These days, geek-themed television is plentiful—so plentiful that it can be hard to keep up with every episode of every show. That’s where we come in. Check back each week to see what shows get the spotlight.
This weekend saw the return of two major fan-favorites in the world of science fiction and fantasy television. On Saturday we got the start of the second half of Doctor Who, series 7, and Sunday night brought the third season premiere of Game of Thrones. Watching both raised plenty of questions for fans: What’s the secret of the many lives of Clara Oswald? What’s going to happen to Jon Snow in the camp of Mance Rayder? When will the TARDIS show up in King’s Landing so the Doctor can smack Joffrey around a bit?
Doctor Who – “The Bells of Saint John”
The new episode of Doctor Who started out in familiar fashion: a bit of everyday technology that we all take for granted is actually—wait for it—totally evil. Instead of Bluetooth headsets and weight-loss drugs, this time around “there’s something in the Wi-Fi.” It seems as though an ominous, alien-looking Wi-Fi signal is sucking people’s brains up and storing it in a data-cloud—which, of course, is food for some mysterious “client.” The whole scheme is being perpetrated by some evil corporation of computer-savvy drone workers (aren’t they always?), all under the control of frosty looking Miss Kizlet, who wields a mind-controlling tablet. Obviously.
So when this era’s Clara Oswald—who we last saw dying on Christmas in Victorian England—is captured by the evil Wi-Fi, it isn’t long before the Doctor springs into action to save her and the rest of Earth from this new threat to humanity and watching YouTube videos during lunch breaks at work. But what gets the Doctor’s attention in the first place happens to be one of our first mysteries of this half of the season. Clara calls the Doctor on the TARDIS’s phone box (which isn’t, you know, actually a phone) because she’s computer illiterate, and needs tech support for her laptop. How’d she get his number? A woman at the shop gave it to her, saying that it’d connect her with the best tech support in the universe.
That’s proven true when Clara’s consciousness is uploaded to the data-cloud and the Doctor manages to snag it back, and the two begin their adventure together. And now, the former computer illiterate is a hacking genius, and Clara manages to find the location of the evil Wi-Fi cabal within five minutes of furiously pounding the keys of her laptop (which is television shorthand for “this person is good at hacking”).
Long-story short: the Doctor prevails against the bad guys, but the ominous, brain-eating client gets away by the end. Longtime fans of the series might’ve recognized the villain as the Great Intelligence, though relative newcomers who jumped on with Christopher Eccleston’s ninth Doctor or later should be forgiven for not knowing who or what that is. Regardless of whether or not Mr. Intelligence (or should we just call him Great?) is a familiar name, we’ve got some other mysteries still to figure out. Clara’s now a computer genius who, at one point, calls herself Oswin—the name used by her computer-savvy counterpart from the future in “Asylum of the Daleks.” And she’s a good-hearted nanny, much like her Victorian-era doppelganger. Just what the heck is Clara’s deal?
And who’s the mysterious woman at the shop who gave Clara the Doctor’s number? It’s probably River Song…right? Who else would know how to make the non-functioning phone in the phone-box ring? Also, what about that book Clara mentions, Summer Falls by Amelia Williams? We all know who that must be: one Amelia Pond, the wife of Rory Williams, stranded in the ‘30s in “The Angels Take Manhattan.” It seems that we can cross at least one wish off our list. Oh well, at least we’ll get the chance to see what’s inside when the BBC publishes it as an eBook. That should make for some interesting reading…
Game of Thrones – “Valar Dohaeris”
Meanwhile, in Westeros, pretty much no one is happy. The Battle of Blackwater is over, and the veterans of both sides are having a tough time recovering and dealing with the new status quo. In fact, it’d be tough to figure out just who has it the worst: Tyrion Lannister is sporting a nasty scar across his face, the consequences of leading the King’s army against that of Stannis Baratheon. Stannis, meanwhile, is madder than ever, holed up in Dragonstone with his creepy consort, the red witch Melisandre. And Stannis’s “Onion Knight,” Ser Davos, is rescued from a sandy prison, having been shipwrecked after the battle. When he’s delivered back to Stannis to try and persuade him to ditch the witch, he’s locked up for his troubles, and will most likely be burned in a magic fire. So, you know, that’s not much of a step up.
As for Tyrion, he’s been replaced as the King’s hand by his father, Tywin. And when Tyrion asks to be named Lord of Casterly Rock—a title he should inherit by right, since his older brother Jaime is ineligible as a knight of the Kingsguard—Tywin denies him and insults his small stature to boot. At the very least, Tyrion got a few zingers in against his sister, Cersei, so it wasn’t a total loss.
Up north, beyond the Wall, Jon Snow gets his first glimpse at a giant, and meets with the king of the Wildlings, Mance Rayder. He’s able to bluff his way into the Wildlings, but no one trusts him. Jon’s half-brother Robb Stark isn’t having a good time either. South of the Wall, Robb discovers a massacre of at Harrenhal, the work of the Lannisters’ monstrous knight, Ser Gregor Clegane. And because Robb’s mother Catelyn had let the captive Jaime Lannister go, Stark’s bannermen blame her for the Lannisters’ assault—and Robb’s forced to put his own mother in a cell—so that’s awkward.
And finally, Daenerys and her pet dragons sail to Astapoor, where they examine the Unsullied: slave soldiers who fear nothing and feel no pain. They don’t even wince when their nipples are sliced off. The viewers, however, wince a lot when seeing nipples getting sliced off.
But as Daenerys contemplates using slaves as soldiers, she’s saved from a warlock assassination attempt by a familiar face: Ser Barriston Selmy, a former knight of her father’s Kingsguard, and who Joffrey kicked out of King’s Landing back in season one. He’s here to join Dany’s Queensguard, and from the look of how she’s treated in Astapoor, she could use all the help she can get.
More drama, more intrigue, more nakedness: it was definitely an episode of Game of Thrones. And it’s not without its own mysteries. Where’s Arya? Will Jon Snow ever truly earn the Wildlings’ trust? And will Sansa ever get less annoying? Man, she’s the worst.
Images: BBC and HBO