Saturday, October 31, 2015

October 2015 End Of The Month Report!

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October we got back to writing more frequently, but we also had some infrastructure on the blog to do (thanks to changing its link structure!), so our output is heading back in the right direction! Our hits were nicely up this month thanks a lot to reviews of the new episodes of Doctor Who, The Flash and Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.!

This month, we picked up several four new followers on Twitter, but no new subscribers! We are always trying to get people to become regular readers and subscribe, so if you enjoy what you're reading, please subscribe by clicking on the right side of the blog to get updates with each posting. As well, if you read a review that really affects you, be sure to "share" it! PLEASE share a link to the blog, not the content of the article; this keeps people coming to the site and, hopefully, liking what they find once they are here! We're slowly growing our readership, so sharing and subscribing to the blog is an important way you can help! If you’re subscribing, please tell your friends about the blog!

In October, the index pages were updated every few days. The primary Index Page, which we try to update daily, lets you know what the featured review is and has an up-to-the-day tally of how many reviews have been reviewed in each category! Check it out and feel free to use that as it is a much more useful and organized index to the reviews I've written!

If you enjoy the reviews, please consider clicking on the links in the reviews and purchasing items. We really appreciate all the purchases made through the blog as that keeps us going. As holiday shopping picks up and Black Friday and Cyber Monday loom, if you're going shopping online, please come through the blog to to it. Thank you so much!

At the end of October 2015, I have reviewed the following:
533 - Book Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Star Trek Books
Graphic Novels
910 - Music (Album and Singles) Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Music Reviews By Rating (Best To Worst)
Music Reviews In Alphabetical Order
2848 - Movie and Television Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Movies By Rating (Best Movie to Worst)
Movies In Alphabetical Order
Best Picture Oscar Winner Film Reviews
Television Reviews
The Star Trek Review Index Page (All Star Trek Reviews In Order)!
The Star Trek Review Index Page (All Star Trek Reviews From The Best Of The Franchise To The Worst!)!
The Doctor Who Review Index Page (All Doctor Who Reviews In Order)!
The Doctor Who Review Index Page (All Doctor Who Reviews From The Best Of The Franchise To The Worst!)!
220 - Trading and Gaming Card Reviews
Gaming Cards Reviews
Star Trek Gaming Cards Reviews
Star Wars Gaming Cards Reviews
The Lord Of The Rings Trading Card Game Reviews
Other Gaming Cards Reviews
Trading Cards Reviews
831 - Toy and Christmas Ornament Reviews
with specialized pages for:
Ornament Reviews
Star Trek Toys
Star Wars Toys
Lord Of The Rings Toys
Buffy The Vampire Slayer/Angel Toys
Comic Book, Movie, Television Toys
Plush and Other Toys
901 - Food, Drink, And Restaurant Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Cheese and Meats
Ice Cream
Other Food
236 - Pet Product Reviews
Cat Product Reviews
Dog Product Reviews
Rabbit Product Reviews
113 - Travel Reviews
Destinations Reviews
Hotels Reviews
187 - Health And Beauty Product Reviews
192 - Home, Garden, Appliance and Tool Reviews
99 - Electronics, Computers, Computer Games and Software Reviews
50 - Other Product Reviews

The Featured Review For The Month of October is my review of The Martian!
Check it out!

The month of October had a little movement within the month and was dominated by some new television reviews! It also marks the first time since the review was posted that the review for Expelled (reviewed here!) did not make the Top Ten for the month! For October, the Top Ten Reviews of the month were:
10. True Blood - Season 5
9. Quaker Oatmeal Squares Brown Sugar Cereal
8. "Family Of Rogues" - The Flash
7. "Flash Of Two Worlds" - The Flash
6. "The Man Who Saved Central City" - The Flash
5. The Top Ten Episodes Of Star Trek: Voyager
4. The Top Ten Episodes Of Frasier
3. "Purpose In The Machine" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
2. "A Wanted (Inhu)man" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
2. "Devils You Know" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
1. "4,722 Hours" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

I pride myself on being an exceptionally fair reviewer, but one who is very discriminating. I believe that most reviewers are far too biased toward both what is current and toward unduly praising things. I tend to believe most things actually are average and they ought to follows something around a Bell Curve. Mine is a little lopsided, but not as lopsided as most reviewers I know (who would probably have peak numbers between ten and seven)!

For my reviews, the current count is:
10s - 316 reviews
9s - 466 reviews
8s - 902 reviews
7s - 998 reviews
6s - 922 reviews
5s - 1181 reviews
4s - 872 reviews
3s - 680 reviews
2s - 323 reviews
1s - 218 reviews
0s - 102 reviews
No rating - 100 articles/postings

While there was a decent amount of movement this month, the all time Top Ten remains unchanged. At the end of October 2015, the most popular reviews/articles continue to be:
10. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
9. Safe Haven
8. Oz The Great And Powerful
7. The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bone
6. Warm Bodies
5. Iron Man 3
4. Now You See Me
3. Tyler Perry's Temptation
2. The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
1. Man Of Steel

Thank you again, so much, for reading! Please share links to the blog with friends and spread the word!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Friday, October 30, 2015

About All We Really Hope For From A Classic Rock Album: American Fool!

The Good: Catchy tunes, Wonderful lyrics, Good sound
The Bad: SHORT!
The Basics: John Mellencamp's American Fool holds up as a worthwhile album, despite its brevity!

When it comes to classic albums from artists who had a distinctive career or singles with whom they are most associated, I have something very clear I am looking for when I listen to their well-known albums: I listen for the non-singles. So many classic rock albums that were bolstered by two or three singles have very little else on them worth listening to. In other words, the artist lucked out and sold some albums based on the power of singles that were either superior to or very different than whatever else was on the album. I chose John Mellencamp as my October Artist Of The Month because I wanted to see if his career was one that could actually be distilled down to a single "best of" album or if he had songs that were not released as singles. One of his albums with the most hit singles on it was the 1982 album American Fool, so this became a crucial album for me to formulate my opinion.

And American Fool is more than just the three (or four, depending on where in the world one lived!) singles that became smash hits off the album. American Fool is the album that had the well-known John Mellencamp songs "Hurt So Good," "Jack And Diane," and "Hand To Hold On To," but there are other songs on the album that it is easy to listen to and find equal merit in.

With only nine songs clocking out at 34:26, the biggest strike against American Fool is its short duration. On c.d., American Fool could easily have been combined with another John Mellencamp album to offer listeners real value. American Fool is very much the musical vision of John Mellencamp. Mellencamp wrote five of the songs and co-wrote three of the others. Only "China Girl" was not written and composed by Mellencamp. Mellencamp is credited with lead vocals, but not any of the instruments on American Fool. He also was not a producer for the album.

American Fool is very much a guitar/bass/drums rock and roll album. In fact, the drums are incredibly important on the album, lending distinctive beats to "China Girl," "Hurt So Good," and "Close Enough." While the drums are pounding on almost every track and the accompaniment to John Mellencamp usually includes multiple guitars, the album is produced such that the instrumentals never overwhelm the vocals. The album may end with a contemplative ballad with "Weakest Moments" and be a little slower on "Thundering Hearts," but the rest of the album is pretty energetic rock and roll.

Vocally, John Mellencamp is entirely in his element on American Fool. He sings articulately, energetically and alternates with some slurring on other songs (he sings "I won't break you" on "China Girl" where it sounds like he's assuring her he won't rape her!). His voice has an occasionally raspy quality to it, but for the most part, he sings clearly and with a decent amount of vocal force (if not incredible range).

On American Fool John Mellencamp is a wonderful musical storyteller. There is a reason that "Jack And Diane" became a classic. When Mellencamp sings the story about how the two young people grew up together and "Suckin' on chili dogs outside the tastee freeze / Diane's sittin' on Jackie's lap / He's got his hand between her knees / Jackie say, hey, Diane / Let's run off behind a shady trees / Dribble off those Bobby Brooks / Let me do what I please" ("Jack And Diane"), he tells a pretty iconic musical story.

By this point, Mellencamp was achieving recognition and some measure of celebrity and he started to incorporate that into his music. With lines like "I may not be a pillar in my town / Or have the kind of job you think that I should. /I know you see me out running around with a couple of people / You think are no good. /I've tried to clean it up a couple of times, but I'm a / Backslidin' fool when it comes to walkin' that line" ("Close Enough"), Mellencamp starts to acknowledge that his life is no longer the typical American life.

While American Fool is well-known for "Hurt So Good," the album has another, much more powerful song about human relations. After a very danceable, energetic album, Mellencamp closes on "Weakest Moments." "Weakest Moments" sounds almost like wedding vows with its promises, that come after sadness: "You say you remember when it was your world / And you were Mister Ruby's girl. / He gave you dreams and schemes that swirl / Around your head and your body. / And when you drink sometimes, you try to liberate. / And you stagger in the front yard till you find the gate / That swing on that thin line of love and hate. / And baby, just let it go." ("Weakest Moments"). It is well-written, has a universal sentiment and is sung with such passion and longing that it is hard to hear it and not wonder, "how was this not a single?!"

Ultimately, American Fool does what listeners and fans of John Mellencamp would hope it would do: it is a solid album that is more than simply the three singles virtually everyone knows from it! The best track - not found on every Mellencamp compilation - is "Weakest Moments;" "Can You Take It" is probably the closest the album has to a weak link!

For other works by John Mellencamp, please check out my reviews of:
Chestnut Street Incident
A Biograpghy
Words And Music: John Mellencamp's Greatest Hits


For a comprehensive list of the albums and singles I have reviewed, please check out my Music Review Index Pagefor an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Unremarkable Until The Milk: Kashi Organic Promise Cinnamon Harvest Cereal Averages Out!

The Good: Good taste with milk, Good ingredients.
The Bad: Expensive, Not as nutritious as one might hope for from an organic cereal
The Basics: Kashi Organic Promise Cinnamon Harvest cereal is good when it is in the bowl, but on its own is less flavorful than it ought to be.

When it comes to cereal, I'm not a huge environmentalist. I don't need everything to be organic or gluten-free or anything like that. That allows me to enjoy and evaluate the cereals I review pretty objectively; I take them as they come. As a result, I was neither biased for or against the Kashi Organic Promise Cinnamon Harvest cereal I picked up a few weeks ago and have been eating since.

The Kashi Organic Promise is best with milk, has great ingredients, but is expensive and is not incredibly nutritious, so it factors out to be a pretty average cereal.


Kashi Organic Promise Cinnamon Harvest Cinnamon Harvest cereal is a flavored shredded wheat cereal. It seems to be attempting to compete in the same market as Frosted Mini-Wheats or offer those who are obsessed with organic cereal a little more variety in their diet.

The standard box of Cinnamon Harvest cereal is 16.3 oz. That represents approximately eight servings and my box made it to the full eight servings when I measured each one out to 28 pieces per serving. The actual Cinnamon Harvest cereal is comprised solely of 7/8” wide by 3/4” biscuits of shredded wheat. This is a "naked" shredded wheat cereal, but

Ease Of Preparation

Cinnamon Harvest cereal is a breakfast cereal, so this is one of the low-impact breakfast options as far as preparation goes! Simply open the box of Cinnamon Harvest cereal, count out twenty-five biscuits and put them in a bowl. I have discovered, as part of getting healthy, that one of the biggest challenges one might have with breakfast cereal is actually eating the serving size recommended by the manufacturer. Given that I have been monitoring my intake for a couple of months now, I am now able to enjoy a single serving of only 25 pieces of Cinnamon Harvest cereal in a sitting!

For the purposes of my reviews, and my regular consumption, I only use skim milk (fat free) milk when reviewing Cinnamon Harvest cereal.


Rather predictably, the Cinnamon Harvest cereal smells strongly of cinnamon and wheat. There is a grainy aroma to the cereal that dissipates enough to let the cinnamon scent escape, but the two aromas accurately and adequately foreshadow the flavor experience of the Cinnamon Harvest cereal.

On its own, the Cinnamon Harvest cereal is dry and wheaty. The flavor is dominated by the actual shredded wheat for the bulk of the flavor experience and it is not particularly flavorful, good, or enjoyable. But then the center hits and the consumer gets blasted with a sweet burst of cinnamon that finally overwhelms the grainy basic cereal one might believe they are stuck with.

With milk, the Cinnamon Harvest Cinnamon Harvest cereal changes flavor considerably. Every bite suddenly becomes flavorful and sweet. The sugary center and the cinnamon saturate the milk and then overcome the otherwise bland shredded wheat of the cereal. Milk allows the cereal to reach its full potential as it acts as a medium to carry the actual flavor of the cereal evenly and that is pretty good.

This cereal has a very dry aftertaste. With milk, the Cinnamon Harvest flavor has an entirely sweet flavor that lingers in the milk, but does not endure on the tongue after one is done eating it.


Kashi Organic Promise Cinnamon Harvest cereal is fairly nutritious on its own and with skim milk! Made primarily of organic whole grain wheat, organic dried cane syrup, and organic cinnamon, there is nothing unpronounceable in the Cinnamon Harvest cereal. There is not a separate list of nutrients, so this is a cereal without and sprayed-on vitamins and minerals, which is good in that the ingredients are simple and forthright.

A single serving of Kashi Organic Promise Cinnamon Harvest cereal is 55 grams, 28 biscuits. In that serving, there are 180 calories, with only ten of those calories coming from fat. There is no saturated fat in this cereal, nor cholesterol. With no sodium as well, one might think this shredded wheat could be devoid of any real nutrition, but it has 5 grams of dietary fiber, which is 24% of the RDA! With six grams of protein and 170 mg potassium, Cinnamon Harvest has more nutritional benefits than the average cereal. On its own, this cereal lacks significant quantities of any vitamins and minerals, which is a little disappointing for a Kashi Organic Promise cereal.


Cinnamon Harvest is a cereal, so as long as it is kept sealed in its box, it ought to remain fresh for quite some time. When one is done pouring the cereal from the box, fold down the plastic inner wrap to help maintain the cereal’s freshness.

Cleaning up after Cinnamon Harvest cereal is simple as well. Simply brush away crumbs left by it and you are done! It is that simple! This is a cereal that only slightly discolors the milk added to it, though, so if the milk gets on your clothing consult a fabric guide to clean it out. Still, it is not a cereal that is likely to stain clothes from its milk, outside things lighter than cinnamon.


Cinnamon Harvest cereal is expensive for its flavor, but is in no way terrible. It's just average and for the price, that's a harder sell than it ought to be.

For other cereals, please be sure to check out my reviews of:
Fiber One Protein Cranberry Almond Granola
Kellogg's Frosted Mini-Wheats Maple Brown Sugar
Kellogg's Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory Chocolatey Almond cereal


For other cereal reviews, please visit my Cereal Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the breakfast cereal reviews I have written!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Unremarkable Sequelland: Hotel Transylvania 2.

The Good: Decent-enough animation and performances
The Bad: Overbearing soundtrack, Not funny, Nothing compelling or original in the plot or characters
The Basics: Hotel Transylvania 2 unremarkably strings together random jokes about monsters to continue the franchise in an unimpressive way.

As a reviewer, I see a lot of movies and one of the real tests of a film's endurance is how well the viewer remembers it when and if a sequel is made. With the release of Hotel Transylvania 2, I got to thinking about Hotel Transylvania (reviewed here!). I know I saw the first Hotel Transylvania, but it was so utterly unmemorable that as the sequel began, I realized I could not recall a single moment from the original. Hotel Transylvania 2 leaps right in, so those not invested in the characters from the first one are likely to find the new movie somewhat inaccessible.

Hotel Transylvania 2 is an odd blend of monster jokes mixed with the non-sequitor of monsters talking about ridiculous or pop-culture things. So, people are supposed to find it hilarious when Dracula kvetches about "good fats" or Wayne the werewolf refuses to hunt because Pop-Tarts make killing animals unnecessary. At the other end, Mavis's journey almost entirely consists of her shock at seeing the mundane aspects of the human world - like the variety of potato chips and 24 hour gas station/convenience stores. The result is a thoroughly lackluster film.

Opening with the wedding of Mavis and Johnny, the daughter of Dracula and her human boyfriend, the Hotel Transylvania is packed with monsters and Jonathan's very unsettled human parents. The wedding goes off without a hitch and a year later, Mavis tells Dracula she is pregnant while the two are out flying as bats. Soon after, Dennis is born and appears to be human. While Dennis is growing up, Johnny tries to get Dracula to use social media and technology like smartphones. Dracula begins to worry that Dennis is not learning how to be a proper vampire and tries to get the boy to activate his powers, to no avail. After Dennis goes to a birthday party for a litter of werewolf pups and loses a tooth there, Mavis suspects that Dennis is not actually a monster and she tells her father that she is thinking of moving away to a place that will be safer for her young son.

Mavis and Johnny head to California to see if it will be an appropriate place to raise Dennis, while Dracula and the monsters take Dennis to try to get him into real monster culture. Unfortunately, the trip to the dark forest reveals that it is now a park filled with suburbanites on vacation. While Mavis is thrilled by exploring the human world with Johnny, the monsters try to teach Dennis how to be monstrous, but they run into adoring fans, physical problems like back spasms, and the monsters' refusal to be truly monstrous. The monsters make it to the camp where Dracula learned to be monstrous as Mavis makes it to the California suburb where both discover that things are not as they remember or want.

Much of Hotel Transylvania 2 is a series of shtick jokes with monster subjects or "values" used to replace the mundane subjects. The concept gets very old exceptionally quickly and given that lines like "stake my heart and hope to die" from Dracula barely elicit a smile the first time around, it's hard to imagine how the studio thought this would perform well. Hotel Transylvania 2 feels like a direct-to-video sequel that has the voice talents from the first project, but predictably lacks a compelling story or jokes that make it a worthy continuation of the characters' journey.

The voice performances in Hotel Transylvania 2 are fine, but nothing extraordinary. Selena Gomez does fine as Mavis, but she's not given any challenges that would allow her to be particularly expressive. Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg play Dracula and Johnny as very minor variations on their previously-established characters. Sandler, especially, falls into a voice that is particularly generic for his shtick.

Hotel Transylvania 2 is marred by an overbearing pop music soundtrack as much as it is by characters who utterly unremarkable. The story is painfully generic and if the characters were not monsters, it's hard to imagine the movie ever would have been made. Within minutes of finishing the film, I realized that there was no defining moment that stuck with me. It is a forgettable sequel for a forgettable film.

Hotel Transylvania 2 is utterly unnecessary; The Addam's Family and The Munsters have done all these types of jokes before and there's nothing so compelling about the characters, animation or plot to make this feel at all worthwhile.

For other works with or by Selena Gomez, please visit my reviews of:
The Fundamentals Of Caring
Revival (Deluxe Edition)
The Big Short
Behaving Badly
For You - Selena Gomez & The Scene
Stars Dance
When The Sun Goes Down - Selena Gomez & The Scene
A Year Without Rain - Selena Gomez & The Scene
Kiss & Tell - Selena Gomez & The Scene
Horton Hears A Who!


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Intriguing The Fans: The Captain Phasma Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ornament Is Cool!

The Good: Good sculpt and balance, Generally good coloring
The Bad: Expensive, Some of the detailing
The Basics: The second Hallmark ornament focusing on Star Wars: The Force Awakens is Captain Phasma and it's all right, but not incredible.

The final Star Wars ornament this year from Hallmark is upon us! The November release features another preview ornament from the new film Star Wars: The Force Awakens! The new ornament is Captain Phasma and the role is one of the mysterious characters featured in the new film that has a lot of people excited due to the Game Of Thrones actress who is portraying Phasma. While the actress who plays Phasma is (obviously) a woman, the gender of the character at this point remains unclear (whether or not we see her out of her armor/hear her natural voice, etc.).

Captain Phasma is a new-release Hallmark ornament that is not part of the usual numbered series of Star Wars character ornaments. Captain Phasma is well-sculpted, but expensive making for something of a mixed bag for fans.

Hallmark has Captain Phasma, masked in First Order Stormtrooper armor that is colored silver and covered in a cloaked with an action pose.


The Captain Phasma ornament recreates the villain (?) who wields a standard blaster in a two-handed grip in solid plastic. The ornament, released in 2015, is the currently unfamiliar adversary in a black cloak and armor! Captain Phasma in ornament form is 4 1/2" tall, 2 1/2" wide and 1 1/2" deep, making it one of the biggest Star Wars character ornaments Hallmark has ever made. Hallmark charged $17.95 for the ornament originally and it is bound to sell-out come the November release. While that is $2.00 less than the originally-advertised price, it still seems expensive.

The Hallmark Captain Phasma ornament is made of a durable plastic and it is well-sculpted. Captain Phasma is basically a new-style of Stormtrooper from the villainous First Order. Captain Phasma's armor is expertly sculpted and the ornament includes pretty incredible detailing on the hands which make it look like it has fingers that could actually let go of the blaster the character holds.

Captain Phasma is very light on any coloring details. The cloak is colored in monotones and the armor is almost universally, monotonally silver. The silver is the same color as the blaster, so the definition between the hands and the firearm.


As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, Captain Phasma could have a function like a sound chip or light effect, but does not. This is just an ornament, a comparatively high-priced ornament compared to other Star Wars character ornaments. This is Captain Phasma and it simply hangs on the tree.


As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake Captain Phasma ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. And for those creating the ultimate Star Wars Christmas Tree, Captain Phasma might be essential (we don't yet know how important Captain Phasma is in the new Trilogy), but it remains a tough sell given its scale and lack of coloring accents that make it look as real as many of the other Star Wars character ornaments. Die-hard collectors and fans will definitely want one, if for no other reason than it's Star Wars and it is from the new film. The ornament has a steel hook loop embedded into the top center of the character's helmeted head. From that hook, the Captain Phasma ornament hangs perfectly level.


Hallmark Keepsake began delving into the collectibles market in 1991 with Star Trek when it introduced the exceptionally limited edition original U.S.S. Enterprise ornament (reviewed here!). Since then, they have branched out into other popular franchises like Star Wars and The Wizard Of Oz. The Captain Phasma ornament is somewhat limited and has the potential to quickly appreciate, save that it has a pretty steep original release price.

This is tough to speculate on for its collectible value. One suspects that if Captain Phasma is essential and vital in The Force Awakens and its subsequent sequels, Hallmark will make another version of the characters (much like they did with Darth Maul). If a better one is made, especially one with better detailing and in scale with the other Star Wars character ornaments, then this one will surely depreciate. But, if Captain Phasma develops into a fan-favorite villain, there's the potential that it will explode in value. But, while it may not be overproduced, it starts with a higher initial price than many comparable ornaments. The result is one that is tough to recommend as an investment piece.


Like most Star Wars ornaments, Captain Phasma has nothing to do with the Christmas holiday and this ornament is incredibly well-sculpted, even if it is a little less impressive on the coloring front.

For other Hallmark ornaments of Star Wars characters, please check out my reviews of:
2015 Kylo Ren The Force Awakens
2015 C-3PO and R2-D2
2015 Admiral Ackbar (Limited Edition)
2014 Yoda Peekbuster Ornament
2014 Imperial Scout Trooper
2013 Jango Fett
2013 Wicket And Teebo
2013 Lego Yoda
2013 Boushh Limited Edition
2012 Lego Imperial Stormtrooper
2012 Sith Apprentice Darth Maul
2012 General Grievous
2012 Momaw Nadon Limited Edition
2011/2012 Lego Darth Vader
2011 Jedi Master Yoda
2011 Bossk Limited Edition ornament
2010 Lando Calrissian Limited Edition ornament
2010 Luke Skywalker X-Wing Pilot
2010 Boba Fett and Han Solo in Carbonite mini-ornament set
2009 Greedo Limited Edition ornament
2009 Han Solo As Stormtrooper
2008 Emperor Palpatine ornament
2005 Slave Leia ornament
2000 Darth Maul
1999 Max Rebo Band mini-ornament set
1998 Princess Leia


For other holiday ornaments, please check out the Ornament Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Iris Becomes Awesome As Everyone Takes A Leap With "The Fury Of Firestorm!"

The Good: Good performances, Excellent character development, Engaging plot, Special effects
The Bad: Formulaic plot/soap operatic character additions
The Basics: In a near-perfect episode, The Flash once again manages to impress with "The Fury Of Firestorm!"

The Flash has, arguably, been one of the most pleasant surprises for me on television in the last year. The series has engaging plots, interesting characters and the blend of experience and youth in the cast seems to factor out in favor of surprisingly good performances. As the second season of The Flash has picked up, it has started to feel like the show was plotted out for the season by episode for the serialized elements. It's like there's a board at an executive producer's office that has serialized elements on it and clear episode ideas for the second season: Seal wormhole, Firestorm, Dr. Wells encounters Barry, etc. As a result, the second and third episodes of the second season have annoyingly similar endings: Dr. Stein collapses and an alternate-Earth's Harrison Wells looks eerily at the camera.

Well, that hypothetical plot board has finally gotten up to the big a-plot reading "Firestorm episode" and the episode is "The Fury Of Firestorm." With Dr. Stein's part so far in the second season being mostly to survive the season premiere when Ronnie Raymond did not and then collapse to foreshadow to viewers that the F.I.R.E.S.T.O.R.M. Matrix is unstable, the writers and executive producers delayed the problem that seemed like a pretty immediate issue. "The Fury Of Firestorm" picks up after "Family Of Rogues" (reviewed here!) and only references that episode in that Dr. Stein begins the episode collapsed.

Opening two years ago, Jefferson Jackson is a promising high school athlete who is likely to get picked up by a college ball team when the particle accelerator exploded. Jackson worked to get his teammates away from the blast, but he was wounded in the wave and he became one of two remaining people in Central City whose bodies were altered by the particle accelerator to become receptive to the Firestorm Matrix. Back in the "present," Dr. Stein is temporarily stabilized by Cisco, but the search begins for another person who might be able to merge with Dr. Stein to stabilize the Firestorm matrix. While the team works to determine the compatibility of Jefferson Jackson and Henry Hewitt with Dr. Stein, Barry returns to work where Patty Spivot presents him with a shark's tooth and a potential case: a metahuman who might be a giant land shark!

Dr. Snow brings Henry Hewitt back to S.T.A.R. Labs after Barry and Dr. Stein strike out with Jefferson Jackson, who does not want to be part of the Firestorm project. But when Cisco's stopgap cane for Dr. Stein runs low on power, Hewitt and Stein attempt to merge and the attempt fails. At Mercury Labs, Dr. McGee witnesses Harrison Wells stealing something from the lab and asks Joe West to investigate the matter. Joe asks Patty not to talk with Barry about the theft, which Patty is uncomfortable with. After Jefferson comes to S.T.A.R. Labs to learn about what has been done to him from the dark matter wave, he rejects the idea of merging with Dr. Stein and Dr. Snow snaps at him. As Dr. Stein's condition gets worse, Snow makes a more personal appeal to Jackson and he comes around just as Hewitt shows his true colors and goes nuclear on Central City!

While the title tries to prioritize the Firestorm plotline, the real story of "The Fury Of Firestorm" is how awesome Iris West suddenly becomes! Iris has a subplot involving her meeting her biological mother and she resists her mother's lies. The relationship between Joe and Iris deepens and Iris approaches her mother with an adult perspective and she does not let faux-emotionalism influence her decisions in regard to her mother. Joe further proves his own awesomeness as a father by not pressuring Iris to accept her mother in any way.

Fans of the DC Comics are likely to feel a little baffled coming into "The Fury Of Firestorm." In the first season, Jason Rusch was introduced and he was one of the Firestorms in the comic books upon which the DC Television Universe is based. Jefferson Jackson is in the New Earth DC Comics, but it seems weird to add yet another Firestorm when there is one not being used.

"The Fury Of Firestorm" is packed with surprisingly awesome performances. Danielle Panabaker is delightfully passionate in the episode as Dr. Snow and Carlos Valdes gives another performance that effectively blends intelligence and humor. Grant Gustin and Shantel VanSanten continue to explore the depths of on-screen chemistry that Barry and Patty Spivot can possess. They are thoroughly charming in "The Fury Of Firestorm" and the chemistry between Gustin and VanSanten makes the paternal advice Joe West gives Barry feel entirely credible.

Interestingly, the worst performance in "The Fury Of Firestorm" comes from Demore Barnes . . . and his performance can easily be brushed off as establishing the character. Barnes plays Henry Hewitt and from the first moment he appears on screen, he has anger in his eyes. Barnes might just have been adding a subtle clue to the character's defects before it is made obvious, but he Hewitt never seems like a good guy the way Barnes plays him. Barnes plays a man with anger issues exceptionally well, though!

Amid all the character development and great performances, there is an annoying subtext that comes in from adding soap opera conceits to The Flash. Francine West claims to be dying and that leads Iris to dig up her mother's other secret. The whole dying abandoned parent thing is played out and the best thing "The Fury Of Firestorm" does is have Iris take a firm stand against Francine regardless of her potential mortality. In the episode, the viewer does not know for sure if Francine is lying about her fatal condition or not; the refreshing aspect is that Iris takes a stand that makes the truth irrelevant and that is refreshing to see. It also allows Candice Patton to give an awesome performance.

"The Fury Of Firestorm" might seem formulaic with the way Jax is offered the choice, turns away, comes around, but the episode flows incredibly well. As well, the special effects in the episode are awesome and they lend a credibility to the fantastic universe presented in the episode. The convergence of the various plotlines is remarkable and well-executed making "The Fury Of Firestorm" an episode that is exciting to watch and re-watch!

For the other episodes in which Firestorm appears, check out my reviews of:
"The Man Who Saved Central City"
"Fast Enough"
"Rogue Air"
"The Nuclear Man"
"The Man In The Yellow Suit"
"Flash Vs. Arrow"
"Things You Can't Outrun"


For other television season and episode reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Delightful Floral: Dove Mandarin & Tiare Flower Body Wash Works!

The Good: Great lather, Easy to open bottle, Good moisturizing quality, Nice aroma!
The Bad: Not antibacterial, No scrubbing grit, Expensive
The Basics: Dove Clean & Simple Mandarin & Tiare Flower Body Wash might be pricey, but it delivers pretty wonderful results!

One of the disadvantages of getting so many of the best products I buy at a local discount store is that when it comes time to review it, sometimes I have to actually discover how much the product regularly costs to consider it as a component of the overall product. In the case of the Dove Mandarin & Tiare Flower Body Wash, I was very happy with it . . . but I was not wowed by it for its full price. When I paid $1.99 for my bottles, I was psyched; I was less so when I considered how much those results would have been at full price.

The Dove Mandarin & Tiare Flower body wash is an average body wash, with a wonderful scent, it is not abrasive enough to cleanse or exfoliate. It is ideal for those who want to clean and moisturize their bodies and leave skin with a decent floral scent to it.

Dove Mandarin & Tiare Flower body wash is aromatic and given how popular citrus-based cleaners are, it is not surprising Dove made a body wash like this. Fortunately, this is nowhere near as abrasive as a true citrus cleaner! In the steamy environment of a shower or bath, the scent effervesces incredibly well. The 14.5 fl. oz. bottle usually sells for $5.99 and seems to be commonly available, at least in Michigan. The Mandarin & Tiare Flower Body Wash is an effective, easy-to-use product that leaves skin feeling clean and fairly aromatic. When one is especially dirty, this gets one clean, moisturized and smelling wonderful! The Dove Mandarin & Tiare Flower body wash is more effective than a good, abrasive loofah on its own.

Body washes seem disproportionately expensive to me in general and the Dove Mandarin & Tiare Flower Body Wash is one of the more expensive body washes by price. Dove's Mandarin & Tiare Flower Body Wash offers less than other body washes that actually exfoliate, though it does have a more distinctive scent relative to body washes in the same price range. The Mandarin & Tiare Flower Body Wash lathers up incredibly well, so for daily maintenance, it may satisfy even a thrifty shopper.

The Mandarin & Tiare Flower Body Wash is an opaque orange pearlescent fluid about the consistency of most shampoos. This is a smooth body wash, so it does nothing to exfoliate the skin. Using the Mandarin & Tiare Flower Body Wash is simple. The bottle features a flip top that opens with the flick of the thumb. The bottle is easy enough to open and close one handed as to make it convenient in the tub or shower, especially if one is using a loofah or washcloth in the other hand. The bottle of Mandarin & Tiare Flower Body Wash is flat on the front and back and rounded on the sides. It is slippery when wet, so it is important to get a good grip on this body wash bottle!

Dispensing the Mandarin & Tiare Flower Body Wash is very easy. Simply squeeze the bottle and apply the very fluid body wash to your hand, loofah or cloth. In my experience, the body wash is more creamy than fluid but it still comes out of the bottle very easily when one squeezes it. As a result, about a quarter-sized dollop is all that is necessary to clean my whole body when it mixes with the water from my shower or bath. I've found it most effective to dole out the body wash in one fell swoop as it lathers very easily and completely fills a loufah when one does.

Part of the reason the product washes off so well is that it lathers exceptionally well. Used sparingly, the Mandarin & Tiare Flower Body Wash may be spread over an entire body the way it lathers up. Simply agitating it on the skin yields a foamy, clean lather that both moisturizes and cleans skin. Even without a loofah or other rough applicator, it removes an average amount of dirt or grime compared to running water. As the water flows over it, it washes off easily leaving behind no film or residue, only generally clean skin.

The Mandarin & Tiare Flower Body Wash won me over with its distinct, but not overbearing scent. The aroma has enough of the scent of orange and a flower that smells like orange blossom to be truly a good balance of the sharp and sweet scents. Dove's Mandarin & Tiare Flower Body Wash is made primarily of water, but given how potent the aroma is, that is a bit of a surprise.

Dove Mandarin & Tiare Flower Body Wash is a good body wash, even if it is not at all antibacterial. That I've discovered the scent on my hands eight hours after showering tells me that, despite the initial expense, this is a good, strong body wash that endures!

For other body washes, please be sure to check out my reviews of:
St. Ives Moisturizing Cucumber Body Wash
Dial Lavender & Twilight Jasmine Body Wash
Old Spice Timber Mint Body Wash


For other health and beauty product reviews, please visit my Health And Beauty Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Everything It Needed To Be! "4,722 Hours" Is A Strong, Character-Focused Episode Of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.!

The Good: Acting, Character development, Pacing, Most of the direction
The Bad: Some predictable lines
The Basics: "4,722 Hours" recounts the story of Simmons on the alien planet where she was stranded and it makes for a damn good hour of television!

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is in a precarious place. The cast is sporting a dozen regular characters at this point and the first four episodes of the third season have been annoyingly fractured trying to service all of those characters in each episode. Unlike a show like Lost (reviewed here!) that had a big cast and kept adding characters, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has attempted to develop plots that use all of the characters and none of them have actually been growing or developing adequately. This is both a disservice to the cast (none of the actors have a chance to wow with complex emoting because each performer is given only three to four minutes apiece each episode). The best chance Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. had to break that unfortunate momentum was with the episode "4,722 Hours."

"4,722 Hours" refers to the amount of time Agent Simmons spent on the alien planet between the second season finale and when she was rescued early this season. The pressure the show had going into "4,722 Hours" was to explain just why Simmons wants to get back . . . in a compelling way. Set after "Devils You Know" (reviewed here!), "4,722 Hours" actually begins with the final moment of "S.O.S. Part II" (reviewed here!) and it, smartly, directly, tells Simmons's story chronologically.

After Fitz proposed dinner with Simmons, she is pulled into the Obelisk and thrown into a desert on an alien world. Simmons uses her cell phone to document her stay and tries to wait out her stranded time. After 40 hours of night, Simmons begins to go stir crazy and she soon makes the difficult choice to abandon her initial position in order to find water. Surviving a sandstorm, Simmons discovers water in the form of a small pond. The pond has a lifeform in it, which attacks Simmons. After finding some bamboo-like wood, Simmons fashions a spear, kills the beast in the pond, starts a fire and eats the vegetable monster. Unfortunately, soon after her meal, Simmons is lured into a trap where she falls into a cage built by another denizen of the planet.

The person is Will Daniels, a human who speaks English. After Simmons flees his cage, she gets hurt and the planet - according to Daniels - reacts. In Daniels's bunker, Simmons learns that Daniels was on a NASA mission and has been trapped on the planet for fourteen years! Simmons and Daniels talk and Simmons clings to the hope that Fitz will find a way to rescue her. Daniels tells her the story of the NASA mission which deposited him on the planet. Daniels doesn't want Simmons to go to an area he calls the "no fly zone" because bad things things happened there before everything went wrong with his people. Simmons goes there, though, and discovers artifacts from prior humans who were trapped on the planet. In going there, Simmons appears to trigger a sandstorm and sees a person there. But the discoveries she makes there allows her to figure out where the portals might open and she and Daniels make the dangerous trek to find where a portal will open to try to escape the planet.

Jesse Bochco directed "4,722 Hours" and he was given an interesting task which was unfortunately problematic to execute. The planet Simmons and Daniels are on is trapped in perpetual night. As a result, Bochco uses a blue filter for most of the episode - even after Simmons gets fire. That makes things like the creature in the pond being a plant impossible to visualize. So, viewers find out that Simmons has been fighting an alien plant squid only after-the-fact, as she eats it.

Even so, Bochco and the episode's writer manage to make the episode compelling. Almost instantly, I found myself engaged in making theories about the episode. Curious about why Simmons wanted to get back, I found myself asking "why?!" Right away, it seemed pretty obvious that the planet was alive (the plant creature reacted like an immune system) and the moment Daniels appeared in the story, it seemed clear that Simmons wanted to go back to rescue him. It takes something special to keep the viewer engaged - is the twist that Daniels is HYDRA? How much of his NASA story is true? How did Simmons convince Daniels to go back to the site where the Obelisk deposited her?

"4,722 Hours" is entirely focused on Agent Simmons and Will Daniels. The main cast of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. sits out the bulk of the episode to afford Simmons a truly deep episode. Outside a video on her phone and the pictures of Fitz, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents do not appear until the final act - and then it's only Fitz. This affords Simmons a compelling character arc. Simmons is initially perky, as one might expect for a woman who is smitten and planning on a first date with a guy she really likes. The longer Simmons is there, the more introverted and unsettled she gets. When she encounters Daniels, it gives her an entirely different conflict to explore: to power Daniels's equipment, Simmons must use her smartphone battery and give up her connection to Fitz.

Elizabeth Henstridge delivers an amazing performance as Jemma Simmons. The relationship between Simmons and Daniels might evolve in a very predictable way, but Henstridge makes it work. What she truly does well is play the moments alone in interesting ways. Henstridge plays the emotion of hope exceptionally well and that is needed to offset the bleak performance Dillon Casey delivers to embody Will Daniels. Despite knowing from the title that the attempt to send a message through the portal must fail (they were in the 3000 hours for that attempt), "4,722 Hours" is entirely engaging to watch.

"4,722 Hours" is a solid hour of television that gives Agents Fitz and Simmons a solid direction for subsequent episodes. It's enough to give viewers hope that the show has switched gears and will continue to deliver character-driven episodes from this point on!

For other works driven strongly by a single character, please visit my reviews of:
"Duet" - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
The Martian
"Blink" - Doctor Who

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - The Complete Third Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the third season here!


For other Marvel movie, television season and episode reviews, please check out my Marvel Cinematic Universe Review Index Page for a listing of those reviews!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Monday, October 26, 2015

A Long Way To Go For The Next Major Comic Event: Justice League: Trinity War!

The Good: Generally decent artwork, Good coloring
The Bad: Fidelity to issues as opposed to story, Failure to resolve
The Basics: Justice League: Trinity War sees the three Justice Leagues from The New 52 come into conflict when Superman appears to kill Doctor Light and all forces on Earth converge on Pandora.

This year, I've been expanding my trading card business and I've been moving away from just Star Trek trading cards. I've been beefing up my stock of trading cards based on comic book franchises and when I got in the DC Comics Epic Battles trading cards (reviewed here!), I came to realize how out of touch I was with the newer comic book releases. The truth is, the whole concept of The New 52 from DC Comics put me off: I am a fan of Wonder Woman and after a few years of alternate universe type scenarios, The New 52 completely reworked the character. But reading the Epic Battles trading cards, I figured it was time to check out some of the major DC events since I stopped reading the books regularly. I opted to start with Justice League: Trinity War because it seemed like an important crossover event.

It's not.

Justice League: Trinity War is little more than an elaborate set-up for the more encompassing "Forever Evil" event. To wit, Justice League: Trinity War is supposed to be the story of the Trinity War, yet where the book ends, some of the major actions and characters remain unresolved. Justice League: Trinity War explains everything, but it does not resolve the storyline and while I enjoy the aspect that the story is part of a larger continuum of story in the character arcs of the major characters, it is hardly a complete or compelling story. As well, like virtually all comic book anthologies, Justice League: Trinity War shows fidelity to the original issues, as opposed to the story. This is problematic at several key points in the story because elements come out of order and the momentum of the story gets absolutely killed.

In the near future, the psychic Madame Xanadu sees the Justice League, Justice League Dark and Justice League Of America at war with one another. Pandora breaks into the A.R.G.U.S. facility that holds her recovered box, believing she has figured out a way to use it to undo the damage she did millennia ago when she first opened the skull-shaped box. Billy Batson, as Shazam, makes the decision to return the ashes of Black Adam to his homeland of Kahndaq. Entering their territory draws the ire of the Kahndaqi military and the Justice League moves to intercept Shazam. Amanda Waller uses the incursion to Kahndaq to move on her plan to have her Justice League Of America try to discredit the Justice League. The two justice leagues converge on Shazam and when Doctor Light comes into proximity of Superman, his powers unexpectedly erupt. Between Doctor Light inadvertently attacking Diana and the after-effects from an encounter with Pandora, Superman gets angry and accidentally kills Doctor Light.

In the wake of the unintentional murder, the heroes and the Justice Leagues splinter. Superman turns himself over to A.R.G.U.S. so he cannot hurt anyone else. Wonder Woman is convinced that Superman's eruption is a result of his exposure to Pandora's Box and she marshals a force to hunt for Pandora. Many of the detectives are convinced that appearances are not what they seem and that Superman could not have actually killed Doctor Light. Their search takes them to heaven's basement to interrogate Doctor Light's soul and to the lair of Doctor Psycho. But all the machinations in play come to a head when Pandora tries to use Lex Luthor to open the box and its true nature is exposed!

Justice League: Trinity War spends most of its time developing the character of Pandora and setting up its own premises. The book is very much for those who have a love of the whole DC Comics Universe, not amateurs. As a result, those of us who are unfamiliar with secondary characters like the whole Justice League Dark - though Constantine has recently had more mass culture appeal - and the New 52 concept (I was at a loss to understand how there was a Justice League AND a separate Justice League Of America until context clues midway through the book made it clear) are likely to find the book overwhelming.

Some of the issues are a result of the artwork and/or the way the issues compiled into the anthology work. The Trinity War comes to a head a chapter early, so the story backpedals to explain Pandora's final epiphany, which kills the momentum. As well, the artwork features Shazam in a black outfit making him appear virtually identical to Black Adam, which is problematic for those who neither follow Shazam (last I knew, the character was still called Captain Marvel!) or are hoping for an in-volume explanation. The only other major conceits from The New 52 in Justice League: Trinity War are the relationship between Superman and Diana and the inclusion of Frankenstein and S.H.A.D.E.

Justice League: Trinity War balances supernatural elements and a detective story for the bulk of the book and while it's tough not to be put off by the gods, Sins, and supernatural elements in the book. That Batman doesn't seem to object when the Phantom Stranger wants to visit heaven's basement to interrogate Doctor Light seems somewhat out of character. The book's resolution - the way the various competing interests are exposed and revealed - is satisfying in that the key questions raised by the book are answered.

But Justice League: Trinity War is a bridge between the complicated, failed marketing scheme (the reboot The New 52) and its next major conceptual adventure, Forever Evil. The Epic Battles trading cards might be a better way to get the gist of this storyline!

For other Justice League books, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Identity Crisis
Justice League: Secret Origins
I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Justice League!
New World Order
New Maps Of Hell
The Tornado's Path
The Lightning Saga
Justice League Of America: The Injustice League
Second Coming
Justice League Of America: Dark Things
JLA: Terror Incognita
Justice League: Generation Lost – Volume 1
Justice League: Generation Lost – Volume 2
Volume 1: Origins (The New 52)


For other book reviews, please check out my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Quietly Exploring The Consequences Of Doctor Who With "The Woman Who Lived!"

The Good: Excellent acting, Good character work, Decent pacing
The Bad: Somewhat obvious plotting
The Basics: In a rarity for Doctor Who, The Doctor finds that the woman he made immortal is hardly living her life in a way he would approve in "The Woman Who Lived!"

Every now and then, there is an episode of television that is overwhelmed by the guest star or stars that appear in it. While sometimes the guest star is done as a cheap promotional ploy - Robin Williams and Billy Crystal appearing for an otherwise unrelated teaser in an episode of Friends comes instantly to mind! - the BBC is generally outside such concerns. But even the BBC is not entirely immune. The big casting news for this season of Doctor Who was the appearance of Maisie Williams in two of the episodes. The second episode Williams is featured in is "The Woman Who Lived."

"The Woman Who Lived" is the second part of the story that began in "The Girl Who Died" (reviewed here!) and the common element between the two episodes is the character portrayed by Maisie Williams. It is impossible to discuss "The Woman Who Lived" without referencing how Williams's character of Ashildr was left at the climax of "The Girl Who Died." As the name of the prior episode suggests, Ashildr died in the episode, but The Doctor resurrected her using an alien medical kit. The net effect was that Ashildr was left immortal and The Doctor and Clara went on their way.

Because of the mediocre nature of "The Girl Who Died," my expectations going into "The Woman Who Lived" were rather low. Fortunately, this was an episode that became an entirely pleasant surprise as a result.

On a lonely road in England, a carriage is held at gunpoint by a lone rider on a horse. The rider is identified by reputation as The Nightmare and they do not come alone - as the glowing eyes of the Nightmare's companion help scare the occupants of the carriage into acquiescing to the highwayman's demands. But the robbery is interrupted by the arrival of The Doctor, who literally walks through the carriage with a scanner, looking for a piece of alien technology. When the carriage moves along, The Doctor confronts The Nightmare and discovers the highwayman to be none other than Ashildr, now going by the simple name Me.

Me fills The Doctor in on her activities since the last time he popped into her timeline to observe her setting up a leper colony. Me is now after a rare gem that one of the locals has been bragging about and The Doctor suspects that it is the alien artifact that he himself is after. The two team up to rob Lucie Fanshawe of the gem. But after recovering it, The Doctor learns that Me is not working alone and her companion represents a danger to Earth that The Doctor must stop.

"The Woman Who Lived" is a quiet, character-centered episode much like the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode (reviewed here!) that works best when it is tightly focused on consequences of past actions. Consequences are seldom explored in a compelling way in Doctor Who. Die-hard fans might argue that many of The Doctor's actions in the Last Great Time War have real consequences that resonate throughout the first several seasons of the rebooted Doctor Who, but the truth is, those consequences never truly stick and they get rewritten over and over again with a sense that becomes nonsense when one tries to create any sense of continuity (just look, for example, at the Daleks!). "The Woman Who Lived" is all about consequences and it works for that.

The Doctor made Ashildr immortal and tried to provide for her by giving her the option to make another person immortal as well. While The Doctor accounted for loneliness, he did not factor in the boredom a smart person might face with 800 years in times before humans developed interesting technology or could easily get away from an area they felt trapped! Me complains to The Doctor and she has a very simple, reasonable solution: to be able to leave Earth with The Doctor after they recover the gem. She just wants off Earth and that makes a lot of sense.

The Doctor is unsettled by Me and Peter Capaldi plays that quite well. It's unclear why he rejects taking Me with him, especially given that he could easily wait until his relationship with River Song has run its course in his timeline before taking up indefinitely with Me. The only other aspects of "The Woman Who Live" that do not truly work are the caper scene and the overly complicated explanations. The Doctor seems surprised that Me knows he came in a ship and is "the one who leaves;" but Ashildr spent time with Clara and it seems reasonable that they talked. Plus, Ashildr's people found The Doctor at the TARDIS and it seems reasonable some of her people told her about it. The break-in of the Fanshawe house seems utterly ridiculous. The pair lights a candle and talks while inside a chimney, both of which would carry sound and light . . . and Mr. Fanshawe awakens ridiculously easily in a manor house that would have carried the sound of the servants moving around and was probably not modern weathertight.

The minutaie falls away against the strength of the performances by Peter Capaldi and Maisie Williams. "The Woman Who Lived" is the reason Williams was cast; Ashildr might have been a simple, unremarkable character who baffled viewers as to why The Doctor bothered to save her, but Me is clever, smart, and Williams infuses her with the appropriate amount of sadness to her. Williams and Capaldi have excellent on-screen chemistry in the episode and "The Woman Who Lived" leaves fans hoping that after Jenna Coleman's inevitable departure, and after The Doctor's tenure with River Song, the writers will have The Doctor revise his final monologue to Me and take her as a Companion.

Ultimately, "The Woman Who Lived" does what good science fiction is supposed to do: it makes a statement on the human condition and relationships, using the fantastic setting or concept to make those statements. The Doctor is seldom reflexive, but "The Woman Who Lived" forces him to put a face to his actions and beliefs and it becomes an engaging hour of television. In fact, "The Woman Who Lived" does what ignoring Danny Pink('s death) has failed to do this season, which is show compelling repercussions for the way The Doctor moves through the Universe. And the episode proves that mining that territory can be pulled off exceptionally well with the right talents in play.

For other works with Gruffudd Glyn, please check out my reviews of:
The Martian
The Theory Of Everything
Thor: The Dark World

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Doctor Who - The Complete Ninth Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the sophomore season of Peter Capaldi as The Doctor here!


For more Doctor Who reviews, please check out my Doctor Who Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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