The Lady from the Black Lagoon

The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent PatrickThe Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick by Mallory O’Meara
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I found this biography of Milicent Patrick to be highly readable, and O’Meara’s authorial voice to be quite charming as she crafts a sympathetic portrait of an artist and designer who was more important to 1950s science fiction filmmaking than people remember. Patrick’s makeup design work can be seen in CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, of course, but also IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE, ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, and THIS ISLAND EARTH, and her animation work can be seen in the “Night on Bald Mountain” segment of Disney’s FANTASIA, which as we all know is the best segment. (She worked on a number of non-genre movies as well, but obviously these are the ones I’m most excited about, as is O’Meara.). Patrick was a groundbreaking professional, a pathfinder whose legacy was nearly squashed by a jealous male department head who took credit for her work and lobbied the studio heads to fire her. O’Meara rights this historical wrong with THE LADY FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, introducing Milicent Patrick to a whole new generation and ensuring that her hard-earned legacy remains intact. Highly recommended!

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Doctor Who: “Fugitive of the Judoon”

***MAJOR, MAJOR, MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD! SERIOUSLY!***

I was so excited after watching this episode that when it was over I immediately took to social media to post the following, with which I’ll start off this review as well: “Fugitive of the Judoon” is the best Doctor Who episode in years. Breathlessly paced, filled with action, suspense, huge surprises, callbacks to the classic series, entertaining and endearing character moments, and a setup for an arc that’s poised to take us through the back half of the season, it’s everything I liked about the Doctor Who revival from the start, but much of which, frankly, I felt left when David Tennant and Russell T. Davies did.

The episode starts off deceptively simply. The Judoon, an alien race of rhinoceros-headed Dog the Bounty Hunters, have come to Earth in search of a fugitive they’ve been charged with capturing and returning to a mysterious client. Because the Judoon are trigger-happy and technically don’t have jurisdiction on Earth, the Doctor gets involved to try to stop a bloodbath and negotiate the fugitive’s peaceful surrender. Then things get crazy, fast, and I actually turned to my wife several times while we watched it and said, “What the fuck is going on in this episode?” But in a good way. Let’s break down everything that was awesome piece by piece, because honestly I’m kind of overwhelmed by this episode!

The Doctor reveals to her companions that she’s been searching for the Master ever since he was taken away by the Kasaavin, and that she’s been going back to Gallifrey regularly. This may seem like a small grace note and a way to keep the ongoing plot line fresh in viewers’ minds, but I think it actually goes deeper than that. One could postulate that the Doctor is searching for the Master because the bond she created with Missy is still present in her, that in some ways she still considers it her mission to save the Master from himself. There’s also the element of them possibly being the last two Time Lords again — or at least the last two she knows about, because her visits back to Gallifrey can only be for one purpose: to look for survivors. It’s reasonable to think there might be survivors because this time Gallifrey’s destruction wasn’t from something as monumental as the Time War, which, by some method we never learned, also managed to kill every other Time Lord even if they weren’t on Gallifrey. We don’t know the method by which the Master attacked Gallifrey, but the Doctor’s assertion that Gallifrey is once again gone for good strikes me as premature, at least with the information we have right now. But I’m so happy to see Jodi Whitaker get to stretch her acting chops. Last season, her Doctor was goofy and happy-go-lucky almost no matter what the situation. Now she’s allowed to play brooding, angry, and upset. She’s allowed to once again be a mystery to her companions instead of the fun space lady who takes them on adventures.

How the hell they managed to keep the return of Captain Jack Harkness a secret, I’ll never know! But wow, was that great! (According to the Radio Times, John Barrowman, who plays Jack, faked a house renovation in Cardiff to keep it a secret why he was there, but then, in true John Barrowman fashion, he actually went ahead and renovated the house to maintain the cover!)  I loved how, like so many others, Jack immediately assumes Graham is the Doctor with a new face and then gives him a big smack on the lips. Graham’s reaction is priceless, and reminded me why he’s my favorite current companion. (As far as I’m concerned, Bradley Walsh can do no wrong in this role.) The joke only escalates when Jack mistakes Yaz for the Doctor next. It was so wonderful seeing Jack again that, alas, I could only feel frustrated disappointment that he doesn’t actually have any scenes with the Doctor. That’s a reunion I really would have loved to see, especially now that the Doctor is female. I think it would have been hilarious and chock full of even more horniness than usual for Jack. But I suspect Jack will be back for the season finale and we’ll finally have that long-awaited reunion. (This despite Chris Chibnall telling The Mirror that Jack won’t be back again this season. We’ll see.)

The return of Captain Jack Harkness would have been enough to make this episode special, but wait, there’s more! The fugitive the Judoon are after is a woman named Ruth Clayton, who it turns out has a Chameleon Arch of her own. But she’s not just another Time Lord, she’s the Time Lord. She’s another incarnation of the Doctor! Holy shit! But there’s a wrinkle. Neither Doctor recognizes the other. Doctor Ruth (yes, that’s what I’m calling her) doesn’t seem to be from the current Doctor’s past or future. Amazingly, for Doctor Ruth Gallifrey not only still exists but it’s Gallifrey that hired the Judoon to find her and bring her back, with the help of the vindictive Time Lord Gat. It’s all quite mysterious and absolutely compelling. At this point, I wanted the episode to be another hour longer!

Jo Martin, who plays Doctor Ruth (I’m sticking with it) is fantastic. She makes an immediate impression, and I have no doubt there will be many spinoff novels and Big Finish audio adventures about her. And that outfit! At once garish in its clashing colors and stylish in its fit, it’s pure Doctory goodness. And her TARDIS! I’m sorry, but I like the interior of Doctor Ruth’s TARDIS a lot more than the Thirteenth Doctor’s. It had that classic series feel to it, but updated and modern in its details. (And it has the round things on the walls again!)

So what is the secret of this new, previously unknown Doctor? If she’s from the future, how did she not recognize or remember the current Doctor? If she’s from the past, why would the current Doctor not remember her? My theory is that she isn’t from the future or the past, but rather she’s the Doctor from an alternate universe. Back in “Spyfall,” the first episode of the season, we saw a map in O’s house that appeared to show multiple Earths. I think we’re dealing with a multiverse here, and when the Kasaavin broke through from their universe to ours it opened a rift that this Doctor and her pursuers came through. That’s my theory, anyway. I don’t think they’re going to go the route of another “forgotten” incarnation like the War Doctor. I think that would be narratively unsatisfying, not to mention it would throw off the regeneration count even more than the War Doctor and the Metacrisis Doctor did! Anyway, I think we haven’t seen the last of her. Like Captain Jack, I suspect Doctor Ruth will be back for the season finale.

Okay, I’m actually exhausted from thinking about everything that was awesome in “Fugitive of the Judoon,” so let’s get to some Doctor Who neepery! The Judoon first appeared back in the 2007 Tenth Doctor episode “Smith and Jones,” in which we were also introduced to companion Martha Jones. The Chameleon Arch, which allows Time Lords to masquerade as humans and have their memories replaced with new, false ones (you really have to wonder what bizarre circumstances led to the invention of such a device), was first seen in the 2007 Tenth Doctor two-parter “Human Nature”/”The Family of Blood,” and of course was used in conjunction with the Master’s return to Doctor Who later that same year in the episode “Utopia.” Captain Jack Harkness hasn’t appeared on TV since Torchwood ended in 2011, nine years ago. Jack tells the Doctor’s companions to warn her about the “Lone Cyberman,” ostensibly the last Cyberman in existence, and of course we just witnessed the genesis of the Mondasian Cybermen in the 2017 Twelfth Doctor two-parter “World Enough and Time”/”The Doctor Falls.” Captain Jack also had his own encounter with the Cybermen in the 2006 Torchwood episode “Cyberwoman” (which, coincidentally, was also written by Chris Chibnall). The companions are slowly being let into the Doctor’s world now, asking about the Cybermen and being told they’re a threat on par with the Daleks, which they encountered in the 2019 New Year’s Day special “Resolution.” Lastly, Jack says something like, “Nanogenes, it’s always nanogenes,” when his stolen ship is attacking him, and this is likely a reference to the 2005 Ninth Doctor episode “The Doctor Dances,” in which alien nanogenes are spreading a plague through WWII London. “Are you my mummy?”

Phew! I think that’s it. I’m exhausted!

Doctor Who: “Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror”

***MILD SPOILERS AHEAD***

I actually don’t have much to say about this episode. It’s a perfectly serviceable story in the now-solidified “New Who” formula: the Doctor meets a famous person from history and helps them defeat an alien threat. “Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror” is a good episode, it doesn’t fumble any of the balls it’s juggling the way the previous episode, “Orphan 55,” did, but it’s not all that memorable. Well, there is perhaps one thing that stands out in the episode: Goran Višnjić. His portrayal of Nikola Tesla is charming and charismatic. You can see why his assistant Dorothy is so fond of him!

The joy in both the Doctor and Tesla at meeting a fellow scientist/inventor is contagious and makes for a lot of fun. The rivalry between Tesla and Thomas Edison makes for good television. Unfortunately, I thought a lot of Graham’s jokes fell flat this time around, which is a shame because Graham is usually pretty funny. When Tesla and Edison are arguing at one point, Graham tries to get their attention by shouting, “Oi, AC/DC!” But it’s more an eye-rolling line than a hilarious one. On the other hand, Nina Métivier’s script manages to find something for all three companions to do, which is no small achievement.

The villain is an odd choice. The Queen of the Skithra looks so much like the Racnoss from the 2006 Tenth Doctor episode “The Runaway Bride” that I’m left wondering why they didn’t just make her a Racnoss instead. I’m certainly not against new monsters, but the resemblance is so striking it left me wondering why they bothered making her a different species.

So yeah, it’s not a groundbreaking episode but it’s not a bad one, either. I think one of the reasons it’s not resonating with me more is that I was so taken with the two-part season opener that featured the return of the Master and his revenge on the Time Lords that these standalone episodes are automatically going to feel like filler to me. I’m dying to get back to that plot line!

There’s not a whole lot of Doctor Who neepery to share for this episode. One of the Skithra is wielding a Silurian blaster, and of course the Silurians have been around since their first appearance with the Third Doctor in 1970’s “Doctor Who and the Silurians.” (Yes, that’s the actual title it was broadcast under!) The actress who played the Queen of the Skithra, Anjli Mohindra, also appeared as Rani Chandra in the Doctor Who spinoff The Sarah Jane Chronicles (on which, coincidentally, Bradley Walsh also appeared, although not as Graham). Robert Glenister, who played Thomas Edison, appeared on classic Doctor Who as Salateen in the 1984 Fifth Doctor serial “The Caves of Androzani.” And finally, Goran Višnjić starred on ER back in the 1990s and 2000s with Alex Kingston, who is known to Doctor Who fans as River Song.

My Boskone 57 Schedule

The final program schedule for Boskone 57, which will be held February 14th – 16th at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel, has been announced! Here is where you can find me:

Blood-Curdling Science Fiction
Saturday, February 15th, 11:00 AM – 11:50 AM, Marina 2

Where does the thin (red) line between science fiction and horror lie? Why does science fiction horror fascinate us so much? What is it about horror in SF that is so absolutely terrifying? What examples do we have of science fiction that will make your blood run cold? And is it getting harder to make SF fiction that is truly scary?

Errick Nunnally (M), Juliana Spink Mills, Julie C. Day, Nicholas Kaufmann, Darrell Schweitzer

(I’m looking forward to talking about some of my favorite SF horror movies, like Alien and Event Horizon, as well as books like David Wellington’s The Last Astronaut!)

Who’s Who: Mad Men (and One Woman) in a Blue Box
Saturday, February 15th, 12:00 PM – 12:50 PM, Harbor I

Thirteen Doctors strong, and the series is still blasting its way through time and space to save the Universe(s). But let’s face it, my Doctor is better than your Doctor. *wink* Yes, we all have our favorites. So, let’s look at the list of who’s Who over the life of the series and discuss our favorites along with what made them so great at their role as madmen (and woman) in a box. We’ll spend a little extra time talking about the classic Doctors who may now be flying beneath the radar of today’s fans.

Jim Mann (M), Nicholas Kaufmann, David Marshall, Ginjer Buchanan, Jennifer Pelland

(A panel I was born to be on! I only wish Dana Cameron were on this panel with us.)

Kaffeeklatsch: Nicholas Kaufmann
Saturday, February 15th, 2:00 PM – 2:50 PM, Galleria – Kaffeeklatsch 2

(Last year, my kaffeeklatsch was merged with Paul Tremblay’s, making for a well-attended and lively conversation! This year I’m on my own…and kind of sweating it. Please come by if you can!)

Reading: Nicholas Kaufmann
Sunday, February 16th, 11:30 AM – 11:55 AM, Independence

(I’m not sure what I’m reading yet, so come and be surprised!)

As you can see, it’s a very Saturday-heavy schedule. I was also supposed to be on the Allure of Horror panel at 8 PM on Friday the 14th (in fact, I’m the one who proposed that panel in the first place!), along with Jack Haringa, Hillary Monahan, F. Brett Cox, Grady Hendrix, and Paul Tremblay, but Alexa and I have Valentine’s Day dinner plans in town that night and I had to let the programmers know that, alas, I didn’t expect to be back in time. I’m hoping to catch at least some of it, though!

Looking forward to seeing everyone at Boskone!

 

 

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