Tag Archives: BBC America

Season Finale: Orphan Black – “Endless Forms Most Beautiful”

OrphanBlackTitle

“Endless Forms Most Beautiful”

June 1st, 2013

When I attended the Television Critics’ Association Winter Press Tour in January, BBC America presented a panel for Orphan Black, a new drama series originating from Canada (where it airs on Space). It was an interesting panel to attend, because none of the critics in the room had no opportunity to watch it: while we were shown a quick trailer to help give us context, most of the questions were actually asking for more information as opposed to specific responses to the series. What we saw looked interesting, and the panel was enjoyable, but it was an exploratory exercise in a space where greater context is necessary to achieve any real insight.

Reading back over the transcript of that panel, and revisiting this fun interview Will Harris did with the three stars in attendance, I couldn’t help but smile. In retrospect, there are plenty of hints there about the show Orphan Black would become: a fearless, balls to the wall science fiction pleasure that’s smart as hell. Co-creator Graeme Manson was asked about the possibility of flashbacks, to which he responded “Yeah, actually, none at all. We really, really like a story that’s like a runaway train that keeps you on the edge of your seat and has you not sure whether the story is going to take a hard left or a hard right.” Tatiana Maslany was asked about the challenge of playing multiple roles, and explained “Yeah, it’s a challenge, the different arcs. You know, there’s so many arcs to it. So it’s a bit of a mind — I keep wanting to say the wrong word.”

The wrong word is the right word in this case: Orphan Black is a mindfuck, and ends its first season with another segment in the runaway train first season, one that becomes four climaxes in one by the time it reaches its conclusion.

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Fall Premiere: Doctor Who – “Let’s Kill Hitler”

“Let’s Kill Hitler”

August 27th, 2011

When Steven Moffat threw that title at the end of “A Good Man Goes to War,” I was imagining something…different.

In my mind, it sounded like a right rollicking caper, a piece of historical science fiction and a transition piece from the tight serialization of the first half of the series into something a bit less serialized in the second half.

Technically, “Let’s Kill Hitler” does serve that latter function, but only after an hour that locks Hitler in a cupboard and moves on with the rest of its business without much concern over the historical setting. While the episode has some interesting ideas, it’s one of those episodes that is so preoccupied with ongoing storylines that it never manages to feel satisfying as a piece of fiction. Its broad strokes are meaningful, and ultimately successful, but the episode itself felt like a delivery system more than a story in and of itself.

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Midseason Finale: Doctor Who – “A Good Man Goes to War”

“A Good Man Goes to War”

June 11th, 2011

My choice not to review “The Rebel Flesh” and “The Almost People” is partly due to the awkwardness created by BBC America making the idiotic decision to take a one-week hiatus over Memorial Day Weekend, but I’ve also got to be honest: I didn’t think they were very good.

I saw a Twitter conversation go by, I think involving Jeremy Mongeau, and it really captured what I think the problem was. He made the argument, if memory serves me correctly, that serialization has actually damaged the show through the first half of the sixth series: everything has been so caught up in laying groundwork for future events or setting up the seasonal arc that it doesn’t really have time to breathe (or, if you’re “The Curse of the Black Spot,” was kind of just too dull to stand out).

Even if we argue that the serial elements have remained intriguing (which I would), and even if “The Doctor’s Wife” was a really compelling standalone that spoke to overarching themes in a strong fashion (which it was), “The Rebel Flesh” and “The Almost People” were like a narrative fetchquest. The Doctor needed to learn more about the flesh, and therefore traveled to where it first originated in order to better understand it, and a story had to be created around that particular event. It just seemed like Matthew Graham’s script never quite managed to make the characters compelling enough, implying a sense of depth instead of actually showing it to us.

Did the two-parter lay some important groundwork for explaining the Doctor’s “death” back in the premiere? Absolutely. And did it quite effectively transition into the reveal that Amy has been flesh since the beginning of the season? Yes. But it becomes a two-hour exhibit in exposition when “A Good Man Goes to War” begins, a too-long detour in a season that seemed to lose its momentum. Mind you, Steven Moffat regains that momentum in about three minutes and forty seconds, give or take a minute or two, and “A Good Man Goes to War” is a stellar effort that benefits from having some truly substantial exposition to relay.

It also tells a compelling story to go along with it, one that we can be certain will resonate both in the fall and beyond.

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Doctor Who – “Day of the Moon”

“Day of the Moon”

April 30th, 2011

[Note: while this does not air until a bit later this evening in the U.S., I’m embracing my independence from any one particular country to post my review when it’s finished so that those who watched in the U.K. can discuss it in a more timely fashion. Accordingly, if you want to avoid spoilers, don’t keep reading.]

It’s the time of year when writing about television on the side must take a back seat to writing about television in an academic (and, over at the A.V. Club, “professional”) fashion, and so it’s unfortunate that a weekend filled with paper writing had to collide with “Day of the Moon.”

In truth, I could probably handle writing about an episode like next week’s, where the show returns to its isolated adventures with only subtle nods towards a larger serialized storyline. I could evaluate the appeal of the situation (which next week features Downton Abbey’s own Hugh Bonneville, I believe), consider the ongoing character dynamics between the Doctor and his companions, and then be merrily on my way.

With “Day on the Moon,” I could actually be here for a day. It’s a compelling episode, filled with enough good ideas to carry three episodes of a lesser show, but it also ends up with enough loose ends that actually going through and analyzing them in a satisfactory fashion would be impossible given my current time crunch.

But, I do want to make a few points about the episode, given that I am sure there will be oodles of speculation to be done over the course of the season regarding what we saw here and given the fact that I very much enjoyed it.

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Review – Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series [Blu-Ray]

Last week, Craig Ferguson dedicated almost an entire episode to a television show. Now, this isn’t entirely uncommon in television talk shows, but it’s normally someone like Oprah searching for the zeitgeist by introducing the cast of Glee or something. Ferguson, meanwhile, wasn’t chasing the zeitgeist so much as he was chasing the T.A.R.D.I.S., dedicating an entire hour to British sensation Doctor Who, which remains just a cult favorite on this continent (you can see Ferguson’s interview with Matt Smith on YouTube).

It was a nice reminder that Doctor Who’s fifth “Series” was one of this year’s television highlights, regardless of which side of the pond you may be on. As someone who had seen only bits of pieces of the series in the past, the arrival of a new Doctor (played by Smith, Ferguson’s guest of honor) and companion in Karen Gillan’s Amy Pond seemed like as good a time as any to jump into the phenomenon.

BBC America was kind enough to send along a copy of the Blu-Ray – which was released on November 9th and can be purchased at the BBC America Shop – for review purposes, but unfortunately it was sent to my Canadian address. However, that’s sort of ideal, as it means that my brother might be able to experience what I did when I chose to dive into the series at this “late” point.

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Review – Doctor Who: The End of Time, The End of Tennant

The End of Time, The End of Tennant

January 2nd, 2010

Watching Doctor Who: The End of Time, for me personally, is a bit of a strange exercise for two reason (one exclusive to me, the other general).

First, I don’t watch the show on a regular basis, so while watching a few of the recent specials (Specifically the quite enjoyable “The Next Doctor” and the thrilling “The Waters of Mars”) has given me some sense of what’s going on – the Doctor (David Tennant) without a companion on a self-destructive journey to confront his impending death (I think?) – I’m still left out of the loop in terms of both the show’s larger mythology and the intricacies of Tennant’s run on the series.

However, even considering my ignorance to the broader mythology at play, the two-part event (which airs in its entirety tonight at 8pm on SPACE in Canada, with the second part (Part One aired in Boxing Day) airing on BBC America) is unique in its clear purpose: the death of the Doctor, and the departure of David Tennant from the series to make way for newcomer Matt Smith. And while you could argue that Law & Order or CSI, with their revolving door casting policy, offer something similar (in terms of transitioning from one actor to another), Doctor Who is unique in the fact that Smith will effectively be playing a new character…except that he won’t.

The single greatest accomplishment of The End of Time, which is at times a mixed bag in terms of its effectiveness, is that despite my lack of knowledge of the show’s history, and despite the lack of suspense surrounding an inevitable conclusion that has been known for over a year, I was emotionally affected by Russell T. Davies saying goodbye to the Doctor, and the Doctor saying goodbye to the people he cares about. Built on a foundation of David Tennant’s fantastic performance, the movie overcomes a bit of a muddled first part (which is tied up in a lot of exposition) in order to deliver a conclusion which demonstrates the combination of whimsy and pathos that has made the show, with its low budget special effects and its quirky sense of humour, so enduring.

And it feels like just the right kind of note on which to head into the reign of the new Doctor, which based on what I’ve seen in these specials is something that I might be willing to spend some time with in the years to come.

[Spoilers for both parts of the Miniseries after the break, where we’ll discuss the special in more detail]

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Review: Doctor Who: Waters of Mars (December 19th, Space/BBC America)

Doctor Who? My question exactly.

This is not to suggest I don’t know the basic premise of Doctor Who: he’s an omniscient figure who travels through time/space solving exotic problems with the help of assistants (wait, I think it’s companions). However, I’m fairly certain there’s a deeper mythology here than “he’s mortal enemies with those ugly robot dudes that I think are called Daleks,” which means that going into Doctor Who: Waters of Mars (which according to the press kit is the second of the four final “movies” that David Tennant is doing before running off to star in an NBC pilot) my knowledge of this universe is a cribbed together collection of tidbits gleamed from pop cultural exposure and a couple of random episode viewings during the Eccleston period.

But, as was the case earlier this year when Russell T. Davies created an enormously compelling, stand alone piece of entertainment with Torchwood: Children of Earth, Doctor Who: Waters of Mars (which airs tomorrow night, December 19th, at 9pm ET on SPACE in Canada and on BBC America in the U.S.) is capable of engaging just about any audience. While it doesn’t have Children of Earth’s real world commentary on government corruption or anything so complicated, it tells a tightly driven story that at its core speaks to the inherent dilemma of being a man who is capable of changing time but only to a certain extent, and the plight of humans out to save the planet but finding themselves at the precipice of placing that planet in even further danger.

The result is a very compelling piece of television in its own right, but one that feels like a turning point for this character as he David Tennant prepares to say goodbye to what is very clearly a career-making role.

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