Wonder Woman dir. Patty Jenkins (2017) Standard superhero fare. Gal Gadot is refreshing in the titular role, and the shift to a more female-focussed cast is to be welcomed (viva Lucy Davis as Etta Candy!). However, Wonder Woman’s escalating invulnerability deprives the film of any tension or drama.
The Diary of River Song: A Requiem for the Doctor by Jacqueline Rayner (Big Finish, 2018) A somewhat predictable story overlaid onto its historical setting (rather than using it to any intrinsic purpose). Alex Kingston and Peter Davison work well together but cannot mitigate the feeling of treading water. The Doctor’s new companion is presented without any explication.
City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab (Scholastic, 2018); audiobook read by Reba Buhr (Scholastic Audio, 2018) A straightforward story that makes a virtue of its simplicity. Cassidy Blake and her ghost friend Jacob are both relatable and likeable, and the threat they face is about right for late middle-grade. Reba Buhr’s audiobook reading really brings out the characterisation.
What We Did On Our Holiday dir. Andy Hamilton & Guy Jenkin (BBC, 2014) A funny and fast-moving death and divorce comedy, very British in its humour. The three children do very well carrying the bulk of the story, while Billy Connolly is beautifully understated as their dying grandfather. Also stars Rosamund Pike and David Tennant.
Steins;Gate 0 by Jukki Hanada; dir. Kenichi Kawamura (2018) A reboot ingeniously predicated on rewriting one key decision made by Okabe in the original series. More time-travel shenanigans result, enhanced by several new players and character developments. Writer Jukki Hanada keeps the plot bubbling along but doesn’t quite stick the ending.
The Black Archive #37: Kerblam! by Naomi Jacobs & Thomas L. Rodebaugh (Obverse Books, 2019) Jacobs and Rodebaugh bring academic rigour and methodology to Kerblam!, reading the story at a far greater depth than its author can have intended. Their analysis—focussing on AI development and socio-political systems—supports the contention that Kerblam! suffers from plot-driven superficiality.
Doctor Who: The Bride of Peladon by Barnaby Edwards (Big Finish, 2008) Edwards has successfully paired Peter Davison’s Doctor (in all its earnestness) with Pertwee-era Peladon and many of the elements associated with that original brace of stories. The production features intrigue and misdirection (without overdoing it), decent voice acting and a surprise villain.
Endeavour, Series 2 by Russell Lewis (ITV, 2014) Four more feature-length episodes. Shaun Evans and Roger Allam further establish their dynamic as the perceptive young Morse and his mentor Fred Thursday. Several of the murder mysteries, however, rely too heavily on stacked coincidences for their execution, obfuscation and eventual unravelling.
The Black Archive #36: Listen by Dewi Small (Obverse Books, 2019) A brief but lucid analysis invoking Freudian psychology and assessing Clara’s role in moulding the Doctor’s character (particularly by way of bootstrap paradox). Small belabours some points but steers clear of narrow-mindedness, instead contextualising the story’s workings within Doctor Who’s long history.
The Diary of River Song: The Lady in the Lake by Nev Fountain (Big Finish, 2018) A story that is challenging in its complexity (intriguingly rather than dishearteningly so) and mischievous in its characterisation, with artful twists and generally just a very clever execution. Fountain brings a creativity that Big Finish would do well to embrace more often.