Friday, September 5, 2014

What I Am Watching: The Last Ship, True Blood, Doctor Who

One has just started, one has just ended and the other is moved just beyond its premise.

Doctor Who, season eight, the Peter Capaldi years, are just beginning. The young guys Matt Smith & David Tenant are behind us and someone older than me is putting the coat on. And already they deal with the weird relationship the Doctor has with his companion, whether its romantic or just friend-zoned. Does Clara have a crush on him? Can she deal with the new face? What about him and how does he deal with new old & wrinkled guy? This first episode, which tosses a giant dinosaur in Victorian London along with the return of Pasternoster Gang. The second episode, which picks up the Dalek storyline and the Doctor's murderous relationship with them.

This season is going to be more about the inner turmoil that is the Doctor. "Am I a good man?" is what he is asking. Has any season other than the first of this new era ever not been about the Doctor looking inward? He has guilt over the loss of his homeworld, he has pangs of regret over his genocidal wars against the Daleks and the Cybermen, he has anguish about what he subjects his companions too. But he so very rarely ever, truly deals with it. He is still running, as he has been for hundreds of years. So, how will we present this season and his inner troubles? His intentions are always to Do Right but his actions often involve massive amounts of destruction and death, on both sides.

Clara is out by mid-season end, which is actually rather appropriate. We found out why she is the Impossible Girl which leaves her just another mid-twenties girl romping about for a bit of time travel fun. I guess after he develops more of what their relationship will be, she will be off to have a real life. I never got that; if you can leave and return pretty much always at the same time you left, you can always continue on as per normal. Yes, even with his mess ups. The only thing you end up having to deal with is all the horrible things you experience, but the companions always seem rather immune to that. Clara is my favourite of the companions, but really its about those dimples and that smile, not whether she plays a good companion.

As for Capaldi, I am still on the fence. I like the actor but I am not sure I like his Doctor. In only two episodes we are establishing his lack of empathy, but that may just be post-regeneration trauma. I doubt it. I think this guy is going to be cold, detached, uncaring. And that is what is going to drive Clara away, as she gives up being his emotion attachment. But do we need a Dark Doctor? Considering his timeline in the Line of Doctors, I suppose it is appropriate.

With Capaldi beginning his reign, Vampire Bill ends his. Well, technically, he hasn't been reigning over anything since the end of last season on True Blood. Godlike Vampire Bill has gone back to being plain ol' Bill Compton. Super Fairy Vampire Warlow was drained to temporarily give a bunch of vampires sun immunity but that soon faded and Bon Temps (and the world) was left with the legacy of HepV, a virus that kills the vamps but not before they go mad with blood lust, even more so than usual.

Knowing this is the final season, all the stops are out. This is balls to the walls, off the rails, <insert third catch phrase> story telling. We have two things to truly deal with -- HepV and the primary storyline of Bill & Sookie. Nothing ends a series better than a full circle turn as Bill and Sookie kind of make up, well, as soon as they forget about Werewolf Alcide dying an ignoble death from a bullet. People come and go in this town, often in horrible ways, which everyone just reacts to by getting drunk at the local watering hole, Merlotte's now Bellefleur's. We even get a slight commentary on that from Sam Merlotte's wife who freaks out on everyone and demands her & Sam leave. They do.

The season does some cleaning up. Tara and her mother reconcile, post mortem via vampire blood induced shared hallucinations. Lala meets the boy of his dreams, Jessica's rocker boytoy. Hoyt returns to remember forgetting about Jessica. Jason's dominatrix girlfriend freaks out and has to be put down. Nobody really liked her anyway. Viking Sex God Eric and Pam find Sarah Newlin who turns out to be the cure to HepV and they have some tussles with the Japanese manufacturers of Tru Blood. Jason has a sexy dream about Eric, which is never mentioned again, but I imagine fueled a lot of fanfic. So much happens but really it is circling around Vampire Bill and his final days, infected by a super strain of HepV, contracted from Sookie.

Bill wants to die. He has had enough of pain and anger and violence and ill fated love. Its his time to end so he can go back to his original family whom he still misses. Screw Sookie and her need to have an ill-fated lover. There are hints that maybe, just maybe, Sookie's super strain might make Bill human again and give us a Happy Ever After, but no, we end the series with Bill convincing her that her only happiness can be from being away from all these vampires, even ignoring the fact that werewolves, fairy-vamps and other such folk haven't helped much either. But she succumbs to his desire and SPLOOSH, no more Vampire Bill. Fade into.... ludicrous ending scene of everyone with kids and happy and la tee dah, Sookie and an anonymous bearded human baby daddy. Not a graceful ending to a roller coaster of a series.

And then we have the very sobre, very stable, rah rah America (!) show called The Last Ship.  It is post-apocalypse, post world ending plague, with a lone american battleship cruising the waters trying to find / develop a cure for said plague. Yes, they actually have a credible scientist on board and yes, they are aware there is not much of a world left to save, especially not much of a US of A. But they are focused, dedicated and disciplined in doing what needs to be done. Its actually rather admirable despite the Michael Bay-isms of choral music over melodrama. Yes, really Michael Bay, as one of the executive producers.

But surprisingly, I am rather enjoying it - a lot!!  Its not quite a small story, but it has such a laser focus on what it wants to accomplish. Of course, they deal quickly with the crew's desire to leave the ship and find out if their families are alive. They quickly establish why they exist, as a crew with a sole focus. Of course, many acknowledge that there isn't really an America left to be defending. Of course, there is an adversary. And of course, they are running out of supplies & fuel. But the first couple of episodes deal with that so we can focus on curing the plague.

And, by the end of the first season, we are done with that. Wow. They actually found a cure; not just a vaccine but a cure. Even the scientist seems surprised over that. So, they return to the US, to find a facility capable of mass producing, and find... what's left of the US in turmoil. New Leaders, corrupt leaders, rebel leaders, sealed New Best Race people, etc. All the dystopia you would want. Its actually a rather brilliant way to play out the new world, instead of just constantly having the Cure storyline fail time after time. And it has me in its grasp.

I don't usually pay attention to acting in a TV series, as it rarely does anything impress me. But in a focus on four main characters, you get so much range.  Eric Dane is Commander Tom Chandler, is direct, focused, lacking emotion (while boiling inside) and the moral compass the ship needs. Adam Baldwin is his XO, your typical rah-rah American soldier, pretty reflective of Adam himself, but falls under the charismatic leadership of his captain. Rhona Mitra is the civilian CDC scientist, arrogant, assured but terrified at the responsibility on her shoulders. And then there is odd man out, John Pyper-Ferguson, the proto-Canadian actor playing Tex, an American "contractor" whom they pick up in Guantanamo Bay. He is brash, cheerful (where none should exist) and utterly, cutely crushing on Mitra.

I am looking forward to see if they can spin the show into a couple of seasons before they inevitably lose steam. Post-apocalypse, with an agenda, is hard to maintain once that agenda is dispersed. They will have to be pretty creative to keep the audience.