Doctor Who Review: The Beast Below and Vampires of Venice

by William Hohmeister

Instead of one episode of Doctor Who today I decided to review two, out of order: “The Beast Below” and “The Vampires of Venice.” “The Time of Angels” and “Flesh and Stone” come between these two episodes, but I’ll review them next time.

“The Beast Below” and “The Vampires of Venice” are both bad episodes, although a bright spot appears in “Vampires” when Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) joins the Doctor (Matt Smith) and Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) in the Tardis. His character is the only good thing about either episode, however.

“Beast” and “Vampires” both try to capitalize on the fairy tale theme introduced in “The Eleventh Hour”. Both feature monsters – an enormous creature hidden in a spaceship in “Beast”, and guess who in “Vampires” – a moral dilemma, and the Doctor and Amy continuing to occupy the roles of hero and victim, respectively. Unfortunately, neither episode moves beyond this basic setup.

The plot in each episode is dull and unimportant. A space whale in “Beast” is tortured into carrying a spaceship with millions of humans on its back. The Saturnyians, a fish-like alien in “Vampires,” want to repopulate their species in Venice after a crack in reality destroyed their planet. Both sound interesting, as they present the Doctor with a moral dilemma. Or they should, but the plots are solved without trouble.

“Beast” is the worse offender. The dilemma exists because freeing the space whale from torture condemns the ship and kills millions of people, but the alternative condemns the whale to unending pain. The Doctor decides to beast belowlobotomize the whale, as the least of all evils, so that the ship survives but the whale feels nothing. Amy Pond frees the whale before he can, and the ship survives. The whale, like the Doctor, wanted to help.

The aliens of “Vampires” plan to sink Venice so their children, who live in the canals, can mate with the genetically altered human women. Rain starts to fall, but the Doctor stops it and the queen alien kills herself.

In each episode the characters behave as if time is racing, but it’s not. The Doctor decides to lobotomize the space whale without considering other options, such as finding alternate transportation or moving the humans in the Tardis, and then freeing the whale. When rain starts to fall in Venice, everyone freaks out immediately, but the rain is not heavy and the city doesn’t begin to sink. The plot needs the characters to pretend they have no time because if they don’t, the plot falls apart.

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True Blood: “Lost Cause” Review

Sunday night’s episode officially marked the halfway point for the final season, and it also marks the first episode of this season without a character’s death. Though not as strong an episode as last week’s “Death is not the End,” “Lost Cause” still delivers a really good hour of TV. Bill’s flashbacks seem a bit unnecessary, for example, but Andy proposes to Holly, and tensions in the James-Jessica-Lafayette and Jessica-Jason-Violet triangles finally erupt. And the Adventures of Pam and Eric (which should really be its own show) continue with a trip to a Republican fundraiser and a run-in with the Yakuza. Something for everyone, folks–even you Bill and Sookie fans.

We begin with Eric, Pam, Willa, and Ginger in the wreckage of Fangtasia. Willa is understandably angry at Eric for abandoning her and then returning, expecting her to obey. He needs information, though, and Willa agrees to give it to him if he’ll release her. She tells Eric and Pam that Sarah Newlin has a sister, Amber Mills, who is a vampire and who lives in Dallas. Poor Ginger is distraught that Eric is leaving, so distraught that she has to be literally removed from the coffin that Eric will be traveling in before it can be stored away for the TB5.5journey. I really enjoy cold opens on shows like True Blood. I’m glad to see the season make use of them. This one works really well to begin an episode about grief, laughter, and sex–about life.

We then cut to Sookie’s home, where James and Lafayette are there to take care of her. Sookie goes to bed. She wakes what seems to be sometime the next day and comes downstairs to find Alicide’s father there clearing out some of Alcide’s things. She’s a bit surprised, but then she’s even more surprised when she sees the large spread of food and drink that Lafayette and James have assembled for the party they’re throwing. Sookie balks at the idea—and that seems a bit strange coming from a girl of the South, where jazz funerals and wakes are often social events. Anyway, Lafayette manages a rousing speech about celebrating life, Jackson TB5.6joins in, and then Bill knocks at the door, offering flowers and condolences, so Sookie decides to go on with the party.

In Dallas, Eric and Pam find Amber Newlin. She’s infected with Hep V, too. It seems that Sarah paid her to stay quiet about becoming a vampire after she fell in love with a vampire who turned her. He contracted Hep V and already died; she got the virus from him. Amber has seen Sarah, but she wouldn’t let her stay there. She’s eager to help Eric and Pam, though, and tells them that the Newlin girls’ parents are in town for a Republican fundraiser, and that it’s a likely place for Sarah to approach her parents for help.

Back in Bon Temps, Lettie May wants to go to Sookie’s party, but the Reverend doesn’t think it’s a good idea. Yeah, he’s probably right. Lettie May eyes a bottle of Benadryl on the shelf. She empties some of the capsules into the Reverend’s food, and we see her tuck him in safely on the couch. She’s dressed to go out, and she leaves for the party at Sookie’s house.

And at the party, Bill is watch the revelry around him when he has a flashback. He’s with Charles DuPont, an obviously wealthy and powerful man in town. They’re talking about Northern troops amassing, and later DuPont gives a rousing speech in a local tavern, calling for the town to for its own regiment. Bill is seated at a table, saying very little and scowling. But he finally speaks up, professing his opinion that the South is outgunned and out-manned and will fall if war occurs. The townspeople are angry to hear him say such a thing, and the tavern owner throws him out. This flashback seems so incredibly out of place in this scene. That Bill was able to see the Lost Cause as a lost cause before everyone else is really interesting, but it just fits so oddly here. Why this memory in this place at this time?

Anyway, in the present, Jackson Herveaux raises a glass to Alcide, praising Sookie and talking about how much Alcide loved her. Sookie looks some cross between sad and guilty, and I suppose that’s probably how she feels, too. Right about this time, Lettie May shows up, and she talks a bit about Tara before raising a (non-alcoholic) glass in her memory. Outside the house, Andy talks to Jessica. They’ve a few moments of moving dialogue, in which Andy admits that he just doesn’t know how to proceed other than to move on and be thankful. Yes, she killed 3 of his fairy daughters. But she’s protected the one he has left, and she’s protected him, and everything’s a mess. The way she holds onto her guilt, too, affects Andy. And he wants to be happy—he wants to propose to Holly.

Jessica enlists the help of Jason and Sookie to find a real ring for Andy to propose with. They offer Andy the ring that Gran left Jason, and Andy holds the ring nervously. Once the group goes downstairs, Andy manages a really beautiful proposal to Holly, who of course accepts. Sookie is clearly very strongly affected by this, and Arlene offers to take her upstairs. There are some really heartfelt moments between Sookie, Arlene, and the bottle of tequila that they TB5.2secret upstairs. Arlene talks quite a bit about Terry and about his death, admitting that she often used to put on his jackets “to feel his arms.” I got a bit weepy there, I have to say. I always liked Terry as a character. Anyway Jackson overhears all of this, but I’m not sure what to make of that. Outside, James and Lafayette sit together talking—and then they kiss.

And in Dallas, Pam and Eric are getting ready to go to the Republican fundraiser. Pam has this bright blue, sequined gown, and Eric has a full-on brown suit with cowboy hat and bolo. But before he can wear it, Pam has to put makeup on his visibly infected veins. As he takes off his shirt, she notices they’ve spread further, meaning that he’s Stage 2. I don’t really know enough about this disease to know what that means, but I gather than it’s pretty bad. Pam cries a bit as she applies the makeup, with Eric assuring her TB5.7that things will be fine but that she has to get used to the idea that he’s going to die. Oh, True Blood–don’t be so cruel.

Meanwhile at the party, drunk Sookie and drunk Arlene are being hilarious. They’re returned downstairs, and the vampire that gave Arlene the blood that saved her life is staring at them. Sookie informs him that he’ll have to stop doing that, while Arlene plays coy, hiding behind her. The vampire tells Arlene that he’ll wait, that she’s “the most beautiful woman [he’s] seen in 300 years,” and that he’ll see her in her dreams. Well. Arlene almost isn’t awkward, but then she says “I have to make tinkle because I’m, you know, human.” Oh, dear.

And speaking of oh, dear….Jessica goes looking for James, who she finds having sex with Lafayette in the car. The two argue, and James appears to want to talk, but Jessica runs inside and quickly tells Jason what happened, acquiescing to her request that he rescind James’s invitation to the house. Jessica storms upstairs, and Jason goes after her. The two are talking about James, about Jessica’s surprise and Jason’s lack of surprise that he’s also interested in men, when Lafayette interrupts. He gives a short apology for the embarrassment and pain of the situation but rebukes Jessica for not knowing more about James, asking her to please let him go if she doesn’t love him.

Outside the house, Bill has another flashback. He and his family are being led by a black man, probably a fugitive slave, and they’re running away. They try to stay still when DuPont and his men ride by, but they are discovered. DuPont shoots the leader, but Bill burns the map the man was carrying, a map that would’ve led DuPont to a safe-house for fugitive slaves and TB5.3runaways. DuPont warns Bill not to do anything so stupid in the future, and he and his family return home. About this time, Sookie runs into Bill, interrupting his thoughts. She remarks on his disinterest, but he attributes the party and the vampire/human mix to Sookie. More “Bill and Sookie are getting back together” alarm bells are going off.

…Which is right about the time Sookie’s alarm bell goes off. She can hear Lettie May searching for Willa’s blood. Just as she notices this, though, Lettie May runs from behind Willa and stabs her in the shoulder. She’s pulled off of Willa, whose wound quickly heals. Lettie May reminds them again that she can hear Tara when she’s on the vampire blood, but no one’s listening to her claims, and she’s thrown out. Meanwhile, Nicole’s rage and confusion about why there would be a party when everything is so dark and desolate spills over. She screams and shouts a bit before Sam takes her home.

Upstairs, Jason and Jessica are talking about their choices of mates. Jason admits that he is very unsure about Violet, and Jessica admits that Lafayette is right about her relationship with James. Jason wishes that Violet would be more—normal. And I suppose that’s a fair wish to have if you’re with a centuries old vampire who is as intense as Violet, especially if you’re a guy like Jason Stackhouse. Jessica finds this sweet and leans over to kiss him. Jessica and Jason sexy-times are back. Violet, who has come upstairs to check on Jessica after what happened with James and Lafayette, hears them from the door and stops short of going on. There’s murder in that glare, though. Uh-oh.

Back in Dallas, Pam and Eric have arrived at the fundraiser and where Sarah Newlin has cornered her mother in the bathroom. She asks for help, and she knows that it has to come from high up. She asks her mother to put in a call to Laura Bush, but her mother says that Laura stopped answering because of Sarah. There is no help, even though the Yakuza are after her. On the party floor, Eric is about to glamour an answer from Sarah’s father on her whereabouts when the Yakuza show up. Everything is chaotic, and lots of folks are shot, including Newlin’s mother and father. Eric finds Sarah, but he releases her momentarily to kill the Yakuza who killed Sylvie. I’ve a feeling this isn’t the last we’ll be seeing of the Yakuza, though. That’d be too easy for an organized crime group.

Back in Bon Temps, the party has ended. Sookie wraps herself in Alcide’s jacket and lies next to his spot in the bed. This is a really effective scene—an everyday moment so different from one day to the next. And back at Bill’s house, he notices a huge, visible vein running up his chest, a clear sign of Hep V.


Looks like next week we will see some more Yakuza as well as some more of Bill’s Hep V infection. (Seriously? I don’t even like Bill that much, I’m just annoyed at killing off All the Characters as an end to a show. Harumph.)

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I’d want with me on a Deserted Island

The good folks at The Broke and the Bookish have a weekly meme post called Top Ten Tuesday.


This week, we’re listing the 10 characters we’d most want with us if we were stranded on a deserted island. This one was a LOT of fun to write.

1. Arya Stark from Game of Thrones. Because when Chuck Norris has a problem, and no one else can help, he doesn’t hire the A-Team. He hires Arya Stark.

2. Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings. He can cook a meal out of almost anything. He’s honest to a fault. He’s tougher than he looks. And you know it’s good luck to have a hobbit around.

3. R2D2 from Star Wars. Even though we think of him as a movie character, he’s been in plenty of books. He has an electric prod to keep agressive monkeys at bay, reconnaissance capabilities, and tons of valuable knowledge stored in his memory bank. He handled himself very well on Dagobah and doesn’t need food to function. Plus, just think how cool it would be, if you were stranded on a desert island, to have a DROID for a companion.

4. Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next. She’s a brilliant detective who can travel into fictional stories, and she has a fun sense of humor. Like Master Samwise, she is tougher than she looks. I would pray she could manage to rescue a copy of Robinson Crusoe from the shipwreck.

5. Scheherazade from 1,001 Nights. Life on a desert island would just be  more pleasant with a master storyteller who also happens to be a beautiful and crafty genius.

6. DC Comics’ Oliver Queen, aka Green Arrow. He’s a helluva lot more amiable than Bruce Wayne and he has experience with desert islands. He’s also a keen-eyed archer and a master bowyer. If I managed to bond with him or save him from dying while we were stranded, I’d be set for life once we were rescued, because he’s also a billionaire.

Oliver Queen from The Dark Knight Returns.

Here’s a one-armed Oliver nocking a kryptonite arrow with his teeth to fire it at Superman in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns (long story). Oliver and Green Arrow are © DC Comics. Fair use applies.

7. Gideon from the Bible. The advantage of having a mighty warrior with a humble background who’s good at thinking on his feet and has a direct line to a divine being should be obvious.

8. Orpheus of Greek myth. I just couldn’t do without some music. Since I must have a fictional musician on this list, I’d just as soon have him be a demi-god who can charm the very rocks with his songs.

9. Breehny-hinny-brinny-hoohy-hah, aka Bree, the talking horse from C.S. Lewis’ The Horse and His Boy, my favorite of the Narnia books. This list wouldn’t be complete without a talking animal and kid’s lit/YA character, so this is a twofer.

10. Iorek Byrnison, the armored talking bear from Pullman’s His Dark Materials. If I’m going to have a Lewis character on this list, I have to add a Pullman character. And you must admit, having an armored bear as a companion is a real asset when you’re in a survivalist mode.