Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Wizards vs Aliens: Dawn of the Nekross, part 2

Well, after a rather lengthy search for this episode—finally pulled it up on watchseries—I sat down for a lovely time with Tom, his friend Benny, and his grandmother Ursula. I do hope “Old Mark”—the prematurely aged boy played by Brian Miller—returns, and not just because he’s Elisabeth Sladen’s husband. There’s so much potential in that character, especially if the ring can’t heal him completely. The goblin Randell Moon is great comic relief with extra potential, and  Tom’s dad Micheal has definite depth already, beyond just the muggle-in-the-family role. He kind of reminds me of Alan in SJA. 
And the visuals—WOW! The sequence where Tom, Benny, Ursula and Micheal escape from the Necross ship was stunning, absolutely gorgeous. Maybe the CBBC put some of the money saved from less aliens and used it for other special effects. I also love Benny and Tom’s arguments about magic vs science…I’d love to see Benny meet up with Clyde Langer, or maybe swap places. That would be hilarious.
I’m definitely watching next week’s episodes “Grazlax Attack.”

Monday, October 29, 2012

Wizards vs Aliens: Dawn of the Nekross part 1

Since the untimely death of Elisabeth Sladen in 2011 and the finale of the Sarah Jane Adventures,  I've sorely missed my light-hearted sci-fi fix. As much as I love my other fandoms, SJA hit a sweet spot with the character relationships, lack of romance, and medium-level intensity. Episodes like “Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith,” had their place, but so did lower-stakes episodes like “Secrets of the Stars.” 
So I was really excited to hear about “Wizards vs Aliens,” a new Russell T Davies show combing sci-fi and magic. The opening scene is amazing—a wizard and his dad are enchanting a healing ring, but are interrupted by a glowing alien spaceship. 
In several ways, this show is intended as a “spiritual successor” to the Sarah Jane Adventures. The production staff shares several members, an episode in season two is adapted from a SJA script, and Elisabeth Sladen’s husband played a minor role in the pilot of Wizards vs Aliens.
One episode in, I’m happy to report that WvA continues several SJA traditions, including protagonists getting covered in gunge, arbitrary skepticism, a geeky boy, and a seriously protective grandma. And a quick look on the Wikipedia page suggests the Necross will become primary antagonists, instead of the monster-of-the week format of SJA. 
While nothing can replace the Sarah Jane Adventures, I’d definitely recommend giving this show a shot to anyone who misses that “tone” of adventures.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Spaces Between my Fingers (are right where yours fit perfectly)

While waiting for the 2012 Christmas special, I slack my Whovian thirst by finishing the First Doctor's era (only "The Tenth Planet" left to go) and watching all of River's episodes in her chronological order. As far as I can tell, that means:

  1. Snippets of GMGTW with baby Melody
  2. Little-girl Melody from Impossible Astronaut and Day of Moon
  3. Let’s Kill Hitler
  4. Closing Time cameo
  5. Wedding of River Song
  6. GMGTW as grown-up—anything after here, really
  7. Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon
  8. Pandorica Opens/Big Bang
  9. Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone
  10. Tells Amy the Doctor’s still alive (Wedding of River Song)
  11. Angels Take Manhattan
  12. Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead
But I felt it was time to further explore Angels Take Manhattan,  particularly River and the Doctor's relationship in it. She is now "Professor Song," pardoned because there's now no evidence that the Doctor ever existed. Which means she's that much closer to the Library; his face when he heard those words...he knows she's very near the end.  

But that whole scene is so beautiful---so wonderfully played, from her reaction to the mob boss's prize to her deliciously snarky "Just you wait till my husband gets home."  She can ignore the Weeping Angel that caught her wrist and focus on finding her dad through a book she has yet to write. The heartbreaking elements start when he sees chapter titles eleven and twelve: "Death at Winter Quay" and "Amelia's Last Farewell." He starts pounding his face against the book, yelling, and she replies  "Doctor. Doctor, what is it? What's wrong? Tell me. Doctor. Doctor, what is it? Tell me. Okay. I know that face. Calm down! Calm down! Talk to me! Doctor!"

He storms off in a rage. Her wrist isn't the real issue--it's a miniature of the whole story, the weight of fixed points and fate...and if she can escape a detail, they might be able to leave unscatted.  And so his exuberant joy when she walks in, his squeals of "you just changed the future!"--they make so much more sense in context. And he grabs her hand, because now this is just another adventure, they'll be fine...
And she pulls away, shaking her hand. The camera zooms in, revealing an angry red line from pinky to wrist. The small whimper is the only hint we get of the pain--and given River's stoic nature in other episodes, any response means it must hurt like hell.  The scene cuts to Rory in Battery Park, so we don't get to see the Doctor's initial reaction. I'd imagine it's several levels of very seriously not good. But his words to her are so tender and quiet, both in tone and terms:

The Doctor: Why did you lie to me?
River: When one's in love with an ageless god who insists on the face of a twelve-year-old, one does one's best to hide the damage.
The Doctor: It must hurt. Come here.

He takes her wrist in his hands, carefully holding it. 

River: Yes. The wrist is pretty bad too.  

There's just so much pain at the moment, the threat of death and farewells, fixed points threatening to take his friends. And his wife's in pain. So he does the only thing he can do,  focusing on a minor detail... his hands begin to glow with regeneration energy.

RiverNo no. No, stop that! Stop that! Stop it! 

He ignores her protest, maintaining the glow until the lines on her wrist vanish. 

The Doctor: There you go. How's that? 
River: Well. Let's see shall we? {she slaps him} That was a stupid waste of regeneration energy! Nothing is gained by you being a sentimental idiot.

The Doctor: River!
River: No! You embarrass me! {she storms off}
The Doctor: River!

Amy watches the whole scene. The Doctor turns to her, with more than a little-she's-your-daughter in his expression. In the next scene, Amy and River are outside.

Amy: Okay, why did you lie?
River: Never let him see the damage. And never ever let him see you age. He doesn't like endings.

I love River, forever and always, one of my favorite companions,  one of my top ships, etc, but she is so bloody thick to say that. Yes, it's true. Yes, the Doctor has already lost so much. Yes, don't cause him pain, but ...you're his wife! Be strong for each, because you need someone to share those moments. Marriage is all about being vulnerable to each other. But no matter how much she's loved...no matter how much she loves him, she can't overcome that psychopathic tendency of emotions as weakness. 

She still feels she needs to be the strong one, the one who will never break down--is she still atoning for Berlin and Silencio? If you look at her behavior towards Amy-at the Byzantium, the Pandorica, Lake Silencio--she's trying to protect her, keep her safe, more like a mother than a daughter. Oh, River...you are forgiven, don't you remember that? You are forgiven. Always and completely forgiven. 

As for a waste of regeneration energy--you're a fine one to talk. Ten regenerations spent in moments, just trying to save her mortal enemy. Or are you the only one who can make sacrifices for the people you love? He was trying to help, River. He loves you, in his own awkward, gangly, son-of-a-giraffe way,  and one way of showing that is caring when you're hurting. The bit at the end where he  kisses her hand--that's what a mother does, everyone knows mom's kisses are magic.  But there's also the chivalric element, kissing the hand of one's lady-love to honor her. And it's not the last handkiss in this episode. 

The later scene in the graveyard also burns with River feels. Rory has already vanished, without even the chance to say goodbye, and Amy stands there, staring at the Angels. I could do a whole nother post on the Angel angel of this and how Eleven will probably react next time he encounters them, but she can't look away, literally can't, and has already made up her mind because she can't live without  Rory. 

--that one word tore my heart in half, because it's never Melody, even after Demons Runs. It's River, always River. But she's saying goodbye to her daughter, the only child she'll ever had, and just this once, it's "Melody."

Amy: You look after him. And you be a good girl and you look after him.

They can't even look each other in the eye, because the Angel's still there.   So Amy reaches her hand backwards, and River holds it and kisses it because this is goodbye forever.  It's even worse with a bit of thought. The Doctor totally breaks down, sobbing and holding his head in his hands, but the Angel must still be there. So River must have been staring at it the whole time, until they got back in the TARDIS, and because she "can't let him see the damage," she can't start crying.

The Doctor: River. They were your parents. Sorry. I didn't even think.
River: Doesn't matter.
The Doctor: Course it matters.

The causal tone in which she says it--oh, River. Break my heart, why don't you?  And then I thought of it in connection with this Tumblr post...don't let go River. Hold on to him, because he needs you.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

An Illustrated Dream (w/aid from Google)

So we had gone out for the day and were on the way back to the TARDIS when we found a crowd outside the TARDIS. They couldn't move but otherwise looked normal. So we went into the museum and found tons of little kids running around an empty room.
But there was a Weeping Angels inside, sculptured of black metal or rock, maybe granite. It reclined on a rocky base, sitting like Adam in Michelangelo's ceiling. (almost exactly like this, actually)
There were small chains nearby, probably used to cordon off the statue, and I used them to chain the Angel as best I could. I set two of the elementary-aged kids to watch the sculpture nonetheless, but went off with some friends to search the rest of the building for Angels. "And beware the cherubs too!" I told them. My best friend and I went to the basement, equipped with two flashlights.
The place was massive--at least the size of a church, and had shelves and rows upon rows of statues, like some workshop or collector's studio. I saw another Angel, like the one upstairs, and asked my friend "Will you be alright if I go to get the others?" But then I saw people--a mother and two middle-school daughters, moving around the sculptures, and I knew they were Angels, in the sense that Amy might have become one in Flesh and Stone if the Doctor had not saved her. 
Something touched my hand, and I became an Angel.
My mouth was full of dust, and I coughed and coughed, trying to get rid of that dry taste. I screamed to the others, trying to warn them, make them run. But they touched me instead, and I and the other angels were disabled, like zombies by Nerf swords in HvZ.
The next thing I knew, I was human, sitting on a bench, with River hugging me tight and Eleven looking down. 
"Can I have a sonic screwdriver next time? Because it was not supposed to work like that, I know better."  My heart was going thumpity-thumpity-thump, as if I'd run a marathon, and I started babbling. "There's an Angel upstairs, I trained to chain it up but could someone just make sure it's taken care of?" 
And he looked down at me with such an odd expression, something like
Someone else--a barrister or solicitor or lawyer or someone like that---was taking me to hear a will read.

We walked out past rows of columns, dark from heavy rain. "After Mother died--well, after he told me that she died
some 2 years afterwards.) 
"He would look at me like I was the only precious thing he had left in the world."
(yes, I was Eleven and River's daughter. It was so Mary Sue but so fun)
Then time had twisted again, and we were at a theatre in Wellington, New Zealand for the premier of The Fellowship of the Ring;  River, Eleven and I. But this was early days, very early, perhaps my first adventure with them.
Our seats were in the front row, with our jackets reserving them. Mine was of some sort of plaid--it was all very smart-looking, and I wish I could remember what I was wearing, because it looked so good on me. 
When we were climbing out later, River said to me "You seem to know him."
"Did you say you seem to know him, or that I seem to know him?" I asked. "In a dream, you can know a person better than your best friend, and when you finally meet--"

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Twelve Unlikely Heroes

One element of John MacArthur's work that I really appreciate is the conversational writing style. When he's telling stories of Biblical individuals, the tone, as well as the content, helps remind us that these "heroes of the faith" were people who struggled as well as triumphed.
And the book  Twelve Unlikely Heroes further emphasises that point by referring to Bible characters such as Samson, Mark, and Miriam.

Some of these heroes are only briefly mentioned in Scripture- Onesimus and Enoch. Others, like Joseph and Esther, are familiar from Sunday School classes and Bible studies. But MacArthur doesn't focus only on their success, but also illuminates their flaws. He doesn't do this to degrade their accomplishments, but to show that God is greater than our flaws. For example, Mark deserted Paul and Barnabas on their first missions trip. Some people--including Paul--would have written him off there. Instead, Barnabas gave Mark a second chance, and Mark not only grew in faith, but ended up writing a gospel.
Another aspect worth mentioning is MacArthur's use of extra-Biblical sources. He refers to Josephus and church tradition at various points; While not putting them on level with Scripture, some people might be uncomfortable with those sources.

Four Stars:
I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze program but was not obligated to write a positive review.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Avengers

Steve Rogers: Big man in a suit of armour. Take that off, what are you? 
Tony Stark: Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist. 
Steve Rogers: I know guys with none of that worth ten of you.

Last night, I finally watched The Avengers.  While it may not be going on my top five any time soon, I must say the personality clash was entertaining. I especially enjoyed seeing Captain America give it to Iron Man, as those are my most and least favorite Avengers, respectively. But for a superhero flick, it was surprisingly intense. The banter was good--thank you Joss Whedon!"

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Restorer's Journey

Even though The Restorer's Journey is the conclusion of a trilogy, I had no difficulty understanding the story or picking up threads from the past books. At some point, I might read the prequels, but the book can be read without them.
One element that makes this series stand out to me is the family relationships. Most fantasy novels marginalize family--children are orphans or raised by evil step parents; adults are bachelors. Instead, the main characters of this book are a suburban mom and her teenage son--the dad is also present, but probably plays a stronger role in the previous books.
The first person point-of-view switches between the mom and her son, but the plot is easy to follow without being too simple. Both characters are realistic, well-rounded portrayals of Christian faith in action. As an expanded edition, this volume also has cut scenes, extra links, and a discussion guide.
Four of Five Stars

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


My friend Mary Ruth is having a giveaway over at her blog, The Writer's Lair.  More information can be found here.

The Sword of Lyric by Sharon Hinck

With the recent release of The Restorer's Journey, the Sword of Lyric trilogy is now available in extended editions offering bonus chapters, special features, and discussion guides. As part of publicity for the re-release, Sharon Hinck offered the chance to be an "influencer" by receiving an early e-copy and posting reviews. Here's an interview about the process as well as some links. I will post my own review later this week.

The Restorer’s Journey-Expanded Edition


The Restorer’s Journey-Expanded Edition

His choices have the power to save or destroy.

With a loved one’s life at stake, Jake charges through the portal into Lyric to stage a dramatic rescue, trusting that the signs that mark him as Restorer will guarantee success. But everything familiar in Lyric has vanished, swept away by deadly lies and a corrupt king. As inexorable forces conspire to turn him from his purpose, Jake finds his path leading to places beyond his courage.

While he confronts the temptation to flee his calling, Susan struggles in brutal captivity. Can she gain freedom before the enemy destroys her spirit, and will Jake choose to follow his destiny before everything is lost?

(Book three in the groundbreaking Sword of Lyric series, The Restorer’s Journey won a Carol Award for speculative fiction. This new expanded edition includes bonus scenes, a ten week devotional guide, and links to audio and video extras.)


This is the third book in the series. Is it the last?

I love the Sword of Lyric world, and hope to complete a fourth book. I began it years ago, but have been sidetracked for a while. In recent years I focused my energy on the bonus material for the expanded editions and getting the first three books back in print in these improved versions. Now that all three are available with all the beautiful new extras, my plan is to get back to finishing the fourth novel.

Of the three books, was this one your favorite?

No. It was the most difficult for me to write.

Although I’ve gotten reader mail from people who say this book was their favorite of the series, it’s a bit darker in tone. Susan’s struggle with captivity and mind poison hit a bit too close to home for me. Reading the book, you experience her suffering over a few days, but writing it, I had to spend many months with her in that Rhusican prison, and that was tough.

However, Jake’s storyline was great fun. He’s an idealist, as am I. Seeing him confront the disappointments in his quest, and also watching him overcome his weaknesses, was inspiring to me. In addition to adult readers, I have a lot of young readers, and I think they appreciated watching Susan’s 18-year-old son grow into his Restorer role.

How did you decide where to put in bonus elements?

Working with the publisher, we decided it was important to keep the flow of the story intact and free from distractions. So the book is designed with a large back-of-the-book section that can be used either after finishing the story, or during the reading of the main story. Small symbols and page numbers at the end of chapters direct readers to bonus scenes, and QR symbols in the margin invite readers to explore audio files, or recipes, or rules for playing Perish – all without interrupting the story.

It was important to me that people would feel that it was worth the investment to own The Restorer’s Journey-Expanded Edition, even if they had a copy of the original edition, so we packed this book with lots of added value.

Besides an entertaining read, what do you hope people experience in The Restorer’s Journey-Expanded Edition?

My hope is that readers who are finding their own life adventures more difficult than expected will be encouraged by the journeys of Susan and Jake. The One chooses unlikely Restorers, but always guides and equips and provides. When the characters relied on their own strength or intellect, their tasks felt hopeless. But when they leaned on the One, they caught glimpses of amazing ways that the One was at work with love and purpose.

Where can people find the book?


Sharon writes “stories for the hero in all of us,” about ordinary people experiencing God’s grace in unexpected ways. Known for their authenticity, emotional range, and spiritual depth, her novels include contemporary fiction such as The Secret Life of Becky Milleror Stepping into Sunlight and the groundbreaking Sword of Lyric fantasy series which includes The Restorer’s Son–Expanded Edition. She’s been a Christy finalist and won three Carol awards.
Sharon’s undergrad degree is in education, and she earned an M.A. in Communication. When she isn’t wrestling with words, Sharon enjoys speaking to conferences, retreats, and church groups. She loves interacting with visitors at her website and blog: sharonhinck.com