Monday, December 11, 2017

Review: Doctor Who "The Shakespeare Code"

Alright, before I review this episode, I'm going to address the elephant in the room that only fans of the Classic Series noticed. It's a pretty small elephant, all things concerned.

In "Planet of Evil," the Fourth Doctor claimed to have met a young Shakespeare and told him "There's no point in talking if you've got nothing to say."

As I understand it, Gareth Roberts wrote a line or two into "The Shakespeare Code" to acknowledge this, but they ended up getting cut out because, apparently, most viewers aren't obsessing over dialogue from an old Fourth Doctor episode. Which I find pretty amusing, since the two-parter story "The Magician's Apprentice"/"The Witch's Familiar" was pretty much based on dialogue from an old Fourth Doctor episode.

Oh, the Russell T. Davies Era. It seems so strange that there was a time in the show's modern history when references to the Classic Series were almost... taboo. These days, the writers say "I'm putting an Alpha Centauri cameo in this episode! I don't care if no one in the audience has seen 'The Curse of Peladon'!" To say nothing of this year's Christmas special, which will be a team up with the First Doctor that takes place during the final First Doctor serial, apparently.

But I'm getting off track. Shakespeare!

...Actually, let's get back off track real quick.

Recap: Doctor Who "The Shakespeare Code"

Now that's a 2007 episode title if ever I saw one! According to David Tennant's video diary, the working title was "Theatre of Doom," which I guess riffs on the second Indiana Jones film, rather than 2006's then-culturally-relevant The Da Vinci Code.

That's like if, next year, they end up giving Jodie Whittaker an episode called "War for the Planet of the Ood," or "Time Wars: The Last Time Lord."

Also, I would love it to no end if there were an episode called "War for the Planet of the Ood."

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Review: Teen Titans Go! "Hey Pizza!"

Before I actually Review this episode, I'd like to ask you something real quick.

What would you say the A-plot for the episode is? Robin's dilemma over building a pool or a senior center? Or Beast Boy/Cyborg's quest to con the pizza place?

Because I always assumed that Robin's plot was the main plot here, with the pizza shenanigans serving as a B-plot. So I was always confused as to why the episode was named after its B-plot.After all, Robin's plot definitively starts first, and arguably ends last, with the pizza stuff sandwiched in between alternate Robin scenes.

And that's when I timed this episode.

The pool plot only lasts about 4 minutes, while the pizza plot lasts about 5 minutes and 21 seconds, even though most of that time is made up of montage.. Which I guess explains why the episode is named after the pizza plot.

But I think this serves to highlight the fact that this episode is structurally weird, as far as episodes of Teen Titans Go!.... go.

Recap: Teen Titans Go! "Hey Pizza!"

Beast Boy and Cyborg try to slow down the pizza guy to take advantage of their "30 minutes or it's free" deal.

Boom. I've said all I need to say. The episode is pretty much exactly what you'd expect this show to do with that premise.

It's common knowledge by this point that "Meatball Party" was the moment where the writers realized how off-the-wall they could make these episodes. And if you ask me, I'd say that "Hey Pizza!" represents some of the inside-the-box thinking they were finding themselves doing for a bit.

Inside the pizza box, perhaps?

...Yeah, I really reached for that one.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Review: Goosebumps "The Haunted House Game"

Before I discuss what this episode is, I'll take this moment to talk about what the episode isn't.

It's not a faithful adaptation of the source material.

In 1996, Scholastic published "Even More Tales to Give You Goosebumps," which was the third Goosebumps anthology of short stories. Now, I can't be 100% certain that R.L. Stine wrote any of these tales intended to give you goosebumps. From what I've been able to find online, Scholastic requires R.L. Stine to write the main Goosebumps books, but they can use whatever ghost writers they want for any and all spinoffs. A short story called "Fun with Spelling" was written by Carolyn Crimi, who also did some ghostwriting for the Fear Street books.

But whoever wrote "The Haunted House Game" ended up writing a story that was surprisingly different from the Robin Williams film it was probably inspired by. The short story was a simple tale about some kids who play The Haunted House Game. Every space they land on says something creepy, like "Wind rattles the window," which then happens in real life, escalating until one of them lands on the "Scared to death" space, at which point one of them runs outside and finds an old newspaper that says that they died of fear decades ago. Then he slowly forgets what happened, and all the kids start to relive the board game that led to their deaths once again.

Which means that every single change made for the TV adaptation not only made the story more like Jumanji, but was more-than-likely supposed to make the story more like Jumanji, right down to the kids that were trapped from an earlier game.

But all the stuff they added to this episode didn't add to the story. Things happen, but....  You know what this episode is? It's a setting in search of a plot.

Recap: Goosebumps "The Haunted House Game"

In 1981, Chris Van Allsburg wrote and illustrated Jumanji, a short story about a magic board game that raised all sorts of jungle-related Hell when you played it.

In 1995, TriStar Pictures distributed Jumanji, starring Robin Williams. It expanded on the book and took a few liberties with the source material, becoming a fondly-remembered '90s film.

It is currently 2017, and a sequel/reboot called Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle comes out this month. But I'm not here to talk about the reboot. Or the original film. However good or bad the new Jumanji movie ends up being, I know for a fact that it can't be worse that that time the Goosebumps TV show jumped on board the "supernatural board game" bandwagon.

You know, the last time I covered a short story from a Goosebumps anthology that focused on a haunted house, we got a slow, meandering episode that was mostly padding.

So this can only end well.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

December 2017 Announcements

Really, I only have one thing to announce. After December, the NewtCave will be going on hiatus once again. Usual reasons. Real life, work, et cetera.

The plan is to return in February. Should this plan change at any point, I'll be sure to make another announcement.

But, yes, I did say after December. There will be a few more NewtCave posts before the year is out, including a special Christmas post that I meant to put up last year.

See you then!