Okay, literally just finished this week's new episode of Doctor Who. New in the UK, that is; coming to SciFi in about three weeks or so.
Last year, the second episode of the season, The Shakespeare Code , was a lavish, lively, historical adventure that quickly became one of my favorite stories. This year, the second episode of the season, The Fires of Pompeii, is a lavish, lively, historical adventure that has almost immediately become one of my favorite stories. Written by the talented James Moran (about whom more later), it manages to shift from comedy to action to tragedy seamlessly, with some fantastic visual sequences and some heartbreaking emotional ones.
Catherine Tate continues to amaze as Donna Noble. In some ways, the relationship between her and the Doctor reminds me of his relationship with Sarah Jane Smith, (her from The Sarah Jane Adventures, who traveled with the Doctor back in the 70s). I said it last week, and I'll say it again: because she's not a lovestruck young woman, they come across more as equals. As she was even back in her debut story, The Runaway Bride, she's someone who can pull the Doctor back from the brink of alien coldness, someone who can revive his humanity.
Once again, I'll try to keep this spoiler-free, but it should come as no surprise that a story called The Fires of Pompeii features the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and the destruction of the city. Seeing Donna's heartbreaking attempts to fight history by trying to save just one person, and the plight of marble merchant Caecilius and his family, nearly brought a tear to my eye. I loved the moments when she stood up to the Doctor, forcing the two of them, and the series in general, to directly confront and deal with how set in stone history truly may be, and just how much the Doctor is slave to these fixed points in time. And I loved when she lent her support at a key moment, which I won't describe here, but which made me cheer out loud (much to the surprise of Penelope, who was curled up next to me, also watching).
And then there are the mysterious prophecies, and yet another mention of missing planets... Where is it all leading?
Well, next week, I suppose it's leading to the planet of the Ood, in an episode entitled Planet of the Ood. Can't wait.
James Moran is definitely a name I'll be keeping out for. He was a guest at this past February's Gallifrey convention, where he revealed he's going to be writing an episode of Primeval next series, and is writing an episode of upcoming Spooks spinoff, Spooks: Code 9. Clearly, I also need to watch his debut horror film, Severance
Oh, and I finished the second novel in the Shadow collection. I really enjoyed this pair of stories, billed as author Walter Gibson's favorites. While the editorial material doesn't quite spell out why he favored these tales, they certainly are changes of pace from the bulk of the stories I've read. They're more personal in focus, dealing with small-scale stories of revenge and other personal motivations, instead of the usual series of crimes committed by master supervillains. Definitely recommended for folks who like this sort of thing.
Of course, I'm still not actually finished with the thing, since there's still an article and radio script in the book for me to get through. But I will finish tonight.
In the on-deck circle: Three Shirt Deal by Stephen J. Cannell. I loved watching Cannell's TV series in the 80s, and I really enjoy his books, especially his series about LAPD Detective Shane Scully (of which this is the latest installment). More once I start reading it.