Doctor Who: Underworld (and Overjoyed)

I learned something Wednesday night.  I learned that videotapes that are old enough to legally drink alcohol in the US can still be perfectly watchable.  Well, perfectly watchable for me, anyway; I have a pretty high tolerance for poor video quality.  Last weekend I liberated some very old VHS tapes of Doctor Who (on which I’ll elaborate at a later date).  Then Wednesday night was my every-other-Wednesday with my brother, which it seems has become Doctor Who night.  (Though he suggested Blake’s 7 for next time.)  We decided to give one of the old tapes a whirl.  I nudged us toward “Underworld” ‘cause (as I mentioned before) TARDIS Tavern will be covering that episode soon.  In point of fact, the reason they’re covering it is because Doctor Who Magazine’s 2009 poll ranked it among the five worst Doctor Who stories ever.

Um. What?  No seriously, WHAT?

D and I figured out we hadn’t watched “Underworld” since 1994.  He didn’t really remember it at all, but I had fond memories of this episode.  I was more-than-half-ready to be unpleasantly shocked to reality by how badly my memory cheated.  This, despite Radio Free Skaro-Chris’ repeated assurances that it’s a good one.  (I mean, the guy loves Pertwee; what could he possibly know?)  But he, and my memory, were spot on.  I still adore this story.

Ok, the effects aren’t great (D pointed out that the episode 1 cliffhanger had the ship buried in what looked like Grape Nuts cereal), but I’ve never watched Who for the effects.  I watch for the stories.  Always have.  Always will.  And this one was right up my alley.  I mean RIGHT up my alley: nods to Greek mythology, a nearly-endless quest, Time Lords as gods, a fledgling rebellion, a technologically-advanced society that’s devolved into slavery and mysticism…  The list goes on and on.  I would hug this episode if I could.

And on top of all that, it’s a really fantastic Leela story.  I’ve always loved her, but not having seen any of her stories in a while, I’d forgotten how hilarious Louise Jameson could be–starting with the very first scene when she near-fumbles about the TARDIS console for a bit before eventually shouting for the Doctor.   Or her next scene in which the Doctor and K-9 think that an artifact is 100,000 years old.  Leela sagely nods and agrees, “Me too.”  Later she’s hit with a pacifying ray and becomes all soft and sweet.  It’s a brilliant piece of acting which had me laughing out loud.  I think my favorite Leela moments come when she’s the voice of experience with regards to scientific knowledge and technology.  Compared to the Doctor, she’s quite the ignorant savage, but when they encounter a race who knows even less than she does about spaceships and the stars, she very matter-of-factly assumes the role of slightly-put-upon mentor.  And she underplays it just perfectly.  I love it!  LOVE. IT.

D felt pretty much the same way.  He called it “bizarre” that this episode landed in the bottom five.  (Seriously, I think he was nearly offended by that fact.)  I’m curious to hear how the TARDIS Tavern boys feel, but honestly,  I don’t really care overly much what anyone else thought.

I loved it.  Full stop.

The Time of Couch-Surfers (Or Houseguests and Stone)

So I’ve been saddled/blessed with a houseguest again.  Good ol’ C has been with me for a week, and I’ve done my best to expose him to some excellent British television (ok, and some Glee, but he’d seen that already).  We watched all three episodes of Sherlock, and he really enjoyed them.  Then last night I had some time to knit, so I wanted to watch Doctor Who.  Now if I was a quality friend, I might have stopped and thought about what would be a good introduction to new Who and started there, but no; I was feeling selfish.  And he’s getting to sleep on my COUCH, so really, I feel I’ve given him enough.  Anyway, my next episodes of series 5 (to watch with Radio Free Skaro commentary) were “The Time of Angels” and “Flesh and Stone.”

As it turned out, those aren’t a terrible place to jump in.  There was plenty C didn’t understand (he didn’t even know what the sonic screwdriver was), but they’re damn good episodes, and very exciting, so it was a definite win.  The moment “The Time of Angels” ended, he bounced on the couch, looked over at me, and said “Let’s watch the next one!  That was pretty badass!”  How could I say no?  Sadly, his comment after “Flesh and Stone” was “River’s hot.”  Sigh.  To each his own I guess.

Then when I got home today he confided that while he was at work he found himself thinking about “those stone angels” and how creepy they were.  He also mentioned to his wife that we were watching Doctor Who.  I think if I remind them about it later, they might watch on their own one of these days.  I’ll have to remember to do that.

I did feel a little bad watching the episodes with commentary though.  And no, before you jump to the wrong conclusion, I didn’t make C watch with commentary.  That would have been foolish.  I had headphones on.  But that meant that every so often (and usually at totally inappropriate times) I’d burst out laughing at something C couldn’t hear.  Eventually I stopped apologising.  Didn’t stop elling-oh-ell though.

Despite having watched both episodes just a few weeks ago, I found myself mesmerized by Matt Smith (and company), which almost made it difficult to listen to the commentary.  Luckily, the RFS boys had the same problem, so it was rarely an issue.  Every few minutes they’d fall silent until someone piped up with “We’re transfixed again.”  I can’t say I blame them.  Matt Smith just knocks it out of the park in these episodes, and that’s extra-impressive considering they were the first ones he shot.  Well done Smith; well done indeed.

Knitting-wise, I spent the time weaving in ends.  I’ve officially made my peace with that heretofore-odious task, and I’m making it a point to catch up with that before I knit too much farther.  This means the actual physical progress has stalled, but I know I’ll thank myself later.  The things I do for future-Erika!  She’s a lucky girl.

Speaking of future-me, the few-minutes-from-now version will be attempting to watch the classic Who story “Underworld.”  I say “attempting” because I’ve got it on VHS (which was taped off of PBS >20 years ago), and I’m not certain it will be watchable.  (More about my recent acquisition of Who-on-VHS later.)  It’s worth a try though because the next episode of TARDIS Tavern will be covering it (I can’t wait!), and I’d like to have it fresh in my mind.  Really, when I think of the crazy amount of video snow I watched most Doctor Who through for most of my life, I realize I can handle some pretty poor picture quality, thus I anticipate success in my upcoming endeavor.

So for future-Erika and myself, I’ll bid you all adieu for the night.


Doctor Who: Series 5 (& Football, wtf?)

So last night I finished my re-watch of series 5.  I should really re-watch things sooner than I do.  I just don’t seem to have the inclination to go back and re-view new series episodes the way some people do.  (I’m looking squarely at a certain podcaster here.)  I think I used to take comfort in watching the same thing over and over again (see: Labyrinth, Red Dwarf, etc.).  Somewhere along the line, that changed.  Nowadays, I feel like there are so many wonderful things I haven’t seen yet, I oughtn’t watch the same things repeatedly.

So why watch again now, you ask?  Well I tried watching it with Radio Free Skaro commentary a few weeks ago, but it was a total bust.  It had been so long since I’d seen series 5 that I found myself utterly transfixed by the episodes themselves.  Thus, I was ignoring the witty podcast repartee that had prompted me to sit down to watch in the first place.  Solution?  Watch the entire series through first, then go back and do it again with commentaries.  (I was ever a problem solver.)

Anyway, my weird quirks aside, I liked series 5 even better the second time through.  And I loved it the first time ’round, so that’s saying a lot.  Matt Smith is quickly cementing his place in my heart as…dare I say my favorite Doctor?  Hm.  I might just dare.  He’s simply brilliant: frenetic when it’s called for, silly often, alien nearly always, and pitch-perfectly understated at just the right moments.  I can’t get enough.  It certainly doesn’t hurt that Steven Moffat’s writing, in addition to being right up my alley, is so well-suited to Smith’s performance style, it’s like they were made for each other.

Ok.  Enough fangirl gushing.  I should talk knitting for a moment.  And what I should say about it is “don’t drink and knit.”  This is a lesson I have yet to learn, despite being bitten in the ass by it time and time again.  Sigh.  So this time I accidentally skipped all the mini-stripes in between two colors.  Whoops.  The only reason I even noticed it was ’cause I noticed that the preceding stripe was two rows too thick.  Also whoops.  So I had to do something I dread: rip out many rows of work and thread the needle back through the stitches to start again.  I’m always terrified I’m going to put the needle through the wrong way or something and twist the stitches.  This time I was very careful (and utterly sober), and it looks like I succeeded with no major mishaps.  I still haven’t gotten quite “caught up” to where I was (or where I thought I was), but I’m not far off.  Making mistakes sucks, but I do have to admit I’m sorta glad of the chance to practice fixing my screw-ups.  I’ll probably need that expertise somewhere down the line.  Because I know eventually I’ll decide a cocktail and some knitting sounds like a good idea.

So then today, for reasons I’m not even sure I can properly express, I’m watching (American) football. (Go Pack!)  As it turns out, football is kind of perfect to knit to.  I don’t really need to pay attention most of the time ’cause there’s so much downtime between plays.  Even if I miss something, it’s no big deal in these days of instant-replay.  Probably the only drawback is the fact that the susurrus of the crowd just makes me want to stretch out on the couch and take a nap.  Not the best for motivation.  But I resisted the call of the afternoon-snooze, and stuck with my end-weaving.  (Yes, I got past my end-weaving issues, and am trucking right along on that.)

So knitting-wise, it was a weekend of ups and downs.  Doctor Who-wise, it was up and more up.  All in all, I really can’t complain.

I’m Too Tired for a Formal Post

Hi.  So, I knitted.  And I watched Doctor Who.  And The Guild, even.  So technically, by the rules I’ve set for myself, I’m supposed to blog about it.  So here you go.  But I’m really really tired and out of it tonight.  Apologies if it’s a bit stream-of-consciousness.  Also, beware SPOILERS.  I think.

I hadn’t watched The Hungry Earth or Cold Blood since they first aired.  I didn’t have any strong feelings about them at the time, I just enjoyed them for being Doctor Who.  I still do.  Yay!  They really have a classic-Who kinda feel (and not just ’cause the Homo-Reptillians are Silurian cousins), and that’s just peachy by me!  Also, I loved loved LOVED Meera Syal as Nasreen Chaudhry.  (And is that not an awesome character name?)  Easily one of my favorite guest stars in all of new-Who.

I’d forgotten about the bit at the end with the crack and Rory getting shot.  Holy balls, I didn’t see that coming the first time I saw this.  It affected me more this time, I think, having seen how Amy and Rory’s relationship evolves over the rest of the season and much of the next.  Yes.  I got a bit misty.  So sue me.

Oh.  And Matt Smith is amazing.

The Guild was pretty awesome tonight as well.  Felicia Day has done it again.  I won’t spoil that for anyone, but there’s one scene with a cavalcade of fantastic guest cameos.  I think this season is my favorite so far.  I started re-watching season one at Dragon*Con, and it’s clear that the show has come a long way.  It was pretty solid to start with, but now it’s a lot more polished.  (Not to mention the fact that it’s progressed to the point that [INFORMATION REDACTED] and [NAME REMOVED] and [XXXXXXXXXX] and the like drop by for an episode.)

As for the knitting, I got an orange stripe done.  Boom.  After last night’s end-weaving debacle, I wasn’t about to try that again so soon.  One of these days I’ll get back on that horse.  Today is not that day.  Tonight I’m ignoring the horse entirely so I can just go to bed.  Mmm.  Bed.

Doctor Who: Amy’s Choice (Or [Bad-]Dream-Weaving)

OMFG do I hate weaving in ends.  It’s easily my least favorite part of knitting.  And when you’re knitting a 20ish foot scarf with oodles of stripes, there are oh-so-many ends to weave in.  We hates it.  And no, lest you think I somehow have managed to complete the behemoth task that is knitting this scarf, I am definitely not finished.  I have vague (and horrible) recollections of the mind-numbing boredom brought on by weaving in the ends of the season 12 scarf I knitted for my mom a few years ago.  I thought I would be terribly clever and try to weave in the ends chunk by chunk this time.  I still think it’s a good idea–in theory anyway.

Good idea or not, I’ve learned a few things tonight.  One, don’t start weaving in ends after you’ve already taken your melatonin for the night.  Two, make sure you have a really good light source.  (I currently don’t.)  Three, it’s probably not a great idea to tackle something you detest when you’ve been in a cranky mood for the bulk of the day.  I know these all sound like no-brainers–probably because they are.  Oy.  I have no excuse.

(Note: SPOILERS ahead, so Mom, if you haven’t caught up yet…well, gosh darn it, get on the stick!  Series 6 is great.  You and Dad need to get there!)

So while I was enduring the nightmare that is end-weaving, Matt Smith and his “time team” were enduring nightmares of their own.  I hadn’t seen this episode since it first aired, and I’ll be honest, I didn’t remember much about it.  All I did remember was that it made me feel a little annoyed, disturbed, and uncomfortable.  I didn’t really remember why.  Now I suppose I do.

My first problem with this episode is the idea that Amy might choose the Doctor–and I mean that in some sort of romantic way.  I’ve never felt comfortable with the Doctor as a sexual character, so the thought that his companion sees him as such just makes me feel sick inside.  And yes, I’ve dealt with this problem throughout new Who.  I try to ignore it as best I can, but in this episode, it’s pretty central, so it’s more difficult to do that.

I think the other reason I find this episode disturbing is the fact that it’s all about choice.  I am notoriously indecisive.  Watching an entire episode that’s about not just any choice, but probably the most important one Amy has made in her life, well that made me feel a little sick inside too.  And yes, I fully admit that this particular issue has everything to do with me and nothing to do with the episode itself.

Maybe more than anything else though, I struggle with the Dream Lord as the dark side of the Doctor.  It makes perfect sense, but it’s hard to stomach.  I get that there’s a lot of self-loathing seething under the surface.  That seems only natural for someone who survived the Time War and saw/caused the end of his entire species.  But I grew up with the-Doctor-as-a-bright-shiny-hero.  And yes, I realize that wasn’t always the case even in classic Who, but I started watching pre-kindergarten, when I was too young to spot the lurking darkness, and as the Head & Shoulders ads used to say, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”  The shiny-happy-Doctor will live forever in my heart.  Add to that the fact that I’ve spent plenty of real-world time watching amazing, worthy people hating and destroying themselves, and I guess you just have a recipe for a gigantic turn-off of an episode for Erika.

Which is really too bad, because this is an excellent episode.  It’s well-written, well-directed, and well-acted.  There are some great lines–for example, Amy saying “If we’re gonna die, let’s die looking like a Peruvian folk band.”  (See the photo above.)  It’s a great idea for a story–toying with the nature of reality, and the back-and-forth between the “realities” is handled very well.  Matt Smith (as always) is wonderful as he realizes who the Dream Lord really is.  He turns in a performance with such depth!  I want to like it.  I really do!  Perhaps someday, when I’ve exorcised some of my own personal demons, I’ll be able to do just that.

Until then, I’ll just continue weaving in these ends.  Le sigh.

Sherlock: A Study in Pink

Oh Benedict Cumberbatch, you are so very very dreamylicious.  If it wasn’t for those blue, blue eyes, I might move to Britain and stalk you properly.  Perhaps I ought to become some sort of Frankensteinesque mad scientist and swap out your eyes for those of Rupert Graves (who plays DI Lestrade).  Perfection.

Seriously though, Mr. Cumberbatch’s pale allure aside, I really enjoyed this episode.  I’ve watched all three installments of Sherlock already, but today I felt “A Study in Pink” merited a re-view.  As it turns out, I was correct.  I suddenly got the knitting bug this afternoon, well after I’d watched “The Girl Who Waited” (the latest episode of Doctor Who–I enjoyed it, by the way), and for some reason, I just wasn’t quite in the mood for any more Who.  Apparently I was in the mood for more Steven Moffat though.  He penned this episode, and did it brilliantly, in my opinion.  (And yes, before you jump down my throat, I know Moffat didn’t write “The Girl Who Waited,” but he’s the showrunner, so his hands were most definitely on it.)

I’ll admit, I know next-to-nothing about the Sherlock Holmes mythos.  He always sort of vaguely interested me as a character, but not enough to actually seek anything out or read any of the novels.  Probably the Holmes-in-pop-culture that stands out most for me is Brent-Spiner-playing-Data-playing-the-great-detective on the holodeck in Star Trek the Next Generation.  (To be honest, it’s actually Daniel Davis’ Moriarty that I remember best from those episodes.)  Anyway, I’m not really in a position to judge as an expert, but I found this show fascinating.  Cumberbatch is delightfully strange and aloof as Holmes, and Martin Freeman (whom I’ve loved in everything in which I’ve seen him) is a fantastically bemused Watson.

So if you’re afraid that lack of knowledge about Holmes in general would be an impediment to enjoying Sherlock, let me put those fears to rest.  It’s a captivating show.  I definitely recommend it.  And I can only assume that knowing more about Holmes would make it better.  Certainly, several of my detective-loving friends have raved about it.  Basically, it’s worth watching.  Full stop.

Ok.  Methinks it’s time for me to get back to knitting.  I may even re-watch the next episode of Sherlock.  Or perhaps I’ll re-watch today’s episode of Doctor Who.  Or maybe I’ll finally watch that Netflix movie I’ve had sitting on my shelf for entirely too long.  Whichever, I’ll be knitting, and I’ll be on my couch, so all in all, ’twill be a lovely Saturday night.  (Hey, don’t judge me.)