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Doctor Who: The Runaway Bride (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Runaway Bride originally aired in 2006.

What, there’s like a secret base hidden underneath a major London landmark?

Oh, I know. Unheard of.

– Donna and the Doctor present Doctor Who 101

The Runaway Bride is really more indicative of a Davies-era Christmas Special than The Christmas Invasion was. The Christmas Invasion came with so much narrative baggage to unpack that it even spilt over into the Born Again scene that aired as part of Children in Need. While The Runaway Bride does have to deal with some of the fallout from Billie Piper’s departure in Doomsday, it’s a much more stand-alone piece of Doctor Who.

It’s a very light piece of television, but that’s really the ideal kind of Doctor Who to air as part of the BBC’s Christmas line-up.

He's fire and ice and rage...

He’s fire and ice and rage…

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Absolute Superman: For Tomorrow (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of Man of Steel this month, we’re going Superman mad. Check back daily for Superman-related reviews.

As a Superman story, For Tomorrow leaves a lot to be desired. It’s a disjointed narrative that rapidly shifts through a variety of scenarios, while characters drift in and out (and back in again) in a way that feels convenient at best. There’s hardly the most logical of progressions here, as we move from one story into another. For Tomorrow feels like it has the ingredients for at least three Superman stories that would be quite interesting on their own, instead of being forced to fit together as one plot.

On the other hand, as a meditation on some of the themes and implications and characteristics of Superman as a character, For Tomorrow becomes something far more fascinating. Writer Brian Azzarello would hardly be my first choice to write a Superman story (indeed, he’s almost too cynical to write Batman), but he very clearly has some fascinating ideas about the character and his world. Truth be told, For Tomorrow is often more intriguing than satisfying, which makes it hard to recommend, but is still worth a look for those willing to excuse a somewhat hazy plot to get to some meaty ideas about Superman.

The doves are a nice touch...

The doves are a nice touch…

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Star Trek – The Return of the Archons (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

It is really hard to believe that this is the first time we’ve really had one of these plots, with the Enterprise visiting an alien civilisation, meddling thoroughly and freeing the population from oppression. Of course, that’s probably because the universe seemed so vast an empty in the first few episodes. The only planets seemed to be either lifeless rocks or human colonies. From this point on, the galaxy is going to seem a whole lot busier.

Return of the Archons is a little bit like an expansion of the archetypal Star Trek plot established in What Are Little Girls Made Of? The Enterprise visits an alien world following up on the disappearance of Federation personnel. When they arrive, they discover sinister plans afoot involving evil artificial intelligences that plan on stomping out free will. Kirk promptly uses his humanity to talk the machines into destroying himself.

However, Return of the Archons deals with a whole civilisation trapped in the midst of this sinister robotic plot. Kirk and his crew aren’t strolling through an alien graveyard. This is a living, breathing society. And this is the first time that Kirk would save an entire civilisation.

Some men just want to watch the world burn...

Some men just want to watch the world burn…

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Non-Review Review: Broken

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2013. It was the opening gala.

Broken is that rarest of beasts, a suburban ensemble drama that manages to merge charming humanism with gritty reality. Mark O’Rowe’s adaptation of Daniel Clay’s novel is filled to the brim with humour and joy, but isn’t afraid of the darker shades of emotion. It’s unflinching and occasionally brutal, a candid exploration of the intersecting lives of those inhabiting a small close. However, this honesty lends the film credibility in its lighter moments. The smiles, the giggles and the laughter that come from many off the movie’s more human moments feel earned, and there’s a wonderful sense of balance to Broken, as if to concede that life cannot be composed of entirely happy moments, nor entirely sad. That’s the wonder of it all, and Broken skilfully manages to combine those extremes into a single charming and engaging coming of age drama.

A close call...

A close call…

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The Spirit Archives, Vol. 26 (Review/Retrospective)

It’s strange reading The Spirit Archives, Vol. 26. Not just because it’s a collection of absolutely everything (from stories to pin-ups to posters to sketches) rather than a set of comic strips. Also because of the scope of this final hardcover collection in DC’s Spirit Archives programme. While, with the exception of the last volume, each book collected six months of the weekly strip, this final book collects pretty-much everything Will Eisner did with the character from the time that the weekly strip ended through to his death in 2005.  I’m a bit surprised that there’s only one book of this material, although it does allow the reader to flick through the decades following the end of the strip as if examining a family photo albums – watching the subtle changes as time marches on.

Despite the fact that he was cancelled, The Spirit never seemed to quite go away. There was a lot of work featuring the character by other writers and artists, but most of that isn’t collected here. Instead, this admittedly disjointed collection reads best as a sort of a documentary charting the on-going relationship between Will Eisner and arguably his most popular creation.

Still making waves…

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Quietly at the Peacock Theatre (Review)

So, a Catholic and a Protestant walk into a bar. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Quietly is a fascinating exploration of the Troubles from writer Owen McCafferty and director Jimmy Fay. While it’s often very difficult to translate the real life conflict into art – in many respects, it’s too real and too recent and too raw for us to process fully at this point – Quietly does an excellent job capturing the necessary steps forward for those affected by (and involved in) violence in the North. The result is a truly fascinating piece of theatre, and something well worth seeing during it’s run at the Peacock stage.

Picture by Anthony Woods…

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Non-Review Review: Super

Super is pretty much one joke, extended over a movie runtime. It’s a funny joke, and it’s told well by a great cast and a witty director, but it feels a little stretched, even at under a hundred minutes. It also suffered a bit from being released in the same year as Kick-Ass, a movie that dealt with similar themes in a much more compelling manner, but Super remains an interesting examination of geek power fantasy, and some of the more sinister undertones of the conventional superhero narrative.

Not so super, hero…

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