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by J.M. Suarez

17 Aug 2017


Rhea Butcher stars in the semi-autobiographical Take My Wife. (IMDB)

When fledgling Comedy network Seeso announced it would be shutting down earlier this week, it was quick to also mention that several series had already found a new home. Noticeably absent was Take My Wife, a semi-autobiographical show chronicling the lives of its co-creators and writers Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher. A married couple, who frequently perform comedy together, their series marked a sharp delineation from the overwhelming amount of content created by and featuring white, straight, cisgender, male voices. That they may no longer have a home for their creative, funny, and critically acclaimed show is unthinkable.

by Craig Owen Jones

21 Jul 2017


Broadchurch actor Jodie Whittaker has been chosen as the Thirteenth Doctor.

The king is dead, long live the king. After three seasons in the role, Peter Capaldi is destined to make his final appearance as the Twelfth Doctor this Christmas, and showrunner Steven Moffat will leave the show at the same time. In the latter’s place is Broadchurch creator and Doctor Who scriptwriter Chris Chibnall, and starring as the Thirteenth Doctor—as we all learned from a minute-long teaser screened after the men’s final at Wimbledon this Sunday—will be Jodie Whittaker. An actor in her mid-30s with some decent small- and big-screen appearances behind her, Whittaker isn’t exactly a household name, but she’s clearly capable, if her credits are anything to go by (Broadchurch, St Trinian’s), and certainly outstrips, say, Matt Smith in terms of her previous experience.

From a certain perspective—that of some alien thespian newly landed on Earth; let’s say in the London area for the sake of argument, in Perivale perhaps, or Pease Pottage—one could well conclude that there’s nothing to write home about in any of the above. In long-running franchises, leading actors as well as showrunners have to change some time. Capaldi had his shot at the role—and has done very well, by most accounts—while Moffat’s contribution to the show will be debated for years to come.

Yet, like dinosaurs on spaceships, elephants in rooms are hard to ignore, especially in the Whoniverse. Social media went into meltdown in the minutes and hours after the announcement, and the amount of negative reaction to Whittaker’s introduction was surprising. At the time of writing, the BBC’s official YouTube video of the trailer had approximately 55,000 likes, and a massive 34,000 dislikes. The right-wing tabloid press were quick to weigh in with stories of the “another sacred cow slaughtered” variety that offered broadsides of the so-called “PC brigade” while extolling the “traditional” male Doctor, while others commented on the loss of a prominent moral and non-violent role model for boys. Comment on Twitter and elsewhere ranged from the predictable “they’ve ruined the show”, to attacks on Whittaker and women in general that would put the most hardened misanthrope to shame.

Fans do not like to admit it, but Doctor Who has been guilty of reflecting the misogyny of British society since its inception, typically through the positioning of the Doctor’s female companions. In the ‘60s, characters such as Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) and Vicki (Maureen O’Brien) were often reduced to making cups of tea or holing up in the TARDIS or somewhere else “safe”—when they weren’t screaming, getting captured, and being rescued, that is—while the male leads such as Ian (William Russell) or Jamie (Fraser Hines) stayed with the Doctor and got in on the action. Attempts to cast companions in other than “screamer” role began in earnest in the ‘70s, but characters such as UNIT scientist Liz Shaw (Caroline John) were quickly dispensed with, and Elisabeth Sladen’s portrayal of Sarah Jane Smith, the feminist investigative journalist that accompanied the Third (Jon Pertwee) and Fourth (Tom Baker) Doctors in the middle of the decade was rendered problematic by an underwritten part—Sladen later recalled improvising most of the character notes herself—and occasional tendencies to “screamer” mode.

Even post-2005 companions have been hobbled by a lack of agency: Rose (Billie Pier), Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman), and Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) all fall for the Doctor, and therefore essentially act as love interests, their own skills and other roles notwithstanding.

All the same, the year is 2017, and the outrage in some circles at Whittaker’s casting is hard to fathom. Even allowing for the fact that the idea of a female Doctor has been around since as early as 1980 (the result of a jape by outgoing Doctor Tom Baker, subsequently exploited by publicity-savvy producer John Nathan-Turner), the zeitgeist has been pointing Doctor Who in this direction for some time now, with the roaring success of this year’s Wonder Woman reboot merely the latest in a string of prominent female heroes to hit the big screen.

The Star Wars franchise received a welcome fillip in 2015 with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, starring Daisy Ridley in the lead role as Jedi knight-in-waiting Rey. Michelle Yeoh first came to the attention of Western cinemagoers as that rarity—a Bond girl included as something other than as a sex object—in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), where she played a secret agent, while critical acclaim followed her incomparable performance in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) as the sword-wielding Yu Shu Lien; this autumn she’ll appear in a starring role in Star Trek: Discovery as a captain of a Starfleet vessel. Isn’t it about time Doctor Who followed suit?

Male viewers incensed at the prospect of a female Doctor would do well to put themselves in the shoes of young female science fiction and fantasy fans, who have for decades been placed in the peculiar position of having to role play as a male character when acting out their favourite films and TV programmes. Now they can save the world—indeed, the universe—without having to perform that mental sleight-of-hand; they’ll surely benefit from receiving the message, week in, week out, that women are not there to go gooey-eyed over the nearest heartthrob or merely to help out while the boys get to do all the exciting stuff.

Meanwhile, the argument that casting a female Doctor robs boys of a role model insults boys everywhere, as though they were incapable of pulling the same trick and imagining themselves occupying the role of a female character in this or that adventure. (The only comic I ever read as a teenager—the only one worth reading, or so I arrogantly thought—was Tank Girl.) As for those worrying about “tradition” and continuity, it should be remembered that a female Time Lord was first seen on our screens back in 1979 in the guise of Romana (Mary Tamm, Lalla Ward), and that the Doctor’s archenemy, the Master, has spent the last couple of seasons popping in and out of the Doctor’s adventures in the guise of Michelle Gomez as Missy.

All else aside, a female Doctor will do good, both for the show (ratings have fallen of late) and more generally. At this febrile moment in our history, when a retrenchment of women’s rights is underway across much of the globe, strong female voices in the prominent stories and sagas of our times are more important than ever.

None of this means that Whittaker’s portrayal of the Doctor should be impervious to scrutiny. But let that scrutiny take as its starting point the only thing that matters: whether she does the role justice. If Chris Chibnall can deliver the scripts, I believe she will. As the Doctor him—or her—self once said, “It’s not the time that matters—it’s the person.”

by Jessy Krupa

22 May 2017


Mary Winchester

“Dean, monsters and demons don’t team up. Seven hunters are gone. We can’t grab a signal from Mom’s phone. Cass has Kelly Kline who knows where. Mick has slipped off the grid. Ketch is lying to us. I, I… I wanna punch something in the face.”
—Sam Winchester (Jared Padalecki) in “There’s Something About Mary”

This week’s episode of The CW’s Supernatural is one of those type of episodes. How do you feel about Eileen’s (Shoshannah Stern) death? She was ripped apart by Mr. Ketch (David Haydn-Jones)‘s pet hellhound, which is admittedly ridiculous, but at least different. (Apparently, Crowley (Mark Sheppard) has some sort of deal going on with the British Men Of Letters.)

by Jessy Krupa

3 May 2017

Kelly protects her (possibly) evil baby
.

“I used to believe in a plan. I used to believe that I had some mission. But I have been through enough now to know that everyone is just winging it. Some of us quite badly.”—Castiel, “The Future”

Is Supernatural “just winging it”? Obviously, there’s a plan in place, with season 12’s two major plots (the impending birth of Lucifer’s son and the British Men of Letters’ plans to destroy all of America’s hunters) slowly coming to a resolution, but this week’s episode contained so many plot-holes, illogical character behavior, and just plain weirdness that it seemed slapped together at the last minute. Yet, it was still watchable, contained a few surprises, and certainly kept me interested in seeing just how the rest of the season will pan out.

by Jessy Krupa

21 Apr 2017


Dean and Sam interview the local stoner

“Next time you hear me say that our family is messed up, remind me that we could be psycho goat people”.—Dean Winchester, “The Memory Remains”

One of my favorite episodes of Supernatural is season one’s “Scarecrow”, in which the Winchesters discover that an entire small town conspires to offer up unsuspecting visitors as a sacrifice to an orchard-blessing pagan god. The episode stands as a good example of an excellent stand-alone episode, not only because of the interesting twist on the sometime-hypocrisy of “good, old-fashioned small-town values”, but also because of the uniqueness of its monster-of-the-week: an eerily tall, reaper-like creature masquerading as a Gothic scarecrow. Not to mention that it featured one of Dean’s (Jensen Ackles) best lines, “I hope your apple pie is freakin’ worth it!”

It may just be me, but this week’s episode seemed to have a lot in common with that season one classic. “The Memory Remains” was also set in a small town, and concerned the mysterious disappearances of various visitors and townspeople over a long period of time. Like “Scarecrow”, the culprit ended up being a pagan god who promised wealth and economic success to those who supported his taste for blood. Not to mention, Dean mostly played the same role: he befriended a local girl, enjoyed the food, and supplied the comic relief. However, one could easily argue that all horror movies and TV shows are comprised of old ideas, just as “Scarecrow” shared some similarities with the Jeepers Creepers series of movies. Still, there were enough differences in this episode to set it apart.

In “The Memory Remains”, the pagan god seemed to take the form of a man with a goat’s head. The locals have heard about this legendary “Black Bill”, but mostly believe him to be an ominous myth parents told their children to keep them out of the woods. After a local stoner (Daniel Doheny) reports that he saw his missing best friend (Antonio Maryiale) ripped apart by this beast, the Winchesters are sent in to investigate.

Want to see the difference between seasons one and 12? Back in season one, Dean just shared some awkward chemistry with a local girl. This time, it’s deliberately implied that he spent the night with a waitress (Aliesha Pearson) whose name is only mentioned once. While Dean still loves the local food (even after visiting a bloodied meat-butchering plant), he’s now grown overconfident in his ability to destroy a pagan god, thanks to the Colt in his coat.

In season one, there was no doubt as to the identity of the main villains; they were the first couple whom the Winchesters’ met in town. This time, we wondered if the creature’s helper was the town’s seemingly lax sheriff (Steve Boyle), before we discovered that it was actually his class-envying half-brother (Ryan McDonald), who was previously introduced in the episode in another role.

In what has become a common complaint among Dean fans, however, it was actually Sam (Jared Padalecki) who saved the day by shooting the monster(s) while his brother was incapacitated. (In “Scarecrow”, Sam also saves the day by untying his brother from a tree.) All in all, “The Memory Remains” is one of season twelve’s better stand-alone episodes, but it still doesn’t hold a candle to “Scarecrow”.

In other news, Mr. Ketch had been texting the Winchesters in Mick Davies’ name, before telling them the events of last week’s episode made the organization request his presence in London. What’s more, he says that he’ll be working with them from now on, before adding, “I’d much rather be working with your mother”, a line that has resonances beyond the brother’s knowledge.

While Sam and Dean were in Wisconsin, Ketch and his minions searched, photographed, and cataloged everything in the Winchesters’ bunker, including Dean’s dirty magazines and cassette tape collection. (Life isn’t so glamorous for every member of the British Men of Letters, I guess.) He orders them to plant (horribly oversized) listening devices throughout the place, but is compelled to steal a childhood photo of Dean with his mother. Is it because he’s suspicious of the fact that she hasn’t aged in more than 20 years, because he’s obsessively in love with her, or a little bit of both?

Dean also has left multiple voice-mails for Castiel (Misha Collins), but hasn’t received any response. Shouldn’t the Winchesters already know by now that when someone they know doesn’t answer their phone, it’s time to organize a rescue mission? Regardless, we’ll have to wait until the next episode to see what Cass has been up to, for in the next episode, he returns to help the Winchesters in their fight against Dagon (Ali Ahn).

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