Thursday, 31 December 2015

Sayonara, 2015.

More like The Nintendo Project Restalled, is it right? I mean, it's been a year without a proper post. I really would like to do that gonzo Ninja Gaiden thing someday, but for now I think the dream's over. Gosh, but what a year it was for old video games! The 30th anniversary of the toaster box itself! Not to mention the revival of the goddamn Nintendo World Championships. I almost wrote something about that. I think I'm glad I didn't, because I was going to tie in the mystical God battle nature of the last one with the fact that someone with a grand galactic name took second... but that's not her name any more, so it would not have worked out. The blog was active for the latter months of the year... when it became a Doctor Who blog. Because, you know, having ripped off the idea for this thing from Phil Sandifer, why not rip off the idea of abandoning it to talk about Doctor Who while I'm at it? With 4 hours of Newfoundland time left, I figure... why not look at some stuff I wrote this year? A trip down memory lane, one last stroke of the old ego before time's up. That sort of thing. Let's see what we've got.

Frezno's List Of The 2015 Thing

I just wrote this today, but it's a list of all the shit I really enjoyed in 2015. Mostly computer games, but there's one surprise in there. Well. Not really a surprise. Anyways, this is too fresh to historicalize, so check it and argue about my opinions and let's move on.

Metroid Other M: I'm Authorizing Use Of The Gameplay Beam

This article is one of two I did this year that were basically attempts for me to finally exorcise the dead horse's ghost of games that haunted me. Metroid Other M disappointed me proper, and I've snarked at it for ages ever since... but then something spurred a neat realization about it within me and I wrote this. I found it interesting.

Sexy Fun With The Socks Make People Sexy Podcast!

I'd be remiss to not mention how SMPS fostered an idiot with video game opinions and his words. This year they actually let me say those ridiculous opinions on the air in podcast form. I was on there three times this year (once more since that post, for the SnS Clubhouse) and each time it was an absolute blast. I adore the little friend circle I've become a part of via Twitter, as I adore all such friend circles I have become part of over the years. Thanks, you guys.

A Tribute To Satoru Iwata

We lost a mighty fine video game pillar this year, somewhat unexpectedly. I still can't look at all the loving fanart of him without tearing up. Fuck, even thinking about it has me still tearing up. Anyways, what came to light after Iwata passed away was just how goddamn integral he was to the history of Nintendo games; the secret code alchemist, ever tinkering away, making miracles. You don't know what you've got 'till it's gone, huh?

The Exorcism Of James Rolfe (The Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures And Me: The Final Chapter)

And this is number two in getting rid of a dead horse's ghost. A 3000 word screed about the AVGN Adventures game, the ad hominem nonsense that followed in trying to discredit me, and even wild number-based theories about how people decided to enjoy the damn thing. It was a white hot heat to write, and I'm still proud of it. AVGNA2 is going to be a fucking wild ride, whenever it comes. I'm ready.

Doctor Who Series 9 First Impressions: Face The Raven

I picked this one because I feel I was the most passionate in it. Of course, that passion was sort of tinkered with two weeks later and we got something better... but like that crying wrestling guy says, it's still real to me. Clara Oswald, man. Clara fucking Oswald. If I ever get to meet that Jenna Coleman lady in person... well, I'd better be talking about something else she did because who wants to hear about Doctor Who after you've been done with it? But I would want to tell her how much I adored her Clara, and how she made my favorite sci-fi show even better just by being there and being her.

Challenging The Status Quo Fills You With Determination

Undertale won my Game Of The Year spot. Big surprise there. The bigger surprise was it winning this poll. I really hope that in a year's time I still remember Undertale as fondly as I do now. Like I said, I'll remember 'cause I wrote it down. Still, this was an impassioned cry against the Status Quo. Which I should mention, I do still like. Just, I also like things to get shaken up every once in a while.

So that's 2015. I have at least two articles I can write on the back burner. One of them is even about actual Nintendo games! I do need to think of a new name for this blog space, while also making sure all the old shit redirects. If any of you actually want to RE-resume this big Nintendo blog... well, you've got my blessing at least. Maybe ask Mr. Sandifer about it. Also he has dibs on Zombie Nation. Hell, you can even do a Ninja Gaiden thing. It won't invalidate mine if I ever do it. Alright. See y'all on 2015. Hail Valya, fight against the Dread Beasts GREED and NOSTALGIA, and don't let yourself fall to the blade of Peko The Destructor. Did I cover all of my mythology? I think I did.

Peace out.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Doctor Who Series 9 First Impressions: 2015 Christmas Special (The Husbands Of River Song)

(Hope your holidays were well! Now be careful, because as River says, spoilers. There are spoilers so if you didn't watch this go watch it. Also have a good rest of the year. We're gonna be... busy here before 2015 is done.)

That was nice.

This is actually the first time I've ever written words about a River Song story. From the looks of it, this is also the last River Song story. So I've pretty much shown up at the end of the party here. For the record, I like River a lot. Smug, snarky, confident women with a morally grey streak are the sort of characters I'm fond of, so I'm pretty fond of River. My only real grievance with her was basically with the way she was a proxy for Moffat puzzleboxes. OOH HOO HOO I KNOW A THING AND YOU DON'T, OOPS I TOLD YOU I KNOW A THING. But we're free of that now! We know who River is, we know where she came from, we know where she ends up! I endured the smug puzzlebox "teehee I know more than you" attitude because I was awaiting the reverse; a situation where the Doctor knows more than she does about her future events. Which, in a way, I guess we always had with her death and all... but the only real times we get him with more knowledge than her are... well, Let's Kill Hitler and this. And people hate Let's Kill Hitler. It's fine. This one was also fine and nice and a good Christmas episode. It was basically a romp.

The Doctor fits into an interesting role in this; he's basically River's companion, playing oblivious. So, he's mirroring a companion role, if you will. Nyeh heh heh. The degree to which Capaldi goes from going along with the events because it's River, to just plain fucking around while he has the advantage of being incognito, to letting his Doctorish tendencies be visible, are numerous. His over the top "bigger on the inside" freakout is fucking amazing and I love it. There are hints of him grieving over the "loss" of Clara, like the antlers or the mention that he hasn't had a laugh in a while. Last Christmas really was Clara's last Christmas, and I do still miss her, but the grief has been gotten over. Don't forget that three years ago when a companion left, the Doctor moped up on a cloud for months. Here, the Doctor is getting to have fun again. And with his old pal River, too! Of course, the fun has to give way to serious time eventually, but we'll get to that.

The villains are... well, a farce. Although getting your head cut off and put in a robot is pretty scary. Moffat has a thing for people who are living heads. He must love Futurama. NO ACTUALLY HE MUST LOVE MATT GROENING! Because the second joke I adore in this episode, other than Capaldi's TARDIS scene, is when River's going to give the King's head to Scratch and she's got the bag open and then he starts praising the King and she just zips that bag right the fuck back up. That's just a Simpsons joke. From the first season. In 1990. Moffat nicked a 25 year old Simpsons gag and it still worked, holy shit. Granted, he also nicked the "the restaurant patrons are actually all evil" gag from himself; it's the same as Deep Breath. This is basically a story with a lot of little ideas all bundled together in a holiday romp; those monks with the swords, the big robot that steals heads, a head in a bag yelling at you, a space restaurant for genocidal evil folks, and the Singing Towers. Which, y'know, let's get to that and head off because I ain't got no grand thesis statement to make about the rest of this episode. It was a lot of fun and the perfect way to unwind on Christmas night.

So, the end of River Song. At least, the supposed end of River. The Doctor accepts that this is his last Christmas with her, and finally takes her to the Singing Towers, gives her the nice sonic, and the implication is that the next time they meet, it'll be at the Library and he'll be David Tennant and not know what the fuck. At this point, they're basically equal; the Doctor only knows one spoiler ahead for her, and it's the big one. I like that a lot, somehow. At last, they're basically equals. One smug spoiler separates them; there's no big confusion on the part of either. River didn't know who the Doctor was for 45 minutes because she didn't know he could break the 13 regeneration limit. Moffat could, if he wanted to, slip in another River adventure if he or Alex Kingston really wanted. It's just like with Clara; I accepted Face The Raven as a great end to Clara, and then Hell Bent made it better. Husbands is a good ending for River Song, but it could be made better. They'd have to try really hard, though. For now, this incarnation of the Doctor is one who seems to have gotten better at letting go. Or maybe he's just had enough time to deal with the River thing internally. Either way, this is how it ends for them. A lovely Christmas dinner at the Singing Towers. So, then, does that end Doctor Who in 2015. Wowie zowie. I'm going to have to do a little ranking thing in the next day or so. Until then, this was fun and I liked it. Notably, it ends with no big plot hooks or trailers or whatnot. Doctor Who in 2016 is up in the air, and already the dire rumors are spreading. Oh no, it might not come out in September! Oh no, Capaldi might leave! We don't know what will happen, but as Matt Smith said, we're halfway out of the dark. Rewatch the new series. Delve into the old series. Read a book, listen to a Big Finish. Do whatever you like to pass the time until Doctor Who returns, because it will return. Someday.

And until it does, we'll be right here waiting for it. Living happily ever after.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Challenging The Status Quo Fills You With Determination (Undertale & The GameFAQs Best Game Ever Poll)

(So, this post is about Undertale. There are probably going to be Undertale spoilers in here at some point. If you don't care about that, read on. If you would like to experience Undertale, it's only 10 bucks on Steam. Right here. There's even a demo you can try to see if it's for you. Please, give it a go. I know the Internet at large hasn't shut up about it since its release [and I'm guilty as charged, although I make sure to tag all my Undertale stuff on Tumblr] but it deserves the fairest shake you can give it. Right then. On with the show.)

So, every year over on Socks Make People Sexy, I post a Games I Played In 201X list. I keep tabs on what things I beat over the year in a little Notepad file, and come the last week of December I write words about which ones I liked. There isn't really a ranking, but something does get a "Game Of The Year" nod; usually because they make me feel something. 2013's was Ducktales Remastered, because it was the first time since Mega Man 9 where a retro throwback platformer made me feel genuine joy. 2014's was Dangan Ronpa 2, because I felt emotion upon my favorite characters either being murdered, or revealed as murderers or traitors. There's still two weeks left to the year, but here's your advance spoiler, straight from River Song: Undertale is my Game Of The Year for 2015. It made me feel genuine emotion, and I feel it's brilliant. It takes all the instincts and natural assumptions of old-school RPG play and throws the implications and morals of them right back at you. In something like Dragon Quest, you just go out into the wild and bludgeon Slimes with a stick. Why? For gold, yes, but also for the experience. Doing that makes you stronger. This is accepted standard in every other RPG out there, but Undertale holds a mirror up to it and moralizes this for what it really is: the mass murder of living things in the nebulous name of "progress" and "experience". Undertale, like Doctor Who before it, takes you by the hand and says "Throw down your weapons. There's another way.". You can run about destroying everything in your path, but the game's characters will pass judgement on you for doing so. As they well should; you're destroying not just random enemies, but denizens of a world! The bosses aren't just named NPCs, but their friends! You can turn back from this path at just about any time you like; the point of no return for being a violent murderer is surprisingly late. I took the path of pacifism, of complimenting and giving mercy to the creatures I found. It can be difficult to keep on that path, and eventually mercy only goes so far... but for the most part, I was the Androgynous Child Who Never Would. The ending of the True Pacifist run is a thing of beauty, in which you reach out to a lost soul, a soul who's caused you so much pain and grief... and forgive them. It's the Zygon Inversion speech in game form, how can I not love this? I'm not alone in that assumption, either. Undertale has exploded over social media. 93 Metacritic score. It legitimately seems to be one of the best games released this year... and it's a pixel art indie RPG which wears Earthbound inspiration on its sleeve, that takes like 7 hours to beat. Brevity! God, I love brevity! Undertale is beautiful, and wonderful, and a whole bunch of people agreed that it was one of the best games ever.

Which made what was to come all the more interesting.

For many years running, GameFAQS.com has run yearly Character Battle contests, in which people vote on who the best video game character ever is. Invariably, given that these contests were often held in the 2000's, the voting came down to the most popular characters. Link, Cloud, Mario. We of course know why that is; they're the three who navigated the transition from 2D to 3D with flying colors. Super Mario 64, Final Fantasy VII, and Ocarina of Time were massively influential, For a generation who were teens in the 2000's, these games would have been touchstones of their childhood. To badly quote Patrick Roesle, everyone who played FF7 for the first time in 1997 pissed themselves at least once during the game's opening. They were revolutionary, and ushered in new epochs of video game history... and thus have garnered much love from their fans. Not, it should be noted, undeserved love. I get it, I really do. I wasn't there for any of these games upon their release; I didn't get an N64 or a PS1 until 2005, but I know the feeling. In 1995, Donkey Kong Country 2 blew my fucking mind and it was God's gift to action platforming. In 2000, in a basement in Grand Bank, Newfoundland, I saw the opening to Final Fantasy VI and was utterly hooked on the concept of the JRPG. Chrono Trigger, Earthbound, and Mario RPG soon followed. We remember these games for a reason; because they affected us positively. Nostalgia can be a tool of good... but of course, there's always the dark mirror. The characters always won the polls. But why? Link and Mario have no real depth as characters; they're simply timeless heroes who fight for what is right. Admirable, yes, but not an in-depth character. Cloud at least has a little more weight going for him (ignoring his godawful loner phase in the Compilation media, but that's hardly the fault of 1997) but is he really the best game character ever? I would argue not... but he is the most popular. At the heart of it all, that is what the character battles are; a popularity contest. The games themselves battled for Game Of The Decade, and the final inevitably came down to FF7 vs. OoT... but the character battle itself was only upheaved twice in history. Once many moons ago when the joke vote of the L-Block from Tetris somehow managed to overtake all the others and win, and then again when the Internet rallied for Draven from League of Legends. So, rules exist to be broken. Many had a good laugh at that. What the hell's this got to do with Undertale? Oh. That comes now.

Recently, GameFAQs hosted a new poll: the Best Game Ever poll. People voted in what they thought were the best games ever, and a bracket of 128 was formed from those choices. So, the 128 best games ever. What sort of games have we got? As EJR Tairne pointed out on Twitter, not a whole lot of diversity here. 8 Final Fantasy games, 2 Kingdom Hearts, 3 Resident Evils, all five Metal Gear Solids, 5 Zeldas, 6 Mario games... there really isn't a lot of diversity here, huh? The only two games on the bracket to be released before 1990 were... Super Mario Bros. 3 and Tetris. So, you know, as an esoteric Nintendo game blog that leaves reason for alarm. Tetris, which probably does have a claim for Best Game Ever because it's actually timeless and can be played on like... every computer system ever made, lost to Pokemon. Generation 1 Pokemon. An important game, and a nostalgic one for me... but better than Tetris? I don't know about that. Well, because it was popular and still fresh in the minds of many at the time, Undertale got a slot in this bracket. Hey, you know, maybe it'll get pretty far, but we all knew how this was going to turn out; how it always turns out. The Status Quo was set in stone. FF7 and OoT were Quite Possibly The Greatest Games Ever Made. It would inevitably come down to them again, as it so often does. Undertale might get far, but then it would come up against a nostalgic classic and lose. Life moves on, the Status Quo of video games remains unchallenged, and we keep loving Undertale for what it did for us this year.

And then that didn't happen at all.

Undertale defeated Mass Effect 3. Which... well, okay, I guess. A lot of people were still sore that the ending of that series didn't stick the landing. Next match, Fallout 3. Undertale defeated that, too. Well... I don't know, maybe that was a weak entry in that series. Ah, here it is. Undertale vs. Super Mario World. You can't challenge a Mario game and win. Super Mario World is the start of the SNES era. This, according by Nintendo Project rules, is where the Great Golden Age began. Even Undertale, with its Earthbound homage aesthetic, holds some fealty to this kingdom. Here, then, is the great secret: I beat Super Mario World this week. It is a very good Mario game. It was, as herald of the SNES era, influential in what was to come. It is not quite one of the best games ever, but it is still very good. And so, Undertale fans from all over came together and made their claim. No. You do not get to win by birthright, or by mere influence. You started a Great Golden Age, but the world has moved on. You brought great nostalgia, but we believe that Undertale has affected us more; that it is better. Undertale fought Super Mario World, and won. What an upset! Next match. Undertale vs. Pokemon, Generation 1. The Tetris killer. The game that made the Game Boy relevant, and launched a billion-dollar franchise for first-party Nintendo. I thought for sure that this was it. Pokemon is just too popular to be defeated. Again, Undertale fans banded together. We said no. Pokemon was defeated, and Undertale was in the quarterfinals... up against Super Mario 64. Oh, there's no fucking way it's making it out of this one alive. Super Mario 64 ushered in an entirely new way to play games, adding an entire third dimension to the world and revolutionizing things. It was the vanguard of the 3D age, a cultural touchstone. Did you not hear Undertale? IT. SAID. NO. Super Mario 64 was defeated. The semi-finals. Undertale vs Super Smash Brothers Melee. At one point, Smash Bros was on top. I thought for absolute certain that was the end of it. The little game that could was all rallied out, and the Status Quo was coming back on top. Smash Bros. Melee, the breakout hit for the Gamecube. Still a competitive hit today, its sequels rejected in favor of the nostalgic favorite with its tournament-level play exploits. At this point, Undertale has smashed through two of the royal princes of Nintendo's first-party consoles. What's a third? It came back, and defeated Smash Bros. Melee. Final match. Undertale vs. Ocarina of Time, one of the Three Who Rule. One of their number was smashed by Smash (in a move that really surprised me), and the other stomped by Undertale. The final battle was set, and by now it seemed that the Status Quo had no fight left in it. Ocarina never gained on Undertale. Undertale won the Best Game Ever poll.

This is amazing. The Status Quo is fucking sacred. How in the world did this even happen? There were accusations. We'll get to that in a second, but I'm taking this as mostly genuine. Yeah, Undertale fandom on Tumblr and Reddit and whatnot were spreading the poll around and saying HEY GUYS, VOTE! That's just campaigning. There were accusations of botting and vote rallying and outright cheating on Undertale's part. They were thoroughly debunked by the admin. Undertale won, and its only claim to illegitimately winning is that it rallied for outside help. Which, the Smash Bros. community also attempted. So. It's time to have fun, and talk about the salt. The GameFAQs contest board was filled with utter fury and contempt at Undertale's rampant success and smashing the Status Quo. Part of this was probably that some part of the contest was an actual contest, with cash prizes to be won. Therefore, an underdog coming in and taking away the victory from the well-known Best Games Ever ruined a shitload of brackets and made for a bunch of losers. Oddly enough, that isn't quite the level of complaint I saw in my brief browsings of the contest board. No, I saw a much different kind of tactic presented; one very familiar to me. Why? Because it's been used against me there before, during the Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures fiasco. This, friends, is victory ad hominem. The logic dance goes as such: Melee and OoT are the Best Games Ever. They lost to Undertale. Undertale is not better than Melee and OoT. Therefore, if one can't beat Undertale in a vote contest, one must discredit it somehow. Then the victory is invalid, Melee/OoT are still the Best, and the Status Quo remains. Look, the exact same thing happened to me. I was an Irate Gamer fanboy/a 30,000 word vomiter/terrible at video games, so my 3/10 was invalid and AVGNA was still a really fun accurate nostalgic game that referenced videos people liked. Exactly the same thing happened with Undertale. So, let's review. I've been bookmarking choice threads over the past few days, in preparation for this writeup. In the next bit, I will present some of the invalidations folks have attempted to make, "supposedly" in the name of protecting the Status Quo.

Well, first off, Undertale isn't actually a video game. The thread I found where a "true gamer" stated the same has been deleted, so we'll have to settle with this declaration. If it isn't a game, it can't beat another game in a game contest, now can it? Undertale's only 5 hours long! You can't be the best if you're too short! Or if you're made in MS Paint, for that matter! This next thread is close to a reasonable opinion about how Undertale isn't as good as games that came out this year, but then calls people who relate to its characters "pasty overweight teenaged girls". So, in light of what killed the Nintendo Project, that cuts a bit deep. This one says Undertale voters either like crappy RPGs or are too young to appreciate OoT. Arguably the best game ever made. We are going to unpack that one we're out of Ad Hominemville, trust me. Hey, the Undertale fans rallying in support? Anti-Nintendo fanboys, with bots! Hell, I bet half of them haven't even played the game! Undertale is just a meme game. The pejorative "Undermeme" has been spread around the boards a lot. That post gets at one of the other big ad hominems: that Undertale is just a flash in the pan fan and nobody will remember it in a year, whereas stuff like Melee and OoT are timeless and will never be forgotten. Well, first off, someone's psychic. Second, I won't forget. I wrote it down so I would never forget. Now, for one of my favorites: Changing the rules to protect the Status Quo. Undertale "won", but OoT really won you guys! No. OoT lost the poll. It did not win this contest. Despite all the denial to the contrary. The real fun of this came immediately after Undertale won it all. The sudden classic Internet about face of not really caring. Because Bayonetta is coming to Smash, so now we don't care! Why, OoT didn't even try! You didn't win because it didn't bother to compete! After Undertale WON, there were some final bonus polls put up. The usual stuff you'd expect to see. Melee vs. Super Mario RPG, Chrono Trigger vs. FF6, Pokemon vs. Mario 64... and yes, FF7 vs. OoT. So, in a sense, the people who really did want it to come down to that now get the chance to vote for their favorite and have their non-Undertale vote. That's very gracious of the admins. Of course, it also leads people to gloat that this is the real final match and that Undertale lost and you can't do anything about it ha ha ha ha ha. REAL games in the finals! Like, good god. The pettiness and the desperation to attempt to discredit an indie game from being Best Game Ever is strong. That's not even taking into account the stuff like "Undertale winning is a crime against humanity" or "I'm quitting if Undertale wins over OoT". Maybe there's another explanation. There has to be some pathos besides these childish attempts to get your way and maintain the Status Quo.

Now to cite some of the nicer posts. First, this one.  OoT was very good, but is it really Best Game Ever? The call for change in the industry here is particularly important. Then we have this breakdown, which is very smart. OoT was a formative part of many people's video game experiences! It was amazing and incredible, and how in the hell could some indie game that came out just a few months ago possibly measure up without breaking the rules? It doesn't add up, and therefore the excuses come. So, the ad hominems come from a place of love. Love for the warm nostalgia of OoT. Weaponized nostalgia, the Dread Beast snarling its claws at anything daring to attempt to usurp the throne. Sorry, kids. The kingdom was toppled. In this one corner of the World Wide Web, the Status Quo was taken down for but one moment, and Undertale won. Now it's important to unpack just what this contest meant. There are two readings to it. It is either one big popularity contest to see which games the Internet and GameFAQs thinks are the best, or an objective attempt to rank the most impactful video game of all time. With that first reading, all of the salt appears to boil down to anger that the things GameFAQs thinks are the most popular games of all time aren't the hottest; a popularity contest where the thing you like isn't the most popular. I've got news for you. We're old. Entirely new generations of people are playing games and loving games. Sure, the classics of the 80's and 90's are getting remakes. OoT and Majora's Mask are on 3DS. Final Fantasy 7 is getting a big bombastic remake for a new crowd. Popularity comes and goes, and something can become more popular. No, it's the second reading that creates a more disturbing picture. There's a quote from Stephen King I read somewhere and really wish I could source, but it goes a little something like so. One of his most popular books is The Stand, published early in his career in 1978 (and getting an expanded edition in 1990). Many fans consider it to be the best book he's ever written, and I suppose a great deal must have expressed that to him at book signings or conventions or whatnot. Anyway, his quote is a mild lament that, despite continually putting out new stories and books, his fandom at large thinks he hasn't written anything as good as the thing he wrote in 1978. That line of thinking can be applied to the contest, and those mad at Undertale's win. They wanted a traditional bout, it seems. They wanted OoT to be crowned the Best Game Ever. That game came out 17 years ago. The Status Quo would have us believe that, in 17 years of video games, hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of game releases, an infinite number of fresh creative ideas and new spins on old favorites... after all that, we haven't made a video game as good as the Zelda game from 1998? That is honestly a disturbing and depressing thought. Our hobby has been stagnant for that long? Is that the future you're suggesting? If so, then I want no part of it.

Instead, I'll be over here with the Undertale fandom. The passionate furries and robophiles (>:3c) and SJWs who, for a period of time between 5 and 12 hours, entered a world of monsters and fell in love with the characters down below. Who decided to spare everyone, or murder everyone, or somewhere in between. The people who finished the game and decided that it was the best thing they'd played this year. Who then voted on an Internet poll to affirm that love, and rallied others together to show that love by winning a symbolic poll. By shattering the Status Quo that video games have just been marking time since the Clinton years, and that hopes and dreams can reign eternal. It's December 16th, 2015. Nostalgia still has a power over us all, and games like FF7 and OoT will still be well-regarded as classics. The original releases, and their enhanced remakes, will be played and loved and played all over again by many... but so will Undertale. It will not be forgotten as a flash in the pan. It will endure. It has transcended, and the masses have banded together in a form of revolution that would make Patrick Troughton proud.

Undertale is the Best Game Ever.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Doctor Who Series 9 First Impressions: Episode 12 (Hell Bent)

(Spoilers abound. If you're "hell bent" on avoiding them, then go watch beforehand. On with the show.)

I shan't apologize.
When I did Before The Flood, I quoted Patrick Troughton. Now I'm going to quote someone who has nothing to do with Doctor Who (unless you believed those old rumors I read about in About Time Volume 5, that she supposedly wrote Kinda and Snakedance); Kate Bush. Take it away, Kate.

I mean that in a positive sense, as well! At this point, I know what I'm about. The episode could be 40 minutes of the most trite shit, but as long as it has superbly done emotional beats involving Doctor and companion I'd still give the fucker a pass. To the episode's benefit, we have like what? A half-hour of stuff that doesn't quite stick the landing? The Gallifrey stuff sort of works but also kind of doesn't, but then again Gallifrey hasn't worked since 1976. This is the best Gallifrey has worked since then, so that's fine. It's all a feint, a setup to the real meat of the story for me. Still, let's do our best to get through the Gallifrey stuff before enjoying the big old surprise dessert. We're back in that barn Moffat loves so much, the Day Of The Doctor/Listen barn. Turns out it was just on the outskirts of one of them Time Lord cities. And here I thought John Hurt dragged the Moment to some random desert moon to blow everything up. Rassilon is back, but he's not Timothy Dalton any more. I didn't even know it was Rassilon until those last lines. It could have been any crusty old ass who didn't like the Doctor. So Gallifrey broke out of their little Cup of Soup bubble right at the ass-end of the universe, and now they want to learn about the Hybrid because they're all scared shitless. Everyone's scared shitless of the Doctor, too; except Rassilon, but he gets his ass banished to the dying embers of the universe. He'll be back one day. Oh yeah, and the Sisterhood of Karn is here for... some... reason. That old lady from the Sisterhood is a fine actress and all, but... why? They don't really do too much. Moffat must really love The Brain Of Morbius or something. Oh yeah, and the Matrix vaults or whatever. Spooky shit. We've got scary Time Lord no-faces, a Dalek begging for death (hey, a Revelation Of The Daleks echo!) and even some Weeping Angels and a Cyberman. They don't do much other than spook. Is that all about Gallifrey? Oh yeah. The general regenerates into a black woman. An on-screen gender/race regeneration change. It's canon now, kids. Good.

Alright, look, I don't give a shit abut Gallifrey in this episode. It's not pointless or anything, in fact it's integral to the setup... but I don't give a shit. It's neat that we're back here after so long, but Doctor Who doesn't need it. What Doctor Who needs is a powerful emotional core, and whoa. Here we go. We're undoing Clara's death from Face The Raven, and using Gallifrey to haul her away from the raven right before she dies, Chrono Trigger-style. I mean, it means more Clara so I'm sort of okay with it. At least, at the point when this happened on first rewatch. Look, even the day after it happened I had accepted Clara's death as a fitting end for me. It was sad, but I was able to accept it. Many others were. The one person who can't, though, is the Doctor. Hence all this taking over Gallifrey stuff has all been a front, using his knowledge of the spooky Hybrid to get the Time Lords to play nice until he could pull Clara from the brink of death. Then he shoots the General in the chest and runs. He lost Clara once before. No. He won't do it again. He will not accept it, even at the risk of time itself unravelling. It'll sort itself out. It has to. He's owed this much.

What we get next is a lovely bit in which Clara learns all about the way the Doctor got out of the confession dial, and how long it took. The perspective that both I, and the Doctor, took from that was that his mental imagining of Clara was letting him be brave enough to keep his mouth shut and be ever defiant in the face of a trillion trillion deaths. Of course, when the real Clara hears that the Doctor put himself through unending hell and disintegration for four and a half billion years, her reaction is more along the lines of holy shit Doctor you fucking idiot why in the fuck would you do that to yourself? Clara didn't ask for that. She died, and he somewhat violated her last requests. He got angry, but he didn't take revenge on Me or the Time Lords. He took his revenge and hate out on himself, and as his best friend, she absolutely didn't want that. Nevertheless, she goes along with his new scheme, and we once again go about things as they started; the Doctor steals a TARDIS and runs away, Clara in tow.

Holy shit oh my god the classic series TARDIS console EEEEEEEEEEEEEE
Sorry. Bit of a moment there. Wow, does that thing look good. Well, from here shit kind of goes bad. Time and the universe are probably going to blow up because the Doctor doesn't want to lose Clara. There's some great Capaldi moments here, particularly when he goes to the end of the universe and proclaims that he answers to nobody now that the universe is a dying ember and Clara had damn well better live. Then come the knocks. She will knock four times, and the one knocking at the end of everything is Me. I do so love Me's speech to the Doctor about Clara's death, mostly because it's a reflection of what all us Clara fans are thinking. Yeah, it was sad and poetic and beautiful, but it happened, Doctor. Deal with it. Of course, the Doctor won't just "deal with it", and that ties back into the Hybrid talk again. Is it Me, who is human with a touch of Mire? Is is the Doctor, and is Moffat about to make the half-human thing canon? No. Of course not. This is Steven Moffat we're talking about, and there's always a subversion. No, the Hybrid is the Doctor and Clara, together. A roaming Time Lord, and a clever and competent human girl, who have taken on aspects of each other. Two dark mirrors, infinitely reflecting one another, their co-dependence and refusal to lose each other so powerful that it threatens the very state of the universe itself. All of this,set up by Missy, the Queen of Chaos, who laughs at the end of time. She's won. The Doctor has darkened himself, all in the name of trying to save his friend. Even here, at the end, though... he realizes his mistake. He took a thing to wipe Clara's memory. He'll scrub her mind of his memory and let her live. Indeed, the framing device for the story is Clara as a waitress in Nevada, while the Doctor tells her final story. Before this aired, the assumption was that waitress Clara was one of her splinters. Now, on first watch, the assumption is that this is what has happened. The Doctor has fucking pulled a Donna Noble on Clara. God damn it.

Except that's not what happens at all. Clara knows. The Doctor respects her enough now to tell her exactly what he's going to do. He's giving her the agency he neglected to give Donna... but Clara refuses. As is her right to refuse. Her past is her own. Besides, she's a mirror of the Doctor. She can do all the shit he can do, and so she pulls a Jon Pertwee and reverses the polarity. So the Doctor and Clara come to an agreement; if they go on, they will tear the universe in two. As wonderful as their friendship is, they can't keep infinitely reflecting each other, or the world will become as shattered glass. So, they play a game of mindwipe Russian Roulette and pull the trigger together... and the Doctor loses. He whispers some last advice to Clara, and with that, he loses his memory of her... except, he can still tell the story to waitress Clara. Or, does he lose his memory of her? He has some vague idea of who she was and the adventures she has, but I don't think he lost it completely. He just needed a little nudge to remember, and waitress Clara helps give him that nudge. One last act of being Doctorish before her end... or is it? Clara Oswald died on the trap street. I accepted that. It is an inevitability, and it has to happen. Eventually. Clara is okay with that too. She accepts the rules. Rules are a fundamental part of the universe... but they're flexible. There's wiggle room. Clara Oswald is a mirror of the Doctor. Just two short years ago, he faced a final and inevitable death. All of the rules suggested that he had to die on Trenzalore. Then he didn't, because that was more interesting. Clara is the same, and why shouldn't she be? She's the mirror of the Doctor. Why shouldn't she get this? Because her name isn't in the title? Because she's an ordinary human? Fuck that. Those are the rules for most of us, but here's our wiggle room. Once in a while, we can bend the rules if if would be interesting. That's just what Clara does here.

Clara Oswald will die in the trap street when she faces the raven. On our screens, she already died. Then she came back, because that was more interesting. She bends the rules, and pulls the ultimate mirror trick; she flies off with Me in an American diner that can travel anywhere in time and space. Clara Who has become a real and tangible thing, and an infinite number of stories can happen with the two before she goes back to face the raven. (Even the Doctor actually speaks the words "Clara who?".) I accepted her death two weeks ago. This is better, and it had me grinning like an idiot. Clara earned this. Many will complain about Moffat's special little snowflake getting special attention over all the other companions. We all wish for better companion exits, but not all of them can go out like this. I accept that. But, every once in a while, can't we have a little fun? We can't do this all the time, but we are owed. Just this once, we are owed our treat of something better. So Clara goes out into the universe, an immortal time traveller in her own right.

The bells of Saint John ring in triumph. On the distant world of Akhaten, the song goes ever on. In 1976, Emma Grayling remembers that ordinary girl she met. Robin Hood and his Merry Men compose an epic ballad to the Lady Oswald. Shona wakes up from a dream she had after falling asleep watching Aliens, a dream of riding in a sleigh with some girl. In distant corners of the universe, across time and space, Clara Oswald has changed the world. Across the CVE of our television screens, Clara Oswald has enriched us all. She earned a better ending, and she gets it as we wave her farewell. Companions come and companions go. There was a time when Amy and Rory were my favorites, and now I barely remember how and why I loved them. Writing about Doctor Who is how I keep my feelings at the time alive. As the Doctor says, stories are just memories that have been forgotten. So too, is the act of blogging about Doctor Who. It is a way of keeping the memories intact, making them stories. After all, we're all stories in the end. This is the end of a chapter for Clara, but more stories could be made. We'll never know, but these words are the way I keep my memories of Clara. A new companion will come. Maybe they'll be even better than before. I don't know. What I do know is that, thanks to my writing, I will never forget Clara Oswald, even as she zips across the universe. There's only one way to sum it up.

Run, you clever girl. I'll always remember you.

Next time: Spoilers, sweetie. It's Christmas.


Sunday, 29 November 2015

Doctor Who Series 9 First Impressions: Episode 11 (Heaven Sent)

(There's spoilers in these here parts. You hath been warned.)

Well, fuck. Now in four or five weeks, when I do my great big ranking of all the Series 9 episodes from best to worst, there's going to a great big fight for the top spot. Between this and last week's. Where was this quality of episode when we had the fucking Fisher King monster? Of course, this is an episode that vastly improves on a rewatch. On first watch, I had no idea what it was doing and just got floored by the ending. Which tends to happen a lot when I watch this show; I'm sitting there, not really feeling it, and then the ending comes and makes me go "oh goddamnit, well done, you're a masterpiece". Usually it's Peter Harness episodes that do that, though! Not stuff penned by Moffat himself! Still, holy shit. Heaven Sent is a goddamn masterpiece, for many reasons, but it's also really hard to unpack. I'm going to try.

This, more than anything, feels like Doctor Who that has blended together a bunch of my all-time favorite things into one neat little 55-minute package. For starters, the setting. We're in a gigantic castle where the walls are ever shifting, opening and closing passage to different rooms. That's House Of Leaves territory, and keep in mind that "bigger on the inside" was a source of abject terror in House Of Leaves, rather than the whimsy and wonder of Doctor Who. Doctor Who is being corrupted. More than that. Doctor Who is being stalked. In this labyrinth of life where the walls keep changing, the Doctor is being relentlessly pursed by "the Veil". Now, the Veil has one important rule to not getting killed by it, which is very Moffat-esque and all and we'll get to it, but... why is it a Veil? Because the Doctor once saw a dead old woman in death shrouds surrounded by flies, and was terrified of it ever since. The Veil is just the defense of this place, shifting its corporeal form into a fear of the Doctor's in order to unsettle him further. That's the titular monster of Stephen King's It! Except the Veil doesn't actually want to eat the Doctor, and has a higher purpose... but becoming a primal deep-seated childhood fear of his is totally Its modus operandi. Incidentally, House Of Leaves and Stephen King's It are my two favorite horror novels. So, I'm already grinning like an idiot but also greatly unsettled by this place... but there's so much more. Like we keep saying in the video reviews I take part of, though... we can't talk about that yet. 

So much of this episode is... well, a little slow. It's Peter Capaldi semi-talking to himself for 35 minutes until we come to the big revelation, and all the stakes and emotional cores contained within that elevate this thing to top of the class. Until then, we have an exploration of this place, and attempting to learn the rules of it in order to survive. The rules of the Veil are soon sussed out; it only stops trying to kill you when you confess some hidden truth to it. So. Truth, or consequences. The Doctor gives it the truth at least three times, and we learn more as we go. The Doctor is afraid of death. The Doctor left Gallifrey all those ages ago out of fear... and the Doctor knows what the Hybrid is. Ah. So that is our arc this time. I'm going to hold my tongue on Hybrid talk until next week, since we don't know where this is going to go yet. Stupid temporal grace. There are other mysteries and clues peppered in here that make sense at the end. The set of clothes waiting by the fire. The skulls in the sea. The stars being 7000 years out of alignment. The Doctor is inside a puzzlebox of death. Holy fuck. Moffat did it. You son of a bitch, this is the puzzlebox for Series 9 and you have trapped the Doctor inside. All alone. Well. Not alone.

Clara is here. Well, not here but also here. She sleeps inside the Doctor's mind, and he is who he appeals to with his explanations of how this place works. His ideal Clara, sitting in his mental mindscape TARDIS. Here's where I have to go back, way back, to my old Boss Dungeon writeups. In Into The Dalek, on Clara helping the Doctor get over himself and save the day to some degree, I wrote this:

Clara, the schoolteacher, teaching a centuries-old alien to let go of his own preconceptions and remember what he's learned from his interactions with the "broken" Dalek. The writing for Clara has generally improved with this new series; instead of the blank cipher "mystery girl" to be solved at the end of the series from last year, we have a proper equal to the Doctor. Someone who can learn from him, and help him learn. What a great team.

Eventually I went off on big tangents about Clara becoming the Doctor's dark mirror, falling into a downward spiral of becoming a chronic liar and risk-taker who nonetheless has agency over her stories and helps to save the day. As we saw last week, this killed her. She took a risk, a risk the Doctor would take if he was not as informed, and the risk got her killed. Now that she haunts this episode, there's no need for a dark mirror of the Doctor. Instead is this older version of Clara: Clara-as-teacher. Her influence in the Doctor's mind, as he remembers her, is a proxy for his own determination to stay alive by asking the right questions. In his grief and confusion, he needs the steady hand of his teacher to figure things out. The real Clara Oswald wouldn't let the Doctor slack or give up, and this ghostly Clara doesn't either. I like this a lot. Even in death, the Doctor's staying on the good path that Clara was keeping him on. Whether or not that will stick when he gets his hands on the people who put him in this situation next time is up for debate... but on to the main course.

Eventually, all that stands between the Doctor and freedom is one last confession; tell all about the Hybrid, and presumably he can escape. He wants to. He really wants to, because of the alternative. That leads him to an angry tirade berating his mental Clara, asking, no, demanding to know why he isn't allowed to lose this one. Why she keeps insisting he fight on. Because he's the Doctor, and there's always another way. He breaks the rules, and wins by other ways, even if the cost is high... and the cost is mighty high. The Doctor has all but given up because nothing he does will bring Clara back, but she brings him back from the brink and helps him gain the one victory he can... although, as I said, the cost is one hell of a cost. See, this isn't the first Doctor to be put in this situation. This entire thing is a time loop. The Doctor arrives, the episode happens, and when faced with a harder-than-diamond wall, and the Veil approaching? He punches the wall. As much as he can until the Veil touches him and leaves him mortally wounded. From that, he crawls his way back to the teleporter room, in his death throes, and hooks himself up to it, burning up his life force to create a new copy of himself that arrives newly minted in the castle. Everything resets in this castle, except the firmness of the diamond wall... and the skulls in the sea. Over two billion years, over an infinite number of Doctors, not a single one gives in to the temptation to tattle about the Hybrid. They choose the hope that their inner Clara Oswald inspires them to believe in, and in doing so an infinite number of Doctors die. They face their own ravens, and Clara Oswald is the one who lets them be brave. Over and over this shit happens, and the Doctor never gives up. For two billion years the Doctor chooses death, wearing down the harder-than-diamond wall with his bare fists over an infinity of cycles until one time, at long last, he breaks through. Which, as is Moffat's style, inspired by a fairy tale. The Doctor is the bird, sharpening his beak over two billion years and a single second of infinity, all because Clara Oswald inspired him to be brave. Holy shit. It's here I'd like to offer two other perspectives on this infinite Law of Cycles business, both cribbed from video game talk. EJR Tairne's brilliant summary that this is "Scherzo crossed with I Wanna Be The Guy, except set in the world of Myst" (which, given how much I've been bitching about masocore gameplay/difficulty replacing the actual difficulty of retro video games in indie retro-style platformers these days, particularly tickles me), and Brightcoat's observations about how this episode is similar to... Dark Souls. Which, another hard video game I now love. This episode was made for me.

Then the ending. The Doctor is free. The entire world was a confession dial. Makes sense, given the Veil was stopped by confessions. Where are we now? Gallifrey. The long way round. Just like the Doctor said he would, and he meant it. At long last, after the disasters of the late 80's, after the cancellation and the Wilderness Years, after the Time War and its Last Days and the Day Of The Doctor reaffirming that Doctor Who is a success again... we're back on Gallifrey. What will happen next, I don't know. What I do know is that the Doctor is very, very cross. To put it another way?

Next time: The Doctor is Hell Bent.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Doctor Who Series 9 First Impressions: Episode 10 (Face The Raven)

(Now, more than ever, the spoiler warning really applies. There are big spoilers from this episode, so for the love of everything if you watch this show and haven't seen this yet, go see it. Then come back here for my waffling.)

Might as well get this out of the way first. Ahem.

FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!

Now that we have that out of the way, we can begin. This one's really up in the air, because of goddamn temporal grace. As it stands it's heartwrenching but well-earned. Its big ending can and may be un-done by the end of Series 9, which has the potential to either please me or piss me off. There were many other things I liked about this episode, and that worked quite well, but like a quantum shade casting darkness over it all, that one big thing looms, and it just wouldn't feel right to not devote the majority of this writeup to it. Here, then, I have to switch gears. In my Series 8 reposts, I picked up on the mirror theme and ran wild with it, somehow becoming a third-rate Jane Campbell in the process. Now, I must pay my tributes to a wonderful companion, and become a third-rate Caitlin Smith. This, then, is a tribute to Clara Oswald. Like a second face, we must go back in time, and chart how our histories intertwine, and how I was influenced.

It's sometime in 2012, during the eternal wait after The Doctor, The Witch, And The Wardrobe. We already know that Amy and Rory Williams are on their way out sometime in September or so, but then casting news pops up. Doctor Who has cast the new companion actress, and her name is Jenna Coleman. This brings up an interesting revelation from my review partner in crime, Rainiac; apparently he and Jenna Coleman attended the same school, at the same period of time! It's not like they were best pals or anything, though; he just recognized her as the Head Girl from his time at school. Still, it is an interesting connection, a Six Degrees Of Jenna Coleman for us. A friend of mine from across the pond went to the same school as her this one time. What's that, like 2 1/2 degrees? Whatever. We're all looking forward to seeing this new companion in action.

It's September 1st, 2012. Series 7 of Doctor Who has begun in earnest, aka the one month of Doctor Who we get this year, aka the Amy and Rory Farewell Tour. An episode called "Asylum Of The Daleks" airs, and as I'm watching it I get the sense that this "Oswin Oswald" girl looks vaguely familiar. I think I pegged that it was Jenna Coleman halfway in, much to my surprise. Then it was revealed that she was Already Dead, cannibalized by the Daleks and turned into a pepper pot tank herself. Well, shit. Still, we know in the larger scheme of things that she was cast as companion. One wonders what's up with that.

A month later, in a living room in Grand Bank, Newfoundland, I watch Amy Williams bid a tearful farewell to her Raggedy Man, and she and Rory leave our screens. It is a mournful occasion, and it has me wondering what will come next.

It's December 25th, 2012. A Happy Christmas to all of you at home! I got some nice things, have eaten chocolate and turkey dinner, and now await our holiday island of Doctor Who. An episode called "The Snowmen" airs, and that tavern girl sure does look a lot like Jenna Coleman! There's a new TARDIS set, high in the clouds, and there are killer snowmen and Jenna Coleman dies again. Also the villain was that Great Intelligence chap from those missing Patrick Troughton episodes? What an oddly specific callback to episodes that we'll probably never see again. Still, once was a fluke, Twice is odd, and the episode even ends with a modern-day Jenna Coleman visiting the Victorian era one's grave. Ugh. We could have had a Victorian companion to spice things up, but we're getting another 21st century twentysomething girl? Come on, Moffat!

It's May 18th, 2013. Series 7 is over, as an episode called "Name Of The Doctor" airs. The Impossible Girl mystery is wrapped up. It turns out Clara Oswald wasn't a big puzzle box to be solved after all, or secretly the Rani, or anything series-shattering. She was just a girl who wanted to save her friend by jumping into a timestream thingy, and she got fractured across space and time. Clara Oswald becomes the guardian angel of Doctor Who, only coming back to herself thanks to Matt Smith and a leaf. Oh, and John Hurt is the Doctor? What the hell's up with that?

It's November 8th, 2014. Series 8 of Doctor Who has finished. Holy shit. I love Clara Oswald so much now. Part of that has been the writing I've been doing for Boss Dungeon. I've picked up on Clara suddenly being written hyper-competently, even becoming an equal of the Doctor in certain episodes... but also darkening and lying to her boyfriend because of it. Then Danny Pink dies, and Clara and the Doctor go their separate ways. For now. They got back together at Christmas time, and more adventures were on the horizon.

It's September 19th, 2015. Doctor Who is back with The Magician's Apprentice. Clara does some cool stuff for UNIT, confronts Missy, and helps find the Doctor. Just before the episode airs, a news article comes out. Jenna Coleman is leaving Doctor Who after this series. The Magician's Apprentice later cliffhangers with Clara suddenly appearing to get zapped by a Dalek. How cruel. How goddamn cruel of you to tease us like that. As if Clara Oswald could die.

And now it's November 22nd, 2015. Well, shit. Clara Oswald's lust for adventure and risktaking has gone and gotten her killed. I'm very sad, but I'm also very happy that she went out in a dramatic and fulfilling way. I've been overall disappointed with the way Clara has been sort of sidelined for Series 9. There have really been only a few episodes where she's done much of note; Magician's Apprentice, Girl Who Died, Zygon Inversion, and this. In all the others she's either been mishandled, done little of consequence, or wasn't even really in them. Face The Raven has been the best use of her in a while. Let us, then, examine the crime scene, as dimly lit streetlamps illuminate the hidden street in the center of London that is Clara Oswald's grave. How did she die?

How else? By being a mirror of the Doctor. Specifically, the Doctor in a regeneration episode; and a very specific set, as well. Depending on your reference point, we're either mirroring The Caves Of Androzani or The End Of Time Part 2. In those specific two regeneration stories, the Doctor's companion was someone he hadn't been travelling with for very long; Peri had one (televised) story beforehand, and Wilf was a supporting character who accompanied the Doctor on this adventure. Both eventually found themselves in a situation where the Doctor could save their lives, at the cost of his own, and both times the Doctor selflessly saved the companion he barely knew, painfully regenerating into an unstable new persona at the end of the episode. Face The Raven bringing back Rigsy from Flatline is an absolutely inspired bit of casting in this regard. Recall Flatline for a moment. Clara was the most Doctor-like of Series 8 in that one, and Rigsy was basically her companion. Now her companion is back, and in mortal danger, and Clara does what the Doctor would do, in more ways than one. She puts herself in mortal peril in order to help Rigsy, yes, but it's not just selflessness at the last moment. It's all part of a clever Doctorish scheme on her part to trick the people trying to kill Rigsy, and buy them more time to solve the mystery. It's Clara's eagerness to put herself in harm's way that gets her killed at the end, when her clever plot backfires. Oh. You messed up. There actually isn't a way to bounce back from this. So, like the Doctor, she faces her death head-on, even taking a pose similar to the Doctor when he's regenerating in her last moments. More on her last moments in a bit, but let's just take stock of everything else happening here really quick.

Alien refugee camp hidden away by a misdirection filter in the middle of London. Okay, Doctor Who, that actually is a lot more creative than "found footage episode". Points for that. And hey, the boss of the whole thing is Ashildr/Lady Me! I don't know, the credits call her Ashildr but she's still clearly Me. Her motivations this time are... well, temporal grace. You'd think, though, that she'd know better than to make deals with aliens about things. Didn't she write down "DO NOT TRUST ALIENS, THEY WILL TRICK YOU" in her diary after that whole Leandro thing? Ah well. Maybe she had no choice, and though she doesn't kill Clara outright, she facilitated the mystery that led to Clara dying. That quantum shade must be a real dick if it can't be bargained with. Why's it need to kill someone so bad? What if it tried to kill Mayor Me? Would it be able to, or would she come back from it? What if it tried to hit the Doctor? Could he regenerate from it? Sad questions and pleading, to try and think of a way to save Clara Oswald. But there is no saving Clara Oswald. She's gone.

I've always praised the dramatic moments in this show, and Clara's final scenes are no exception. The Doctor, ready to rain fire and hell upon Me for this transgression... and Clara talks him down. No. Not in my name. Don't you dare compromise yourself and hurt people for that. This is not a fridging, this is not a revenge match. You grieve, and you hurt, but don't hurt others. Don't become John Hurt again. In her last acts, Clara mirrors the Doctor one more time, trying her best to... be the Doctor. To heal her friend's imminent pain and grief. The bossy control freak, when faced with death cawing and gliding towards her... takes control of that. She knows, in her last moments, that she can't be the Doctor. "Why can't I be like you?" she asks, knowing full well that this is it for her. A ginger Clara isn't going to get up from the cobblestones and start babbling about kidneys or custard. "Is this death?" Peter Davison asked in The Caves of Androzani. Yes, Clara. I'm afraid it is. Clara Oswald, the supposed Impossible Girl, the dark mirror of the Doctor, faces death head-on. She faces the raven, her final words being both a mantra and a plea to herself.

"Let me be brave."

You were brave, Clara Oswald. You were the most competent and interesting companion I can remember. You took charge and control of things, turning them to your advantage. You were kind and caring, ready to put yourself in danger for others both to help them and to excite yourself. Oh, Clara. My Clara. Our Clara.

We're going to miss you.

Next time: The Doctor will miss you, too.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Doctor Who Series 9 First Impressions: Episode 9 (Sleep No More)

(As always, there are Doctor Who spoilers in this Doctor Who first impressions writeup. You've been warned.)

Well, that's that. I've fallen through the looking glass. I am officially a dark mirror of the General Public's Doctor Who Opinions. Seriously, most of my opinions for Series 9 have been opposite to the masses. The masses loved Under The Lake/Before The Flood, whereas I thought the shit was trite and pointless and lacking in anticipation. The masses hated Zygon Invasion/Inversion, where I was fine with that brilliant speech at the end. Now we come to Sleep No More, a Mark Gatiss episode that mashes up found footage with Doctor Who, and people hate it. Whereas I, over here... well, I'm not about to call it the best episode of Series 9 or nothing, but it's certainly a very clever episode with some cute twists, neat metatextual toying, and one hell of an ending.

I can see why it wouldn't work for people. I really can. The rescue crew is your basic cannon fodder, even more so than the lake two-parter. You've got Leader Girl, Nervous Guy, Jokey Guy, and... 474. The monsters themselves are a pretty silly concept, even for Doctor Who. The plot, such as it is, probably commits that cardinal sin of Not Making Sense. I can see past that, and endure it and praise the brilliant bits. Such as they are. Like the idea of Morpheus. A machine that eliminates the need for sleep! That would probably be great and wonderful and give you more time to spend doing what you like, but there are two problems with that. The first being that the machine actually turns the rheum that builds up around your eyes when you sleep into a shambling mucus monster that kills you. So that's unfortunate, but it's the second problem that's more interesting; the intervention of capitalism! Morpheus's benefit is specifically billed in its holo-promo video as letting you work longer to get the edge to make more space bucks. The only people to object to this are Clara, the Doctor, and Chopra (Nervous Guy) on the grounds that space capitalism is literally taking away sleep in order to make people work longer to earn more money to make the rich richer. Of course, the Doctor's objection goes a little more into the "sleep is natural" thing and that leads into the sleep monsters.

Ah, the Sandmen. Clara named them! Look, the idea of monsters made out of that crusty shit that gets in your eyes while you sleep is a bit silly. Counter-point; this is Doctor bloody Who. Monsters made of snot aren't quite as silly as "literal green men from Mars" or "farting aliens who wear people suits". To the episode's credit, you don't get all that good a look at them and they shamble about in the shadows a bunch. You do get some looks at them, though, and they're imposing big things. This being a found footage episode, all you really see is OH NO ONE OF THEM IS DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA AAAAAAAAARGH. It might have worked better if you saw less of them, because less is more. Especially when your episode is a found footage thing, and this genre often likes to tease the monster or threat and never show it clearly. Still, I think the main objection is just "monsters literally made of eye mucus are silly, how did this shit even evolve to be a threat?", which... ehh.

The found footage aspect is used very well, I think... and quite cleverly, also! At the start of the thing, we have that professor fellow as our narrator, and then we cut to the cameras of the rescue crew. Okay, so it's assumed and taken for granted that these soldiers have helmet cameras on them for reasons. We can roll with that, and that combined with the wide shots (presumably from cameras on the space station) gives us our premise. An attentive viewer, however, will pick up on some inconsistencies. Maybe even complain about said inconsistencies. Well, then the shoe drops. These weren't plot holes. They were clues. There are no cameras, no helmet cams, no nothing. What we are viewing is the episode from the point of view of the Dust itself. It works. If you're going to play with found footage in Doctor Who, you might as well get clever with it... and the episode gets even more clever with it in its climax. Which, let's get to. Because wow.

Righto, so the professor was behind it all along! He wants to infect everyone with the Sandmen and make them spread and eat everyone because Reasons. Then he gets shot and the Doctor, Clara, and Leader Girl run off in the TARDIS... at which point the professor comes back on screen and reveals his plan. See, the whole episode was his creation, and he edited the Sandman memories to make it more exciting so more people would stay tuned to it and keep watching. How delightfully meta. The villain created the found footage episode to make... an exciting episode of Doctor Who that people wouldn't switch off. Oh, and he also embedded a signal in the footage to make anyone watching turn into a Sandman. (That explains the video glitches.). Oh, and then he rubs his eye away and starts talking in a demonic voice about how you should show the video to everyone you know before laughing and fading away. HOLY SHIT. Doctor Who hasn't properly unsettled and spooked me like this since like... Midnight. I can't hate an episode that manages to stick the landing so thoroughly on the sheer existential horror of "you're going to become a Sandman since you watched this". Once more, the streets of London ran yellow with the piss of frightened children. Christ almighty. Hell, I did need to rub my eyes a bit after first viewing! I didn't even sleep that well! Christ! I remain impressed that this show managed to spook me so, but here we are.

Oh yeah. Clara. She might die now, having accidentally stayed in one of those Morpheus pods. She might become a Sandgirl. She might die some other way, or leave the Doctor to cure her Sandgirl problem. I'm not sure. There is one thing I noticed, which is that the final shot of the TARDIS leaving appears to be from Clara's perspective inside it, and the Sand POV stays with the station and not the TARDIS. So there is hope. All in all, I liked this one. It's not the best but it's still good and it scared me.

Next time: Hey, that graffiti kid is back! In Diagon Alley!

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Star Wars: The Saber Order

(There are going to be spoilers for the Star Wars movies ahead. Please be wary of that before you go reading my gushing.)

I could put any image here, so here's Max Rebo, the
most rad synth-playing blue elephant in the Outer Rim.
So, holy shit. There's a new Star Wars movie coming out next month. So that's something interesting. Not only that, but some of my tabletop RPG pals are planning to run a Star Wars campaign in the near future. That should be fun too! Before we talk about... what we're going to talk about, here's my history with Star Wars. My brother was there for the original scene, in the 80's. He had the toys, the books, the et cetera et cetera. I, being a good... gosh, 14 years younger, was not around for that scene. I was born 2 years after Return Of The Jedi. No, I got into Star Wars in 1995, at the absolute last time to get into it before Everything Was Ruined Forever according to fandom. I watched the originals, I loved the originals, and in September 1997 for my 12th birthday I got the Star Wars Trilogy Special Edition on VHS. That set's still in my basement, and I've seen the Special Editions a bunch of times since then. They're fine, mostly. Emblematic of George Lucas's "endless tinkerer" and "all of the CGI, all of it" approach that would become synonymous with him soon, but fine all the same. Really, there's only one Special Edition change that I take great offense to, and it ain't Greedo shot bleedin' first. No, that change would be the addition of "Jedi Rocks" in Return Of The Jedi, and replacing a rad 80's sleazy alien synthpop song with... soul ballads from CGI cartoons. Or something. Hell, ROTJ manages to somehow break even with me because I like the new ending song better than Yub Nub or whatever the fuck. Anyway. A few years after that came the Star Wars trilogy that my generation got; the prequel films. Of which I only got to see one on the big screen. And that one was The Phantom Menace, even! Christ. I did like it when I was 14, and I did like the other movies at 17 and 20. I mean, well... they're okay I guess. I know a lot of people are re-analyzing The Phantom Menace specifically because of that fucking "Jar Jar is evil" theory that's floating around, but even a few years before that we had Red Letter Media's sublime and thorough takedown of the entire prequel trilogy.

Of course, there's more than one way to enjoy your Star Wars saga. Around the same time as the RLM reviews came a radical new way to watch the movies: The Machete Order. So named because it cuts an entire movie from the six-part saga, but also because it rearranges things. The short version of the Machete Order experience is as follows: You watch Episodes 4 and 5, just as you would if you were doing an original trilogy re-watch. At the end of The Empire Strikes Back, after Darth Vader's shocking reveal, you jump back in time to treat Episodes 2 and 3 of the prequel trilogy as an extended flashback, giving you the backstory to the fall of the Old Republic, the rise of the Empire, and Anakin Skywalker becoming Darth Vader. With the knowledge of how shit got bad, you jump to the conclusion of the series with Return Of The Jedi, and with Revenge Of The Sith fresh on your mind all of the added parallels become stronger and the emotional core of the finale is better served. The other reason for viewing the movies in this order is to preserve a bunch of the major twists... specifically that Darth Vader is Luke's father, and that Luke and Leia are siblings. Also that Chancellor Palpatine is actually Darth Sidious, the Emperor. It's a method suggested for first-time viewers, either people who never got into Star Wars before or kids discovering the series for the very first time. As for the reason why Episode 1 is cut from this order? Surprisingly, it isn't just "Episode 1 sucks" like you think it might be. Rather, the reason for skipping it is its irrelevance. According to the Machete Order, everyone introduced in Episode 1 is either killed/removed, not overly important to the plot, or gets established better in a later episode. The opening crawl of Episode 2, and indeed most of the opening moments, establish just about everything a first-time viewer needs to know, creating only a mild bit of confusion that the Machete Order guy admits to.

Now we come to my friend Joe. Joe likes Star Wars a lot. He came up with a modified version of the Machete Order recently, and dubbed it "The Saber Order". The Saber Order goes even further with its prequel trilogy surgery, and the "extended flashback" between The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi is now just one movie; Revenge Of The Sith. With Star Wars on my mind, and a burning desire to rewatch the films anyway, I agreed to test Joe's Saber Order out for him. The question was such: Would Revenge Of The Sith work on its own as the story of how Anakin fell and the Empire rose to power? Would skipping Attack Of The Clones create any confusion in trying to watch Episode 3? So it was that I fired up the original 1977 film, and went to it. Well, there was nothing really different for the first two films. It's the same as just watching the original trilogy. Good movie experiences were had, FUNNNNNY JOKES were made, and I engaged in a little critical nitpicking, the kind you just do when you've seen something twenty times before. Finally, on Friday, it was time. I popped my Revenge Of The Sith DVD in, and was interested to see just how well this shit would actually work. There were one or two things I could think of that might throw off a first-time viewer, but I went with it. Spoilers: it works. By god, it works! If nothing else, Revenge Of The Sith is really good at establishing shit for you, and just about anything it doesn't establish can be written off as backstory fluff. Here are a few things that work really well in Saber Order, that either I or Joe noticed.

1) The opening crawl.

Well, shit, this helps explain a lot of what's going on. Just from this little bit of text at the intro, you get a sense of the story so far and its major players. From it alone, I took away the following:

-The "Republic" is at war with a bunch of separatists led by a Sith Lord named Count Dooku.
-The separatists also have a droid army, led by a General Grievous.
-General Grievous has kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine of the Republic and is trying to get away with him.
-Two Jedi Knights are on a mission to rescue Chancellor Palpatine.

That does give you a lot! From there, you get all out war in the opening space battle. Anakin and Obi-Wan show up (more on their relationship in a second) and you can pretty much visually tell who Obi-Wan is because you know what old Obi-Wan looks like from the other movies. Admittedly it does take a while before they call Anakin by name, but you do get his full name within 20 minutes. They face off against Count Dooku and General Grievous in this 30-minute opening bit, and reference is made to a previous encounter with Count Dooku. That might make him feel like he came out of nowhere, but if you watch all the movies in order, Grievous also comes out of nowhere unless you watched the 2D Clone Wars cartoon. Reference to clones is made fairly quick into the movie, so a savvy viewer will pick up on the mentions of the Clone Wars from Episode 4. There's one thing that might possibly confuse, but we'll get to that later on.


2) Anakin and Obi-Wan's friendship.

I think the main reason Joe was eager to trim Episode 2 from the Machete Order was how it handled Anakin and his relation to other major characters. This is ground well-walked by Red Letter Media, but there's a dissonance between Obi-Wan's reminiscence of Anakin as a great pilot and a good friend with their relationship in Episode 2. Obi-Wan seems to see Anakin in that movie as more of a bratty teenager he has to babysit, who's constantly back-talking him and getting himself into trouble. Anakin, on the other hand, sees Obi-Wan as limiting and controlling his Jedi powers, and he's constantly shit-talking Obi-Wan behind the guy's back. He's a seething ball of teenage hormones and rage, and he's honestly not the most relatable character. Come the opening of Episode 3, and most of that is gone. On casual viewing, Anakin and Obi-Wan seem like good friends, with Anakin being just a little impulsive but not an ass about it. We see that he's a good pilot, and he's clearly good friends with Obi-Wan. Hell, in their last real conversation as friends, Obi-Wan admits that Anakin is better than he is at Jedi stuff. Anakin does get upset at how the Jedi treat him in this movie, but he never really gets upset at Obi-Wan; it feels more like him venting his frustrations to an old and trusted friend. Which makes what is to come all the more sad, of course.

3) Anakin and Padme's romance.

Look, I'm sorry. Episode 2's romance plot with Anakin and Padme was garbage. Joe's right to cut it out. Granted, that doesn't really save much since there's still cringeworthy romance dialogue in Revenge Of The Sith, but not as much. More to the point, by skipping that awkward romance and moving straight to "oh they're married", it makes things work better... in a sense. There's still momentary confusion in Padme's first scene, because someone unfamiliar with Episode 2's "Jedi aren't allowed to love" edict will be wondering why in the world Anakin has a secret senator lover. This is patched over with dialogue from Padme worrying about getting kicked out of the senate/Anakin getting kicked out of the Jedi if they find out they're having a baby, but there's still that bit of confusion from not having seen Episode 2. Otherwise, as normal.

4) Chancellor Palpatine.

Ah, Sheev. What a guy. Well, first off, Joe's Saber Order removes the inconsistency of the Jedi suddenly not trusting Palpatine as far as they can throw him; now it just always seemed that way. Anakin and Palpatine's relationship is served better; Palpatine seems like another friendly mentor character to Anakin, kind of like Obi-Wan is. It gives this strange sort of tension, and it's only added when Palpatine starts behaving awfully a lot like a Sith Lord. We don't really know the Emperor is named Palpatine in the original trilogy, but someone would catch on pretty damn quick; the opera scene at the latest. Either way, he suckers Anakin in with his little "save people from dying" thing (which, Anakin's premonitions parallel quite nicely with Luke's about Cloud City, and both of them do foolish and impetuous things in order to save the people they care about) and the kid goes bad and gets put in a robot suit.

Things that don't make sense

There are a few. Just about everything brought up in Revenge Of The Sith is explained... but one has to keep in mind all of the different versions of Star Wars out there. I did this with the original original trilogy, sans changes, because I've seen the Special Editions a shitload of times and I like the variety. There are two changes I can think of that would confuse, and the first is Boba Fett. The prequels have the Clone Army all being clones of Boba Fett's dad, so for the Special Edition DVDs George bothered to redub all of Boba Fett's lines in The Empire Strikes Back with that guy. (If I was the dude who originally did Boba's voice I'd be pissed off.) That's fine if you saw Attack Of The Clones, but I could see a new viewer watching the official DVDs/Blu-Rays wondering why in the everloving fuck the clones had Boba Fett's voice. Similarly, they might wonder why the hell R2D2 and C3PO are here... though in the prequels we got no explanation for R2 being there all along, and 3PO's introduction is cut out of the Machete Order anyway.

The other very minor thing is the celebration scene. There's a shot of Naboo added for the DVDs. Saber Order never shows the planet Naboo, so one might wonder where the hell this is... though at that point the movie's basically over so it doesn't really matter, I guess. Other than that, Saber Order works. It really and honestly works, and it leaves a certain level of ambiguity to the prequel trilogy that makes one think it was sort of redundant, really. We didn't need to see the clones being made, or the Trade Federation scheme, or podracing or any of that. Turns out all you need is Episode 3 and an attentive ear for dialogue. Huh. Thanks, Joe.

Give Saber Order a shot for yourself. See how it works. As for me, I'm going to build a Star Wars tabletop character. Maybe a small alien blue elephant Jedi...

Monday, 9 November 2015

Doctor Who Series 9 First Impressions: Episode 8 (The Zygon Inversion)

(As always, there are spoilers to follow. You know better than to read this before seeing the episode for yourself. Unless you don't care about spoilers and somehow just like to read me yelling about Doctor Who you haven't seen, which... well, I'm flattered but I also would really rather you watched it as well. If you're out there. Well, let's talk about Zygons some more.)

Press the right button and all the Zygons are revealed.
Press the wrong one and they all permanently become Colin Baker. With coat.
It was, through and through, a Peter Harness episode. The reaction to this one, both from myself and others, is just about the same as it was over a year ago when Kill The Moon happened. Lots and lots of people were thoroughly disappointed by the political implications of the episode, and have taken to the Internet to voice their concerns about it. This time it is immigration and xenophobia, and last year it was pro-choice debates. I here, on the other hand, am both dumb enough to not know much about political climates and yet smart enough to know that I shouldn't be writing about them. You'll note that I took The Zygon Invasion to task not for the implication that many took from it, that all foreign immigrants are pissed off radicals who will kill everyone in the way of their ambiguous revolutionary goals, but rather the fact that, for all the talk about the Zygon radicals in the episode being the minority, we never actually saw any Zygons who weren't murder-happy revolutionaries who kill both humans and Zygons alike on sight for Reasons. My issue was that the subtext was there for a "both sides" thing but it utterly failed to show both sides. The second reason this episode is a repeat of Kill The Moon for me is that Peter Harness is unable to hit "okay". He either hits extreme disappointment (see: political themes, giant space dragons, moon eggs) or "jaw-droppingly phenomenal" (see: Clara's outrage at the Doctor and storming off). Now, I like my Doctor Who with lots of emotional meatiness and whatnot, so the fact that Peter Harness can write really really incredible and passionate speeches for people like Jenna Coleman or Peter Capaldi to knock out of the park allows me to forgive him for all the political bits that don't work. Many will disagree, and in fact there are even political bits in the jaw-droppingly phenomenal speech in this episode that many have taken it to task for! I'm not one of them.

Part 1 may have faltered, but Christ almighty did Part 2 do its damned best to elevate the material. This is The Zygon Inversion, and here is why it's very good and I loved it so much.

Let's start with Jenna Coleman/Clara Oswald/Bonnie Zygella. You know, since the episode did. I didn't call the cliffhanger resolution. I talked about this in Before The Flood, but the guessing game isn't the if but the how. I pegged the how as being the Doctor looking at the rocket incoming, and staring at it with his sunglasses to make it blow up early. A plausible cliffhanger resolution, but not one a lot of people would have liked because half of fandom already hates the godforsaken sunglasses. What we got instead was far more clever and preferable to me and... oh, people still complained about it kind of. Well. Shit. Okay, so. Clara, our Clara, the one who was actually comatose in a Zygon pod for 85% of the last episode? She's still stuck in it, but pointedly she's in her own little mental landscape; her apartment. (Which ties in nicely to Last Christmas, incidentally!) She sees the cliffhanger playing out on her TV, from Bonnie's perspective... and manages to influence Bonnie's hands to veer the shot away a bit. Bonnie still hits in the end, but yes! Even in a Zygon pod Clara can be proactive and take charge! This is a better cliffhanger resolution because Clara got to do stuff. This is the most stuff Clara has gotten to do since Magician's Apprentice, arguably. The bit where she calmly faces down Bonnie when Bonnie goes looking for information is rad. Of course, Bonnie being a mirror of Clara (and there's lots of mirroring in this one, with Clara's clock and her bathroom mirror and the mere act of Clara looking at "herself" [aka Bonnie] in the TV and vice versa makes the budding third-rate Jane Campbell in me very happy) means that Bonnie is able to turn the tables on Clara and be just as proactive and clever in getting what she wants. It's a great scene, and though there isn't much for Clara to do beyond stand around for the big bit of the episode, we're not done with Bonnie Zygella by a long shot. But more on that when we get to the big bit.

Osgood is temporary companion here, and she works fine. I could have done without them pressing the question of "but which one are you?" over and over again, but Osgood keeps dismissing it with a smile. Hilariously, her actress had an AMA on Twitter yesterday, and one of the questions I saw from a viewer was actually, legitimately, whether or not Osgood was human or Zygon. For fuck's sakes, Harry, ambiguity. Petronella Osgood is Petronella Osgood. There might be one human and one Zygon at the end of this. Or two Zygons. I don't know. It doesn't seem to particularly matter. She absolutely is who she says she is, and that's all I need to know. As for everyone else... well, geez, Kate's going to need to conduct a hell of a lot of job interviews because all of UNIT is kind of dead. We don't see a single UNIT person besides Kate and Osgood; there's some soldiers but they're revolutionary Zygons in disguise. Kate, on the other hand, is not. I called that one because of simple televisual literacy; we never actually saw Kate get zapped in last week's cliffhanger. We pointedly cut away from the moment of zapping, and only had the assumption that the Kate saying UNIT was neutralized was a revolutionary Zygon. Even the reveal of how Kate got out of it is a smug Classic Who reference, and those are all over the place here. The aforementioned "five rounds rapid" line. The portrait of William Hartnell. The Z67 gas referred to as "the imbecile's gas". Lots of toying, and-- ah shit, I forgot to talk about why people got mad at Clara this week. She fought back against Zygon control and made little subtle body moments happen in Bonnie. Winking, finger gestures, whatnot. I've seen complaints about how this makes no sense because nobody else who got put in a Zygon pod ever fought back. Well, it can be justified by Osgood's line about them making a live link to her head to get information. The Zygons made a two-way connection, and Clara quickly gets how to use it as well. Also, she's the companion. She got to do shit in this episode. I'm not about to complain and really neither should you because I don't think anyone honestly gives a shit about Zygon rules. If they did, they'd be complaining that the Skarasen isn't involved with this lot at all. They don't even have a throwaway line explaining that, so get mad at that. Get mad for them not explaining why the Zygons don't drink from the teat of a cyborg alien dinosaur any more.

Right, here we go. The big bit. Once again, in a Peter Harness episode, we have women standing over a control box with two options; no mercy kill kill kill, or pacifism that may spell the end of everything anyway. The tricky trick of the Osgood Box is revealed, and everyone is in place in the Black Archive where all this shit started two years ago... and then Peter Capaldi does it. He doesn't just knock this out of the park. He knocks this performance into orbit around Mars. Holy fuck. The monologue about the meaning of war, the consequences of causing untold death and destruction to right perceived injustice, and the often lack of plotting out what to do after the war... mixed in with the most moving and passionate "Time War guilt" acting yet seen, is genius. The Doctor, ever the pacifist who one day went to war and has regretted it ever since, is all but begging and pleading Kate and Bonnie to make peace and call off this ridiculous fearmongering. In particular, I want to focus on his critique of Kate. We did see exactly one non-murdery sympathetic Zygon in this episode, a poor man who Bonnie forced back into Zygon form who now can't maintain his disguise. I suppose he's meant to represent the majority Zygons who are perfectly fine with living out their lives among human beings. It does help give the conflict depth, and it makes sense why they wouldn't be helping so much; they want to live in peace, and they don't think it's their fight. I disagree a little, but I understand. Then you have Bonnie and the other radicals, whose grand plan is to unmask every Zygon on Earth, stoking the prejudices of humanity to incite fear and violence and make all the Zygons go to war against the humans. When Clara, in her confrontation with Bonnie, points out that 20 million Zygons against 7 billion humans isn't a battle they can possibly win even with their technology, Bonnie's reply is a simple "Better to die by fire than live in chains.". Well, fuck you. You don't get to make that choice for the majority of your species. What I love about the later bits with Capaldi talking down Bonnie are how they address my concerns about the Zygon conflict. All the "mustache-twirling" I talked about with every radical Zygon killing left and right is revealed to be nothing more than an ill-thought out revolution. Bonnie doesn't even know what she wants, other than to see Zygons and humans go at it. In her ideal scenario, when Zygonkind stands among the ashes of humanity, and the Earth is theirs... then what? What do they do then? Bonnie has no plan, no strategy, no motivation beyond "But I don't like being disguised as a human!". The leader of the Zygon revolt is revealed to be little more than a child having a temper tantrum... and it's worth noting that at two points in the episode, Bonnie is visibly throwing temper tantrums when she isn't getting her way. Watch how, when Osgood's laptop reveals that she lied during her interrogation, Bonnie snarls and smashes the laptop. Or how, when the Doctor refuses to tell the secret of the Osgood Box, she hurls her phone at the wall. This isn't a military leader. This is a pissed-off teenager, and the Doctor talks both her and Kate down by making them think. Truth or consequences? Neither of them know the truth, or the consequences, of war.

So the Doctor talks Bonnie down. He forgives her, because he's the Doctor and he can. The Zygon revolution ends with peace talks and a few memory wipes just to make sure the status quo remains. Bonnie becomes an Osgood, and will work with the other Osgood to maintain the secret peace between humanity and Zygonity. The ill-thought out revolution ends. Some have said this is infantilizing of Bonnie, just treating her as a spoiled child. Others may say that the Doctor's dismissal of revolutions as being run by spoiled brats who don't think the status quo is "fair" is tonally wrong. It's not for me to judge. I loved the speech, I loved the peaceful way everything resolved, and I loved how it addressed all my concerns with the Zygon's motivations by ideologically tearing them down as a impassioned but flawed ideal. God damn. This might be my favorite episode of series 9 so far. It'll be interesting on rewatch to see how The Zygon Invasion holds up, but for now I'm all for this. It's been a rocky road, and not quite as good a road as Series 8, but it's had its moments.

Also, please god don't let that "longest month of my life" thing be a confirmation of the Clara Is Already Dead theory. Fuck's sakes.

Next time: Doctor Who does found footage. I dig found footage. I might dig this.