The Test of Shadows, or “Near Death”

Spoiler-Free Synopsis of Doctor Who, Season 10, Episode 6, “Extremis”:
The Vatican has a secret book in an unknown language. Everyone who translates it and reads it commits suicide. The Vatican has two options: make sure no one ever reads the book again…or ask the Doctor to read it. One of those options makes for a better story.

First of all, turns out other people really liked the last episode, “Oxygen.” I sometimes like episodes that other fans don’t like, but the opposite doesn’t happen to me often. No accounting for taste, and all that. Oh well.
This week, the Doctor is still hiding his secret from last episode. He’s even hiding it from Bill, because as soon as he tells her he’ll have to actually deal with it. But he still wants her to come along with him, even on this particular adventure, because she’s his companion. As I said before, I love companion dynamics.
What doesn’t make sense is why he would bring the Pope and the cardinals along to pick Bill up, just so they could hop out of the TARDIS to surprise her and her date.
Oh yeah, her date. I’m calling it: Bill is going to come out to her foster mom at a very inconvenient moment, like when their lives are in danger. And her mom is going to be totally fine with it, because at least she’s not dating boys. And the fans of LGBTQWXYZ+ will rejoice, and the Christians will have no choice but to grin and bear it. So it is written, so it shall be.
On the bright side, Nardole finally has a purpose! Whether it’s helping the Doctor keep his secret out of friendly loyalty or being “secretly a badass,” I actually like him now. While the Doctor was indisposed, Nardole played the Doctor’s role as only Matt Lucas could. He even stopped complaining about…oh! Almost forgot to mention the vault.
We finally know who’s in there, mainly because this episode didn’t have 40-something minutes of plot so they had to add flashbacks. Not that the flashbacks had much to do with the main plot.
I do have a gripe from a Christian standpoint, but it would require spoilers. I’ll save it for another time.

2π/10 Latin words that make things sound deeper than they really are.

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@noahspud
@CorrelationBlog

What Does This Have to Do with Crop Rotation?

Spoiler-Free Doctor Who, Season 10, Episode 5, “Oxygen”:
After giving a lecture about how the vacuum of space can kill you, the Doctor takes Bill to visit the vacuum of space. On this future space station, space suits are killing people. But you need to wear a space suit to have an oxygen supply. And the Doctor lost his sonic screwdriver. Also, Nardole keeps complaining that the Doctor isn’t supposed to leave Earth. And there’s a blue person.

Ugh. This season has been good so far. But this episode… maybe it just had too many moving parts.
The blue person made them bring up racism. I get that it’s good to talk about it, but the season with Martha didn’t make as big a deal about skin color as this season. The Whoniverse is supposed to be too big to worry about these social problems; sexuality is never EVER questioned, but they need to pause to discuss racism on a show where even human is optional?
Nardole didn’t serve much purpose. Sometimes he was funny, but mostly he was just there to say “Season-Long Mystery, Remember? We can’t tell anyone what it is, but we can’t let anyone forget that it’s there!”
Bill conveniently gets the space suit that breaks down at the most inconvenient times. And the other space suits have confusing powers. They can’t enter a certain room, but they can hear people whispering on the other side of it. They can magnetically steal a sonic screwdriver but not a gun, apparently. And they’re capable of electrocuting their occupants for some reason but not *spoilers*; seriously, why build a space suit death trap that also provides oxygen? It doesn’t make sense.
Oxygen supply is measured in breaths, rather than time, because when you’re freaked out you use oxygen faster. But no one in the episode dies from running out of their oxygen supply. So why point that out, except for added realism?
And on top of all that, the Doctor is *spoilers.* Too many moving parts.
If Jamie Matheson had used considerably less moving parts…and made the major threat less disappointing…yeah, no, then there wouldn’t have been anything to speak of in this episode. Dinosaurs on a Spaceship had many moving parts, and that was excellent. Jamie Matheson wrote Flatline, and that was excellent. Why couldn’t this one be excellent?

3/10 radio voices called… Velma. Ooh. Scary.

Did anyone like this episode more than I did? Let’s Connect!
@noahspud
@CorrelationBlog

Exactly What It Says on the Tin

What if American slavery wasn’t just cheap labor for rich people? What if it was also a cheap food supply for vampires?
That’s not just something for nerds to fantasize about. That’s the premise for “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.” Okay, the actual premise is the life of Abraham Lincoln as if his mother was killed by a vampire so he spent his nights chopping their heads off. But then his war on the blood-suckers crosses over into his day job – politics and the Civil War.
The movie is based on a book written by Seth Grahame-Smith, the same guy who wrote “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies” and the Lego Batman Movie. In the early days of the Correlation I wrote a post about P&P&Z before I’d even seen it. I have seen it now, and my opinion hasn’t changed: it’s a well-made, brilliantly-acted movie. I finally get why Mr. Darcy is the object of literary girls’ fantasies: he has very impressive zombie-killing skills.

The Abraham Lincoln one isn’t quite as good as P&P&Z, but it has similar merits. The acting is very good (I spotted the MCU’s Falcon and Howard Stark, Firefly’s Alan Tudyk, and Scott Pilgrim’s Ramona). The atmosphere is appropriate for the era but also the subject matter.
The vampires are day-walkers, they have this weird invisibility power, and the mechanics of how they convert humans is vague, but they’re treated just as seriously as the zombies in the Jane Austen adaptation. The movie isn’t “hilarious in its grim sincerity” like P&P&Z was, but it makes Abraham Lincoln a proper hero – now slavery has a fanged face to be brutally mutilated.
Also (slight spoiler warning), the movie does not cheapen Lincoln’s assassination by saying it was related to vampires. Maybe that will appeal to the people who are worried it mocks history. My college roommate was a History major, and his positive opinion of this movie is what convinced me to watch it.
If a history buff can enjoy this movie, can’t Christians lower their expectations just a bit and enjoy this and other fandoms? It’s the same point I made about P&P&Z, and it still applies.

I wrote this one a while back, and I didn’t have anything new for today, so here it is.
Ask us questions to give us ideas for new material! Let’s Connect!
@noahspud
@CorrelationBlog

Invasion of the Wood Lice doesn’t sound as good

Spoiler-Free Synopsis of Doctor Who, Season 10, Episode 4, “Knock Knock”:
Bill is going halvsies on renting a new house, except there are six friends and the house isn’t new at all. The appliances are outdated, every square inch creaks when you touch it, and the landlord is a bit creepy. The Doctor is suspicious, but Bill assures him that it’s normal and he doesn’t need to investigate. Then her friends start disappearing.

This show can get away with two “horror” stories so close together because, as I said, the last one was mostly a futuristic space story and this one is a haunted house, complete with jump scares, dark shadows, creepy noises, and young people pranking other young people. The atmosphere works this time, too. The young people are decent actors, thankfully, and the monsters are effective.
Bill continues to find ways to be less awestruck of the Doctor. This time she wanted the Doctor to stay in the TARDIS and out of her personal life. I think the Doctor genuinely doesn’t understand “part-time companion.” Until the Ponds, I don’t think he ever had one who didn’t stay on the TARDIS full time. Clara considered him a hobby and he still felt strongly attached to her. He recently spent 24 years on a date with River Song, and then spent a long time stuck on Earth guarding a vault. He’s itching for adventure, and to him that means hanging out with his companion. Companion dynamics are one of my favorite parts of this show. I love that they keep finding new ways to portray them.
Bill clearly still likes the Doctor. She popped onto the TARDIS for one scene and managed to ask approximately umpteen questions about Time Lords, just to remind us why we like her specifically. More importantly, as soon as she realizes that something is wrong, her first instinct is to find him.
We get another scene with the mystery vault. I’m continually convinced that this is someone we already know. I’m more okay with it now, but it bugs me for reasons.
Again, not much to complain about or observe from a Christian standpoint. I did notice that one of the young people was spectacularly quick to accept that Bill was into girls. Admirable from the world’s perspective, less cool from a Christian perspective.

8/10 man-eating dryads from space.

What did you think of “Knock Knock”? Let’s Connect!

@noahspud
@CorrelationBlog

Throwback Thu-Friday: Agents of Shield Season 3

Happy belated Star Wars day. Let’s talk about Agents of SHIELD.
Season 4 is coming to an end, and they’ve been going out on a brilliant high note. Our heroes just escaped the Matrix. The climax included this exchange:
Mack: You’re not Moses taking us to the Promised Land.
Daisy: That’s it. What if I part the Red Sea?
Mack: You did not just use the Bible against me.

This isn’t the first time Joss Whedon has used a Biblical allusion. It’s not even the first time it’s happened on Agents of SHIELD.
Instead of mutants, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has Inhumans, the descendants of genetic experiments created by ancient aliens. One of those mad science experiments, a body-snatching swarm of mind controlling parasites called Hive, resurfaced in Agents of SHIELD Season 3. Hive originally inspired Hydra, SHIELD’s evil opposite. He’s also the Devil, supposedly.
Toward the end of the season, Daisy (the Inhuman the show has revolved around since Day 1) gets corrupted by Hive and starts doing some bad stuff. When she gets her free will back, she feels awful, understandably. When she thinks she’s going to die saving the world, she’s okay with that. But then her boyfriend, Lincoln, steals her noble sacrifice by trapping the Devil and himself on a spaceship with a nuke.
The scene includes these lines:
“He’s paying for my mistakes.” “No, he’s paying for all our mistakes.”
“To sacrifice for them. For all their flaws.” “They’re only human.”
And then there’s a cross necklace, in case we missed the reference.

The big clincher is that Lincoln is one of the most innocent characters on the show. People distrusted him for a long time, but a lot of the things they thought he was going to do he didn’t do. It’s an unexpected but powerful Jesus type.
Read this article when you’re done here: the-artifice.com/joss-whedon-god. It goes into more detail about portrayals of Christianity, faith, and hope in Joss Whedon’s stories. It concludes that, although Whedon doesn’t believe in God, he believes that faith and hope are good and powerful virtues, so he gives them to his heroes.
Joss Whedon is one of geekdom’s greatest writers, and one of the best examples of separating real world worldview from fictional universe worldview. If we can find hope and truth in the products of a staunch atheist, Christians should be able to find value in anything.

What do you think? Let’s Connect!
@noahspud
@CorrelationBlog

Who Put an Elephant on the Thames?

Spoiler Free Synopsis of Doctor Who, Season 10, Episode 3, “Thin Ice”:
The Doctor has been to the 1814 London Frost Fair before, but he didn’t notice the lights under the ice on the Thames. When he ends up there with Bill, they see the lights and how they seem to swallow people up. Bill isn’t sure she approves of the Doctor’s reaction, but they have bigger things to worry about. Much, much bigger. And hungrier.

I wrote the piece about “Smile” before I saw this episode. I wasn’t expecting the day when Bill disagreed with the Doctor to come so soon. But now it’s happened, and my reaction is noticing that Pearl Mackie is a pretty good actress. She portrays brilliantly the whirlwind of emotions any companion experiences, especially early on. Look at that face.

Bill isn’t wrong, either. The Doctor may be better at interacting with humans these days, but that doesn’t mean he reacts with human responses. Sometimes that’s good because he can move past the pangs of loss and start fixing the problem, but it sometimes means the people around him drown in the emotion without a hand to pull them out.
This time, the Doctor and Bill were saved from their tough conversation by child actors. This show, like most shows, has an up-down relationship with child actors. These kids were talented, except for the young girl, who was adorable, so that’s all right. The kids added to the beautiful historical setting we expect from this show.
The Doctor gives another speech, and Bill appreciates it…maybe a little too much. It occurs to me that Capaldi’s excellent performance may lose something if the awestruck companion keeps drawing attention to how good he is. Kind of like how people asking “Doctor who?” got old real quick.
We get another look at that mystery vault. No spoilers, of course, but I’m starting to theorize that this plotline is something we’ve seen before. And that bugs me. Moffat can’t give us something new for his last hurrah?
Also: this season sure knows how to do episode openers.

I have no complaints about this episode. No Christian-compatible moral either, but I decided to review this season and I don’t want to skip anything.

9/10 swimsuits secured through magical alien powers.

What did you think of this episode? Let’s Connect!
@noahspud
@CorrelationBlog

The Dark Side of Emojis: A Review

Spoiler-Free Synopsis of Doctor Who, Season 10, Episode 2, “Smile”:
Bill’s first TARDIS trip is to the future, around the 29th century. Humans have colonized a new Garden of Eden. But where are the people? What are the robots up to? And is there food sexism in the future?
The Doctor says he doesn’t fly around looking for trouble to fix, not anymore…but since he’s in the area.

Most of Doctor Who horror is based on jump scares and atmosphere. This one has the atmosphere of a futuristic story. The monsters chase you slowly because they don’t need to run. And when it’s not scary, it’s fun. Swarms of AI robots! Mood readers! It’s all so pretty…except for the bones. The dissonance makes it even scarier.
Meanwhile, Bill is still asking the right questions, much like Donna on her first trip (I loved that episode). But unlike Pompeii, this time the Doctor was right (as far as he knew), and Bill understood that. She loves learning from him; she’s in awe of him more than any companion in a long time. It’ll be interesting when she ends up disagreeing with him about something.
The plot was a lot of fun, too. Interestingly, viewers probably solved the mystery before the Doctor and Bill did, and we get to see them figure it out. But no spoilers!

The episode’s problem is the rushed pacing, especially toward the end. The Doctor comes to his brilliant solution way too quickly, and executes it too easily. If the story had been stretched into two episodes, there would have been more time to explore a couple of plot points that they blurred through, which I don’t want to spoil.

The “moral” of this episode was about robot slaves. Remember what I said a while back about Toy Story and Wall-E? Just because robot servants are smart doesn’t mean they’re slaves in need of being freed. They might just be smart robot servants and therefore effective robot servants. Of course, if the humans are in danger then something needs to change. But stop calling them slaves. You’re just asking for ethical subtext that doesn’t need to be there, not in an episode like this.

8/10 wishes on a magic fish.

What did you think of this episode? Let’s Connect!

@noahspud
@CorrelationBlog