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Saturday, December 8, 2018

Doctor Who: It Takes You Away

So... that was pretty weird, right? I'd seen this episode described as "the trippiest Doctor Who episode we've seen in years," and that about sums it up. It was so trippy in fact, that I'm not even sure how I feel about it. Here are some brief thoughts...

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Doctor Who: The Witchfinders

This was a fairly solid episode, and one that made the most of the Doctor now being in feminine form. It could have very easily played out the same with Eleven or Twelve (after all, men were accused of witchcraft too) but there was certainly a deeper resonance to it with her as a woman, as well as some pertinent themes about fear-mongering and the complexity of human nature that worked surprisingly well.

So as ever, this season keeps proving that its historical episodes are its best.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Reading/Watching Log #35

This reading/watching log is a little late: I usually like to have it posted before the month in question has passed, but it's been a busy few weeks and a pretty long month. For all that, I managed to get a surprising amount of reading done – in fact, I think I read more than I watched! As well as that, I managed to sneak in a ballet and an Agatha Christie play, so it's been pretty productive four weeks all things considered.
Along with nutcrackers and crime, it's also been a time for the fourth books in ongoing series, the book or movie counterparts to children's classics, a bunch of superheroes in their formative years, a few spins on traditional fairy tales, and of course: SHE-RA!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Woman of the Month: She-Ra

Adora from She-Ra

This was a bit of a no-brainer.
I was intrigued by the decision to reboot She-Ra: much like Xena Warrior Princess, she started off as the Distaff Counterpart to a previously existing male character with his own show – in Xena's case it was Hercules, in She-Ra's case it was He-Man. (Coincidentally enough, up until recently a Xena reboot was also in the works without any mention of her male counterpart).
In any case, the eighties' take on She-Ra was actually a pretty fascinating one: as the long lost twin sister of Prince Adam (He-Man's alter-ego), Adora was raised by an evil faction known as the Horde, who sought to dominate the planet of Etheria. To continue with the similarities between Adora and Xena, it's Adam/Hercules who brings her to the side of the angels by showing her the truth of the world and appealing to her better nature.
Of course, the long-lost twin angle naturally leads to comparisons with Luke and Leia in Star Wars (complete with alliterative names) and there's also a debt to Wonder Woman – for as Adora soon discovers, she's the chosen warrior known as She-Ra, a woman of incredible strength and agility. Throw in a magic sword (thanks King Arthur) and you have a pastiche of several different stories rolled into one.
Which necessarily isn't a bad thing, especially when the eighties show has at least one solid, original idea to its name: how does a girl react when she discovers her whole life is a lie, and the people she's been fighting alongside are actually the bad guys? It's a surprisingly complex set-up, but one the original cartoon wasn't all that interested in exploring – after all, the main impetus of the show was to sell toys.
But if you're going to remake something, you should take the opportunity to do it better, and showrunner Noelle Stevenson does.
Adora has been thoroughly brainwashed since she was a baby, with friends, ambitions and a general sense of satisfaction amongst the Horde, which she believes is protecting the planet against violent insurgents. But she's also not an idiot, and when fate leads her to a magical sword that transforms her into She-Ra, she gets the opportunity to discover what the Horde has really been up to.
So the show also owes something to Avatar: The Last Airbender, as Adora gets a very truncated version of Zuko's arc; though in her case, the real interest lies in her newfound conflict between old friends and new. Though Glimmer and Bow are delightful, Adora also has a strong bond with Catra, who chooses to stay with the Horde of her own free will.
The writing takes this internal conflict extremely seriously, making Adora a character that struggles with her past and is largely uncomfortable in her new role as champion. But the show is also ready to have fun with its premise, embracing the gloopy pastel-and-love-hearts aesthetic of the original show in a way that manages to poke fun at it ("best friend squad!") and yet remain totally sincere. Who'd have thought they'd pull it off?
Along with everything else, the show also has to give some credit to Sailor Moon (and other anime magical girls) for She-Ra's transformation sequences, but hey – Diana, Xena, Usagi, Leia, and Adora all belong to the kick-ass princess club, and long may the tradition continue.
So I started this year with a princess, and I'm ending it with a show full of them. What great times we live in.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Meta: Contrasting/Comparing Three Halloween Films

I realize Halloween was a few weeks ago now, but it was as good a reason as any to watch three of my favourite spooky movies and contrast/compare them. Because why not?

It's actually rather fascinating to see how scary movies for young audiences have deeply rooted similarities in their structure, characterization and moral framework. The earliest, Hocus Pocus, came out in 1994, followed by Monster House in 2004 and Coraline in 2009, giving us a trio of horror stories aimed at children in which young protagonists battle malevolent forces that are rooted in folklore and legend (urban or otherwise): three in live-action, three in CG animation, and one in stop-motion animation.
Although Coraline is not strictly speaking a Halloween movie (it's the only one of the three not set on October 31st) all of them feature young people on the verge of adolescence in considerable danger from the supernatural.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Doctor Who: Kablam!

This was a solid episode, one that was clearly inspired by the controversies regarding Jeff Bezos and (which fits into the ongoing political commentary of this season), but also one that was thankfully more story than agenda (not that there's anything wrong with having a message in your story, but I still haven't gotten over that Trump stand-in).
That said, it took an unexpected turn towards the end that reminded me of The Unquiet Dead. In that case, the pro-migrant message was turned on its head by revealing the alien asylum seekers were in fact evil. In this case, the individual behind the sabotage of an exploitative, manipulative, back-breaking system is actually the bad guy. It's...a bit strange.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Doctor Who: Demons of the Punjab

This was the long-awaited Yaz episode, and perhaps my favourite of the season so far – though that's acknowledging that these episodes still lack the emotional ommph of seasons past.

I suspect that Chris Chibnall is trying to recreate the style of Old School Who in which every story is largely standalone (granted, they were also serialized, but in themselves were still also one-shots), and can even see the modus operandi of the show's original concept: to teach the audience something about history.
I'm low-key enjoying it, and appreciated the trip to a time and place I know next to nothing about.