Doctor Who: Reflections on Series 9 (so far)

A friend recently told me that I should be reviewing the new season of Doctor Who on my blog. Since he’s always right about everything, I guess I should give it a go. This first post will be sort of a catch-all of the first five episodes, and then I’ll jump into each individual subsequent episode as they air.

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History of Sci-Fi Cinema 10: “The Day the Earth Stood Still”

10-DayTitleThe Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
Written by Edmund H North, based on a novel by Harry Bates
Directed by Robert Wise
Starring Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Billy Gray, Sam Stephens
1:32:00

A sharp, intelligent sci-fi thriller with a message of warning to the people of Earth to stop being dicks. Or rather, you can be dicks all you want, but if you spread it out beyond your own borders, you’re going to get smacked hard. This is, quite literally, one of the greatest films ever made. It has been acknowledged by the American Film Institute as the fifth best sci-fi film ever; it repeatedly gets included in Top 100 lists (sci-fi or otherwise); it holds a 94% rating from Rotten Tomatoes; it received a special Golden Glove Award for “promoting international understanding.” And it was cited by Arthur C Clarke as one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time — higher than his own film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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ST50 #51: “Shattered” (VOY)

LCARS-51

Logo-VOYSHATTERED”
Star Trek: Voyager
Written by Michael Taylor; Story by Mike Sussman, Michael Taylor
Directed by Terry Windell
Original Air Date January 17, 2001
Guest Stars: Manu Intiraymi (Icheb), Scarlett Pomers (Naomi), Martha Hackett (Seska)

Voyager passes by an anomaly which emits a chronokinetic surge, fracturing the ship into numerous time zones. Chakotay takes a direct hit from the surge which knocks him into a state of temporal flux. Rushed to sick bay, the Doctor injects him with a chronoton-based serum to stabilize him. As a result, he is the only one who can pass through the time barriers, aware of each different time zone. This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Costume Design, and also has the distinction of being the first Star Trek episode broadcast in a new century (January 17, 2001).

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ST50 #52: “First Flight” (ENT)

“Do you remember what Buzz Aldrin said when he stepped on the moon? Nobody does — because Armstrong went first.”LCARS-52

Logo-ENT“FIRST FLIGHT”
Star Trek: Enterprise
Written by John Shiban, Chris Black
Directed by LeVar Burton
Original Air Date May 14, 2003
Guest Stars: Vaughn Armstrong (Adm Forrest), Keith Carradine (AG Robinson)

The Enterprise discovers what may be a dark matter nebula, a concentration of dark matter larger and far denser than anything ever known before. As they’re about to send a shuttle to investigate, Archer receives some bad news — that he friend and rival, AG Robinson, died in a mountain climbing accident. As Archer and T’Pol set out to chart the nebula, he recounts the story of his rivalry with AG for command of the very first warp drive flight. The episode was included on the Fan Collective DVD boxset as one of two viewer-voted best Archer episodes. In spite of that, it achieved one of the lowest viewing figures of the series, mainly due to it being in direct competition with the series finale of Dawson’s Creek.

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History of Sci-Fi Cinema 9: “Rocketship X-M”

09-RXM-titleRocketship X-M (1950)
Written by Orville H. Hampton, Kurt Neumann, Dalton Trumbo
Directed by Kurt Neumann
Starring Lloyd Bridges, Osa Massen, John Emery
Lippert Pictures
1:18:00

A fanciful film, direct competition to Destination Moon, about a rocket crew who attempt to reach the moon but are thrown off course and instead land on Mars. For the most part it’s similar in structure and tone to DM, but with some significant differences. The most noticeable thing about it is, unfortunately, is that it’s shockingly sexist to modern ears and eyes. It also walks a line between an attempt at hard science and being awkwardly romantic. It gained a dubious honor by being featured in 1990 in the opening episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 ‘s second season.

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History of Sci-Fi Cinema 8: “Destination Moon”

08-DM-titlesDestination Moon (1950)
Written by James O’Hanlon, Robert Heinlein, Rip Van Ronkel (based on short story by Robert Heinlein)
Directed by Irving Pichel
Starring John Archer, Warner Anderson, Tom Powers, Dick Wesson
George Pal Productions
1:31:00

A lightweight film about a group of private industry leaders building a rocket to the moon. And then getting off the moon. And, in terms of plot, that’s pretty much all it’s about. But what’s at the center of this narrative is the dangers of such undertakings. Apollo 13 it ain’t, but for its day it caused quite a stir, winning the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and nominated for Best Art Direction. In 2001 is was awarded a Retro Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation 1951. It was involved in its very own space race to get to the box office first. And Woody Woodpecker shows up along the way, because who better to persuade millionaires to give you money than Woody?

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History of Sci-Fi Cinema 7: “Dr. Cyclops”

07-Cyclops-titleDr. Cyclops (1940)
Written by Tom Kilpatrick
Directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack
Starring Albert Dekker, Thomas Coley, Janice Logan, plus Tipo the dog and Pinto the Horse
Paramount Pictures
1:15:00


In the heart of the Peruvian jungle, a very polite and mostly civilized mad scientist is conducting experiments using a rich deposit of uranium and radium ore. He has discovered the means of shrinking living matter to the size of a doll. When visiting scientists become rebellious and disobedient, he turns the process onto them. Dr. Cyclops was nominated for an Oscar for Best Visual Effects at the 13th Academy Awards.

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History of Sci-Fi Cinema 6: “Flash Gordon”

06-FlashGordon-titleFlash Gordon (1936)
Written by Basil Dickey, Ella O’Neill, George H Plympton, Frederick Stephani (based on the comic strip by Alex Raymond)
Directed by Frederick Stephani, Ray Taylor
Starring Larry “Buster” Crabbe, Jean Rogers, Charles B Middleton, Priscilla Lawson
Universal Pictures
~4:10:00


To save the Earth from collision with an approaching planet, Dr. Zarkov recruits Flash Gordon and Dale Arden to travel with him via rocket to find a way to avert the catastrophe. Upon landing on the planet Mongo, the trio encounter Ming the Merciless and his daughter, Princess Aura. For the following 12 weeks, Flash fights a lot, Dale faints a lot, Aura fauns a lot and Ming frowns a lot. Continue reading

History of Sci-Fi Cinema 5: “Things to Come”

05-ThingstoCome-titleThings to Come (1936)
Written by H G Wells
Directed by William Cameron Menzies
Starring Raymond Massey, Ralph Richardson, Cedric Hardwicke
United Artists
1:32:51


Things to Come is based on H G Wells’ novel The Shape of Things to Come from three years earlier. It is more or less an anti-war parable told in three chapters, depicting different times in the future of the fictional British “Everytown.” It’s always said that “good” science fiction carries a message, reflects on society, extrapolates a perspective to its extreme to illustrate a point. Things to Come certainly does that.  Continue reading

History of Sci-Fi Cinema 4: “Just Imagine”

04-JustImagine-TitleJust Imagine (1930)
Written (story, dialogue and songs) by DeSylva, Brown & Henderson
Directed by David Butler
Starring John Garrick, Frank Albertson, Maureen O’Sullivan, Marjorie White
Fox Film Corporation
1:48:22


In undertaking this blog project, I expected to hit all the “biggies,” all the accepted (and expected) classics. But I also wanted to discover some of the rarer gems, some of the peculiarities, in the history of sci-fi. And boy, did I find one: a science fiction romantic comedy musical. In fact, its a movie I’d never heard of until putting together this list of films to review.

Made in 1930, this film begins with a request: Just look at how much progress 50 years can bring. Why, in 1880 we had nothing but horse-drawn carriages and good manners. Today, it’s all hustle and bustle. “Just Imagine” what another 50 years will bring: What will life be like in the far-flung future of 1980…? Continue reading