touchwoodThis episode of Torchwood effectively does two things really well: it gives us backstory into Jack (pre-Doctor Who) and it gives us a really disturbing view of how memories define us.  Without them, we are not who we think we are.  That sort of philosophizing is mind candy, but that doesn’t carry an episode to classic heights on its own.  It needs a cast to shine and luckily, we do get a lot of that.  But perhaps not quite enough…

The episode opens with us getting a view of Gwen and Rhys together and we see how great they are as a couple.  Season two really has given new life to this pair.  When Gwen’s memories are replaced by Adam, it devastates her world.  It’s hard not to feel for Rhys during this sequence because he has no idea what is going on.  What impressed me was that the episode felt like a sci-fi way of looking at dementia: what Gwen goes through is both heartbreaking and terrifying.  Memories are all that defines who we are; a compilation of all that has ever happened to us.  Take those away and who are we?  For Rhys and Gwen, we’re given the chance to get to know all about them, and it flows well within the story but to see it stripped really is shocking.  Adam becomes a truly evil villain and what he is responsible for feels like rape – of the mind, but still forcing oneself where he is not wanted.  This is a very strong part of the episode.

We also see a role reversal for Tosh and Owen because Adam has planted new memories for them.  Owen is happier and not a snarky jerk, while Tosh is confident and no longer pining for Owen, but the result is that neither are more likable this way.  Owen comes off as a sniveling nerd in the worst caricature of what nerds are perceived as.  We later  discover that Owen’s mom is largely why he’s the selfish jerk that he is.  Meanwhile, Tosh ends up being bitchy and difficult to watch.  Her demeaning attitude towards Owen is despicable, even if he has deserved it upon occasion.  Ianto has a strong sequence where he is forced to remember being a murderer after false memories are implanted.  His story is short but incredibly well acted.  His “I’m a monster” line is chilling, while equally heartbreaking as the viewer clearly sees the memory as a lie.   Jack ends up being the star of the story remembering his youth in the Boeshane Peninsula.  He remembers the loss of his little brother at the hands (claws?  beaks?) of the “most horrible creatures” imaginable.  (So Daleks are not the worst?  Good to know!)  But the problem I had with this is that it felt too tacked on.  The story we were originally given about Jack was that he was a “time agent” and I think we still would be happier with that than the whole kid-missing-dad-and-brother story.  Still, it’s well executed and does give us a hint that more is coming regarding Jack’s background.

My issues with the episode vary: one is the way Adam plants memories.  I’m not uncomfortable being touched but if someone insisted on touching me every few minutes, I’d shift back a bit now and then.  Adam has to get very close and touch his targets.  Once Jack understands that touch is the method of erasing memories, he makes it pretty clear that Adam can’t touch him, but the minute Jack gets mad, he grabs Adam and hoists him off his feet.  Adam touches Jack’s hand!  Did he forget?  Did the writer?  Or was it that  it has to be more premeditated and memories can’t be implanted that easily?

While I loved that Rhys shared that he always though Gwen would “settle for” him, I had an issue with this part as well.  If the episodes preceding this showed us anything, it’s true: she certainly seems to be settling for him.  Even in this episode, she tells Jack “I do love him.  But not in the way I love you.”  What the hell does that mean?  Is that to let Jack know that she loves him but just differently, because there was a far less seductive way to say that.  If anything it should have been reversed: “I do love you Jack, but not in the way I love Rhys” – that’s how to make your soon-to-be husband come out at the top of the list, not as the man you’re settling for!  So this was poorly executed for me and it’s probably because Jack is difficult not to like.  He’s sort of the central point of Torchwood, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have characters with other love interests.

Now, if I’m being fair, these are more about nitpicking than being taken out of the episode.  I think it’s a very good episode.  I love that Gwen is defined by her love for Rhys (at least mostly).  Tosh just wanted to be noticed and Jack was there for her.  Owen wants to be saved and Jack is willing to do that for him as well.  And Ianto seeks meaning; something else Jack can give.  The episode does paint Jack as the savior to all of his team but I don’t know if he comes off as such but it centers the series again to remind the viewer who the hero is.  He does save his team, but the bit with Gwen leaves something to be desired because it intrudes on her connection to her fiance.  Sometimes, less is more.

The final scene has Jack unlock the mystery box that was setup earlier in the episode and all that comes out of it is sand.  Sand that the viewer knows is from the Boeshane Peninsula.  But the whole team has lost their memories of the last 2 days, so it shouldn’t mean anything to them.  The truth is, there should be an episode to follow this where they try to unravel the mystery of the missing 2 days because that’s what would happen if the story opened with them missing memories.  Alas, the image is still a good one, as the grains of sand fall through Jack’s fingers; a metaphor, perhaps, for the fleeting nature of our lives and our memories.  A fitting image to end the episode, if maybe a bit too bleak for my liking.  But this is Torchwood; it’s not a happy show like Doctor Who and sometimes the darkness wins.  ML

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Michael the Deadpan Snarker

garibaldiToday is our Mike’s birthday, so I’m going to make the ultimate sacrifice and drag myself away from the world of anime to write something different in his honour. After all, when a man reaches such a grand old age he deserves a bit of recognition, right? So I though it would be fun to focus on one of Mike’s favourite television shows, Babylon 5, and in particular the character who shares his first name: Michael, of the Garibaldi variety.

Comparing our Mike with B5 Mike we can find a lot in common. They are both inspirational team leaders with brilliantly analytical minds, some distant Italian heritage and questionable hair. They both prioritise the important friendships in their lives with great loyalty to those who matter, and either Michael is the man to have in your corner in times of trouble, but both Mikes speak their mind, refuse to walk on eggshells, and will kindly but fairly call somebody out if they get their priorities skewed in life. They don’t suffer fools gladly, and quite right too.

Michael of the Garibaldi variety often deals with that kind of issue with a sarcastic comment or biting remark, and it doesn’t matter about the rank or status of who he is talking to. That makes him what tropers call a “deadpan snarker”. It’s always good to have a character like that in an ensemble show, because it’s a great way to raise issues and challenge assumptions, and to do that with humour. The deadpan snarker is the one who often delivers the comedy lines, but there is a purpose to it, because he will be the one to spot flaws and faults, and often vocalise what the more shrewd amongst the viewers will have spotted. Done right, the deadpan snarker is always an intelligent character, the comedy guy who has a point to make. Let’s look at a few choice examples of some of Garibaldi’s best lines:

Infection: “Don’t sweat it. Just be that charming, effervescent Commander we’ve all come to know and love. What’s the worst that could happen? They fire you, ship you off to the Rim, and I get promoted to Commander. I don’t see a problem here.”

Grail: “Don’t talk, I’ve seen you eat. Does the term Doppler effect ring a bell?”

The Long Dark: “You were about to accuse the Centauri ambassador of being in league with the devil, which may not be far from the truth.”

A Race Through Dark Places: “Smooth! You’re getting good at this. Keep working on it, and one of these days I might even be convinced that you’re human.”

Hunter, Prey: “Maybe somebody should’ve labelled the future ‘some assembly required’.”

Matters of Honor: “And what kind of head of Security would I be if I let people like me know things that I’m not supposed to know?”

Convictions: “May I be the first to say that this is the nuttiest idea you’ve ever had.”

Passing Through Gethsemane: “Nobody’s ever been to the Vorlon Homeworld and back again. Yet she goes, comes back like she just took a trip to the corner store. And now she’s working for Kosh. Is anybody else as creeped out about this as I am?”

Exogenesis: “Ivanova was right. You are a pain in the ass.”

Shadow Dancing: “Sometimes people walk away because they want to be alone, and sometimes they walk away because they want to see if you care enough to follow them into hell. I think I went the wrong way.”

As Ivanova says, “there’s nothing more annoying than Mr Garibaldi when he’s right.” Fortunately that’s not a problem with our own Mike in the Junkyard because he’s rarely right… but when he is he’s a man I’ve learnt a lot from and he has come up with many a line in his articles that made me stop and think and question my own opinions. Happy Birthday, Mike. Have a good one.   RP

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Fire Force

fireforceThe Junkyard presents a review by Daz of the anime series Fire Force:

Fire Force is set in a world where people spontaneously combust and turn into demon like creatures called “infernals”.  It’s not pleasant and seems totally at random. Not everyone succumbs to this however as some people are born with the ability to control and manipulate fire to their will. These people end up using their abilities in special fire fighting teams to help rid the world of the infernals and to also find the cause of this strange phenomenon.

With that setup I was ready to enjoy this show and for the first few episodes I was sold. We met the main character, Shinra. He’s the victim of a house fire and an infernal killing his mum and taking his baby brother when he was little. He joined the Fire Force to hopefully get near that demon and kill it. There was comedy, there was action and then there came the inevitable ecchi. Not totally unexpected (this is a shonen after all) but it still felt out of place.

So I’m a few episodes deep now and then suddenly at the midway point, I lost all interest. None of what they were doing was of any importance to me. I had found I was stuck with a bunch of characters that don’t really have much point or have any real purpose bar the MC and his captain. The secondary characters were simply there for the comedy and ecchi with very little to no back story either. The only thing that kept me watching were the visuals as well as the sound as they were excellent.

The story felt like it dragged out something that could have been solved a lot sooner. It seems that these brigades have different outfits and levels with lots of infighting that didn’t seem to make sense when the bigger picture is to get to the bottom of this problem. Instead we have to go through these captains of each faction to make them see sense to help the MC and his crew. Sometimes these characters are never seen again and some return when they are needed to fill in the plot. This is following the lazy shonen playbook to perfection and I was seriously bored by it. I’m not a fan of pointless character building and this has it in abundance.

The ending was also a massive let down. It seems that it was a giant set up for season 2. I’ve come across this before with a lot of anime but they seem to only be 12 episodes or so long. I really don’t know why they stretched this out to 24 when the plot is really weak. This show came out at the same point as Demon Slayer so they could have been trying to compete with it but I don’t know. The length wasn’t necessary.

I must say again that the soundtrack, visuals and sound effects were amazing and this was primarily the only reason I kept watching. The flame bursts sound amazing with headphones on and there was a Duel of the Fates type piece of music in the last episode that I enjoyed. It only has the rating it does because of those elements which brings me to my rating for this show.

7/10 is very fair considering its a generic shonen but with exceptional work done on it, just not in the writing department.

Fire Force. You came in with your really catchy OP, your dazzling effects and your amazing sound engineering but fizzled out when it was time to tell a story.   DT

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Nagato 2: Joy to the World

Nagato Yuki-Chan Mikuru and Tsuruya ChristmasThe junkyard presents two articles about the Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan episode Joy to the World.

The view from 5930 miles away:

This week we get to see the opening credits for the first time, which are a lot of fun if you can stomach the sight of poor Mikuru getting abused by Tsuruya. More importantly they provide us with our first look at the new character design for Haruhi, and her prominence in the opening sequence bodes well. The first episode, almost entirely devoid of Haruhi, was necessary to establish the premise of the series and to allow the initial focus to fall entirely on Yuki, but this week the parallel version of Haruhi makes her proper debut in the series and everything suddenly springs into life. When that familiar Haruhi incidental music starts playing it’s a punch the air moment, and there she is in all her usual bossy glory. She’s up to one of her crazy tricks with no respect for the law, painting a huge message on the ground for Santa. That’s our Haruhi.

Much of this episode is told via flashbacks, filling in some important information about the origins of the Lit Club. Poetically, the club’s existence is thanks to Yuki being inspired by Haruhi, although she wasn’t quite sure who she was seeing at the time as she didn’t have her glasses on. But this amazing girl is “not afraid to go after what she wants”, and Yuki realises that she needs to learn to live more like that if she wants to achieve what matters in life. She is inspired by two strong-willed girls. First Asakura:

“What do you want? What are you willing to fight for?”

…and then Haruhi:

“That fearlessness, that’s what I need right now.”

That gives her the strength to go out and ask people to join the club, which is otherwise going to be disbanded through lack of membership. Everybody, apart from her only friend Asakura, says no until she meets Kyon. When nobody else was interested, Kyon shows how open-minded and kind he is, and once again he’s Yuki’s hero. The music that accompanies that scene is lovely, as is the music for the whole episode in fact, including a lively arrangement of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”. I never thought a Japanese animation would make me feel the Christmas spirit so strongly, especially not in the middle of the summer!

“Christmas is already here.”

In a fun echo of a similar moment in the original Haruhi universe, Yuki sprays “Merry Xmas!” on the club room windows, but unlike Haruhi she mirrors the writing so it can be read from outside. I think that difference is a useful shorthand for their two characters. Haruhi doesn’t care what things look like to outsiders, as long as she’s happy with them from her perspective. Yuki on the other hand is concerned about how she is seen by others, and the impression given by the view looking in to her world is all important. Perhaps somewhere between those two extremes lies the path to happiness.   RP

The view from 6,868 miles away:

It’s weird watching this show in March as I wait for spring to begin, only to have the series taking place at Christmas time and playing a REALLY nice instrumental version of Joy to the World.  I’ve become nostalgic for Christmas at a time of year when I am dying for winter to end.  Go figure.   Talk about a mixed message.

Well, we’re back and I do have a complaint.  Anime isn’t live action.  That’s a fact that seems like it doesn’t need to be said, but when you watch live action and a scene takes place earlier than a “current” scene, live action gives some form of acknowledgment.  With anime, you can’t tell if the person looks younger (unless you’re talking about many years younger).  If they don’t have the decency to put a year or some other indicator on the screen, you don’t realize what’s happening.  Such is the case with this story.  We see Yuki planning the Christmas party, then it appears to be over and she’s sitting at home despondent that the Literary Club will be closed down if they don’t have more members.  Sure, the clue could have been the ONE member they had, but I actually assumed this was a post-Christmas letter to the Literary Club president mentioning that one member (Kyon) was not enough.  So it took me until the outdoor scene with Yuki thinking back to finally piece it together.  And while the payoff was still strong, I do think, considering the format, it’s only fair to make it clear.

That fussiness aside, I found this another wonderfully humorous episode.  Most of the humor is the sort you chuckle over.  “You’re like a child the day before a field trip!”  Sometimes, it’s the comedy of Kyon’s misery.  “It’s so friggen cold!”  Or Ms. Asahina’s!  “I really think this is too short!”  Or perhaps it’s just those general observations that make me laugh.  “I never knew turkey was such high maintenance!”  But then I get those roaring laughs too.  Kyon throws a “snowball” and it’s heading right to Asakura’s face and she just snatches it out of the air, then with a great big smile, the word ANGER appears on the screen and she explodes in rage.  (The smile never falters and that makes it even funnier!)  But it’s clear through this that Asakura is the Haruhi stand-in.  She’s taken over as the bossy friend who comes up with all the plans.  She’s more mature than Haruhi was (and presumably not a god), but the trope is fulfilled by her for this series.

Speaking of Haruhi, during one of those flashbacks, we see Yuki interact with Haruhi.  She helps paint a message on the ground to catch Santa.  As one does.  But it goes back to the Haruhi of old: she wanted an ESPER, an alien and a time traveler.  Now she wants to catch Santa.  (She’s unsure what’s worse: that he’s not real or that he is and she didn’t know it!)

Then this episode does something the first one did not.  It starts showing those moments of friendship.  It’s not about challenges, but simple acts of caring about one another.  Asakura is saddened by Yuki’s lack of self-confidence.  “You’re cute in your own way.”  And she wants to help Yuki, which is sweet, including the moment before the club was allowed to continue.  She tells her, “there’s nothing that I can do that you can’t!” and she prompts her friend to fight to keep what she wants.  But the most heart warming part is when Yuki goes outside and Kyon goes to find her and they have to share a coat.  Sure, they could have gone back inside, but they cuddle up and Yuki observes that while it’s awkward, she’s “never been warmer”.

I’m actually surprised that this happened already because I expected this would take a while to build to.  We seem to have gotten a level of closeness between the two very quickly.  Yuki showed the strength of character to do what had to be done early and she knocked it out of the park, leading to Kyon complimenting her for it.  Yes, the Christmas celebration has come and gone and Kyon already has been closer to Yuki than ever before.  So… what am I missing?  Where do we go from here?  ML

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Babylon 5: The Long Night

b5You know, one of the toughest shows I’ve covered from a writing perspective has been Babylon 5. It’s still my top Science Fiction show but it’s one long epic which makes writing about it very challenging.  Series that are individual stories or short series of 12 episodes are far easier to talk about.  But when I sit to write these, I’ve found new things popping out at me at every turn.  I watched season 4 in rapid succession but even then, certain things didn’t hit me.  Like the opening of every episode this season so far; they all open with a Captains log (this time from the Captain himself).  How had I missed that?  And his opening comments give us a hint of what’s coming if we just remember back to season 1.  Sheridan says “…the next few days will either mark the beginning of a new age….”  What did season one open with, every episode?  “It was the dawn of the third age of mankind…”  Season one also offers us another hint.  Sinclair was a fan of Tennyson and during the pilot, he quotes Ulysses.  This episode ends with Sheridan referring to a note he found on his desk; the very quote Sinclair shared.  “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”  As Sheridan is about to send his people into the “heart of the fire”, we know this is the last episode for mankind as we know it.  A new age begins with the next episode.  We’ve come to the end of that chapter.  So what lies ahead when they go to Coriana VI and what will happen over the next season and a half?

You’re also probably tired of my line: “this is one of my favorite episodes” but I can’t help it.  At least I’ve finally identified why!  Two names: Sheridan and G’Kar.  Any episode that focuses on them is bound to be good.  Sheridan has a great moment with Susan as he sends her in search of more of the First Ones, this time with Lorien’s help.  I think the moment where he thanks Susan for being a good friend really solidified his leadership style for me.  He’s got a huge task ahead and he’s going to take a moment to share what he might never have the chance to share again.  I do wonder about the wisdom of looking for more of the First Ones though.  He’s already got his hands full with the “giants in the playground”, so adding more seems a dangerous choice.  But I’m no captain.  Speaking of that, in battle, I expect some really hard decisions need to be made and the scene with Ericsson (Walter White, before he was making meth) is a tense one.  Sheridan is asking a man and his crew to die.  I don’t pretend I’m happy with the decision but he makes a choice that will save millions, maybe billions, of lives.  While the decision is not an easy one, he takes a moment to ask if Ericsson is married.  I wonder how that would have changed things if he said he was.  But Ericsson goes into the battle knowing he’s been given a literal suicide mission.  It’s a moving scene and Bryan Cranston does a great job conveying the pain of that decision.  Frankly, so does Boxleitner.

Londo has successfully lured Cartagia to Narn to execute G’Kar.  I was reminded of King Kong (“Don’t be alarmed ladies and gentlemen!  Those chains are made of chrome steel!”) when G’Kar is paraded in front of Cartagia.  Cartagia had the chains reinforced and he laughs at G’Kar for trying to break them saying they are made of solid corillium. But G’Kar doesn’t know they were reinforced.  He was told they were weakened, so he breaks them, and saves his people.  He literally breaks the chains that bound him.  Londo takes Cartagia away under the guise of protecting him but loses the poison he intends to use to end the life of an insane emperor.  Thankfully its found by Vir who accidentally plunges it into Cartagia’s chest, killing him.  The reign of the madman is over, Narn is free, and G’Kar can help rebuild.

As always, G’Kar shines.  As Londo is talking to him, he asks if Londo knows he has an empty heart.  “An empty eye sees through to an empty heart.”  Katsulas again steals the scene.  Vir helps with the only moment of levity in the episode when he’s joking with Londo over what Cartagia might say, coming up with “Kill Londo” before he realizes he’s just killed that moment of joy for them both.  (Odd, as I type that, I’m reminded of Londo calling Vir a “moon-faced assassin of joy!”  Apt, indeed!)  I was also impressed by the conversation between Londo and Vir when Londo was trying to explain that the pain of the murder will never go away.  I was impressed because I think he’s confessing to Vir that the murders of all those Narn lie heavily on his soul.  He understands.  But I have to come back to end on G’Kar.  The “what have you endured” ending is amazing.  The scene builds in a way that we think G’Kar might snap but instead he laughs.  He walks off screen laughing for he knows he has endured more for his people than any could possibly imagine.  And in so doing, he became their savior.  At least he knows.  No one else really needs to.  But now the rebuild may still be in his hands.

An episode with G’Kar is always a good one.  Add some good Sheridan stuff to it and the preparation for a battle and I’m all in.  It’s the dawn of the third age of mankind, and the sun is about to rise.  I’m tempted to start my day early.  ML

The view from across the pond:

This is an episode about good people doing terrible things in the name of saving billions of lives. It’s a tough episode to watch.

Sheridan marshals his troops for a huge battle, but he needs to get the enemy to the right place. To do that he needs a man and his crew to go on a suicide mission.

“You’re not a married man are you Ericsson?”

I’m not sure if it’s casual xenophobia or not thinking about the “little people”, or simply clumsy writing, but Sheridan seems to give little thought for the Minbari under Ericsson’s command. Delenn needed to give him a slap for that. What about their families? They are mentioned, but dismissively. Sheridan is unwavering about what he has to do, and very stiff upper lip about it afterwards. I hope that the deed of sending a whole crew to their death will not get forgotten because if it doesn’t prey on his conscience in future episodes then it dehumanises him.

For an example of something similar done right, we have Vir, who is consumed by guilt after killing the Emperor. He’s a hero who has just saved the lives of everyone on his planet, but he’s a good man and he can’t see it like that.

“I close my eyes and I always see his face. Don’t you know that all I always wanted was a good job, a small title, nothing fancy, a wife I could love and maybe even one that could actually love someone like me. I never wanted to be here. I never wanted to know the things that I know, or to do… to do the things that I’ve done.”

There’s some superb dialogue writing from JMS this episode, especially G’Kar identifying Londo’s heart as empty and then Londo envying Vir, who has not abandoned his moral core. As Londo says, all he has left now is his honour, and the way he keeps his promise to G’Kar goes some way towards redeeming his character. I don’t think he can ever be truly redeemed in the eyes of the viewers after what he has done to the Narn, but it is clear to see that he has long since reached rock bottom and for the last few episodes has been on a trajectory towards being a better person. There is an interesting contrast in his acceptance of power while G’Kar rejects it, but somebody needs to step up and save Centauri Prime, while G’Kar refuses to replace one emperor with another, especially to rule over a people who want revenge.

“Where were you? What have you endured?”

What a stupid question. No wonder G’Kar just laughs at the idiot as he walks off bloody and battered, missing one of his eyes.

So this was a powerful episode, and gripping to watch. As is often the case, it felt like the script needed one more draft, which I think is a symptom of one person writing nearly everything, as I have mentioned before. The writing hierarchy on most series doesn’t work like this, and there’s a reason for that. It’s like JMS has a map in his head of what he wants to do with everyone, but doesn’t always have a way to get his pieces into the right positions on the board. The big flaw this week for me was the events that led to Vir killing Cartagia. I can overlook the confusion as to how G’Kar broke the chains, which the personal guard had supposedly replaced (did they betray him, or did he really break unweakened chains?), but the problem was Vir having to be the one to kill the emperor. There were enough conspirators for somebody else to step up, and nobody else would have had any qualms whatsoever about doing the deed, but worse than that it was clearly supposed to be Londo’s job. Yes, it went wrong and he dropped the syringe, but then he was in a one to one situation: no guards, just Cartagia. I was willing him to fight back, but he just didn’t really make an effort. This was supposed to be a man fighting not just for his own life but for the lives of everyone on his planet, for the very existence of the planet itself. With those stakes, Cartagia shouldn’t have stood a chance. Like G’Kar with his chains, Londo should have been a man possessed. So it was a surprise moment but one that didn’t quite work. The replica throne room also shouted out to the viewer as a budgetary exercise. Doctor Who viewers will recognise it as Cartagia’s Tobias Vaughn moment.

This was the episode where G’Kar’s part of the opening titles narration came true, and he took back his world. But as fireworks transitioned to a shot of an exploding planet, and G’Kar turned his back on a people hungry for revenge, it didn’t feel like a time for celebration.   RP

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Star Trek: Miri

Star Trek Opening TitlesWhat can you come away with from the episode Miri?  An important life lesson as taught by Jim Kirk himself: NO BLAH BLAH BLAH! 

I could end the review there, but what would be the fun in that?  Kirk and crew are picking up a distress call from a planet too far out to have had Federation involvement.  Oh, sorry, Space Control, apparently.  Yes, the episode ends with Kirk mentioning that he’s contacted Space Control after leaving a planet full of (300 year old) children on their own.  How does this guy ever get promoted!?  Not just that!  While on the planet, he hits on Miri who is a teenager in appearance and attitude regardless of her nearly being 300 years of age  And suddenly I hear the song “Girl, you’ll be a woman soon” playing loudly in my head.  Ok, if we’re fair, “Mr. Lovey Dovey” may think he’s making a young girl feel good, winning her confidence by telling her she’s very pretty, but it comes off a bit creepy.  You know what else is creepy?  The words “life prolongation”.  And as if to remind the audience that those words shouldn’t go together, each member of the crew then repeats it.  It’s horrible.  Speaking of creepy, how much time has gone by since The Enemy Within where doppleganger Kirk tried to rape Janice?  Clearly enough time that she is ok admitting that she always wanted Kirk to notice her legs.  Thing is, how could you not?!  Those dresses leave nothing to the imagination.  Especially on the remastered footage!  I would think, knowing about his “interesting side” (as Spock pointed out), she might never want to reveal that even if she once had wanted Kirk to notice those legs.

Looking at other elements of the story, it’s very telling that when McCoy experiments on himself with the “beaker full of death”, as he collapses he calls out to Spock!  Yeah, ok, Spock was nearby but he could have tried to call out to Jim.  The telling truth is that even though these two have amusing banter about humanity, they evidently like and respect one another.  In other “Space Central” news, when the landing party arrives, 2 security guards are with them, but they take it upon themselves to run off for what, a smoke break?  Where were they most of the time and were they infected by the plague?  The little we see of them would suggest not.

But there are two things to examine in this episode that are real.  Well, I say “real” meaning, something to think about.  Kirk (after throwing one kid to the floor for blahblah-ing) makes a point: the “grups” (grownups) are not the ones causing pain; the children are.  “You’re growing up to be what they were”, he says.  Now that is interesting.  Until a young person recognizes the danger of becoming that which they hate, a child will grow up to be his or her parents.  How many families start with an abusive mom or dad and have the children turn out the same way, then their children hate it but end up being the same thing and the cycle never ends.  It goes on and on, generation after generation.  Someone, somewhere, has to make the realization: a change is needed.  Kirk delivers that message, loud and clear.  The children learn… until he leaves them on the planet all over again.  Damn it, man!

The other thing that warrants thinking about: so far we’ve been in space with the crew since episode 1.  We’ve never been to Earth.  This planet resembles 1960s Earth that we know.  I have seen this show dozens of times since my youth but it was the first time it ever hit me that the planet Kirk and company find in this story could in fact be our earth.  Wherever they come from might not be the “real” Earth.  We always assume they are from the same planet we are, being humans, earthlings.  But why?  None of what we see from them indicates our planet, while this episode does.  Our egos could come up with a “life prolongation” program and try to create eternal childhood.  Our world already has tricycles and signs written in English.  Can we say the same for Kirk’s Earth?  Maybe one day we will… but for now?

I’m probably just reading too much into it.  I should remind myself: No blah blah blah!  ML

The view from across the pond:

The title of the episode before this one is “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”, which would perhaps have been a better title for this one, because Kirk seems to be keen to answer that question.

“Pretty name for a pretty young woman.”
“Very pretty.”

Okaaaay. Of all the strange things that happen in Star Trek, I can’t say I would have ever guessed we would be seeing the captain of the Enterprise hitting on a child. We’ll be charitable and assume he’s trying to earn her trust by getting her to have a crush on him… or something.

“I like that name.”
“Good. I like yours too. I like you.”
“Do you really?”
“I wouldn’t lie to you.”

Okaaaaay. It seems he really does want to go where no man has gone before. Things are made a little less icky to watch by the fact that Kim Darby was actually about 18 at the time this was filmed, and when you see Kirk and Miri walking along together and see that there isn’t a lot of difference in their heights it does kind of betray the illusion of her age. She plays a child very convincingly, but that’s one tall girl who is supposed to be just on the verge of puberty. What really doesn’t work here is Michael J Pollard still trying to play a pre-pubescent child at the age of 27, which is so ridiculous it almost made me laugh out loud when he first appeared on the screen.

“She likes you Jim. She’s becoming a woman.”

Yeah, but that’s because he chatted her up. I can hear the Trek fans protesting as I write this: yes, but she’s actually older than him! But no, these are specifically still children, who have just stayed children for a very long time: “Children who never age.”

Speaking of which… that really doesn’t make any sense, does it. Whilst I can understand the potential science behind halting (well, slowing to a crawl) the ageing process in childhood, these would still be simply adults who look like children. There is more to adulthood than a number. It’s about life experience too. Nobody can live for hundreds of years and still have the mind of a child unless the brain is damaged, and that’s clearly not the case here.

There were other problems with the episode as well. I wasn’t keen on McCoy’s casual xenophobia (“it’s dead”) and you can’t just represent centuries of language change (which would happen) with one contraction of “grown ups” to “grups”. There was one of those magic sci-fi vaccines that remove sores and leave the skin unblemished, and the episode posed the question at the start of why another planet exists that looks exactly like Earth, and then promptly forgot about it. We keep repeating ideas between episodes that are too close together. Recently we had two different doubles of Kirk cropping up in quick succession, and now we have consecutive episodes examining the consequences of failed attempts to cheat death. The relationship between Kirk and Janice took a depressing turn away from the professional towards the googly-eyed, as if no woman can just do her job without falling for the charms of Jim (“back on the ship I used to try to get you to look at my legs”). That was at least used as an important plot point, because Miri wasn’t too pleased about Janice and her legs, leading to her betrayal of child predator Jim.

By the way, let’s not forget about our Trek Tally. Miri added to our tally of screaming women (well, she’s a woman to Jim), and then #8 was mad crusty woman Louise. We won’t try to count the screaming kids. When I saw two random red shirts beaming down with the four regulars I was expecting a couple of additions to our minor crewman deaths. I would like to say that it was refreshing that it didn’t happen, but to be honest I think the writer just forgot about them. They didn’t even seem to get the disease. They were little more than occasional background scenery, people functioning as props.

But there was also a lot to enjoy here. The depiction of death by crustiness and insanity was brave enough not to pull its punches, leading to a BBC ban that stayed in effect until the 90s. The first death of a crusty was actually a really emotional moment, with him speaking like the distressed child that he was in his mind:

“Somebody please fix.”

Honestly, I could cry at that line. Even at the moment of his death, the poor old man / child just wants to ride his tricycle, having just been beaten up by the mean grup (this is the episode where our brave hero beats up one child and hits on another).

The first ever location filming in Trek gave the episode a more professional appearance than the usual polystyrene rocks, and the oppressive sense of impending doom hanging over the whole episode was palpable. The seven day deadline was actually really clever, enough time to make the mental decline of Kirk, McCoy, Spock and Janice feel gradual and real, while retaining that ticking-clock sense of desperation. And McCoy becoming desperate enough to inject himself with an untested vaccination that might just have killed him was a powerful moment. In the end that’s probably the word that sums up this episode the best: powerful. Sadly, thanks to Jim’s shenanigans this week there’s also another: disturbing.   RP

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touchwoodFinally, an episode of Torchwood that doesn’t feel like a stand-alone story!  Yes, we had a 2-part story last season, but that’s not what I mean.  All the episodes seem to fall into a “view-in-any-order” style show.  Back when I watched The X-Files, I wasn’t following it and that never mattered.  Come in for an episode here or there, and it didn’t impact the enjoyment.  Very much the same can be said of Classic Star Trek.  But since Trek’s 1966 release to the 2000’s Torchwood, storytelling had come a long way and seeing those “view-in-any-order” style shows has become somewhat antiquated.  Nowadays, shows have arcs. But somehow Torchwood largely missed that.  Until now.  For the first time, Rhys seems to actually matter and that adds continuity to the character development that has been really an ancillary part of the series.  And it’s about time too, because we get hints that Rhys is a cool bloke, but he’s always just background to make Gwen seem dimensional.  I say “seem” intentionally.  And hey, maybe they were learning something with Owen because they certainly show signs of mellowing him but it’s less evident why, unless you exercise the brain.  (And that’s a good thing!)

Meat focuses on a non-enemy.  A group of thugs are using what amounts to a giant space whale to make money… by selling the meat from its body.  Because the creature is still alive, no matter how much they cut out of the creature, more meat still generates and they have a near infinite food source.  But it’s unethical and Torchwood steps in to stop it.  Talk about a moral quandary.  End world hunger at the expense of one creature… or allows the world to continue to experience hunger and save the creature!  If you could save every person on the planet from having to ever know hunger, isn’t it worth the life of one alien creature?  It’s storytelling like this that I really enjoy.  (I don’t know that there’s an answer here.  My feelings say no, it’s not worth it.  But could I convince everyone else of that?)

Last season’s Countryside gave us a set of villains calling humans “meat” and this season we get a bunch of humans harvesting meat from a living being for money.  Were the writers trying to tell us something?  Both are gruesome and both are fantastic ideas that make for some great stories.  The cast shines as they bring Rhys into the fold.  We should have known Rhys was a good guy by the way he pulls over to take a call, rather than driving on, taking the call and not caring about public safety.  Alas, Gwen has another episode where I question her character.  While arguing with Rhys, she has the nerve to say “all I ever asked is that you trust me”.  Um, Gwen, honey… that stuff where you were sleeping with Owen lost you any right to reprimand Rhys about trust.  I was delighted that Rhys calls Gwen out on why she’s marrying him too.  I’ve been wondering that myself, Rhys.  Still, I can’t help but want to see them happy together, so I am glad they work out their issues.

Ianto is great in this episode.  I love his quick wit when he realizes the food source can end world hunger: “We can release a single”.  But even more, I am impressed by him when he confronts the lead “bad guy” with a simple but powerful: “Pray they survive” before tasering the guy to the head.  Tosh and Owen feel like they are getting closer to a relationship.  (If Classic Trek taught me anything, it’s that this is a bad sign!   One of them might as well have a red shirt on!)   Jack’s conversation with Rhys in the truck is fun (“I just wish you would have been uglier”) but it’s his desire to save the alien that really made me proud of him.  Every so often the hero that befriended the Doctor shows up again.

The episode also does something else I used to love in classic Doctor Who: the epilogue.  We get 5 minutes devoted to the impact the story has on Rhys and what will come next.  And I was delighted to see that the obvious mind-wipe was not the solution of choice.  We are going to get development!  About time.  Maybe now with Rhys knowing about what goes on, we can get on with developing all of the characters.  We have 9 episodes left to the season and its anyone’s game.  But while I wait, I think I’m going to get a salad…  ML

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The World God Only Knows

The World God Only Knows ShioriSeason One.  I have several problems with this anime. It centres around a high school boy named Keima who spends all his spare time playing dating sim games. He is very good at them. His abilities are hilariously (not) misunderstood by the demon world, which sends a spirit hunter girl called Elsie to team up with Keima, in order to release “loose souls” that are hiding inside the hearts of girls and feeding off their negative feelings. Keima can release them by making the girls fall in love with him. The problem is that he might be good at dating sims, but real life girls are another matter altogether.

Sounds fun, yes? Well it should be, but as I said I have problems with it. The biggest one is that Keima is an insufferable dweeb. These kinds of anime live or die on the likeability of the main character. If he’s fun then the anime springs into life straight away. Too many anime have main characters who are characterless, but plenty of those end up being solidly watchable due to comedy or other factors. But if I actively hate the main character then I’m going to have a hard job enjoying a series.

There is obviously a place for exploring socially awkward characters in anime. I will watch those kinds of series and will root for the characters and hope to see them come out of their shells and find happiness, often with the help of new friends, or simply come to terms with who they are. What I can’t stand is characters who are deliberately socially awkward, simply because they are uncaring, selfish, emotionally stunted loners-by-choice. Keima doesn’t want to change and he doesn’t care that he’s a miserable recluse. He just wants to be left alone to play his games. To which I say, fine, leave him alone, but don’t build an anime around a character like that, dragging him into scenarios with emotionally fragile girls all the time, to become their reluctant saviour. It’s all pretty unpleasant stuff.

That’s a shame, because it could have been great with a different main character, somebody who actually appreciated the chance to get close to a cute girl, and who actually wanted to help her out for the sake of doing the right thing, instead of being railroaded into doing something with his life by a demon girl.

The other big problem I have with this is the girls he helps out, because dammit I didn’t like most of them either. One of them is a rich girl who has lost everything, and still wants to behave like a rich girl. The writers just about make it work and I did end up caring about her in the end, but first had to put up with her being an irritating, entitled brat. Worse than that is an idol who falls apart when one person doesn’t give her his full attention when she performs. She needs everyone to love her. What should have been an interesting story about a big star suffering a crisis of confidence is constantly marred by the nagging thought that she should just get over herself and stop being so self-absorbed. Much better is the girl who is so socially awkward that she can hardly speak to anyone, and hides away in a library. Her plight was the one I really cared about, but then again my wife couldn’t stand her, so there wasn’t one episode of this that wasn’t annoying one of us!

Big problem #3: the writer’s reset button. As soon as Keima wins a girl’s heart and they kiss, the loose souls fly out in a very Ghostbusters manner, and each girl conveniently loses all her memories. On to the next girl. Series that keep hitting the reset button can work, e.g. Photo Kano, but that generally had a reset every episode. The World God Only Knows instead goes for story arcs of about three episodes. In theory that should be a better approach, but in reality what it does is build up the viewer’s interest in the story just long enough for us to care, and then starts over. There is also rarely enough story to stretch to three episodes. At least with Photo Kano if you didn’t like a girl then a different one would be the focus of the next episode, but here if a girl irritates you then you’re stuck with her for three weeks while the story crawls along at a snail’s pace and Keima gets on your nerves being all smug and uninterested. In the end it’s hard to care much about anything that happens in the series.

And you know what bugs me the most? This got a second season… and a third. I don’t begrudge anyone who enjoys this, but there are so many absolutely magnificent anime that get left hanging and never get picked up for a second run, that it just beggars belief that low-quality stuff like this gets picked up for two more seasons. I just don’t get it. Maybe things improve. Let me know in the comments section if you’ve stuck with this, but I don’t think I’ll be in a hurry to find out for myself. 12 episodes were plenty enough. The World God Only Knows? He can keep it.    RP

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Nagato 1: Precious Place

Yuki and Haruhi Precious PlaceThe junkyard presents two articles about the Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan episode Precious Place.

The view from 5930 miles away:

Anyone coming to the first episode of this new series without having seen The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya will find themselves watching a slightly below-par romantic comedy. This is a spin-off that can stand on its own, but to appreciate it you really need to come to the series with a liking for the characters and an awareness of certain significant moments. For Haruhi fans it fails to be the continuation of the franchise that everyone wanted, so it falls between two stools, at least initially. That’s just the start though. Keep watching. This series will come into its own.

The series is set in the parallel universe established in the film The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, with Yuki now a human girl. Everything seems to have been reset with nobody retaining memories of the events of the film, if they are even the same people in any meaningful way. Yuki now has her own version of Kyon, and Haruhi has her own separate life… for now. For one electrifying moment their paths cross and the episode bursts into life.

Let’s face it, we want to see Haruhi, but the writer had a very difficult task. This is a gentle romantic comedy and Yuki is the star of the show, so she needs to be firmly introduced to us and established before Haruhi can turn up to crash the party. That makes this first episode by necessity something of a frustrating waiting game for the fans. It is helped by Yuki being a very likeable character in her human form, and almost immediately we want to start rooting for her and Kyon. The new group dynamic is also fun. There is a balance between Asakura and Tsuruya who each have a friend they treat almost like a pet: Yuki and Mikuru. And each of them want their pet to be the object of Kyon’s attentions.

The character designs have been updated for the spin-off: a little cuter, younger looking, with less defined features. This works reasonably well for most of them, although Mikuru and Kyon in particular are both a little too cutesy. We also have to get used to something that we didn’t have to contend with in Haruhi, and something that I think will be entirely new to Mike: chibi versions of the characters. For anyone who isn’t aware of what that means, these are the moments of heightened emotion that are illustrated in a comedy series by drawing the characters in what the Japanese term a “super deformed” way. It’s a shortcut to displaying characters’ emotions and it’s something every anime fan just has to get used to gradually. I’ve seen loads of series that do that, and in the end it just washes over you and becomes a normal part of the viewing experience, but I can’t say it’s something I’ve ever liked. If the parent series could do without them, it’s a shame the spin-off couldn’t too.

We also have to get used to a lot of anime romantic comedy clichés that we never had to contend with before, like those moments of comedy violence when Asakura lifts up Yuki by her squished cheeks, or Mikuru’s comedy boobs when she’s running, or Asakura supposedly forgetting Kyon is in the room when she’s stripping off Yuki. It’s all a bit tired, but it is interspersed with some great character moments and some bonus dramatic irony for fans of Haruhi. It’s hard for us to accept Asakura as one of the good guys, and that’s played on with her knife skills:

“There’s something about the way you wield that knife.”

It’s also interesting that Yuki gets a funny feeling when she walks past Haruhi, so there are some crumbs for those hoping this series will develop into something more than the silly comedy it at first appears to be. To be fair, it’s also far more than just a comedy, even at this early stage. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya ended in winter and The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan starts in winter. It is more melancholy than Melancholy, right down to the choice of incidental music. The silliness is actually an awkward fit for something that is trying to do a much more human, emotional drama than its parent series, and a better balance will soon be struck. Yuki is of course effectively a new character to us, and it’s impossible not to get drawn into her world, one of quiet longing for the boy who once showed her kindness when she was a lost soul in a library, and became her hero. Forget the silly comedy food cravings. The Yuki who is going to matter to us is the one who enjoys her quiet existence, and just wants Kyon to be a part of that.

“I’d rather read here where I can listen to the noise and laughter of the other clubs than sitting at home alone with my book.”

This is a Yuki who has just one friend in the world, and no family. Her horizons are about to be broadened.   RP

The view from 6,868 miles away:

I sat down to watch episode 1 of The Disappearance of Yuki Nagato thinking, “This’ll be great!  I get to see old friends again and maybe work on another scifi mystery…”  What the hell did I just watch?!

In fairness, that was largely my feeling when watching the original, The Melancholy of Haruhi  Suzamiya, so should I be concerned?  Probably not.  That ended up being quite good.  Plus, this one had the advantage of making me laugh.  A LOT.

“This is the story of a somewhat shy, bookish girl.”  So says Yuki Nagato.  But she’s not the Yuki I knew.  That Yuki was an android, a strange being who spoke to a data entity and tried to keep a god from destroying reality.  Who is this?  She’s a … well, she said it herself, a somewhat shy, bookish girl.   She’s got a thing for Kyon.  Asakura knows it too and she’s both a help and a hinderance.  Kyon seems to be the same guy I remember, though I think he sounds older.  Episode one focuses on Yuki’s desire to have a Christmas party in the Literary club room.  Really, it’s about her being in love with Kyon but not being able to admit it.

Half a second though… Christmas… December… And it hits me!  The 3 hour finale, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzamiya took place around this time, didn’t it?  Is this… Are we in the alternate reality Yuki created when she wanted to be a regular girl?  By Haruhi, I guess we’ll have to wait to find out.

The thing with this is, I loved the comedy but was confused by the art.  I had been warned that the art went very cartoon-y, but there are moments when the art is outright magnificent.  So it covers a range and I sort of wish they’d stuck with one model.  I do have to admit that there are some brilliant uses of the cartoon-y art.  At one point, Kyon stands in the background looking more like Gleep or Gloop from The Herculoids than anything remotely human.  I loved watching Asakura shake Yuki so much that her eyes were drawn as spirals.  And I loved when Yuki is asked to imagine something that leads to that really stunning artwork.

Like before, I was a bit uncomfortable with the sexy stuff considering the ages of the characters, but I have to get past that.  In fairness, this series seem to be more about a teen rom-com, so I think it’ll be easier to accept.   I guess it’s because it’s not trying to tell me it’s one thing while it acts as another.  So I’ve come to expect it.  What may be harder to accept is the difference between what is really spoken and what is imagined.  There are some absolutely hilarious moment with Asakura warming her hands on Kyon’s face that has her, seemingly telepathically, letting Yuki know how to flirt.  “That’s some high level flirting!”  But was that said, or just thought for the audience?  It was funny either way, but I wish I knew.  By contrast, it worked far better when Yuki wanted to get a “turkey” but the word “Kyon” appeared on the screen at that moment.  In that instance, it did not matter what was said and what was thought.

Overall it was a fun start but lacks the curiosity factor that a scifi/mystery would have.  Unless you consider the title and the fact that this Yuki is not the same one we knew from before.  It was, in point of fact, a lot of fun being back with old friends, even if some of them were not quite as I remember them.  Maybe, if I stick with it, I’ll find out that there is a mystery at the heart of the story after all…  ML

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Babylon 5: Falling Toward Apotheosis

b5What a great title, huh?  Apotheosis is the elevation of someone to divine status, which is the goal of Centauri Emperor Cartagia.  But the episode focuses a lot more on Sheridan and the Vorlon problem and it’s evident from the start that people on the station are looking at Sheridan as if he’s some form of god.  Now to enhance the brilliance of the title, it’s “falling toward” godhood.  If godhood is the pinnacle, where does one come from to be falling toward it?

As the Vorlon/Shadow conflict is increasing and season 4 is just in the first few episodes, we wonder where things can go.  On the plus side, we have an episode that did not need to open with a “captains log”.  Well… actually we did get one, but it was in the form of a news broadcast which worked far better.  Ivanova is scared and she knows the Vorlon planet killers are coming.  A scary thought indeed.  Garibaldi is crankier than normal, unsure if he’s more afraid of winning or losing, but he is making some damned good points about how people are reacting to his ordeal when it’s Sheridan that is walking around the station like the second coming, complete with a disciple of sorts.  I actually think Zack has a moment to shine in the way he handles Garibaldi and he doesn’t do a bad job with the woman who is in awe of Sheridan either.

On Centauri Prime, Londo is up against a madman and the way he plays Cartagia could form a class in corporate manipulation.  It’s great fun, but I need to compliment the actor playing Cartagia; it must have been such a delightful role to play and he nails the psychotic character perfectly!   Jurasik plays his role beautifully too!  When Cartagia takes Londo to see his shadow cabinet (an ironic title on many levels), Jurasik plays the part for all its worth.  The look of horror and disgust is amazing, coupled with the handkerchief over the mouth and nose, it’s a stunning performance.  (*Did the head next to Londo look familiar?  It’s a cast of Andreas Katsulas!  There’s a story here: JMS put it there to steal the scene from Jurasik.  It almost works!)  But there’s an interesting thing about the dialogue between Cartagia and Londo.  When Cartagia says the whole planet will burn in a funeral pyre to his godhood, he says “Let it all end in fire!”  Those who remember Kosh’s words to the previous Centauri Emperor might recall the answer to “how will it all end?”  Kosh simply says “In fire”.  Was this something Kosh saw coming?  Or does it mean something else entirely?  If it does mean what Cartagia intends, this bodes very badly for Centauri Prime!

That said, I’m going to say no, it surely can’t mean what it sounds like.  If the Vorlon were capable of future sight, wouldn’t Kosh 2.0 know what was coming in this episode?  Oh, Sheridan does a good job sending Garibaldi and his men into the battlefield with Kosh 2.0 but surely Kosh would have foreseen that?  Sheridan has a bigger plan in mind anyway and it involves our resident telepath, Lyta.  After the recent look into her personal life where we see the abusive lifestyle Kosh is forcing on her, we understand why she turns on him but why she suddenly starts acting like she can’t walk is anyone’s guess!  Still, the result is a great moment where the old Kosh comes back to fight his replacement.  The result: both Vorlons appear to be destroyed.  Unfortunately, it also kills Sheridan again.  Lorien brings him back but it has a price tag.

Unlike some of us, the love between Sheridan and Delenn was a highlight for me when I first saw this show.  (I admit, that was during a difficult time in my life and maybe it echoed to something I longed for, but whatever the reason, I really appreciated their relationship.)  So when he and Delenn have a chat about the price tag associated with coming back, it has two beautiful components.  In reverse order, it leads to an engagement between them.  As Sheridan says, they might not survive the next 2 weeks, but he wants her to have the ring.  (Notice how well Furlan plays the role too; she doesn’t know what an engagement ring is when it’s presented to her; a subtle look conveys the confusion and it’s done quite believably.)  The other thing is that we learn that he will only have about 20 years to live “and then, one day, he will simply, stop.”  Needless to say, Delenn is upset, but Sheridan rightly points out that it’s 20 years more than he would have had when he (permanently) died on Z’Ha’Dum.  But that’s not the important part.  It’s that it gives a great deal of clarity into her comment in the future (from War Without End) when they appear 17 years in the future.  She says “do not go to Z’ha’dum”.  She says it while they are in the cell awaiting “execution” before Londo actually frees them.  I strongly believe she is telling him before it happens, knowing that if they survive the execution, it will give them only 3 more years.  (I do wonder too, if this episode is partly why Londo let’s Sheridan and Delenn go in that future.  He does say to Sheridan that he owes him a favor, after all.  But that does seem like a good deal in the future, so maybe it’s not connected.)

So the episode shows us two types of godhood: Sheridan as he has been resurrected and is looked upon a something far greater than a leader and Cartagia as he prepares to allow his own planet to be destroyed to become a god.  One wonders if JMS was saying something about religion in this story.  We then wrap the episode with Londo and Cartagia getting ready to go to Narn to put G’Kar on trial.  Cartagia doesn’t like the way G’Kar is looking at him and asks Londo what to do.  Londo does not act and as a result, Cartagia decides to pluck out is eye.  Thankfully we don’t see it happening but we now know why G’Kar of the future wears an eye patch.  At least that means he survives, right?  And if you are really attentive, you notice another curious thing: as the door closes and the camera moves closer to it before the fade to black, we hear… nothing.  Nothing, because G’Kar, even while losing an eye, will not give Cartagia the satisfaction of another scream.  Even with that little screen time, G’Kar stole the show again…  ML

The view from across the pond:

Since when was Ivanova a newsreader? The camera zooms in on the dramatic bits, and she even gets handed bits of paper with the latest developments. Wait a minute, she’s not just a newsreader, she’s a 1990s newsreader! I suppose it makes a change from all the diary entries.

With Garibaldi and Sheridan back on the station, this week’s episode examines the difference between how their returns have been handled. When you drill down to the details, there are strong similarities. Both have been captured by the Shadows and both have escaped. Both are therefore remarkable and both should be approached with caution, in case the Shadows wanted them to escape for some reason. But their treatment is very different. Everyone is looking at Sheridan as if he is some kind of a messiah, and the camera angle when he walks through the station is from his viewpoint to emphasise that, with lots of supporting artists doing their best to look in awe of him without overacting too much. In contrast, everyone keeps asking if Garibaldi is OK, which is simply veiled suspicion, but nobody’s questioning Sheridan. Garibaldi has a point, and it’s strange that nobody else can see that.

“Is it my imagination or is Mr Garibaldi crankier than usual?”

It’s hardly surprising. Without being confided in, he is asked to go and tell Kosh 2.0 to leave and he can only take a small team with him. When he raises an objection he’s told to go do it anyway, which is not so far removed from a suicide mission. His “trusted men” are about to die, and possibly Garibaldi along with them. In the end, it’s pure luck that Kosh 2.0 doesn’t decide to kill them all, something he would have been quite capable of if he put his mind to it.

Luckily Sheridan’s plan does eventually come together, with the help of Lyta and what’s left of Kosh 1.0. It’s an achievement, but surely the Vorlons would simply send Kosh 3.0 to the station if they wanted to, and B5 realistically has no defence. That’s the trouble when a writer sets up the enemy as an all-powerful, near-indestructible foe. You have to gloss over things like that and have them constantly fail to do the obvious thing to secure victory.

We also learn more about the nature of Sheridan’s revival. I was pleased that Lorien is not being sold as a god any more and that turned out to be a red herring, because I just didn’t buy the way JMS was selling that one.

“There is no magic, nothing spiritual about it.”

Sheridan has about 20 years left at the most, which is a clever revelation because it’s a slow burn shocker. At first you think, oh, well, that’s alright, and then the realisation dawns that it sounds like a lot of time but time passes quicker than you realise. It is now more than 20 years since this episode was made, after all. Delenn’s horror is immediate though, and I think that underlines her love for him very well. Their relationship develops further this episode. Sheridan is a smooth talker:

“I only held onto one thing: the image of your sweet face.”

But that smooth talk only earns him a hug. Just when I was thinking how ridiculous it was they they are still huggy but never kissy, Sheridan popped the question and earned himself his first smacker. They certainly held that back for the right moment.

The mystery about Garibaldi deepened a little, with another of his flashbacks. This latest one involved a lot of clingfilm. He’s being less than honest by keeping that to himself. Also being economical with the truth is Morden, who is looking a bit less crusty than last time. He tells Londo that the Vorlons don’t want lots of civilian casualties but we already know they don’t care about that. Cartagia continues to be a monster who rivals his obvious source of inspiration, Caligula, and Londo is playing a clever game by using his pride against him. He’s not quite clever enough though. When Cartagia asks what to do about the way G’Kar looks at him, couldn’t he have suggested a blindfold or something? It was grimly obvious what was going to happen next.

“Pluck out his eye.”

I really don’t like that guy.   RP

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