Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Goddamn Batman #1-9

With the upcoming release of The Dark Knight, you’re probably going to be hearing a lot of interviews about how Chris Nolan wanted to make it “just like the graphic novels,” i.e. dark and grim and gritty. Now, the very notion of creating a Batman film that’s true to the comics is a bit ridiculous. The comics have spanned everything from the legendary Rainbow Batman to the archetypal darkness of The Dark Knight Returns. So, in some ways the Adam West Batman is true to the comics, in some ways Batman Begins is true to the comics. Unlike Marvel characters, and despite Grant Morrison’s best efforts, Batman doesn’t really have any sort of logical character arc, he’s a myth, a collection of elements that can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Writing Batman is like playing jazz, it’s the same few notes, but everyone plays them differently.

So, I don’t think a Batman movie has an obligation to be “true to the comics.” Batman Returns is one of my favorite movies of all time, but it doesn’t resemble any particular Batman comic. It’s the intersection of Tim Burton’s thematic concerns and the Batman archetype. It’s almost absurdly self indulgent, and at times ridiculous, but still brilliant. That same sentiment applies to Frank Miller’s latest take on the Dark Knight, or should I say The Goddamn Batman.

I’ve been following the online reaction to the series, and have been wanting to read it ever since I saw the legendary panel from issue 2. “Are you retarded? Are you dense or something? I’m the Goddamn Batman.” How could it be real? What kind of story could contain such a speech? I wasn’t going in looking for something traditional, I wanted the insanity promised by that panel. I wanted the Goddamn Batman, and Miller delivers. This is a series that is at times completely nonsensical, but hangs together, and really works for me as it goes along. It’s better than Morrison’s take on the character, and far better than Jim Lee’s previous run on the character, Hush.

Part of why I really like the book is the way it continues the stylistic approach of Miller’s brilliant Dark Knight Strikes Again. Rather than being a dark and tormented soul, the Batman of DKSA and this book loves what he’s doing. Nothing pleases him more than beating up a gang of crooks, the height of the series so far for me is issue #7 in which Batman assaults a gang, then proceeds to fuck Black Canary, with the masks on because “it’s better that way.” The book is perhaps the most quotable comic of all time, there’s so many over the top lines. How could the book seriously contain the line “I’ve taken enough grief about calling my goddamn car the goddamn Batmobile. I’m the goddamn Batman and I can call my goddamn car whatever the hell I want to call it.” “Sweet Jesus, the goddamn Batman!” indeed.

There’s some works where all logic and real world coherence is left behind in favor of an immersion in a creator’s obsessions. This is Frank Miller with the filter off, you could easily imagine him saying “I’ve taken enough grief about calling him the goddamn Batman. I’m the goddamn Frank Miller and I can write my goddamn Batman however the hell I please.” I guess people were expecting something more coherent, a dark and serious look at the character, along the lines of Year One. But, that era of comics is over. Frank Miller knows it, but the world’s a bit behind. The thing I love about this book is the way it’s still dark and gritty, but within that milieu is full of total insanity. Miller goes beyond parodying himself right from page 2, with those totally gratuitous shots of Vicki Vale in lingerie and heels. There’s no reason for it except he wants it to be there, so it is. I love the absurdity of that panel with a shirtless Alfred holding Vicki in the train, yes it’s ridiculous, but this is a comic about a man who dresses up as a bat. Batman’s insane, this world is insane and everything’s played totally over the top.

Reality is boring, and even if you don’t think so, don’t you get enough of it in the life you’re living here? Isn’t it nice to take a trip to the intersection of the DC Universe and Frank Miller’s brain, to spend a little bit of time in a world where Wonder Woman calls a man a sperm bank and Batman tells Robin to eat rats, all the while laughing maniacally. He loves being the goddamn Batman, and I love watching him be the goddamn Batman. This is the most exciting Batman comic I’ve read since DKSA, if Batman is the devil in the knight, fighting evil, shouldn’t there be an element of danger about the character. There’s a danger and exhilaration in what he’s doing, and you share that feeling as you read the book.

In this book, Batman is chaos, while the JLA is order. In their confrontations, we see the way that Batman can overwhelm people with power much greater than his because he is always one step ahead of them. Batman is fighting chaos with his own kind of chaos. His methods are infectious and empower others. That’s why I really like the time spent on Black Canary in issue 3. We see her listening to all these ridiculous taunts, and rather than just accept how things are, she decides to fight back, because that’s what the goddamn Batman would do. It’s the same for Batgirl, who hops out into the night rather than stay at home, because she wants to be like Batman. In Miller’s world, Batman is emblematic of the citizen’s right to take the streets back. That was the revolutionary message of DKSA and we see it here again. I’m guessing down the line we’ll see a confrontation between Batman and his gang, and the JLA.

It certainly seems like Miller and Lee will be on the book for a while. The Joker plot is just getting started, and I’m eager to see how he integrates Selina into this world. I felt like she would have fit in the role he had Black Canary play, but I guess he’s got something else for her to do down the line.

Much as I enjoy the insanity, throughout the book, it’s clear that Batman is putting on a persona. Robin constantly makes note of how fake his voice sounds, like a Clint Eastwood imitation. He plays at being this badass, but underneath it all, he’s just a scarred little boy. The last scene of issue #9 is the first moment of real emotion, when the momentum of everything that’s happened slows, and we see Dick mourn his parents for the first time. There, Batman sees that his approach might not have been the best. He’s turning Dick into something worse than himself. I like the way he can segue from this hilarious segment involving Batman and Robin taunting Hal with the yellow house into something pretty harrowing when Batman thinks Dick might have killed Hal. For the first time since issue #1, we see Batman without the mask. He may love being the Goddamn Batman, but he doesn’t want to see this kid become a murderer on his watch.

So, I’m not sure where the series will go in the future. I hope the over the top craziness continues, but I wouldn’t mind seeing some real emotion mixed in. What does Batman’s behavior do to the city? When will the wrong people get hurt, and how will Robin help to heal Batman’s deep wounds?

I also want to throw some respect to Jim Lee’s artwork. He’s one of those people who was so popular, I think it’s easy to say he’s overrated or take him for granted. This is my favorite Jim Lee art to date, he does a great job of conveying the characters’ emotions and can handle even the craziest things Miller can come up with. He captures the spirit of Miller’s own pencils, but gets his own style in there too.

For me, this is pretty much the perfect Batman book. It takes the spirit of Dark Knight Strikes Again and applies it to the present day of Batman continuity. Miller indulges all his whims, and that’s what makes the book work. You’ve got to take it on its own terms, get in tune with its over the top tone and just roll with it. I mean, are you retarded or something, this is the goddamn Batman.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures

Over the past few weeks, I watched the entirety of Torchwood and all but the last two parter of The Sarah Jane Adventures. I don’t think either show is as strong as its parent show, but they each represent interesting extrapolations of the original premise. Unexpectedly, I wound up liking Sarah Jane a lot more, I think it’s truer to what makes Doctor Who great, and is generally better written than the hit and miss Torchwood. I don’t know that Sarah Jane could ever be as good a show as Torchwood could potentially be, but comparing the first season of each show, Sarah Jane was more consistently engaging and narratively coherent than Torchwood.

The biggest issue I had with Torchwood is that they decided to build a spinoff around one of Who’s most charismatic and exciting characters, then proceeded to take away everything that made the character work. It makes absolutely no sense to me why they make a big deal of Jack’s mysterious past when the viewer already knows what happened to him. Now, I suppose the viewer who’d only seen Who season one wouldn’t know exactly how Jack wound up at Torchwood in our present, but you’d still know all the basics of his story. It’s weird that they’d build up this whole mystery with Jack, and then resolve it over on Doctor Who.

This is the fundamental flaw of the series so far, and it makes the character who should be the exciting center of the series doesn’t contribute much. The other characters are all interesting in some ways, but are a bit too similar. Everyone is a morally ambiguous workaholic prone to making bad personal decisions when it comes time for them to take center stage in the plot.

I think this characterization works for Owen and Gwen. Owen is the most far gone, and by starting a relationship with him, Gwen is literally throwing away her personal life for Torchwood. The best episode of the season was the heartbreaking time displacement story which featured three excellent storylines. That was a wonderful example of a story only sci-fi can do that comments on something powerful and human. The second half of the show was much more consistent than the early episodes, but I was pretty let down by the finale, which featured some really awful CGI work. Compared to the three brilliant Doctor Who finales, it was a real disappointment.

The show really feels like the Angel to Doctor Who’s Buffy. After three seasons, Who was riding high, and it’s hard to go back to a shakier first season feel. And, like the first season of Angel, Torchwood has a lot of identity issues, switching between a variety of different storytelling modes. It even features its own alien/demon Fight Club knockoff episode. I’m hoping that the show will come into its own in the next season, like Angel did. For now, I like the show, but it frequently frustrated me.

Going into The Sarah Jane Adventures, I wasn’t really expecting much. I tended not to like the goofier episodes of Who from the early years, so a series targeted exclusively to kids didn’t seem like it’d be my thing. But, Sarah Jane, right from the beginning, was well written and smart. Yes, the stories were on the goofier side at times, but it’s always fun and feels a lot more like Doctor Who than Torchwood. Much of what makes Doctor Who special is the simple joy at the unknown, for Torchwood what’s out there in the night is a menace, for Who and Sarah Jane it’s probably something amazing. I like the latter worldview a lot more, and I think it makes for a better show, that struggle to still believe in the wonder of the universe in the face of enemies from other worlds.

The first few two parters are pretty good, not anything too special. Things pick up with “Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane,” a trip to an alternate universe where Sarah Jane died and Maria’s the only one who remembers. I always like these everything is wrong kind of stories, and the trips to the past and limbo are evocative. That demon who saves Andrea’s life is a pretty menacing villain, and I didn’t even mind the bizarre dwarf guy who runs around screwing up things in time.

The first part of the season finale continues that really dark, focused approach of “Whatever Happened,” as everything we know is one again wrong and Luke actually has a family. In some pretty intense scenes, Luke is torn away from Sarah Jane and taken by ‘his’ family. The second half is a bit of a let down as this challenging moral conundrum turns out to be yet another Slitheen plot. But, even this straightforward action climax is much better than the weak confrontation with the giant CGI beast in Torchwood.

One of the things I frequently find frustrating about spinoffs is this perverse refusal to acknowledge the parent show. Torchwood occasionally featured Who continuity, but I found it hard to place that show in the same universe as Who. Sarah Jane wholeheartedly embraces its legacy, and the moments where Sarah Jane talks about the Doctor are some of the series’ best, reinforcing the idea that she has kind of become the Doctor, leading her own band of Earth defenders. And, the series’ core philosophy is much closer to Who’s than Torchwood’s gloomy outlook.

But, even though I enjoyed the first season of Sarah Jane more, I do think Torchwood has a lot more potential. If they can stop misusing their main character and make Jack more like he was on Who, the show could pick up. We’ll see what happens in season two. And, either way, I’m really glad I watched both shows in light of the events of ‘The Stolen Earth.’

Final Crisis #2

It’s kind of difficult to review Final Crisis as it goes because these early issues are fractured and all over the place. That’s not really a complaint, it’s a universe spanning crossover, so you can’t expect to spend a lot of time in one place. What does definitively work in both this issue and its predecessor is the sense of dread. The whole universe seems to be spinning out of control, right into the arms of Apokolips. When Batman’s imprisoned and being tortured, you know it’s going down.

It seems like the series is going to be at least partially about knocking out all the big heroes, at which point a new team will come in and lead the resistance. The groundwork for this is laid in the brilliant opening sequence, the issue’s high point. Super Young Team reminds me of the mutant subculture we saw back in Morrison’s X-Men run. In a world where superheroes are real, they’re going to be cultural icons, and inspire fashion trends. That’s a great example of Morrison exploring not what superheroes would be like in our world, but what ‘normal’ people would be like in a superhero world. I’d definitely be up for a Super Young Team ongoing after this.

But, things really pick up with the entrance of Sonny Sumo, a Fourth World character. It’s nice to read this and actually know who he is. He appears to have taken his badassness up a few notches between his Forever People team up and now. The defeat of MegaYakuza is great, and everything gets kicked up again with the entrance of Shilo Norman, Mister Miracle. He’s seen everything bad that will happen during his time in the Black Hole in Seven Soldiers, and is now back to form a new team and save the world.

The notion of a team of underachieving heroes coming together to battle a huge foe is a large part of what Seven Soldiers was about. It’s a testament to Morrison’s writing that he’s made me more excited to see Shilo Norman than any other character in the issue. That’s how good Seven Soldiers was, because those characters weren’t as iconic, it was easier to engage with them as individuals. I think this issue is generally better when it’s b-list characters on screen instead of the big names.

The scenes with Turpin are oppressively nasty, as he deals with some kind of alien presence within himself. I’m not sure whether it’s Darkseid or Orion he’s carrying. I think Orion would make more sense, but Reverend Goode seems to think he’s Darkseid. Either way, the sequences make it clear that this is a world where the moral polarity has reversed and the heroes have to use villains’ tactics to get anything done. That’s an interesting idea, and I’m sure things will only decay further as the series goes on.

Ultimately, the series seems to be about heroes struggling to remain heroes in a world that’s losing all sense of morality. If evil’s won, how can we fight back? The residents of Apokolips are lodging themselves in heroes, seeding themselves through time so they can destroy the heroes at critical moments in the timeline. They’re like evil versions of John a Dreams, taking control of people at moments they know will be critical to the timestream, but instead of fighting for something good, they’re trying to undermine the heroes’ cause. How can you fight evil gods who have power beyond anything we can comprehend? That’s the big question of the series.

Even on the villain side of things, there’s a divide between Lex and Libra. Libra has wholly bought into whatever Darkseid offered him, he is glad to take advantage of his new power and destroy the heroes. Lex is not as certain, he senses that something’s wrong and lays the groundwork for his own resistance. I’m reminded of the parallel universe Luthor in JLA: Earth 2, maybe Luthor will always fight against the natural order of the universe? Lex in All Star Superman loves to be contradictory, so this Luthor might be just as eager to fight for good in a world gone bad and he was to fight for evil in a good world.

As for the big return at the end of the issue, it doesn’t mean much for me. If I hadn’t heard that the old Flash was coming back, I’d have just assumed it was the same guy who already here, since they look exactly the same. But, I do like the idea of a bullet fired backwards in time, it’s one of those inherently mind bending concepts Morrison does so well.

So, I really enjoyed this issue. More than the previous Crises, this feels very character focused. There’s a lot of stories going on, but it’s not just random action, all the pieces seem to be there for a reason, and I’m eager to see how it all comes together near the end. It’s such a big story, I don’t know how it’ll all fit in five more issues. But, I’m sure Morrison will make it work.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Doctor Who: 'The Stolen Earth' (4x12)

This episode was almost too much to absorb on a single viewing. Darting across the Whoniverse, Davies includes virtually every major character from all three series for the biggest Who episode so far. The episode felt almost like fan fiction, a delirious person going on about Rose coming back, then Torchwood appearing, and Sarah Jane and the Daleks, and the Daleks destroy the world, and everyone’s working together to fight back. I would compare watching the episode to eating a whole bunch of candy, it just so shamelessly gives the viewer what they want to see, I kind of felt like I shouldn’t be watching it, like I needed to mix some vegetables in with the sweets. But, there’s no vegetables here, it’s everything you could have imagined and more, an unprecedented huge crossover.

Even though I don’t like either Sarah Jane or Torchwood as much as the parent show, it was awesome to see those characters, and their little worlds, brought into the action here. If the characters constantly are facing these Earth shaking conflicts, it would make sense that they’d work together. Besides the coolness of getting to see those characters, it also raises the stake for the story. If everybody’s involved, and everybody is so worried, clearly this is something major they’re facing. I think Davies did a great job of giving all the spinoff characters some nice moments without letting them overwhelm the narrative.

The gradual assembling of the troops provided the major action for the first half of the episode. A hightlight scene here was Martha putting on the Project Indigo vest and Jack revealing that it blasts her into the atoms. It’s a throwaway line, but really imaginative and conceptually interesting. It’s the kind of thing you’d hear someone say in a Grant Morrison comic.

But, the best scene has to be Wilf, Donna’s grandfather, attacking a Dalek with his paint gun. He’s so brilliant, not giving up even in the face of so much opposition. The Daleks are as menacing as they’ve been since “Parting of the Ways,” this infection flooding into the world and destroying it. Luckily, Wilf is saved by Rose and her big gun. Rose spends the entire episode trying to get back into the action, and finally get back to the Doctor.

The four way video conference sequence was very effective, particularly the surprise return of Harriet Jones, former prime minister. She kicks off the formation of the Doctor’s time army, the group that’s destined to battle Davros and his army of Daleks. Jones signs off in this episode, but she goes out strong. The trailer for this episode spoiled most of the guest stars, but she was a surprise.

Speaking of guest stars, there’s two major people missing from this episode. One is Mickey and the other is The Master. I’m not expecting to see the Master next episode, it’d be cool, and this regeneration opens up the potential for him to return somehow, but it wouldn’t make much narrative sense for him to come back, and the last thing this story needs is another extraneous plotline. However, Mickey’s got to be coming back, right? I’m hoping he’s the ‘command center’ or whatever it is that beams Rose up when she leaves the Nobles.

If I have one complaint about the episode, it’s that we don’t get much time with the Doctor and Donna. The dynamic between the two of them has made this season great, and they’re on the sidelines for most of this one. I think that was necessary, to make room for all the other supporting players, but I hope that they’ll be back at the center next week. Big questions remain about the future of those two. The insane Dalek Kahn tells us that the Doctor’s most faithful companion will die. All series, we’ve been set up for Donna’s death, is this inevitable? I feel like they might do a twist and wind up killing Rose instead, but that would just be cruel after already denying us the reunion of the Doctor and Rose.

But, there was some interesting stuff with the two of them. Donna remains uncertain about her destiny, does she still have the bug on her back? Why is she hearing drums? There’s been so much buildup for Donna’s destiny over the past few episodes, I’m really curious to see how it plays out. If the Doctor is knocked out of commission by his regeneration, she may have to take over as field leader. “Turn Left” was as much about Donna’s importance to the universe as it was about the Doctor’s. Can she alone prevent the world from plunging into darkness?

I’d never seen Davros before, but he seems like a significantly evil foe for the Doctor to battle. He reminds me a lot of the Emperor from Star Wars, particularly with how he shows up at the end of the whole saga, and still has the gravitas to pull off his role as villain. The fact that he was saved from the Time War opens up some interesting possibilities. It would be fitting to Davies to end his tenure by going back to the Time War and saving the time lords, opening up some new storytelling possibilities for the next era of the show.

There was a lot in the episode, but as it ended, I was only thinking about one thing, the absolutely insane cliffhanger they dropped in the final moments. The more the Doctor and Rose ran towards each other, the more nervous I became, and the sudden appearance of a Dalek cut short their reunion in true Joss Whedon fashion. Happiness must be punished, and this was a pretty brutal punishment.

And, they top everything when he starts to regenerate. Is this the end for David Tennant’s Doctor? Who will he regenerate into? What does it mean that he’s the “Threefold Man”? This is the best cliffhanger of the series to date.

I absolutely loved the episode. This entire series has been fantastic, but everything since “Silence in the Library” has been on a new level of greatness. Things are so epic, so over the top and exciting, with every emotion and action taken as far as possible. That seems to bother some people, and it really surprises me that people are criticizing an episode as great as this, but if you go in looking to hate something, you’ll be able to easily. I love the craziness, and I think Davies is guiding things to a great conclusion. The show really does make me feel like a kid again, this is how movies used to feel to me, these massive action spectacles that shake the whole world. It’s how Star Wars feels, and it’s how this episode feels. It taps into something deep in my subconscious, and just cuts straight to the core of my emotion. At its best, nothing hits me like Who does. And, this is Who at its best.

Doctor Who: 'Crossing Midnight' & 'Left Turn' (4x10/4x11)

After watching the brilliant “Forest of the Dead,” I decided the time was right for a binge watch of the other Who episodes that have aired. The show keeps going strong with one well done standalone and a flawed, but emotionally potent sprawling alternate universe. If nothing else, I’m totally psyched for a finale that looks like the definition of everything plus the kitchen sink. Russell Davis is bringing back basically everything that’s been in the show the past four years and tying it all into this one huge story. As such, ‘Turn Left’ functions largely as prelude, but there’s still moments in it that are totally heartbreaking.

I don’t have too much to say about ‘Crossing Midnight.’ After the epic brilliance of ‘Forest,’ I wasn’t too keen on what looked like a pretty formulaic standalone. But, as the episode went on, the light touch turned dark and we get some generally unnerving moments with the repeating demon. More than usual for a standalone episode, the Doctor got into real trouble. First, he was turned on by the other passengers, then he almost got spaced by the demon. The episode showed how necessary his companion is, without her, he just looks like a crazy guy. He needs that other person there to vouch for him.

But, sandwiched between two huge episodes, ‘Midnight’ can’t help but feel like a minor piece. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that, it’s an effective story, and I’m sure the budget saved on the episode will be well spent on the season finale.

‘Turn Left’ is a different matter all together. It’s a huge episode, that has at least some kind of tie back to virtually every episode since Donna’s first appearance, as well as our first shout outs to the other shows in the Whoniverse, all in the service of showing how central Donna has been to the Doctor’s life. I’m not sure if this arc was entirely mapped out when the season began, but if you told me before the season began that the big setup for the climax would hinge on the idea that Donna Noble was the most important person in the universe, I would have not been particularly enthused. But, as the season has gone on, Catherine Tate and Tennant have worked so well together, I really do feel like Donna is the most significant person in the Doctor’s life, and can buy her as the hinge of the entire universe.

It’s interesting that even though this is the episode we’ve been waiting for for two years, the return of Rose, she’s decidedly a supporting character, and I don’t mind that. In a lot of respects, her whole appearance here is a tease for her return to the regular universe next episode, making us speculate about her inevitable reunion with the Doctor, all the while depriving us of any interaction between them. The focus remains on Donna.

The episode is largely about setting up this idea that Donna has an important destiny, and it is through her relationship with the Doctor that they both can save the world. For a while there, I was thinking that Donna could possibly be another time lord. That’s why they’re drawn together at different times, why their destinies are intertwined. But, the episode doesn’t quite go in that direction. The implication at the end is that Donna is the nexus of travel between parallel universes. That’s why Rose always appears to her, and it’s why she was caught up in both the Mainframe alternate universe and this one. And, if the threat they’re now facing is one that crosses all universes, she would be essential to the fight against it.

The entire awful world we see here is likely a setup for what could happen to the real world should Donna and the Doctor fail in their mission. I did feel it was a bit repetitive to have Donna experience another alternate reality so soon after her trip to the library world. But, I think this one works because it functions primarily as a character building exercise. Donna has to experience what the world would be like if she wasn’t involved with the Doctor to understand how important she really is. Rose seems in awe of her when they first meet, she is working to support Donna and help her reach her destiny.

When I was talking about the first season of the show, I said how there two kind of heroes, ‘chosen ones’ and ones who choose adventure. The ‘chosen one’ narrative is the backbone of so many popular films, from Star Wars to Buffy to Harry Potter, it’s all about this one person who may not want to save the world, but is going to. But, the first season of Doctor Who offered an alternate narrative in Rose’s arc, she’s a girl who chose to become a hero, to abandon her ordinary life by choice and go out to the stars. I find that kind of narrative more relatable. I don’t have any kind of special destiny, I don’t have to run away from being a hero, I’m just going along, and I don’t know what I would do if I was put in a situation where I had to save the world. That’s why I find both Rose’s first season arc, and this year’s Donna arc very relatable.

Donna was living an ordinary, boring life, she wanted more and she went out and got it. But, now that she’s so wrapped up in this life, she’s faced with the burden of having to be the one to save the world. Yet, at the same time, she can’t believe that this is really happening to her. She’s so used to having people tell her she’s incompetent and useless, she can’t believe that her life would have any kind of cosmic significance. I think the episode works best not just as a “Days of Future Past” style awful what if, but also as a journey through Donna’s psyche, as she struggles to come to terms with her own importance, as well as her seemingly inevitable death. The bug on her back, goofy looking though it may be, gave things a weird Cronenbergy vibe. She knows something’s not right, there’s this ickiness under the surface that just shouldn’t be there. You could read the bug as her own self doubt, gnawing at her, always pulling her back. Most people cannot overcome this self doubt, but she does, and her overwhelming of the bug scares the fortune teller. What power does Donna really have, and what is her role in the grand scheme of things? That question still remains.

On the shallowest fan level, I loved the continuity porn of this episode, particularly the references to the spinoff characters. Davies is bringing it all together for the close of his run on the series, and it looks like next episode will be the grand universe spanning crossover we all secretly wanted to see. I always wished that Joss Whedon would do a storyline that really united the Angel and Buffy characters, and had them fighting together against a huge foe. We never saw it, but this three show crossover looks to be everything I could have dreamed of. From a pure story point of view, I’m not clear how they’ll manage to fit everyone into the episode, but from a fan point of view, it’s awesome. I’m guessing they’ll have the big crossover next episode, and then focus primarily on The Doctor, Donna and Rose for the last episode.

The episode reminded me of ‘Last of the Time Lords,’ with its absolutely oppressive feel throughout. Things just keep getting worse, and even though Gramps and Donna try to hold it together, you can see that the Earth is headed in a bad direction. I really like the dynamic in Donna’s family, and I’m dreading her inevitable final good bye to her grandfather. I hope he at least gets one trip up into space before it’s all over. Bernard Cribbins has made him into a fully realized character, who’s just this perfect font of wackiness and love, not unlike the other man in her life.

Two other things really stood out in the episode, one is the score. There were throwbacks to a lot of previous musical themes, and the building music gave everything an even bigger, more apocalyptic feel than usual.

The other standout element was Catherine Tate’s performance. It was pretty much already confirmed, but this episode cemented her as my favorite Who companion. I think she’s stretched the show in really interesting directions, and provided a totally new dynamic for the series’ core. Much as I love many of the individual stories in season three, I think it was retreading the same ground as Rose with the primary dynamic. Martha had her moments, but she never quite distinguished herself, Donna has owned the series from the moment she appeared. Her and the Doctor are equals.

The entire sequence from Donna’s trip to the army base on was amazing. This whole season, we’ve been teased with the idea that she’s going to die. She wants to know why River Song doesn’t remember her, why Rose says she’ll have to die. She may be a hero, but nobody’s ready to die, not after she’s started really living for the first time. When the truck hits her, she wants to believe that this is the death they were talking about, but I don’t think it is. Still, she is willing to make that sacrifice, and I fear she will be called on to sacrifice herself entirely before the series ends.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. No show hits me emotionally like this one does. It’s about our purposes in life, and the wonder in the universe. It’s about trying to be something more than the safe, ordinary path that society gives and adventuring like the Doctor. I think it’s great that this show is such a huge family hit in Britain. I love that a generation of kids is growing up watching this show, I can only imagine the kind of films they’ll go off and make after growing up on this.