Journeying Back Into Classic Doctor Who

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You may be wondering why I called this “Journeying Back” into of just “Journeying.” Well, a few years ago, I attempted to get myself more into the classic era of “Doctor Who” by…kinda going backwards. I watched all of the Seventh Doctor’s era as well as the TV movie starring the Eighth Doctor. I even listened to most of the Eighth Doctor’s early Big Finish audio stories. But one thing I’ve had trouble sticking with are the stories involving the First to Sixth Doctors. I have seen a few stories here and there that were highly recommended, but I found myself drifting from them frequently mainly due to their slower pace and length.

However, this week I’ve aimed to dive back in and at least explore a few stories from each Doctor that I skipped out on. Part of me feels bad for not attempting to go in consecutive order, but it’s difficult to find some of them in any sort of completion and I’ve dropped at least a couple because I found them uninteresting. Despite that, I’ve been having fun reacquainting myself with these early iterations so far. I’ve already worked through a few First Doctor stories and am in the process of wrapping up my time with the Second Doctor. I’m still trying to get used to the slower pace of these serials, and it’d probably benefit me to break them up. But if a story interests me enough, I can’t help but see it through to the end ASAP.

I’m grateful that reconstructions of their missing episodes are out there, but I’m also looking forward to moving past the point of needing them. One reason I haven’t fully gotten into Big Finish is because I have to be pretty focused on the story to be invested in it. I’m a visual learner, so while the audio for the missing episodes is intact, the reconstructions at least give me an idea of what the episode was going for. Yes, I’m capable of using my imagination, which is why I appreciate Big Finish for fleshing out things like the Sixth and Eighth Doctors, as well as recently adding more adventures for River Song. But as far as the TV show is concerned, I prefer seeing it in live action. Being able to see the actors going through the motions connects me more to their characters, and I like seeing what they were able to come up with for sets, whether cheap or impressive, during that time.

I’ve made it my mission this time around to look at certain kinds of episodes so that I’ll stay focused during each season. The last time I attempted to watch the earlier seasons (barring those with the Seventh Doctor), I found myself focusing on either episodes with interesting plots or those involving the Doctor’s regeneration. And yes, I know this means I missed out on character arcs and such, but curiosity got the better of me. This time around, I’m focusing on a combination of things. My main focus is episodes with almost universal acclaim, a few with plots that interest me specifically, and the post-regeneration stories as well (yes, even the insufferable “The Twin Dilemma” is on my list). I love “Doctor Who” in its current iteration the most even with its sometimes glaring flaws, but the show has such a rich history that deserves to be explored. I already have such respect for the show lasting as long as it did and for all the people who kept it alive and entertaining. Despite my issues with the pacing, some stories that don’t click with me, and the occasional over-the-top acting, this trip into the show’s roots so far has been worth the effort.

Post-Birthday Things

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Well, I celebrated my 29th birthday on Valentine’s Day, and even with the aftermath of a bad snowstorm from the day before, it was still one of the best birthdays I’ve had in a while. I distinctly remember being sick on my birthday last year and stuck at home all day. Thankfully, this time I got to have lunch out with my mom and some chocolate cake the next day with my dad. They still plan to give me my usual birthday money of $50, and I treated myself to an early present by buying the 3DS version of “Yoshi’s Woolly World” (which is adorable and tons of fun).

It’s still weird to think that I’ll be 30 next year. It feels like not long ago that I was semi-lamenting turning 19, knowing that a year later I’d no longer be a teenager. Time sure flies. I’m happy that many people, whether it be family or friends, took the time to wish me well. I know a lot of emphasis goes on milestone birthdays, but I personally feel it’s the ones before them (like the 19th or 29th) that mean the most to me.

I’m especially excited for this year because today my fiance and I got confirmation that my fiance visa petition was approved. It’s still slow going on that front, but at least we’re seeing some progress. It’s been difficult trying to explain to friends and family that we honestly don’t know when our wedding will be, let alone when I’ll be able to move. Not knowing has been hard on us too, and at least the letter my fiance received gives us a small indication of what to expect going forward.

Of course, I don’t feel like I’m 29. I don’t think I will truly “feel” my age for a long time yet. I’ve always been a kid at heart, and I plan to retain that to a degree for as long as possible. And to everyone else who celebrated a birthday on the 14th, no matter what your age, happy belated birthday!

My Thoughts on “Dollhouse” Season 2

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 Well, I’ve finished both seasons of “Dollhouse”, and if I had to describe this show in one word, it would be “infuriating.” It seemed like for every good thing the show did, there were just as many bad things that were thrown in as well. Since Season 2 is full of plot twists (I’ll get to that later) and plenty of spoilers, I’ll once again be giving my general thoughts on it as a whole.

Let’s start with the things I did like. For one, I felt the overarching plot had more structure and flow this time around. Episodes still had their main plot, but the subplots mainly focused on continuing Echo’s evolution and mission to free the other Dolls. There was also a lot more character development for the supporting cast this time around that I felt was sorely missed in Season 1. I found myself really enjoying Victor, Sierra, Adelle and even Topher’s backstories and evolution. However, I did find it annoying that Adelle was often a target for “what a twist!” moments, and Topher often would have a good, dramatic performance in one episode only to be back to purely the funny man in the next. Inconsistency is an ongoing thing through this show, but I digress. There was also some cameos from previously seen characters as well as a new one in particular that I wished stuck around. She seemed like someone Joss would’ve kept on if a third season had been in the works. At least, I felt like more stories could have been made with her, and I found her background far more interesting than Caroline’s pre-Echo days.

But for all those things I liked and then some, I found things took a turn for the annoying by the second half of the season. A lot of the plot was very rushed, though I know most of this was due to the show’s cancellation. While I enjoyed Echo’s evolution over the season, I also still found her less interesting at times than the supporting cast…except for Paul. Even by the end, I still found myself not caring about him or his relationships to anyone (let alone Echo) whatsoever. There’s a reappearance by Alpha as well. That might be considered spoilers, but I have to get this off my chest: I HATED what they did with him this season. His role, while well-acted, felt pointless and weak. I feel like he was supposed to have a much larger arc leading into the series finale, but the cancellation prevented it. I honestly wish they had just not bothered bringing him back at all in this case.

A lot of my problems this season also stem from what felt like an over-reliance on plot twists. I touched on Adelle being a magnet for them, but they really ramped them up near the end of the season. There’s one involving a main cast member that I was initially shocked by and really liked. But in hindsight, I realized how flawed and nonsensical it was in relation to what the show had been building up to. The Attic is also finally brought in and shown, and while the representation of it was neat, the plot involving it felt VERY contrived. Yes, in a show about programmable people and shady corporations dealing in futuristic tech, the Attic felt contrived. I could get behind the show’s overall premise, but for some reason that one plot point just irked me. Finally, even more disappointing was the realization that a lot of what goes down in Season 2 ultimately has no long-lasting tension thanks to “Epitaph Part One”, the actual finale episode of Season 1. Of course, I won’t spoil the details, but this lack of tension coupled with some other annoying decisions made the series finale, “Epitaph Part Two”, feel like a major letdown to me.

Overall, “Dollhouse” ended up being just average to me. It had an interesting concept and some engaging characters, and some of the missions the Dolls had made for some decent “monster of the week”-like stories. However, Season 1 started out slow and felt unfocused at times, and Season 2 got caught up in plot twists and questionable decisions. Even “Firefly” had me feeling more invested in its story and characters in only 14 episodes (and one movie) than “Dollhouse” did in 26. It felt like too much was going on at once, and yet it also seemed like it brushed over some of its heavier themes. I left it feeling more mixed than I have watching any other Whedon work. It felt like a show full of missed opportunities, and for me personally, that might even be worse than feeling it was outright bad.

My Thoughts on “Dollhouse” Season 1

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While I love Joss Whedon, for the longest time I neglected to watch some of his works. I tried Season 1 of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and although I finished it, I wasn’t interested enough to keep going. It took me ages to jump back into “Firefly”, which I originally started watching with my fiance. And this week, after years of putting it off and having only seen the pilot episode, I decided to give “Dollhouse” another chance. Since I just finished Season 1, I’m only going to share my general, non-spoiler (you never know) thoughts on it. I’ll probably talk about Season 2 next week or the week after.

The basic premise of the show is this: A secret facility known as the Dollhouse provides various services to wealthy clients. They do this by the use of Dolls or Actives, as they’re sometimes called. These are people who have relinquished their personality and memories, making them a blank slate. They are then imprinted with the personality of whomever the Dollhouse needs to fulfill a client’s request, such as a dinner date, forensics expert, or any number of other identities. The show mostly focuses on a Doll named Echo, formally known as Caroline (played by Eliza Dushku), as she’s sent out on these engagements while also starting to develop a personality of sorts on her own.

 All of that might sound confusing, and this is definitely one of the most complicated narratives Joss has created. There are heavy themes about the morality of the people working at the Dollhouse and how they can tolerate essentially using others for profit. It’s actually one of the things I liked about the show going in, because so much could be discussed and analyzed with this premise. Unfortunately, I found the show also lacked direction at times. Filler episodes can be handy for a fun story or character development, but the plot-driven ones were way more interesting. The show honestly felt like the clunkiest one Joss has made so far, and a lot of the time it didn’t feel like he had a part in it. When things would get serious or when resident funny man Topher would crack a joke, I could see it as purely Whedon. The rest of the time, it felt more akin to something J.J. Abrams would make.

However, even if some plots were inconsistent, I still found myself enjoying the characters for the most part. Surprisingly, I enjoyed Echo and the other mainstay Dolls even while they were in their blank states. They form a sort of friendship despite having no real concept of it, and their performances once they were imprinted were pretty good. I have to dock points for Eliza, however, as I felt the other Doll actors outshone her most of the time. It’s not that she’s a bad actress, but if there’s one thing I learned from her role as Faith in “Buffy,” it’s that she excels at playing characters with spunk and attitude. The side characters also play important roles as well. Paul Ballard is an FBI agent who is obsessed with finding the Dollhouse and bringing it down to free everyone inside. His neighbor and later love, Mellie, is sweet and has an arch with Paul that I found as the ONLY enjoyable aspect of his character. In the Dollhouse itself, you have the tough and kinda douche-y Mr. Dominic, who leads the security team, and the no-nonsense boss of it all, Adelle DeWitt. You also have the Xander-esque but slightly annoying Topher, who created the imprinting machine and is in charge of handling those imprints, and Dr. Claire Saunders, who is still traumatized from an attack on the house that left her scarred. Finally, each Doll is given a handler, and for most of the season, Echo’s is former police officer Boyd Langton. I loved his fatherly attachment to her, even though it made him come off like a less interesting Giles.

My biggest gripe with all of these characters is that the show peels back some layers on them, giving you an idea of how they cope with what they do, and yet I felt they still lacked character development. Maybe that’s improved in Season 2, but it felt like more could’ve been done. Echo even gets a new handler at one point, and we don’t ever see him again or even learn his name. I understand that they wanted to keep focusing on her relationship with Boyd, but it felt like a waste of time in the end. However, one of the absolute best characters to come out of this show is Alpha, the main bad guy. Alpha’s deal is that he’s a Doll who, through a major mishap, had 43 personalities imprinted on him simultaneously. This makes him cunning AND dangerous, if also pretty unstable. He’s built up throughout the season here and there, and his eventual appearance didn’t disappoint. He is easily one of my favorite things from this season, and his performance was one of the strongest I’ve seen from this show. Unfortunately, he’s subjected to cliffhanger territory in the season finale, but I feel he’s one of the most interesting Whedon villains in recent memory.

I could go on about this season and break down my thoughts on each episode, but all I really need to say is that despite being inconsistent in quality, “Dollhouse” is an interesting show. I can see why people had mixed reactions to it back when it came out, and it definitely isn’t the best thing Joss has ever created. That being said, even though I felt like I was slowly making my way through the season, I enjoyed it far more than I did watching Season 1 of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, even if it is light on the traditional Whedon humor. I don’t know if I can fully recommend giving it a watch, but if you’re familiar with anything Whedon, it might be worth a shot.