Tag Archive: Doctor Who


Review by C.J. Bunce

We first met Rom the Spaceknight in 1979 in the pages of his own Marvel Comics series.  Rom’s first foes were the Dire Wraiths, evolved descendants of the same Skrulls from the Avengers stories.  Since 1979 the Wraiths have faced all sorts of familiar Marvel superheroes, including S.H.I.E.L.D., the X-Men, Silver Surfer, Power Man and Iron Fist, the Fantastic Four, and Doctor Strange.  Now, thanks to co-publisher IDW Publishing, Rom: Dire Wraiths–a new mini-series brings astronauts Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins at the launch of the Apollo 11 in 1969 face to face with the Wraiths.

But where’s Rom?  That’s covered in a back-up story by Chris Ryall (writer of previous Rom stories),  featuring art by Guy Dorian (Rom, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero) and comics legend Sal Buscema (The Incredible Hulk, Spectacular Spider-Man).  The primary story by Ryall features a vist from Earth Command, and it includes artwork by Luca Pizzari (Marvel’s Weapon X).  Some particularly striking variant covers are available for the first issue, drawn by Luca Pizzari, Corin Howell, and a collaboration between Guy Dorian and Sal Buscema.  The Wraiths, in both stories, are rendered with incredible detail, some of the best sci-fi/alien designs we’ve seen–one panel in the back-up story featuring the claws is almost three-dimensional.  Brilliant work.

You might recall Men in Black III took a similar approach, an alternate timeline with a visit to the day of the Moonshot, bringing that series’ Agent J back in time to meet a young Agent K at the Apollo 11 launch and face an alien threat, as Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor in Doctor Who also accomplished in the episode “Day of the Moon.”  As with these other genre close encounters, in Rom: Dire Wraiths humans apparently knew more than the public was made aware back in 1969.  In as many crossovers as we’ve found that featured an appearance by the Dire Wraiths, this story also references the G.I. Joe universe via reference to cyborg Mike Power (and did they refer to The Ruby Files’ Rick Ruby?).

This is a science fiction story for fans of monster comics from the 1950s through the 1980s.  The artwork is truly top tier sci-fi.  Here is a preview of the first issue and look at some nicely creepy future covers from Rom: Dire Wraiths:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s a fantastic sci-fi series with a stellar cast and a story and production values that rival the original Blade Runner and its 2017 sequel: Altered Carbon is based on Richard K. Morgan’s novel of the same name, a story about Takeshi Kovacs, a future soldier in a world where science has developed a hard drive called a “stack” that is implanted in humans’ necks, allowing our memories to be uploaded to storage and replanted over and over so they seemingly can live forever, even in new bodies.  That conceit allows Kovacs and other characters to be played by any number of actors, which could allow the series to run forever much as Doctor Who’s regeneration mechanism allows replacement Doctors.  Originally launched on Netflix in 2018, Altered Carbon has been extended for a second season, with filming underway last year, and viewers should expected a second season trailer and 2020 air date any day.  Which means fans of the Syd Mead, Ridley Scott, and Philip K. Dick brand of futurism, and all things borg, should catch up on the first season now.  What does it mean to be human, and how much can you shed away and replace with technology and still retain the “self”?  Altered Carbon tackles the philosophical questions The Matrix film series tried to answer.

Kovacs, played by several actors (more on that below), is a 300-year-old soldier.  As a seasoned fighter 250 years ago he was the last of a mercenary group called the Envoys, leading a rebellion against the new world order.  Kovacs’s stack is shelved for the intervening 250 years until one of the wealthiest men alive, Laurens Bancroft, played by James Purefoy (an actor who has been runner up for the James Bond film roles and appeared in A Knight’s Tale and The Following), buys his stack and puts it in a new body or “sleeve,” giving Kovacs the opportunity to live anew if he agrees to find Bancroft’s killer.  This is a bleak world, filled with virtual reality and virtual sex, body swapping and trafficking, and the kind of tech noir, bleak, dystopian realm seen in Strange Days, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, Ready Player One, The Running Man, Brazil, Total Recall, with the violence of A Clockwork Orange, but maybe not so hopeless as in Elysium, Mad Max, Gattaca, Terminator, and Dredd.  

The series, which has a slow start and doesn’t kick into high gear until the second episode, also has the John Carpenter Escape from New York vibe but with Blade Runner visuals and effects, plus the creative elements of Total Recall that made for some unexpected surprises.  Altered Carbon is a close match to RoboCop as future science and technology goes, so it’s easy to see why the casting agents brought along RoboCop remake star Joel Kinnaman as Kovacs’ primary sleeve in the first season.  This sleeve was last owned by a cop killed in duty named Ryker.  Ryker’s partner, Kristin Ortega, played by Mexican actress Martha Higareda (McFarland USA, Royal Pains), takes on the role of the season’s co-lead, struggling as she sees her old partner’s body and acting to protect his sleeve, trying to solve the murder of Bancroft, and uncovering the bad cops in the bureau.  Ortega is a badass character in a small package who gets in and out of several fights that would take down anyone else in any other story, and she is the high point of the series–at one point an incident results in a loss of an arm, soon replaced by a powerful cybernetic arm.  An interesting twist is that her family are Catholics, and in this future Catholics don’t believe in the stacks, which means once they die they are dead forever.  This sets up one of the more interesting plot threads.  If it seems like the series has a lot going on, that’s because it does. But it all comes together in a satisfying way in the final episodes.

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The best of British genre fare collided New Year’s Day as the new season of Doctor Who got underway.  Merging a classic type Doctor Who adventure with James Bond tropes made for what might be the best episode of Doctor Who since Matt Smith handed over his sonic screwdriver.  But that’s only the beginning, as the two-part opener continues tonight on BBC America in the States and much earlier in the UK on BBC One.  U.S. viewers have one chance to beat the social media spoilers: Fathom Events is hosting a unique Doctor Who event nationwide today at 1 p.m. local time, a theater broadcast of Spyfall–the New Year’s Day episode and the worldwide premiere of part two–complete with a live Q&A with the cast.  Check out the Fathom Events website here for details.

Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall had a full season to iron out the transition to a new Doctor, and if you didn’t watch the entire first season now is a good time to jump back in, because this adventure starts strong with high stakes, a new alien threat, non-stop action, and an echo from Doctor Who of the past.  It all plays out like an episode written by either Russell T. Davies or Stephen Moffat, but it’s Chibnall who wrote this story.  A new favorite scene can be found in the New Year’s Day Spyfall episode: It’s hard to imagine any prior Doctor could have nailed the scene where the Doctor takes on a 007-inspired role, and plays a high roller hand at cards trying to be as cool as Bond–but not quite getting there.  Jodie Whittaker has the enthusiasm of David Tennant, the innocence of Matt Smith, and the daftness of Peter Capaldi, all rolled up into one.  And she’s brilliant in this first episode, even better than last year.

This Doctor doesn’t need a companion any different from the twelve Doctors that preceded her, yet this new triumvirate companion works–it’s a family, or “fam” as she calls them and a mechanism to allow a distribution of the action.  Yasmin (Mandip Gill), Ryan (Tosin Cole), Graham (Bradley Walsh) join the Doctor on her latest travels at the request of MI 6, and a guest appearance by Stephen Fry as C (think M in the Bond stories) and Sacha Dhawan as O (another 00 agent).  It’s hard to believe it’s actually been a year since we last saw them all together in the Season 11 finale.

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Feel like you’re late to the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing?  In addition to online and televised events we discussed yesterday here at borg, you have several other ways to look back at Apollo 11 this week as we approach the anniversary of the Moonshot this Saturday.

Last year’s Todd Miller documentary Apollo 11 is back in theaters for a limited engagement.  Check local listings or the film website here for participating theaters.  Also in select theaters is the new documentary Armstrong, narrated by Harrison Ford.  Both Apollo 11 and Armstrong are also available now on Vudu.  Based on James R. Hansen’s book, the movie First Man, although neither an uplifting, exciting, or celebratory film about Apollo 11 mission commander Neil Armstrong, it does illustrate the personal toll, the lives lost, and the downside of life as an astronaut (probably save this one to view without the kids).  On Netflix, you’ll find a different but fascinating angle in Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo.  National Geographic’s Apollo: Missions to the Moon, Apollo’s Moonshot, and Al Reinert’s For All Mankind can be rented or purchased on Vudu.  And The Lunar Rover: Apollo’s Final Challenge is available for viewing free right now on Vudu.  Most of these can also be viewed with Amazon Prime.

You can get any book these days overnighted to you from Amazon.  Just beware there are a lot of substandard books out there and many self-published without any actual insight into Apollo 11.  Many others are highly recommended.  Just after the Moonshot Apollo 11 command pilot Michael Collins wrote an autobiographical account, Carrying the Fire, available in a new edition.  Collins also recommends Jim Donovan’s Shoot for the MoonNo Dream is Too High provides lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin’s personal life lessons from Apollo 11 and his life.  The historical account American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race by Douglas Brinkley has been praised by critics and historians including Doris Kearns Goodwin.  BBC science correspondent and ex-NASA astronomer David Whitehouse wrote Apollo 11: The Inside Story.  Jay Barbree has written the most definitive account of mission commander Neil Armstrong in his Neil Armstrong: A Life in Flight.  And the most recent work on Apollo 11 is this year’s well-reviewed One Giant Leap by Charles Fishman.

Get the new stamps and pre-order your own first day covers from the U.S. Post Office here (the yellow dot indicates Tranquility Base, landing site of the Eagle).  And don’t forget the U.S. Mint still is selling its 50th anniversary commemorative coins.  See our discussion of them earlier this year here at borg.  Stay away from the original memorabilia unless you’re an expert–fakes are for sale all over the Internet this year, especially items like space-flown patches and astronaut autographs.

Looking for more?

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The annual Star Wars Day, May the Fourth, is back again–an excuse to watch the movies again and meet up with friends and talk all things of a galaxy far, far away.  And again it is overlapping with Free Comic Book Day, a good excuse to visit your local comic book shop and get re-introduced to some series you may have missed.

You can’t beat the “gold line” of comics this year, with Jody Houser writing two free comics, Doctor Who and Stranger Things Jason Aaron serves as a writer on the Avengers issue (including a great Wolverine story), which is always a good FCBD title.  Archie Comics has a new Riverdale Season 3 FCBD story.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles creator Kevin Eastman is back writing the featured TMNT issue.  And fans of the Whedonverse won’t want to miss their copy of the BOOM! Studios twofer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, complete with a great cover by Moon Knight cover artist and Vampironica creator Greg Smallwood.  And for adults, Vampirella fans should check out its Issue #0/FCBD issue, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the character, complete with art by Bruce Timm and work by the late Forrest J. Ackerman.  Two other interesting titles for the older crowd worth checking out are Antarctic Press’s Punchline with great art by Matthew Weldon, and Shout Comics’ Midnight Sky.

 

The above issues are also good choices for kids, but some other titles are more targeted at the younger set including Casper the Ghost in Casper’s Spooksville.  Dear Justice League lets kids go one-on-one with their favorite superheroes.  Go Fish! is a great looking fish tale.  You can never go wrong with a new Little Lulu story.  Lumberjanes is back with another campfire story.  And last but not least, Star Wars Adventures is a great pick for any Star Wars fan this May the Fourth.

Take a look at some covers and previews to books available free (supplies may be limited) at Elite Comics or your local comic book shop today only:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It aired in the UK in February and March, and it had been reported for several weeks that its fifth season was going to arrive on BritBox in April in the U.S.  The BBC′s unique crime series Shetland made it in the nick of time, with BritBox releasing the first episode yesterday.  Unfortunately BritBox didn’t drop all six Season 5 episodes, opting to air the series the old-fashioned way, with new episodes arriving every Tuesday.  It’s the kind of series to savor, so why not?

As advertised since last year, the multiple BAFTA-winning series’ key cast returns, with Shetland supercop/investigator DI Jimmy Perez (Douglas Henshall) partnering again with DS Alison “Tosh” McIntosh (Alison O’Donnell) and DC Sandy Wilson (Steven Robertson), this time to investigate the murder of a young man whose body parts have been found washed ashore around the island.  Welsh actress Rakie Ayola (Dredd, Doctor Who, Sea of Souls, Black Mirror) steps into the series as the season’s guest star, playing the boy’s estranged mother.  The first episode of the season does not disappoint, laying out the first of the clues that will lead DI Perez–and the audience–to find the killer before the series wraps with its sixth episode June 4.

Anglophiles wanting another reason to catch up with Shetland will find former and current cast on the series from both Doctor Who (Peter Capaldi, Steven Robertson, Mark Bonnar, Gemma Chan, Brian Cox, James Greene, Anthony Flanagan, Benjamin Cawley, and Susan Vidler) and Game of Thrones (Clive Russell, Ciarán Hinds, Jamie Michie, John Stahl, James Cosmo, and Chris Reilly).  Struan Rodger can boast roles on all three series.  The fourth season knocked out several great shows to be borg′s Best British/UK series of 2018.

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Now is as good a time as any to climb aboard the TARDIS with the Thirteenth Doctor in Jody Houser and Rachael Stott′s monthly Doctor Who series.  The book continues right after the season one finale, taking readers along with the Doctor and her latest companions Ryan Sinclair, Yasmin Khan, and Graham O’Brien.  If you haven’t been keeping up, you can pre-order the first four issues of the new Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor series “A New Beginning,” now here at Amazon in a paperback trade compilation.  With Issue #5 on the stands a new story arc is underway, “Hidden Human History,” and Issue #6 arrives in comic book stores today.  Check out a preview of the new story arc below courtesy of Titan Comics.

Jody Houser, today’s most prolific comic book writer, joins fan-favorite artist Rachael Stott, completely reflecting the look and feel of the actors and characters from the BBC television series in their stories.  In fact each four-issue story plays out like a new episode of the show.  In the first four-part adventure “A New Beginning” the Doctor must escape new villains–the cybernetic Grand Army of the Just–and face a new alien threat, an intergalactic collector of rarities, as two manipulated human scientists get stuck in a time loop.  But as with the Doctor’s exploits old and new, not everything is what it seems.  Roberta Ingranata joins Rachael Stott as interior artist in the second adventure, “Hidden Human History.”  The Doctor and friends catch up with Stilean Flesh Eaters, also known as the Habsburgs’ Demons, as the TARDIS drops the crew into the 16th century.  Is the Doctor jealous of a history-themed podcast everyone else is following?

 

Colorists, inkers, letterers, cover artists on the first eight issues include Giorgia Sposito, Valeria Favoccia, Enrica Eren Angiolini, Viviana Spinelli, Sara Michieli, Andrea Moretto, Tracy Bailey, Richard Starkings, Will Brooks, Iolanda Zanfardino, Sanya Anwar, Rachael Smith, Claudia Ianniciello, Rebekah Isaacs, Dan Jackson, Sarah Jacobs, and John Roshell.

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Our borg Best of 2018 list continues today with the best in television.  If you missed it, check out our review of the Best Movies of 2018 here and the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2018 here.

Without further ado, this year’s Best in Television:

Best Borg TV Series, Best TV BorgHumans (AMC).  No other series touches on the ramifications of technology, specifically the perils of an onslaught of real-world cyborg technology, like AMC’s Humans.  This year three characters stood out, including Gemma Chan’s Mia, the cyborg Synth from past seasons, who sacrificed everything for the liberty of cyborgs in the UK.  Then there was Ruth Bradley’s Karen Voss, a Synth who refused to live segregated from the humans, opting instead for a normal life for the cyborg son she assumed care for.  And Katherine Parkinson’s Laura Hawkins, a human lawyer who fought so hard for the cause of the Synths all year, only to throw away all the good she had done, failing the first real challenge that was presented to her.  This year’s best TV borg is shared by Synths Mia and Karen, as each showed the uphill battle any future outsider must overcome when faced with humans.

Best Sci-fi TV SeriesThe Man in the High Castle (Amazon).  What had been a two-season build-up all came together in the series’ third season with the audacity of killing off key characters, wisely adhering to the framework of the source Philip K. Dick novel.  The use of science fiction to tell an often gut-wrenching array of subplots and unique characters has set up a fourth season with plenty to address.  Exciting, smart, scary, and even fun, it is an unusual science fiction show that isn’t merely trigger-happy sci-fi.  Honorable mention: Humans (AMC), Counterpart (Starz).

Best New TV Series, Best Reboot, Best Ensemble CastMagnum PI (CBS).  If you would have told us a year ago our favorite show this year would be a reboot of Magnum, p.i. starring Suicide Squad’s Jay Hernandez and an actress in the iconic role of John Hillerman’s Higgins, we wouldn’t have believed it.  And yet, even as diehard fans of the original, we had to acknowledge that many elements of the reboot series were even better in the new series.  With the dangerous risk of taking on a beloved property, the production maintained loyalty to the original while making it fresh, scoring Magnum PI high marks on all counts.  Every character was smartly written–suave and confident Magnum, energetic Rick and TC, and a savvy Higgins–every actor was perfectly cast, and each show was another round of nostalgic fun for fans of the original.  Best New TV Series Honorable mention for Best New TV Series: Counterpart (Starz), Lodge 49 (AMC).

Best Series, Best Drama, Best ComedyLodge 49 (AMC).  Lodge 49 told two stories: a darkly serious drama of real people dealing with real-life 2018 adversity, and the other a comedy farce like no other.  Hanging over our heads was the idea that this was going to be a fantasy show, complete with secret codes, hidden rooms, and psychic visions.  If you’re looking for all the elements of great fantasy the hint of it all could be found throughout this series.  And yet it wasn’t fantasy at all.  An oddball Cheers?  A southern Twin Peaks without the Lynchian weirdness?  Star Wyatt Russell’s hero Dud could be dismissed as a typical young man with no vision, or maybe he’s that idealist that everyone needs to strive to be.  Maybe we’ll learn more about that next season.  Honorable mention for Best Drama: Counterpart (Starz).  Honorable mention for Best Comedy: Baskets (FX).
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It’s time for borg′s annual look at the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines in film and television.  This year we selected 25 characters that rose to the top.  Again the studios gave us more to cheer about than ever.  We’re highlighting the very best from a slate of fantastic heroines, with characteristics to learn from and cheer on.  Determined, decisive, loyal, brave, smart, fierce, strong (and, okay, sometimes evil), you’ll find no one here timid or weepy, but all rely on their individual skills to beat the odds and overcome any obstacle that comes their way.  Over the years we have expanded the list to include any tough, savvy, gritty character played by a woman, so villains are welcome here, too.  Some may be frazzled, put-upon, war-weary, or human, but all have fought, some against difficult circumstances, others against personal demons (literally, figuratively, or both), and some against gun and laser fire.  And they all showed what a tough, kick-ass character is about.

In 2018 these characters broke new ground, and unlike last year’s great list, this year’s selections would not have worked as well had the characters been swapped for males.  We had a former MI-5 agent, bounty hunters, assassins, doctors, defenders, advanced superhumans, superheroines, warriors, witches, and even a few cyborgs–with a roster evenly split between television and movie characters.

Better yet, here’s something we haven’t said before.  Several of our selections this year were played by women over 50.

These are the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2018:

Enfys Nest (Solo: A Star Wars Story).  For the first half of Solo: A Star Wars Story, Enfys Nest was the leader of a band of pirates, a character as cool and ruthless as anyone Han Solo ever faced.  But once she took off her mask,  it became clear how important she was, how significant her mission was–even more so than Han Solo’s own pursuit of mere wealth.  She foreshadowed what Han would later find with Leia, an early glimpse at a rogue and scoundrel who actually had some good in him.  When they joined forces, it made their characters even better.  And she became one of the best warriors in the Star Wars universe since the original trilogy.  (Disney/Lucasfilm)

Okoye (Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War).  Is there any woman warrior as powerful and impressive in a fantasy movie this year as Danai Gurira’s Okoye?  We can’t think of any.  A smart commander, a brave soldier, a loyal ally.  Stalwart, devoted, steadfast, strong physically, intimidating and wise, with a keen unwavering ferocity, she represented the best of Wakanda, and fought bravely to defend the world at the last stand against Thanos.  (Disney/Marvel)

Higgins (Magnum PI).  Few television characters are as beloved as Jonathan Higgins in the original Magnum, p.i.  So it was going to be risky having any actor step into the role John Hillerman made famous.  So when the show honored the original character and late actor with such a finely tuned, updated character and actor, we took notice.  Perdita Weeks’s Juliet Higgins is everything Robin Masters was–the character we all thought Higgins was in secret.  We don’t know whether we’ll learn the truth this time around and what that truth will be, but as an ex-British secret service agent, she’s a James Bond for Thomas Magnum to partner with–literally running alongside the show’s star and fighting and shooting her way as an equal.  And the result?  Every episode of the first season was full of great action and fun.  (CBS)
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Still aren’t in the Christmas spirit yet?  With no Christmas day episode of Doctor Who this year, Netflix is filling in the gap with an episode of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina called “A Midwinter’s Tale,” another solid episode of the series taking the story forward where the first season left off, and delving into some classic tropes of American and Victorian Christmas lore.  It’s all with the twist of the darker, horror-infused world of the show, but as Miranda Otto’s character Aunt Zelda says, “Christmas is the best time for ghost stories.”  See A Christmas Carol, as an example.

Plenty of Christmas episodes of past genre television series are available right now, most via services you may already subscribe to, others for a few dollars (and some you may find free to watch on YouTube).  How about starting with the unofficial sequel to Die Hard and Die Hard 2 starring Reginald VelJohnson (Ghostbusters, Tron: Uprising) in his third appearance as Sgt. Al Powell?  He’s one of several actors guest starring in a trilogy of Christmas episodes of Chuck, available on Amazon Prime.  First is “Chuck vs. the Crown Vic,” then VelJohnson and Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy, The Walking Dead) in “Chuck vs. Santa Claus,” rounded out with Brandon Routh (Superman Returns, Arrow) and Stan Lee in an early cameo as himself in “Chuck vs. the Santa Suit.”  But be careful, you may end up getting sucked into the rest of the series, starring Zachary Levi (Shazam!, Psych the Movie, Thor: Ragnarok), Yvonne Strahovski (The Predator, The Handmaid’s Tale), and Adam Baldwin (Firefly, Leverage, Castle).

In the same vein as Sabrina, check out Grimm with Christmas episodes “Twelve Days of Krampus” and “The Grimm Who Stole Christmas,” both available on Amazon Prime.  “Twelve Days of Krampus” provides one of the best illustrations of Krampus, the folkloric character who has been a subject of this time of year for more than 2,000 years.  Ever get coal in your stocking?  Learn more here.  And you’ll find some familiarity with the critters in “The Grimm Who Stole Christmas” as the new Sabrina episode.  Each of these Grimm episodes is among the best of Christmas episodes, and overall great episodes of the series.  And if paranormal shows are your thing, don’t forget the Supernatural episode, “A Very Supernatural Christmas.”  Catch it on Netflix.  The Winchester Brothers pursue some pagan gods at Christmastime, revisit their own Christmas past, and try to share a Christmas together as only they could.

That brings us to six classic Christmas episodes.  How about six more?

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