Doctor Who: Robot of Sherwood First Impressions

This is late.  I had a long day yesterday and I went to bed right after the episode.  Deal.

  • This felt a bit like a Sixth Doctor episode.  At least, Twelve was acting very Six-ish.
  • The Doctor fights a man wielding a sword with a spoon, I’m really not sure what to make of that.  Also, where did he get that glove?
  • Boy, the Doctor really stuck with that “None of this is real!” thing up until the bitter end, didn’t he.
  • Nice bit of business with the Doctor wondering where Clara got her belief in heroes, and Clara being all “Duh!”  What Clara is doing here is what a companion should do, showing the Doctor the best parts of himself.
  • The sheriff was suitably dickish for the setting.  I liked it.
  • Check out Robin Hood getting all Merida up in here!  Or was Merida getting all Robin Hood?  Whatever.
  • And the Doctor showing off in order to get captured.  Nice plan.  /sarcasm
  • I actually kind of liked the design of the robots.  I’m sure it was just a function of where and when they crashed, but it shows the amount of thought that Gatiss put in to the writing.
  • The part in the dungeon with the Doctor, Robin and Clara was the part that reminded me the most of Six.  With Clara being a much more proactive companion than Perri or Mel were.
  • Props to the Merry Men for figuring out what was so weird about the sheriff’s plundering of the people.
  • This show has a long history of overly ambitious humans allying with bad guy robots, and it never turns out well for the human.  In short, the sheriff really should have known better.
  • There’s a neat little easter egg in all those Robin Hood pictures that the databank on the ship displays.  I didn’t notice it until someone pointed it out; but apparently, Patrick Troughton once played Robin Hood.
  • You have to feel for Robin when he finds out that as far as history is concerned, he never existed.  For a minute there, I was convinced he wasn’t real either.
  • Of course Robin has a sword fight with the sheriff.  Why wouldn’t he?
  • I liked that Robin came to terms with being a legend instead of a slightly flawed real person.  Of course the Doctor has been a legend in the past (the whole Oncoming Storm thing) it didn’t exactly work out well for him.

Overall this really did feel Six-ish to me.  Not that that’s a bad thing, I happen to like Six, but the humor did seem to overwhelm the episode.  But I didn’t hate it by any means.

Next week looks to be really creepy, things grabbing people from under beds and all that, I look forward to it.

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Netflix Picks: Friday Chinese Detective Story

I love a good mystery story, I’m a big Sherlock Holmes fan, and I like Agatha Christie, Midsomer Murders, and the Murdoch Mysteries series from Canada.  So when I found a Chinese version of the kind of thing I like, I figured “why the hell not?”  Enter Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame.

Based on the real life Chancellor of Empress Wu Zetian, the story starts off with the sudden death of an architect working on a giant Buddha commissioned by the Empress.  He dies by what seems to be spontaneous combustion, of course there’s more to it than that; especially when another official dies the same way.  Advised by her Chaplain, the Empress summons Dee (who was imprisoned after opposing the Empress’ rise to power) to take charge of the case.  She doesn’t entirely trust Dee though, so she sends her servant Jing’er to keep an eye on him.  Penal officer Pei Donglai joins the investigation as well, and the trio sets off to find the killer before he can target the Empress.

Unsurprisingly, the movie plays fast and loose with the actual history.  But if you aren’t well versed in Chinese history, I doubt you’ll notice.  There’s also quite a bit of the wire work action sequences that Chinese film has become famous for.  While the movie doesn’t exactly have the budget that a Hollywood backed production would have, the production values are still pretty good.  The costumes and sets are impressive, and while there are a few hiccups where the CGI is a little too prominent, the wire work stuff makes up for it.

The mystery itself is fairly well done, but the reveal of who the Chaplain is seems a bit off to me.  Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention, but it really did seem to come out of nowhere.  That said, the acting is pretty good; Andy Lau does well as Dee, but the real stand-outs in my opinion are Carina Lau as Empress Wu and Deng Chao as Pei.  Carina Lau brings a ruthless grace to Wu, making her an interesting character to watch.  Chao makes Pei a relatable character, even if he’s a bit hot-headed.

Overall, it’s a pretty good and fun movie.  If you like Chinese action movies, I think you’ll find a lot to like about this movie.  If you’re a mystery fan, this is an interesting take on the genre.

Overall rating: 6.9/10