Friday, September 19, 2014

Girl Power!

A couple of months ago Marvel Comics' sales must have been down, so they announced that from now on the comic book version of Thor would now be a dumb old girl. She Thor? Shor?
As if that wasn't bad enough, this week I walk into Walmart and see this. Is this some kind of exclusive or special cover? Because I don't remember Captain America being so... zaftig.

Sigh... What next, a female version of The Thing? Oh, wait. 

DVD Doppelgängers: Dracula Season 1 vs. Blacula

Wow, did you know there was a Dracula TV series on NBC last year? I surely didn't! Boy, do I feel out of the loop. I suppose that's to be expected when you stop watching live TV, as I have. 

I definitely need to hire an intern here at Bob Canada's BlogWorld to help me keep up on current pop culture. Someone to watch all this crap so I don't have to.

Anyway, I noticed something as I was gazing at the DVD cover of Dracula Season 1 (the one and only season, apparently). Something besides the horrible kerning that makes the title look like the old "Dr. Acula" joke. There was something familiar about the cover image. Something I couldn't quite put my finger on...

Oh yeah. Now I remember. Looks like whoever designed the Dracula cover was a fan of the 1970s blaxploitation classic Blacula (Really, spellcheck? You don't flag "blaxploitation?").

Deadly vampire poised for attack on the left side? Check. Hapless female victim baring her supple, sensuous throat on the right? Big check. Mist-shrouded castle set against a gloomy sky in the background? Double check. If this cover wasn't "inspired" by Blacula, then I'll eat my hat.

By the way, most people dismiss Blacula as a piece of substandard drive-in movie trash. They are wrong. Blacula is a film classic!

The movie is greatly enhanced by the presence of William Marshall, who plays the title character. Marshall definitely elevates the material, and brings to it a much-needed touch of class. He gives the character, which could have been just a one-note joke, a quiet and powerful dignity. At 6' 5" he was an imposing figure with a deep, rich and powerful voice.

Believe it or not, Marshall was a classically trained stage actor who appeared in many Shakespearean plays. He was also an opera singer (!). 

TV viewers will most likely remember him as Dr. Richard Daystrom in The Ultimate Computer episode of the original Star Trek series. He was also the King Of Cartoons on Pee-wee's Playhouse in the 1990s. "Let the cartooooooons begin!"

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Let It Go!

OK, I haven't seen any Halloween costumes for 2014 yet, mainly because none of those temporary costume stores have popped up yet around here. So I have no idea what kind of costumes are out there.

But I'm officially calling it right now: At some point in the next month there will be a Sexy Elsa costume from Disney's inexplicably super popular hit Frozen. It's pretty much a given. And why not? What little girl wouldn't want to dress as a slutty knockoff version of her favorite super powered heroine?

Myself, I don't know from Frozen. I'm still hoping we get a Sexy Annie Wilkes from Misery.

It Came From The Cineplex: As Above, So Below

As Above, So Below was written by Drew Dowdle and John Erick Dowdle, and was also directed by John Erick Dowdle.

Dowdle also directed the 2008 movie Quarantine, an unnecessary remake of 2007 Spanish film [REC]. Both were found footage films as well. Dowdle really needs to try branching out from this genre and shoot a normal movie.

The film's plot, which is equal parts The Descent, National Treasure and Event Horizon, is all too familiar. The real-life Paris Catacombs setting is a plus though, giving the film an unsettling and genuinely creepy sense of dread. It's a welcome change from the usual haunted house or spooky forest setting. Unfortunately all that atmosphere is wasted on a story that has a promising start but sputters and dies by the third act. If they'd have ditched the found footage angle and gone with a tighter script and a better director it could have been a cool little horror film.


The Plot:
Scarlett Marlowe is a perky young alchemy scholar, which is apparently a thing. She's obsessed with continuing the work of her late father, who was searching for the Philosopher's Stone, the legendary artifact that can transmute elements and grant eternal life. You know, the same thing they were looking for in the first Harry Potter film.

Scarlett contacts her old boyfriend George, who apparently can't afford a last name, in order to have him translate an ancient clue that will lead her to the Stone. The two determine that it's located somewhere in the maze-like Catacombs beneath Paris.

They hire a local guide named Papillon (that means butterfly!) and the team enters the Catacombs. As they descend, they all begin encountering bizarre apparitions that reflect their deepest fears. The team members are picked off one by one as their path is sealed off behind them, forcing them deeper and deeper into the earth.

• I had a sneaking suspicion this was going to be another found footage film, and sure enough I was right. The subject matter– exploring the cave-like Catacombs– is positively ripe for it. 

As long time readers know, I cannot stand found footage films. Yes, the technique can give your story a sense of immediacy and realism, but it's also the cheapest way possible to film a movie. With found footage you don't need professional cameras, lighting, cinematography or even music. That's why studios love pumping out these movies– even if they're not a big hit they spend so little on them that they're guaranteed to make a profit.

My main beef with found footage films is that they make no sense. The director has to bend over backwards to try and explain why anyone would be standing there filming a monster instead of running for their lives like a sane person would. They do make an attempt in this film to explain how we're seeing everything by giving all the characters head-mounted cameras. Nice try, but it doesn't work.

The operative word in found footage is "found." We're supposed to be watching video that someone discovered after the fact. Here we keep switching from one person's camera feed to another, seemingly on the fly. So who's doing all this live editing, pray tell? A couple of the cameras are even lost when the characters they're attached to are killed. So how are we able to see their footage at all? How was it "found?" See what I'm getting at? The director doesn't even understand his own genre, and can't be bothered to play by its rules.

• Inside a Paris museum, Scarlett looks for clues on 
famed alchemist Nicholas Flamel's headstone. When she doesn't find anything on the front, she takes it off the wall (!), turns it over and miraculously discovers a riddle inscribed on the back of the stone.

Flamel's headstone has been around for 600 years, and no one ever thought to take a peek at the back of it until now? Yes, she had to use some kind of chemical to reveal the inscription, but surely someone else would have found it by this by now. I guess Scarlett's just that good.

Unfortunately, once Scarlett finds the riddle she sees it's written in Aramaic, which she doesn't speak. Luckily for her, George understands Aramaic and is able to read it. He translates it into a riddle that sounds remarkably like the Green Lantern Oath. 

The most amazing thing about all this is that he translates the riddle into English that still manages to rhyme! And he does this on the fly, in just a few seconds. George must be an incredible translator indeed. 

Are you flipping kidding me? There's no way in hell that the Aramaic words could possibly have English equivalents that rhyme. This idiocy pulled me right out of the movie for the next few minutes.

• As the team is about to illegally enter the Catacombs, their guide Papillon is tacked by a policeman. The team flees into the tunnel, and Papillon tosses a couple of "bombs" that explode and collapse the entrance, sealing them inside.

First of all these so-called bombs make an anemic "poof," just slightly louder than the average firecracker. Secondly, we never actually see the entrance collapse, we just hear a muffled explosion as a puff of smoke drifts around the corner. I'm assuming this was done because the crew couldn't set off a real explosive inside the Catacombs. That would probably be a bad thing.

Once the entrance is sealed, that's that! The police completely give up and make no attempt at pursuit. Just like in Grand Theft Auto V

• There are some truly creepy elements inside the Catacombs, courtesy of objects that can't possibly exist there. Things like the ringing telephone, the dusty piano and the flaming car.

It's even more impressive when you realize that the majority of the movie was filmed in the actual Catacombs, meaning they had to somehow drag a piano down into the earth.

• While traipsing through the Catacombs, a large CGI crack suddenly develops in the ceiling. George looks up and says, "Is that bad?" Only if you're uncomfortable with hundreds of feet of rock pressing against your chest, George.

• Papillon refuses to enter a tunnel in the Catacombs, saying his friend "The Mole" entered it two years ago and never returned.

A few minutes later the team encounters The Mole, who apparently survived. I'm assuming The Mole is one of the illusions. He pretty much has to be, right? They said if they ran out of batteries or water in the Catacombs they're dead, and he's supposedly been down there for two years. So I'm guessing he's not real.

• In most movies in which a person's deepest fear manifests itself, they're the only one who can see it. Here everyone can see everyone else's fears made real. 

• The team eventually finds a room filled with treasure, which also contains the Philospher's Stone. Their actions cause the entrance to the room to be sealed off, seemingly trapping them. Scarlett finds a portal in the floor, and once they pass through it they find themselves inside a mirror image of the Catacombs. An evil, twisted mirror image. They reason that since everything here is a dark reflection of what came before, the only way out is to go down.

This symmetry is an interesting idea– as above, so below, right? Unfortunately the whole reflection concept is muddled and very poorly explained. In fact I didn't even realize that's what was happening while watching the film– I only learned this after the fact while researching the movie.

• Scarlett finds the Philosopher's Stone in the treasure room and pries it out of the wall. A few minutes later, Souxie seriously injures her arm and Scarlett uses the power of the Stone to heal her.

After going down through many levels, George is seriously injured. Scarlett tries to heal him with the stone as well, but it doesn't work. She realizes the Stone is a fake, and races back to the treasure room to find the true one. 

Even though it seemingly took them hours to pass through these lower levels, Scarlett covers the distance back in less than a minute. Amazing! Maybe the magic found footage camera edited this scene for us?

Once she's back in the treasure room, she replaces the fake Philosopher's Stone and stares at her face reflected in a dirty mirror. A look of realization crosses her face and she runs the gauntlet back to where she left George (in less than a minute again). She kisses him and he's instantly healed. 

So what the hell happened here? I think maybe looking in the mirror made her realize the healing power was somehow inside her? Or the mirror transferred the power into her? Or maybe everyone has the power to heal while inside the Catacombs? Honestly I'm not sure what the filmmakers were trying to say here.

• At the end of the film, the three survivors of the team emerge from the Catacombs, pause a moment to catch their breath, then slowly and numbly stumble off screen. Much the same way the audience exited the theater. Burn!

As Above, So Below has a few genuinely creepy moments and an impressive location, but it's ultimately not enough to save the derivative and muddled story. I give it a C+.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Panda Express

The Guardian (that's a newspaper, kids– ask your parents) recently ran an article about the economics of Chinese pandas. Apparently the rental of pandas to zoos is big business. It costs a zoo approximately $1 million dollars per year to rent a panda from China. A million dollars! And that amount only covers the panda itself. It doesn't include building a special panda shelter and importing fresh bamboo shoots from France.

So I guess being an architect in the 1970s must have paid extremely well!

Death Becomes Her

This week the complete ninth season of Bones came out on DVD.

I've never seen even a single episode of the show– my duties here at Bob Canada's BlogWorld keep my quite busy– so I have no idea what it's about. Based on this cover, I'm guessing it's a fantasy about a business man who falls in love with Death, who takes the form of an attractive woman. He then acts as a go-between for the Grim Reaper and her victims, preparing them for their imminent demise.

No? That's not what the show's about? Hmm. Well, maybe it's about an advertising executive, a la Darrin Stephens, whose wife becomes a decaying zombie with a skeletal arm. Watch the fun as the husband is forced to live up to his "til death do us part" wedding vow with a ghoul for a wife who can never die. It's the ride of your life, and afterlife!

No? It's not that either? It's a police procedural about FBI agents who solve crimes with the power of forensic anthropology? Really, that's it? Then who the hell thought it was a good idea to film the cover so it looks like the woman has a skeleton arm? Sick bastards, that's who!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Doctor Who Season 8, Episode 4: Listen

This week we learn that the Doctor really needs to find a hobby to keep his mind from wandering, as writer Steven Moffat desperately tries– and fails– to come up with another monster as cool as the Weeping Angels.

Some people are going to love Listen, while others are going to hate it. Me, I'm kind of on the fence. It had a couple of very effective and scary moments– particularly the thing sitting under young Danny's bed covers– but by the end it became much ado about nothing, as we're informed the "monster" probably doesn't exist after all.

The Plot:
The Doctor becomes convinced that the reason we all talk to ourselves when we're alone is because we're not alone. He posits that there's some sort of perfectly camouflaged... thing that follows each of us around our entire lives, and lives under our beds and grabs our ankles when we least expect it. No, really, that's the premise.

Meanwhile Clara goes on a disastrous date with Danny Pink. She and the Doctor then visit Danny (courtesy of the TARDIS) when he's a small boy being threatened by one of the unseen things under the bed. The Doctor gives him a pep talk about fear and courage. 

Clara then visits the Doctor when he's a young boy and gives him a pep talk about fear and courage, turning the whole episode into a closed time loop.

Oh, and the things living under everyone's bed? They're not real. Or maybe they are. It's all frustratingly vague.

• Moffat loves mining childhood fears for monsters he can use on the show. The Weeping Angels, the Vashta Nerada, the Silence-- they're all based on irrational fears we all had as a child. Fear of the dark, seeing things out of the corner of your eye, that sort of thing.

He tries his best to create another iconic childhood monster here. Unfortunately these monsters are much too vague to be interesting. And despite their vagueness they're somehow too similar to his other creations-- especially the Silence.

• Moffat also loves making up off-kilter nursery rhyme prophesies about his monsters, which he does yet again here.

• The Doctor's theory that we all have a constant invisible companion throughout our lives is based on the fact that everyone has the same dream– that of a hand grabbing us from underneath the bed.

Sorry to disappoint the Doctor, but I've never in my life had that dream. Sure, I used to think there were monsters in my room, but I was awake then, not dreaming, and they never grabbed me as I dangled my legs over the bed. The Doctor's proceeding from a flawed assumption.

• The Doctor and Clara visit the orphanage where young Danny Pink lives. Once again we see the Doctor barge into a facility and everyone completely accepts his presence, without an ounce of suspicion. Yes, he shows his psychic paper to the head of the orphanage, but it's 2 am! Even with the proper credentials, don't you think the administrator might want to make a few calls to confirm the Doctor's story?

Similarly, young Danny Pink thinks nothing of the fact that Clara, a complete and total stranger, has waltzed right into his room in the middle of the night and crawled under his bed.

This phenomenon has happened hundreds of times in the series over the decades. People will accepts the Doctor's presence without question even in situations in which he couldn't possibly appear. 

Sometimes I wonder if this is a function of the TARDIS. We know it automatically translates any and all languages for the Doctor, as well as those he encounters. Maybe it's also projecting some sort of "acceptance field" around him, to help him integrate into any situation.

Um... was the Doctor wearing a sequined top in this episode? In some scenes the white dots on his black shirt looked printed on, in others they looked sewn on. In a couple scenes they even looked like they could have been tiny holes in his shirt, like he was charging his car battery and it exploded all over him.

Whatever was going on with his shirt, he needs to toss it in the trash and never wear it again. Ever.

Once again I'm impressed by the evolution and growth of Clara 2.0. It's almost like she's becoming the Doctor and he's her companion. Nowhere was that more evident than in this episode.

It's an interesting take on the characters' relationship, but it's also a dangerous one. I'm afraid that when Jenna Coleman leaves the show, as she eventually will, we'll be left with an underdeveloped Doctor who's been playing second fiddle to his companion.

• One annoying thing I've noticed about the modern era of the show– each of the Doctor's companions has somehow been The Most Important Person In The Universe. Rose Tyler traveled through dimensions to rescue the Doctor. Donna Noble saved our entire universe. Amy Pond rebooted all of reality.

Clara Oswald tops all those. Not only is she The Impossible Girl– who saved the life of every incarnation of the Doctor, and even made sure he stole just the right TARDIS– now we find out she's the one who inspired him to become a Time Lord in the first place.

Sometimes I miss the days when the companions were just ordinary people along for the ride.

The Doctor insults Clara's looks again this week, commenting about her lack of makeup even though she's wearing some.

I'm assuming they're doing this in an attempt to show that this incarnation of the Doctor is more alien and doesn't understand petty human concerns and customs, but... it's just coming off as mean.

• Clara asks the Doctor if it's bad if she meets her younger self. He says, "It is potentially catastrophic." Except of course for all the times the Doctor's met himself over the years.

• The Doctor: "Have you seen the size of human brains? They're hilarious!" Best line of the episode.

• Inside young Danny's room, the Doctor leafs through a book and says he can't find Wally. 

He's talking of course about Where's Waldo? British illustrator Martin Handford published Where's Wally? in 1987. When the book was imported to the U.S., editors said the name "Wally" wouldn't resonate with American audiences and demanded he change the character's name to "Waldo."

• As I said earlier, the scenes in young Danny's bedroom with the thing sitting on the bed were very well done. Definitely one of the scariest moments of the series, and they didn't even have to spring for complicated prosthetic makeup-- just a blanket.

That said, it would have been nice if we got even a hint as to whether the thing was real or not. I get that when it comes to horror, less is more, but this was a little too less.

• During Clara's do-over of her date with Danny, a spacesuit-clad figure walks into the restaurant and beckons to her. Amazingly, not one single patron seems to notice.

Did the Doctor use his perception filter, or some other piece of Time Lord technology, to hide the astronaut from the other diners? Or is the food just that good and they couldn't be bothered to look up?

• A while back I wondered about how things work on the Doctor's home planet. All Time Lords are from Gallifrey. But are all Gallifreyans Time Lords? Is Time Lord a profession, or the name of their race? 

Looks like my question was answered in this episode. "Time Lord" is definitely what the Doctor writes under "profession" on his tax form.

• This episode strongly implies that Clara and Danny are going to marry. Or at least become a couple. Either way, it looks like they're going to produce offspring. Or does it? 

It could all be a big ruse on Moffat's part. As we all know by now, he loves to lie. On the other hand, rumors are swirling that Jenna Coleman will be leaving the show at some point this season. I could definitely see her riding off into the sunset with Danny Pink.

Next week: The Doctor and Clara rob the most secure bank in the universe.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Hershel Greene Lives!

This past weekend I went to the annual HorrorHound convention in Indy. While there I met Scott Wilson of The Walking Dead fame.

Although most people know him as Hershel Greene, Wilson's been in a ton of movies, including In The Heat Of The Night, In Cold Blood, The Great Gatsby, The Right Stuff, Dead Man Walking and many others. He's got a pretty impressive resume.

Mr. Wilson was very nice and accommodating, and even at 72 seemed more energetic than me. I told him I missed seeing him on The Walking Dead, and he said he missed the show as well. I asked him about the very realistic animatronic head they made of him for the show, and he said that after filming wrapped he took it home and has it in a trash bag in his closet. There aren't a lot of people who can say that.

Man, somebody in this picture needs to go on a diet, and it ain't Scott Wilson. Get thyself to a gymmery, Bob!

That's Scott Wilson schmoozing with fellow actor John Jarratt (in the fedora), who stars as Australian psycho killer Mick Taylor in the Wolf Creek films. Just a couple of seconds earlier prolific horror film director Larry Cohen leaned in to chat with Wilson as well. Why, with all that talent in one room, you'd think there was a horror convention going on or something...

Things George R. R. Martin Is Doing Instead Of Finishing The "Game Of Thrones" Books

Welcome to Things George R. R. Martin Is Doing Instead Of Finishing The "Game Of Thrones" Books, a feature in which I spotlight all the many, many, many ways that author George R.R.R.R. Martin is wasting precious time gadding about in public instead of bellying up to the typewriter and finishing his goddamned novels.

So what's George doing to waste time this week? Why, he wrote a book! Ordinarily that would be cause for much rejoicing in the world of fantasy literature. Unfortunately the book he wrote is not the one fans were expecting. Instead of finally completing The Winds Of Winter (Book Six of his seven book series), he wrote The World Of Ice & Fire, a goddamned history of Westeros.*

According to the press release, the book is "a comprehensive history of the Seven Kingdoms, providing vividly constructed accounts of the epic battles, bitter rivalries, and daring rebellions that lead to the events of A Song of Ice and Fire and HBO’s Game of Thrones."

Are you freaking kidding me? He took the time to write a fake history of his fake world? He knows damn good and well that everyone and their dog is anxiously awaiting the next book, and he wastes his time writing a goddamned prequel? Is he trying to make his fans have a collective stroke?

On the other hand, a history of Westeros might be pretty cool. Just not now, while we're in the home stretch of the series. Maybe wait until the final book is published before concentrating on prequels, histories and supplemental materials, m'kay?

As for when The Winds Of Winter might possibly ever be finished, the outlook's not so good. There's no firm release date in sight, and Martin himself recently said he's making "negative progress on the book." Negative progress? What the flip does that mean? What the hell's he doing, erasing pages he's already written? Jesus Christ!

Martin commented on the situation, saying, "I have days where I make lots of progress. I have days when I make next to no progress, I have days where I think I;m going backwards because I don't like what I wrote yesterday. I have days in which I sit on the edge of my bed and stare at the floor. Some days I dress up my cats and have them act out scenes from previous books. One day I ate a whole jar of chocolate frosting and woke up in my backyard, clad only in my underwear and holding a cardboard sword. Some days I try to write, but I start watching the block of Perfect Stranger reruns that's on every afternoon and before I know it, it's time for bed. Occasionally I'll fill my swimming pool with hundred dollar bills afforded to me by my legions of loyal fans and try to swim around in it like Scrooge McDuck. Some days I realize there's something important I'm supposed to be doing, but I can't remember what. And some days I just say "Screw all y'all, I already know how the damned story ends" and I sit and read the newspaper in my robe and Greek fisherman's hat all day.

* Yes, I see that he didn't write the book all by himself. But his name is twelve times as big as the other two authors on the cover, so he had to have put some effort into its creation. Effort that took him away from the main series.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Doctor Who Season 8, Episode 3: Robot Of Sherwood

This week we take a break from the previous weeks' serious tone with a lighthearted romp of an episode. Most dramatic series have comedy episodes from time to time (think Star Trek's The Trouble With Tribbles), but this one gets a little too silly at times.

If nothing else, this episode will be known as The One They Had To Edit. The BBC significantly altered the ending due to various recent horrific world events. More on that in a minute.

Clara 2.0 continúes to impress, proving she's fast becoming the Doctor's equal (if not superior) as she expertly manipulates the Sheriff Of Nottingham in this episode.

All through the episode the Doctor dismisses the idea that Robin Hood is real (despite the apparent evidence before his eyes). So was Robin a real person? Eh, probably not. Some scholars insist that there was indeed a historical Robin Hood, but most people believe he was just a legend was inspired by various songs and ballads of the time.


The Plot:
When the Doctor asks Clara who she'd like to meet in all of space and time, she tells him Robin Hood. The Doctor insists he was just a legend, and takes her to 12th Century England to prove it, where they promptly meet– Robin Hood.

The Doctor believes Robin and Sherwood Forest are all part of some illusion or alien construct, and does his best to find the truth. Eventually he finds out that the Sheriff of Nottingham is using an army of Robot Knights to repair a crashed spaceship, so he can use it to rule England.

The Doctor, Clara and Robin Hood eventually defeat the Sheriff and the Robots of course. And the Doctor finds out that Robin is apparently real.

• This episode had a pretty convoluted plot, and I have to admit I had to rewind certain parts and watch them again to understand everything that was happening. Or maybe I'm just dim.

• Wasn't that a lucky break that five seconds after the Doctor and Clara land in 12th Century England, Robin Hood just happens to walk by.

I guess the TARDIS was right, and it (or I guess, she) really does "take him where he needs to go.")

• As the Doctor first steps into Sherwood Forest, an arrow whooshes past his head and hits the side of the TARDIS. He yanks out the arrow and the hole it made promptly disappears. 

So the TARDIS can heal itself, eh? Makes sense, I guess, since it's not really a blue wooden box, but a simulation of one.

• I get that this was a light hearted episode, but the idea of the Doctor wielding a spoon against a sword-armed Robin Hood– and beating him– was a little too silly for my tastes. 

And why the hell was he walking around with a spoon in the first place?

• The Doctor refuses to believe that Robin Hood, his Merry Men and even Sherwood Forest could be real. He theorizes that they may all be inside a "miniscope."

This is a callback to the Third Doctor episode Carnival Of Monsters. A miniscope is a device that keeps miniaturized creatures inside a miniaturized environment for the amusement of the owner.

• Ben Miller plays the Sheriff of Nottingham, and looks remarkably like the Anthony Ainley version of The Master. Acts like him too. In fact if they ever decide to bring The Master back again, Miller would be the perfect choice.

• The Mast, er, the Sheriff reveals his origin story and plan to Clara. He witnessed a spaceship full of robots crash land near Sherwood Forest, and somehow became their leader. He's now collecting all the gold he can get his hands on in order to get the spaceship flying again. He then plans to fly it to London and take over the country. 

Or he could just ride there and use the army of incredibly deadly robots at his disposal to usurp the throne. But, no, his plan seems well thought out too (insert eye roll here).

• I suppose when you're doing a Robin Hood episode, it's inevitable that homages to previous adaptations will creep in. Especially here, with the "arrow's eye view" shots we get during the archery tournament.

• Robin Hood does Clark Kent one better, as he completely disguises himself by wearing a floppy sunhat.

• The Wilhelm Scream makes an unwelcome appearance during the tussle at the archery contest. It's way past time to retire this sound effect. It used to be a fun little Easter Egg when you'd hear it, but it's been way, way overused at this point. Whenever I hear it now it drags me right out of the story.

• The Sheriff's army of Robot Knights were hands down the coolest part of the episode. I don't think we've ever seen robots who shoot death rays out of their foreheads before. Eyes, yes. Forehead, nope.

That said, the Robots bore an unfortunate resemblance to the Black Knight from Monty Python And The Holy Grail. And once you realize it, you can't unrealize it. One of the Robot Knights even gets his arm hacked off! Fortunately he doesn't say, "Tis but a scratch!"

I have to wonder if this was intentional. The whole episode strayed well into farcical territory– is it possible they were meant to look like the Black Knight?

• The Robot Knights' faces (complete with their full, sculpted pouting metallic lips) looked a lot like the VOC Robots from the classic series episode The Robots Of Death.

• Robin's Merry Men are present, but they're given so little screen time they honestly might as well not have been in the episode at all. Sometimes the current 45 minute runtime can be a bad thing.

• A nice touch: Robin keeps referring to the Doctor as "ancient," despite the fact that he appears to be around 50 years old or so. 50 is still relatively young to us today, but to someone in that time period, such a person would be considered elderly.

• After being sentenced to work on a chain gang, the Doctor stages a peasant revolt by using shiny gold trays and dishes to reflect the Robots' death rays back at them.

Lucky for our side that the peasants immediately become experts in deflecting and aiming death rays, as they consistently manage to blow the Robots' heads off. Skillful! 

• The Doctor finally discovers the truth of the situation when he and Robin stumble into a spaceship from the future that's disguised as a medieval castle. The ship, which crash-landed, contains extensive Earth records (which I guess means it was from Earth?). 

The Robots consulted these records and disguised themselves as knights in order to fit in with the time period while they repaired their ship. The Doctor says this is why the whole fictional "Sherwood Forest" milieu appears to be real. Convoluted!

• When the Doctor is operating the Robots' computer, the readouts are very clearly projected onto his face! Somebody needs to turn down that monitor's brightness, STAT!

These super bright projecting screens are nothing new. They've been a staple of sci-fi movies and TV for decades (see ALIEN and Jurassic Park among others). I suppose it's a way to add visual interest to an otherwise dull scene of someone reading text from a screen. However, I've been using computers for many years now and can say with confidence that no monitor has ever projected its contents onto my face.

• The Doctor sifts through the ship's records and finds many different texts on Robin Hood. As these examples flash on the screen, one of them is from a BBC Robin Hood miniseries that aired in 1953. Oddly enough, Patrick Troughton, who of course played the Second Doctor, starred as Robin Hood in that series! Cool!

• The Doctor learns that the robots' ship crashed-landed while on the way to "The Promised Land." This is the same place (and let's face it, the exact same plot) that the Half-Face Man was trying to reach in the season opener. So it's official-- Missy and The Promised Land are the season's big story arc.

• The Doctor is puzzled by the fact that Sherwood Forest is greener and more lush than it should be in this time period. He finds out that the robot's spaceship is leaking radiation, and this is what's causing the anomalous flora. He says the radiation is creating "a temporary climate of staggering benevolence."

Um... OK, I'm no scientist, but isn't radiation generally considered bad for living things? Wouldn't radiation kill the plant life, rather than cause unchecked growth? It's not solar radiation (which plants need), but nuclear.  

• So about that edited final battle. In the original cut (heh), Robin and the Sheriff are dueling with swords. Robin swings his sword and chops off the Sheriff's head. His head falls to the floor, but continues to "live." The Sheriff reveals that when the Robots' spaceship crash-landed, it fell on him. The Robots then rebuilt him, turning him into a cyborg. His body then grabs his head and screws it back on. The fight continues, and Robin eventually knocks the cyborg Sheriff into a vat of molten gold far below.

In the edited version, everything pertaining to the Sheriff losing his head and being a cyborg has been removed, leaving only Robin knocking him into the vat.

Obviously the scenes were removed due to the recent real-world events in Iraq, in which several journalists have been beheaded by ISIS terrorists. The BBC called for the edits out of respect for the families of the victims.

I suppose they did the right thing, even though I'm not a fan of censorship. A cyborg losing his head– and then sticking it back on– seems many miles away from a gruesome real world beheading, but what do I know?

Actually I think that removing every line about the Sheriff being a cyborg makes Robin's action seem worse. Somehow shoving a cyborg into a vat of molten gold seems less horrific than pushing a fully human character into one.

Hopefully once things have died down a bit they'll include the original version on the inevitable DVD release.

• Even by Doctor Who standards, the ending of the episode is completely ludicrous. As the castle-ship blasts off into the sky, the Doctor frets that it doesn't have enough gold in its whatsis matrix or something, and it'll explode in the atmosphere, wiping out life on Earth. The Doctor, Clara and Robin then shoot a golden arrow into the escaping ship, which gives it just enough oomph (or something) to reach outer space before it explodes, saving the planet.

First of all, a solid gold arrow would probably fly about ten feet before plopping unceremoniously to the ground. Secondly, even if they could somehow manage to shoot it half a mile into the air and pierce the side of the ship, so what? What are the odds that it would hit the exact spot needed to provide an energy boost? And how is it providing said boost? Seems like it would be the same thing as throwing a bucket of gas into the open window of a passing car and expecting that to cause it to travel an extra twenty miles.

Ah well. It's a comedy episode, so I'll give 'em this one.

Next week: Back to serious stuff!
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