Sunday, September 23, 2018

Sunday Best: Top 10 Doctor Who Companions Ranked

As we are preparing for the 13th Doctor's premiere series, I thought it would be a good idea to look back on the Doctor's previous companions.  As I am only very familiar with the revival of the series, this will only include companions from 2005 on.

As with any lists, there is an element of subjectivity, but I shall endevour to make my reasons clear.

Beware of spoilers for those who haven't watched the show.

10.  Mickey Smith (Season 2)
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Mickey never quite fit in to the series.  He was brought on to create a kind of love triangle between Rose and the Doctor.  But what he did have going for him was that he had enough self-awareness to know where he ranked in their group and he knew when to leave so that he could do the most good elsewhere.  He would always be in competition with the Doctor and on the TARDIS he would always lose.

9.  Nardole (Season 9)
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This character was here mostly as a comic conscience to the Doctor.  He acted the part of Jimminy Cricket to keep the Doctor on the path that was set out by River Song.  But beyond that, he was a bit one-dimensional about the character.

8.  Bill Potts (Season 9)
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image by Gage Skidmore
There was something about Bill that always seemed off.  Unlike Nardole, she was given a strong arc on the show.  But she always had a smarmy, "I-know-better-than-you" attitude that the Doctor found very appealing (because he probably saw a reflection of himself in her).  But I never saw the level of chemistry with the Doctor that I saw with other companions.  She wasn't a bad companion, but I've seen better.

7.  Rose Tyler (Seasons 1-2)
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Rose set the tone for the modern Who companions.  She was rough around the edges, but she was adventurous.  She was also the first human companion to really draw the Doctor in romantically.  But Rose never came off as that particularly special.  Or at least I could never quite see why the Doctor would be so head-over-heals for her in a way that he wasn't for other companions.  Although their parting was one of the most heartbreaking moments in the entire series.

6.  Martha Jones (Season 3)
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I know a number of people don't care for Martha, but I enjoyed her more than Rose.  She was at least more impressive than Rose in most ways.  She was smart and brave.  Her only drawback was that her unrequited affection for the Doctor made her look a little less self-possesed than she should have been. 

5.  River Song  (Seasons 4-8)
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She is the Doctor's equal in many ways.  She attracts and frustrates him in the way that he does to everyone else.  And all the while, her tragic destiny looms over her sly, knowing smirk.  She is a helpless romantic who hides under a cynical shell.  The saddest thing for me is that her best chemistry was in her final appearance with the 12th Doctor.  I have watched that episode many times and am always impressed how natural their relationship feels at this point.

4.  Amy Pond (Seasons 5-7)
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Amy's story is a tragic fairy tale.  The magical Raggedy Man enters her life in his magic box and her childhood is changed forever in both good and bad ways.  She is bold and defiant, but always seeks to do better.  She is flawed in her impulsiveness, but she grows to a great maturity by the end of her run.  In her final episode, you can see how she moved on from a girl with an infatuation to a mature woman who understands that marriage means taking the leap of the cliff with your spouse, till death do you part.

3.  Donna Noble (Season 4)
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I did not think I was going to like Donna at all.  Her first appearance was one where she complained the whole time and then opted not to join the Doctor.  When she finally did become his companion, she was one of the best.  As I've written before, she jettisoned the idea of the companion as a romantic interest.  The Doctor/Donna was a companionship of equals, a companionship of friends.  She would challenge the Doctor to do more and be better and there was something compelling enough about her to make the Doctor listen.  The chemistry between her and the Doctor was some of the best in the entire series and her departure in many ways was the most tragic.

2.  Rory Williams (Season 5-7)
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image by GabboT
In a lot of ways, Rory is everything the Doctor is not.  He is a human man who is straightforward, decent, unassuming, and honest.  Like Mickey, he is in competition with Doctor over someone's affections.  The difference here is that the Doctor is rooting for Rory.  And what makes Rory stand out is his selflessness.  For me, the most important part of Rory's story is when he stood guard over Amy for over two-thousand years just to keep her safe.  That level of devotion makes him one of the best companions.

1.  Clara Oswald (Season 7-9)
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For some reason there are a lot of people who think Clara was one of the worst companions.  I think they are completely wrong.  Like Donna, she held her own as an equal to the Doctor.  On top of that, they were still able to pull off an unspoken romantic chemistry.  She spoke to the Doctor in ways that no one had or no one could.  When her doom become certain, she didn't ask the Doctor for any promises.  Instead, she gave him a order.  She knew that his care for her was so strong that he would listen.  Clara was always brave, modest in apperance, quick of wit, and stout of heart.  She had to remind the Doctor who he truly is to prevent him from repeating his greatest mistake.  That was the kind of influence she commanded.  It was an influence of moral authority.  And that is why she is the best companion.

Film Flash: Life Itself

15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)

Nowhere nearly as profound/interesting as it wants to be. Narrative structure works against purpose.

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image by Yasir72.multan

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Trailer Time: Captain Marvel


Marvel has a lot riding on Captain Marvel.

Not only is the first female-led film in the MCU, but the plan is for her to be the lynchpin character for the franchise after the original Avengers retire after Infinity War Part 2.

This is our first taste of what this film will be.

Here are some assorted thoughts:

-I love the fact the trailer throws you immeadiately into the 1990's by showing you a Blockbuster.  I wish the rest of the trailer had a stronger '90's vibe with some Nirvana music or Stone Temple Pilots.

-Visually, the film looks excellent.  The special effects are top notch and it should give us a wonderful spectacle.

-I have no sense of Carol Danvers personality in this trailer.  One of the things that Marvel banks on is the personality of its heroes.  Iron Man could never have have established the MCU if his personality had not be as strong and funny.  I get no feel from Captain Marvel.

-I have no sense of the story from this trailer.  I know as a fan of the comics that this is somehow going to involve the Kree/Skrull war.  But it all seems very vague.

-They are leaning very heavily into the fact that Captain Marvel is a woman.  That's fine.  They did the same thing with Wonder Woman, and that was a great super hero film.  I'm just hoping that the film isn't primarily based in identity politics.  In other words, I want Captain Marvel to be a superhero who happens to be female, not a woman superhero. 

-Brie Larson is a great actress, but I don't get a chance to see much of her performance in this, other than she seems very confused.

-I really dig the young Nick Fury.  He feels more grounded, like the man before he became the legendary head of SHIELD.  I would like this film to really explore his character in a way even deeper than The Winter Soldier.

Overall, my reaction is fairly positive.  I would like to see more, but I generally like what I see so far.


Monday, September 17, 2018

New Evangelizers Post: Reflections on Humanae Vitae Part IV: The Fruits of Contraceptives

I have a new article up at  

In our last article in this series, we focused on the ills that Pope Paul VI predicted would happen if contraceptives became widely adopted. And it turns out that Paul was a prophet to our generation, one who has been largely ignored. However, there are two other great issues that have become much more common in our world because people ignore Humanae Vitae: abortion and homosexuality.


One of the reasons the Church opposes contraceptives is because we oppose abortion. It should be noted that many things that are sold as contraceptives, for example IUDs, are not actually contraceptives. A contraceptive, by definition, is something that prevents pregnancy from occurring. But there are many medicines and devices that are used in a way that does not prevent fertilization. Instead, these things prevent implantation of the embryo and cause the unborn child to be aborted at a very early stage. So instead of using a contraceptive, these women are actually using abortifacients.

But there is more to it than that.

I have heard people argue that if the Church would only allow for contraceptives, then there would be less abortions. The argument goes like this:

“Abortions are the result of unwanted pregnancies, since people who want pregnancies don’t get abortions. Contraceptives reduce the amount of unwanted pregnancies, since the people using them, by definition, do not want a pregnancy. Therefore since contraceptives reduce the amount of unwanted pregnancies, they will reduce abortions.”

The argument seems practically logical on its face. But it turns out that one of its premises is false.

You can read the whole article here.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Sunday Best: Greatest Doctor Who Episodes for Non-Fans

Doctor Who's 11th season will begin airing this fall.  We have a whole new Doctor in Jodie Whittaker.  We also have a brand new showrunner in Chris Chibnall.  This is the second time since the reboot that the show has had such a radical change over, the last time being when David Tennant and showrunner Russel T. Davies left and were replaced with Matt Smith and new showrunner Steven Moffat.

Doctor Who has been on the air in some form on and off again since the 1960's.  This new series has been running since 2005.  As with any long-running series, it can be intimidating to jump in.

So here are the ten best episodes of the rebooted Doctor Who for those who are non-fans and want to get a good sampling of the show.  There may be some better episodes than the ones listed here.  But someone who is curious about the show and wants to get a sampling of what it is like,  I would recommend checking out these 10 episodes.

10.  "The Eleventh Hour" (5x01)

This is the first episode of the 11th Doctor's run.  For those who are brand new to Doctor Who, it provides a much better jumping on point than any previous episode.  The Doctor regenrates and befriends a little Scottish girl named Amelia Pond.  While maintaining the rich history, this episode provides wonderful clean slate to dive in and follow the Time Lord's adventures.

9.  "The Waters of Mars" (Season 4 Special)

This might be one of the scariest episodes of Doctor Who and that is saying a lot.  The 10th Doctor arrives on Mars in the not-too-distant future where a group of human scientists have started the first Martian base.  But they've unfrozen something in the waters that possesses whoever touches the water and turns them into freakish zombies.  It becomes a massive race against time as the crew and the Doctor become outnumbered and run out of places to hide.  The design of the zombies are horrifying and are the stuff of nightmares.  It also finds the Doctor faced with some of his most dire moral dilemma's involving time travel.

8.  "Heaven Sent" (9x11)

The 12th Doctor finds himself alone in a castle on an island in the middle of the ocean.  There is no one there except for a mysterious, slow-walking hooded figure who constantly stalks him.  The place is his own "bespoke prison."  With only a handful of clues, the Doctor has to figure out why he is there and how he could possibly escape.  The last ten minutes of this episode pack an incredible emotional wallop.  As it moved toward its conclusion, my jaw dropped and my heart broke.  A great episode to reveal how the Doctor's mind works, but also how he is almost insanely obsessive.

7. "The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion" (9x07-9x08)

This two-part episode starts off like a conventional adventure.  But the second part contains one of the best moments on the entire series.  The 12th Doctor has both the humans and the shape-shifting Zygon's at a stalemate as they are poised to genocide each other with the press of a button.  What follows is Peter Capaldi at his best and a speech by the Doctor about the nature of war, peace, and forgiveness that reminds you what good writing is like.

6.  "The Fires of Pompeii"  (4x02)

This is the first real adventure of the 10th Doctor and Donna Noble.  Donna is a breath of fresh air.  She has amazing chemistry with the Doctor, but it is in no way romantic.  She is a woman who holds herself as an equal, not a girl who moons over him.  And this connection is forged, literally in fire, as the Doctor realizes his connection to the destruction of Pompeii and its consequences.  We also see why the Doctor needs a human companion to travel with him or else he is lost.

5.  "Midnight" (4x10)

The 10 Doctor is on a train car on a planet with a deadly atmosphere.  The passengers are only on vacation, but something deadly attacks them.  What follows is fear and paranoia.  While there are strong sci-fi elements here, this one is a strong psychological horror episode and the first Doctor Who I ever watched.

4.  "Human Nature/Family of Blood." (3x08-3x09)

The 10th Doctor hides out in early 20th Century Britain and becomes human so as to not be found.  He even has his entire identity changed so that he does not know that he is a time lord.  As the show progresses, his new identity, John Smith, has fallen in love with woman.  But as his hunters begin attacking the populace, John must return to being the Doctor.  One of things that makes this episode stand out is that John sees himself as a person and not simply an identity.  In his mind, he and the Doctor are two different people.  For John to turn into the Doctor, that means that John must die.  Tennant gives a stellar performance that makes us believe that two different people lived in that body.  The episode will pull at your heartstrings.  At the same time, you will know how truly dangerous the Doctor can be.

3.  "The Girl in the Fireplace" (2x04)

This is the Tv Threshold episode; it is the episode you have to watch up to in order to really understand the show.  The 10th Doctor finds himself and his companions on a derelict space ship that has all of these strange doors that lead to 18th century France.  There, the Doctor encounters a girl who sets them on an epic encounter with a terrifying adversary.  It is a touching and tragic tale that will stay with you after it ends.

2.  "Blink" (3x10)

This is an exceptionally good episode for non-fans to watch because the episode has the 10th Doctor as a supporting character.  Sally Sparrow finds herself in a strange and scary adventure involving one of the scariest creatures in Doctor Who history: the Weeping Angels.  Our hero has to solve a strange non-linear puzzle in order to save herself and possibly the world.  But the Weeping Angels are always present and create a fantastic sense of terror throughout the entire episode.

1.  "Silence of the Library/ Forest of the Dead." (4x08-4x09)

Not only is the best episode for non-fans, it is the best episode of the series.  This two-parter introduces us Professor River Song and one of the most consequential relationships in the entire Doctor Who cannon.  It also explains to us why we have a primal fear of the dark: because we are not alone.  The story is an emotional rollercoaster, alternately funny, scary, sad, and heartwarming.  It is everything that a Doctor Who episode can and should do and would serve as a great introduction into this wonderful world of the Doctor.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Film Flash: A Simple Plan

15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)

Vile, perverse, nihilistic, boring, ugly, and stupid. Paul Feig is disturbed. Worse than his Ghostbusters.

image by Yasir72.multan

Film Flash: The Predator

15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)

Better than Predator 2. Predators was better, but The Predator was more fun.

image by Yasir72.multan