Sunday, December 31, 2017

The 2017 End Of The Year Report!

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2017 has come to a close and we're looking forward to a busy and productive 2018! The blog had higher output in 2017 than it did in both 2016 and 2015, which was very exciting for us (and, hopefully, for our readers, too!). We intend to spend January catching up with some older shows and movies, as well as new food products and more of 2017's Hallmark ornaments. Please keep checking back; we're very excited about some reviews coming up!

Over the last year, we continued to adapt our prior reviews so they have functional links and our new reviews are being released with good new links, so products being reviewed generally have the right products associated with them. We appreciate our readers sticking with us through Amazon reconfiguring, which continues to be ongoing!

This month, we picked up two 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 December, we updated the index pages every few days, keeping them quite useful to our readers. The primary Index Page, is usually updated daily and 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, compared to what Blogspot offers!

If you enjoy the reviews, please consider clicking on the links in the reviews (at least the ones that render properly!) and purchasing items. We really appreciate all the purchases made through the blog as that keeps us going. As the new years starts, if you're going shopping online, please come through the blog to to it. Thank you so much!

At the end of December 2017, I have reviewed the following:
590 - Book Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Star Trek Books
Graphic Novels
959 - Music (Album and Singles) Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Music Reviews By Rating (Best To Worst)
Music Reviews In Alphabetical Order
3391 - 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!)!
240 - 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
947 - 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
1087 - Food, Drink, And Restaurant Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Cheese and Meats
Ice Cream
Other Food
289 - Pet Product Reviews
Cat Product Reviews
Dog Product Reviews
Rabbit Product Reviews
116 - Travel Reviews
Destinations Reviews
Hotels Reviews
232 - Health And Beauty Product Reviews
217 - Home, Garden, Appliance and Tool Reviews
110 - Electronics, Computers, Computer Games and Software Reviews
62 - Other Product Reviews

The Featured Review For The Month of December is my review of: The Orville - Season 1!
Check it out!

The month of December was mostly filled with new, highly-read reviews, mostly because of the return to air of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., though it was topped by a legacy review from a year ago! For December, the Top Ten Reviews of the month were:
10. Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi
9. "Home" - The Punisher
8. "A Life Spent"- Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
7. The Punisher - Season 1
6. "Don't Run" - The Flash
5. "Reign" - Supergirl
4. "Rewind" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
3. "Orientation, Part 2" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
2. "Orientation, Part 1" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
1. Travelers - Season 1

This has been a very exciting year for us and the most of our most popular review of the year were from 2017, but we had a couple of holdovers from other years! The Top Ten Reviews for the entire year were:
10. Why Wonder Woman Will Age Poorly
9. One Day At A Time - Season 1 / Sense8 - Season 2 (TIE!)
8. Glow - Season 1
7. You Get Me
6. "Duet" - The Flash
5. Iron Fist - Season 1
4. Friends From College - Season 1
3. Thirteen Reasons Why - Season 1
2. Santa Clarita Diet - Season 1
1. A Series Of Unfortunate Events - Season 1

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 - 341 reviews
9s - 541 reviews
8s - 1030 reviews
7s - 1145 reviews
6s - 1067 reviews
5s - 1359 reviews
4s - 1022 reviews
3s - 800 reviews
2s - 391 reviews
1s - 259 reviews
0s - 131 reviews
No rating - 145 articles/postings

There was a decent amount of movement this year, including a new addition to the all time Top Ten Reviews! At the end of December 2017, the most popular reviews/articles are:
10. Oz The Great And Powerful
9. The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bone
8. A Series Of Unfortunate Events - Season 1
7. Warm Bodies
6. Iron Man 3
5. Now You See Me
4. Tyler Perry's Temptation
3. The Burden Of Being Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
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! Thanks for a great year and we look forward to an incredible 2018!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Thursday, December 28, 2017

A Surprising Success: The 2017 Mario Super Mario Ornament Is A Winner!

The Good: Excellent sculpt, Perfectly accurate coloring, Collectible value
The Bad: Slight balance issue
The Basics: The 2017 "Super Mario" ornament is a near-perfect Hallmark ornament that is likely to please classic video game fans!

Every now and then, Hallmark takes a real risk on a new franchise for its ornaments. For the 2017 ornament season, Hallmark developed a relationship with Nintendo, which was an interesting departure for the card and ornament company; if it had made any video game-themed holiday ornaments before now, it seems like it might have been a while ago or they were not all that popular. For 2017, Hallmark released a line of Super Mario Hallmark ornaments and the first one I found (and that sold out!) was Mario himself.


The Mario Super Mario ornament is a character-based video game ornament, made of solid plastic by Hallmark. The 2017 Mario Super Mario ornament features Mario from the popular video game franchise in his distinctive plumber's outfit (with hat) in mid-jump. Mario, in the ornament form, is in the process of hitting his head on one of the coin boxes from the Super Mario video game, with a coin appearing to rise out of the top of the mystery box.

The 2017 Super Mario is 2 5/8" tall by 1 1/2" wide and deep. The sculpt is incredibly accurate, featuring a three-dimensional look to the character and the box - including texture for the border and question mark on the coin box. Mario is sculpted with his gloved hands, appropriately, in fists and a big smile on the character's face. The Mario ornament has impressive detailing for the character's ears and big buttons on the plumber's overalls. Details like the eyebrows and mustache are sculpted on, as opposed to just painted on.

The coloring for the 2017 Mario ornament is simple, but entirely accurate to the character. The colors are monotones and the bright red, blue and yellow look just like they do in the video game. The character's eyes are expertly painted on and the "M" logo on Mario's cap is wonderfully applied. This ornament looks great on both the sculpt and coloring front, especially for what is such a comparatively simple source material.


As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, "Mario" has neither a light, nor a sound effect. This is just the ornament on its own with no additional features. That's a little disappointing given how Hallmark could have made the coin box light up and/or included any number of sound effects (or music) from the Super Mario video game. Sadly, though, this is just Mario on his own without any additional features. Given how this is a new franchise for Hallmark, not taking the risk on a more expensive ornament, with features, right off the bat makes some sense.


As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake Mario Super Mario ornament is to be hung on a Christmas tree. The 2017 Mario ornament has a steel hook loop embedded into the top of the coin that is atop the coin box. From that position, the 2017 Mario is just a touch front and right (when viewed from the front, looking at his face) heavy. The balance issue is noticeable because the box ought to be level and the coin should be coming out of it perpendicular to box. But, because of the character's shape, the balance is thrown just a touch off.


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!). Within a few years, every major franchise from Star Wars to A Nightmare Before Christmas to Indiana Jones started making Hallmark ornaments. Mario is one of the first video game-themed ornaments from Hallmark and it sold out at every Hallmark Gold Crown store that I could find where it was stocked. It has already appreciated on the secondary market, almost doubling in price, so it seems like it's a great investment piece for those who were able to find it!


The 2017 Mario Super Mario is a near-perfect Hallmark ornament and it stars off Hallmark's relationship with Nintendo right!

For other Hallmark ornaments, please check out my reviews of:
2017 Lavender Luxe Barbie ornament
2017 He's Mr. Snow Miser The Year Without A Santa Claus ornament
2017 P-5000 Powered Work Loader Aliens ornament


For other ornament reviews, please visit my Ornament Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Testimony Of A Lackluster Doctor Who Christmas Special: "Twice Upon A Time"

The Good: Performances are good, Some of the jokes land
The Bad: Dull plot, Forced sense of conflict, Many of the jokes do not land on a character level, Failure of chemistry
The Basics: "Twice Upon A Time" is fairly pointless, nostalgic Doctor Who that belabors a character conflict that cannot possibly go in a surprising direction.

One of the worst aspects of changing the actor who plays The Doctor in Doctor Who is that who the new Doctor is rapidly becomes the most spoiled information in science fiction at its time. While that might not usually be an issue - and the announcement of Jodie Whittaker being cast as the next Doctor was made months ago - it usually means that the final episode of the current Doctor must be treated with some finesse. After all, Doctor Who viewers already know who to look for at the episode's climax, so the episode's writer and director has to make it interesting to the viewer to get there. Sadly, for Steven Moffat's final episode as showrunner for Doctor Who, "Twice Upon A Time," he forgets all about subtlety and finesse.

Instead, "Twice Upon A Time" quickly establishes a ridiculous premise that the viewer knows cannot possibly come to pass as Peter Capaldi's Doctor refuses to Regenerate. "Twice Upon A Time" attempts, vainly, to get the viewer to believe that Capaldi's Doctor might well be the final incarnation and that rather than regenerate, The Doctor is ready to die. The instant failure of suspension of disbelief quickly turns to a joke-filled love note from Steven Moffat to his own prior works as "Twice Upon A Time" packs in references to prior Doctor Who episodes Moffat wrote and/or produced, like "Into The Dalek" (reviewed here!), "The Pilot" (reviewed here!), and - most recently - "The Doctor Falls" (reviewed here!). Despite the flashback nature of the very opening of the episode, "Twice Upon A Time" picks up right after the final scene of "The Doctor Falls."

The First Doctor, following an incident with the Cybermen, takes the TARDIS to the South Pole, where he refuses to Regenerate. There, he encounters the latest (Peter Capaldi) incarnation of The Doctor outside his TARDIS. The First Doctor, considering death instead of Regeneration, seems to be enough to stop time for everyone but the two Doctors and a confused World War I Captain who suddenly appears there. After a brief flashback to explain how the Captain arrived at the South Pole - after encountering a mysterious, glasslike form of a woman - the two Doctors and the Captain retreat to the TARDIS, where the First Doctor is critical of its style and upkeep. The TARDIS is abducted and taken aboard another ship. The First Doctor leaves the TARDIS and is miffed by how The Doctor is referred to as The Doctor of War. The current Doctor, recognizing the reference and Bill, who appears from a room on the ship, leaves the TARDIS and begins to question his Companion.

Bill is confused when she cannot find Heather (who she recalls rescued her from the Cybermen). The Doctors investigate the ship, which belongs to the Testimony. The Testimony is a time-traveling library that goes into the past and extracts people in the moment of their death, downloads their memories, stores them and then returns the significant individual to their moment of death. The two Doctors, Bill and The Captain retreat to the First Doctor's TARDIS, where they begin a quest to find who the Testimony's template is based upon. To that end, they travel to the center of the galaxy to access the biggest database in the galaxy and The Doctor encounters "Rusty" the Dalek who rejected the rest of the Daleks. There, The Doctor learns about Testimony and he and the First Doctor return to Earth to face their destiny.

"Twice Upon A Time" hinges a lot on the viewer having an expert level knowledge of Doctor Who which, admittedly, I do not. As a result, I feel unqualified to discuss the quality of David Bradley's performance. Bradley mimics some of the obvious mannerisms of William Hartnell's Doctor - based on the archive footage I've seen in prior episodes and clips - but whether Bradley gets the character's voice and attitudes right is something I am not qualified to evaluate. The unfortunate aspect here is that the First Doctor spouts a lot of racist and sexist lines and mannerisms that might have been a sign of the times in the early 1960s when the show began, but make no sense for a character from Gallifrey. Unless when The Doctor was born on Gallifrey black women were maids, for example, some of the jokes fail to land on a character level.

Even as a person only marginally fluent in the current (2005 and up) Doctor Who some of the episode's "big surprises" fail to land. The identity of The Captain is hardly surprising and outside his lineage and being miffed when The Doctor references "I" after referring to the World War, the character is somewhat pointless in "Twice Upon A Time." The Captain's presence is an obligatory nod to the history of the franchise, as opposed to a vital character in his own right.

"Twice Upon A Time" belabors the humor while poking fun at inconsistencies and issues within Doctor Who. The First Doctor calls the sonic screwdriver absurd and questions how The Doctor could wear sunglasses indoors. The Doctor repeatedly crow's Missy's early line "you know who I am" to the First Doctor and Moffat and director Rachel Talalay use the opportunity to play with un-armored Daleks. But the First Doctor's sexism and the jokes predicated on outdated attitudes quickly wear thin.

Thematically, "Twice Upon A Time" is all about people who are too afraid of death desperately trying to run away from their inevitable mortality. The First Doctor and The Captain are not ready to die and are afraid of what might come next and The Doctor recognizes that his life is on an exceptionally short fuse and he tries to solve one last mystery before his death. But the significance of any discussion of mortality and acceptance of it is lost because the viewer already knows The Doctor's decision. In fact, we know the First Doctor's decision (to regenerate), that Bill is already dead, and that the Captain is not a significant enough character to care about his impending demise. So, "Twice Upon A Time" ought to be The Doctor's acceptance of life and his determination to regenerate and continue, but it meanders around fairly pointlessly until it gets to where it always had to.

The theme of "Twice Upon A Time" offers a natural opening for David Tennant's Doctor to make an appearance and it is disappointing that he is only in archive footage. Tennant's Doctor essentially begged for more time before his end and thematically, that fits "Twice Upon A Time" exceptionally well. The lack of an appearance by River Song - technically, she never dies, so that makes sense, save that Moffat already brought an image of her back once following her demise - is similarly disappointing.

Finally, the plot conceit of "Twice Upon A Time" builds into something painfully familiar. The "tour around the Best Of" idea wears thin and when a long-gone character appears, it quickly reminds viewers of just how limited Steven Moffat's writing has become. The "dead character living for an adventure" conceit was, essentially, the whole concept behind Clara's final exit with Ashildr.

The result is that Moffat guts much of his own creation on his way out. After finding amazing chemistry for The Doctor and Bill, they return stiff in "Twice Upon A Time" and the regeneration into the first female Doctor occurs without any reference to Missy or commentary on why The Doctor would regenerate as a woman this time (did it just not occur to him before?!). The result is something of an obligatory bridge episode that lacks a spark or genius and merely muddles through to the inevitable.

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

For other Doctor Who Christmas episodes, be sure to check out:
"The Return Of Doctor Mysterio"
"Voyage Of The Damned"
"Last Christmas"


For other Doctor Who episode and season reviews, please visit my Doctor Who Review Index Page!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas! "He's Mr. Snow Miser!" Is An Interesting Ornament!

The Good: Amazing sculpt, Great coloring, Fun glitter effect
The Bad: No sound chip, Disappointing light function, Balance issue - backheavy
The Basics: The 2017 "He's Mr. Snow Miser!" ornament from The Year Without A Santa Claus is a neat idea with a middling execution.

For those who celebrate it, Merry Christmas! My wife is a big fan of Christmas and while I am a fan of genre-themed ornaments, my wife enjoys actual Christmas ornaments. So, for today, I picked her up the 2017 He's Mr. Snow Miser! Hallmark ornament to augment her tree. And, it's a fun ornament, though it is a little more mediocre than I hoped for her.

For those unfamiliar with The Year Without A Santa Claus, Snow Miser was one of two weather-controlling brothers who struck bargains with Mrs. Claus to get Vixen out of the pound to save Christmas. An impassioned plea from Mrs. Claus gets Snow Miser to happily open up the floodgates of snow to a southern town under the control of Heat Miser. It is Snow Miser, seated on his throne of ice that is the subject of this year’s The Year Without A Santa Claus ornament!

Ken Crow did an impressive and accurate sculpt of the Snow Miser, though Hallmark cheaped out on the light function, which made the $17.95 original issue price a little harder to swallow.


The "He's Mr. Snow Miser!" ornament recreates Snow Miser as he appeared in The Year Without A Santa Claus, when Mrs. Claus visits to try to strike a bargain with him. The ornament, released in 2017, is an entirely accurate sculpt of Snow Miser as he leans forward on his ice throne. This version of Snow Miser features fine detailing on the hands, nose with icicles hanging from it and pointed fingers and shows. The subject of the ornament was an animated (or Claymation-style stop animation) one and Ken Crow captured the enthusiasm and energy of the character’s design. Measuring three and seven-eighths inches tall by 2 1/16” wide by 2 1/8" deep, the "He's Mr. Snow Miser!" ornament is on-scale with most of the other character ornaments Hallmark offers.

The Hallmark "He's Mr. Snow Miser!" ornament is made of durable, mostly translucent, plastic and has the character Snow Miser sitting on a clear plastic throne intended to look like ice. The Snow Miser is sculpted to look just like the character from the Christmas special. The sleeves on the Snow Miser's jacket are cut to look like icicles and the character's "hair" is a clear plastic dome made to look like ice. The character's nose is made to look like an icicle as well and the sculpt nails that perfectly. The character's scarf and throne are well-textured to match the character from the show.

The He's Mr. Snow Miser! ornament is colored in simplistic, but solid colors, which is entirely accurate for the character. The character's jacket is augmented by sparkles, which is very cool (and, turns out to be, accurate from the source material!). The throne is clear for the back and arms and translucent for the actual chair. The coloring around the character's eyes actually has subtle gradations of blue, which is impressive and cute.


As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, "He's Mr. Snow Miser!" could have a sound or light function, but it only has an option for a light function. The back features a hole with a rubber clamp which allows the consumer to stick a light from a light strand into the ornament. This vaguely lights the clear throne, but the effect is inconsistent and entirely underwhelming. For those who are fans of The Year Without A Santa Claus, it might be disappointing that He's Mr. Snow Miser! does not feature an electronic function that would allow him to play a sound clip from one of his distinctive songs or a more consistent and well-rendered light effect.


As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake "He's Mr. Snow Miser!" ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. And for those creating the ultimate Christmas Tree, the "He's Mr. Snow Miser!" ornament is a nice addition. The ornament has the standard steel hook loop embedded into the top, back, of Snow Miser's head. From that position, the He's Mr. Snow Miser! ornament hangs with a noticeable back bias. Because the throne is supposed to be level, the fact that it is heavier and leans with the feet, then, up a little, it is an unfortunately obvious flaw in the ornament.


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!). Within a few years, every major franchise from Star Wars to A Nightmare Before Christmas to Indiana Jones started making Hallmark ornaments. "He's Mr. Snow Miser!" is part of the The Year Without Santa Claus ornament line and the only one from that franchise in 2017. This ornament has sold out at about half of the Hallmark Keepsake stores I have been to since their release in October. As a result, I suspect that the He's Mr. Snow Miser! ornament is likely to at least retain its value for the foreseeable future!


Fans of The Year Without A Santa Claus, Snow Miser, Hallmark ornaments and Christmas in general will discover a lot to like about the Hallmark He's Mr. Snow Miser! ornament, though it is not the flawless one I would have hoped it could have been.

For other non-genre Hallmark ornaments, please check out my reviews of:
2017 Celebration Barbie ornament
2017 O Play-Doh Tree
2017 Sweet Snowman ornament


For other ornament reviews, please visit my Ornament Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Saturday, December 23, 2017

Supergirl "For The Girl Who Has Everything" Meanders Awkwardly!

The Good: Melissa Benoist's performance, Decent final battle sequence
The Bad: Stiff writing, Poor characterization for J'onn J'onzz, Predictable plot development
The Basics: "For The Girl Who Has Everything" is unfortunately erratic Supergirl, taking a pretty basic science fiction trope and executing it in the stiffest, most predictable, way.

One of the nice things about hiatus time is that I finally get to catch up on things that have either slipped by the wayside or I'm working to catch up on. Before the third season of Supergirl began, I was working to catch up on reviewing the first season episodes of the show. I was not into Supergirl to begin with, but through the show's second season, I got into it and I reviewed it - as I do with many other programs - as it went along. So, I was going back to the first season and when the third season began, I had to put those reviews on hold. Fortunately, with only one current show airing new episodes, I have a chance to go back to finishing the first season. My return to the first season comes with "For The Girl Who Has Everything."

"For The Girl Who Has Everything" follows on the final scene of "Bizarro" (reviewed here!), which found Kara returning to her apartment and being attacked by something on her ceiling. "For The Girl Who Has Everything" is, essentially, an alternate reality episode of Supergirl that finds Kara trapped in her own mind living out an alternate existence.

Kara wakes up after being attacked by the parasite on her ceiling and she finds herself in her bed on Krypton, being ministered to by the Kryptonian medical droid. Kara is surprised when her mother tells her that she is recovering from Argus Fever. At CatCo, Cat Grant demands Kara show up - believing that she is hiding because she broke up with Cat's son - and Olsen and Schott check in with Alex Danvers, who informs them that Kara is not out in DEO business. Finding Kara at her apartment and bringing her to the DEO, the team discovers that Kara is under the influence of an alien parasite, the Black Mercy. At their lair, Non admits to Astra that he set the Black Mercy on Kara in order to keep her incapacitated so they could proceed, unimpeded, with their Myriad Project. While Kara is on Krypton in her mind, Cat Grant demands that Winn Schott produce Kara, so J'onn J'onzz impersonates Kara to help her keep her job.

While at Kara's apartment, Astra appears and gives Alex the information needed to save Kara. While Alex works with Maxwell Lord to enter Kara's hallucination state, Schott joins the DEO team to form a theory as to what Non might be doing and why he might need the planetary satellite network off-line. As worldwide solar flares knock the planet's satellites off-line, Alex meets with Kara in Kara's mind to try to convince her to reject the Black Mercy's false reality.

"For The Girl Who Has Everything" makes a stab at fleshing out the characters, but has a weird way of undermining them. Alex Danvers talks to the Alura hologram and makes a lot of explicit character type remarks. The dialogue in the scene is painfully predictable, as Alex bares her soul to the hologram in an unfortunately clunky way. The attempts Alex makes to express herself sound inorganic, like exposition and character descriptions, as opposed to dialogue from a real character.

J'onn J'onzz is unfortunately weakened by his characterization in "For The Girl Who Has Everything." J'onzz is a powerful telepath and in "For The Girl Who Has Everything" he is treated like a complete chump. First, while impersonating Danvers at the office, J'onzz is unable to anticipate Cat Grant's needs or preferences, which makes little sense for his abilities. When Grant demands to know what the most important thing that Grant asked of Kara when she interviewed her, Grant would naturally be thinking of the answer. J'onzz should have been able to read that thought and answer correctly. Similarly, the whole Black Mercy villain is an intimidating one, but using Max Lord and a technological connection to the story makes far less sense than J'onn "mind melding" with the incapacitated Kara and incepting her with the idea of leaving the hallucination. Until the episode's final scene, J'onn J'onzz is woefully misrepresented.

Non continues to be a pretty generic villain in "For The Girl Who Has Everything." Non's agenda, Myriad, is utilizing Maxwell Lord's technology for its next step, with the solar storm as a smoke screen. The purpose of Myriad remains unclear in "For The Girl Who Has Everything," but Non and Astra continue to pursue it violently.

Ultimately, there is nothing truly special about "For The Girl Who Has Everything" until the final act, where the episode becomes a pretty basic and simple resolution to the prior character conflicts that Supergirl had been wrestling with.

For other works that have characters trapped in alternate realities, please visit my reviews of:
"Far Beyond The Stars" - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
"Duet" - The Flash
"A Little Song And Dance" - Agent Carter


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

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Utterly Generic: Jelly Belly Strawberry Iced Krispy Kreme Jelly Beans Flop!

The Good: Nothing bad in them
The Bad: Utterly generic flavor, Lack of sophisticated flavoring
The Basics: Strawberry Iced Jelly Bellys are a disappointing jelly bean that does not taste like much save sugar.

When Jelly Belly comes out with a new jelly bean flavor, I give it a try. Jelly Belly has earned my loyalty as a jelly bean enthusiast and I give all of their beans a fair shake. Despite my loyalty to the brand, they do not always hit with a flavor when they try ambitious new beans. The Strawberry Iced Krispy Kreme Doughnuts flavored Jelly Belly jelly beans are one such flop of a flavor.

For those who might never have had Jelly Belly jelly beans, these are easily the best jelly beans on the planet, packing a lot of flavor into a very small size. Unlike most jelly beans which are only vaguely flavored and are more based on colors, Jelly Belly jelly beans have a wide variety of actual flavors, like the Mint Mint Chocolate Chip, The Snapple Assortment, Krispy Kreme Chocolate Sprinkle Doughnut or their signature flavor Buttered Popcorn.

Who needs up to ten pounds of Strawberry Iced flavored Jelly Bellys? Given the lack of inherent flavor and quality to these beans, even buying them in bulk seems like a bad idea to me. For those who ignore my evaluation of them, the ten pound case of Strawberry Iced Jelly Belly jelly beans is the most economically and environmentally responsible package.


Strawberry Iced is a flavor of Jelly Belly jelly beans from the Krispy Kreme Assortment of Jelly Bellys! Jelly Belly Strawberry Iced jelly beans are approximately one half inch long by one quarter inch wide and they are roughly bean-shaped. These little candies are marketed to taste like Strawberry Iced doughnuts and they completely fail to replicate anything that flavorful.

Strawberry Iced flavored Jelly Bellys are available in a wide array of quantities, but they are least expensive by the ten pound box. Strawberry Iced flavored Jelly Bellys are easy to recognize. The Strawberry Iced Jelly Belly jelly beans are a pearlescent bright pink jelly bean without any additional marks or coloring, save the "Jelly Belly" name painted on each bean.

Ease Of Preparation

These are jelly beans, not making a flavorful icing on one's own! Preparing them is as easy as opening the bag in the box and popping one (or a handful) into your mouth. In the case of the ten pound box, one might want to put them in a candy dish of some form as opposed to risking spilling them each time one goes into the bag.


The Strawberry Iced Jelly Bellys have almost no aroma to them. These beans are inscrutable on the scent front; they do not hint at any real flavor at all.

Sadly, the lack of an aroma foreshadows well the taste of the Strawberry Iced Jelly Belly jelly beans. There is a vague, almost fruity flavor in these jelly beans right before the overly sugary flavor hits. The Strawberry Iced Jelly Belly jelly beans taste like the remnants of a strawberry frosting. The flavor is sugary, but even the hint of fruit does not endure for much more than a few seconds.

The Jelly Belly Strawberry Iced jelly beans have a faint sweet aftertaste that does not endure very long in the mouth after the last of these beans are consumed. Like the primary flavor, the aftertaste is more generically sugary than it is at all distinct or flavorful.


These are jelly beans, so one has to recall that they are based on something that is not at all nutritious. The Jelly Belly Strawberry Iced jelly beans are not a legitimate source of nutrition. These are a dessert and are in no way an adequate substitute for a real meal. A serving is listed at twenty-seven beans, with each Jelly Belly jelly bean having approximately four calories. This means that in a single serving, there are 110 calories.

Jelly Belly Strawberry Iced jelly beans are not as bad as they could be in the nutrition area. They have no fat and no protein, but for those who have ever dated a Vegan, these are Vegan-compliant to most Vegans because they contain no gelatin. Vegans who might take issue with these as being Vegan-compliant are the ones who have an issue with the use of bee's wax in the coating, so know your Vegan before buying! The Strawberry Iced beans have only one percent of the daily sodium with 15 mg and they are gluten free! The main ingredients are sugar, corn syrup and modified food starch, so it's not like this is an all-natural food, but they could be far, far worse.


Jelly Belly jelly beans have a shelf life of approximately almost two years and I have yet to run across a stale Jelly Belly and Strawberry Iced are no exception. They remain freshest when they are kept in an airtight container (the bag in the box is sufficient if it is kept closed) and they ought to be kept in a lukewarm environment. Storing them in hot places is likely to make the beans stick together and be gross. Kept in a cool, dry place, the beans retain their flavor perfectly; the package I picked up last week had an April 6, 2019 expiration date.

As for cleanup, unless one allows the Jelly Belly to get hot to the point that the waxy coating on the bean melts, the dyes on these do not bleed or denature, so there is usually no cleanup necessary, not even washing one's hands after eating them (always wash your hands before eating Jelly Bellys, just as you would before eating a doughnut). I've never had Strawberry Iced Jelly Bellys stain anything.


Strawberry Iced Jelly Bellys are generically sweet and almost as disappointing . . . as a Krispy Kreme doughnut!

For other Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor reviews by me, please check out:
Cinnamon Apple Filled
Egg Nog
Raspberry Dips


For other Jelly Belly reviews, please be sure to visit my Jelly Belly Jelly Bean Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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The Last Two Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. "Rewind" From The Doomed Future!

The Good: Decent performances by Iain De Caestecker and Nick Blood, A few good character moments for Fitz, Fills in much of the plot gap for Fitz
The Bad: Very much an unfinished story, Plot and character gaps, Issues with the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe continuity
The Basics: "Rewind" fills in the gap with Fitz's character on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and rushes him into the primary narrative in a somewhat problematic way.

Every now and then on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., the show gives a single character an episode that allows their character to grow and develop. Those stories tend to be some of the best in that instead of trying to desperately service the broad cast of the show, the show is actually able to emotionally delve into one character. Most notable of these episodes in the past was the second Simmons-focused episode, "4,722 Hours" (reviewed here!) and the assumption at the beginning of "Rewind" is that this will be another episode that is dominated by a single character. The danger for "Rewind" is that the episode has so much plot to explore that if it fails to explore the character's journey in a satisfying way, it might continue the downward spiral of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D..

Fortunately, "Rewind" at least stops the show's backslide, though it is very plot heavy.

"Rewind" works its way back to the final scene of "A Life Earned" (reviewed here!), which makes it impossible to discuss without spoiling that. For the first four episodes of the fifth season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., Fitz has been absent. A throwaway line made it clear that Fitz was not propelled into the future with the other Agents and there were artifacts found on the Lighthouse that made it clear that after the others were thrown into the future, Fitz worked tirelessly to find what happened to the other Agents. So, when "A Life Earned" climaxed with a scene that featured a single character in a mask, the instant reveal of who that character was was remarkably unsurprising. "Rewind" opens with the burden of explaining what happened to Fitz and how he arrived in the future, with an expectation that he would develop some way to bring the other agents back into the past when he makes his transition into the future.

Opening at Rae's Diner after the incident in the Framework, after the other six are taken by the other operatives, Fitz is left to be abducted by Talbot's assistant. Fitz is taken to an interrogation facility where he meets Hale, Talbot's replacement. Evans begins to empathize with Fitz as Fitz, in isolation, tries to figure out exactly what happened to his coworkers. From his cell, he manages to get a letter out to a soccer fanzine, which is actually a message to Lance Hunter. Six months into his work, Fitz theorizes that the Agents were abducted by aliens and Hunter comes to his rescue, posing as his lawyer. The pair escapes and Fitz catches up on the past six months of post-S.H.I.E.L.D. life and what Hunter has been up to since he was disavowed.

Hunter and Fitz track the beer truck from footage outside the diner to the home of Enoch. Enoch reveals that the six agents were sent to 2091 and that he was shown by a seer that those people needed to be sent at that particular moment. Enoch brings the pair to the seer, Robin Hinton, the Inhuman daughter who inherited her father's gift for seeing the future. Robin is foreseeing the future and is writing in an ancient alien language that no human knows. Enoch uses the same technology from the diner to help the group escape. Fitz, Hunter, Polly, Robin and Enoch go to the lighthouse on Lake Ontario that ends up as the future refuge for humanity. While there, Robin makes a prophecy that Fitz will save some of his friends. Enoch tells Fitz about his craft and Fitz and Hunter have to break back into the military facility where Fitz was kept in order to recover Enoch's ship.

The first act of "Rewind" is somewhat problematic in that the government abducts Fitz and quickly determines that he knows nothing about what happened to the other Agents. But Fitz is kept in isolation for six months, with only books to guide him. Fitz is not given a field trip to take readings and he has no resources. How does Hale actually expect Fitz to deliver his friends?!

As "Rewind" continues, Fitz moves the plot forward well-enough as he searches for his friends and Evans and her partner hunting them. Enoch provides the essential plot points needed to bridge the prior four episodes with "Rewind, but the show has to cover a lot of exposition. Hunter, for example, did not know about Robin Hinton, so the show has to take the time to catch Hunter (and anyone who did not watch that episode recently) up.

The moments of "Rewind" that work best are those that allow Fitz to explore the consequences of his own dark side. Fitz is struggling still with the fact that in the Framework, he was a villain and he knows that those traits came from within himself. Fitz is essentially at war with himself; his good instincts make him determined to find the others and his dark side allows him to threaten Enoch to get the anthropologist on his side. Fitz is adaptive and smart, which makes him a sensible character to be the team's savior. The fact that he and Hunter were not actually close in earlier seasons of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. makes their dynamic a bit more interesting (one assumes that Adrianne Palicki was unavailable for the episode due to filming The Orville, but Bobbi would have been a more organic choice to help Fitz in his quest to rescue Simmons based on how she had acted as Simmons's protector in the past). But throughout "Rewind," Fitz accesses his two sides fairly well.

The fundamental problem with "Rewind" is that it feels rushed and like the first half to a larger story. Fitz is a good character and Iain De Caestecker proves in "Rewind" that he can completely carry an episode on his own. But "Rewind" is incomplete; it does not actually connect to that final moment of "A Life Earned" and the problem there is that there seems like there ought to be an entire episode where Fitz is established in the future as a human who is somehow able to move among the Kree without simply being stopped when he shows up at Kasius's portion of the Lighthouse. Even on the character front, Fitz suffers some in "Rewind" because the episode references "Spacetime" (reviewed here!) without Fitz ever addressing the idea that time cannot be changed. The moment that Robin creates a prophecy of the Earth being destroyed, Fitz should be pretty much despondent arguing that the Earth cannot be saved!

As well, "Rewind" suffers because Enoch is used almost completely to move the plot forward. Enoch deserved more time with Fitz and the fact that the episode never has Enoch and Fitz passing jargon between them with Hunter utterly confused is disappointing. The end point of "Rewind" seems to promise a team-up period with Fitz and Enoch, but whether it is satisfactorily delivered remains to be seen; the feel coming out of "Rewind" is that that story will be similarly rushed.

"Rewind" also works to establish Hale as the new villain for Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and it feels like the show is stretched in far too many directions . . . much like it does when it creates an episode with all of the characters doing their own things. None of the plotlines seem as well-developed in "Rewind" and the fifth season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. seems like it is working hard to figure itself out.

There is another issue with "Rewind" in the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe and Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. itself. Enoch has a spacecraft on Earth that is in military custody. Somehow when Black Widow purged all of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s secrets, that remained hidden or no one in the Marvel Cinematic Universe wanted to steal the technology for themselves to study?! Banner, Stark, Pym, Vulture, Hammer, Killian, and other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents instantly come to mind as people who would want to get their hands on Enoch's pod . . . if for no other reason than to keep it out of the hands of others in the universe.

Ultimately, "Rewind" is a competent episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., but it is rushed and less-developed than it ought to be to service the story and franchise.

For other works with Joel Stoffer, please visit my reviews of:
"Orientation, Part I" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
"World's End" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull


For other elements of the MCU, please check out my Marvel Cinematic Universe Review Index Page for a comprehensive listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Friday, December 22, 2017

Yancey's Fancy Bacon Ranch Cheddar Succeeds!

The Good: Incredible flavor, Great ingredients, Surprisingly easy to work with!
The Bad: Ranch flavor is sublimated in the main flavor palate
The Basics: Surprisingly good, Yancey's Fancy Bacon Ranch cheddar delivers on its promises, especially when it is heated up!

After finally visiting the Yancey's Fancy cheese factory, it seemed like I might have hit a rut with the Ghost Pepper Cheddar (reviewed here!). Because most of the cheeses I purchased when I visited Corfu, NY were new and surprising flavors to me, I knew I was risking a lot by trying various flavors of cheese. I am, for example, not a huge fan of ranch dressing. My wife loves ranch and she puts it on almost everything. So, I picked up the Yancey's Fancy Bacon Ranch Cheddar figuring that if I didn't like it, she would gobble it up. She is not being given that opportunity as I found myself pleasantly surprised that the Yancey's Fancy Bacon Ranch Cheddar!

The bacon in the Yancey's Fancy Bacon Ranch Cheddar is delicious and the ranch flavor managed to truly pop when I made an omlette for my wife using the cheese. The Yancey's Fancy Bacon Ranch Cheddar is near perfect and for those who do not share my love of very sharp cheddars might actually find it to be an ideal representation of its promised flavors.


Yancey's Fancy is a manufacturer of Artisan Cheeses in upstate New York and they make some very creative cheeses. The intent of most Yancey's Fancy cheeses is that they will be cheeses that hold their own as snacks that may be served to consumers in fancier settings. They specialize in cheddar cheeses that have different flavors infused into them: champagne, jalapeno, various nuts, etc., as well as more exotic cheeses like gouda with bacon. Yancey's Fancy cheeses come in wheels (usually ten or twenty pounds each) and most stores chop the wheels into blocks. Online, it is fairly easy to find the cheese in one pound blocks, though this new flavor seems to have limited availability and quantity.

The Bacon Ranch Cheddar cheese is exactly as its name implies. This is a solid white cheese with real bacon bits in it. Mixed throughout the cheddar block are the actual chunks of red, cooked bacon, though none of them are bigger than a 1/8" in diameter, which makes it all the more surprising how flavorful the bacon is in the cheese. Yancey's Fancy Bacon Ranch Cheddar cheese comes encased in a soft green wax which allows the cheese to maintain its shape and solid state. The green wax helps consumers distinguish it from other flavors of Yancey's Fancy cheese.

Ease Of Preparation

Yancey's Fancy Bacon Ranch Cheddar cheese is a cheese, so more often than not, it is used on its own or as an ingredient in a recipe. Preparation of the cheese is pretty simple, starting with removing the plastic wrap it is sealed in. When that is done, simply peel back the wax coating on the outer edges. This happens with remarkable ease. The Bacon Ranch Cheddar cheese seems to not adhere to the wax. This makes it a very easy cheese to separate from the wax coating and it may be placed on a cutting block or plate ready to be cut!

More than most cheeses with other things embedded in them, Yancey's Fancy Bacon Ranch Cheddar cheese is very easy to work with. My cheese plane easily sliced through the block repeatedly, so the bacon bits in the cheese no way impede the cheese plane. This cheese is not so hard to fracture or otherwise fall apart. It is exceptionally easy to work with on its own or as an ingredient.

When the cheese is sliced, it melts beautifully with wonderful evenness and liquidity, making it an ideal ingredient to make flavorful omelets or to replace cheddar cheese in dishes like macaroni and cheese. It is delicious when melted into sandwiches, eggs or even a cream sauce (to make a cheese sauce). The first time I tried this cheese was in an omelet and it melted beautifully there; in fact, the flavor of this cheese reached its full potential when the cheese was melted.


On its own, the Yancey's Fancy Bacon Ranch Cheddar cheese smells strongly of bacon. The aroma of the bacon becomes much, much stronger as the cheese moves toward room temperature. The scent of the cheese itself is surprisingly mild compared to the smell of the bacon in the cheese.

Placing the Bacon Ranch Cheddar cheese in the mouth, the cheddar pops right away. The cheese flavor is strong and it augmented nicely by the bacon. The bacon in the Yancey's Fancy Bacon Ranch Cheddar is salty and flavorful in a way that is clear and delightful. The ranch manifests as a tangy aftertaste that finishes in a very complimentary way.

Melted, the ranch flavor comes to the forefront. While the Yancey's Fancy Bacon Ranch Cheddar is hot, the cheese is tangy and clearly ranch flavored. The bacon and ranch flavors coat the tongue delightfully, making the cheese feel more like a medium, as opposed to a flavor.

The Yancey's Fancy Bacon Ranch Cheddar leaves a slightly salty, very tangy aftertaste in the mouth after the last of this cheese is consumed.


Yancey's Fancy New York Artisan Cheeses are not intended to be all that one lives on. But for those who try, the Bacon Ranch Cheddar cheese is not a terribly healthy choice. The bacon and ranch do not seem to add anything of note to the cheese of nutritional value. A serving size is considered a one inch block (1 oz.). In that, there are 110 calories, 80 of which are from fat. This cheese has 25% of one's daily recommended saturated fat intake and 11% of the RDA of sodium. On the plus side, it does have 15% of the RDA of calcium and has six grams of protein.

Obviously, Bacon Ranch Cheddar cheese is a dairy product, so those who are lactose intolerant will have problems with it. This cheese is made primarily of aged cheddar cheese, bacon, and ranch seasoning. That makes it mostly natural, but it does have the preservative trisodium citrate, which robs it of being considered all natural. It is, however, gluten free. Obviously, as a cheese and one that contains actual bacon, this is not at all Vegan-compliant.


As a cheese, Yancey's Fancy Bacon Ranch Cheddar cheese should be kept refrigerated. So long as that happens, it ought to stay fresh for several weeks. I am utterly unable to write about shelf-life as our 7.6 oz block was gone within five days of being opened! So long as it is kept in an airtight, cold environment, it ought to remain fresh and supple. Our package bought two weeks ago had an expiration date of November 8, 2018.

Bacon Ranch Cheddar is a cheese, so it is not going to stain or ruin anything unless it is ground into a fabric. Baring that, cleanup of nonporous surfaces is as easy as wiping them with a damp cloth.


Yancey’s Fancy Bacon Ranch Cheddar cheese is quite good, even if it is not the sharpest cheddar cheese flavor. The cheese faithfully represents all three of the promised flavors when the cheese is melted and hot, but on its own it does not pop quite as much as it ought to.

For other Yancey's Fancy cheese reviews, please check out my takes on:
Roasted Garlic Cheddar Cheese Curds
Pepperoni Cheddar Cheese
Buffalo Wing Cheddar


For other food and drink reviews, please visit my Food Review Index Page!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Thursday, December 21, 2017

"A Good Man Goes To War" Assembles A Pretty Vast Doctor Who Team!

The Good: Good acting, Decent special effects, Moments of character
The Bad: Very basic plot, Plot-heavy with minimal character development
The Basics: "A Good Man Goes To War" finally begins to give explicit answers for what has been going on with Amy Pond when Melody Pond is born and abducted by a futuristic military organization.

Having come in comparatively late to the Doctor Who phenomenon, there are a number of elements that I have been eagerly watching for as I make my way through the series. Having seen Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax in "Deep Breath" (reviewed here!), I have been attentively watching for their origin story in Doctor Who. Indeed, when the Earth-based Silurians were explored in "Cold Blood" (reviewed here!), I eagerly watched for clues as to how Vastra would have been on the surface of Earth while the rest of her people slept for a couple hundred more years. It's not there (though there is a throwaway line in the two-parter about the "others" which might be enough to imply a splinter cell of Silurians who were active while the rest of the populace slept) and neither is there a true introduction or meeting between The Doctor and Vastra. Instead, Vastra appears at the outset of "A Good Man Goes To War" and is thrown into the mix with River Song and Rory in a way that is supposed to immediately give the viewer the credibility and weight of Vastra as someone akin in The Doctor's life to a Companion. But, lacking any prior context, the appearance of Vastra, Strax, and Jenny fighting at The Doctor's side at the outset of "A Good Man Goes To War," the appearance of a sudden, new Doctor Who super team is painfully abrupt.

If you feel like you've come in on the middle of a review, welcome to "A Good Man Goes To War," where The Doctor and a whole team of Companions and previously-unseen allies are suddenly a part of a significant conflict. The conflict came as a result of the events at the climax of "The Almost People" (reviewed here!) and given the reversal coming at the end of the episode made it prohibitive to discuss it in the review of that, we open "A Good Man Goes To War" with a sidebar of how improbable it was that we got here at all. Throughout the current season of Doctor Who, there have been hints about The Silence, Amy Pond is reading as both pregnant and not-pregnant at the same time, we've seen memory-erasing creatures that are part of The Silence, and Amy Pond has had hallucinations of a mysterious woman with an eye patch who appears in incongruent places. At the climax of "The Almost People," it is revealed that Amy Pond has not, in fact, been aboard the TARDIS for some time; she was replaced with a ganger "flesh" version of Amy at some point in the past and in cutting the psychic link to her very pregnant self, The Doctor destroyed the duplicate version of Amy. That is where "A Good Man Goes To War" begins, with the momentum of one Amy liquefying into goo and the actual Amy Pond beginning to go into labor in captivity somewhere else.

But here's the things; how did we get to this point? The Doctor was studying the strange readings that indicated Amy Pond was both pregnant and not pregnant at the same time and he took the TARDIS to the time and place of the nascent version of the flesh for "The Almost People" in order to confirm his suspicion about Amy. When one steps back from this, to look at it objectively, it is a painful leap of scientific analysis to get from point A to point B. The Doctor has a theory - the Amy Pond has been replaced, apparently - but in a universe and 900+ years of experience with robots, alternate universes, Sontaran duplicates, mind control, TARDIS equipment malfunction, etc., he manages to narrow his suspicions down to The Flesh, a replicating technology that he admits he has insufficient experience with (hence the trip to the time and place of "The Almost People"). To the viewer, in the time frame of the sixth season, this is incredibly unsatisfying as The Doctor makes no clear explorations of any alternate theories; he guesses correctly on his first try that Amy has been replaced by the thing he knows virtually nothing about. Really?!

And so, after an increasingly unlikely guess proves The Doctor's theory and he is able to remedy the deception by cutting the link between Amy Pond and ganger Amy, the viewer is thrust into "A Good Man Goes To War!"

Opening at Demon's Run, Amy Pond has had her baby and she is surrounded by military personnel led by the mysterious woman in the eye patch. Amy pledges her baby, Melody, that the baby's father is coming for them. Thousands of light years away from the facility, the Cybermen are under attack and Rory extorts them for information on where Amy is. Elsewhere on Demon's Run, a space station, Lorna Bucket recalls her brief experience with The Doctor while the Headless Monks get a new member and The Doctor's allies are called from various points in time and space. When Rory goes to pick up Dr. River Song, she is unwilling to join them on the mission. Madame Kovarian, the woman with the eye patch, visits Dorium Maldovar, who reveals that he knows where her forces are holed up and that there is a prophecy involving The Doctor going to war at Demon's Run.

The war at Demon's Run is an extraction mission where The Doctor arrives with his allies to stymie the military forces and rescue Amy Pond. But after an initial success at thwarting the military, Colonel Manton marshals his forces and The Doctor has to call in his reinforcements. But Kovarian is playing a deep game and when putting together the pieces of Amy Pond being on the TARDIS while having a signal beamed through time and space from Demon's Run makes Amy and Rory suspicious of why Kovarian wants Melody Pond at all. In studying Melody, The Doctor and his allies realize Melody Pond is human and time lord. Kovarian reveals that Melody Pond was created as a weapon to be used against The Doctor as the military forces converge upon The Doctor's allies at Demon's Run!

"A Good Man Goes To War" is packed with new creatures and characters in a way that makes viewers feel like they have missed something. Madame Vastra is introduced in 1888 with Jenny after having defeated Jack The Ripper . . . before declaring she has an old debt to The Doctor and leaving with him. Strax is picked up in the 4300s (how did he end up in the 1800s with Vastra and Jenny for "Deep Breath" then?!) and between the plethora of new characters and the wide range of settings and alien creatures there, "A Good Man Goes To War" feels initially jumbled and packed. Throwing in Lorna Bucket, a military officer who met The Doctor somewhere in his time stream, the episode starts to feel deliberately cluttered. Given how very many ancillary characters there are throughout the Doctor Who narrative at this point, that Steven Moffat did not use any of the already-present background characters for Bucket's role is needlessly complicated.

As a result, the hype surrounding the Headless Monks, an entirely new race, feels like filler. The point of the Headless Monks within "A Good Man Goes To War" is to work for the big rebeal of The Doctor into the narrative. But, rewatching The Doctor's allies gathering, amidst sudden creature menace from The Headless Monks and a massive military presence at Demon's Run, the ultimate entrance of The Doctor seems far more obvious than it is clever - it's like Steven Moffat frontloads the first act with red herrings and then expects viewers to be surprised when The Doctor exposes one of the many red herrings for what it is.

"A Good Man Goes To War" illustrates an interesting dark side to The Doctor which is a definite transition for the character and actually makes for a natural foreshadowing of the Peter Capaldi version of The Doctor. Capaldi's Doctor hates soldiers . . . but Matt Smith's Doctor uses soldiers. While Vastra declares that Demon's Run has been taken without any blood spilled, but she neglects the Spitfires shooting up Demon's Run, the destruction of the Cybermen fleet and the conflicts between the military and the Headless Monks. The Doctor has no problem using others to kill on his behalf in "A Good Man Goes To War" and that is a troubling character twist.

Outside being light on character development, "A Good Man Goes To War" is not bad, though it has a very simplistic plot. This is a confrontation episode where the participants do not know the motivations of the other side and the episode belabors putting together the pieces already in play. "A Good Man Goes To War" is built to a reversal that is emotionally virtually identical to the reversal in the prior episode, especially in terms of mood.

The performances in "A Good Man Goes To War" are good, especially for Matt Smith. Smith makes a pretty powerful emotional transformation in the course of "A Good Man Goes To War" as he begins as his familiar cocksure, almost goofy version of The Doctor. But as the episode progresses, The Doctor loses everything and Smith plays him as shocked and hurt and frazzled and Smith makes the transition incredibly well.

The climax of "A Good Man Goes To War" is frustrating, though, as The Doctor leaves the narrative before the big reveal is made explicit. His leaving is pointedly awkward as he takes the TARDIS with him, leaving someone else to get various allies back to their correct places and times . . . without the TARDIS. Similarly, the TARDIS translation matrix is explicitly called upon . . . after the TARDIS disappears, which seems very strange.

But, "A Good Man Goes To War" is a generally good set-up episode that is a remarkably satisfying initial answer to many of the season's mysteries. And it leads into "Let's Kill Hitler" perfectly!

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Doctor Who - The Complete Sixth 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 Matt Smith as The Doctor here!

For other works with Simon Fisher-Becker, please check out my reviews of:
Les Miserables
"The Pandorica Opens" - Doctor Who
Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone


For other Doctor Who episode and movie reviews, please visit my Doctor Who Review Index Page!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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