TOP TEN SINS COMMITTED BY THE SWORD OF SHANNARA

Oh boy. You ready for this?
 
The Sword of Shannara, by Terry Brooks, is the first novel of one of the more famous fantasy series out there, with umpteen sequels at last lack of count. KJ bought several of the books on the cheap and, as they were in the house, I decided to dig in.
 
I started this book in about February or March and just finished last week.
 
I could not sit through this and retain my sanity. Never have I resisted the urge so often to visit physical violence upon a book. One day I set it aside, and there it rested for months, ignored and maybe one-third read, while I enjoyed less exasperating books until I could face it again.
 
The short of it is:
 
This is a poor man’s Lord of the Rings. Not the “store brand” kind of cheap. The “McDonald’s hamburger” kind of cheap, with fat and grease soaked in to try to convince you that this extruded food byproduct is just as delicious as the good stuff you grill at home.
 
All the characters are flat, dialogue is painfully absent, you can often tell what’s going to happen because it’s just LotR with slight twists, and oh the prose. The prose is the worst part. Fifteen years ago, say, I might have tolerated it, but my palate is too sensitive now to not see the writing style for what it is: uneven precisely because it is so even.
 
I’m honestly not angry, I’m just very frustrated and disappointed. 700+ pages can do that to you.
 
The long, long, long of it may best be expressed in a Top Ten list complete with spoilers:

TOP TEN SINS COMMITTED BY THE SWORD OF SHANNARA

 
10. The dedication.
 
The dedication starts us off on the wrong foot. By dedicating the book “For My Parents, Who Believed”, Brooks suggests himself as a starry-eyed newbie writer, supported only by family as he seeks to persevere in his desire to pen an epic fantasy novel. Regardless of whether that was true, this is an obvious attempt to make me feel guilty about ripping the book to shreds and I hate that it works even slightly.
 
9. The endless stealing from Lord of the Rings.
 
726 pages (including a few illustrations) is plenty long for a novel, but not when you’re attempting to replicate Lord of the Rings. So this attempt is going to fail before it begins.
 
Brooks tries to jam in pretty much everything from LotR between the party at the start and the scouring at the end, and there is not enough room to deal with all of that properly. There’s a Watcher in the Water, a Faramir and a Boromir (not brothers), a Gollum, even the Big Bad lives in a solitary tower/mountain surrounded by a circle of scary mountains THAT HAVE MURDEROUS SPIDERS LIVING IN THEM. Now, there’s enough variation that it’s not an exact match — Allanon isn’t a wizard he’s a DRUID wow you guys that sounds fancy — but every single time the “borrowed” element is inferior, usually badly so. Allanon, for example, is supposed to be intimidating and mysterious and wise and a little short-tempered, but he’s mainly just cranky and arbitrary.
 
There are too many cranky people in this book, honestly. Nearly all the emotion on display is fear or bad temper.
 
I’ve already read LotR, so I have a broad idea of how most of these stolen bits are going to go. Except when they don’t go anywhere because there’s no room to flesh out an event or a character because we gotta hurry on to the next plot point. The Helm’s Deep / Pelennor battle is a pretty decent read – aside from whenever the baddies have a combined intellect of zero because that’s the only way the heroes survive – but it feels pointless when I know the city will fall but the Elves will ride in at the last minute and save the day. (And then the Elves are undercut because the battle stops when the Big Bad asplodes, and they never even get into the fight proper. WHAT IN THE NAME OF SAM CLEMENS ARE YOU DOING.)
 
Maybe the one big thing that’s slightly original is when Flick steals into the enemy’s camp to look for Shea and the Sword or information on same, but finds and frees Eventine. That’s a pretty okay sequence. The few times this book made me sit up and say “Okay this is good”, in every case there was mystery or a twist that I didn’t see coming. Just a few times.
 
The first time was fully halfway through the book, when Shea runs into Panamon Creel and Keltset. Panamon looked like he would be either Strider or Faramir but then had a mind of his own and, while first standing in for the Rohirrim as he freed Shea from the band of gnomes, turned out to be a mercenary who initially kept Shea’s Elfstones for himself. Panamon and Shea was maybe the only interesting interaction in the whole book, and its introduction revived my interest to the point that I kept reading in regular bursts until the end. My point here is, Brooks does so much better when he’s less reliant on Tolkien to tell him what to kinda-sorta do.
 
Ugh, those Elfstones. That was gonna be a whole bullet point of its own but I already filled out the top ten.
 
8. The author can’t keep track of what he’s doing.
 
Little passages here and there where the author contradicts or subverts something he just said, or just writes bad prose. Basic hack writing. I even saved some examples for you, you lucky dogs.
 
Page 584, misplaced antecedent: “He” looks like it refers to Menion, but from the next dialogue it must refer to Balinor (but not Hendel, who was also mentioned in that paragraph).
 
Flick never gets so much as a pat on the back for rescuing King Eventine.
 
Pages 622-623, the paragraph seems to shift from Shea’s perspective to an omniscient third-person and back to Shea again without any markers. It’s confusing.
 
Page 630 etc., DECIMATION DOES NOT WORK LIKE THAT. It means there are people left, not that they were all wiped out. I know people throw that word around loosely, but usually in a sense that a few were left, not (as originally meant) that 10% were destroyed. 90% left, or 10% left, not 0. Brooks means it in the zero sense at least twice.
 
Page 688, how can paint flake off of the surface of an object held so tightly in your hands that you can’t let go of it?
 
And of course, at the big climax, it turns out the secret way to use the Sword against the Big Bad, the method we were repeatedly told Allanon was so afraid that Shea wouldn’t figure out, was . . . hit him with it.
 
7. Tell tell tell and then don’t show and then tell some more.
 
There’s a lot of useless repetition like that, where Brooks reminds us again and again of some dramatic point of concern or a mystery. It always fails because I’m too busy feeling beaten over the head. It fails because it’s not organic. A timer goes off and Brooks decides it’s time to remind me that Allanon is definitely hiding something wow what could it be for three paragraphs again. Have we had any further hints about what’s hidden? what relevance it has to anything? why we should care? No.
 
Similarly, Flick’s main trait is that he disapproves of Menion Leah’s judgment, so expect to keep hearing about that in the first half even though it barely affects his actions.
 
More repetition comes from Brooks not trusting himself or the readers. Basic ideas, basic on the level of “poking the bear is a bad idea”, are hashed out for entire paragraphs. Does he think little children are reading this? Then the book should be closer to 7 pages than 700. It’s frustrating thinking about all the lovely characterization that could fill this space instead.
 
And every time Brooks trips over himself to justify the latest plot convenience that saves the heroes’ hides . . . sigh.
 
6. Brooks seems to think he’s Homer.
 
Flick and Shea are Valemen! Menion Leah is the prince of Leah! Shirl has a slim arm! Keltset has gentle, intelligent eyes! (This actually feels kind of racist because he’s a rock troll and I guess he’s expected to look rough and dumb?) You will be reminded of these facts repeatedly, not because Brooks shows how they affect anyone’s behavior – that would be good writing – but by just using their descriptions or titles as pronouns, whether or not they’re relevant to the moment.
 
Shirl, incidentally, is supposed to be Eowyn, but her sole attributes are that she is a fragile, hot redhead who needs someone strong to protect her, and she doesn’t want to marry the crazy prince standing in for Denethor. Fortunately, Menion Leah arrives to save her from a kidnapping and win her heart. I don’t think she says an actual word outside of exposition and declaring her love. You see what I mean about all the changes being inferior?
 
5. Where’s the editor??
 
So much of this could have been avoided with a remotely competent editor. I refuse to believe there were no English language editors anywhere in existence in 1977. Maybe they were all over on the set of that laser sword film, desperately trying through sheer weight of numbers to convince George Lucas to take out that scene where Luke tells Leia how much he hates sand.
 
As an editor, I like to err in favor of letting the writer’s voice through, but I would have used up several red pens on this manuscript.
 
4. The Elfstones.
 
Haha, I found a spot for the D.E.M. after all. Suck it, Brooks.
 
Before not-Gandalf (Allanon the DRUID wow guys) leaves Shea and Flick behind in not-the Shire, because that’s how it happened in LotR, he gives Shea the Elfstones, magical stones that glow green when their power is used. He tells Shea they can help Shea out of any really desperate fix he finds himself in.
 
BROOKS IS SCREAMING AT THE READER THAT NOTHING THAT FOLLOWS WILL PUT SHEA IN ANY DANGER BECAUSE SHEA HAS A BLANK CHECK DEUS EX MACHINA THAT WILL END ANY ACTUAL PERILS THE MOMENT ALL SEEMS LOST.
 
Shea uses them, what, three or four times on his journey. The first occasion is fine, genuinely dramatic even. But all the other times, Brooks has to make a big deal out of whether Shea will pull them out in time to save the day in order to have any tension. Fortunately for the sake of drama, they become useless once Shea reaches the final leg of his journey to the Skull Kingdom, where their power would reveal him to the Big Bad. You know, just like the One Ring couldn’t be used inside Mordor proper.
 
3. Flat characters, no character growth.
 
Every main character gets maybe three attributes if they’re lucky. Most of the time they get one meaningful trait that is ever relevant, and boy will Brooks hammer that in. Remember how Allanon is big and scary and mysterious? Or how Flick doesn’t trust Menion Leah’s judgment? Perfect examples. Aside from distrusting Menion, Flick’s just some guy who likes his brother, you know?
 
Pretty much the only characters that feel remotely rounded are Hendel, the taciturn, tough wanderer, and Panamon Creel, who has *two* traits and an imperfect understanding of his buddy Keltset.
 
Relatedly, why even bother having all these different races? The men and elves are interchangable and we barely see any dwarves. No societal customs, no differences in biology other than pointy ears, no memorable differences in speech.
 
2. No dialogue.
 
Many of the previous problems are tied up with the failure to write dialogue where it would count. Once the party gets split up this feels less of an issue, but time and again we get zero reaction from the characters about anything.
 
The classic example is when the equivalent of the Watcher in the Water attacks during the journey past the equivalent of LotR’s midge marsh. The characters are already super lost in a fog between a forest and a lake, and they get ambushed by this horrific creature beyond anything they’ve imagined. They fight desperately until Shea thinks to use the Elfstones and they barely get away with their lives.
 
Now, how do they react to all this stress? What will we learn about their characters? Is there one single word out of anyone’s mouth, one poignant expression on anyone’s face? No, they catch their breath and confer for a moment, without dialogue, and then continue walking toward the next plot event. It’s an unforgivable missed opportunity to make these names feel like actual people. But no, we have to keep going if we’re going to squish this much plot into one book.
 
It keeps happening. Long, interesting discussions are summarized when they should be dialogue. Reactions to important situations are briefly narrated without giving any insight into individual thought processes. Pages go by with nary a quotation mark to break the monotony. As a result, one hardly ever feels caught up in the moment. There is no moment; perhaps there never was one, just a winding arrow on the map in the writer’s mind.
 
1. The lavender prose is suffocating.
 
It’s everywhere. Everywhere. Adverbs and adjectives and verbose descriptions everywhere. There are some good and welcome descriptions, but Brooks cannot turn the hose off. There’s no pacing, no up and down of emotion, no emphasis except by repetition. As I said above, that leads to prose that is so even that it’s uneven. You read a nice bit of scenery, and then the tone should change but the sentence structure remains constant and the adjectives keep coming. All the description also means there’s no room for dialogue or letting the moment breathe.
 
This is the greatest failing of Sword of Shannara, the one that gets most in the way of fixing all the others. It could be a passable LotR clone with more characterization, more dialogue, and an editor who wields a good solid chisel and hammer.
 
But there is just no room to expand, because Brooks has one writing style, and that is to pile on adjectives and thesaurus’ed verbs and nouns.
 
Except for . . .
 
0. “A man of medium height and regular appearance.”
 
I know we filled our Letterman quota, but I gotta single this actual phrase out. We get introduced to three corps commander types in charge of the final defense of Ondorgay on the plains of Elennorpay. They lead the glorious Southern Whatever Legion. What are these important people like? Well, two have hair (amazing) and Brooks doesn’t describe the third beyond “generic dude”. If you can’t even bother to give him a scar then why should I care about him? None of the three do anything except bite it during the battle so what was even the point. WHERE IS THE EDITOR. WHERE ARE THE FLAGS ON THIS PLAY.
 
-1. No aftermath.
 
The hero’s journey is complete and the deed is done, Shea escapes from the Big Bad’s death throes, he’s found by a rescue party and that wraps it up, right?
 
You do not get plucked out of your insular backwoods hamlet to fight in a war for the fate of the free peoples and then come back unchanged. Now, I don’t demand an entire Scouring but there ought to be something to show the lasting effects on Shea and Flick.
 
The aftermath in Sword gets five pages. Really, four and a half. That’s it. And like half of that is dedicated to Flick and Shea freaking out like panicked rabbits when their father announces a stranger is looking for them. No courage, no self-confidence, not even emotional scar tissue, I think we may have just witnessed negative character growth. But then they were barely characters to begin with.
 
-2. The world is not remotely epic.
 
I don’t ask much of a fantasy map, but this one looks like Brooks only had a paper napkin to draft it on. But my true gripe is with the story, in which it feels like it only ever takes two or three days, tops, to walk from Point A to Point B.
 
Technically we don’t see coastlines, so maybe each race’s territories extend indefinitely off the map shown, but it feels like this “epic” struggle against the Big Bad only takes place in a land the size of a Midwestern state or two. Sauron needing centuries to regain strength and build up an army big enough to conquer Europe is one thing, this bozo spending the same time glaring at St. Louis and Kansas City from his skull tower in Des Moines is another.
 
-3. “The cracked, dry earth was particularly difficult to maneuver because it lacked the forms of vegetation that normally offered decent footing.”
 
There is a very simple rule of serious writing. It goes like this: If you ever write a sentence that looks like it belongs in “The Eye of Argon”, you lose immediately.
 
-4. Dayel never does anything.
 
Dayel is the Pippin of the group, complete with someone not wanting him to come along for his own safety. Pippin, you remember, matured along the way by force of circumstance and proved his worth as a soldier for Gondor. Dayel never does anything useful. Once he helps his brother to almost catch the escaping Evil Vizier. That’s as close as he gets to being relevant. It is mentioned he has a sweetheart waiting for him, but then he doesn’t even almost get killed in the last big battle for the angst of it. His brother – who is the Merry, and barely does anything himself – is the one that gets knocked down and knocked out with his fate left hanging until a later chapter. You know, just like Pippin when the eagles show up to the final battle in RotK.
 
I am so done with this series.

Adventures in Food: Vol. 2

It took a while to find any handy world food stores in this corner of the world, so I’ll record more mundane entries. Sugary mundane entries.

Russell Stover’s egg (banana cream): Good, would eat again.
Russell Stover’s egg (lemon with marshmallow): Oh my goodness I do like a good loaf of lemon cake, and the lemon shell here is good, but I think I’m just too old to appreciate the sugar density of marshmellow in any bulk. I’m distracted frpm the lemon by the internal marshmallow feel. Russell Stover, just put vanilla cream filling inside this variety next time, okay? Or double the thickness of the lemon shell.
Russell Stover’s egg (caramel-filled): It’s caramel-filled. It’s okay.
Russell Stover’s egg (white fudge pecan delight): It smells of white chocolate. It tastes really good too. Keep this one around.

Peanut butter Ding Dongs: They’re definitely Ding Dongs with peanut butter inside. If that’s your thing then this is your thing. I like Ding Dongs, and I like peanut butter, but the two don’t really synergize for me.

Minute Maid strawberry-kiwi lemonade: Worth the dollar, different and interesting, I’d drink it again if it were offered at a party, but I don’t expect to buy it again. It’s only 5% fruit juice and the flavor suffers somewhat as a result, but hey, sometimes you just want sugar water.

Jarritos mandarin flavor: I like the orange soda because it’s different, with a lemon-lime base lurking behind the orange. This is equal parts sweet and tart, which is also different from your standard sweet orange soda. I’m glad to have tried it, but I think I will buy the other one more often in the future. I just like it better.
Jarritos mango flavor: This smells like mango, and it tastes of mango strongly without being overpowering. What more do you want in fruit soda? Mango is however a very . . . specific flavor, and since I usually drink these with a fancy meal, I will probably buy this seldom. It’s great, but it could overpower the food.

Doppel keks: This was a limited-time thing at Aldi, imported from places where they don’t load up their sweets with sugar on top of sugar like in America. It’s good. The chocolate is chocolate, and the outsides are a little savory, a little on the dry side in a good way, and have enough flavor to be interesting on their own. It all works together, and I’d pick this up again if I saw it on the cheap.

Mama instant noodles, Tom Yum Pork flavor: basically ramen-style noodles with a bunch of flavor packets included. It hits the spot. Unfortunately it does have a lot of salt in it.

Fudge M&Ms: These are good. They’re big enough to get a proper taste of fudge out of each M&M, and it properly tastes like it’s at least in the vicinity of fudge. What more do you want?

Berry Lemonade Sunkist: No. I don’t understand why they thought anyone would like this. There’s a little sweetness, but it’s overlaid by so much spikiness and then the last half of the sip is chemicals. I don’t get any berry-osity out of this. I barely get a hint of a distant whisper of fake lemonade. It’s drinkable but unpleasant.

“Easter” 2021

Well, it’s a little late for my annual Easter update. But this year, that’s not such a bad thing, because it means I can share a couple of news items that have happened since that most holy Sunday.

The first, as you may know, is that MST3K is coming back again! Joel has a Kickstarter going to launch an online service with new episodes and shorts, and we’re already over halfway to the final goal for twelve episodes plus twelve shorts. So that’s super-exciting!

Speaking of people who have arrived in the entertainment world, I now have an IMDB entry! I think I set a record for the nerdiest way to do it, too — by writing parodies of an online audio Star Trek fan production. The rabbit hole doesn’t go much deeper than that. I’m sure I’ve linked them before, but here is the show and my parody scripts are here.

In my personal life, my two sons are taking up more of my free time, so updates will continue to be on the sparse side. But I’ll keep cracking away at Doctor Who and possibly do something for the twentieth anniversary of Peter Jackson’s Return of the King. (I think that’s this year.) Thanks for reading and have a blessed 2021.

nuWho 2×10: Love and Monsters

Love and monsters
Love and monsters
Go together like a horse and consters

So some bloke is running as if pursued through an empty field. With sad Season 1 music and British tumbleweeds blowing in the air, he comes to a blue police box. He examines it, but is distracted by Rose yelling in a nearby abandoned warehouse that has lots of TARDIS-blue doors. He investigates but can’t find anyone anywhere inside. Finally he reaches the other end and opens it, coming face to face with a walnut-headed alien iguanodon, wearing Serious Technology, that snarls in his face.

Cut to the bloke safe at home, evidently narrating the whole adventure into his camcorder or webcam. “Oh boy!” Oh boy, indeed.

Back to the iguanadon. The Doctor pops in and distracts the alien with raw meat, as if it were a pet dog. Tennant puts on a show again, casually leaning against the doorframe as he alternates cooing at the alien and yelling at the bloke to run. Rose comes charging in with a battle cry and throws a bucket on the alien. But it’s the wrong bucket and the alien just gets mad. And then the three actually Scooby-Doo their way back and forth across the hall, right in front of Bloke. But the Doctor notices that Bloke looks familiar and pauses. Bloke evidently decides he doesn’t want to be recognized and runs outside.

Back to the safe-at-home narration. Bloke teases us with hints of his story to come and introduces us to his camera girl, Ursula. We finally find out his name is Elton. I guess the producers are dumping their entire stock of ecch names in this episode. Three-year-old Elton Bloke went downstairs one night to find David Tennant glaring at him like Santa Claus with an unsatisfactory progress report. That’s all that grown-up Elton remembers.

The next time Elton had an alien encounter was during the first reboot episode, with the Autons. Then he recalls oh no. No please. Don’t do this. Uuuugh. Elton Webcam, you are officially my least favorite Elton. Elton teases the names of a few upcoming characters and mopes for dramatic effect. This particular narrator may suck suspense out of who’s going to live or die, but he’s milking the foreshadowing and the writers are having fun with it. They’re also using Elton to good effect with the pacing, as Elton breaks up the seriousness with ten seconds of dancing to ELO.

Anyway, Elton shrewdly guesses there’s more to a giant spaceship hanging over London than a mere giant spaceship hanging over London, and turns to the Internet for answers. He finds a picture of the man who invaded his house when he was three. This leads him to Ursula, who’s part of a group that has been putting together clues about the Doctor. The idea is similar to Rose meeting with Clive, but expanded. I like this, because it reinforces the idea that ordinary people have started to notice the Doctor showing up and saving the Earth again and again. This is the Information Age, after all. It’s interesting world-building.

So we montage our way through the group having their meetings. Mr. Skinner has a literary theory about the Doctor, while Bridget is more into the blue box. Bliss expresses herself through abstract sculpture. I’m genuinely concerned a new person will come in and inflict erotic fanfiction on us. That’s clearly what this is about, Doctor Who fandom translated into the show. Elton, with his investigative acronym he’s wanted to use for years, seems like the type who wants to dig into the lore to find a deeper meaning in it all. Anyway, the meetings turn into social events as time goes by, fun and friendship taking center stage away from the Doctor.

“King”? I guess the Doctor is lord of his castle . . .

Then one day a dramatic man enters dramatically with his dramatic walking cane. His name is Victor Kennedy, and he promises help in their quest. His shiny laptop contains a shiny video recording of the Doctor and Rose entering the TARDIS. It’s back to business, with Victor having Torchwood files that he hands out as homework. And then they set up a classroom with actual school desks. Victor evidently represents a bossy, self-absorbed fan who commits hostile takeovers of communities. He isn’t satisfied to talk about the Doctor, he wants to “catch” him. He gets Bliss alone, does something scream-y to her and, when asked later, dismissively says she went off to get married.

Anyway, one day a blue box is reported and off they go. Thus, Alien Iguanadon. Elton was running toward something, not away, at the start of the episode. But he runs away from the Doctor now, and Victor is about to whale on him for failing in his mission when Ursula shows some steel and puts Victor in his place. Victor, true to type, notes her for a troublemaker.

Victor decides that tracking down Rose will be a better idea. Armed with some glamour shots and Elton’s recollection of a London accent, they take to the streets for a search against impossible odds, only for Elton to immediately find someone who recognizes Rose.

Elton sees Jackie and trails her into a laundromat. He prepares to use Victor’s spy training to ease Jackie into his confidence, only for the garrulous Jackie to do all the work for him. She hits on him for his number, and they even talk about Rose, but Jackie lets no incriminating details slip. Still, this is clearly the right Rose, and Victor congratulates Elton before dismissing everyone with homework so he can screamify Bridget.

Jackie keeps calling Elton over to fix her home up and finally puts a move on him. Elton accepts the challenge, only to walk in on her upset, close to tears worrying about Rose’s safety. Moved, he drops Rose and gets pizza to share as friends. But Jackie has found the picture of Rose in his coat, deduced he’s after the Doctor, and blows him off. She feels hardened by being the one left behind while others have adventures, and she doesn’t like it, but she’ll protect her daughter with her life. So that’s that.

A guilty Elton storms back and shouts Victor down, then hits Ursula up for a date. The two lovebirds storm out, but Victor keeps Mr. Skinner behind with the promise of Bridget’s phone number so he can screamify him. Ursula and Elton return for Ursula’s phone, only to find Victor stubbornly holding a newspaper between them and himself, with Mr. Skinner’s muffled voice begging for help. Those inhuman fingers holding the paper are worrisome too. Victor reveals his true form, a yellow-greenish humanoid with Mr. Skinner’s face sticking out of his abdomen. Bridget and Bliss are, ah, elsewhere on his body too. Victor declares that absorbing Jackie is a price he’s willing to pay to get to the Doctor. Apparently he gets the knowledge of people he absorbs. Victor dramatically absorbs Ursula and declares she tastes like chicken. Ursula’s face, which has mysteriously retained her glasses, tells Elton to run. Victor chases after, having rather too much fun doing so, and corners him.

But the TARDIS materializes, and Rose steps out to berate Elton for getting Jackie upset. Victor is pleased to see the Doctor. Rose wonders if he’s Slitheen but Victor says he spits on those losers. Point in his favour. He also says he’s from their twin planet, with the grandiose name of Clom. Har har. Victor puts the Doctor over a barrel by threatening to absorb Elton unless the Doctor surrenders. The Doctor calls his bluff, and the people already absorbed strain and pull until Victor drops his cane. Elton breaks it, and Victor and his absorbants dissolve. Rose sees that Elton is upset over Ursula and hugs him.

Finally, the Doctor explains what he was doing in Victor’s house so long ago: stopping a “living shadow” that had already killed Elton’s mother. Afterward, Elton sits at his computer and broods over salvation and damnation, and what price Rose and Jackie might eventually pay for being touched by the Doctor. And we find out that the Doctor was able to bring Ursula back as a face on a pavement tile, which is . . . nice? She and Elton seem to be happy together? Just didn’t need to broach their sex life, thank you, let the dirty minds think about that without sharing with the rest of us.

My impression is that “Love and Monsters” has a mixed reputation, at best, among fans. It’s understandable why. The alien is gross. The episode starts out light and silly, but then tries to get all philosophical at the end, and three of the characters don’t make it and a fourth winds up as just a helpless tile with a face. Some people don’t like mood whiplash, and it’s a difficult thing to pull off well in any case. Also that oral sex allusion is out of line. There’s the lack of suspense with the narrator. The fan stand-ins could have hit too close to home for some, especially Victor. A lot of this could have spectacularly fizzled.

But it works for me, aside from a couple of moments that got too silly, and yes, the sex life allusion. I think the silliness and seriousness are balanced well, and I was entertained all the way through. The fandom allegory thing isn’t pursued too far, and nobody’s actually mocked who doesn’t deserve it. Victor’s problem isn’t that he takes the Doctor seriously. It’s that he ruins others’ fun by demanding they all do things his way, without any concern for their well-being, and ultimately he’s just using them for his own malevolent ends. The Doctor only stopping the big bad because Rose wanted to yell at one of the victims is an amusing twist.

I found a couple of comprehensive Doctor Who rankings lists that both cite the ‘last five minutes’ as a reason to rank this episode way down in the 200s, and I guess that’s fair enough. However, they both list the Slitheen two-parter in the upper 100s despite all the bad logic and in-your-face flatulence humor in there, so obviously they can be disregarded.

Note that there are a couple of bits that are not part of the plot proper, but they have to be included as being necessary to the plot, if that makes sense. The first is what the Doctor is doing when Elton finds him in the opening. The second is the question of what the Doctor was doing in Elton’s childhood home. For these bits to succeed, they have to be worth their screentime without the viewer wishing the episode had been about them instead. So the warehouse is a goofy, self-contained action sequence. The second is answered by a very simple, very generic reason that would have felt like a letdown if not for Elton’s mother being killed. That gives the answer emotional weight, and gives Elton a sense of having gotten a satisfying closure to his adventure: an answer to why his mother is dead.

Rating: 3 gross absorbaloffs

Favorite dialogue: Elton: So it began. The impossible task. To scour the mean streets, to search a major capital city for an unknown girl. To hunt down that face in a seething metropolis of lost souls. To find that one girl in ten million.
Old lady: Oh, that’s Rose Tyler. She lives just down there. Bucknell House, number 48. Her mother’s Jackie Tyler. Nice family. [pause] Bit odd.

Whyyyy: Whyyyyy must this show keep bringing up the Slitheen two-parter whyyyyyyy

Where do all these flat people keep their brains: it is truly a mystery

Ten memes from 2020 that have nothing to do with politics or pandemics

Just some memes I found especially good during the past year. And they have nothing to do with politics or pandemics, whew!



I’ve never played D&D, but being aware that a housecat could one-shot a wizard in 1st edition makes this the funniest iteration of this meme that I’ve seen.





All of these are pretty common reasons for me just not saying anything. Obviously online I get to talk as much as I want. Hooray for asynchronous communication!




And the grand finale:

Have a fun day, all!