Month: May 2018

Doctor Who Re-watch: Aliens of London/World War Three

Doctor Who Re-watch: Aliens of London/World War Three

Sorry guys for the lateness of this write-up. Ben was on time, but I’m in Canberra for the 2018 Hardcopy manuscript development program and now is the first chance I’ve had to upload words to this blog. Aliens of London/WW3 is RTD’s first two-parter and…

Second anthology of the year!

Second anthology of the year!

Regular readers may remember that I got my first ever pro-short story acceptance at the start of this year with the CSFG A Hand of Knaves anthology. Since then, I’ve been a busy beaver, sending off shorts left, right and centre. I even got three…

Forbrydelsen Series 1-3 Review

Forbrydelsen Series 1-3 Review

The Danish original crime show, Forbrydelsen (translated wrongly into english as The Killing, when actually it means The Crime), has long been on my to watch list. My Mum had watched all three series aons back and told me all about how good Sofie Grabol was in it, and back in my LiveJournal days, many people on my flist constantly made graphics and art and re-capped episodes. Still, it took me making the decision to quit my job start of this year to start the binge and it’s taken me four months to get to the end despite only forty episodes, largely because I didn’t want the show to end.

01KILLING2-jumbo

Forbrydelsen follows three series of police detective, Sarah Lund’s (played by Sofie Grabol) misfortunes in love, family and the workplace amidst backdrops of political intrigue and the worst kinds of cover-ups, violence and evil murders. Sofie’s Lund is closed off, distant and obsessive, focused on detection to the exclusion of all else. Grabol is fascinating as the protagonist, and I love that she was given free reign to play her character with man-like qualities. Lund is good at her job, irrespective of gender and her gender has little impact on how she solves cases.

Having watched A LOT of crime drama over the years, certain tropes I can smell a mile off and have grown tedious after multiple retreads. For example, the closed off, lonely, ever isolated detective trope is well-worn, even if usually the detective isn’t played by a female, and by the end of three series the novelty of Lund had worn off a little. I kept hoping for a small ray of sunshine to her miserable existence that never came. When the story veered towards romance, both times I guessed the outcome because I’ve seen the trope so often before. If a detective in a drama falls in love with someone chances are they’re a) the murderer or b) going to have something terrible happen narratively at the last second so that the two can’t be together. Both of these tropes played out at some point in the series. Such was the power of Grabol’s Lund though, that I kept watching, still fascinated by her complex portrayal.

The writer of all three series writes in a similar way to Paul Abbott, he who wrote the thoroughly excellent mini-series, State of Play. Series 1’s political story especially felt very reminiscent of that mini-series. The first series had the best political story; it fitted well with the murder storyline, we saw enough of everyday wheelings and dealings that it felt realistic, Troels Hartmann was an enormously likeable character and the ending was bleak, but felt earnt. Though I liked the politician in Series 2, his ending felt false, with the writer echoing Series One’s bleakness for the sake of it. The same happened again in Series 3, but I cared even less about the Prime Minister.

Series 1 is by far the best series in my opinion, largely because of the way the story tracked the grief and the heartbreak of the Birk Larsen family. Series 2 felt pot boilery and suffered without an emotional hook into any of the victim’s pasts or relationships. Series 3 tried to re-create the magic of the Birk Larsen’s with the Zeeland family, and though the actors portraying Emilie’s parents were excellent, the storyline felt too samey to deliver any surprises. My only criticism of Series 1 is that it was drawn out a touch too long.

Series 2 was slow to get started, but careened towards its electrifying ending from about episode four onwards. Aside from an odd side trip to Afghanistan, I barely even noticed how contrived the murder plot was or how lucky the murderer got to escape detection for so long. The ending is truly chilling and I enjoyed it the same way I enjoyed Series 1, but for different reasons. Lund’s journey back to her car, the rest of her force parting to make way for her, made her both a hero and even more isolated than ever before.

Series 3 felt more together than series 2, but the political story line lost me early in. I couldn’t keep track of people’s motives, and what’s more, didn’t really care enough to try either. However, the Zeeland story line was absorbing and the reveal of who was really behind the sexual abuse and murder of a long-forgotten foster child was dark, nasty and devilish. I do agree with others, who wished Lund’s exit could have been more ambiguous, left to viewer imagination. I also didn’t buy the Prime Minister’s silence on the old case, given his personal connection. Still, I’m glad I watched all three series and enjoyed my time with the Faroe Island jumper wearing Lund and felt a bit bereft when it was all over.

Forbrydelsen Series One: 10/10 inky stars
Forbrydelsen Series Two: 7/10 inky stars
Forbrydelsen Series Three: 8/10 inky stars

Now to go find Borgen on Netflix! Another show I’ve somehow avoided seeing despite the hype!

Doctor Who Re-watch: The Unquiet Dead

Doctor Who Re-watch: The Unquiet Dead

Ah Mark Gatiss. What a love/hate relationship I have with your Who episodes. Still, I think this is one of your best. Gatiss is always at his best in a period piece story imo, and this one has a lot of fun with The Doctor…

Crime writing tips: Some lessons I learnt from Jane Harper at the Sydney Writers Festival

Crime writing tips: Some lessons I learnt from Jane Harper at the Sydney Writers Festival

Ah, the Sydney Writers Festival. That place of baby boomers and a strange distrust of genre fiction in the program. That place where I actually got told off in a session for live-tweeting by the person sitting next to me. Yes. Live-tweeting at a writers…

Doctor Who Re-watch: The End Of The World

Doctor Who Re-watch: The End Of The World

The second episode of New Who’s first season sees Rose and The Doctor race forwards in time to the end of the world itself. Borrowing (as Who does often) from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the earth’s end is a spectacle for rich aliens as they watch the sun burn up the planet from a save distance, complete with gift giving and waiters.

doctor-who-the-end-of-the-world

Pre-Title Sequence

Maureen: I really loved the opening sequence to this episode. We learn just enough about how The Doctor rolls (manically and with little care to his companions possible reactions, thoughts or feelings about what they are about to see) to get an idea of where the season is headed. You can really tell the show was written by fans for fans, with the mention of the New Roman Empire instantly making me want to run off and check for the fan fic of that particular adventure. I also noticed Murray Gold’s brilliant soundtrack with a vengeance in this opening. ‘Welcome to the end of the world,’ may be one of the best Who hooks ever to an episode.

Ben: Ahh… these ye olde special effects really take me back to watching Doctor Who back in high school… Anyways, this pre-title sequence sequence had some real snap crackle and pop to it, with Rose and the Doctor flirting up a storm! The Doctor was talking a big game about how far forward in time the TARDIS had travelled and Rose was acting suitably impressed, it was all very high school. But more importantly, their chemistry is excellent, especially in comparison to the chemistry between Rose and Mickey. Which brings us to The Doctor having the excellent idea to bring Rose to the literal death of the Earth! Great second date material there, Doctor.

The Companion

Maureen: I liked Rose a lot more this episode (probably because she was sans Mickey). The banter between her and The Doctor felt more natural and their chemistry is strong. I love how out of place and confused Rose feels when The Doctor tells her she’s surrounded by different species of aliens because it felt realistic.

Rose: The aliens are just… so alien.
The Doctor: Good thing I didn’t take you to the deep South.

For the first time, the romance angle is overt. We see it in the exchange between Jabe and The Doctor about Rose’s function/relationship to The Doctor (Wife? Partner? Concubine? Prostitute?), The Doctor calling Rose his plus one and Rose telling The Doctor to go pollinate with Jabe and that she wanted him home by midnight.

I loved how Rose acted around the blue mechanic. She is interested and compassionate in what was a lovely little scene. I was less of a fan of how Rose interacted with Cassandra. She was fairly harsh in her assessment of Cassandra as ‘a bitchy trampoline… just lipstick and skin.’ To be fair, she is overwhelmed and confused by her surroundings so some frustration and snappiness is to be expected. She also didn’t do much other than be a damsel in distress while The Doctor and poor Jabe solved the mystery of the episode, but hey, it’s early days for Rose yet.

Ben: Poor Rose understandably had a bit of a tough time this episode. Being brought 5 billion years into the future to witness the destruction of the Earth is something of a mood killer. And then to be introduced to the ever so naughty Cassandra, who claims to be the last pure human whilst having had every last bit of humanity surgically removed? It’s enough to put even the happiest person in a mood, and from early on she clearly feels very awkward and out of place.

It is a bit disappointing how she gets sidelined for most of this episode, though. She has some good moments being snarky at Cassandra and Jabe, and the touching moment when the Doctor does some technobabble to her phone, enabling her to call home and talk to her mum. But mostly she’s either having a crisis of identity and freaking out that she’s travelling space and time with an alien she knows basically nothing about. Which, as I’ve said already, is pretty understandable considering the circumstances.

The Doctor

Maureen: This episode developed Nine nicely, letting us know he is broken and damaged and very, very angry. This Doctor is brutal, unafraid of punishing people and aliens when they seriously mess up. He also is filled with unbearable guilt; about the universe, about his people and about Jabe too.

Jabe: Stop wasting time… Time Lord.

I still remember how thrilling that line sounded as a teen!

‘Everything has an end and everything dies,’ Nine says to Rose, trying to justify why he let Cassandra die, but you know he’s talking about brave Jabe too.

We also hear the first about the dreaded last of the Time Lords trope, but it’s fresh at this early point and I loved Eccleston’s delivery.

The Doctor: My planet’s gone. It’s dead. It burned like the earth. It’s just rock and dust… there was a war and we lost… I’m the last of the Time Lords.

Ben: The Doctor had some pretty great moments this week: the introduction of the ever so useful psychic paper, “I gift you air from my lungs”, and letting Cassandra dry out and subsequently die a fairly horrific death at the end of the episode. Before that though, we have The Doctor being prickly and mysterious and refusing to answer Rose’s questions, and then doing the same with Jabe and her questions before caving and telling both of them the truth. It’s an important step, and while we don’t get the specifics, it’s still enough to explain some of why the Doctor is how he is.

The scenes he had with Jabe were all so good, as well. I know all the Doctor’s are serial flirts, but Eccleston can really put it on when he wants to. It’s that kind of charisma and connection that inspires his companions to do amazing things, such as Jabe sacrificing her life to save the station. And as a grand crescendo we had him walk between two blades of a fan set to maximum! It was a bit dumb, and you never really see Time Lords having that kind of ability again, but it sure looked cool.

The Alien of the Week

Maureen: Cassandra was a great villain; a capitalist nightmare highlighting everything wrong with our modern world, a world where we value objects and things over people. Cassandra is cruel and callous and vapid and I love that she calls a duke box an iPod and Tainted Love and Toxic classic earth songs.

The Face of Boe turns up for the first time, as do a number of other alien species. The blue people were nicely humanized and Jabe was a beautifully realized character. I would have dug her as a companion!

Cassandra’s little metal spider aliens reminded me of Michael Crichton’s Prey and were genuinely frightening. I can’t say that of every Who alien!

Ben: Boy did they pull out all the stops with the aliens this episode! The world building is simply phenomenal, with a veritable smorgasbord of aliens in attendance. We get some soon to be familiar faces, such as the Face of Boe, and the mysterious Adherents of the Repeated Meme (I hope it’s a dog-related meme). The one critique I have of this episode is, surely these advanced alien civilisations would have figured out a way to make sun shields a bit less fallible. But as far as complaints go, that’s pretty minor. The little robot baddies were animated surprisingly well, all things considered! And the twist with them actually being controlled by Cassandra was a really great moment.

Our verdict?

Maureen: I’ve always loved this episode. Partly it’s nostalgia, but I just think it’s a strong episode in general; there’s a great central mystery, interesting world-building and aliens, moments of tragedy alongside humour and a deepening of The Doctor’s backstory and the mysterious Time War. It’s early in the peace, but I’m giving this one 10/10.

Ben: This episode was just peak Who, it’s sci-fi perfection, and we had the first Bad Wolf reference I’ve spotted so far! As much as I’m hesitant to give an episode 10/10 because there’s always the chance there will be a better episode, I really can’t justify a score other than 10/10. Onwards and upwards!

Next week, one of the few Gatiss penned Who episodes Inkashlings actually likes…

Book Review: The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

Book Review: The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

The Word is Murder Anthony Horowitz Publisher: Harper Collins First Published: August 2017 RRP: $27.99 paperback Anthony Horowitz is one of those authors who has been on my radar for a long, long time. I’ve never read his popular Alex Rider series, but they’ve been…

Reblog: Alan Baxter interview for Australasian Horror

Reblog: Alan Baxter interview for Australasian Horror

Alan makes some super interesting points in his interview about when he knew it was time to try for a short story collection! via Alan Baxter, Best Collected Work 2016