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As mentioned in the previous volume, this series follows Netflix’s Love, Death & Robots. Feel free to skip this paragraph if you read any others. Tim Miller developed the series and incorporated the talents of several studios. As each episode is independent, there isn’t a need to watch them in any order. These reviews will cover the current order for Volume 2 in 2022. Love, Death & Robots targets a mature audience, so some episodes have mature language, nudity, and adult subjects. This review will cover “Automated Customer Service” and “Ice.”

Automated Customer Service
Automated Customer Service

Automated Customer Service

Based on John Scalzi’s short story and animated by Atoll Studio, “Automated Customer Service” is a dark comedy set in the not-so-distant future. In a retirement community, a tenant runs into an issue with her robotic cleaner. The situation quickly escalated.

The cast of this 13-minute short story includes the talents of Nancy Linari, Ben Giroux and Brian Keane. The animation is reminiscent of caricatures, ones found in comic strips. Not unique but effectively expressive. This isn’t the strongest first episode to start Volume 2 but sets the same tone as “Three Robots.” 2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

Ice
Ice, Maximum Effort

Ice

Based on Rick Larson’s short story and animated by Passion Animation Studios, “Ice” follows two brothers as they race against something lurking in the ice. Will the brothers reach safety in time? Or will the beasts beneath get their pound of flesh?

Another 13-minute runtime, but with a cast that includes Archie Madekwe, Sebastian Croft, Beatriz Godinho, Alexander Lobo Moreno, Miguel Amorim, Mike Bodie and Maria Teresa Creasey. More of a drama with thriller undertones, “Ice” effectively tells the story of two estranged brothers. While far from the most frightening, it does provide a genuine thrill wrapped in a unique visual style. Style might be a negative for some, but it added to the tension and the world. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Zeth received his M.A in English with a focus in Creative Writing at CSU, Chico. As a human writer, he published in the 9th volume of Multicultural Echoes, served on the editorial board of Watershed Review, and is a horror reviewer for Haunted MTL. All agree he is a real-life human and not an octopus in human skin. Fascinated by horror novels and their movie adaptations, Zeth channels his bone-riddled arms in their study. Games are also a tasty treat, but he only has the two human limbs to write. If you enjoy his writing, check out his website.

Doctor Who

Same Same, But Different. Five EU Stories Which Show Doctor Who monsters in a New Light

See how different creators of Audio Plays, Comics and Books reinvent familiar monsters in unique ways

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One of the paradoxes of being a Doctor Who fan is you want more of the same, but not too much the same.  If you like a particular character or monster, you want them to come back, but not do the exact same thing a second time, instead using a second opportunity to explore a different angle that we didn’t see the first time around.  However, even then for characters and monsters we’ve been seeing for sixty years, how many more angles can we see? 

Luckily, the Doctor Who fan also has the Extended Universe, one of the largest and most diverse in pop culture with a mixtures of books, audio plays and comics across sixty years of entertainment to enjoy.  And in that time, we see views and interpretations of monsters we have never seen before or since. 

Today we’re just going to focus on five monsters, and recommendations for each, but let me know if there’s any monster or character I’ve missed that you’d like to see more of.

The Silurians/Earth Reptiles

First introduced in 1970’s “Doctor Who and the Silurians” the creatures also known as “Earth Reptiles” were one of the first challenges to the Earth-bound era of Doctor Who having to be about alien invasions all the time.  The Silurians aren’t aliens, they’re more Earthlings than we are, having predated humanity but going into hibernation during the time the mammals rose.  After first menacing Jon Pertwee’s third Doctor, they were reintroduced during the Eleventh Doctor’s era in 2010’s “The Hungry Earth” and “Cold Blood”

Since then, while rarely a main monster of a storyline, they have continued to make regular cameos, most significantly with the reoccurring character of Madame Vastra, the Doctor’s ally detective in Victorian London. 

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New Interpretation – Bloodtide (2001)

Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor is the best Doctor for the Big Finish Audio Range, and the Big Finish Audio range is the best example of the Sixth Doctor.  With freedom from the difficult production era of the mid-eighties, and coupled with companions like history professor, Evelyn Smythe, (Portrayed by the great Maggie Stables), who was able to challenge the Doctor’s morality and even teach him a thing or two, the Sixth Doctor was given opportunities to be nicer and more definitively a hero, while still being the loud bombastic Doctor of the television series.

Bloodtide sees the Doctor and Evelyn travelling to the Galapagos Islands at the same time in history as Charles Darwin is developing his studies into what will eventually become his theory of evolution.  However, there is another race on the islands, and their influence over humanity will put that theory, and the existence of humanity to the test. The relationship between humanity and the Silurians varies significantly across the appearances, with some stories suggesting no overlap between Silurians and humanity, but this story explores the idea of Silurians being influential in the development of humanity, and seeing us as equivalent to domesticated animals who became feral.  Also, in a novel twist, instead of Silurians suddenly awakening to explore the world, Bloodtide has Silurians already in control of a degree of humanity, albeit a small one, and presents one idea where Silurians and Humanity existence in a master-servant state.

Honorable Mentions

Blood Heat – Presenting a parallel world where the Silurians successfully wipe out much of humanity with a virus, the Silurians, and their cousins the Sea Devils now control the planet with only a minimal force of human rebels opposing them.

The Cybermen – A Doctor Who Magazine (DWM) comic strip which explores the origin of the Cybermen, and connects their creation to a race of Silurians on Earth’s twin planet Mondas


Weeping Angels

The only modern series monster that can really be considered a major reoccurring antagonist, the Weeping Angels, first appeared in the Tenth Doctor story “Blink” where transport people to the past and feed of the time energies that have been left behind.  Their primary characteristic, being stone when in view, and moving quickly when not seen, created a sense of terror for characters Sally Sparrow, and also the viewers at home. 

While originally in their first story there was only four of the angels present, their second appearance in “Flesh and Blood” heightened the fear factor, with the Eleventh Doctor stuck on a world infested by Angels.  Other stories had the Angel develop a farm where human temporal energy could be harvested repeatedly, and even turning the Thirteenth Doctor briefly into a Weeping Angel herself.


New Interpretation – Grey Matter from Twelve Angels Weeping

One of the limitations of a horror based monster like the Weeping Angels in Doctor Who, is that the Doctor must survive, and almost always wins.  It’s hard to be too terrified when we already know the result, and that our hero would likely survive. 

This story is different though.

On the Planet Gehanna, a plague has broken out among the twelve separate human cities.  Our story starts on City One, the last remaining city free from the outbreak, though keeping tightly controlled with specialized breath masks being work at all times to protect its citizens.  The Twelfth Doctor arrives, and is quickly captured and taken for interrogation as an outsider by the City’s Chief Medical Officer, and finds the Medical Officer’s other prisoner, a tortured and disfigured weeping angel. 

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Not to give too much spoilers away, but despite this being a Christmas themed anthology, this story feels more like Halloween.  Angels are seen as victims initially here, but also vengeful, vindictive, and ultimately victorious, with fear inducing scenes conveyed in text but conveying an impact not seen since their initial appearance in “Blink”

Honorable Mention – The Weeping Angel of Mons

Bridging the gap between their first appearance in “Blink” this story sees the Tenth Doctor finding the Angel using the cover of WWI to feast on humanity.  This story has a lot of elements in common with “Angels of Manhattan”and “Blink” but seems like a natural sequel to “Blink” with intensity and involvement of angels increasing but only slightly. 


The Cybermen

Considered one of the Big Two Monsters of Doctor who, these cyborg threats first appeared in 1966’s “The Tenth Planet”, the final story of the First Doctor’s era.  The Cybermen were originally humanoids from the Earth’s twin planet, Mondas, but following their planet being flung out of orbit, and moving away from Earth’s sun, they used gradual replacement of their parts with robotic and computer elements to become the cold, emotionless Cybermen.  Since then we’ve seen a range of Cybermen, from Telos ice vaults, to parallel universes, to the Twelfth Doctor introducing the idea that they are the natural evolution whenever a planet’s technology takes over.  However, the idea of the Cybermen conquering planets, in particular Earth, has remained consistent across all variations, as well as their constant rejection of all emotions as a weakness. 

New Interpretation: Killing Ground

The Cybermen in most of Doctor Who are seen as attempting to invade the planet, but rarely is it explored what would happen if they were successful.  They’re not like Daleks, killing things because they honestly believe they should die.  They’re not like Sontarans, using conquered planets as tools in their war against an enemy.  Mostly during Cybermen stories their motivation is to survive, to take a planet in order to avoid extinction. 

In the “Killing Ground” the Cybermen are still aiming for survival, but that is happening off page.  In the outer context of the story, the Cybermen are weakened, after a Cyber-War they were on the losing side for.  However, on this planet, the planet Agora, they have remained in complete control of the planet for almost fifty years.  People are used as source material for Cybermen to allow the Cyber race to grow in other areas of the cosmos, not to keep control on Agora as most rebellions have been violently suppressed at this time.

Onto this planet arrives the Sixth Doctor and his companion Grant Markham, who was transported  from Agora as a child in order to escape the future of being a Cybermen when his body should prove useful. 

The idea of a reoccurring monster not only invading a planet, but maintaining the control for decades is uncommon for any monster, and the image of what a Cyber-run world would look like adds a new fear, and shows how despite being emotionless, the Cybermen can be cruel with their logical responses. 

Honorable Mentions

Throwback the Soul of the Cybermen -Similar to “Killing Ground” this also shows a Cyberman occupied planet, where there is only slight conflict between the Cybermen and their human slaves.  However, in this story we meet Cyberman Kroton, a Cyberman with a soul, struggling to understand humanity and our emotions, rather than reacting to them. 

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The Flood – The last Eighth Doctor comic strip features the Cybermen attempting to invade Earth.  The comic artist takes full advantage of the range an artist has to make versions of the Cybermen which can never be seen on TV or have an actor inside them.  In addition, this story presents the Cybermen as benevolent – removing emotions removed due to an honest belief they cause harm and distress, so those without them will have improved quality of life. 


The Autons

Servants of the Lovecraftian Nestene consciousness, the Autons are plastic robots, with inbuilt hand weaponry, and skills in duplication.  They first appeared in 1970, facing a newly regenerated Third Doctor, memorably bursting from the shop windows and shooting at passerbys in the final episode of “Spearhead From Space.”

This initial stand out scene was replicated for the relaunch, with the Ninth Doctor and Rose opposing the Autons and their Nestene rulers in the first Ninth Doctor Episode “Rose” when they again appear as shop window dummies attacking the public.

New Interpretation – Brave New Town

In the original stories from the 1970’s, the Autons connected to their controllers, the Nestenes, through Nestene crystal spheres which travel to Earth as meteorites.  Usually if this connection to the Nestenes is cut off the Autons cease to be. 

But what if they don’t?  What would Autons be if they weren’t guided for a time by the Nestenes?  Consdeirng their skills for impersonation, could they impersonate so well they confused themselves?

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This is the question asked in the Eighth Doctor Big Finish story, where the Doctor and his companion Lucie Miller find the quiet seaside town of Thorington is repeating the same day over and over.  Soon they find the planet has many secrets, and its population having been used by monsters both otherworldly and Human. 


Daleks

The Daleks are THE Monster talked about when discussing Doctor Who, the first alien/monster opponent of the entire series, the second antagonist and second alien featured over all.  They have fought against every version of the Doctor, including each of the main Television Doctors, as well as the War Doctor as portrayed by John Hurt, parallel universe Doctors in the Unbound Series and the movie version of Doctor Who, portrayed by Peter Cushing. 

They have featured in Board Games, Video Games, Comics, Comic Strips, Books, Audio Plays, Stage Shows, Escape Rooms – any form of media that could feature the metal monsters from Skaro have featured them. 

So with so many stories showing their evil, their hatred for all other beings, their belief in Dalek supremacy as the natural order of things, what is there left to explore?

New Interpretation – Children of the Revolution

In 1967, Patrick Troughton completed his first season as the second Doctor, with the story “Evil of the Daleks.” This epic seven part story had the Doctor travelling between present day Earth, the Victorian era, and Skaro itself in search for the stolen TARDIS, and on the way uncovering the Dalek plan to discover what makes a Dalek a Dalek, the Dalek factor, and insert it into human kinds to create a Dalek race.

However, the Daleks are defeated by the Doctor instilling three Daleks with a Human factor – creating Daleks with a sense of fun, playfulness, and particularly the ability to question and think for themselves.  This tendency leads to disunity, and as the Doctor spreads the Human factor to more Daleks, a civil war emerges between the rival forces of Daleks.  This was originally devised as the final Dalek story, with the might Dalek emperor being exterminated, and the Dalek city destroyed.

Of course, the Daleks returns around five years later, and a cut piece of dialogue from “Day of the Daleks” said the rebellion was crushed, and the Humanised Daleks exterminated. 

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But what if the survived?  What if the Daleks who were more human lost the war, but escaped?  This is the question the DWM comic strip “Children of the Revolution” aims to answer.

The Eighth Doctor, and his companion Izzy, arrive on the water planet of Kyrol, where a crew of humans on a submarine are captured by a secret Dalek colony.  But this is not a colony preparing nefarious schemes, but just hiding to survive, knowing they are hared by not just other Daleks, but all other species who see Daleks as a threat.  While the Doctor tries to defuse tensions between the human prisoners and the Daleks he played a part in creating, outside enemies attempt to manipulate the situation for their own benefit.

This story shows a world of what would Daleks be if they used their intelligence for acts other that destruction.  How would they view other races if they did not see them worthy of destruction?  We see a Dalek race that invests in art, in scientific curiosity, but can also see the difficulty the Doctor faces in wanting to protect them, while also seeing the point of the humans who want to be free. 

With amazing visuals of Daleks underwater, this is an amazing story and well worth a read.

Honorable mentions:

Jubilee – This audio play by Robert Shearman served as a basis for the eventual television episode “Dalek” but the original audio is very very different and as a result can be enjoyed in a separate way.  The Doctor and Evelyn Smythe arrive on an Earth celebrating a hundred years since the failed Dalek invasion, one the Doctor and Evelyn stopped but have not recalled it at all. 

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Prisoner of the Daleks

While we often hear of the massive Dalek armies of the Dalek war, due to budgets we rarely see them, instead usually seeing small Dalek forces attempting invasions or attacks of certain areas.  Prisoner of the Daleks has the Tenth Doctor landing in a timeline prior to the Time War, where Daleks are a dominant force, with the Earth empire attempting to fight back by paying bounty hunters to destroy Daleks.  The strength and intelligence of the Daleks in this story is impressive, with the Doctor largely being helpless to out manipulate or defeat them until the very end.  Also, for a book from the BBC era which tended to be lighter, this is a dark world, with planets destroying themselves with nuclear weapons to prevent Dalek invasion and the survivors captured anyway by the Daleks who are not deterred by this act. 


This article just touches on some of the Doctor who monsters and villains that can be appreciated in new ways in the Extended Universe.  Of course there are many other ways to appreciate them, and many other monsters and villains to explore.  Please share any characters you’d like to find out about their varied appearances in the comments below. 

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Movies n TV

The Boys, We’ll Keep the Red Flag Flying Here

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We’re on episode three of Amazon Prime’s The Boys. And with only eight episodes in the season, that means we’re already a quarter of the way through. It also means that we’ve hit a slower episode.

Don’t worry, though, there’s still plenty of blood to go around.

The story

We begin our episode with Ryan playing a video game. This turns out to be a guise for him to talk to Butcher. They agree to meet up in person.

Meanwhile, The Boys are charging forward without Butcher’s involvement. They’re planning to bug a building where an ice show is taking place. Hughie crawls into the air ducts to plant the bug, because apparently, nobody remembers what happened the last time he had to do that. He’s caught by Homelander, and a hilarious and bloody fight ensues. At the last moment, Hughie is saved by the last person he expected to be saved by.

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Jack Quaid in The Boys.

Meanwhile, Kimiko and Frenchie attack a nearby group affiliated with the people who kidnapped her as a child. Or, at least that’s the plan. Rather than being any help at all, Frenchie has a rubber duckie-themed drug trip and Kimiko has to fend entirely for herself. All because Frenchie is having a hard time dealing with the fact that he murdered his boyfriend’s family.

What worked

The first thing I’d like to shine a light on is Sage. She fascinates me. It must be so exhausting to deal with someone like Homelander who pretends to care about your input but really doesn’t. And we see that near the end of the episode.

Being so damn smart all the time, and having to constantly explain yourself to people who don’t care to follow along, is tiring. So it makes perfect sense that she’s found at the end of the episode watching TV and eating junk food. I appreciate the acknowledgment of mental exhaustion and decision fatigue.

I also love how Butcher is growing as a person. He is making better, healthier decisions for the people around him that he loves. In this episode we see him protect Ryan from Joe. We saw him choose Hughie over his self-interests earlier in the season. It seems as though impending death is doing wonders for his overall decision-making.

What didn’t work

As I mentioned before, this was a slower episode. On the one hand, it’s nice to have a moment to catch our breaths in this very fast-paced series.

On the other hand, there is a slow pace and then there’s an episode that’s just weighed down by stuff we don’t care about.

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For example, we learn in this episode that Starlight and Firecracker were both in the pageant circuit together. Starlight ruined Firecracker’s career by spreading a rumor that she’d slept with the judges. So now she wants to destroy Starlight’s reputation.

While I’m thrilled that we have a female antagonist whose motivations aren’t centered around how a man did her wrong, I don’t care about this high school bullshit. I don’t care if Starlight was a mean girl in high school. We have big girl storylines to get to. Don’t bog us down with this Degrassi bullshit.

I am fascinated by where this season is going so far. Sage and Homelander working together is so much more frightening than just Homelander himself. See, Homelander’s hubris has struck him down many times. Now he’s brought in someone smarter. All he has to do is humble himself enough to work with her, and he can’t lose.

Antony Starr in The Boys.

As we saw in this episode, though, this might be a big ask for him. He just cannot fight his nature. And that might be the saving grace for The Boys. Because they sure as hell don’t have their shit together right now.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

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By the way, if you like my writing you can get my short story, Man In The Woods, on Smashwords and Amazon.

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Movies n TV

The Boys, Life Among The Septics

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Episode two of Amazon Prime’s The Boys was an upsetting ride from start to finish. It was dark and upsetting. But in a strange way, it was also inspiring.

Let’s discuss.

The story

We begin this episode with A-Train filming his ‘origin story’ movie. And he’s not thrilled with how the movie is going, which is understandable. The movie is about a struggling young man who’s involved in the drug trade and is saved by his white running coach. In reality, A-Train was never involved in drugs until he got hooked on V, and was coached by his older brother. This erasure of his personal history, which also drips with racism and white savior complex, is hurting him.

He’s not the only one who’s grating under the pressure of Vought. Ryan is now completely in their clutches. And they are hard at work making him a teenage superhero. Which just seems to upset him more than anything. Given that he loses control of his powers and accidentally kills an innocent man, that’s understandable. And of course, the only parent he has left is Homelander, who seemed to think the way to handle the issue was with frosty chocolate milkshakes.

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Antony Starr and Cameron Crovetti in The Boys.

I’m very concerned about Ryan.

What worked

I first want to talk about Ryan’s storyline.

Homelander, worried that he’s going to die, is trying to build a legacy for his son. He wants Ryan to be a beloved superhero. But Ryan doesn’t seem thrilled about this. At least, not in the way it’s being done. And it is being done in an extremely gross way.

Homelander wants Ryan to be just like him. But Ryan isn’t. He sees people as, well, people. He feels remorse. He misses Butcher. He’s dealing with a lot of pain that comes from caring about other people. And that is something that Homelander just cannot understand.

One of them is going to sway the other. I’m hoping that it’s Ryan, but it’s impossible to tell.

The storyline that has my attention the most, though, is the one involving A-Train. We’ve seen such an evolution in this character. Every time he seems like he’s going to make progress, he takes several bloody steps back. But I think he’s finally at a cracking point. There is goodness in him. And he’s risked his life to get Annie and Hughie information before. While it might be self-serving, it is still work towards the good.

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I want so, so badly for him to be good. And that’s a sign of great character writing.

What didn’t work

Here’s something that did irritate me. And it’s something that has irritated me through the whole series so far. But a moment in this episode brought it to a head for me.

Hughie’s mom, Daphne, comes to the hospital with a bag full of MLM oils that are from a Vought company. This annoyed me because not every single evil thing in this world has to come from Vought.

Laz Alonso, Karl Urban and Tomer Capone in The Boys.

And so far, it has. There are no corrupt politicians unless they work for Vought. There are no crooked news anchors, abusive parents, predatory companies, or bad situations unless they come from or are in some way involved in Vought. At some point, like with this episode, it just becomes laughable.

Look, I know The Mouse is evil, but Doterra still exists.

This season is going to hit on some uncomfortable, but sadly realistic moments. I think we’re going to discuss child star abuse, generational trauma, the pain of being Black in America, and watching a loved one pass away. I think this is going to be a hard season. But I also think it’s going to be a good one.

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I guess we’ll find out. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

By the way, if you like my writing you can get my short story, Man In The Woods, on Smashwords and Amazon.

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