials?

Anchored by an incredible performance from Jodie Foster, the film tackles the cultural conflicts between religion and science brought on by the apparent first contact head-on, and whether the two can co-exist in this new world order. Foster’s character goes on one hell of a journey throughout the film, being the one who discovers the message from outer space, all the way through to being the one sent to make the proverbial handshake with these extraterrestrials, before finally standing up for her belief in the truth at the film’s conclusion.

With what was at the time, state-of-the-art special effects that still hold up to this day, Contact makes for one of the best sci-fi experiences out there, not just due to said effects but because it has heart and empathy at its center.

The Martian (2015) dir. Ridley Scott

(CW: Strong language, Intense action scenes, 70s disco music)

Have you found yourself getting increasingly angry about the state of the world lately? Yeah? Well, let me tell you about The Martian. Directed by the GOAT Ridley Scott, the film follows astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) after a near-death experience leaves him stranded on Mars, seemingly without hope of rescue.

So how exactly, I’m hearing you ask, will this make me feel better? Simple, through sheer ingenuity and belief in himself, Watney works through problem after problem to survive, even managing to plant crops on the red planet. Accompanied by one hell of an ensemble cast (special shoutout to Mackenzie Davis and Donald Glover) back on Earth working to bring Mark home, The Martian will make you feel good about the goodness of humanity, and that there is hope for the future. Oh, and it also has both an incredible score from Harry Gregson-Williams, and one hell of an accompanying soundtrack of 70s disco bangers that bring a sense of joy to what can, at times, be quite an emotionally taxing film.

Live, Die, Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow (2014) dir. Doug Liman

(CW: Graphic scenes of death, Tom Cruise running)

Time Loops! Perhaps my favorite sub-genre of sci-fi. I love time loops so much I could have just chosen films of that nature and been happy with this article. But I went with what I consider to be the best of the lot. Originally released under the title Edge of Tomorrow, before being changed to  Live, Die, Repeat when put out on home media (stupid, I know). The film follows Tom Cruise as a military major who talked his way into being a media liaison to stay out of the fight because he is, at heart, a coward who gets found out and sent to the front lines in a war against alien invaders.

He is accompanied in his quest to now win the war and overcome his cowardly sensibilities Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), who had been caught up in a similar time loop at a previous battle against the alien invaders, winning the day in the end and becoming a war hero in the process. Rita is the true highlight of the film, Blunt’s performance captures something not often seen to such an extent; the soldier, no, the hero, who saved the day and now has the expectations of the world weighing down on them to do it again. It’s good stuff and takes the film from being a fun way to spend a couple of hours to one of the best sci-fi films around.

Star Trek (2009) dir. JJ Abrams

(CW: Scottish accent)

When I started figuring out what films I was going to include on this list I originally set out not to include any “franchise” films, as that can go down a tricky road of differing opinions of what film is the best to start with when getting into a specific franchise. But then I remembered how much Star Trek ‘09 as it’s commonly referred to, served as an introduction to not just Trek, but the genre as a whole.

Being an almost completely fresh start for the series, the film, directed by JJ Abrams, jumped over to an alternate timeline separate from the shackles of the franchise and able to explore new story angles, while still keeping the core of Star Trek at its heart.

With a cast of newcomers who capture the essence of the original actors perfectly, Star Trek ‘09 makes for an enormously enjoyable watch that will get you excited to check out more of the iconic franchise.  

Interstellar (2014) dir. Christopher Nolan

(CW: Intense action, Will make you cry)

And so we come to the last film on the list, not just my favorite of the lot, but my favorite film of all time: Interstellar. Christopher Nolan’s ode to space travel, the film follows an Earth not too far into the future ravaged by dust storms, which serves as an allegory to climate change. The film explores the question of how exactly can we survive, and Nolan points the film in the direction of space travel. We are meant to leave the Earth.

I could talk about the insane visual effects of the film once it takes flight into space, or the familial bond across time between Coop (Matthew McConaughey) and his children, I could even talk about Hans Zimmer’s heartbreakingly beautiful score, instead, I’ll leave you with the following:

The make-or-break point for a lot of people in Interstellar comes around the halfway mark. Dr. Amelia Brandt (Anne Hathaway, putting in a career-best performance) asks both the characters she’s with, and the audience, to believe in love, not just as a shared bond between individuals, but as a driving force of the universe. And I don’t know about you, but I’m more than willing to take that leap. I’m happy to believe in love. Because love is the key. Maybe we should trust that even if we can’t understand it.

 

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Film

Star Wars: Duel of the Fates – What Might Have Been

When Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012 and announced plans for the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy, the first live-action films in the franchise since 2005, many fans were overjoyed to hear the news and waited with bated breath for any scrap of information; what filmmakers would be at the helm, which characters, if any, would return, or who exactly was going to be the face of this new generation of Star Wars.

The first piece of news came with the announcement that JJ Abrams would be directing the first film in this new trilogy. Along with directing, Abrams would co-write the screenplay with Lawrence Kasdan, one of the screenwriters of The Empire Strikes Back. Following this, we got news that Mark Hammil, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford would be returning to their iconic roles, and not long after, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Adam Driver were announced as the lead actors of the new trilogy.

While the film that would go on to be known as The Force Awakens went into production, Rian Johnson was hired to write and direct the follow-up; the middle entry in this new trilogy, The Last Jedi. Then, in August 2015, as post-production on Episode VII was ongoing, Colin Trevorrow was hired to direct the concluding film of the trilogy. As well, he was set to co-write the screenplay with his longtime collaborator, Derek Connolly.

The trilogy was underway; in December 2015, The Force Awakens was released to rave reviews, and earned over one billion dollars at the global box office. Episode VIII went into full production a short time later, while Trevorrow and Connolly continued their work on Episode IX. With filming completed in July 2016, and Rian Johnson working on post-production for The Last Jedi, everything seemed set for Trevorrow, who by December of that year had a finished script under the title Duel of the Fates, to get pre-production underway.

Then, on December 27th, 2016, the hearts of every Star Wars fan broke, as we received word that Carrie Fisher had sadly passed away. With many in mourning, questions were raised as to what would become of Episode IX; especially since Trevorrow had openly spoken about how, if The Force Awakens was Han’s film and The Last Jedi was Luke’s, then Episode IX would have been Leia’s.

Trevorrow would attempt to rework the script to fill the massive void left by Fisher’s passing, but in September 2017, with reports of “creative differences,” Trevorrow stepped away from Episode IX. JJ Abrams was brought back to direct and co-write the concluding chapter in not just the trilogy, but what would go on to be referred to as “the concluding chapter in the Skywalker Saga”. This film, now titled The Rise of Skywalker, released in December 2019 to mixed reviews but over a billion dollars at the global box office. Much the same as both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi in December 2017 did.

But I’m not here to talk about what Episode IX ended up becoming. Instead, I’m here to take a look at what might have been. I got my hands on a copy of the Duel of the Fates script dated 12.16.16. And I’ve read through it and compiled a summary for your enjoyment, so you get the chance to dive into a different universe and experience the film that never was…


A Long Time Ago, In a Galaxy Far, Far Away…

After a partially successful mission to the Kuat Shipyards where they managed to steal a new type of Star Destroyer, our team of heroes; Rey, Finn, Poe, and Rose, return to Resistance headquarters, where they’re on the back foot, while Leia is doing her best to keep the Resistance together. Rey and Poe have developed feelings for each other in the time since the Battle of Crait, but it’s “not the time.”

The First Order reigns supreme. From their new Capitol on Coruscant, Hux, now the Chancellor, holds daily public executions; his grip on the Galaxy constantly tightening. Still attempting to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps, Kylo Ren stalks the remains of Darth Vader’s castle on Mustafar, where he discovers an old message from Emperor Palpatine informing Vader of Tor Valum, an ancient Sith being who would be able to teach Ren how to harness the power of Mortis. Ren sets out to find Valum.

While training with Luke’s force ghost, Rey senses the events on Mustafar and Luke informs her of Mortis, and how it can truly bring balance to the Force. He urges Rey to seek it out before Kylo Ren can reach it. With communications cut-off Galaxy-wide, the Resistance forms a plan. An old transmission system located in the old Jedi Temple on Coruscant could be used to unite the Galaxy and bring an end to the First Order. Finn and Rose agree to take this mission with R2-D2 and C-3PO’s help, meanwhile, Leia and the Resistance fleet will lie in wait. At the same time, Rey, with the help of Poe and Chewbacca will seek out the path to Mortis. With their missions assigned, the groups depart.

While getting information about the path to Mortis from an old acquaintance of Poe’s, he and Rey are attacked by the Knights of Ren, a ritualistic order of force-sensitive warriors that Kylo Ren leads. Defeating them, Rey realizes she must go on alone. Bidding a tearful goodbye, and sharing a kiss with Poe, Rey departs for Mortis, while Poe and Chewie return to the fleet. Meanwhile, Kylo Ren arrives at the dwelling of Tor Valum; an ancient graveyard of a battle between the Jedi and Sith. Valum teaches Ren about the power to harness and remove the life force from those connected to the Force. Desperate for more power, Kylo Ren drains Tor Valum of their life force, and makes his way to Mortis.

Meanwhile, on Coruscant, Finn and Rose reach the Jedi Temple and activate the transmission system. Their message of rebellion begins broadcasting across the galaxy until the system explodes. In the destruction, Rose is captured while Finn escapes. Running through the lower levels of Coruscant, he’s almost captured himself, but convinces the Stormtrooper holding him at gunpoint to break free of his conditioning. Coming across thousands of civilians living underground, Finn devises a plan to take the Capitol, and a revolution begins with Finn as its leader. Stormtroopers, led by the one Finn encountered, join the fight, leaving behind their First Order ties.

The Resistance fleet arrives above Coruscant and the tide begins to turn. Poe and Chewie lead starfighters down to the planet’s surface, while Leia commands the fleet in orbit. Hux orders the First Order fleet back to the planet to trap the Resistance. Rose breaks free from her captors and begins working from the inside to destroy the Capitol building. While at first, it seemed like they had an advantage, the Resistance begins losing ground. R2-D2 is almost destroyed, his power circuits fried and C-3PO is distraught at nearly losing his best friend. As the First Order fleet begins arriving, the Resistance fleet burns.

But then, in their most desperate hour, a thousand ships arrive in orbit, led by Lando Calrissian. They heard the message of hope. The First Order’s losses grow, and Hux, realizing he’s lost, commits seppuku with a lightsaber in his office, while outside, Finn, Poe, and the others route the last of the enemy forces. Rose manages to destroy the Capitol building and escapes just before it explodes. 

The war is won, now all that remains is the duel.

Upon arriving on Mortis, Rey has a vision of what happened to her parents. They were hunted down by Kylo Ren for bringing a child into the world that could pose a threat to his master, Snoke. Making their way to the Temple of Mortis from separate sides, Rey and Ren meet at the gates, and duel, blinding Rey in the process. As she falls to the ground, Kylo Ren enters the Temple only to find nothing there. Luke appears to him, declaring Ren has failed, while Rey reaches out into the Force, to her friends, and regains her strength.

She and Kylo Ren duel one final time. When he gains the upper hand, he begins draining Rey’s life force. Leia senses this and reaches out to Ben, not Kylo Ren, urging him to return to the light. Through her pain, Rey does the same. In a moment of clarity, Kylo shuns the dark side and returns to the light, once more becoming Ben Solo. As the life force returns to Rey, Ben begins to pass into the Force, not as Kylo Ren, but as who he was born as, much like the grandfather he idolized did. Using his dying breath, Ben informs Rey of her family name; “Solana.” Rey sees a vision of Jedi past and is given a choice; move on to the Cosmic Force, or return to the living. Regardless, the balance has been brought back to the Force.

Back on Coruscant, peace has been achieved and the Galaxy is returning to some sort of normalcy. The heroes of the Resistance gather together to discuss what comes next. They are unsure if Rey is alive, but can sense she restored balance to the Force. Poe and Chewie leave in the Falcon in search of her, while Finn and Rose head out on a mission in Rey’s honor. Remaining on Coruscant to lead the restored Republic, Leia has R2 repaired before taking a moment to herself to remember all those she’s lost over the years. Her husband. Her brother. Her son.

Some time later, Finn and Rose are living at a homestead on the planet Modesta. There, they have brought Force-sensitive kids together. Finn senses a tremor in the Force. On the Falcon, Poe does too and spins the ship around. In the distance, Finn spots a silhouette approaching. The kids do too.

Rey, her vision healed, returns to her friends; ready to train a new generation of Jedi.


And there we have it folks, a vastly different film, with vastly different directions for all the characters involved; from the romance of Rey and Poe, to Finn leading a revolution, and Kylo Ren’s further descent into the Dark Side. 

There’s a lot of nuance missing from this summary. A lot of emotion and gravitas. If you can, I’d suggest tracking down a copy of the screenplay. But I hope you enjoyed this look at Duel of the Fates and what might have been.

But that’s not the end of our time with the unmade screenplay for Episode IX. No, I decided to gather some friends and have them read through the screenplay too. So we’ll be having a round-table discussion of various aspects of it next week. Make sure to come back then for that, and remember, the Force will be with you, always.

Categories
Comics Film

A Rogue’s Guide to The War of the Bounty Hunters

Starting in May, and continuing from there, Marvel will be launching their first line-wide Star Wars comics crossover; War of the Bounty Hunters. Picking up some time after The Empire Strikes Back, the crossover follows the hunt for Han Solo’s carbonite-frozen self by various parties from all over the Galaxy Far Far Away.

The crossover, shepherded by writer Charles Soule, will be following various threads throughout each separate series. The War of the Bounty Hunters mini-series will follow the main plot, Boba Fett’s attempts to protect Han and ensure delivery so he can collect his reward. The main Star Wars series will center on the Rebellion’s efforts to locate and rescue Han. And Darth Vader, Doctor Aphra, and Bounty Hunters will each follow their respective players as they get engulfed in this war.

Now, if that sounds like something you’ll be interested in, allow me to give you a rundown on the major players, presented from a unique in-universe perspective.

<<From the Archive of DATA CORRUPTED>>

<<Recording of conversation between Falleen Bounty Hunter Zuuban Gruztar and unknown individual, Mos Eisley Cantina, Tatooine, 2 years post-Endor>>

<< Subject sits in a booth at the Cantina, one leg propped on a table. A long scar across his face. The data files are transcribed from a conversation regarding individuals involved in the War of the Bounty Hunters >>

So, you want to know about the War of the Bounty Hunters, eh? Well, first you need to know what was going on before it kicked off, and to do that I’ve gotta start with the man at the center of it all; Boba Fett. He’d been on assignment for the Empire, hunting Han Solo, y’know, the smuggler. After catching up with him at Cloud City, Solo got frozen in carbonite for transport to Jabba’s. There was some sort of deal arranged there, I don’t know the specifics. Anyway, Fett was escorting him, and turns out, a lot of folk wanted to catch up with the pair of them. Honestly, he’s an alright Bounty Hunter. Man of few words. But hey, most Mandos are. Well, what’s left of them after the Empire’s Great Purge of Mandalore.

One of them hunting Fett was Princess Leia, one of the Rebellion leaders. Never met her myself, always tried to stay away from royalty, and besides, the Rebels tried to avoid using Bounty Hunters as much as possible. They had Rebel covert ops for that. Now, Leia, she and Solo were a “thing” if you get my meaning? They’ve got a kid and are pretty happy now as far as the holovids say, but back then, it was a dark time. The man she loved had been captured and was gonna be sold off to the Hutts. She was trying her best to get him back but she had a Rebellion to lead and get back into fighting shape.

Then there was the big guy, the man in black, Vader. Other than failing to capture some high-value target at Cloud City for the Emperor I don’t really know what was going on with him before the War. There were rumors of course, some personal mission to Naboo against his master’s wishes. Apparently, this put him in the Emperor’s bad books. So there was a test. Vader had to regain loyalty. Now like I said, I don’t know for definite this happened, but apparently, he ended up on some ancient Sith world with Ochi. Side note, don’t meet Ochi, he’s an ass. But anyway, whatever happened there, by the time they got back, Vader was in the Emperor’s good graces once more, ready to do his master’s bidding. I’ve only ever crossed paths with his kind once, the dark brooding beam-sword-wielding types. That’s what happened to the Ol’ charmer. 

<<At this point of the conversation, Zuuban Gruztar pointed to his face. Closer analysis reveals lightsaber burns>>

Now Doctor Aphra, what a gal. Never trust her with anything, absolutely nothing, you hear me? But still, what a gal! She’d been doing some work for the Tagge family, under duress, I might add, after getting one of them killed. The good doctor was on the hunt for some fabled experimental hyperdrive, from back in the High Republic days. She’d gotten one of her old flames, Sana Starros, to help her out but they’d gotten into trouble with the Unbroken Clan syndicate. Because of course Aphra would end up running afoul of yet another group of fraggin’ criminals. Bad, bad business if you ask me. But yeah, like I said, stay away from Aphra, she’ll get you killed.

And then there was Valance. “Ptoo.” Gah, I hate that cyborg. He’d been on the trail of Fett for some time but had had no luck. Cause he’s bad at his job. So you know what he did? He recruited Dengar. DENGAR! Hahahaha. He was so desperate was our Valance that he captured, then recruited the worst Bounty Hunter imaginable. It’s a shame Bossk was busy on Malastare, at least then there’d have been one competent person to try and track Fett.

So there you have it. That’s what was going on before the War, but you want to know exactly what went down don’t ya? Well, get a fresh drink kid. Get comfy. It’s a doozy, I’ve not even mentioned Durge yet…

<<Recording ends>>


To follow the adventures of these characters in War of the Bounty Hunters, check out the following books, available at all good comic stores and digital storefronts starting May 5th:

  • Star Wars: War of the Bounty Hunters – Alpha #1 by Charles Soule and Steve McNiven (05/05/2021)
  • Star Wars #13 by Charles Soule and Ramon Rosanas (05/12/2021)
  • Star Wars: Bounty Hunters #12 by Ethan Sacks and Paolo Villanelli (05/19/2021)
  • Star Wars: Darth Vader #12 by Greg Pak and Guiu Vilanova (05/26/2021)
  • Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #10 by Alyssa Wong and Ray-Anthony Height (05/26/2021)
  • Star Wars: War of the Bounty Hunters #1 by Charles Soule and Luke Ross (06/02/2021)
Categories
Television Uncategorized

Doctor Who: A Beginner’s Guide to Time Travel Pt. 3

We’re back! For you, it’s been 7 days, for Ethan and Justin, a mere few seconds. That’s the beauty of time travel. We hope you enjoyed last week’s recommendations. This week we’ll be closing out our beginner’s guide to Doctor Who by giving you a look at adventures from Doctors 9 through 13. These stories will encompass what is considered the modern era of the show. After a hiatus of 16 years, barring one exception as mentioned last week, the show returned in 2005 and has since taken the world by storm.

We’ll give you two stories from each Doctor’s era. One chosen by Ethan, one by Justin. These will be a look at the kind of stories that encompass the era they’re from. We want to give you a distilled experience of what each Doctor is like so you can decide what best fits your tastes. So here we go. Let’s take a trip into the Vortex!

The 9th Doctor – Christopher Eccelston (2005)

“Well, you can stay there if you want. But right now, there’s this plasma storm brewing in the Horsehead Nebula. Fires are burning ten million miles wide. I could fly the TARDIS right into the heart of it, then ride the shock wave all the way out, hurtle right across the sky and end up… anywhere. Your choice.” – The 9th Doctor (World War Three)

  • Dalek (Ethan’s Pick) – When Doctor Who returned in 2005, showrunner Russel T. Davies spent the first 5 episodes establishing the characters, both Christopher Eccelston’s war-ravaged Doctor, and Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler. But then, in the sixth episode, Davies, and scriptwriter Robert Shearman, introduced a whole new generation to the Doctor’s greatest enemies, the Daleks. What makes this episode so effective in bringing the terror of the Daleks to the screen is that there’s just one, just one Dalek, in an underground bunker, rampaging through dozens of helpless people. We also get an incredible scene between the Doctor and this lone Dalek in which he unleashes a diatribe of built-up rage that shows just how well-cast Eccelston was as the Lonely God.
  • The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances (Justin’s Pick) – When people tell you that Steven Moffat is a big deal, this episode is usually the reason why. Tracking a mysterious object through the vacuum of space, the Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler are transported to London at the height of the Blitz. But the city is under siege by more than just bombs as a creepy “gas mask plague” has swept through the war wards and bombed-out neighborhoods, freezing the populace in terror. While plenty creepy and packed with scares, this two-parter also displays Moffat’s cunning wordplay, dynamic characters (like Captain Jack Harkness, making his debut here), and tremendous episode hooks positioning it as the first real “standout” episode of the reborn franchise. Just this once, dear readers, everybody lived and it’s just as powerful today as it was then.

The 10th Doctor – David Tennant (2005-2010)

“I’m the Doctor. I’m a Time Lord. I’m from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. I’m 903 years old, and I’m the man who’s gonna save your lives and all six billion people on the planet below.” – The 10th Doctor (Voyage of the Damned)

  • The Girl in the Fireplace (Ethan’s Pick) – Possibly the most emotional episode in the show’s history. We see David Tennant’s 10th Doctor at his most romantic, before being utterly devastated come episode’s end. A ship in the 51st Century lies deserted, only its robotic attendants remain. They believe that to repair the ship, a brain must be acquired. To achieve this, they open a window into the past, specifically the life of one Madame de Pompadour. The Doctor must save her. From here, the episode only gets better. To get the full effect of the episode’s magic, it must be experienced. Prepare to cry.
  • Human Nature/The Family of Blood (Justin’s Pick) – Though the Doctor loves humans, he rarely gets a chance to live as one. That was until Paul Cornell’s seminal Seventh Doctor novel Human Nature, which he later adapted into one of the best episodes of David Tennant’s tenure. Doggedly pursued by an interstellar blood cult, the Doctor and Martha Jones (a tremendously underrated modern companion) are forced to go “undercover” in pre-WWI England, moonlighting as staff of a boy’s school. For Martha, that means just getting a new job, but for the Doctor, that means changing everything about himself. Down to his very DNA. What follows is an emotionally charged, immensely creepy, and thunderously sad exploration of the Doctor as a heroic archetype and the chaos that touches the towns and peoples he comes into contact with. Basically, you come for the bloodthirsty scarecrows, but you stay for the bravura performances of Tennant, Freema Agyeman, and guest star Jessica Hynes (she of Spaced fame).

The 11th Doctor – Matt Smith (2010-2013)

“There’s something you better understand about me, ‘cause it’s important and one day your life may depend on it. I am definitely a madman in a box.” – The 11th Doctor (The Eleventh Hour)

  • The Doctor’s Wife (Justin’s Pick) – The Doctor has often claimed that the TARDIS was alive, but what happens when that becomes explicit? One of the best episodes of the Matt Smith era that’s what. Scripted by British Invasion icon Neil Gaiman and containing one of the most skin-crawling performances from Micheal Sheen, The Doctor’s Wife just feels instantly special. A message from a long-assumed-dead Time Lord brings the Eleventh Doctor, Amy, and Rory outside of normal space to a junk planet called House, filled to bursting with the wreckage of ships past. But House carries with it the power to steal the TARDIS’ soul, transporting it from its shell into the patchwork body of a woman who lives on the planet, Astrid (an angelic Suranne Jones). From there the Doctor and his companions must learn to trust this woman while learning the true meaning of “being bigger on the inside”. A towering achievement for the show as it starts to hit its peak of popularity, on both sides of the ocean.
  • The God Complex (Ethan’s Pick) – A seemingly endless 80’s hotel. Groups of people plucked from space and time. Every room is filled with a person’s fear. One of those rooms is yours. If you find it, you will praise Him. if you praise Him, you will die. This is what the Doctor, Amy, and Rory find when the TARDIS brings them to the hotel. Throughout the history of the show, there have been many so-called “almost-companions”, those characters who the Doctor takes a shine to, who he offers the chance to travel with him, but for one reason or another, they don’t. This episode contains the best of these “almost-companions” in Rita. She’s delightful and you’ll love her. Oh, and the episode also contains perhaps the best examination of faith the show has ever done.

The 12th Doctor – Peter Capaldi (2013-2017)

“Winning? Is that what you think it’s about? I’m not trying to win. I’m not doing this because I want to beat someone – or because I hate someone, or because I want to blame someone… I do what I do because it’s right! Because it’s decent! And above all it’s kind! It’s just that. Just kind.” – The 12th Doctor (The Doctor Falls)

  • Listen (Justin’s Pick) – Arguably the Rosetta Stone of Peter Capaldi’s tersely entertaining Twelfth Doctor. Newly regenerated and left to his own devices in the TARDIS, the Doctor has a theory. That a set of creatures can be so silent, so imperceptible by other creatures, that they can evolve to have flawless camouflage, blending into the background of a thousand worlds. And what would they do with their evolutionary superiority? LISTEN, naturally. Pulling the thread from 80s Leeds to ancient Gallifrey, the Doctor and Clara discover that “fear is a superpower” and set up one of this era’s most affecting leitmotifs. One that stretches all the way into both Clara Oswald’s and the 12th Doctor’s final moments.
  • Under the Lake / Before the Flood (Ethan’s Pick) – The Doctor and Clara arrive at a deserted base. There they discover strange goings-on and a terrified crew. This is the premise for numerous “Base Under Siege” episodes of Doctor Who. A lot of the episodes we’ve recommended fit into this sub-genre, but they all had other qualities that made them perfect starting points. But what makes this two-parter incredible is it is the perfect distillation of the “Base Under Siege” story. The scares are high. The supporting cast is delightful. It does something unique with the structure of the show. And you get wonderful performances from both Peter Capaldi’s very Scottish Doctor and the ever incredible Jenna Coleman’s Clara. My personal favorite TARDIS team, and one of my favorite episodes ever.

The 13th Doctor – Jodie Whittaker (2017-Present)

“You want the whole universe. Someone who has seen it all, and that’s me. I’ve lived longer, seen more, loved more, and lost more. I can share it all with you, anything you want to know about what you never had.” – The 13th Doctor (It Takes You Away)

  • The Woman Who Fell to Earth (Ethan’s Pick) – We’ve strived throughout these beginner’s guides to avoid regeneration stories as best as possible, but this is, on top of being an excellent story, the cleanest fresh start the show has had since it was brought back in 2005. Jodie Whittaker takes over the role of the Doctor, becoming the first woman to play the part, and she is incredible right out of the gate, nailing everything the Doctor should be, no matter what you may hear from idiots on the internet. We’re also introduced to the Doc’s new companions. Ryan and Yaz are fun and well-rounded characters, but you will fall in love with Bradley Walsh’s Graham, the fourth person in this TARDIS quartet. Just wonderful stuff.
  • Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror (Justin’s Pick) – Though it doesn’t have quite the personal resonance of Jodie Whittaker’s first “historical” episode Rosa, the Fam’s later dip into history is still one for the record books. Materializing in 1903, the Thirteenth Doctor and her companions connect with the great inventor (played with an understated grace by Goran Višnjić) after rescuing him from stranded alien spider-monsters looking to return to their home planet. Ya know, that old chestnut. My attempt at levity aside, this episode really makes wonderful use of both it’s time period and historical guest star, providing yet another high class drama that only Doctor Who could really provide.

And that’s that! We hope you’ve enjoyed our three-part beginner’s guide to the greatest show on TV. We’ll back in the future with more recommendations from the world of Doctor Who. Or maybe we’ve already given those recommendations. Time travel, it;s a tricky business to get right…

Categories
Television

Doctor Who: A Beginner’s Guide to Time Travel Pt. 2

We’re back! For you, it’s been 7 days, for Ethan and Justin, a mere few seconds. That’s the beauty of time travel. We hope you enjoyed last week’s recommendations. This week we’ll give you a look at adventures from Doctors 5, 6, 7, and 8. We’ll give you two stories from each Doctor’s era. One chosen by Ethan, one by Justin. These will be a look at the kind of stories that encompass the era they’re from. We want to give you a distilled experience of what each Doctor is like so you can decide what best fits your tastes. So here we go. Let’s take a trip into the Vortex!

The 5th Doctor – Peter Davison (1981-1984)

“When did you last have the pleasure of smelling a flower, watching a sunset, eating a well-prepared meal? For some people, small, beautiful events are what life is all about!” – The 5th Doctor (Earthshock)

  • Earthshock (Ethan’s Pick) – One of the most famous stories of the classic era. Chiefly for showing the Doctor actually lose. How and what does he lose? Well, I’m not telling. You’ll need to watch to find out. What I will tell you though is this is where Peter Davison comes into his own as the Doctor, showing he has the steely nerve of an action hero behind the brave heart he wears on his sleeve. Assisted by an unusually large TARDIS team, the Doctor comes up against his old enemies the Cybermen, returning to the show for the first time in 7 years. They are plotting to wipe out the Earth, but what else is new? For an action-packed ride of a story with a heartbreaking ending, this is the one for you. Just make sure to bring some tissues.
  • The Caves of Androzani (Justin’s Pick) – The platonic ideal of a “regeneration episode”. Landing on the backwater planet Androzani Minor, the Fifth Doctor and companion Peri Brown are just looking for a little galactic R&R. But when they are mistaken for a pair of gun runners, arrested, and exposed to a deadly toxin native to Androzani, the Doctor must sacrifice everything to save his friend and Androzani Minor. Displaying a ticking dread and tension the classic era never really displayed before, and only in a couple instances after, viewers are forced to watch arguably the noblest Doctor basically die across the whole serial, fighting the effects of the toxin while still attempting a brave face for his friends. A fitting (and very in-character) end for Peter Davison while also delivering a stirringly contained example for “regeneration” episodes for years to come. 

The 6th Doctor – Colin Baker (1984-1986)

“Planets come and go. Star perish. Matter disperses, coalesces, forms into other patterns, other worlds. Nothing can be eternal.” – The 6th Doctor (The Mysterious Planet)

  • Vengeance on Varos (Justin’s Pick) – Do ya like Doctor Who? Do ya like 2000AD? Well, what if I told you there is basically a whole ass 2000AD prog ABOUT the Doctor? That’s basically Vengeance on Varos in a nutshell. Freshly regenerated, the Doctor is looking to repair his TARDIS. And the only place he can find a rare element to do so is on the planet Varos, a grubby little world that is obsessed with its televised state executions framed as reality TV. Alongside providing the show one of its weirdest cult favorite monsters, Vengeance on Varos is a nasty bit of future shock that feels right at home during the Colin Baker era. 
  • Revelation of the Daleks (Ethan’s Pick) – The Doctor and Peri take a trip to the planet Necros to visit the funeral home Tranquil Repose. There they discover Daleks doing some truly horrific experiments on the dead for their creator, Davros. A dark, brooding tale full of death and destruction that stands as Colin Baker’s only on-screen encounter with the Doctor’s greatest enemies. Check this out if you’re looking for a story that encapsulates the Doctor’s relationship with the Daleks during this era of the show.

The 7th Doctor – Sylvester McCoy (1987-1989, 1996)

“There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, and the sea’s asleep, and the rivers dream; people made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there’s danger, somewhere there’s injustice, and somewhere else the tea’s getting cold. Come on Ace. We’ve got work to do.” – The 7th Doctor (Survival)

  • Battlefield (Justin’s Pick) – A stone-cold classic of an episode. Materializing in the English countryside, the Doctor and Ace find a UNIT convoy in trouble. While transporting a nuclear weapon for disposal, the convoy comes under attack from the forces of Morgane Le Fey, who is after more than just the convoy’s payload. Complicating matters is the body of King Arthur in the lake and why does Le Fey keep calling the Doctor “Merlin”? That’s just the TIP of the iceberg for this jam-packed episode. 
  • The Curse of Fenric (Ethan’s Pick) – A unique story in the history of the show, this was filmed entirely on location, giving the events that transpire a rather cinematic feel unlike any other from the show’s original run. The Doctor and Ace arrive at a seaside village during the height of World War 2 and quickly become embroiled in a tale of vampires, Russian heroes, and corrupted British soldiers. But in the shadows is an old enemy of the Doctor’s, looking to finish a game centuries in the making. For a story that shows the Doctor at his most Machievlian, you can’t go wrong with this.

The 8th Doctor – Paul McGann (1996, 2013)

“You feel that pounding in your heart? That tightness in the pit of your stomach? The blood rushing to your head do you know what that is? That’s adventure. The thrill and the fear, and the joy of stepping into the unknown. That’s why we’re all here, and that’s why we’re alive!” – The 8th Doctor (Storm Warning)

  • The TV Movie (Justin’s Pick) – the thought of “American” Doctor Who might be dubious, to say the least, but that doesn’t make the TV Movie any less interesting. Produced as a co-production between the BBC and American studio Fox, the TV Movie was intended to be a brand new relaunch for the show. While transporting the ashes of the Master back to Gallifrey, the Seventh Doctor is killed by an errant gunshot, regenerating under the care of a Dr. Grace Holloway. Unfortunately, the Master too gets another life and new Doctor Paul McGann and his new American companion must defeat the Master and recover the Doctor’s TARDIS before certain doom. Cheesy, sure, but immensely charming thanks to McGann’s infectious energy and a stately new take on our favorite Time Lord. After this adventure, Paul McGann only got one more televised story as the Doctor, which will be mentioned below. However, what he, and we the audience, did get was a slew of incredible full-cast audio adventures from the good folk over at Big Finish Productions. We’re planning a much more extensive look at these in a future article. But for now, if you do find yourself enjoying these couple of stories with the 8th Doctor, then rest assured there’s much more out there than first appears.
  • The Night of the Doctor (Ethan’s Pick) – Nearly 20 years since his first appearance, Paul McGann got to return to our screens to close the loop on his Doctor’s life. Bringing along the experience of hundreds of audio stories he’s performed in the meantime. McGann’s Doctor is very different, war ravaged, beaten down, alone, but still the same man at heart. He packs a hell of a punch in less than 10 minutes, showing he deserved many more adventures on our screen than he got.

And that’s it for now. Let us know if you check out any of our recommendations, and make sure to come back next week for even more!

Categories
Television

Doctor Who: A Beginner’s Guide to Time Travel Pt. 1

Adventures in time and space sound like a lot of fun, and no one has done that better than the BBC series Doctor Who. However, it’s been going on for nearly 60 years and can be a daunting task when looking for a good starting place. There are over 850 episodes totaling nearly 300 stories. It’s a lot.

But that’s where we come in. The GateCrashers Doctor Who extraordinaires, Ethan and Justin! A quick rundown on how this is going to work: Over three articles covering Doctors 1-4, 5-9, and 9-13 respectively, we’ll give you two episodes from each Doctor’s era. One chosen by Ethan, one by Justin. These will be a look at the kind of stories that encompass the era they’re from. We want to give you a distilled experience of what each Doctor is like so you can decide what best fits your tastes. So here we go. Let’s take a trip into the Vortex!

The 1st Doctor – William Hartnell (1963-1966)

“Have you ever thought what it’s like to be wanderers in the Fourth Dimension? Have you? If you could touch the alien sand and hear the cries of strange birds, and watch them wheel in another sky, would that satisfy you?” -The 1st Doctor (An Unearthly Child)

  • The Mutants (Ethan’s Pick) – While not the first episode of the show, Doctor Who as we know it today would not exist without it. It may have not even made it past its first season. This is the episode that introduces The Doctor to his arch-enemies, the Daleks, and they are terrifying. It’s easy to see how these villains gripped the public consciousness. Set on a distant planet, The Doctor and his companions have to find a way to defeat the metallic drones or risk losing their lives. For an excellent early episode of the show full of great moments with both Doctor and companion, you can’t go wrong with this.
  • The Romans (Justin’s Pick) – Not the first “historical” episode of the show, but certainly one of its most fun. Waylaid slightly in the time of the Romans, The Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Vicki are forced to take refuge in an abandoned estate on the outskirts of Rome while the TARDIS repairs itself. But mistaken identities and historical intrigues gather them all to the ancient city, where Emperor Nero is tuning up his fiddle. Though optically kind of dicey in parts, The Romans shows a real cheek and historical detail for the show and proves that even the early days had some knack for charming hijinks amid real settings and eras.

The 2nd Doctor – Patrick Troughton (1966-1969)

“There are some corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things. Things which act against everything we believe in. They must be fought.” – The 2nd Doctor (The Moonbase)

  • The Invasion (Ethan’s Pick) – Moving on to the 2nd Doctor, a much more personable, quirky incarnation than his predecessor. This story sees The Doctor, and his companions Jamie and Zoe, coming up against some of his greatest foes, the Cybermen, in then-present day London. A great entry in the canon, it introduces one of the most important aspects to the series, UNIT. The military force tasked with protecting the planet from extraterrestrial forces. And with this comes The Doctor’s greatest ally, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Arguably the most beloved recurring character in the show’s history. If you want a truly epic story, that features some of the most evocative imagery in the show’s history, this is the one to watch.
  • The War Games (Justin’s Pick) – This was the moment that, as the kids say, shit got real for Doctor Who. Co-written by the absolute powerhouses of Malcolm Hulke and Terrance Dicks, two names that would become synonymous with Doctor Who, this mammoth serial finds The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe locked in a war that doesn’t make sense. A megalomaniac known as the War Lord has been kidnapping and brainwashing soldiers from across time, sweeping them up and depositing them into a grand conflict for their own amusement. But beyond that incredible setup, The War Games finds The Doctor facing his own people, The Time Lords, for the very first time, explicitly naming his race and setting the show up for all sorts of mind-bending Time Lordy insanity for literal decades to come. A true watershed moment for the show, early even, in its own run.

The 3rd Doctor – Jon Pertwee (1970-1974)

“Courage isn’t just a matter of being frightened, you know. It’s being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway.” – The 3rd Doctor (Planet of the Daleks)

  • The Dæmons (Ethan’s Pick) – The Doctor’s third incarnation, having been stranded on Earth by his own people at the start of this new life, has set up shop as UNIT’s scientific advisor, assisted by the ever loveable Jo Grant. Also on Earth, concocting plots in the shadows is The Master, The Doctor’s old friend from his home planet, now a suave, maniacal bad guy. He’s been causing a fair amount of trouble for The Doctor, Jo, and UNIT. This story sees him attempting to awaken an ancient demon beneath a church in an old English town. The UNIT family, as they’re lovingly known, all come together to put a stop to this latest nefarious scheme. It’s some of the purest fun ever had in the show. If you’re looking for a story where the cast is just having a grand old time, this is the one for you.
  • The Green Death (Justin’s Pick) – The Third Doctor, having regained his ability to travel in space and time, faces a personal metamorphosis in The Green Death. A mine in South Wales has been poisoning the populace of the town. Making matters worse, large insects have been plaguing the workers as well, causing the Doctor and UNIT to leap into action. But while The Green Death is a wonderful example of the sort of eco-conscious, grounded storytelling the Pertwee Era excelled at, this serial also marks the final appearance of Pertwee’s companion, Jo Grant, as played by actual ray of human sunshine. Katy Manning. Though bittersweet, The Green Death provides a wonderful send-off for Jo, and sets the blueprint for the show’s always affecting take on the exits of companions for years to come.

The 4th Doctor – Tom Baker (1974-1981)

“The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common – they don’t change their views to fit the facts. They change the facts to fit their views, which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs changing.” – The 4th Doctor (The Face of Evil

  • Terror of the Zygons (Ethan’s Pick) – If The Invasion was the beginning of the UNIT era of the show, and The Dæmons was that era’s high point, then Terror of the Zygons is its grand finale. Having been away from Earth for some time, The Doctor, now in his fourth incarnation, along with his companions the iconic Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) and the loveable idiot Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter), return to help UNIT investigate strange goings-on in the Scottish Highlands. A major portion of Tom Baker’s run was very much immersed in the horror genre, and this kicked that off. Featuring treks through foggy forests, shapeshifting aliens, and a constant sense of unease, this is the story to introduce you to the darker side of Doctor Who.
  • City of Death (Justin’s Pick) – Probably the closest Doctor Who has ever gotten to a “party episode”. Fresh off the regeneration of Romana (passing from iconic actress Mary Tamm to the equally iconic and inhumanly adorable Lalla Ward), the Doctor and Romana II find themselves in “present-day” (read: 1979) Paris thanks to the TARDIS Randomizer. But not content with sightseeing, the pair are swept into the dangerous time experiments of a roguish count, played by Julian Glover who is absolutely playing to the rafters here. Funny, breezily performed, and more than a little goofy, this episode is perfect for a rowdy Sunday screening for your non-dork friends to show just how it can sing during this iconic run with Baker. Also of note, this episode carries with it a tremendous BritCom cameo and a script co-written by Douglas Adams (using a pen name made up of his name and the names of two other writers). Watch while having a stiff double ice water!

And that’s it for now. Let us know if you check out any of our recommendations, and make sure to come back next week for even more!

Categories
Books Film Various Media

Star Wars – Alphabet Squadron: Victory’s Price Review

Much like they’re the backbone of the Rebel Alliance, pilots are the backbone of Star Wars storytelling, having been the subject of countless books, comics, and video games. But this is perhaps the best depiction they’ve ever had.

Victory’s Price, the final book in the Alphabet Squadron trilogy by Alexander Freed, gives us a tense, emotional conclusion to this story of daring pilots. Nearly a year on since the death of Emperor Palpatine, the fledgling New Republic is ready to bring the war to a final end. One of their prime objectives? Defeating the Imperial aces of the 204th, Shadow Wing. Who under the command of Colonel Soran Keize, have begun a second Operation Cinder, bringing devastation to world after world.

Alphabet Squadron (From L to R: Yrica Quell, Kairos, Wyl Lark, Nath Tensent, Chass na Chadic)

To hunt them down, Alphabet Squadron was brought together. Consisting of a defected, traumatized Shadow Wing pilot, Yrica Quell. A sweet, sadly no longer innocent boy by the name of Wyl Lark. A Theelin with a death wish struggling after an affecting experience with a cult, Chass na Chadic. An ex-Imperial rebel pirate, now seemingly a war hero for actions against the 204th, and somehow the most put-together of the squad, Nath Tensent. And finally, the mysterious Kairos, who no one knows much about, though we do peel back some layers to her in a beautifully told sub-plot throughout the book. The entire squad has been, are going, and are about to go through, a lot.

When we pick up, Yrica Quell has defected back to the 204th, in a story that leaves us guessing at her true motives. It’s a heartbreaking look at the damage divided loyalties can do to a person. This leaves Alphabet in a rough place, though they’re not alone in the fight. They have assistance from a battle group under command of Rebels fan-favourite Hera Syndulla, giving us someone of sound-mind to center us against the turmoil our other characters are going through. Even still, Hera struggles with the responsibility of command, finding herself missing the days of being part of a small crew of rebels.

Hera Syndulla

This book, and the trilogy it belongs to, are some of the most impactful stories ever told in Star Wars. Taking a look at the trauma caused by war, none of our “heroes”, and I use that term in the lightest possible definition, are doing well. They’re all hurt in their own way. How Victory’s Price goes about showing this will break you emotionally. It broke me.

Alexander Freed may well be the Star Wars author with the best understanding of the toll war can have on someone, especially those who have lost countless friends to a constant stream of seemingly endless battles. While he writes some truly engaging, edge-of-your-seat battles between the pilots of Alphabet Squadron and the 204th, it’s in the quieter moments, when there’s no battle to win, or dogfight to duel, that he hits the highest of highs. These moments, especially one specific scene of a  radio conversation with the enemy that is held without malice or objective, are where the book shines brightest. When it digs into who these characters are at their core.

To keep talking about Victory’s Price would mean going into spoilers. I don’t want to do that, because this trilogy has easily emerged as my favorite piece of storytelling to come out of Star Wars, and one I hope everyone can experience for themselves at some point. I’ll finish by simply saying that when I came to the end of the book I was left an emotional wreck for at least an hour, and it’s going to stick with me for a long while yet.

Categories
Film

Doctor Who – Revolution of the Daleks: Review

Starring: Jodie Whittaker, Mandip Gill, Tosin Cole, Bradley Walsh, John Barrowman, Chris Noth, and Nicholas Briggs

Written by Chris Chibnall
Directed by Lee Haven Jones

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

“*YOU* *WILL NOT* *ESCAPE US, DOCTOOOOOR!*”
“Yes, I will. Every time.”

Justin Partridge: The Doctor and her beloved Fam reunite just in time to stop a brand new Dalek invasion in Revolution of the Daleks, Doctor Who’s latest “Festive Special”.

WELCOME to GateCrasher’s inaugural Doctor Who review column! I am Justin Partridge, the galaxy’s worst Doctor Who fan and highly emotional follower of the show since the 2005 reboot (and slightly before, but that’s for later).

Joining me on this wild, wonderful journey is GC social media maven and actual British person, Ethan <Last Name Redacted By Orders From The Division>!! How are you doing, Ethan?

Ethan: I’m doing great, thanks, Justin. Much happier after a LONG year to have the Doctor back in my life. Speaking of which, I’ve been watching the show much the same, since March 2005 and have been crying over it ever since, with a bit beforehand as well (but again, that’s for later).

JP: And we are here to pick through the whole of this new festive special. Honestly, now having slept on it and seen it at least twice for this opening column, I might even call it one of my favorite episodes of the Jodie/Chibnall era! I sincerely can’t wait for this. Talking Doctor Who with other fans is the kinda insanity I live for so I can’t wait to crack on.

ETHAN: I agree completely. I thought after finishing it for the first time it was the best of the current era, and having done a second viewing I think I can say definitively that it is, at least for me. And as our Twitter DM’s show, we can talk about this mad, wonderful show an awful lot.

Photograph: BBC Studios

JP: ENOUGH of the preambing! Let’s GET IN!

So we open roughly directly after last year’s Festive Special Resolution. Well, specifically we open 367 Minutes After the Doctor and the Fam’s defeat of the Reconnaissance Dalek.

Though the husk and screaming squid inside the Recon Dalek has been destroyed, private sector interests led by Chris Noth’s Jack Robertson are tipped off to its transport and promptly whisk it away for their own nefarious purposes.

It’s a very OOD opening but one that instantly engages I think. Not only do we have some juicy texture connecting it to the previous special (of which it is arguably a direct sequel to) but we get hefty check-ins with our incarcerated Doctor and the stranded Fam.

What about you, Ethan? How did this specifically silly but well laid out opening grab ya?

E: Much like the rest of the episode I loved it. Right from the off, with the parodic “A Long Time Ago” text, I knew we were in for something special. I especially enjoyed how we got to see what happens to the mess the Doctor leaves after they’ve saved the World. Granted, it doesn’t go well for this delivery driver, but it’s fun to know the government has a place for it all. (Maybe one we’ll see in the future *eyes emoji*)

And then after those glorious titles, we get right into what happened to the Dalek casing, and what exactly the delightfully awful Jack Robertson, who I will be referring to as Mr. Big from now on, has been up to.

Justin, your thoughts on this rather… politically resonant scene?

Photograph: BBC Studios

JP: Truly, truly loved it

We got little bits and bobs about how the Daleks were going to be appropriated as security drones and how they had been woven into the fabrics of British infrastructure (at least as much as Chibs allowed us to know).

But seeing the episode just fully leaning into this aspect almost IMMEDIATELY (heightened to a tremendous level of visual intensity by director Lee Haven Jones) was a real treat. Doubly so as it was scaffolded to tremendous character beats for the Fam and the still imprisoned Doctor, languishing in the Judoon prison counting cameras and reciting books to herself from memory.

So after this cold open, we are tossed roughly ten months to a year into the future. Ryan, Yaz, and Graham are trying to move on with their lives while Mr. Big is calling in deals with the newly installed Prime Minister Jo Patterson, once a lowly undersecretary who tipped off Mr. Big to the transport of the Dalek shell, starting her rise to 10 Downing Street.

It’s all kinda shoe leathery, I’ll admit, and the time skip isn’t handled as well as the opening, boldly credited vignettes but it’s filled with great character moments from the whole Fam, buffeted with more heartbreaking check-ins with the Doctor. 

The plot itself is very McCoy Era Dalek intrigue, veering dangerously close to Dalek-Hammer 40k as two factions of Daleks square off for control of the planet and the pleasure of killing the Doctor. To be totally honest, it got a LOT crazier than I was expecting it to for being away for so long but it’s all very much rooted in the character and Jodie’s Doctor (much to the episode’s strength).

But I’m getting ahead of myself. We have to talk about The Doctor in prison. So while the Fam is Defending The Earth, the Doctor has spent what seems like years in the orbiting prison asteroid. Every day she is summoned from her sleep, given “exercise” through a yard filled with monster-iffic cameos, and then marched back to her cell in order to do it all again the next day.

My stance on Jodie is pretty well known at this point as I somehow conned a whole other website to let me scream about how much I love her and her take on the Time Lord but MAN ALIVE is this just a great sequence of acting from her. She’s selling every single inch of the pain of her confinement just in looks and slow, almost lumbering movements. Almost as if her inner light (forgive me the Care Bear terminology) has been stifled instantaneously with the separation from her Fam and TARDIS.

What did you think, Ethan? Am I projecting? Is it just because she’s been gone so long?

E: You are definitely NOT projecting. I too love Jodie a whole bunch. Everything in her prison scenes is incredible, having some of the most vulnerable moments we’ve seen not just from 13, but her previous incarnations as well.

One line specifically stood out to me in showing how even in this vulnerable state she still hasn’t lost that spark of goodness inside her, and her want to help. “Stay strong, people counting on you”. In an episode filled with great lines from the Doc, this one stood out to me as being an almost perfect distillation of the Doctor’s mission. A “never be cruel, never be cowardly” for a new decade, so to speak.

And then:

CAPTAIN JACK HARKNESS.

Photograph: BBC Studios

He’s back, ready to break the Doc out of prison with a plan involving some impossible gadget, a lot of running, and of course, his handy Vortex Manipulator smuggled who knows how. There’s not a moment lost between them. John Barrowman heaps the cheese factor of Jack on hard. And after his great, but all too brief encounter with the Fam last year, it’s great to have him meeting a new Doctor for the first time.

Once they escape with a time (and space) jump, they end up in the TARDIS with plans to get back with the Fam. Although there’s bound to be some timey-wimey mishaps going on there.

How did you feel about the good Captain being back in the fold?

JP: I am of two minds about Jack. 

On one hand, Barrowman has an instant cocksure charm with like…everybody. Something his appearance in Fugitive of the Judoon played up quite nicely, allowing him to be the foil for the Fam and not yet the Doctor. Chibnall even makes a few callbacks to the snap flash connections Jack made with Yaz, Graham, and Ryan while the Doc was getting her world shattered (not for the last time in that series, mind you).

That same instant chemistry extends to him and Jodie, which I’m very happy to see. Their madcap escape from the prison, inspired by speed runs of Super Monkey Ball apparently, is a wonderful button on the melancholically repetitive life we’ve seen the Doctor settle into.

There is also a truly wonderful scene between Jack and Yaz, en-route to investigate the Dalek infrastructure, wherein Jack provides a crash course in the emotional fallout of being a Companion. What that takes from you, what that gifts to you, and how it can all end at the blink of an eye. Barrowman and Gill play the moment beautifully, once again given a keen theatrical look by the close-up heavy direction of Jones. By now you’ve heard the line he drops here “You don’t get to choose when it’s over”, which is some Martha Jones erasure I can’t abide but the moment is strong throughout an episode filled with good moments.

At the same time…Barrowman is problematic, having engaged in some Intermediate Level Hacky Transphobia at some conventions, on top of just being a generally polarizing and slightly chippy character when it comes to his involvement within Doctor Who. It’s bittersweet I think for sure.

But also at the same time, I’m infamously NOT a Torchwood person so I might not be sitting in the cheap seats his inclusions are playing to.

WHAT ABOUT YOU, THOUGH?! I think you for sure have more contact with Jack and Torchwood than I do. To me, it’s like, HES fine in bursts and guest spots but I don’t want him recurring again.

(Especially with the incoming…new addition.)

E: Jack, and Barrowman, can be especially polarising (thank you for bringing that up, by the way). To specifically target how Jack can be a bit much, so to speak. I’d say he works better as a Doctor Who character than a Torchwood character. Outside of Series 3 and a few select episodes of earlier series’  I was never much of a Torchwood guy myself. Doctor Who should not be an adult, even if it’s a spin-off. Jack works far better when he’s being, to borrow a term from the great Mickey Smith, “Captain Cheesecake”. A goofy, innuendo-laden character.

And you mentioned you don’t necessarily want him recurring, and I agree, but based on how the episode ends I can see the production team, and Chibnall especially, with his history working on Torchwood, bringing Jack into a Brigadier-type role. A recurring ally to help the Doctor when they’re on present-day Earth. Which the episode establishes Jack will be sticking around for a while as he mentions catching up with Gwen Cooper, a Torchwood alumnus.

Jumping tracks, I want to talk about the Fam. Firstly, Yaz. Now I can shout about this in a public forum, Yaz is CLEARLY in love with the Doctor. Everything she does during those 10 months without her is trying to find a way to reunite. That’s not something any old friend would do. Now granted, there is nothing set in stone regarding this, but it’s hard not to look at it in this way. Hopefully next series we’ll see some further development regarding their connection.

*breathes* Sorry about that. Just needed to get that off my chest. How did you find the Fam in this episode?

Photograph: BBC Studios

JP: Aw, god I would truly love for Jack to become the new Brigadier. I also think that’s a wonderful bit of comparative language. He absolutely works better on Who because Who takes advantage of Barrowman’s natural theatricality and genuine sincerity when saying shit like “Dalek Clone Farm” and “Warpstar”.

BUT ALSO, a very strong Fam episode too! For all the monster-based hijinks of the prison sequence and the regular check-ins on the dawn of these new Drone Daleks, the Fam is very much front and centre throughout Chibnall’s script. This is a relief if I am being honest because I was genuinely convinced someone was going to die, prompting one of the other companions to leave in grief.

But that didn’t make what we got any less heartbreaking, despite Chibnall’s wonderful explanation of the exiting companions’ reasons for doing so. I will also agree that Yaz and the Doctor’s exchanges throughout the episode are…rather charged. There is an intensity not only to the way Yaz is reacting to the returned Doctor but a real yearning behind the eyes of Gill in this episode that I hope she gets a chance to turn into the further text of the show. I normally don’t love much when the Doctor has romantic relationship’s with the companions (because ya know…ew) but I would really love if maybe this leads to Yaz confronting some stuff about her own feelings toward women in general, joining her alongside Tegan and Nyssa as the latest Friends of Ace within DW.

I also really enjoy that the script doesn’t let the Doctor instantly off the hook for the huge gap in time in which the Fam thought she might have been dead (Ryan going as far as to just ASSUME she is, in some wonderful bits of pragmatism showing through in this story). Instead, they make her confront it with each of them in one-on-one scenes. My only complaint with this is that I wish she could have gotten a bit more face time with Graham, but the other scenes are so strong, it doesn’t really hamper my enjoyment of the whole thing. 

As the Doctor, Jack, and the Fam regroup into the TARDIS, the episode then starts to take on a pretty breathless pace. You see, apparently Curtis from Misfits, who has been working for Mr.Big cloned a naked Dalek from DNA strands left inside the husk the Recon Dalek. Naturally, this leads to the Recon Dalek immediately jabbing a tendril into his brain and making him work to allow the Recon Dalek a foothold in the galaxy from which to conquer with this new off-shoot Dalek variants (introduced to the world in a fawning live address from the new Prime Minister. Harriet Jones, eat your heart out).

It is full tilt Ben Aaronovitch madness and it really starts to sing here. Obviously, people’s mileages are going to vary as to if they find the Daleks intimidating or not, but the episode really works hard to sell the threat of them, offering imposing vistas of Daleks choking the skies around Bristol with the TARDIS keeping watch after landing on top of the iconic Suspension Bridge.

But it isn’t just all smashy-smashy pew-pew stuff (though there is plenty of that too). There is even a hefty amount of piss-taking surrounding the American obsession with power and freedom, the security state, drone policing, and the nature of hate. The latter was given a truly imposing brass personification in the return of the 2005-2006 Dalek designs. All gleaming brass and booming Briggsian voice modulations. I have to admit, I audibly SCREAMED seeing the, I guess “modern classic” designed Daleks? They are certainly the Daleks that I personally feel the most connection to (even though I am quite fond of the New Paradigm “Power Rangers” Daleks DO NOT @ ME).

So even with all this amazing character stuff and wonderful acting moments, we get like…a Dalek-on-Dalek war with some social commentary to boot. Kinda the best-case scenario, really. I saw someone say that they wished the episode was “meaner”, but…this is also an episode where the Recon Dalek is gunned down after appealing rationally for their life having “given their life to the Dalek cause”.

What did you think of this Dalek court drama that unfolded within the oversized runtime, Ethan?

E: Oh I ate it up. A Dalek Civil War is, as you mentioned, a very specific Aaronovitch-ian type story, drawing a lot from his work on the classic episode Remembrance of the Daleks, which also happened to have some up-front politicking to say.

And then we get THE moment. The Nu-Daleks have been defeated, leaving the Doctor with a Dalek Death Squad to face down. So what does she do? She does what any good hero does. Pulls a Luke Skywalker. Fools the Daleks into a spare TARDIS that was lying around (it’s a long story), making it seem she’s there, before revealing she was (force) projecting herself via hologram from the One and Only TARDIS. And in turn sets the spare to self-destruct, vanquishing the threat.

Touching back on what you said about Ryan and Graham’s departure, I’m in full agreement that it was a genuinely touching scene, allowing them to go out on their own terms. Ryan’s chat with the Doctor earlier on was nothing short of brilliant, and a great way of teeing up that he had moved on from adventures in time and space. Graham, while I too wish he’d had a bit more prominence in the episode itself, is the member of the Fam who has had the most character development during the previous two series. And so letting the episode focus more on Ryan and Yaz was a smart choice on Chibnell’s end.

Besides, Graham gets the best, most emotional line of the episode as he and Ryan leave, a couple of Psychic Papers in hand, off to defend the Earth:

“We do get aliens in Sheffield”.

A brilliant call back to his first appearance and a fitting send-off. I’m getting a bit emotional, so Justin, any final thoughts?

Photograph: BBC Studios

JP: I MEAN, only to also say that I was just wracking sobs throughout the last twenty minutes of this thing too. But you nailed it, they absolutely go out on their own terms. And moreover, it feels genuinely earned in a way that I don’t think a lot of modern companions got a chance to leave with. Most of the time it just felt like a story thing, in which they HAD to leave either to get some new job or to lead their own show somewhere.

But I feel really great about where we leave Ryan and Graham, as well as where we leave the Doctor and Yaz, both still standing in the box that can give them infinity and still know that “it’s okay to feel sad”. I, uh, might have needed to hear that during a year that constantly made me a level of sadness that I didn’t even know was possible.

But all told honestly, I think Revolution of the Daleks is going to be an episode that just appreciates the further away we get from 2020. Not only is it a tremendous follow-up episode to the series that preceded it, but an episode that encapsulates everything fun and highly emotional about Doctor Who in one slickly produced, tremendously acted package.

I couldn’t have asked for a better episode to start out this column with. We need a name now. And suggestions on where we should go next. We have talked about books. We have talked about audios. There is a whole ass Dalek cartoon on YouTube we could do. The world is our…space oyster, I dunno. You tell us.

Until then, be seeing you.

SONIC PULSES (or whatever else we want to call this).

-We touched on it a bit, but we get mentions of Gwen Cooper and her son here which is really fun. 

-Mr. Big’s constant shittiness and capitalist biases provide the episode some really funny lines from him (which Noth delivers the hell out of). We hope he pops back up just to get annoyed at the fact that he’s popped back up in another episode.

-Another Highlight Line: “Are you feeling insecure, because you seem to need a lot of praise…” “I DO?!”.

-Ethan has read/listened to most all the Time Lord Victorious content and keeps shaming Justin about it. It is decidedly NOT (it is) COOL.

-We also mentioned the “spare TARDIS”. This being the TARDIS of the Jo Martin Doctor (or Fugitive Doctor which also sounds tres badass) which also served as Yaz’s makeshift HQ post-The Timeless Children. Guessing she’s gonna be a touch mad to know her ride got crunched and sent to the heart of no-space. 

-If you desire more Dalek goodness and intrigue, the Big Finish website is running a sale on a TON of Dalek-centred productions until the 8th. 

-Highlights include the just-released first volume of Out Of Time, which finds the Fourth and Tenth Doctors squaring off against the pepper pots in a church that exists outside of reality, The Time Lord Victorious Dalek Time Squad Trilogy, and finally, the Sixth Doctor adventure Order of the Daleks, which features a freaking STAINED GLASS DALEK. *EN-JOOOOOY!!!*

Categories
Various Media

What a Year! Ethan’s Top 10 of 2020

Marauders #11, #12, and #16

by Gerry Duggan, Stefano Caselli, and Edgar Delgado

Kate Pryde is my favorite character in all of fiction, with no exceptions. What Gerry Duggan has been crafting during his, thankfully, still ongoing run on Marauders for Kate has been nothing short of amazing. A new, seemingly permanent direction for a character that is in line with what has come before, all the while branching out into unexplored waters. Kate’s (long time coming) embracing of her sexuality is a massive highlight. As is her ever deepening relationship with both Emma Frost and Storm.

I cannot wait for the next steps of this journey in the new year and the promise of a Hellfire Gala is all too tempting.

X-Men #7

by Jonathan Hickman, Lenil Francis Yu, and Sunny Gho

Hello and welcome to the single most emotional issue of a comic I have ever read. I’ve never been able to truly put into words quite why this affected me such, and I’m not going to try to here. I’ll just say that the story of Melody Guthrie, her death and resurrection (a running theme across this new Krakoan era of X-Men), is so beautifully told that I can’t help but cry reading it. Hell, I’m crying now just thinking about it.

Ant-Man #1-5

by Zeb Wells, Dylan Burnett, and Mike Spicer

I came to this rather late. Zeb Wells (A lover of tugboats) is one of the GOAT writers, who’s work I adore, but this somehow didn’t pop up on my radar until a couple of weeks ago. Having now read it, I can say it was a massive mistake on my side to leave it for so long without reading, and I hope you will heed my words and pick it up.

It’s an incredibly simple premise filled with comedy and heart. Scott Lang has never been written better and we get some great development in his relationship with Cassie. And to top all that greatness off, Dylan Burnett and Mike Spencer’s art is so much fun to look at and gives the story a propulsive thrust that kept me reading and wanting more from this team.

Palm Springs

Directed by Max Barbakow, Written by Andy Siara

2020 has been an odd year. I think we can all agree on that. When this released some 250 years ago back in July, we’d been stuck in our house for a number of months at that point. Then, almost out of nowhere along came Palm Springs, a time loop story about the monotony of life, and how bad it can be when days are repeating, while also having some incredibly fun moments between its cast, and truly great chemistry between Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti. I couldn’t think of a better story for this year and it was a much needed viewing experience, one I hope you’ll repeat.

Tenet

Written and Directed by Christopher Nolan

We all love to dunk on Mr. Nolan, but this film? It rules. A sumptuous feast for the eyes, with some of Nolan’s best directing work. I did not expect to fall in love with this as much as I did, but then, all of a sudden I found myself sobbing at the ending, at the beauty of the friendship between John David Washington and Robert Pattinson’s characters. Was that down to me not having seen my friends in months? Possibly, but this is still one of the best things I have seen all year.

Staged

Created by Simon Evans, Michael Sheen, and David Tennant

A show that could only be made this year. Following David Tennant and Michael Sheen playing slightly fictionalized versions of themselves stuck in lockdown, trying to rehearse for a play. It is one of the funniest programs I have ever watched and was a balm when it premiered early on during this whole mess we are currently in. And with a second season due to premiere in the new year, now is the perfect time to catch up.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – The Siege of Mandalore

Written and Directed by Dave Filoni

I love Star Wars. The original run of The Clone Wars actually further deepened my love for the franchise more so than the films ever did. In the process, Ahsoka Tano became my favorite character.

So when Clone Wars got canceled and we never saw what happened to her around the events of Order 66, I was devastated. Of course, we did later find out she survived thanks to her appearance in Rebels, but there was always this question of how exactly did she make it through these dark times.

This year, we got our answers. And what answers they were. A siege. An incredible duel against Darth Maul. Mandalorians being badass. Order 66. All culminating in a fight against the clones, Ahsoka’s brothers in arms, with a final, haunting shot of Ahsoka looking out over the helmets of those fallen Clones she had called friends.

The Haunting of Bly Manor

Written and Directed by Mike Flanagan

I don’t think my thoughts on this incredible, heartbreaking show can be better summed up than with the below meme, so I’m going to leave it at that.

The Last of Us Part II

by Neil Druckmann, Halley Gross, and Naughty Dog

I have never had an experience quite like I had with this game. Horrific violence. An almost constant sense of dread. Sadness permeates every single moment.

But what sticks with me most, and the reason for my love of this game, are the moments of happiness and kindness tucked throughout. The Dinosaur. Ellie and Joel’s final conversation. Abby and her Dad helping out a trapped zebra. Every single moment that Ellie and Dina share together, from their dance to the weed farm, to their life living on a farm. The “Take on Me” scene. Those are what will keep this game in my thoughts for years to come.

Folklore

by Taylor Swift, Jack Antonoff, and Aaron Dessner

I mean, come on. Did you really think I was going to end this list without mentioning the greatness of Taylor Swift, and specifically folklore? Of course not, it’s the album of the year. One that I have listened to far too much to be healthy. This is something that cuts to the core of how great music can be when heard in the right circumstances, and I love it so.