Agent Carter Season 1 Review

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Two days ago was the UK premiere of the second season of Marvel’s acclaimed Agent Carter TV series, following Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter from the first Captain America movie. In preparation, then, I’ve collected all the ‘mini-reviews’ that I wrote each week over on my facebook page, which you can find here.

Now is Not the End (1×01)

So, I watched the first episode of Agent Carter today, because it’s finally getting a UK release. I quite enjoyed it, actually; Hayley Atwell is brilliant (although the “Crikey O’Reilly” line is awful, she delivers everything else more or less perfectly) and some fairly interesting plot lines have been set up. I’m not exactly sold on the Leviathan idea, because vagueness doesn’t really translate to an interesting mystery, but we’ll see where that goes.

I was surprised at how violent it was, actually. It was great seeing Peggy fighting and winning quite so often, but it was certainly a level up from Agents of SHIELD – the stapler and the cooking hob both stood out. As did the rather brutal death of Peggy’s friend, come to that.

Still, I quite enjoyed it, and I’m going to keep watching it. Obviously.

Bridge and Tunnel (1×02)

Another week, another episode of Agent Carter. ‘Twas another interesting one; Hayley Atwell is, of course, still brilliant. What I do find interesting is that they’re giving her what is typically a male narrative – that of the loner who cuts themselves off from others, blaming themselves when harm comes to those closest to them, and so on and so forth. They did something similar with Watson in series 3 of Elementary, to largely good effects, so I’m interested to see where this is going.

Also of note is the Betty Carver triage nurse radio show angle. (I think I got her name right) It’s… interesting, in that it provided a nice presentational device, but they never really used it to any great impact to comment on, say, propaganda, or interpretations of heroes, or where ever they might have wanted to go with that. If it does reappear, hopefully, it’ll be in a more interesting capacity

Time and Tide (1×03)

This week’s did well for the various supporting characters, I think. Jarvis, Angie, and Kaminsky. They each felt a little more fleshed out – I knew the backstory about Jarvis’ wife was coming, but it was still a suitably dramatic moment, and James D’Arcy does really well. Particularly liked the “Still is, I’m pleased to say” line, as well as the clear rage replacing his normal calm when his wife is threatened.

I think the death of Kaminsky was quite well handled – even though no one exactly liked him, and he’d been very much the butt of every joke (even in death – “I’ll call his girlfriend”), when he did die, it clearly shook everyone up. It was a clever way to show the impact of what was going on.

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The Blitzkrieg Button (1×04)

It was kinda rubbish, this episode. Bit of a shame, really, that at 4 weeks in they’re already at “comedy filler episode”, especially given that it’s essentially a mini-series; you’d expect the whole show to have a much tighter arc and direction. This was the one where it became obvious that they don’t exactly know what they’re doing – they have a thinly sketched stock mysterious villain, and a weak overall plot, which can’t exactly drive the series. “Clear Howard Stark’s name”. Well, okay, what does that translate to on a weekly basis? So far it’s matched up alright with the ongoing investigations of the SSR, but this week, things just felt lacking.

There were good bits – some of the jokes were funny, and some of the more serious lines did fairly well – but ultimately this episode was just a sloppy, directionless mess. I’d say it’s probably worse than even the lower tier Agents of SHIELD episodes (a show I’ve not always been kind to, but am more or less now quite pleased with.)

The Iron Ceiling (1×05)

This was the one with the Howling Commandos in it. That’s probably the only notable thing about it, isn’t it? Actually, that’s unfair. Fleshed out the character of Thompson a bit, which was nice; tragic backstory, and possible PTSD, were an interesting inclusion if nothing else. Peggy’s story in this episode worked well too, I think, as the SSR characters began to give her a little more respect.

It still feels like, with three episodes left, that there’s a fair amount of ground left to cover on the big important arc plot – which, admittedly, is not feeling all that interesting yet.

(Also – this wasn’t in the original facebook comments, but something I wanted to comment on now: Isn’t The Iron Ceiling such a clever title?)

A Sin to Err (1×06)

In this particular episode,  Peggy’s SSR buddies find out about her illicit escapades, and also the good Russian man is secretly evil.

We’ll start with the Russian man. It was actually an interesting twist, the way that they revealed he was evil – Dottie was signalling to him with her gun, rather than getting ready to shoot him. It’d be a lot more interesting if it wasn’t so contrived, mind you – shouldn’t she have had, like, a telescope or something? Also, thinking about it, why did she kill the dentist? I actually liked that earlier, because she killed him because he was being a lecherous creep… but isn’t the whole point of the Black Widow program that they can manipulate people with their sexuality? That’s why she has that anesthetic lipstick to use later on, after all. Hmm.

As for the SSR reveal, I think it worked, more or less. The fact that she gained the respect of the others last episode gave this a bit more weight, but it’d probably have worked better if we’d seen her with their respect for another episode. Also! Putting her confrontation with Thompson and her confrontation with Sousa one after the other lessened the impact of them, given that they ended up being functionally very similar, even though they shouldn’t have been – Peggy’s relationship with both of them is different, and that should have been considered.

Still! At least this episode gave me a lot to say. It was a definite improvement over the previous two weeks.

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Snafu (1×07)

I can pretty confidently say that this episode was, in fact, the best of the series. In part, I think, that’s because a lot of the different plot threads that they’d been dangling over the past eight weeks were now beginning to reach their close – as well as that, though, there’s more depth to the characters by this stage, so it was all a little more impactful generally.

The interrogation montage at the beginning of the episode was quite neat; it does a genuinely impressive job of juxtaposing the different reaction Peggy’s colleagues had to her betrayal alongside one another. One of the flaws I picked out in the previous episode was that they didn’t do enough to emphasise the differences in Peggy’s relationship with Sousa and with Thompson – a far better job of that was done here.

Similarly, the death of Chief Dooley was actually rather poignant; on its own, the invocation of his family might have seemed a little cliche, but I think in allowing us to actually see his family through the hallucinations the show was able to out something of a more interesting spin on events. It helped to give the episode a greater emotional weight, and really did up the tension, heightening the stakes for the finale.

Valediction (1×08)

The eighth and final episode managed to further improve on the standard set by its predecessor; it does a decent job of resolving the different plot threads we’ve running throughout. The reintroduction of Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark was an excellent move, because he imbues his performance with a real charm and charisma that elevates every scene he’s in. There was some real pathos, in fact, in framing Howard’s narrative so explicitly in terms of Steve Rogers; much like with Peggy, the love of Captain America and his absence haunted the character.

We did see a rather neat resolution to that, though, and it’s one of my favourite moments in the entire show; Peggy was able to talk down Howard, preventing him from bombing the city, in a scene that explicitly mirrored and parallels Steve’s own “death” in Captain America. In many ways, this can be regarded as something of a second chance for Peggy, and the start of a second life – as evidenced by the closing scene, wherein she reaffirms her own value, and slowly pours away Steve’s blood.

Overall

I mean, it’s very much a case of strengths and weaknesses. They did a decent job with the characters, I think it’s fair to say, although it did take a while to get going in that regard. Some things felt a little sloppy; the overarching Leviathan plot was not really as tightly planned as I would have liked, particularly considering this was a miniseries. Certainly, there’s no way the story could have sustained a standard 24 episode season, and it’s perhaps difficult to argue that they managed to properly sustain it across these 8.

I do think that it is genuinely good thing for the MCU that this program exists. I do think that it’s managed to introduce some excellent characters. I also think there is a genuine and inherent value in introducing a female lead television program of this nature.

But across the second season, the writing will need to pick up; it has to be more in the vein of the later episodes than the earlier episodes, if not even better still.

Let’s hope the show can come to know its own value, and realise its untapped potential.

This article was previously published on the Yahoo TV website.

Related:

Here’s everything I’ve written about Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD

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The Flash: Who is Zoom?

the flash series 2 enter zoom hunter zolomon jay garrick teddy sears eddie thawne fight hd image

Across the course of The Flash season 2 so far, a new villain has been established – Zoom. The overarching villain of this season, Zoom has already demonstrated he’s a significant threat; he stole Jay Garrick’s speed, kidnapped E2 Harrison Wells’ daughter, and completely decimated Barry in their only confrontation of the series. 

We know that Zoom is a force to be reckoned with. But we don’t know who he is.

The question of Zoom’s identity has been hotly debated, with various possibilities emerging; you’ve got E2 Harrison Wells, Jay Garrick, E2 Barry Allen, Henry Allen of either Earth, Barry Allen from the future, and Patty Spivot. (That last one is, obviously, most likely. They do both wear blue, after all.) Any possibility could be quite compelling, of course, but when it comes down to it, to me there’s only one identity for Zoom that could really, truly work.

And that’s Eddie Thawne.

Now, allow me to explain. In case you’ve forgotten, Eddie Thawne was one of the central characters throughout much of last year’s run; he was a police detective, partnered with Joe West, and in a relationship with Iris West. (That, obviously, lead to something of a love triangle between Barry, Iris and Eddie; your mileage will vary on quite how successful you considered it to have been.) Crucially, Eddie was also revealed to be an ancestor of the time travelling Reverse Flash, who was the overarching villain of that season; in the final episode, Eddie sacrificed himself, committing suicide to stop the Reverse Flash from ever having existed.

He died, saving everyone. So, how can he be the villain this season?

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Well, in comic book television programs, death is only as permanent as the writers want it to be. You can see that on The Flash last year, with the many deaths and returns of Ronnie Raymond; the same has been true over on Arrow, with various characters returning after their presumed demise. Previously you could at least say that a character wasn’t dead unless you’d seen the body – but even that’s not true anymore, with Arrow showing us the emaciated corpse of Sara Lance before promptly returning her to life.

It follows, then, that the same could be true of Eddie. His death is in fact particularly suspicious when you realise that his corpse was pulled into a wormhole, and his body not seen since then; that’s exactly the sort of event that could give someone speed related powers, isn’t it? Notably, Zoom’s lightning has been shown in shades of blue, implicitly linking him to that same wormhole; perhaps this indicates that his powers come from the wormhole?

Interestingly, Jay Garrick described Zoom as being “a speed demon”; that, I think, is the sort of description that could be applied to someone who died, and exists in a state of temporal limbo as a result of being pulled into a wormhole. (An obvious counter response to this would be asking how Zoom found himself on Earth 2 before the wormhole opened; it’s just another case of the peculiarities of time travel, really.)

Two upcoming villains in the latter half of season 2 indicate, perhaps, that Zoom is Eddie Thawne; now, I’m only going off officially released information, but this could still constitute spoilers, so you might want to skip this paragraph. We’ve got two villains confirmed to be appearing soon: the Turtle, and the Reverse Flash. Both are important, albeit for different reasons. The Turtle’s powers are the ability to speed down time; this is something typically linked to the character Zoom in the comics. (He, notably, is not Eddie, but there are several distinct similarities that indicate Eddie could have been inspired by him.) It’s also the sort of power one might expect someone to get from a time-y wimey wormhole; the Turtle could be foreshadowing and establishing this power set for Zoom.  The relevance of the Reverse Flash is obvious; if he still exists, it indicates that perhaps his ancestor Eddie wasn’t quite so dead after all.

That covers the circumstances that could lead to how Eddie became Zoom; another, more interesting question, is why.

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I don’t mean why in terms of motivations, though; I’ve honestly no idea what they might be. Could be as simple as wanting revenge, or Eddie going crazy; if I were to guess, I’d figure it’s a bit of both, but perhaps with the addition of elements of Zoom’s motivations from the source material. (Essentially fighting the Flash to try and make him a better hero; arguably this was signposted with the revelation that Zoom is trying to make Barry faster.)

No, I mean why in terms of why, thematically speaking, Eddie being Zoom gives us the richest and most compelling storylines.

Recall, if you will, how the season began: Barry felt like he wasn’t the hero of Central City, not really, because Eddie was the one who had stopped the Reverse Flash, not him. Eddie’s death was a really significant, emotional event for Barry; consider how seismic a revelation it would be for Barry to find out that his friend, whose sacrifice pushed him to be a better hero, is now the man trying to kill him. The same would be true of Iris as well, in fact; the man she loved is now a murderer to be feared.

(This, incidentally, is why Zoom shouldn’t be someone’s Earth 2 counterpart; it’d strip the revelation of any emotional significance. If Zoom was Eddie from Earth 2, none of the above is true; Zoom is simply someone who looks like a person they cared about. It really wouldn’t work in the same way. Furthermore, though, they indicated in The Darkness and the Light that Zoom knows about Barry’s personal life, which does suggest he’s from Earth 1.)

They’ve also built a few parallels with Eddie into Zoom’s story now; as you can see in the above picture, Zoom has been holding E2 Wells’ daughter captive, in much the same way that Wells last year held Eddie captive. It’s an interesting reversal, and to me it does indicate that there’s some weight to the idea that Zoom is Eddie; the writers are intelligent people, and the parallels here would be obvious to them too. It’s entirely possible I’m reading too far into this, yes, but I do think it’s worth consideration.

More telling, though, is one of Zoom’s first lines spoken to Barry: “Heroes die”. It’s a firm rejection of Eddie’s dying words – All I ever wanted was to be your hero.” Well, Eddie was a hero, and he died because of it. Whilst the connection I made between Wells imprisoning Eddie and Zoom imprisoning Jesse could, arguably, be a bit of a stretch, I doubt that the writers would include such an overt parallel without it being intended to mean something. To me, that’s one of the most significant pieces of evidence that foreshadows the revelation that Eddie is Zoom.

In any case, though, that concludes this little theory. I’d be interested to see if I’ve convinced you, or if you still disagree; let me know what you think in the comments.

Regardless of what happens, I do know one thing – it’s going to be really, really impressive.

This article was previously posted on the Yahoo TV website.

Related:

The Flash season 2 reviews

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BREAKING NEWS: Steven Moffat leaving Doctor Who; Broadchurch showrunner Chris Chibnall to be his replacement

steven moffat doctor who chris chibnall showrunner takeover replace news regeneration

It’s been reported by the Radio Times that Steven Moffat, showrunner of Doctor Who since 2010, will be stepping down after the conclusion of the tenth season of Doctor Who,to be replaced by Chris Chibnall.

Chibnall, of course, was showrunner for the wonderful Broadchurch – incidentally starring former Doctor Who star David Tennant – which has been met with much acclaim over the course of its run on ITV. Chibnall also has previous experience with Doctor Who, having written for both the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, as well as being the primary writer for Torchwood in its first two seasons.

It has been confirmed that Doctor Who series ten will broadcast in 2017, as Moffat’s final season; 2016 will see only a Christmas special in December. Chris Chibnall’s first season as showrunner will begin in 2018 – there’s no word at present as to whether or not Peter Capaldi will remain in the starring role under Chris Chibnall.

My article about Moffat being replaced by Chibnall, posted on the Yahoo TV website. There’s a bit of a reaction there too, and some speculation about the series 10 companion which did end up bearing out correctly, which is neat.

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Was Arrow Season 3 really that bad?

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I’ve recently been able to catch up on the third season of Arrow, which has something of a reputation for being less than stellar. Much like when I was rewatching the Star Wars prequels recently, the question of the quality of the series was something that weighed up my mind.

So, then. Was Arrow season three really that bad?

The short answer is no.

As for the long answer? Well, as ever, things are much more nuanced and complicated than they’d initially appear. Arrow Season 3 was, in many ways, the weakest season of everything we’ve seen thus far in the CW DC universe – and yet, despite that, it did do a lot of things right, and introduced some interesting concepts.

Certainly, the strongest aspect of this season was the overarching theme introduced; the question of who, exactly, Oliver Queen is, and what he’s able to achieve as the Arrow. As a through line for the series, it’s actually something that the execs made an impressive job of examining; it’s set up right from the beginning, framed in terms of Oliver’s potential relationship with Felicity (more on that later) and further examined through his interactions with the other characters. It’s in this season that we see a lot of other heroes established, and they’re all there to act as foils to Oliver; Barry crosses over from The Flash, questioning Oliver’s methods, and we see Ted Grant as Wildcat, a vigilante who gave it all up because he went too far.

Of course, it’s examined in more depth through the regular cast, particularly Colton Haynes as Roy and Katie Cassidy as Laurel. When we’re watching them develop as heroes, it’s framed alongside and contrasted against Oliver as the Arrow – it’s something that’s thrown into sharp focus during the Danny Brickwell mini-arc, wherein Oliver isn’t in Starling, and our supporting cast have to pick up the slack. True, it’s a little Dark Knight Rises, but through this juxtaposition the show was able to make some interesting commentary on what it is to be a hero, and at the same time developing our main cast of characters.

The parallels are most overt between Ray and Oliver though – the billionaire who lost something, driven to protect his city. They get some nice humour out of it (there’s a great scene with the salmon ladder) but there’s some genuine depth to it as well, I think. Oliver always took the approach that he can be the Arrow, or he can be Oliver – he can’t be both. And, as the Arrow, he can’t maintain any relationships, or get too attached to people. Yet Ray Palmer comes along, and he manages to succeed where Oliver has failed, over and over again; with his company, with Felicity, and as the ATOM. It’s an important part of the ultimately identity crisis arc that carries across the series, and Oliver’s struggle between who he wants to be, and who he had to become to save his city.

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The arc is well done for the most part, and they even manage to pull it into the flashbacks; in Hong Kong, we see Oliver begin to lose himself, and become much closer to the vicious killer he was in season one, whilst at the same time slowly learning what happened to Masseo and Tatsu in a rather clever non linear narrative.

But it does begin to fall apart towards the end of the season, as does nearly everything else. Now, personally speaking, I’d say the first run of 9 episodes is a decent stretch, as is the Danny Brickwell arc; it’s after episode 15, however, that things start to stop working. Your mileage may vary on this one; I’ve seen people suggest it’s earlier, placing the cut off point at episode 12, but for me, the problems began with The Offer. Episode 15 was where we saw Ra’s Al Ghul name Oliver as his successor, and the League of Assassins (I’m not one to get picky about comic adaptation changes, but “League of Shadows” really is a better name) become the main antagonists for the rest of the season.

Honestly, it is difficult to say that this works. There are a couple of different reasons for this, of course; notably, in comparison to previous years, there aren’t really any personal stakes in play for Oliver. With both Slade and Merlyn (and, as a bonus, Harrison Wells over on The Flash) the final confrontation had been deeply personal, even bordering on intimate. It was, I think, part of that intensity that raised the stakes for those prior confrontations; in lacking that, something else needed to fill the gap with Ra’s Al Ghul.

And… well, they tried to tie Ra’s into the identity crisis arc, but they do a poor job of it. I think, in part, it’s because much of the circumstances and consequences involved just aren’t entirely clear: we get this threat from Ra’s, instructing Oliver to take his place in the league “or else”, but we’re then left with some variation of “I just don’t really want to”, which isn’t exactly a great, compelling thematic point. Certainly, there’s a genuine question as to why Oliver doesn’t just accept the role, have his new minions kill Ra’s, and then abdicate; it’s the sort of thing that’d appear to solve all his problems.

You then end up with a fairly muddled set of motivations, ranging from secret prophecy to pretending to be brainwashed, and the surprise stipulation that the new Ra’s has to destroy his previous home town – that being why we care about Starling at the minute. It’s just difficult, ultimately, to be invested in this finale, because we haven’t really seen why we should; for all the talk about the League of Assassins being genuinely threatening, we never really see any evidence for this fact.

It leads to an ultimately underwhelming finale, which is a shame; given that the high points of both the previous seasons have been their finales, the fact that this one has been lacking is a significant contributing factor to the overall condemnation of this season.

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There was, of course, another aspect of the season finale, and indeed the season as a whole, which was quite controversial. I speak, as I’m sure you’ve surmised from the picture, of “Olicity”. (For those of you who unfamiliar with the portmanteau, I refer to the relationship between Oliver and Felicity.)

This is… difficult to comment on, as it goes. Going into the series, I’d heard a lot of bad things about this relationship, but particularly framed in terms of Felicity. So, you know, I was sort of expecting to see the arc handled quite poorly; there was an instance in the series four crossover, Legends of Yesterday, wherein Felicity was written as particularly unreasonable, which I was expecting to be the template for her character across the series.

As with most of the flaws of season 3, however, I think for the most part it was blown out of proportion. Generally, I quite liked the overarching plot given to Felicity – the fact that she wasn’t going to wait for Oliver at the beginning of the season, her relationship with Ray, and the eventual reunion with Oliver. Typically speaking, I think the unwavering conviction given to Felicity was a nice touch, and in many ways was an interesting piece of character development and growth after the past two seasons.

It’s just that there were a lot of individual instances wherein the writing let the character down – something that can be considered a trend across the series. The unwavering conviction was often allowed to devolve into outright selfishness, which was then left uncritiqued by the narrative. I think that’s the crucial reason for why Felicity would have began to grate on certain sections of the audience; there was very little balance in terms of how the character was approached. I’d argue that’s where the core of the problems originated.

Personally speaking though, in terms of the female characters, there was a much larger and more heinous mistake that stood out to me moreso than how Felicity was written: the fridging of Sara Lance. Fridging, if you’re not familiar with the term, refers to when a female supporting character is killed off to provide angst for the male main character, thus furthering his plot at the expense of her own. This was a fairly textbook example of that really – I think Sara does actually end up in a freezer after a while – and it’s a particularly undignified end for the character.

It’s particularly poor, actually, when you consider that Sara was not only the first female hero in the CW DC Universe, but also their most prominent (only?) LGBT character. Arrow doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and it’s important to consider matters in this light. Whilst you can argue that her death provided an important catalyst to further events, it’s also worth remembering that everything that occurred on screen was fictional – there’s no reason why a different catalyst couldn’t have been written instead. I’m glad that they’ve brought Sara back for Legends of Tomorrow, in any case; it allows them to rectify the damage done with this mistake.

So…

Arrow season three is undeniably flawed. It’s also undeniably the weakest of any of the the CW’s superhero offerings. There’s simply no way around that. Despite clever thematic work, much of their overarching aim can be let down as a result of sloppy and inconsistent writing. In many ways, I think the flaws would have been exacerbated when watching it as it was broadcast, one episode per week; there’d be longer to wait between the high points of the series. Similarly, spread out as they were, it’d be more difficult to appreciate the thematic arcs going on – they’re more clear at a distance, I think, when you can consider each episode together, and the season as a whole.

Judging from what I’ve seen from season 4 so far, though, the execs in charge of Arrow are building on and learning from their mistakes (largely speaking; there’s still some notable flaws) throughout last year’s season, hopefully giving us a much stronger offering this go round.

I think that there are merits to Arrow’s third season; that doesn’t mean there aren’t mistakes either. Neither should be forgotten – the merits are to be carried forward, and the mistakes learned from.

Maybe one day we’ll look back on Arrow season three as an essential stepping stone; a season the show had to go through so that it could become something else. Something better.

This article was previously published on the Yahoo TV website.

Related:

Arrow, and the disturbing trend of fridging female characters

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Skulduggery Pleasant Movie Casting

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So! Skulduggery Pleasant is a series of books which I am extremely fond of – they’ve always been my favourite books, really. I’ve written a little bit about them before, but never on the topic of one of the things that’s always interested me about the series – the possibility of a movie. I suppose in many ways that’s just the spectre of Harry Potter, looming over every book that came in its wake – Skulduggery Pleasant doesn’t really need a movie, and it’d probably be even more difficult to adapt than the Potter books were.

But, you know. I enjoy the challenge of fancasting the roles, and trying to come up with a group of actors who fit the characters. So, let’s begin with the main roles of the first book…

Benedict Cumberbatch as Skulduggery Pleasant

skulduggery pleasant movie benedict cumberbatch fancast derek landy

I know, I know. Cumberbatch is in everything at the minute, and he’s starting to grate on a lot of people. Realistically speaking, I suppose it’s entirely possible he wouldn’t actually have the time for these movies – Dr Strange will take up a lot of his time, and I can’t imagine it’d leave him inclined to take on another franchise movie.

But I do think he’d be well suited to this role. Typically, Benedict Cumberbatch gives very well mannered, precise performances; the level of attention he pays to his roles would come in handy here, I think. I also think Cumberbatch has got a great voice for this role – one of Skulduggery’s defining characteristics is his voice.

Also! Cumberbatch has some experience with motion capture, which I think would be the best way to depict Skulduggery. Alternatively, if that’s too expensive, there’s the option of Red Skull style makeup as another possibility.

Honourable mentions: David Tennant, possibly Paul McGann

Maisie Williams as Valkyrie Cain/Stephanie Edgely

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Now, in the past, I would actually have advocated that an unknown actress play this role, simply because there aren’t any famous actresses young enough who are the right age for the character; no one knew who Daniel Radcliffe was before Harry Potter, after all.

But with a bit of thought, I’ve actually changed my position: it is damn near impossible to adapt a nine book series straight from page to screen. It’s actually really impressive to think that Harry Potter did it at all – you just wouldn’t be able to replicate that with Skulduggery. It’s far more likely that we’d see a series of films lifting from and adapting multiple books at once; I think five films is probably the upper limit on the length of the series.

It makes sense, then, to cast an experienced actress who you know can play the role well; Maisie Williams could probably play the role slightly younger anyway, perhaps 15 or 16 rather than her actual 18. I do really think, though, that she’s talented enough to play this role exceptionally well; Val can easily be the next Katniss, and Maisie Williams is definitely talented enough to be the next Jennifer Lawrence.

Honourable mentions: Well, an unknown really. I’m sure there’s someone who could play the role well.

Idris Elba as Ghastly Bespoke

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This, I imagine, is relatively self-explanatory. Idris Elba is a really great actor, and I think he’d be well suited to the character of Ghastly, able to bring the right sort of nuance and subtlety to the role.

Ghastly is one of my favourite characters in the books, for the record; Idris Elba is definitely the sort of actor you’d want bringing this role to life, because he’s really very skilled.

It is, true, something of a departure from the source material, wherein Ghastly is a white man… but honestly, Idris Elba really is the best actor for the role. Can you genuinely think of someone else who fits the bill? I’ll wait. No? Me neither.

Honourable mentions: There really isn’t anyone else I’d want to see in this role. I used to think Michael Chiklis was a possibility, but I’m less convinced now. I suppose Tom Hardy is a possibility, but I’d be more inclined to choose him for Mr Bliss.

Natalie Dormer as Tanith Low

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I mean, my first preference for a future role for Natalie Dormer, if I were for some reason dictating her career choices, would be as the Doctor. That’s the role I’d most like to see her play, really, even moreso than Tanith.

But, if it were possible to have both, Natalie Dormer would absolutely be my first choice to play Tanith; I definitely think she could pull off the different challenges the role would bring, across the length of the series. (Spoilers!)

Plus, if the Tanith Low and the Maleficent Seven book was ever adapted to be a movie (which, admittedly, seems unlikely to me; perhaps a tie in television miniseries?) Natalie Dormer is absolutely the sort of actress who could carry something like that and hold the lead role.

Honourable mentions: Again, no one else really comes to mind. Alice Eve is a name that comes up often though, when I’ve spoken to other people about it.

Katie McGrath as China Sorrows

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Katie McGrath is basically just how I’ve always pictured China, really; I’m basing this a little in terms of her portrayal of Morgana from Merlin, though somewhat more the later seasons than the earlier ones. I do think she’d be able to give the right performance for this role, in any case.

Incidentally, Katie McGrath is also the only one of the actors I’ve picked out so far who’s actually Irish. Skulduggery Pleasant is set in Ireland, so it’d probably be important for at least some of the actors to have accents; thus far I have made sure to limit the casting to actors from the British Isles, in any case.

Also! Derek Landy knows Katie McGrath, so that’s a nice connection.

Honourable mention: Ruth Negga, from Agents of SHIELD, is another possibility.

Mads Mikkelsen as Nefarian Serpine

skulduggery pleasant movie casting fancast nefarian serpine mads mikklesen villain derek landy

So this one is actually the biggest departure from what I’d previously planned out; for a couple of years before making this post, I’ve had the previous five choices essentially set in stone. For Serpine, I’d always sort of leaned towards Tom Hiddleston, because I imagined Serpine as being somewhat similar to the way Hiddleston played Loki.

But with a bit more consideration, I actually decided that Mads Mikkelsen would be a better choice; again, it’s something of a departure from the source material, in that he’s not even a British actor, but I think you can probably take a few liberties with it.

The reasoning behind this, in any case, is because I think Mikkelsen is a better age for the role; the characters of Serpine and Skulduggery are supposed to have a real history together, and there’s a real weight to that history, which I don’t think would necessarily be conveyed with younger actors. Also, I do think that Mikkelsen would be very good at portraying the calm exterior of Serpine, as well as the moments of sheer rage.

Honourable mentions: Tom Hiddleston, as I’ve already said, and quite possibly David Tennant.

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That, in any case, concludes this post. There’s still quite a few main roles I’ve not cast – particularly in the later books – so I’ll most likely continue this with a few more posts, actually. I’ve got some pretty good ideas for Vaurien Scapegrace and Erskine Ravel in particular, actually; prize for anyone who can guess the actors I have in mind.

If you’ve got any thoughts on this – agree, disagree – let me know in the comments! And, hey, if you liked these, or agreed with them, share it around; I don’t think this cast is actually, you know, possible, but it’d definitely show that we’re interested in a movie, and want to see these stories on the big screen.

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Bat of Gotham v Man of Tomorrow: Dawn of the Super Frenemies

batman v superman ben affleck henry cavill man of steel dc extended universe zack snyder david goyer

I think that the title of the movie is slightly ridiculous, in case it’s not obvious. Hence my own title! The joke is that my title is long and overstuffed, much like the movie itself will be.

In any case though, I am somewhat worried about this movie. (It is worth noting that I may well discuss spoilers here, based on trailers and pre-released materials. No leaks or anything like that, but certainly I can imagine there are things people would want to avoid.)

So, here’s the thing: I was one of those people who hated Man of Steel. It just doesn’t work for me at all – the only thing I can appreciate about it is Hans Zimmer’s score, actually. “What are you going to do when you’re not saving the world?” is one of my favourite pieces of film music ever. Beyond that, though, I see little merit to the movie.

I’d like to think, though, that I gave Man of Steel 2: Too Man Too Steely a reasonable chance before pronouncing any snap judgements. No problems with Batfleck, nor with Jesse Eisenberg – they both sounded to me like really interesting casting choices. (Particularly Jesse Eisenberg, actually, since I was more familiar with his body of work than Affleck’s.) And as well as that, I did quite like the initial trailer – it seemed to be a direct response to the things I took objection to in Man of Steel, and making a conscious effort to follow through on the events of that film in an interesting and compelling manner.

But, obviously, that’s not to be: we’ve got our trailers with mass destruction once more, levelling surrounding cities and so on and so forth. I suppose this is now just an aesthetic complaint of mine – it’s not ever going to be treated as something that’s story relevant (seems like they’re already retconning the destruction of Metropolis into something less extensive) so I will have to just accept it and get over it. My new problem, in any case, is revealed in this trailer-y sneak peak type thing: Batman and Superman are trying desperately to be grimdark and intimidating, and it is setting me on edge somewhat. I just really, really dislike their interpretations of these characters.

Still, though, that remains something of a personal complaint, which is ultimately very subjective. And, hey, I am still basing it on trailers, so it’s possible we’ll see another side to these characters I might find more palatable in the movie.

What does worry me though, and I think I can make this argument a little more objectively, is that the film may well be extremely busy and overstuffed, to the point at which it’s so bloated that nothing really has the time to develop properly. I mean, let’s take a moment to go over what’s going to appear in the movie (and again, this is where there will be spoilers):

  • They need to establish the status quo for Superman, following the events of the previous movie. Also, something something Lois Lane.
  • Batman needs to be introduced, and judging by the trailers, we’re going to see the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne again. I also imagine we’re going to get a bit of backstory as to why Bruce Wayne gave up being Batman, and then seeing him take up the cowl once more.
  • We need to see Batman and Superman meet (in both superhero form and their secret identities), fight, and then establish an alliance.
  • Wonder Woman is in there, playing an important role – presumably as a catalyst for Batman and Superman getting over their issues.
  • Lex Luthor is in there, and… well, spoilers, but he’ll play a significant antagonistic role.
  • It’s confirmed, I believe, that Aquaman is in there, as well as a cameo from Flash; it’s currently rumoured that Green Lantern will show up.
  • Doomsday; his creation, a fight with him, and his defeat.
  • A secondary antagonist; they’re saying that Doomsday isn’t the final big bad, and I have an idea as to who it might be. (Again spoilers.)

It’s a pretty busy movie, as you can see, and the movie is going to be 151 minutes – so two and a half hours, pretty much exactly. I’m trying to figure out something of a structure in my head; presumably it’s the Batman vs Superman stuff for the first act, then Doomsday and Wonder Woman in the second, and then some Lex stuff in the third? Likely overlap here and there too.

In any case, though, it’s looking to be a very crowded movie, and I’m worried that they won’t be able to get it right; something Man of Steel suffered with was its pacing, and the development of certain aspects (like the Lois and Clark relationship). One worries that this movie is going to be rather more superficial than the trailers indicate; fight scenes interspersed with plot, rather than vice versa.

Still, though, I would like to remain cautiously optimistic. As much as I have taken a dim view on this DC cinematic universe, I do desperately want them to be good movies; I’ve always erred more towards DC than Marvel, and “more good movies” is just something to aspire to anyway.

We’ll see, I guess. Either way I’ll be watching it, I suppose. I just hope it aims higher than its predecessor reached.

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In appreciation of Clara Oswald

doctor who face the raven review clara oswald jenna coleman death raven tattoo sarah dollard justin molotnikov steven moffat clara who

So, the time has come for Jenna Coleman to move on from Doctor Who, after nearly three years, and two quasi-exits already. She’s been a fantastic companion, and frankly, an even better actress. So, then, in recognition of her departure, I’ve collated everything I’ve ever said about her acting over the course of the past few years, to form something of a tribute to this wonderful actress.

(This post was, in fact, originally going to be posted after Face the Raven, but then Clara’s eventual departure was a little more complicated than initially anticipated, and so I decided to retrofit the post for today – it’s Moffat Appreciation Week, and today is dedicated to Clara. So, yeah, this seemed like a nice idea. No idea if this post is actually applicable though, mind you.)

Series 7

doctor who clara oswin oswald jenna coleman asylum of the daleks matt smith steven moffat eleventh doctor

Now, there isn’t a huge amount here in terms of the series 7 episodes, because that series predates my blog, if I recall correctly. I did review the episodes on my personal facebook, though, which was a real hit amongst my friends; I can’t quite find them to quote them, so in this instance, you get a trip down memory lane.

When Jenna Coleman first appeared as Oswin in Asylum of the Daleks, I don’t think anyone was expecting it – it has to go down as Steven Moffat’s greatest twist ever, actually, because he pulled it off so well. Certainly, it was more effective than the John Hurt reveal the next year, given how well hidden it had been; I mean, when I first saw it, it was such a “what?” moment, really. Spent the first five minutes after the opening titles wondering if it was just someone who looked kinda like the new companion who wasn’t due to start for another few months… and by the time the credits rolled, it was a whole new source of confusion.

The Snowmen

I haven’t spoken much about Clara, mostly because I want to see where the story goes with her before talking about this too much, but I will say that Jenna-Louise Coleman might well be the best companion actress since 2005.

Admittedly, even for all my insistence that Clara (or Oswin, as we knew her then) could be the best companion of the new series, I wasn’t entirely enamoured by how the character was utilised throughout her introductory run. Willing though I am to acknowledge that the Impossible Girl arc was very clever, it’s one of those things I respect more than I actually enjoyed.

(At the time of series 7b, I thought that perhaps another interesting way to present the arc would have had Clara keep her memories at the end of Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, and know about her echoes for the rest of the season. Maybe The Crimson Horror could have been adjusted somewhat – the reason the Doctor and Clara went to the Victorian era was to investigate the other Clara echo, and so on and so forth. Obviously, however, that was not to be.)

The Day of the Doctor

The same goes for Jenna Coleman, who does a great job as the Doctor’s best friend, and later conscience.

But, to be honest, what we’ve got since Day of the Doctor has been rather excellent, so… I’m willing to call Clara the best companion once more.

Series 8

doctor who clara oswald jenna coleman doctor clara who sonic screwdriver flatline jamie mathieson douglas mackinnon steven moffat peter capaldi twelfth doctor

Deep Breath

I’ve already said how I enjoyed her scene with the Doctor in the restaurant, but I think if I had to choose her best moment of the episode, it was where she was talking to the robot. Clara really held her own there; it was a well written scene, with some pretty good acting to hold it up.

By the start of the 2014 season, Clara began to evolve differently; it was something of a soft reboot for the character, if you like – free from the intrigue and the mystery of the Impossible Girl arc, we were able to see certain of Clara’s characteristics in much sharper focus. While a lot of the basis of the “bossy control freak” had been laid over the course of series 7b, it was series 8 that really emphasised and developed this theme.

Into the Dalek

The writing is really concentrating on her now; it’s focusing on character traits she already had, but changing the way they look at them, and making them more central to her. She feels a lot more distinctive now, and it’s really encouraging. Seeing her hold her own with the Doctor, and making him re-evaluate his decisions and what he knows in a way that’s unique to her as a character? That’s brilliant.

Mummy on the Orient Express

It was another brilliant showcase for Jenna Coleman and Peter Capaldi. They’re so amazing together, it’s really compelling to watch, especially in episodes as well written as this. My favourite moments for the pair, actually, were the quietly awkward little exchanges towards the beginning; they’d both be trying to be nice, but then one of them would say something, and the facades would drop, and the sadness would be obvious. Moments like that were really touching, actually.

One of the reasons why I think Clara can be considered to be one of the best characters of the revived show is because of the development we see her undertake; across the three-ish seasons that she was the companion, we saw her evolve in a variety of different ways. Two of the key episodes for Clara’s arc were Kill the Moon and Mummy on the Orient Express – the possibility of her leaving the TARDIS made for some great drama, and was a really important part of the character’s development.

Dark Water

Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman were fantastic throughout; the confrontation scene between them, as I’ve already mentioned, was just electric. The Doctor, taking control, intimidating Clara and trying to talk her down. Clara, not listening, not moving, not losing any ground. One of the best scenes of the series, frankly, because of just how brilliant these two are. Please, please, let them both be around for series 9!

Death in Heaven

Same goes of course for Jenna Coleman. And in this case I’d also say Samuel Anderson. The scenes they had together were… they weren’t poignant, that’s not quite the right way to describe it, because that implies a level of serenity I think. Their scenes were a bit distressing sometimes. In a good way, I mean; they were all very emotional moments, and certainly quite impactful ones.

It’s also hard to talk about Clara without at least some reference to Danny Pink, though; the tragic love story that defined much of the eighth series. Danny was another great character, and when juxtaposed with the Doctor, provided an important foil for Clara. It was the relationship between the pair of them that provided the impetus for a lot of Clara’s development across this series, and I’m very glad we got to see Samuel Anderson’s performance as Danny Pink.

Last Christmas

I really liked the moment with old Clara, towards the end, where the Doctor helps her to pull the Christmas cracker. The parallels there with old Matt Smith in The Time of the Doctor from last year were, I think, rather perfect. Very poignant.

Series 9

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The Magician’s Apprentice

It carries forth throughout, really – both Jenna Coleman and Michelle Gomez are excellent in this episode, and it’s brilliant to see the pair of them together, with Missy essentially in the role of the Doctor.

Of course, with the beginning of series 9, we established a new status quo for Clara once more – here, Doctor Who shrugs off the Coal Hill School setting it had worked so hard to establish last year. In part, it’s an entirely sensible creative decision, linked to the need to continually provide something new each year – but more than that, the departure from Coal Hill is emblematic of the changes in Clara’s own life.

Where adventuring had previously been her hobby, there’s now been a shift; for Clara, her life with the Doctor, from this moment on, took centre stage.

Before the Flood

Clara also had some interesting stuff to do this week; Jenna Coleman is a brilliant actress, and I am again inclined to suggest that Clara might be the best companion of the new series. Ordering the Doctor to “die with whoever comes next” was a really well done scene, and everyone involved deserves plaudits for that.

The Girl Who Died

Jenna Coleman finally got something substantial to do this week, which was nice. You could really see Clara’s development into a quasi-Doctor figure (was it just me, or was Jenna Coleman imitating Matt Smith’s body language during her confrontation with Odin?) and Jenna Coleman did a great job of portraying that. Very strong episode for Clara, there, both in terms of the writing and Jenna Coleman’s acting. Which is nice!

The Zygon Invasion

Jenna Coleman gave a brilliant performance, as ever, portraying Clara just ever so slightly off, in a way that doesn’t feel quite right but wouldn’t necessarily raise suspicion on its own…

Admittedly, in some regards, I felt as though Clara was underutilised once more at times throughout series 9; The Zygon Invasion and its similarly named counterpart could be considered a key example of this. Whilst providing an excellent role for Jenna Coleman as an actress, the two episodes didn’t have the most significant part for Clara to play. True, there was certainly much to see with thematic relevance, but I would still maintain that the lack of a prominent role for Clara across this two-parter is the only flaw in one of the strongest stories of the series.

The Zygon Inversion

Speaking of Jenna Coleman’s acting, she did a really fantastic job of playing Bonnie. I think it’s the mark of a great actor when they can play a dual role within a single story  and still make them feel meaningfully distinct – it was very easy to forget that Jenna Coleman was playing Bonnie here, as opposed to another actress entirely (albeit admittedly a similar looking one). She did an excellent job of completely altering all her mannerisms, even her voice and elocution, to create an entirely new character.

Face the Raven

It’s worth singling out Jenna Coleman though, particularly, given that this may well be one of the last times we ever see her as Clara. Her performance was fantastic; genuinely compelling, and it gave life to some absolutely fantastic scenes. Which is what we’ve become accustomed to from Jenna Coleman, really; I am pretty firm in my belief that she is the best companion we’ve had over the past ten years.

Face the Raven was, I think, a particularly strong episode by Sarah Dollard – it was the best was in which to frame a potential death for Clara, deftly avoiding any danger of a fridging, and ensuring that any tragedy that took place was very much a personal, character-driven and empowering one.

Hell Bent

Jenna Coleman is just as skilled, and gives just as compelling a performance. Once again, there’s a danger that I’d be reduced to simply listing scenes – “Don’t you trust me?” “Not when you’re shouting, no.” – so I want to highlight, once again, the final goodbye between the Doctor and Clara in the diner. Where the Doctor doesn’t even realise he’s saying goodbye, not to her. Jenna Coleman gives a great performance; she does a wonderful job of showing the audience Clara’s reluctance to let the Doctor go, and appearing to still want to tell him the truth. It’s very well done.

But then, in the end, it’s not a tragic ending. It’s the most ultimately triumphant ending a companion has ever received, and perhaps the most fitting of them all for Clara Oswald, the Impossible Girl. It’s a brilliant final twist; throughout the whole of this season, we’d been lead to believe that Clara becoming more and more like the Doctor would lead to her downfall. In the end, though, it lead to her becoming a Doctor in her own right, travelling the universe in a rackety old TARDIS, with a companion right by her side.

It’s beautiful in terms of what it implies, and allows, for Clara Oswald – just like in her first trip in the TARDIS, way back in The Rings of Akhaten, Clara ends will thousands of different possibilities ahead of her.

Related:

Doctor Who Series 8 Overview

Doctor Who Series 9 Episode Reviews

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Who is Rey?

star wars the force awakens rey face poster daisy ridley parents identiy the last jedi rian johnson jj abrams kylo ren reylo obi wan kenobi rey skywalker

The new heroine of the Star Wars movies, as I imagine we all know by now, is Rey. She’s a fantastic character, played well by Daisy Ridley, and she’s got a wonderful leitmotif to boot. (It’s one of my favourite pieces of Star Wars music, actually, and I’d probably go as far as to say it’s one of my favourite pieces of John Williams’ music as a whole.)

Rey’s lived on Jakku for much of her life, having to become nearly entirely self-sufficient; despite her wanderlust, she’s lead a very sheltered existence, always waiting for a family that would never come. (I thought her line upon seeing Takodana –  “I didn’t think there was this much green in the whole galaxy.” – was one of the more memorable subtle moments of the movie.) In the end, she’s a hero, much like Luke Skywalker before her.

While we know a lot about Rey as a person, though, there’s still much about her that’s a mystery. It’s the question first posited by one of the initial trailers:

“Who are you?”

At the minute, smart money suggests that she’s a Skywalker; a child that Luke fathered and abandoned during the thirty year stretch between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. And, you know, it could certainly explain a few things; Rey’s affinity with the force, her piloting prowess, Kylo Ren appearing to know of her on Jakku. Certainly, there are also some thematic parallels that could line up with Luke’s origins in A New Hope – but then, there are thematic parallels that could line up with everything in A New Hope. After all, I can’t imagine Han Solo is a reincarnated Obi-Wan, or anything like that.

Honestly, I am expecting Rey to be a Skywalker; I was, in fact, expecting the movie to end with a reversal of the iconic “I am your father” moment. But… there’s something about that idea that leaves a bad taste in my mouth, in much the same way the idea of Luke being Kylo Ren did. Luke Skywalker, iconic hero, abandoning his child to a life of slavery, not so different from how Anakin was brought up? I mean, particularly given Luke’s relationship with Vader, I can’t imagine he’d abandon his own child at all.

Similarly, the suggestion that Luke used to force to suppress Rey’s memories (and potentially Han and Leia’s) of him, leading to the “I thought he was a myth” comment, is equally offputting. I think this is a result of the recent Doctor Who episodes examining the relative fairness of non consensual memory wipes, actually; there’s something about the idea that, no matter what trauma or greater good they justify it with, makes me more than a little bit uncomfortable. Certainly, there are ways to make it work – perhaps that’s how they signify Luke’s own fall from grace – but I wonder if that’s just an attempt to fix an idea that is already fundamentally poor.

There’s also, from some people, the suggestion that Rey is a Kenobi. On the one hand, it’s a nice idea – thematically speaking, the idea that these two families are tied so closely together that we’ll see another generation of Kenobi save the latest in the Skywalker line is a really great concept, which is something they could get a really compelling story out of. And yet… it seems far too unlikely to happen, simply as a result of the level of exposition that would be needed; with no prior indication of Obi-Wan having a family, the necessary backstory to include doesn’t seem like something they’d want to shoehorn into future movies. From a practical standpoint then, I don’t see it happening.

Honestly, though, my favourite answer to this question is Rey’s own: “I’m no one.”

I’d rather see Rey as a ‘normal’ person, unconnected to any character we’ve seen before, or any important lineage. Let her story be her own; her merits as a character are borne from the fact that anyone can be special, not because of who her family is.

We’ve already got a familial connection in this new generation of characters – and it shows us how that’s not necessarily a good thing. Rey is the thematic parallel to that, then; you don’t need to be a Skywalker to be a hero.

In Star Wars, anyone should be able to be a hero.

Related:

Star Wars retrospective

On the Identity of Kylo Ren

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On 2015

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So, we are now in 2016! I think by this point everyone in all of the timezones should have reached the new year, yes? It’s all a little arbitrary in any case.

Nonetheless, it is a good marker point for reflection! So I figured I’d pick out some of the posts I was most proud of across this past year, because I love taking any opportunity I can to talk about quite how great I am… More seriously, though, I do think that things have gone quite well this year with the blog, and I’m pleased with how my writing style has developed and etc.

Everything in bold is a link to the referenced piece; thus we’ll begin with…

Doctor Who

  • I think my Series 9 reviews, particularly the latter three (Face the Raven, Heaven Sent, and Hell Bent, and ) were amongst the best reviews I’ve ever written. Typically they’re more analytical and focused, and have a better prose style than earlier things I’ve written.
  • One post I’m particularly proud of was my Masterlist of Doctor Who Cast and Crew who support a female Doctor. I kept getting quite involved in debates on the topic, and in the end I did a fair amount of research on who did and didn’t support the idea, and so we ended up with the list. Almost 80 names, comprising actors, writers, directors and producers attached to new, classic and EU Who! (On a related note: Very pleased with my trailer for a hypothetical season of Doctor Who with Natalie Dormer as the Doctor)
  • There’s also this particularly personal post, entitled Some thoughts on Doctor Who fandom, and what Doctor Who means to me. It is, essentially, a response to the more aggressive and cruel “fans” who exist, and why they are The Worst. It is, obviously, entirely superfluous – everyone knows these people are the worst – but I wanted to write my own take on it.

Superhero Stuff

  • This particular review of The Flash 2×06, Enter Zoom. I think it’s one of the smarter reviews I’ve written; I tried to use a non-linear structure, to reflect the way the episode itself is structured. Also, incidentally, I had this one published on the Yahoo TV website – writing for that site is something I’m quite pleased about!
  • Also, this review of Supergirl 1×03, Fight or Flight. I’ve really been enjoying Supergirl, and I’m more than a little disappointed that real world obligations have meant I’ve not been able to consistently review it, but I think with this particular review I did a decent job of articulating some of the series’ main strengths at this stage in it’s development. (I’m glad to say it’s improved further still in the five weeks since that review!)

Books & Writing

Movies

  • Both of these are with regards to Star Wars, and indeed with regards to rewriting Star Wars (oh, I’m so arrogant). The first is Rewriting the Prequels; I’d like to think I managed to create a narrative for some potentially better films. And, similarly, some thoughts On the Identity of Kylo Ren; for fear of spoilers, though, no more on that one. (He’s Jar Jar.)

So! That’s that, then. Obviously more I could pick out (I’m really great), but I think for now these are a pretty good selection.

Hopefully, when 2017 rolls around, I’ll have some more posts to highlight. Here’s to a good year!

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