Jessica Jones AKA Great TV

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Like its predecessor Daredevil, Jessica Jones is an excellent, dark, grounded and captivating TV show. Jessica Jones is Marvel Television and Netflix’s second TV show set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and follows the story of the title character (well played by Krysten Ritter) as she goes about her life as a super-powered private investigator.

jess and walkerTake note this isn’t a superhero TV show but a psychological crime drama. Don’t let that keep you from watching it because it’s not your typical crime show. There aren’t any boring procedurals in Jessica Jones, just great character studies and mature themes. As the focus of the show, Jessica Jones keeps you glued to her issues. After she received low-level super strength, she kind of wondered what to do with her life and was talked into trying to become a superhero by her best friend Tricia Walker (Rachael Taylor), who comic book fans will recognize as the lady who will become Hell-Cat.

Flashbacks show that Jessica had her free will taken over by Kilgrave (David Tennant), known in the comic books as the Purple Man. His superpower is to control people kilgraveand what he does in this show is just terrifying and ghastly. What he makes people do as he lives a hedonistic lifestyle was disturbing and demonstrates that Kilgrave is a more effective villain than most MCU villains who rant about destroying the world. Seriously, Kevin Feige and his gang at Marvel Studios should look at these Netflix shows to see how to do a real supervillain!

Jessica was able to break away from Kilgrave, leaving him for dead, but is very haunted by her experiences where he made her do things against her nature including murder. In the present, she’s got a tough but fragile shell and lives a barebones life in the seedier part of Manhattan. Her investigations lead her to discover that Kilgrave is still alive and stalking her. Early in the series, Jessica makes the decision to confront him with her reluctantly accepting the help of an oddball crew. They include Tricia, bar owner Luke Cage (Mike Colter), and former victims of Kilgrave such as recovering addict Malcolm (Eka Darville) and Simpson (Wil Traval), a policeman sent by Kilgrave to kill Tricia.

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While I think Daredevil was a better show one thing Jessica Jones is superior with is with the supporting cast. Most of the characters are very likeable and all are well performed. People that viewers would disregard at first sight like Malcolm as just a junkie or Simpson as a thuggish cop have many layers to them and once we get to know them they become sympathetic. This layering also makes us hate Kilgrave even more, never mind what he did to Jessica. The show does an excellent job of illustrating a paranoid mood as Jessica has to look over her shoulder at everyone since any person she passes by in New York could be under Kilgrave’s evil influence. Who would’ve thought that a forgettable Daredevil villain in the comics would be so formidable? It just proves that the showrunners hit the mark by getting Tennant to play him. His acting is so good you forget that he was once the loveable Doctor in Doctor Who.

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Aside from its paranoia, the show is very gritty at times with borderline R-rated fare that drips with lots of violence, cursing and sexual innuendo. At times it takes on a pseudo-noir motif as Jessica narrates her observations while she does her work. At times the show feels cliché, especially with all the scenes (it was borderline silly) of her swigging down alcohol, and many panning shots jess and cageof the gritty city that try to emulate Taxi Driver, but it usually works. This world felt real and grounded and largely removed from the MCU, though the presence of superheroes is there. Many of the MCU Easter eggs run the gamut of being so subtle you miss them to being upfront and moving along the fact that this little corner of the MCU has its own inter-connected world. By the way, the show makes great use of Luke Cage, who is well fleshed out as a character in his own right and perfectly set up to headline his own TV show. Can’t wait to see it.

Once again Marvel hits it out of the park with Jessica Jones and prove that when they put their collective minds to it, they can produce memorable TV fare.

T. Rod Jones

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Top 10 Doctor Who Specials

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The modern era of Doctor Who has seen many specials that aren’t part of the regular season or series of episodes, but are just as entertaining. Many of them cover important developments about the Doctor, notably his regenerations. Often, these specials air during Christmas or in between long stretches of seasons. Some of the specials aren’t even aired on TV but are found online as mini webisodes and reveal many interesting aspects of the Doctor. These are the best specials to date.

10. “Voyage Of The Damned” The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) finds himself in an imperiled space-going luxury liner named after the Titanic. Can the Doctor and assorted crewmembers and passengers keep the ship from suffering the same fate as its namesake? Well, he isn’t called the Doctor for nothing!

snowmen9. “The Snowmen” The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) mourning the loss of his Companions lives in self-exile in Victorian London. While he is drawn to an eerie mystery involving sentient snowmen, he encounters a perplexing woman, future Companion Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman), who he keeps running into during his time travels. Coleman shined in her introduction as the spunky Clara.

8. “The End Of Time, Parts One and Two” David Tennant’s swan song as the Doctor was probably a bit overblown and too long. Still, it was memorable for returning the Doctor’s nemesis, the Master (John Simm), who was a pawn in a plot to reignite the Time War. While the Doctor’s demise dragged on, it was nice seeing him bid subtle farewells to his Companions throughout time.

7. “The Waters Of Mars” One thing Doctor Who excels at is putting out genuinely creepy tales. This one, which won the Hugo award, isn’t an exception as the Tenth Doctor aids the first human colonists on Mars infected with an intelligent virus. What was more unsettling was the tragic result of the Doctor trying to change history.

6. “The Christmas Invasion” In his first full outing xmas invasionas the Doctor, David Tennant grabbed the role and ran with it. As he and his Companion Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) struggles to deal with his regeneration, the world comes under an alien invasion on Christmas. While the Doctor is busy getting used to his new body, Rose and her associates must deal with the alien threat on their own.

5. Various Webisodes. These minutes-long stories were often some of the best Doctor Who stories. Whether it was about Paul McGann returning time crashas the Eighth Doctor (“The Night Of The Doctor”) or the Tenth Doctor meeting the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) in a weird time quirk (“Time Crash”)  or Rose’s confused and frightened reaction to the Doctor’s regeneration (“Doctor Who: Children In Need”) these nuggets added to the rich lore of Doctor Who.

4. “The Next Doctor” Before his iconic role as the sadistic Governor in The Walking Dead David Morrissey next doctorexcelled in this special as an alleged future Doctor incarnation. The Tenth Doctor meets him in London in the 1850s and the two team up to stop a Cybermen plot. Morrissey’s exuberant performance as the amnesiac Doctor a.k.a. Jackson Lake left many fans wishing he would be cast as a Doctor sometime in the future. He captured the essence of being a Doctor and his character’s tragic back story was unforgettable.

3. “The Time Of The Doctor” In the most recent special, Matt Smith’s gave a truly heartfelt performance as the Doctor for the last time. The time 3story about the Doctor sacrificing his natural lifespan to stay on a planet and defend a town called Christmas was a bit rushed and should’ve been longer, but the finale just tugs at the heartstrings. Unlike Tennant’s Doctor, this version faces his impending natural death and regeneration with maturity and wisdom. He reminds us that change is part of life and that it’s good as long as you remember your past. A Doctor’s farewell couldn’t be more poignant.

2. “A Christmas Carol” The best Doctor Who special about Christmas is this adaptation of A Christmas Carol. To save his Companions’ live, the Doctor must change the cruel and bitter ways of a Scrooge-like figure (Michael Gambon). The Doctor makes brilliant use of time travel to subtly reform the lost soul throughout his life in this loving tribute to Dickens’ classic. Actually, the story enhanced the classic with a tragic love story that is uplifting at the same time. The special also featured some of the most out-of-the-world imagery, specifically that of a flying great white shark (!) that is eventually used to pull a carriage through snowy skies.

1. “The Day Of The Doctor” This is the all-time best special and not just because it celebrated the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. It had an epic all docsstory as the two Doctors (Tennant and Smith) that won over legions of fans in modern times united to solve a mystery regarding the ominous Time War. Many puzzles were solved as we learned about that war and the mysterious War Doctor (John Hurt), who was just outstanding. What’s more, there were many nods and references to the show’s long and rich history that culminated in the Eleventh (or rather the Thirteenth) Doctor meeting the Curator (Tom Baker, the Fourth and most revered Classic Doctor). For the most part, the special delivered for this special occasion and set a very high standard for such events.

José Soto

Doctor Who Celebrates Its Fiftieth Anniversary

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Doctor Who fans are still aglow over the recent fiftieth anniversary special “The Day Of The Doctor”, and for good reason!  It was inventive, frenetic and most of all it was  downright cool in so many ways. More importantly, “The Day Of The Doctor” was a loving tribute to the fifty-year-old program

Who’s Who?

For anyone who hasn’t watched, Doctor Who is about the adventures of a time-traveling alien called the Doctor, who can go anywhere in time and space. As a Time Lord, he often winds up in some misadventure while defending Earth and is accompanied by a long line of (mostly) human Companions. When the show first aired in the BBC back in 1963, it was more pedestrian than the madcap pace exuberated by hartnellthe modern show. The Doctor was played by William Hartnell, a distinguished older actor who was more cerebral  and sedate than his successors. Doctor Who was always plagued by low budgets and production values, which didn’t help its stature of being a children’s show. Still, it had an unmistakable charm and its youthful audiences loved the show. This happened after the show began steering away from historical dramas and introduced goofy aliens that were played by actors in bargain-basement costumes.

This status stayed with the show for many years and over many incarnations of the Doctor. You see, once Hartnell left the program in 1966, he was ingeniously recast. The Doctor was an alien, so it was established that he could regenerate into another person at the time of his death. Each Doctor that followed him was more and more outrageous in demeanor and attire, probably culminating in Colin Baker’s eye-hurting, multi-colored waist coat and his flamboyantly overbearing behavior.  But this concept allowed each actor to add his own touch to the character, making the Doctor a rather complex person for this kind of show. It was probably why Doctor Who began to catch on past the kids.

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The first significant introduction to American audiences of Doctor Who was the Tom Baker era from 1974 to 1981. His Doctor was distinguished by an overlong, multicolored scarf, and a huge afro. While he was quite daffy, Baker’s Doctor exhibited a cunning, intellectual side that was masked by his eccentric behavior. Still, the show was bogged down with horrible special effects and production values. While the show won many fans, there were just as many who dismissed Doctor Who as kiddie fare.

Eventually, Doctor Who was cancelled in 1989 and the property laid dormant until 1996 when Fox aired a TV movie pilot that attempted to jumpstart the franchise. The film was actually good, but controversial with many longtime fans, who bemoaned the semi-reboot. For instance, the Doctor revealed he was half-human and shockingly enough he had a romantic moment with his Companion. Egad! Sure, it sounds silly but fans can be recalcitrant whenever changes are made. The movie didn’t lead to a series and so the attempt at restarting the franchise was stillborn.

Who’s Back

nine docBut like any good intellectual property, Doctor Who refused to die. Finally in 2005, a brand new series was launched that rejuvenated the stale franchise. Now Doctor Who had updated effects, the characters were dynamic and relatable and the stories were more adult. The ramifications and intricacies of time travel were explored in episodes like “Father’s Day”, “Blink”, and “The Name Of The Doctor”.  Others had outlandish plots best explained by their episode titles–”The Stolen Earth”, “Dinosaurs On A Spaceship” and “Let’s Kill Hitler”. Some others where actually heartfelt like “The Doctor’s Wife” where the Doctor’s spaceship attained a corporeal, sentient form . To its credit, the show still retained its sense of whimsy and charm. Episodes featured many unique images like the Doctor soaring through the air in a carriage pulled by a flying great white shark (!), or him and his Companion riding a motorcycle up a glass tower. For every lighthearted episode, there were those that were quite chilling, adventurous, wondrous, and more importantly, thought provoking.

A very important change made to the modern Doctor Who is that the Doctor is the last of his kind. His race, from the planet Gallifrey, along with their mortal enemies, the Daleks, had died off fighting in a Time War. The Doctor, as played by Christopher Eccleston, was more morose and subdued. It was even reflected in his dark attire. He was clearly suffering from survivor’s guilt and was wracked by what he did in the Time War (it was revealed that he destroyed both races). However, by the end of his run, Eccleston’s Doctor (the Ninth Doctor) seemed to be recovering thanks to the help of his Companions Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) and Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman).

Edgier, More Emotional Doctors

This change into a more optimistic demeanor was fully expressed with the next Doctor brilliantly portrayed by David Tennant. The Tenth Doctor was exploding with youthful energy and charm. He often rambled on at a mile per second and had an impish way about him. One couldn’t help but be delighted by his antics. Yet, the Tenth Doctor once in a while unmasked a haunted and frightful demeanor that was unsettling to watch. This was underlined by Tennant’s ability to convey someone who was much older than he appeared.

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His successor Matt Smith also had this uncanny ability. But, being that he was the youngest person to portray the Doctor, that ancient quality shown in his eyes and mannerisms added to the dichotomy of the Doctor. Now that Peter Capaldi will be the new Doctor come the next Christmas special (“The Time Of The Doctor”), some of his conflicting aspect will be toned down since Capaldi is an older actor.

But what does that mean for Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman)? She will seem more like a daughter next to Capaldi. It’s doubtful there will be any romantic tension a la Rose Tyler, who started falling for the Tenth Doctor once he came into the picture. Perhaps Clara will soon leave the show. However, River Song (Alex Kingston) seems more compatible with Capaldi’s Doctor since the actress is closer in age to him.

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Top 10 Modern Doctor Who Episodes

For us Yanks across the pond the season finale of Doctor Who will air this weekend with “The Wedding of River Song.” That said, let’s look at the ten best episodes from the modern era which started with Christopher Eccleston in 2005 and is running currently with Matt Smith. This list will only include regular episodes, not the Christmas specials and other shows that have popped up over the years.

10. “The Girl in the Fireplace” The Doctor has a brush with romance (aside from the tension between him and Companion Rose Tyler) when he meets Madame de Pompadour via time portals on a derelict spaceship.

9. “The Eleventh Hour” Our first introduction to Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor and Karen Gillan as Amelia “Amy” Pond showed the kismet the two had as partners across time and space.

8. “School Reunion” Old-time companion Sarah Jane Smith (the late Elizabeth Sladen) returns to the Who-verse and it’s a joy to see her holding up quite well; the scenes where she and Rose (Billie Piper) exchange Companion stories were great.

7. “Bad Wolf/The Parting of The Ways” The Ninth Doctor’s swan song is epic without being too overblown and bittersweet while giving us one of the best modern Dalek storylines and radically changes the dynamic of the show.

6. “The Girl Who Waited” This one illustrates the danger of time traveling with the Doctor when Amy enters the wrong door in a planet and winds up trapped for over thirty years waiting for rescue while time passes by normally for her husband Rory (Arthur Darvill) and the Doctor.

5. “Human Nature/The Family of Blood” An amnesiac Doctor hides from predatory aliens out to feed on him by transforming into a human that falls in love; then we are given a glimpse as to how coldly vengeful the Doctor can be when he regains his memories and dispatches them.

4. “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances” When the Ninth Doctor first appeared he was an angry, morose person but here he starts to lighten up in the second part of this creepy World-War-II era episode, which features great visual sights, frights and introduces Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman).

3. “The Doctor’s Wife” This Neil Gaiman-written episode has the TARDIS’ core matrix is transferred by an evil sentient asteroid into Idris (Suranne Jones) an enchanting, attractive woman who is dying. The asteroid transfers its mind into the TARDIS and tortures Amy and Rory as the Doctor and Idris (showing us a rare examination of their relationship) try to recapture the Time Lord’s ship.

2. “Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords” A three-part epic that brings back Jack Harkness from Torchwood and re-introduces the classic Who villain The Master (played first by Derek Jacobi and then with devilish glee by John Simm) who is found literally at the end of time by the Doctor and Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman). Then he is reincarnated into a Tony Blair type of politician who infiltrates modern-day British politics and becomes Prime Minister, instituting a reign of terror.

1. “Blink” Any fan can see that guest star Carey Mulligan’s Sally Sparrow  is a prototype for Amy Pond. She’s pretty, smart, young and quite resourceful when dealing with the best of the new Who villains, the Weeping Angels. They appeared as angelic statues that steal a person’s temporal energy by sending them back in time, which they did to the Doctor and Martha. Trapped in the 1960s, the Doctor communicates to Sally via DVD Easter eggs, and the entire episode is a brilliant use of time travel and genuinely frightening villains. The last few seconds with the Doctor warning viewers not to blink are unforgettable.

José Soto