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Every British cathedral… that I’ve been to

The UK is a weird place. There are cities in this country that are about the size of a small town and large city sized towns which are not cities. Why is this? Well, city status in the UK relies on a few things. It helps if there’s a big cathedral in the area. There are many cathedral cities in the country- some are in big cities, others in small ones. I’ve only been to 6, but I hope to one day visit more- in particular, Canterbury Cathedral, where Thomas Beckett was assassinated in 1120 after disputes with Henry II and Leicester Cathedral, where Richard III is buried. But for now, here are the cathedrals I’ve visited-

  • Winchester

This cathedral is about 15 minutes away from where I live. I have been to Winchester countless times and the cathedral is one of the most impressive aspects of the city. The city is historically important as it was the capital of Wessex, one of the ancient kingdoms of what’s now known as England. King Alfred ruled Wessex from Winchester and his statue is still in the city. Winchester Cathedral is one of the largest in Europe, with the longest nave in Europe and it’s the burial place of Jane Austen. It also contains the bones of King William II, who was shot and killed in the New Forest and who was taken to Winchester Cathedral but never buried. There’s so much history behind the cathedral and it’s a very impressive sight, and I’m not just saying that out of bias. Next to the cathedral is Wolvesey Castle, a ruined castle which was the sight of a battle in the 12th century between Stephen and Matilda during the Anarchy.

  • Truro

Image by Steve Parker via Flickr

I visited this cathedral during my trip to Cornwall last year. It is one of the only cathedrals in the UK to have three spires and the first Bishop of Truro became Archbishop of Canterbury. When it was completed in 1910, it was the first cathedral to be built on new ground since Salisbury. The organ of the cathedral is often considered one of the best in the country. Truro itself is a very small, but interesting city. It’s the southermost city in the country and has a wide variety of shops and attractions. It’s got a great museum detailing the history of Cornwall. I recommend visiting Cornwall as it is a very interesting area of the country.

  • Salisbury

Another very large and very important cathedral, with the tallest spire in the UK and the largest cloister. It also has one of the four remaining copies of the original Magna Carta from 1215. The cathedral has been around since 1258 and has historical importance. When I visited there a few days ago, I learnt that the cathedral was built on marshland and the water from the marsh can be reached with a stick in a hole in the cathedral. The Magna Carta is one of the most important documents in the world, as it has been called the foundation of democracy. It was written by the barons of the country to control King John, who they believed had gone out of control. It was signed in 1215 in Runneymede (which I visited earlier this year) and some of the clauses of Magna Carta still exist, such as the freedom of the City of London (different from London. It’s complicated) and the right for anyone to have a free and fair trial. The copy of the Magna Carta is held in the Chapter House of Salisbury Cathedral.

  • St Paul’s

You all know this one. One of London’s most famous landmarks, St Paul’s is an icon of Britain and survived the Blitz. It has been around for over 300 years and even to this day buildings in London have to be built so the view of St Paul’s isn’t blocked. The original St Paul’s was destroyed in 1666 during the Great Fire of London and got rebuilt with the iconic dome structure afterwards by Christopher Wren. One of the most famous parts of St Paul’s is the Whispering Gallery, where any noise made against the wall can be heard at any other point around the gallery. If you visit London, visit St Paul’s Cathedral as it is well worth a visit. Doctor Who fans like myself will obviously recognise St Paul’s as the location of two Cybermen invasions in 1968 and 2014.

  • Sheffield

Image by Andreas Mortonus via Flickr

I went to Sheffield very recently as part of my holiday to the Peak District. My first taste of Yorkshire was very good and I thoroughly enjoyed my visit there. The modern cathedral is a combination of many different time periods, with the oldest part being from the 13th century. The cathedral was large and very interesting and the city itself was very different to what I expected. It went through a major regeneration so there are lots of incredibly new areas and pieces of modern art. The Winter Garden, which is full of plants all around the world, was a highlight. There was also an indoor market that reminded me of the Fremantle markets in Australia. In conclusion, this was a great day trip, and the cathedral was a prominent part of that.

  • Lichfield

Image by Mark Ellam via Flickr

We visited Lichfield on the way back from the Peak District. We needed somewhere to stop and rest so Lichfield it was. This is another cathedral city where the city itself is very small, much like Winchester. The cathedral is huge and looks awesome. There’s statues of various kings and bishops on the ledges of the building and it’s the only cathedral built in medieval times with three spires. During the English Civil War, the cathedral was heavily damaged by several sieges on both sides, which resulted in the stained glass, roof and spires being destroyed. A major restoration project took place in the 19th century to rebuild the cathedral. The buildings around the cathedral are known as the Cathedral Close and are some of the most complete in the country. This trip was a pleasant surprise.

That’s only 6 cathedrals compared to the many, many cathedrals scattered around the country. Most of these cathedrals are ancient and stand as a reminder of the history of the country. I love visiting new places and exploring the history of this country through cathedrals and other areas is always a highlight of trips.

Attention Whovians! Let’s all calm down about a female Doctor

Well, something happened in the Whoniverse recently. No, I’m not talking about the Christmas Special trailer (which looks awesome, although I am worried that Bill’s return will be another Hell Bent). In fact, I’m referring to this-

Yes, we have a female Doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker. What do I think? I’m fine with the Doctor being a woman and it’ll be interesting to see Chris Chibnall’s vision of the show. However, this isn’t what this post is about. This is going to be about the fandom and how we all need to calm down.

Read the rest of this entry

Thirteenth Doctor: Should the Doctor be female?

EDIT 17th of July 2017

Yup, called it. So, let’s remember all cast our minds back to February where this innocent blog post was just frantic speculation.

 

Yeah, it’s time to talk about that elephant in the room.

vastra

Well, Peter Capaldi has left the TARDIS, after what only seems like a few days. While there’s a time and place to discuss the Twelfth Doctor (when he leaves this Christmas I’ll be doing a massive post on my views on his era as a whole, which will be interesting considering he followed my favourite Doctor), right now the question on everyone’s lips is: Who is the Thirteenth Doctor?

This then leads into the largest talking point: after 53 years of white males, is it time for a woman?

Now, speaking as a male Whovian who has grown up with three Doctors, experienced all of them and loves this show, I can safely say that I, personally, would not mind a female Doctor, BUT at the same time I don’t particularly care either way. As long as the character remains the same lovable Time Lord, the Doctor can be male or female, black or white. For me, it matters about the writing and whether or not I’ll like the Thirteenth (I don’t know who I’d cast, but as a Benedict Cumberbatch fan the thought of him as the Doctor is glorious. Hugh Laurie and Rowan Atkinson would also be fantastic).

So, there are two main talking points here. First, let’s look at whether the Doctor can change gender in the context of the show and second, whether it’ll be good for the show.

  1. CAN the Doctor be a woman?

missy

In the context of the show, yes. The show has slowly been building towards the idea of a female Doctor for years since Steven Moffat took over. In fact, one of Matt Smith’s first lines after regeneration was “I’m a girl!”. In the brilliant story The Doctor’s Wife, the Doctor’s friend the Corsair was established to have changed gender and in the Night of the Doctor, Paul McGann was given the choice “Man or woman”. Even Hell Bent, which I usually avoid talking about for fear of hitting something in anger, set this up with the General regenerating from a white man into a black woman.

And of course, there’s Missy. She is the main point of argument that people use when saying that a female Doctor would work. Missy is my favourite Master, but that’s got nothing to do with her gender. I love her for reasons I’ll dive into when she returns in Series 10. Her inclusion in the series has been warmly received by most fans and this once again shows that it’s not about the character’s gender, it’s about the writing. The Master is a character that is 45 years old and predominantly male (he was designed to be Moriarty to the Doctor’s Sherlock) but Missy shows that a male character can be changed into a female and still be the same character. Before Missy, I wasn’t sure about a female Doctor, but I’m now firmly supportive of one.

2. SHOULD the Doctor be a woman?

By this, I mean is it right for the show to do it now? Once again, I say, why not?

The Doctor isn’t like Sherlock Holmes or James Bond, The Doctor’s an alien whose species, as mentioned above, has no set gender. Yes, James Bond has changed actor, but Bond is a very masculine character defined by male sterotypes and tropes. Sherlock has gone through countless iterations but the character is still a male figure. The Doctor, on the other hand, is a time travelling alien with a magic police box who travels through time and space fighting monsters. He may be a male, but nothing about the character is specifically male. His humanity, his sense of justice, his humour, his code of conduct has nothing to do with his gender. As long as a female incarnation sticks with those ideals, go for it.

But will it be good for the show? Now, contrary to what the tabloids are saying the show is not dying. Peter Capaldi may not have been as loved by the public as David Tennant or Matt Smith (I really hope the BBC haven’t done what they did to Colin Baker on Capaldi), but the show is watched by millions worldwide and is critically adored. However, it has slipped past the public consciousness in recent times. Could a female Doctor be so discussed and so shocking that people will be interested in the show and check it out? Journey’s End received over 13 million viewers because people couldn’t stop talking about the surprise regeneration. A female Doctor could bring in a new audience and interest, and provided she’s good could keep that audience.

As for whether it’s right, of course it is. Pop culture is gradually shifting to be more equal. The Force Awakens, one of the biggest movies of the decade, has a female lead, as does Rogue One. There’s a Wonder Woman movie this year and a Captain Marvel movie in two years. There was an all female Ghostbusters (although that was pretty controversial to put it mildly). Female heroes are popping up more and more, so while it’s not necessary, a female Doctor would keep with modern pop culture.

Another criticism against a female Doctor is the fact that the boys watching will lose their role model. Well, I grew up watching The Sarah Jane Adventures and didn’t feel alienated, so I fail to see how having a different gender will make a portion of the audience completely lose faith in the show. Besides, lots of girls watch the show. Wouldn’t you say it’s time they had a role model they could be in the playground? I don’t think they want to be stuck playing the companion all the time. Speaking of companions, having a female Doctor doesn’t mean we have to lose Bill. All we need is a male companion to balance things out (I can’t be the only one who prefers multiple companions). Then, when Bill leaves we can have the traditional dynamic of male/female, just reversed.

So overall, this debate needs to be looked at fairly on both sides. I can see why someone would be against it, but for me I can’t see why it would ruin the show. I hope I’ve addressed both why a female Doctor can work and why it may/almost certainly will happen. Again, I’m not asking for one as a necessity. However, I have a strong hunch that we will have a female, or at least someone who isn’t a white male, for the Thirteenth Doctor and I feel like this needs addressing.

 

The Harry Potter question: Can too much of a franchise be bad?

Hey there fellow Britishfolk (or is it Britons?) Did you know it’s 20 years since the first Harry Potter book was published?

If you didn’t, I don’t know how you’ve managed to avoid every bookshop in the country showing massive signs with another brand new version of Philosopher’s Stone and the signs saying something like “20 years of Harry Potter!”

Now, on the surface this isn’t too bad. It’s a famous franchise which is celebrating a milestone. Here in Hampshire there’s a lot of promotion about it 200 years since Jane Austen died in Winchester. Star Wars recently celebrated 40 years this May and Doctor Who and James Bond had their half century celebrations in 2013 and 2012. So, why I am singling out Harry Potter, which keep in mind I do like a lot?

Why? Because we literally went through this “Pottermania” last year. Thanks to The Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, 2016 saw a massive Potter resurgence (well, bigger than usual. Pottermania never really dies in Britain). So, we’re doing it again this year? I know it’s 20 years and that’s worth celebrating, but wouldn’t this year be a better year to release the script/play/book/whatever Cursed Child is and also release the first in what Warner Brothers are saying will be the first of five (FIVE!?) movies only tangentially linked with Harry Potter? Ah, but then we wouldn’t get two years worth of merchandising. How much merchandising is there? Well, not only can you buy the original Fantastic Beasts book (which isn’t actually a story), you can also buy the movie, the screenplay of the movie and the reprinted version of the original book.

Voldemort has just learnt his three year old edition of Philosopher’s Stone is now outdated and he has to buy another one.

It would be hypocritical of me to complain about new editions of Harry Potter without acknowledging that yes, there have been new editions of Skulduggery Pleasant released this year due to the release of Resurrection (which was awesome). My editions are mostly second edition. However, compare the amount of editions Skulduggery Pleasant has to the amount of editions Harry Potter has. Obviously Harry Potter is a much bigger franchise and is older, but there isn’t a picture book version of the first two Skulduggery books is there? Or a play made for money which was published as a book for further money which was released nine years after the story ended? Resurrection was released three years after The Dying of the Light with Derek Landy stating he had clear plans for Phase Two, which makes sense if you’ve read the books. I don’t think JK Rowling had plans for a Harry Potter Phase Two, hence why the “untold eighth story” came nine years after Deathly Hallows was published in the same year a spin off movie was released. Do you know why I don’t think she had plans for a Phase Two? Because Harry Potter is about a boy wizard who goes to school and stays there for seven years whilst stopping the rise of Voldemort. Seven years, seven books. You make another book not about Harry Potter at school or stopping Voldemort, I’m sorry, it’s not Harry Potter.

Incidentally, I’d like to know if there’s any Skulduggerymania in Ireland the same way there’s Pottermania here. You know, giant banners and a section of a bookshop dedicated to nothing but it?

I understand a multi billion pound franchise needs merchandise. Trust me, I think the same thing about some of the Star Wars merchandise as I do Harry Potter merchandise. But even then, George Lucas always had a nine movie plan, hence the new trilogy. Trust me, I will start saying what I’m saying here about Star Wars if there’s movies made after Episode 9. Are Rogue One and the upcoming Anthology movies ways to make more money of a recognisable franchise? Yes, they are. However, Rogue One bridged the gap between Episode III and IV, adding to both movies and was clearly linked to Star Wars by having the plot be about how the Rebel Alliance got the plans to the Death Star. In short, it’s made to make the other films better.

Fantastic Beasts is set a hundred years before the events of Harry Potter and has characters not even mentioned in the movies with a plot that has nothing to do with the movies. It’s like if Disney made a movie about Qui-Gon Jinn’s aunt and her adventures fighting a wampa, who hasn’t got anything to do with Star Wars. Guess what? Neither does Newt Scamander to Harry Potter. I know the movies will link with the Harry Potter movies eventually, but do we need FIVE movies to do it? Again, if Disney make five movies about Qui-Gon’s aunt, I’ll start saying the same things I’m saying here.

Whaddya mean there’s FOUR more on the way!?

I honestly feel like the franchise is being milked. It’s been six years since the last movie and ten since the last book. Suddenly there’s a mass resurgence of merchandise and new material after it’s stopped being relevant. Again, Star Wars was planned as nine movies and designed as an anthology series, and Skulduggery Pleasant only ended three years ago, meaning the new book this year just felt like a delayed sequel. Other great franchises such as Doctor Who, James Bond and comic book universes can constantly get renewed and changed. Harry Potter is one franchise with one story. I don’t care about what happens before or after- Harry Potter is about Harry Potter.

I just feel like enough is enough. I love the books, I love the movies. I didn’t grow up with them since 1997 for obvious reasons that I wasn’t born but they’ve been a constant part of my childhood since around 2006 and I have fond memories of them. I’m just getting annoyed at the constant new material and attempts to make more out of seven books and eight movies. I mean, JK Rowling’s richer than the Queen, I don’t think she needs more money and I feel like she’s stuck on what made her famous. If this doesn’t stop, Harry Potter will just become another franchise people will grow tired of. I’m getting tired of it, and I’m British, so if I say I’m tired of Harry Potter I’ll be exiled. Indeed, it’s the law to have at least one copy of a Harry Potter book in every house in Britain, next to the tea set and the complete Monty Python, as decreed by Benedict Cumberbatch.

Only joking about all that, our laws aren’t that dumb.

It has to be at least two copies.

The Doctor Falls: One of my new favourite stories ever

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I have loved Series 10 of Doctor Who but as always, the quality of the series would always depend on the strength on how it was wrapped up in the finale. Just look at last series, where a mostly strong run of episodes was let down by the incredibly disappointing and lacklustre Hell Bent, making the entire series feel pointless in hindsight. Here however, we have the exact opposite happen, as Steven Moffat has learnt from his mistakes in the past and created a truly brilliant finale that has taken a place in my favourite stories list.

Let’s talk set up first because obviously this is a two parter. World Enough and Time (no idea what that title means but oh well) was a great set up with pitch perfect pacing and an incredibly macabre tone throughout. As a huge Cyberman fan I loved seeing the New Series utilise the body horror aspect, with the emotional inhibitors not preventing the pain of conversion, merely preventing it. The time dilation also added a huge amount of tension to the episode, as every second the Doctor, Nardole and Missy spent at the top of the ship meant the closer Bill got to full conversion, which of course eventually happened. Like most part ones, it was mainly set up for The Doctor Falls, but it was fantastic nonetheless. Missy was brilliant as always (I love her sonic umbrella) and seeing John Simm return was glorious. I figured out that Razor was the Master by about his second scene, but that didn’t stop the reveal being executed perfectly. If the BBC hadn’t let the news be leaked beforehand, then I reckon the Master’s reveal would go down as one of the finest twists in the show.

Part two was where the main meat of the story comes into play, as the Masters are forced to work with the Doctor due to the Cybermen turning on them. It was a simple story and what I loved about it was that the universe wasn’t under threat: it was just one floor of a spaceship. This didn’t stop the story from feeling truly epic in scope however. This story really capitalises on who the Doctor really is, as his phenomenal speech to the Masters shows. He doesn’t travel the universe to win or to fight villains- he travels the universe and helps people because it’s right. I see this speech as Peter Capaldi’s defining moment, and John Simm’s reaction is hilarious.

The best finales in New Who- The Big Bang, Last of the Time Lords, Death in Heaven and this- not only tell a great story but make the entire series connect together thematically and making every story feel like part of a bigger picture. The Doctor Falls is no exception, as the themes of the series are explored in full. The idea of the value of individual lives from Oxygen is brought back, the idea of time dilation and the Doctor’s willingness to throw his life away from others from The Eaters of Light are expanded upon and the Monk trilogy is linked with Bill’s resistance to Cyber conversion. There’s also been Missy’s redemption arc which started in Extremis and of course the resolution to Bill’s story from The Pilot. This story just made re watching Series 10 so much better.

I’ll admit I’ve never enjoyed the Twelfth Doctor as much as the Tenth or Eleventh Doctors, despite still being great (mainly due to Clara hogging up two thirds of his era) even though Series 10 has made me love him more and more thanks to companions who weren’t irritating, but for this two parter, Peter Capaldi was quite possibly the best Doctor ever. Seriously, I wish this would have been the regeneration story, but we’ll have to wait and see whether the Christmas Special is a worthy send off for the Twelfth Doctor. I’m curious as to why he refuses to regenerate, but we’ll have to wait till Christmas. I’m so happy the cause of regeneration for him was a Cyberman, as I’ve wanted them to actually kill a Doctor. His arc in this episode is superb as he will do whatever it takes to defeat the Cybermen, even if it means his death. I cannot wait to see how this incarnation leaves. I have a feeling the Christmas special will be standalone but linked to this story in the same way Waters of Mars and Day of the Doctor were linked to the regeneration stories of Ten and Eleven.

Another one of the best aspects of the story was how Missy’s arc was handled. She’s been my favourite Master since Death in Heaven (although Roger Delgado will always be the best Master) and she got a superb send off. I love how the arc of the series has evolved from what’s in the vault to the question of whether Missy will truly change. Her scenes in Lie of the Land were the highlight of that episode and she’s a highlight here, with her final scene of self sacrifice and redemption being masterful (pun totally intended). I love how in Series 8 she tried to turn the Doctor onto her side, whilst throughout this series the Doctor is trying to turn her onto his side. It just show that even between all the fighting, they ultimately care for each other deeply. I adore the conversation the Doctor has with Bill in World Enough and Time about how he and the Master were friends, as it shows Steven Moffat understands the incredibly deep relationship the two characters have. Her arc this series was beautiful and wonderfully done, as she stands with the Doctor at the end and kills her previous self before dying herself. It’s a perfect end for the character and the fact that the Doctor may never know she turned good is utterly devastating yet appropriate.

Now onto John Simm. I’ve read some reviews that have said he was underused, but I disagree. He serves many purposes in the story such as being the catalyst of the Cyberman plot as well as to serve as a contrast to Missy. Moffat understands the Tennant era Master stories and from those stories it’s pretty obvious that the Master is without redemption. In Last of the Time Lords he chooses to die rather than be forgiven and in the End of Time he fights Rassilon out of revenge, not redemption. In The Doctor Falls, his only motive is to return to his TARDIS due to his plan failing. He doesn’t care about the Doctor’s struggle and his death and offscreen regeneration into who we assume is Missy is appropriate for this incarnation. In one last moment of evil, he essentially kills himself due to his refusal to turn good. I love the Tennant Master stories but this is definitely the best story to feature John Simm’s Master, and his Delgado-esque beard and rubbish disguise in the first part are brilliant Classic Series references. His presence in this also adds to one of the themes of the story- much like how the Doctor and Bill do not wish to live if they couldn’t be themselves, the Master would rather die than see himself changed.

This series has had not one but two awesome companions, and they both got great send offs here (well, Nardole got a send off. I’ve heard Bill is coming back in some form for the Christmas special). One of the surprise highlights of the series has been Nardole. I’ve always loved companions who are different from the norm and Nardole was certainly that. He was able to give many incredibly dark stories some humour and levity. His mini-arc in this story is subtly done but great, as he ends his travels with the Doctor to act as a protector, much like he’s done throughout the series. I wish his backstory was expanded upon, but there’s always Big Finish. Who would of thought that the bumbling fool from Husbands of River Song could end up blowing up Cybermen with a rifle and some computer hacking?

As awesome as Nardole was throughout the series, he wasn’t the main companion. Bill has become my second favourite New Series companion after Donna and I feel like this story was a good ending for her. I would have liked another series with her but Donna didn’t get another series so it’s fine. I was concerned that Bill’s Cyber conversion would be ignored but it was a major part of The Doctor Falls, utilising the psychological aspects of the Cybermen. I’m once again going to defend a controversial aspect of the episode and say that I really liked Bill’s departure. It didn’t undo her conversion and I feel like it wrapped up her arc well. It is similar to Clara’s, but to me Clara’s departure in Hell Bent was pointless as she already had a perfectly good ending in Face the Raven that was the perfect end to her character arc. Bringing her back just felt unnecessary. In contrast, Bill’s arc all series is all about her eagerness to explore the universe. What happened to her wasn’t her fault and no one, not even Adric, deserved a Cyber conversion without any sort of reward at the end. Killing Bill off would have been going against her character and the spirit of the show, as her death wouldn’t have been a heroic sacrifice like Adric’s or Clara’s. Now, she’s allowed to travel the universe with a new perspective thanks to her travels with the Doctor. That said, what kind of an alien race has the resources to make immortal, intelligent all-powerful oil? If the oil from the spaceship is that powerful, how powerful must the aliens themselves be? Sequel, Chibnall, sequel! It also helps that The Doctor Falls didn’t spend the majority of its run time saying goodbye to a companion who had already left three times and instead actually told a story.

On top of all the character development and themes, this story doesn’t forget to just be awesome. Three types of Cybermen (I would have liked to see the Eeeexcellent Cybermen from the 80’s but it doesn’t matter), two Masters and even a surprise First Doctor cameo! The scene where the Doctor blows up the Cybermen is nothing short of breathtaking. Not only is it symbolic of the Doctor’s final stand and packed with continuity references, but it’s just plain awesome to watch. The scene of the Cybermen flying up from the bottom of the ship is all kinds of cool and the soundtrack throughout the episode is glorious. As much as I like Death in Heaven, the Cybermen were ultimately superfluous to the story, whereas they were the main enemy here. This story was in the end a base under siege and wasn’t over complicated or convoluted- just a simple story.

In conclusion, World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls has easily earned a place in my top ten Doctor Who stories of all time. The pitfalls of the era have been forgiven due to this absolutely magnificent story that felt epic but at the same time restrained. Everything I’ve wanted in the Capaldi era from the beginning was present here, and as much as I’ve loved a lot of his era, no story (not even Heaven Sent, which was let down by what followed) was as amazing as the best of David Tennant and Matt Smith until now. This story is up there with The God Complex, Waters of Mars, Kinda and Inferno as the show hitting on all cylinders and with everything working. I cannot wait for Christmas and cannot wait to write up my Top 10 Peter Capaldi episodes afterwards.

Spider-Man 2 review

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It’s going to be a busy couple of weeks in the world of fandom, in particular the latest Marvel movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming. My expectations are sky high, and I hope the movie can live up to the great run of previous MCU movies as well as live up to the fantastic standards set by comic book movies this year, with all of them being brilliant.

So, to honour the third incarnation of Spider-Man on the big screen, I’m looking back at not only my favourite comic book movie, but one of my favourite movies in general: Spider-Man 2. In my opinion, this is also the finest sequel ever made.

What’s so brilliant about it? Simply put, it’s the story. The story of Spider-Man is simple: a cocky teenager is given powers through chance and through events such as the death of his uncle he learns to use his powers for good. This is all set up in the first film just fine, but it’s in this movie where the themes of the character come into play. In Spider-Man 2, Peter Parker is struggling between his superhero identity and his normal life. He fights crime at night but loses focus on the things that he cares about such as Aunt May and Mary Jane. It’s a simple but captivating dilemma: should Peter give up his responsibility as a superhero to be happy or should he continue his superhero life because it’s the right thing to do even if he can’t be truly happy? This dilemma is at the heart of the film and is the main reason why this movie is amazing.

It’s all in the subtlety of how the story is told. While I love The Dark Knight, I feel the themes are a bit “in your face”. The characters often break the flow of the movie to discuss the themes at play, which is fine, but Spider-Man 2 addresses its themes in a more subtle manner and maintain a strong pace throughout. This is helped by the humour (especially J Jonah Jameson), the comic book esque direction and colour pallette (one of my few flaws with the MCU is how the colour palette is the same greyish tone throughout, except for Guardians of the Galaxy) and the camp factor. It’s an inherently cheesy movie but I feel like it has to be: it’s a movie about a guy dressed in red latex fighting a guy with giant mechanical arms. I feel like comic book movies have to be cheesy, which is why I’m glad DC is embracing the inherent silliness of their comics in Wonder Woman and Suicide Squad after the grim tone of their previous movies. The key to avoiding a completely camp disaster is to have heart and a sense of direction, which is what Spider-Man 2 has.

J Jonah Jameson is the. Best. Character. Ever.

There are so many standout scenes, most of them not action scenes. Even a simple scene like Peter admitting to Aunt May what really happened the night Uncle Ben died have so much impact due to the background behind the characters. My favourite scene is Peter’s vision of Uncle Ben convincing him to keep being Spider-Man, which Peter refuses to do and throws the costume away. It’s a marvellous scene because it perfectly captures the themes of the film, which is Peter abandoning his promise after Ben’s death to ensure no one else has to suffer the same way he did. By abandoning his powers, Peter is also throwing away what Spider-Man stands for.

There’s also Aunt May’s speech about ordinary people having the strength to do extraordinary things as well as the scene where Harry Osborne learns of Peter’s secret identity. Harry is another strong character in the film and his journey builds brilliantly on the ending on the first film and sets up the third. Even though he isn’t the focus of the film, he still gets an arc, which is another strength of the film-making every character feel real.

The best character next to Peter (Spider-Man isn’t in the film much, but when he is it’s brilliant) is Doctor Octopus. An incredibly one dimensional character in the comics (he’s a mad scientist and that’s about it) is turned into a very complex, fleshed out villain. I wouldn’t even call him a villain, as he’s just misguided. He just wants to continue his experiments and the death of his wife drives him to madness and he turns to crime to help continue his research. This is why his sacrifice at the end of the film is important, as he realises the error of his ways. A fantastic villain who complements the themes of the movie perfectly, as whilst Peter is struggling with his double life, Doc Oc has embraced it. This is another aspect of older comic book movies I wish more recent ones would embrace, and actually have a compelling antagonist.

I haven’t even talked about the action yet. As I’ve mentioned, the action in the movie is not the main focus, with the action scenes being there to further the story forward. That doesn’t stop them from being fantastic though. Spidey and Doc Oc’s brawl at the bank is fantastic but the ultimate action sequence is the train battle near the end of the second act. After powerful character moments, compelling dialogue and a brilliant story which details Peter’s struggle to return to normal life, Peter Parker dons the suit once again to battle Doc Oc for a second time. The experience of watching the scene is nothing short of breathtaking, as it’s literally a comic book battle brought to life. I can’t describe the brilliance of this scene, so I’m just going to put the scene here and you will see for yourself. It’s the best action sequence ever put in a comic book movie and it’s so awesome the final fight in the old clocktower feels underwhelming in comparison, even thought it’s still good. The only other times I’ve felt this giddy whilst watching a comic book movie is the Avengers fighting each other in Civil War, and the only other action scene that gives me this amount of satisfaction is the Battle of Minas Tirith in Return of the King.

Overall, Spider-Man 2 is what I would call a perfect movie. It sits comfortably in my Top 10 favourite movies of all time and is the finest comic book movie I’ve ever seen. I’ve heard that Homecoming is the best Spider-Man film, and while I’m sure it’ll be awesome, I don’t feel like anything can top the genius of this movie.

The Eaters of Light review

Well, I’ve finished my exams and have no school for twelve glorious weeks. While I could spend that time going out enjoying the sun, I’m going to spend my time reviewing Doctor Who because of course I am. I’ve missed a few episodes so I’ll sum up my thoughts in brief: Extremis was excellent, Pyramid at the End of the Long Title was pretty good, Lie of the Land was disappointing (especially given the build up) and Empress of Mars was an absolute blast with the greatest cameo ever.

So how does The Eaters of Light stack up with the high quality of the series? In short, I thought it was excellent, and it’s one of my favourites this year along with Oxygen and Thin Ice. With the finale this week, it would have been easy for this episode to be bad and have the finale make up for it (also known as the In the Forest of the Night/Fear Her/Sleep No More effect) but fortunately there’s enough in this episode to make it stand out.

I love historical stories and this is one of the best in recent memory. Like Thin Ice, the story is focused more on the history and the setting rather than the sci fi, and weaves the sci fi to make it support the history rather than have the history support the sci fi, as is often the case. Both historical stories this year are reminiscent of Vincent and the Doctor, one of my favourite stories, in this way.

That’s not to say the sci fi is bad. I would complain that the monster is underused, but after a whole series of misunderstood creatures and underwhelming threats, to have a monster simply want to eat everyone is quite refreshing. The Eater of Light is probably the best designed monster since the Teller and whilst the budget restraints prevented the monster from appearing too much, it appeared enough to be a satisfying threat. In a series lacking in strong monsters, we finally have one. It reminded me of something from Merlin, which is always good as that show was awesome.

I don’t care how old I am, I want this monster as a toy. I still have my toy Werewolf and Pyroville, and I think I have a Prisoner Zero lying around somewhere.

The monster wasn’t the main focus though, which was once again on character. I love the Doctor and Nardole team up and wish they had more solo stories together, and having them together in this one served as a good contrast to last week, which was severely lacking Nardole. He’s become one of my favourite companions, and I can’t believe I would say that when I first heard the news that he was returning. I would like an episode dealing with his past though, which should hopefully happen next series.

The parallels to Rona Munro’s previous story, the excellent Survival (which I also watched last night and gets better every time I watch it) are clear with Bill. Like Ace in that story, Bill has to lead a team of scared young people to fight off an impossible threat, showing how the Doctor has influenced her. It’s important that the two leads are seperated before the finale so we can get the best out of both characters.

How refreshing is it to actually have a TARDIS materialisation scene?

Another similarity to Survival is the excellent pacing. With the exception of Oxygen all the other stories have had pacing issues but The Eaters of Light was perfectly paced, with a strong, satisfying resolution. Whilst the epilogue with Missy did feel completely seperate from the rest of the episode, I felt it was necessary to build hype for this week’s bonkers finale. I actually feel like Missy could be a good, Turlough-esque companion for a few episodes.

Honestly, there’s not really much to discuss here. This was just an incredibly atmospheric and fun standalone story which gave the Twelfth Doctor one last bit of adventure before the guaranteed seriousness of the finale. I loved the fantastical tone of the story, which reminded me of Torchwood’s Small Worlds and as I mentioned, Merlin. When Doctor Who tackles fantasy it can sometimes fall flat but this series has had a really good understanding of fantasy, as this episode and Knock Knock are both more about unexplained, slightly supernatural occurrences rather than science. It works as long as the atmosphere is right.

I’ve mentioned it before, but the Doctor/Nardole dynamic really reminds of the Second Doctor and Jamie. I love their constant snarks at each other and how the Doctor constantly insults Nardole.

If I had to criticise, it’s that the stuff about the crows was just… odd. That was In the Forest of the Night levels of fantasy there and that is not good. As I mentioned, I would have liked to have seen the monster more and have a bit more tense moments with it. The modern day pre-credits was also unnecessary and too similar to last week’s. Which leads me onto a bit of a tangent, but here goes-

Am I the only one who feels like the second half of the series has been paced weirdly? Oxygen and Extremis had built up such a strong sense of hype but the other two Monk episodes failed to escalate the tension, killing the flow. We then got two standalones with similar plots (two warring sides working together, Bill falling down a hole, a Classic Who feel, caves). If I was structuring the series, I would have had Episode 6 deal with the Doctor’s blindness and reveal Missy in the vault, then this episode with the epilogue removed making it a complete standalone, a standalone Episode 8 focusing on Nardole, Empress of Mars with this episode’s epilogue and then Extremis could have served as a Turn Left-esque story where the Mondasian Cybermen are practising an invasion of Earth via a simulation, which would lead straight into the finale. I would have saved the other Monk episodes for another series with the same writer on all parts and Lie of the Land being stretched into two parts.

But back to The Eaters of Light. Overall, this is another very strong episode in what’s shaping up to be the strongest series since Series 5 (Lie of the Land wasn’t the best but it wasn’t a Hell Bent/Kill the Moon disaster). As long as the finale is amazing then Series 10 will likely go down as one of New Who’s best.

Next week it’s the return of John Simm’s Master and the Mondasian Cybermen. As cool as it is to have a multi Master story, I just love the original Cybermen and look forward to their reappearance more. I recommend watching The Tenth Planet and listening to the fantastic Big Finish audio Spare Parts in anticipation.

 

Oxygen review: This series just gets better and better

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Well, this is slightly late.

In my feeble defense I have been doing exams and fortunately we have a three parter coming up so I can take a break from writing until the Monk story is finished. For now though, we have the best story in the series so far and the best in the show overall since probably Heaven Sent or Flatline.

This is just a spectacular episode in every way. For the first time this series the characters were in real danger and the tension was brilliant. There’s just a sense that the characters could die at any point and thanks to the brilliant final reveal this story has a lasting effect on the Doctor. Finally, the danger of the Whoniverse is back.

Look at this. Just look at this. This is such an awesome ship.

Even the mere premise is genius. The idea of oxygen as money is a fascinating idea similar to the ideas of Sleep No More last series, however Jamie Mathieson actually utilised his ideas well and incorporated them into the story without making the episode any less entertaining or tense. Doctor Who has done satire before- The Sun Makers springs to mind immediately- but New Who doing a very topical satire attacking capitalism (although the writers of Doctor Who didn’t know there would be an upcoming election otherwise we’d have a Peladon story) is not something that happens often. Unlike Kill the Moon, which stopped being a Troughton-esque base under siege halfway through, Oxygen never loses sight of the space zombies or the scares.

Wow, I’ve gone about the themes but haven’t even discussed the characters yet. This is easily the best the Twelfth Doctor has been since the Zygon two parter (like the Third Doctor, Twelve seems to fire on all cylinders during political scripts). He’s funny, cold, serious and most importantly, vulnerable. Even before he’s blind he is out of his comfort zone with no TARDIS and no sonic. After he is blind, the story’s stakes are raised to an even higher degree than before. It’s just like 42, where David Tennant being possessed by Toraji gave the episode a dramatic edge which made for truly compelling viewing. There is a reason Oxygen is so tense in the second half and that’s due to the vulnerability the Doctor is in. This episode also demonstrates one of the Doctor’s best aspects- his willingness to help anyone regardless of who they are.

The Doctor’s ability to survive in space has been established before but there’s never been consequences.

The companions were also on top form. This is Nardole’s first true adventure as a companion since the Christmas special and he worked very well in the already established Doctor/Bill dynamic. It’s so refreshing to have an alien companion and whilst many people feared Nardole would only be a comedic character, this episode proved them wrong. He has a defined purpose in the team and it looks like he’ll be taking a central role tonight. He’s easily the most unique New Series companion and I hope he sticks around. Bill continued to be the best companion since Donna and I can’t express how good it is to have a companion who experiences fear and can help the audience connect with what’s going on. I snarked whilst watching that she had died after the incredible losing oxygen scene but I honestly feel some kids probably thought she had died. That’s a mark of a great episode, where you care about characters you know will survive.

Honestly, with one exception which I’ll discuss later, I don’t think there was a single problem with the episode. It was perfectly based, the zombies were great (no aliens again but the faceless bureaucrats behind the killings were a great villain) and the direction was fantastic. The opening was perfect, with a scene of two astronauts being picked off by the zombies, setting the scene perfectly for the scares ahead. I personally wasn’t too scared but I can imagine kids being pretty terrified and unlike Knock Knock there was no happy ending. This was hard core sci-fi at its best.

These are the scariest monsters since the Foretold. The fact that they’re human is even scarier.

So, the one problem I had? I think the villain should have been Gus from Mummy on the Orient Express. It would have added continuity, made a great episode even better and solved a loose plot thread. The themes from Oxygen would not have been lost and it would have given the episode a tangible threat. Don’t get me wrong, I love the twist that there was no hack and the suits were just doing what they were programmed to do but Gus could have easily been controlling them. That said, it wasn’t an objective problem and not everyone would have liked that so I admit this is just a personal gripe that doesn’t actually make the episode worse.

What else is there to talk about? I feel I’ve discussed everything…

Oh yeah, the final scene.

What a genius idea this is. Making the Doctor blind will just make the upcoming episodes so much better if Moffat runs with it well. It also makes the question of how Peter Capaldi will regenerate much more interesting. As if the return of Missy and the promise of a three parter wasn’t already enough to hype me for tonight, we now have a blind Doctor and whoever is in the Vault will know that. I thought Knock Knock would be the arc based one whilst this would be standalone but I was completely wrong, as this episode will have lasting consequences on the series, making a fantastic episode even better.

So, a three parter with actual villains and Missy? Sign me up. I’ll be back in early June to tackle the biggest story since Series 3.

Doctor Who Knock Knock review

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We’re a third of the way through the series already- where’s the time gone? To be realistic, the weeks are going slowly due to my upcoming exams (HELP!) and Doctor Who is the light at the end of the tunnel so to speak.

I’ve made it no secret I’ve found this run of episodes to be very strong so far, but much like Series 8 and 9 we’ll have to wait to see if a dud comes around at some point towards the end (let’s hope not). Knock Knock continues the series’s strong run so far, and is reminiscent of stories like Ghost Light and Image of the Fendahl, two of my favourite stories. Whilst not as strong as those stories, this is still a very entertaining and well written addition to the already strong Series 10. It’s probably my favourite so far.

This is the first time this series where the Doctor and Bill are separated and this is where the episode shines. We see how far Bill has come in just four episodes as she basically tells the Doctor to go away and let her live her life, which is great although I’m not a fan of how Steven Moffat always has companions pop in and out of their daily lives. Whilst I like The Caretaker, we really didn’t need another similar episode in Series 10 dealing with the companion’s dual life so I’m glad that wasn’t the focus this week. Scaring children (and my mum who only watched because of David Suchet) and creating an entertaining story was the focus. It wasn’t as character based as last week, but I’m sensing themes and arcs throughout the series I’ll discuss later.

Haunted house, creepy bugs, body horror. This episode truly feels like a Guillermo del Toro film.

The Doctor was again fantastic (let’s hope Mike Bartlett is invited back in Chris Chibnall’s run) and I always love seeing him work independently and with other characters that aren’t the companion. He gets great lines (“Don’t be scared. It doesn’t help”) and I’m enjoying him every week. Thee most interesting aspect of his character is his interactions with whoever’s in the vault, which I’ll get back to later. Overall, another strong outing for the Twelfth Doctor, who is shaping up to be a truly great Doctor in his final series and it only looks better from here.

The best part of the episode for me was the Landlord. He’s the first truly complex villain of the series and I love how by the end of the episode you truly feel sympathy for him despite his villainous actions. His motives are understandable and he really is a tragic figure, as he’s so caught up with keeping his mother alive that he’s forgotten to live a life, in contrast to both the Doctor and Bill who have experienced loss and moved on. We’ve now had two human villains this series and the Landlord is a lot better than Sutcliffe last week. I’d honestly call the Landlord my favourite original villain since House from The Doctor’s Wife. To think I believed him to be a major character in the whole series when he’s just a one-off character.

One major criticism is that I wish all of Bill’s friends stayed dead (morbid I know but a kid died last week) or at least some of them didn’t come back. Maybe they’ll come back later in the series but I just wish there were some deaths in the episode to increase the stakes. Another problem which the episode shares with the rest of the series so far is the slightly rushed ending. The scenes with Eliza are the best of the series so far with brilliant writing, acting and emotion but there isn’t enough to let the emotions sink in before the tease about the vault. There’s also a lack of explanation about where the woodlice creatures come from or the full extent of their powers. The rushed endings have been a constant problem this series and I really wish the episodes were an hour long. There’s a three parter coming and a two part finale so I doubt this will be a constant problem but it’s been a recurring issue so far.

Not the episode’s fault, but I wish the marketing hadn’t given away Eliza in the trailer. It would have made the reveal in the episode terrifying.

A positive element of all the episodes have been the introduction of themes and character arcs I think will be expanded upon later on in the series. The main theme I think so far is about how to move on from loss or trauma, as it’s popped up in every episode so far-

  • The Pilot: Bill has to let go of Heather and the Doctor has to let go of his oath to accept his new companion.
  • Smile: The Vardi cannot let go of the grief that the colonists faced when the oldest member died and see grief as a virus.
  • Thin Ice: One of the main themes of the episode. Bill moves on from her trauma at seeing someone die and the Doctor admits that he moves on all the time.
  • Knock Knock: The Landlord is unable to move on from the promise he makes to his mother.

Could this go anywhere? I think so, and Steven Moffat is smart enough to bring together all the episodes thematically like he did with Series 5, 8 and to an extent 6. I think it could be to do with what’s in the vault, which I think could either be Missy, The Master, the Myrka, Frobisher the Penguin or Susan. Two of those guesses will definitely not be happening.

“And then there was that time when I fought the Abzorbaloff, but we don’t talk about that…”

In conclusion, Knock Knock is a great story that’s better on rewatch once you know what’s going on. I find it far superior to Hide but not as good as the Classic Who stories I mentioned earlier. This week it’s Oxygen, which looks so awesome I’ve decided to not read or watch anything linked with it. I want to go in completely blind.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 review

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Yes folks. Two posts in a week. And a post that isn’t a Doctor Who review!

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned how much I love Red Dwarf. I LOVE Red Dwarf.

And speaking of awesome sci-fi comedies (how’s that for a segway?), we have the latest Marvel movie, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. After the emotional highs of Civil War and the uniqueness of Doctor Strange, this movie was a return to the goofy banter and silliness of the earlier Marvel movies. This isn’t a bad thing at all, as the first Guardians movie is one of my favourite Marvel movies, and this movie is even funnier. The funniest characters are Drax and Baby Groot, who steals the show every time he’s on screen. I won’t spoil the jokes as this will be a spoiler free review, but the high level of comedy is maintained throughout the movie.

Much like Age of Ultron, this movie is a bit more complex and character based than the first movie. The team is split up and there are two stories going on: Star-Lord, Gamora and Drax get caught up with a mysterious figure claiming to be Star-Lord’s father whilst Rocket and Groot are being pursued by Ravagers. That’s the basic plot and I won’t give too much away, but it takes the Two Towers/Empire Strikes Back approach and takes time developing each character by splitting them up and focusing on the different dynamics. It really works and when the team unite at the end, it’s immensely satisfying.

My favourite character in the movie is Rocket Raccoon and he’s basically everything I love in a character: snarky, funny, complex and an anti-hero. He gets some awesome development in this movie and while the story doesn’t focus on him, he’s still my favourite character overall. His interaction with Groot are as hilarious as ever and the dynamic he shares with Yondu is great. Star-Lord gets the most focus and he goes through a lot in the film, and the film itself is a lot more emotional than the first, with darker themes and a major, major event that addresses one of the biggest issues in the MCU.

The villain of the piece is one of my favourite in the MCU.  Without giving anything away, they’re a lot better than most villains in the franchise and gets a lot of development. They are probably my favourite MCU villain along with Loki, Ultron and Alexander Pierce (I’m seriously trying to not spoil anything here- I’ve seen so-called “spoiler free” reviews that reveal plot points and characters. Kind of defeats the purpose of spoiler-free.) There are a lot of new characters, and I’ll admit not all of them are that memorable and there’s a character whose sole purpose is to be a punchline. It’s not too bad as it’s a funny joke, but some characters are pretty one dimensional.

The action is fantastic throughout, though not as innovative as Ant-Man or Doctor Strange. The climax is quite similar to other endings in the MCU but the emotional weight makes up for it. In an age where there are new Star Wars movies it’s hard for space battles to be particularly unique but there’s a still a distinct Marvel feel to the action and there’s a strong amount of variety in the action and plenty of quiet moments. The movie has really good escalation, with a big mystery and gradual character growth until the absolutely bonkers third act where the story gets genuinely fantastic. Despite this, the overall tone of the film is still optimistic, which is needed in movies at the moment and particularly due to the MCU getting darker. Much like the first movie, it’s standalone, so all you need to watch is the first Guardians of the Galaxy without having to know anything else about the MCU. It does help to have knowledge of the Marvel universe though, as many Easter Eggs and references are linked to the comics. Stan Lee gets one of his best cameos and the five (yes five) after credits scenes are a mixture of fun scenes and one very important one, so keep watching when the credits roll.

Overall, Volume 2 is another fantastic Marvel movie. Whilst it’s not as good as the first film or even the two MCU movies of 2016, it’s still a great time at the cinema and offers heart and emotion along with awesome action, humour and Baby Groot. Next up for the MCU it’s Spider-Man and then Thor, Hulk and Doctor Strange teaming up. I can’t wait.