And your 12th Doctor is…

So this past Sunday, the BBC announced in a half-hour special broadcast worldwide the long-awaited identity of the Twelfth Doctor in this, Doctor Who‘s 50th Anniversary. Much speculation had abounded, and my friend was hoping that famed actor Chiwetel Eijofer would be announced. But the big role turned out to go to…

New Who: Peter Capaldi

…veteran Scottish actor Peter Capaldi. All that public wishing for a minority or female Doctor seems to have come to naught. But I digress.

Anyway, now that the dust has settled, I’m excited for two reasons: 1. Capaldi is largely considered a good actor; he is, of course, most famous as the curse-happy PR doctor Malcolm Tucker in the British sitcom The Thick Of It which is, available entirely for free on Hulu (and which I really should start watching) but he’s done a really impressive amount of work. As Sunday’s special noted, he’s even guest-starred on Who once before in “The Fires of Pompeii” as Caecilius; I recently rewatched that episode and found his performance quite good.

Number Two: This may sound silly, but the fact that he’s old is a good thing. We’ve needed an older Doctor for a while and now that we have one, I am very excited indeed. An older Doctor could finally force the show’s writers to adopt another tack besides people constantly falling for the Doctor. We need to get back to the tone of Season 4 and just have the Doctor and his companion having adventures and having fun. Yeah, romantic arcs are nice, but I’m getting tired of the Doctor being involved in it. (Also, maybe showrunner Steven Moffat will cut down on Alex Kingston’s River Song showing up all the time, while I’m wishing.)

So yeah, color me excited to see what Capaldi does come Christmas (the annual Christmas special is where the Doctor will regenerate). Matt Smith has had a good run but hopefully, Capaldi can make his own mark. See you in the timestream, my fellow Whovians!

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Star Trek Saturdays #27

It’s time for Star Trek Saturdays #27!

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This week’s episode is “Errand of Mercy” and it introduces the Klingons, the number one enemy of Starfleet, in a story that’s exciting and innovative while also having some interesting possible allegory thrown in.

We open with the crew learning that negotiations with the Klingon Empire are on the verge of collapse. This comes as the Enterprise is heading to Organia, a peaceful planet in the area of space currently under dispute, to warn the natives about the Klingons. They encounter a Bird-Of-Prey, but destroy it easily. Uhura then receives a message labeled, “Code One,” meaning war has been declared on the Klingons.

Arriving at the planet, Kirk and Spock beam down, with Kirk putting Sulu in charge, telling him to get out and join up with a nearby fleet of starships, as his duty to Starfleet is more important than his duty to them. They materialize in a rural village setting and meet Ayelborne (John Abbott) who says that while there is no official ruler of Organia, he is temporary chairman of the Council of Elders and that he will listen to them.

Kirk lays out their case and explains that the Federation is willing to provide protection for them against the Klingons, but Ayelborne and the others tell him that they have no need of his help. While they withdraw to further discuss his offer, Spock tells Kirk that, according to his tricorder, Organian civilization and culture have been stagnant for thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years.

The Council returns and tells Kirk that no, they really don’t need any help. Suddenly, Council member Trefayne (David Hillary Hughes) declares that there’re eight ships approaching the planet filled with many men carrying many weapons. Spock confirms it with his tricorder and Kirk orders the Enterprise to depart orbit immediately.

The Council disguises Kirk as one of them and Spock as a Vulcan merchant using some native clothing, and the double doors of the Council room to reveal the head of the Klingon army, Kor (John Colicos).

And will Kor see through Kirk and Spock’s disguises? And how did Trefayne know the Klingons were coming…?

This is a terrific episode and a great introduction to the alien race most associated with Trek, the Klingons. According to Trek story editor D.C. Fontana, the Klingons weren’t intended to be a recurring nemesis but were made so because, unlike the Romulans, no elaborate makeup was needed. Of course, if you’re familiar with how later Klingons look, this seems an odd statement.

But originally, the Klingons were meant to invoke the Mongols, and Colicos himself suggested that Kor look like Genghis Khan (the resulting look is potentially racist in a way but this ain’t the place to discuss that). The show ran with it and the rest is history. Really, though, the appearance is purely secondary; Kor and the others are Klingons through and through, with Kor every bit as battle-hungry and conniving as later Klingons were. He is however slightly different which I’ll get to in a bit.

Here, we have an episode that takes the usual dynamic–Kirk, Spock and others get seperated from the Enterprise–and changes it up, stranding only Kirk and Spock. This gives us remarkable insight into the camraderie the two men have and show just how much they depend on each other. We also get some really funny exchanges between the two, like here when they debate the odds of their escaping Klingon captivity:

“What would you say the odds on our getting out of here?”
“Difficult to be precise, Captain. I should say approximately 7,824.7 to one.”
“Difficult to be precise?”

In a way, the situation here is also a heightened one of the one in “The Galileo Seven,” although instead of just Spock in jeopardy, the Enterprise‘s two most important officers are in danger. I suppose there is some Cold War allegory to be had in how both the Federation and the Klingons are desperate to sway a neutral planet to their respective sides, but for the like of me, I couldn’t suss it out.

Beyond that, Gene L. Coon gives us once again a stellar script that proves he really gets this characters and this concept, offering up a fantastic pulpy adventure while also giving us a lot to think about. The director here is  John Newland and while he’s no Joseph Pevney, he does a fine job, giving us the right camera shots we need to keep abreast of the situation, except for one weird fish-eye close-up of Kor.

The cast is hands-down terrific. Shatner and Nimoy are at their finest proving just how much Kirk and Spock can bounce off of one another. As Kor, John Calicos is terrific; this is in part because he embodies something I haven’t really seen in any other Klingon actors: an element of sleaziness. Even the scheming Gawron in TNG was still very much a standard, blood-thirsty Klingon; Kor, by contrast, is malevolent and somewhat maniacal. Calico’s bearing delivery put me in mind of the famed actor Jose Ferrer, who had a similar way of taking a villain and really making you believe in their villainy.

Speaking of Klingons, before we go, I should quickly pay tribute to Michael Ansara, who died this past Friday. A working character actor, Ansara played the legendary Klingon Kang in the original Trek, as well as Deep Space Nine and Voyager. While I haven’t seen any of his appearances yet, I look forward to them. Ansara is best known to me and many other nerds of my generation as Mr. Freeze on Batman: The Animated Series; it was that show that famously rewrote Freeze from a joke into a tragic villain and Ansara’s somber, distant vocals helped nail that beautifully. He will be missed.

Thanks to Memory Alpha, the official Star Trek wiki for the pics and episode information, as well as Amazon Instant for hosting the show. We’ll see you next Saturday and until then, live long and prosper.

Batman ’66 #1

For my generation, the formative superhero show was Batman: The Animated Series. That show was a milestone, perfectly cementing popular culture’s vision of Batman as a lone wolf, prowling in the night against the darkness. But for my parents and every other Baby Boomer, theirs was different. Theirs did things like the Batusi and once took on the Joker in a surfing contest.

Yes, the Adam West Batman was every bit as popular in his day as Kevin Conroy’s Batman was in his. For a while there, Batmania was a full-blown thing, even inspiring the creation of the long-rumored, but recently uncovered Bat-Manga.

But ever since 1989 when the first Batman movie came out, the Adam West version has fallen out of favor, being reflexively written off by both fanboys and the public at large as campy, geeky and lame.

Of course, the camp part is true: that was the whole reason the show was originally produced, after all, as a tongue-in-cheek pop art camp riff, so adults could watch this show and laugh at it. That’s all well and good. But kids, on the other hand, took it very seriously and for a great many, I suspect the show was either an introduction or a gateway back into the Batman comics themselves, a lot of which had the same over-the-top tone as the TV show.

Even though this interpretation has fallen out of favor with the public, the show is constantly around in reruns. But any sort of home video release has been impossible, as the rights are split three ways between ABC (which originally aired the show), 20th Century Fox Television (which made the show) and DC Comics (who have worked pretty much since the ’70s to make Batman dark and don’t want that upended).

But recently, the licensing rights finally got worked out, so not only are we getting collector’s toys based on the series later this year, we’ve also got Batman ’66, a new weekly digital comic–with 3 chapters released in print every month–from writer Jeff Parker and assorted artists. I picked up my copy today and man, I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun reading comics!

The story involves the Riddler interrupting a ceremony honoring the police department and stealing the famed Lady Gotham sculpture in the hopes of unlocking the mystery left behind by its sculptor. Batman and Robin have to figure out the Riddler’s riddles and team up with Catwoman in order to stop him.

I haven’t seen an episode of the show itself in a while, but this comic matches it perfectly. While I haven’t read all of Jeff Parker’s superhero writing–he’s done quite a bit for Marvel–I DID read his wonderfully funny, twisted and enjoyable (now concluded) webcomic Bucko and he uses the same skills here. His characterization is in sync with the show–complete with portentious narration and bombastic dialogue that’s very funny if you read it in an Adam West voice–and the rungs he puts our heroes through are pretty ingeniously paced.

The artwork for this issue is by Jonathan Case; I’ve never seen his stuff before, but it’s pretty damn great here. His pencils are very clean and dynamic, always making sure who the reader’s eye has to be drawn to at any given moment. His colors are very Day-Glo and while they look a little showy in print, they help immerse the reader in the overall feel of the book. In the digital versions, apparently, his artwork is actually layered through a process called “DC 2” that builds the page up, bit by bit (as in speed lines after a character running, things like that). It sounds like a neat idea, and I might buy the digital versions at some point to see how it works, but for now, I’m content with this.

So yeah, if you don’t like anything but the Christopher Nolan Batman, you’re gonna hate this. But if you’re like me and think it’s OK for the Dark Knight to lighten up and dance his Bat-heart out every once in a while, then you’re gonna enjoy yourselves.