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Doctor Who: The Sontaran Stratagem (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 Sontaran Stratagem originally aired in 2008.


– Sontaran hakka

The expectations for the opening two-parter of any Russell T. Davies season are markedly different from the expectations surrounding the second two-parter or even the season finalé – just as the expectations for the opening few episodes are different from the expectations for a mid-season stand-alone. It should go without saying, but it’s worth stressing at this point. The opening two-parter of a Davies season isn’t meant for the adults in the audience – it’s traditionally aimed towards the kids, with big epic iconic monsters, ridiculous set-pieces, broadly-defined settings and little room for nuance.

That’s not to excuses messes like World War III or Evolution of the Daleks, but simply to place them in context. The Sontaran Stratagem and The Poison Sky aren’t quite as profound or weighty as The Fires of Pompeii or Planet of the Ood. Instead, they offer bombastic spectacle, goofy visuals and a heightened sense of absolutely everything. In other words, The Sontaran Stratagem and The Poison Sky combine to form the strongest opening two-parter of the Davies era.

They hardly represent a crowning artistic accomplishment for the show, but they do a great job of accomplishing what they set out to do.

There's a potato eyes joke here, but I just can't make it work...

There’s a potato eyes joke here, but I just can’t make it work…

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52 (Review/Retrospective)

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

If you are looking to get a taste of the shared universe that DC have created, a glimpse at the diverse characters and their overlapping worlds who have been cultivated as part of the publisher’s comic book line, then it’s very hard to go wrong with 52. A weekly series set in the wake of one of the company’s line-wide “everything changes” events, it offers a fascinating glimpse into the workings of the minor characters dealing with their own problems and issues in a world without Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman.

Published as fifty-two weekly issues, it serves as something of “a year in the life” of this fictional world. Written by four of the best writers in contemporary comics, each of whom has made outstanding contributions to the company’s output in the not-too-hazy past, 52 might not be the best or most consistent comic book that DC ever published, but it is one of the most insightful, original and fun.

Falling from the sky...

Falling from the sky…

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Grant Morrison’s Run on Justice League of America – The Deluxe Edition, Vol. 3-4 (Review/Retrospective)

This post is part of the DCAU fortnight, a series of articles looking at the Warner Brothers animations featuring DC’s iconic selection of characters. I’ll be looking at movies and episodes and even some of the related comic books. With the review of Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths later on today, I thought I’d take a look at Grant Morrison’s graphic novel which inspired it in someway. However, I figure – given that large debt that the entire Justice League cartoon owes Morrison’s iconic tenure on Justice League of America – it’s time to take a look at the latter half of Morrison’s run on the title.

We have no powers, there are millions of them and there’s a child in there who needs us to save the world. Let’s go.

– another day at the office for Superman

I remarked in my review of the first two deluxe hardcovers collecting his work on the series that I was perhaps a lot less impressed than most with Morrison’s work on the title. It was grand and bombastic, but it ended up feeling more than a little hallow, especially measured against some of his bolder efforts within the superhero genre. Although time and a few re-reads have softened my perspective quite a bit, I will concede that I don’t measure this as the writer’s best work. It’s epic and smart and fun, but never really becomes anything too much more.

But, then again, they are the Justice League. If I want deep characterisation of philosophical meanderings, I can check out a different book.

It actually looks quite peaceful when you're not saving it...

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