TV Review: ‘Doctor Who’ 2019 Special – “Resolution”

New year, new dangers…

d who - resolution

The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her friends welcome a new year as a deadly threat to humanity looms (image credit: BBC, used for illustrative purposes only).

Starring:  Jodie Whittaker, Tosin Cole, Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill, Daniel Adegboyega, Charlotte Ritchie, Nikesh Patel, Nicholas Briggs

Written by:  Chris Chibnall / episode directed by:  Jamie Childs & Wayne Yip

What’s it about?

The Doctor faces a new challenge from an old enemy as a new year on Earth dawns…

In review

In a break from tradition by foregoing a festive edition of Doctor Who on Christmas Day, the BBC instead brought viewers a special hour long episode for New Year’s Day (and the only new Doctor Who for 2019 with series 12 due to air in autumn 2020).  In “Resolution“ Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor once again faces her oldest and greatest enemy when a lone Dalek mutant, buried on Earth centuries prior is revived and blazes a path of terror as it sets about constructing a new armour casing and fulfil its plans in summoning a Dalek invasion fleet.

Jodie Whittaker’s debut series has been interesting if a little uneven (despite a strong premiere) and although “Resolution“ gets off to a sluggish start it shifts into higher gear as it moves into its second half.  It may not be the best Dalek story but it’s still a good one and like Steven Moffat before him, Chris Chibnall gives us something fresh and unusual from Doctor Who’s most iconic monster.  Although the Dalek creature itself is separated from its casing and weaponry it doesn’t diminish the threat of the Doctor’s enduring adversary and demonstrates the intelligence and ingenuity of a resourceful and dangerous foe (its MacGyver style method of constructing a new casing undoubtedly being a highlight of the episode) as it controls, or ‘pilots’ an unwitting human host (archaeologist Lin, played by Charlotte Ritchie) to accomplish its mission. Kudos should also go to voice artist Nicholas Briggs who continues to bring the Daleks unsettlingly to life, never failing to succeed in conveying the pure evil and ruthlessness of the alien menace.

Jodie Whittaker continues to make her mark in the role of the Doctor with an enthusiastic and quirky performance, she perhaps comes across a little too energetic at times but non-the-less continues to prove her worth as the titular lead character of one of SF TV’s most beloved series.  Facing Whittaker’s Doctor with the Daleks early on in her run is a wise move as it always provides the opportunity for any actor in the central Doctor Who role to bring their talents to the next level and a test of the resolve of any incarnation of the character.

There’s also a bit of social commentary thrown into the mix as we learn that the operations of UNIT, the security and defence organisation with a long association with the Doctor, have been suspended due to funding – a victim of the uncertainties of Brexit?  It’s also a bit of a shame (and a missed opportunity) as the prospect of teaming Jodie Whittaker up with Jemma Redgrave’s Kate Lethbridge-Stewart surely has a lot of merit.

Ryan reconnecting with his estranged father serves to further flesh out not just Ryan himself but also his ‘gramps’, Graham and their relationship.  Tosin Cole and Bradley Walsh both turn in solid performances (and guest star Daniel Adegboyega is also effective as Ryan’s father, Aaron) and whilst those scenes threaten to drag out the pace and verge on being a little soap opera-y they still have narrative importance and facilitate emotional pay-off in the final act.  Consequently there’s less for Yaz (Mandip Gill) to do in this episode (supporting the argument that the TARDIS may have been overcrowded this season) but she still has a part to play and gets her own moments to shine.

The climax of “Resolution“ (capably directed by Jamie Childs & Wayne Yip) is a tense and exciting affair, with great special effects, well-staged action scenes and reasonably tight drama with a poignant and satisfying outcome.  With Whittaker and Chibnall’s first full season in the bag, capped off with this enjoyable New Year’s Day adventure here’s hoping that the series hits a more consistent stride next year.

The bottom line:  An entertaining special to round off a hit and miss debut season for Jodie Whittaker, “Resolution” renews the threat of an old menace that raises the stakes for the Thirteenth Doctor and her friends.

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Flashback: ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ – “Emissary”

25 years ago saw the beginning of a daring new chapter in the ‘Star Trek’ legacy…

Trek DS9 Emissary - cast

Beyond the Final Frontier: the crew of Deep Space Nine.

Year:  1993

Starring:  Avery Brooks, Rene Auberjonois, Siddig El Fadil, Terry Farrell, Cirroc Lofton, Colm Meaney, Armin Shimerman, Nana Visitor, Marc Alaimo

Series created by:  Rick Berman & Michael Piller (Star Trek created by Gene Roddenberry)

Written by:  Michael Piller (story by Rick Berman & Michael Piller) / episode directed by:  David Carson

What’s it about?

Commander Benjamin Sisko is assigned to take command of Deep Space Nine, a surrendered Cardassian space station and upon the discovery of a wormhole leading to a distant corner of the galaxy makes contact with mysterious alien entities that exist within…

Retrospective/review

With Star Trek: The Next Generation at the peak of its popularity on television and plans for the cast to transition to the big screen, Paramount decided they wanted a new Star Trek series that would overlap with the final two seasons of The Next Generation.  Created by Rick Berman (guardian of the Star Trek franchise following the death of Gene Roddenberry in 1991) together with Michael Piller (head writer on The Next Generation), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine would present a slightly different take on Star Trek, focusing on a darker section of the universe that would allow for more conflict and drama whilst upholding the core principles of Gene Roddenberry’s hopeful vision and his intention to use the series as a vehicle for telling stories about the human condition.  In unison with Star Trek’s celebration of diversity, Avery Brooks – the first African American actor in the lead role of a Star Trek series – would head up the cast as Commander Benjamin Sisko.

“Emissary”, the feature length premiere of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (first airing in January 1993), sees Commander Sisko, three years after the loss of his wife Jennifer (Felicia M. Bell) during Starfleet’s battle with the Borg at Wolf 359 (events which took place during classic Star Trek: The Next Generation two-parter “The Best of Both Worlds” and depicted in the exciting pre-titles teaser for “Emissary”) taking up assignment as commanding officer of the space station Deep Space Nine, which Starfleet has been invited to administer by the Bajorans – a deeply religious race who have been liberated from the brutal occupation of the militaristic Cardassian Union.  Raising his young son Jake (Cirroc Lofton) alone, Sikso finds the situation less than ideal but finds he must try and convince the station’s business owners to stay and maintain their community and help guide the Bajoran people to a better future and eventual membership in the United Federation of Planets.

Events take a mysterious turn when Sisko meets with the Bajaron spiritual leader (Kai Opaka – played by Camille Saviola), who believes Sisko is prophesied to become the emissary of the ‘Prophets’ – entities who are the deities of Bajoran faith – and urges him to find the ‘Celestial Temple’.  The enigma is unravelled with the discovery of an unusually stable wormhole near Bajor and Sisko makes contact with the entities residing within – the very Prophets of Bajoran theology.  Tension mounts with the arrival of Cardassian warships as the crew of DS9 prepare to move the station near to the mouth of the wormhole, which leads to a distant unexplored region of the galaxy known as the ‘Gamma Quadrant’, whilst Sisko attempts to prove to the Prophets, who are non-corporeal and have no perception of linear time, that he – and others like him – do not pose a threat.

Trek DS9 Emissary - station

The titular space station itself.

Avery Brooks is a solid leading man and has a lot to explore in “Emissary”, from the pain of his wife’s death and the caring relationship with his son to the loss of direction and eventual restoration of hope and belief in Starfleet’s mission and the principles of the Federation, Michael Piller’s script provides plenty of substance.  Filling out the rest of the central cast is Nana Visitor as Sisko’s waspish Bajoran second-in-command, Major Kira, Terry Farrell as Lt. Jadzia Dax (the new host of the Dax ‘symbiont’, previously carried by Sisko’s old friend, Curzon), the brilliant Rene Auberjonois as DS9’s gruff chief of security, ‘Constable’ Odo – a shape shifting alien of unknown origin, Colm Meaney as Chief of Operations, Miles O’Brien (a popular supporting character from The Next Generation), Siddig El Fadil (who would later adopt the stage name Alexander Siddig) as the young and eager chief medical officer, Doctor Julian Bashir and Armin Shimerman as Ferengi barkeeper – and thorn in Odo’s side – Quark (Shimerman coincidentally appeared as one of the first Ferengi in The Next Generation).  There’s an element of conflict at the outset that continues on into the first season to a certain degree and its rewarding as the characters grow and their relationships solidify, galvanising the crew of DS9.

In the tradition of Star Trek it’s a rich and varied set of characters, representative of different cultures both human and alien and this cross section of life together with the darker, more volatile backdrop of the series go on to fuel stories that parallel numerous social, political and religious themes.  The discovery of the wormhole also allows for missions of exploration to the Gamma Quadrant, ensuring Deep Space Nine isn’t completely landlocked and fulfilling the ‘trek’ aspect of the franchise.

“Emissary” also boasts a guest role for Patrick Stewart as The Next Generation’s Captain Picard (as well as the Enterprise) and the introduction of the superb Marc Alaimo as Gul Dukat, the former Cardassian prefect of occupied Bajor.  Alaimo (who, as with Shimerman, played one of the first Cardassians on The Next Generation) would recur throughout the seven season run of Deep Space Nine, becoming one of the show’s most interesting characters and one of Star Trek’s greatest villains.

The production design by Herman Zimmerman is another notable aspect and given that DS9 is an alien facility (designed by the Cardassians and built by Bajorans) he’s afforded the opportunity to stretch his creative legs and create the world of DS9 virtually from scratch and it contributes greatly to the darker, slightly more otherworldly look and feel of the show in comparison to the previous Star Trek series.

Confidently directed by David Carson – who would shortly graduate to the silver screen with Star Trek: Generations“Emissary” does a decent job of introducing the central players and setting of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and whilst it would take a couple of seasons or so for the series to fully hit its stride, it would become an exceptional addition to the Star Trek universe with strong, well developed characters and some truly outstanding episodes that rank amongst the very best of the franchise and SF TV drama in general.

Geek fact!

J.G. Hertzler, who would later recur in the series as General Martok, appears (credited as John Noah Hertzler) in “Emissary” as the U.S.S. Saratoga’s Vulcan captain.

Images herein are used for illustrative purposes only and remain the property of the copyright owners.

Flashback: ‘Battlestar Galactica’ – “Saga of a Star World”

Looking back at the epic series premiere for Glen A. Larson’s SF TV cult classic…

BSG - Saga

Epic SF on the small screen: Richard Hatch, Lorne Greene and Dirk Benedict lead the cast of the original ‘Battlestar Galactica’ (image credit: Universal, used for illustrative purposes only).

Year:  1978

Starring:  Lorne Greene, Richard Hatch, Dirk Benedict, John Colicos, Terry Carter, Herbert Jefferson Jr, Jane Seymour, Maren Jensen, Laurette Spang, Noah Hathaway

Series created by:  Glen A. Larson

Written by:  Glen A. Larson / Episode directed by:  Richard A. Colla

What’s it about?

As the Twelve Colonies of Man prepare to establish an armistice with the Cylon Empire, the crew of the Battlestar Galactica discover that a massive attack is about to be unleashed…

Retrospective/review

Following the cultural explosion of Star Wars in 1977, audiences were hungry for epic science fiction whether it might be on the large or small screen.  Premiering in September 1978, Glen A. Larson’s Battlestar Galactica brought grand Star Wars style space opera to television, launching with the triple-length series opener “Saga of a Star World” which sees the Twelve Colonies of Man on the threshold of peace with the machine race known as the Cylons, who ultimately mount a devastating surprise attack, forcing survivors to flee their home star system.

Heading up the cast is Lorne Greene as the wise and noble Adama, commander of the ‘Battlestar’ Galactica who finds himself leading a fugitive caravan of ships carrying colony survivors away from the Cylon aggression.  Adama, ably supported by Terry Carter’s Colonel Tigh, brings hope to the remaining people of the Twelve Colonies as he announces his intention to lead them on a journey to seek out the fabled thirteenth Colony of Man…a place called ‘Earth’.  This quest drives the core mythology of “Saga of a Star World” and the rest of series as it unfolds against the backdrop of science fiction action and adventure.

Playing Adama’s son and chief pilot of the Galactica’s Viper fighter squadron, Apollo, is Richard Hatch who would receive a Golden Globe nomination for his role and would go on to portray the terrorist Tom Zarek in Ronald D. Moore’s 21st Century reimagining of Battlestar Galactica.  Hatch (who passed away last year) gives a committed performance and Larson’s script serves him well as he forms a relationship with Serina (Jane Seymour) and becomes a surrogate father to her son, Boxey (Noah Hathaway).

Another standout character (and probably the show’s most popular) is hotshot Viper pilot, lady’s man and Apollo’s best friend, Lt. Starbuck – played by future star of The A-Team Dirk Benedict.  The brotherly camaraderie between the two is a highlight of the original Battlestar and enriches the feeling of family between the principle characters, bolstered further by Hebert Jefferson Jr’s Lt. Boomer.  Despite the tragic circumstances that play out in “Saga of a Star World”, there’s still some light relief – principally Starbuck’s entanglement in a love triangle with Adama’s daughter Athena (Maren Jensen) and the enchanting Cassiopeia (Laurette Spang).

Adding to the Cylon threat is the treacherous Baltar (the excellent John Colicos, who would reappear throughout the series), whose collaboration with the Cylons leads to the downfall of the Twelve Colonies.  The Cylons themselves are a memorable and formidable enemy (that iconic swooshing red LED ‘eye’ later repeated in another of Glen A. Larson’s creations, Knight Rider).  They are commanded by the mysterious Imperious Leader, voiced by Patrick MacNee (famous for his role as John Steed in cult British fantasy spy series The Avengers) who also narrates Galactica’s opening monologue and would go on to play Count Iblis in the “War of the Gods” two-parter.

Battlestar Galactica was blessed with a large production budget (which ultimately lead to the cancellation of the series after 21 episodes, although it was shortly revived as the risible Galactica 1980) and thus for a late 70s SF television production the special effects for the time are fairly impressive – no small wonder given that they were produced under the supervision of Star Wars effects maestro John Dykstra – and numerous space battle sequences keep the viewer engaged in between the drama as the Galactica and the rag-tag fleet of survivors head out into deep space and on to their search to find Earth.  “Saga of a Star World” unfolds at a steady pace, following the opening decimation of the Colonies time is taken to flesh out the characters and deal with the crisis the survivors face in the wake of the Cylon attack.  Given the protracted running time it can feel a little slow in places but the pace picks up after the Galactica’s sojourn to a casino planet, whose hosts harbour a terrifying secret (adding a touch of horror to otherwise family-friendly proceedings) and leads into an action packed finale as Apollo and his fellow pilots take on the pursuing Cylon fleet.

This is Disco-era SF TV so there’s an element of camp when viewed today that may need to be excused on occasion but taken in context and with an open mindset the original Battlestar Galactica is actually quite a lot of fun and through its adventurous spirit and likeable characters it doesn’t fail to entertain and no doubt for viewers at the time, scratched that Star Wars itch.

Geek fact!

An edited version of “Saga of a Star World” was subsequently released theatrically and is available on home video as Battlestar Galactica: The Movie.

Elsewhere on WordPress, you can read the insightful Starloggers anniversary tribute to Battlestar GalacticaBattlestar Galactica: The TV Space Saga Turns 40

TV Review: ‘Daredevil’ – Season 3 Premiere

The Devil is reborn as Netflix return to Hell’s Kitchen for a new season of Marvel’s ‘Daredevil’…

The Devil is back as Charlie Cox returns for season 3 of Marvel’s ‘Daredevil’ (image credit: Marvel/Netflix, used for illustrative purposes only).

 

Spoiler-free review

Starring:  Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, Joanne Whalley, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jay Ali, Peter McRobbie

Series created by:  Drew Goddard (Daredevil created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett)

Written by:  Erik Oleson / episode directed by:  Marc Jobst

What’s it about?

Recovering after facing near death in his battle against the Hand, Matt Murdock decides that it’s time for the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen to return…

Episode review

Just as Netflix announce the unfortunate cancellation of Marvel shows Iron Fist and Luke Cage, their first hit series returns for its third season.  Daredevil is arguably the best of the Netflix/Marvel ventures and the premiere for its new season takes an expectedly slow-burn approach that is non-the-less an interesting beginning.

In the wake of The Defenders, the final moments of which we learnt that Matt Murdock somehow survived the devastation of his final battle with the Hand (and how he escaped death is revealed but not dwelt upon), “Resurrection” finds Murdock broken, worn down and in the care of Sister Maggie (Joanne Whalley) as he attempts to recover physically and spiritually.  His senses dulled and his soul crushed, it’s been a bumpy road for Murdock who feels he only has purpose as the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen and it’s time to emerge from the torment of his own personal damnation.

Charlie Cox, as always, is great and we feel every inch of Matt Murdock’s pain in mind and body.  Cox’s scenes with Joanne Whalley are a particular standout as Murdock bears his soul to the Sister who was a mother figure of sorts to the once young boy who had just lost his sight and his father.  There’s also guidance and support from Peter McRobbie’s Father Lantom which adds further dramatic layers to Murdock’s struggle.

Meanwhile, Karen and Foggy continue to deal with the aftermath of their ‘loss’ albeit in different ways – Karen holding on to the hope that Matt is alive and will return, whilst Foggy has chosen to accept that his best friend is gone and move on with his life as best as he can.  Although Deborah Ann Woll and Elden Henson don’t get a whole lot to do in this episode, both actors slip back into their roles with ease and are as effective as they’ve ever been.

Daredevil would of course not be the same without Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk and “Resurrection” makes room to revisit the deposed Kingpin, dejected as he continues to languish in prison.  D’Onofrio is reliably intense and it seems Fisk is being positioned for a powerful comeback that will undoubtedly once again draw battle lines on the streets of Hell’s Kitchen.

Visually it’s the usual high standard for Daredevil, the use of sound and lighting married with beautiful photography giving the series that cinematic quality we’ve come to expect and appreciate.  The fight choreography is also top-notch and is quite brutal, but with dramatic resonance – especially in those scenes in which Murdock submits himself to a sparring match in an attempt to re-focus his senses.

Ultimately it is a slow start, which is par for the course with the Marvel/Netflix series, but writer Erik Oleson (who replaces Marco Ramirez as showrunner) puts the pieces firmly in place and sets this latest chapter of Daredevil on a thematically interesting path.

The bottom line:  the latest season of Daredevil gets off to an interesting start with strong acting performances, engaging character work and rich visual aesthetics.

All 13 episodes of Daredevil season 3 are available to stream now via Netflix.

TV Review: ‘Doctor Who’ S11 EP01 “The Woman Who Fell to Earth”

A bold new era for the Doctor?

The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) prepares for new adventures (image credit: BBC, used for illustrative purposes only).

Spoiler- free review

Starring:  Jodie Whittaker, Tosin Cole, Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill, Sharon D. Clarke, Samuel Oatley

Written by:  Chris Chibnall / episode directed by:  Jamie Childs

What’s it about?

Unbalanced following her regeneration, the Doctor makes some new friends as she grapples with an alien threat…

Episode review

The Doctor is back and she is magnificent.  Ever since the reveal of Jodie Whittaker’s casting as the successor to Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor, there have been passionate debates – both for and against – among Doctor Who fans and the wider geek community as to the merits of the series moving in such a potentially controversial direction.  Would Whittaker merely be in place to ‘modernise’ the show or would there actually be creative merit in having the Doctor flip genders?

The answer to the above really is that it doesn’t matter, nor should it ever have – Doctor Who is all about change and exploring the new, something that – particularly in its contemporary iteration – the series has always achieved without sacrificing the core tenets of the franchise.  With new showrunner Chris Chibnall (who has previously written for post-2005 Doctor Who, including the 2010 two-parter “The Hungry Earth”/”Cold Blood”, which reintroduced the Silurians) onboard and a new leading star, “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” injects Doctor Who with fresh energy in a fun, yet dark and surprisingly mature adventure that sets up a new era for the series without straying too far from the familiar path.

There’s something comforting and reassuring about Jodie Whittaker, from her first scene she takes charge of her role and delivers a performance that evokes all the qualities we’ve come to expect from the Doctor – quirky, heroic, ingenious and wise, yet fallible.  The Doctor may be an alien but there’s always been something very human about the character and Whittaker delivers that along with her own subtle twists (including that Yorkshire accent) that will no doubt continue to develop over the course of the season.

Aside from the Doctor herself, “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” introduces us to a whole new TARDIS team, each with their own distinctive voices and set of traits.  The group comprises: Tosin Cole as Ryan, whose challenges with Dyspraxia frame the episode and is dealt with in a commendable manner, Bradley Walsh as his grandfather (by marriage, presented without any unnecessary fuss), Graham and Mandip Gill as Yasmin (“Yas”), a bored junior police officer who’s also Ryan’s former school mate.  There’s some concern that an enlarged roster of companions might prove troublesome but let’s wait and see.

Chris Chibnall’s script is straightforward, whilst there’s a central threat in the form of the Predator-esque Stenza – an alien warrior the Doctor hilariously misunderstands and calls “Tim Shaw” – the story is relatively unencumbered and narratively uncluttered allowing Chibnall to focus on character.  What’s most pleasing is that Chibnall never presses the point that the Doctor is now a woman, there are one or two necessary lines addressing the fact but otherwise the script allows Whittaker to get on with just being the Doctor…and that’s what it’s all about.

We do get the usual post-regenerative antics as the Doctor settles into a new body (and Chibnall produces some great dialogue that helps express what all this means to the Doctor that analogises the series itself – the same, yet new and somehow different) but it’s enjoyable and doesn’t significantly weigh down the plot.

Combined with Jamie Childs’ direction, Segun Akinola’s music (succeeding Murray Gold as Doctor Who’s chief composer) and a wider visual aspect, “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” has a cinematic quality to it that along with decent writing and Jodie Whittaker’s portrayal demonstrates potential for this new era of Doctor Who.

The bottom line:  Jodie Whittaker impresses as Doctor Who hits the ground running with a promising new start to a beloved staple of SF TV.

Doctor Who airs in the U.K. Sunday nights on BBC One and can be seen in the U.S. and internationally via BBC Worldwide services.

 

What did you think of the Doctor Who season premiere?  Share your thoughts below!

TV Review: ‘Iron Fist’ – Season 2 Premiere

It’s time for round 2 with the new season of Marvel’s ‘Iron Fist’…

Iron Fist 2-01

Finn Jones returns for season 2 of Marvel’s ‘Iron Fist’ (image credit: Marvel/Netflix, used for illustrative purposes only).

Spoiler-free review

Starring:  Finn Jones, Jessica Henwick, Jessica Stroup, Tom Pelphry, Sacha Dhawan, Alice Eve

Series created by:  Scott Buck (Iron Fist created by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane)

Written by:  M. Raven Metzner / episode directed by:  David Dobkin

What’s it about?

As criminal gangs disrupt the peace in New York, Danny Rand is faced with an old acquaintance and a possible threat to his standing as the Immortal Iron Fist…

Episode review

After a first season that was met with a fairly lukewarm reception, Marvel’s Iron Fist returns for a second go.  Following the events of The Defenders and season 2 of Luke Cage, “The Fury of Iron Fist” finds Danny Rand choosing to live a simpler life, leaving the day-to-day business of Rand Enterprises to those who are more interested in corporate affairs.  More at ease with his role as the Immortal Iron Fist, Danny continues to use his abilities to defend the innocent and uphold Matt Murdock’s plea to keep New York safe.  Colleen too, chooses to lead a more moral and purposeful existence as she helps out at a local community centre.  However, with the rise of gang warfare and the return of Davos, any peace that Danny and Colleen have established could be about to be unravelled.

Season 1 of Iron Fist was not anywhere near as bad as most would lead you to believe, whilst the story may have felt a little stretched and the focus on corporate drama a little generic and unsatisfying it still had its moments with an intriguing if familiar origin story.  With The Defenders, there was some positive growth in the character of Danny Rand with better writing and a more confident and assured performance from Finn Jones (and Jones’ cameo in season 2 of Luke Cage was a highlight).  This continues here as the series gains a new showrunner and a desire to make a fresh start.

“The Fury of Iron Fist” is very much an opening chapter with a fairly slow beginning that’s mostly set-up and puts the pieces in place whilst familiarising viewers with the world and characters of Iron Fist.  There’s some action sprinkled in, with slick and well-choreographed fight scenes that pack a more brutal punch than what we’ve seen previously in this series.  Finn Jones and Jessica Henwick are both solid and there’s great chemistry between them and are assuredly the heart and soul of the series.

The return of Davos adds a thick layer of tension as he feels Danny is avoiding his truer responsibilities as the champion protector of K’un Lun.  There’s still a bit of generic soap drama with Ward and Joy but it may turn out more interesting this time around – especially in regards to Joy, seen as she’s in cohorts with Davos.

The most intriguing aspect though is the introduction of Alice Eve as Mary, a character who seems sweet but has something strange and unsettling going on behind closed doors.  If you’re a Marvel Comics reader then you’ll pretty much know what is going in and it’ll be interesting to see how things unfold.

With the main players established, the story foundations in place and a tighter run of ten episodes that may be of benefit, season 2 of Iron Fist has potential.

The bottom line:  the new season of Iron Fist gets off to a slow but promising start that may placate criticisms of the first season.

All 10 episodes of Iron Fist season 2 are available to stream now via Netflix.

TV Review: ‘Disenchantment’ – Series Premiere

Matt Groening’s new animated comedy hits Netflix…

Disenchantment

How much trouble could a princess, an elf and a demon possible get into? Abbi Jacobsen leads the cast of ‘Disenchantment’ (image credit: Netflix, used for illustrative purposes only).

 

Spoiler-free review

Starring (voices):  Abbi Jacobsen, Eric Andre, Nat Faxon, John DiMaggio, Billy West, Tress MacNeille, Maurice LaMarche

Series created by:  Matt Groening & Josh Weinstein

Written by:  Matt Groening & Josh Weinstein / Episode directed by:  Dwayne Carey-Hill

What’s it about?

Misadventure awaits Princess Tiabeanie as she flees home with new companions Elfo the Elf and a demon named Luci in tow…

Episode review

The Simpsons and Futurama creator Matt Groening brings his newest animated comedy venture (co-created with Josh Weinstein) to Netflix, the ten-episode (or “chapter”) first season of Disenchantment.  In reverse of Futurama’s far future setting, Disenchantment is placed firmly in medieval fantasy and focuses on the card playing, beer-swilling and forthright Princess “Bean” Tiabeanie (Abbi Jacobsen) as she refuses to marry the dashing but virtually brain-dead Prince Guysbert and flees the alter in defiance of her father, King Zog (the unmistakable John DiMaggio – who previously voiced Futurama’s cantankerous robot, Bender), setting out in search of (mis)adventure with Luci (Eric Andre), her devilishly self-proclaimed ‘personal demon’ and exiled elf, Elfo (Nat Faxon).

An amusing, sometimes laugh-out-loud introduction, “A Princess, an Elf, and a Demon Walk Into a Bar” is perhaps a little overlong at 36 minutes but makes use of the time to establish the kingdom of Dreamland and provide the viewer with a good sense of what to expect from the series and its characters.  No doubt taking its cue from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and appearing less of a simple Game of Thrones parody, Disenchantment pokes fun at the basic tropes of a medieval fantasy tale and makes for an easy watch thanks to its trio of enjoyable central characters.

The humour is a touch more adult than The Simpsons and Futurama but refrains from slipping into cruder more outrages territory covered by the likes of Family Guy, American Dad and Archer.  There are some really funny moments in here with Luci and Elfo getting the biggest share of the laughs – the latter’s stumble into a battle between armies of dwarfs and trolls a particularly hilarious highlight.

The vocal talent is enriched by the inclusion of Simpsons and Futurama veterans such as Billy West, Tress MacNeille and Emmy Award Winner Maurice LaMarche (who viewers of a certain age will fondly recall provided the voice of Brain in Pinky and the Brain) in addition to beloved British comedy actors Matt Berry and Noel Fielding in supporting roles.  The animation itself is polished and follows that familiar Groening style.

This being a Netflix production, Disenchantment is structured around the continuous narrative that can be both a blessing and a hindrance to streaming shows.  A comedy series, especially an animated one is more likely to benefit from self-contained single story episodes rather than the long-form storytelling of say, Luke Cage, Lost in Space or Altered Carbon so it remains to be seen if this proves to be successful or not.

The bottom line:  Disenchantment gets off to a fun, daft start with a solid set of central characters and laudable vocal talent.

All 10 episodes of Disenchantment season 1 are available to stream now via Netflix.