Class: Nightvisiting

Class resumes and this week looks like we’re going to get some backstory around Tanya.  Tanya is missing her dad.  He died 2 years ago.  She’s sad and just before going to bed, gives his picture a little kiss.  When she looks up, dad is in the room with her.  And she’s not the only one getting some night visitors.  The whole of Cardiff seems to be full of these visitors from beyond the grave.  What’s going on this week?

For the third week in a row, I’m impressed.  Patrick Ness gives us an episode that looks at grief.  Tanya sees her dead father while Ram’s dead ex-girlfriend comes a’calling.  Mrs. Quill is visited by her dead sister – in human form, thus clearing up my earlier question about their true appearance.  The Lan Kin are a race that feeds on loss and guilt and sorrow.  They manifest their physical form to match a lost family member or loved one.  Then, when the mourner takes their hand, they are gobbled up; pulled away in the blink of an eye.  “That’s not even the third weirdest thing I’ve seen this month!”

Like I said: I’m impressed.  Taking on such big concepts is a thing Doctor Who typically skirts around because the Doctor is a whirling dervish that can’t stay still long enough to allow someone to grieve.  But Class gives us the chance to explore big emotions without having to take off to the next adventure.  There’s even another really well-done commentary when Tanya defeats her “dad” by taking his hand and instead of giving the Lan Kin grief, she unloads anger.  She’s angry at her dad for leaving them; angry for all the good times she can’t have.  The Lan Kin can’t pull her in because the creature has been poisoned.  The message is clear: anger is a poison; it’s bitter.  Sure, anger has a use, but it’s a negative emotion and, while it saves Tanya, it’s because of the negative role in plays in our lives.  For the fiction, it’s a good thing that she was angry.  The reality is: let anger go. Do not let it control and have dominance in ones life!  A valuable take-away.

The problem with the episode however is that it’s based on a conceit that Cardiff is the land of the dead.  No, I don’t mean those visitors from beyond the grave, but here’s the thing: the Lan Kin is a very web-like creature branching its tendrils out from Coal Hill all over the city.  These tendrils go on for miles in every direction.  Now, living in the States, maybe I’m spoiled.  I used to go to the diner at 2am all the time.  I can go to the store at 4am to get something even now.  My own street has cars going up and down throughout the night and we don’t even have stores here – the nearest one is a mile away.  So you’re telling me that not a single car drives around Cardiff at night to break those tendrils?  And that’s all it takes, because Quill goes and gets a bus to do just that.  If Cardiff is so dead at night, why are there people in the streets that April and Ram encounter?  Furthermore, the instant someone touches the Lan Kin, there’s no time to think; they get snatched away as quick as a frog’s tongue pulls in a mosquito.  So how does Tanya have time to poison dad and make him falter?  And when “dad” is pulled out of the room, bursting half the wall to pieces, why is mom later on the bed with Tanya looking at photos instead of putting up at least a curtain for the night, so there’s not a gaping hole in the room?  (And speaking of mom, why are some people wrapped in gooey tendrils but not consumed?)

Don’t get me wrong; this is a great episode.  My problem is that I am a stickler for there being some kind of logic behind a story.  I realize that Ram’s own summation of things should be indicative that I need to suspend disbelief but I would far prefer if I didn’t have to suspend it so much.  (Ram says that he’s had alien shadows and alien tattoos try to kill him so why should this surprise him?)  And Quill took the thought right out of my mouth when she sees all the people milling about at the end of the episode without remembering a thing: “That’s convenient!” Still, the cast is really coming together.  Quill, while reading The Hunger Games, puts the book down to ask “Did this really happen?” which caused me to belly laugh quite heartily.  She also refers to the Lan Kin as “really bad phlegm!”  Charlie tells Quill very matter-of-factly during the crisis, “by the way, Matteusz lives with us now” which also made me laugh.  And April reveals that her dad was a drunk who tried to kill himself with his family by driving their car into oncoming traffic, resulting in her mom’s paralysis.  (Speaking of that, the relationship between Charlie and Matteusz is handled maturely and far less provocatively than what we saw in season 4 of Torchwood, proving that the writers had the ability to do same sex relationships well on TV, they just tried to get shock value with Captain Jack and that just makes me lose respect for the final season of Torchwood that much more!)

“How could something so good ever last?”  Tanya may have summed up the problem facing Class as early as episode 3.  The truth is, this show was destined to be a short run because it was willing to tackle some big subjects and networks tend to be scared of those things.  Plus at most, the students only had 4 years before graduating – were they going to keep going to school or would we have recruited more people every year so they could move on?  Could it have worked?  Evidently!  But I can’t help but feel like the network wasn’t ready to commit to something so forward thinking. And that’s a shame because Doctor Who offers a rich universe to explore and the audience definitely wants it.  So all we can do is press on and hope.  Maybe one day… For now, see you all next week.  Class dismissed.  ML

Posted in Doctor Who, Entertainment, Reviews, Science Fiction, Spinoffs | Tagged | 2 Comments

Mikagura School Suite

Mikagura School Suite ErunaEruna Ichinomiya makes her decision about which school to attend based on a picture of a hot girl in a brochure. I’m sure at her age I would have considered that a perfectly valid way to make life choices. So this is a yuri anime (i.e. one that focuses on attraction between girls), but we are definitely not in the same league as Bloom into You, which offers an insightful exploration of first love between two girls. Instead this is a fairly familiar approach to lesbianism in anime, with the main character basically perving after all the girls. However, there is clearly something different about Eruna’s attraction to Seisa (the girl in the brochure, who attends the Academy), which goes far beyond simple physical attraction. There is something about her that fascinates Eruna, and she ends up spending her time at the Academy trying to impress Seisa and make her happy.

That really gets interesting later in the season when the third of the trio of main characters is brought into the mix. Otone is a lonely, antisocial girl, who has never had a friend. Eruna manages to break through her barriers, and Otone eventually becomes completely devoted to Eruna. That might sound like all her dreams come true for a cliché yuri anime pervert character, who goes after anything in a skirt, but Otone is just desperate to maintain her first ever friendship, and that’s where the Eruna/Seisa relationship gets interesting, because Otone identifies how much of Eruna’s thoughts Seisa occupies, and is terrified about the implications of that. It leads to a breathtaking conflict, which is a pivotal moment in the series.

Speaking of conflict, this is one of those school-based anime series where all the students have special powers. There seems to be loads of these, and they can be quite fun, but your appreciation of them will probably depend on how much you enjoy the battle scenes. I’m not a big fan of that stuff, and prefer it when the series focuses on the relationship dynamics or even the comedy, but I must admit there is an originality about this one that makes the battle scenes a lot more palatable. The students all (or nearly all) belong to a club, and their special powers always reflect their club, and therefore their interests in life. So, for example, there is Asuhi Imizu, who is a member of the Astronomy Club, and shoots stars from a telescope; there is Kyoma Kuzuryu, who represents the Art Club and attacks with paint; and there is Sadamatsu Minatogawa, who runs a Flower Arranging Club and is able to manipulate plant life. You get the idea. That all makes the battle scenes quite inventive and entertaining to watch, but there are still a few too many of them for my tastes.

One very weird thing about this series is that Eruna is followed around everywhere by a flying cat. The explanation for his origins is given piecemeal throughout the series, so I won’t spoil it here, but I think he’s one of those love-him-or-hate-him characters. He probably has his fans, but most of the time I could have done without his presence in nearly every scene, especially with his irritating habit of ending every sentence with “ryui”, and that happens in the dub as well. I’ve no idea why he does it, but it’s annoying. But his back story is interesting, and in fact this is a series that gets stronger towards the end, when more is revealed about some key characters. Seisa is of course the central mystery: why does she behave the way she does, isolating herself from everyone? Why is she so miserable all the time? We do get the answers, and they are good ones, but also she goes through a very enjoyable character arc throughout the series, thanks to the persistence of Eruna.

The other characters are generally disposable and forgettable, and in a couple of cases highly irritating. The worst of the lot is Eruna’s cousin, who is obsessed with her. She’s not interested in him and it’s creepy, although again some context towards the end of the series does help. But my favourite character was Otone, who comes into the series frustratingly late in the game. There is a sense of resolution at the end of the series, with a nice montage of the characters enjoying their future school life together, although this does still feel like a second series would have been worthwhile, at least to bring some maturity to the yuri proceedings by moving Eruna and Seisa’s attraction beyond comedy perving. Scratch the surface, and there’s a lot more to this anime than that.   RP

Posted in Anime, Entertainment, Reviews, Television | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Columbo: Dead Weight

Columbo Peter FalkMost episodes of Columbo revolve around a clever pre-meditated murder, committed by somebody highly intelligent and often powerful and/or rich. Although the murderer fits the usual profile (rich and powerful, in this instance a war hero), the murder itself is bizarrely quite simple for Columbo, apart from one key aspect. The murderer, General Hollister, has everything against him from the start, when the murder is witnessed by somebody out on a boat who can see through his window. The interesting thing is the way he tries to manipulate the witness. Helen Stewart is a character you can’t help but feel sorry for. She is a desperate divorcee, lonely, childless, and worn down by her mother’s criticisms. Hollister turns on the charm, hoping to change her mind about the possibility he could be a murderer, and stop her from sticking resolutely to her story.

The Motive

Hollister is embezzling military funds, with the help of accomplice Colonel Dutton. With an investigation of their activities looming, Dutton wants to leave the country, but Hollister fears he will be found and will spill the beans about Hollister’s involvement. Bang!

The Murder

You couldn’t really say this is pre-meditated, although Hollister perhaps would have already run through this possibility in his mind. He certainly seems prepared for it, with a nifty rotating door to hide the body (do those things really exist outside of comedy horror spoofs?). What he apparently hasn’t thought about is the problem with shooting somebody in broad daylight, in front of a window.

The Mistakes

OK, so Hollister gets a bit of bad luck, with somebody just happening to be looking at his house when he fires the shot. But I’m not sure how anyone would think they could get away with this in the long term. Once he is killed, Dutton is obviously a missing person, failing to catch a flight he had booked. The embezzlement case will eventually link the two of them. Hollister puts all his efforts into changing Helen’s mind, as if he’s in the clear without her testimony, and yet he’s the only possible suspect in the end. He gets a bit of bad luck when the body pops up on the surface of the water (the explanation is that sharks have cut through the ropes tying him to the weight, but this guy makes so many mistakes it wouldn’t surprise me if he just did a bodge job), but returning to the shore at a funny time of day doesn’t help his cause. In fact, he ends up doing everything possible to make himself look suspicious, including tracking down Helen. The mistake that really seals the deal for Columbo, though, is Hollister’s inability to bring himself to part with the murder weapon. Once he’s got that, he’s got his man.


Not a big challenge, this one, although he has to be intuitive enough in the first place to not dismiss Helen’s report as a simple mistake, in the absence of any other evidence at that point. His investigation isn’t helped by getting seasick. Peter Falk does a great job of looking dizzy on the boat, which is very funny and makes you feel sorry for the poor chap. It’s one of the many things I like about Columbo: he’s not a superhero. He’s just an ordinary guy, with plenty of human failings and weaknesses, but a brilliant mind.

The Verdict

Each Columbo episode should really have something unique about it to challenge the Lieutenant, and this one should be a murder committed with military precision, but instead the murderer is frankly a bit of a fool. Instead, what makes this one so compelling is the plight of poor, sad divorcee Helen. It’s heart-warming to see Columbo trying to cheer her up at the end. Nice guy.   RP

Posted in Reviews, Television | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Elfen Lied OVA

Elfen Lied OVA Lucy/Nyu and Nana“Regenschauer (In the Passing Rain)”

The view from Igirisu:

This OVA episode of Elfen Lied takes place between the 10th and 11th episodes of the main series, but don’t watch it in that context. It is much better to watch it at the end as a coda episode that provides some further insight into the character of Lucy. The reason I say that is it will really stick out like a sore thumb if you watch it as part of the main run of episodes. For the only time, chibi versions of some of the characters are used: blushes that extend past their actual cheeks, impossibly stretched mouths, eyes doing funny things to convey extreme emotions, etc. I have watched dozens of anime series now with that kind of thing so I have to say that I’m used to them, but I still don’t like them and I don’t think I ever will. The main series did a great job of portraying emotions without doing this, so it seems unnecessary and cheap.

The other problem if you watch this in sequence is that the comedy/drama balance is skewed and the comedy is much more slapstick than the main series. Nana chopping vegetables so furiously that her arm flies off is very funny, and there are a couple of laugh out loud moments: Nana cleaning so fast that her limbs fall off, and then retrieving them like a character from a horror movie, and then scrubbing the glass so hard that she goes right through it, only to discover the dirt was on the other side. This is all good stuff and you’re probably wondering why I think it is a problem in terms of watching this as episode 10.5, but I think the main series does a very good job of selling its horror and fear despite some concepts that might seem superficially silly. Right back at the start of the series I made a cheap joke about Mr Tickle when talking about Lucy’s vectors, but those extra, invisible arms are only ever used to do horrendous things, slicing people up and ripping them apart. So an idea that could be seen as a bit absurd is always convincing, simply because the concept is executed with such conviction by the writer and animators. But as soon as you start having a character use her vectors to reach something from a high cupboard then the spell is broken, and we are firmly in Mr Tickle territory. That’s why this episode should be kept until last. It undermines the fear factor of the series, by going a little bit too big with the comedy.

The second half of the episode is a different kettle of fish altogether, filling in an important gap in our knowledge about Lucy. It flashes back to the point in her life just prior to her capture, and introduces a previously unseen character: Lucy’s friend when she is on the run. I haven’t read the manga yet, but apparently this is Aiko Takada, whose own backstory is fully explored in the manga. Here the friendship has to be established within a couple of minutes and then feel real enough that her fate matters to the viewer. The whole sequence is a masterclass in economic storytelling. We finally get to see how Lucy was captured, and it makes sense that the only way Kurama could get her would be for her to surrender willingly, in the hope of saving her friend. He keeps his word and tries his best, further reinforcing our understanding of Kurama as a character: he is far from being a heartless monster, like so many of the scientists/soldiers. The episode even has time to answer a question that has been left hanging right since the start of the first episode: why didn’t Lucy kill Kurama when she escaped?

“I won’t kill you. But one day for sure, I’ll make you suffer the same fate. I will kill everyone that matters to you, one day for sure.”

At the end of this bonus episode, that’s a little reminder of how amazing this series has been, because she never followed through with that threat. The person who mattered to Kurama more than anyone else in the world is Nana, and in the end she became a part of Lucy’s family. Friendship conquers all.

And that’s it for Elfen Lied, but if you enjoyed this series then there’s another you will definitely want to watch: from the same studio, and covering a lot of the same ground, Brynhildr in the Darkness. Made ten years after Elfen Lied, the studio had honed their craft and produced something that I think transcends their previous effort and is by far my favourite of the two. We will be looking at that series on an episode by episode basis, starting next Saturday. I hope you will join us for another adventure…   RP

The view from Amerika:

I almost watched this episode in order, but Roger suggested I wait.  While I prefer chronology, having watched Babylon 5, I know how to “slot in” where an episode belongs.  But within the opening seconds, Mayu and Nana are cooking and Nana burns the food.  Instantly, I remember the line in the closing credits of the final episode where Mayu  comments that  she won’t burn the food and Nana says she was being mean.  Yeah, sure, super small point, no doubt.  But it let me know right away that we were dealing with something that was part of the series.  See, the Babylon 5 movies can be watched almost any time after a certain point.   A line like this tells me this episode, the outstandingly (and comically) titled In the Passing Rain or, Just How Did The Young Girl Arrive At Those Feelings, was supposed to be watched before the end.

But I sure am glad I listened to Roger anyway.  This is largely because the story doesn’t have anything major going on and it probably would have felt like a bit of a letdown with all the action that had been building up at the point that this actually takes place.  At the heart of the episode, Nyu and Nana go out for a walk.  Nana intends to lure Nyu to her death at the hands of Bando, the beachside murderer.  But when Nana realizes Nyu isn’t the bad person she thought, she can’t go through with it, especially when Nyu collapses.  During the collapse we see the one thing that had plagued me all season: with Lucy being so powerful, how did they capture her?  And I finally had my answer: when her friend is shot while trying to take Lucy in, Lucy agrees to come quietly so they can try to save the girl.  Of course this fails but she isn’t to know until later.  When Kurama tells her, after she has been placed in captivity, that the girl died anyway, Lucy makes the promise that one day, she’ll hurt him too.  We also get a quick fill-in about why the photo Kurama kept was broken; it’s not that big a deal.  (Sort of like whose elbow was injured in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy…).  So that’s the main point of the episode.  But that doesn’t make the episode.

For me, the comedy of this story had me pausing to jot down some lines.  Some of them would take too long to setup to explain why they were funny, but the episode had me in stitches.  It started with Nana’s overly enthusiastic chopping of the lettuce that almost killed Mayu.  Nana’s crying eyes, done in an art style that reveled in the childish, was hilarious.  Yuka’s hair actually starts twitching when Kouta makes a comment about seeing Nyu and Nana getting “always closer”.  (The twitching hair actually made me hurt from laughing so hard!)  And when Kouta shares an observation about other horned girls, Yuka’s “Somehow, I don’t think that’s relevant” was all it took to crack me up again.  (It was so simple a comment and yet so perfectly delivered!)  The cleaning scenes are astounding and watching everything fall apart for Nana… that was just brilliant!  And at the end of the episode, the reaction Bando has to being stood up with his random, manic shooting… marvelous.  I even chuckled when I saw him at the beach harassing a litterbug!  (I mean, if nothing else, this guy sets up shop and sticks with it – he never left the beach once he arrived there.  No wonder he died there… or did he?)

It was a nice way to wrap up the series.  The series actually ended with a deep and heart wrenching episode on #13 but I do believe there was a happy surprise waiting at the gate. Alas, since that was never shown, I have only my imagination to make that a reality.  So coming back to this little cast of quirky characters to share in a few laughs was the best way to end it; not with a bang, but with a hearty guffaw!   ML

Posted in Anime, Entertainment, Reviews, Television | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Babylon 5: Phoenix Rising

Babylon 5 ArtworkThe bloodhounds have arrived to wrap up the Byron story.  Phoenix Rising is the second half of the story that began last week and it seems like there was precedent for splitting it between two episodes: there was just too much to fit into the 43 minutes.  This entire episode is dedicated to the telepath conflict, so anything that happened last week would never have fitted in.  But was it worth the wait?

My last viewing of Babylon 5 was in binge-format and these last 11 episodes were a tough slog.  Working it out weekly for the Junkyard gave it a different feel.  The story played out better.  It wasn’t a story that needed binge viewing.  For me, that was largely because I never took to Byron or his plight.  The request for a homeworld never seemed like a big deal.  Give them a moon, for Kosh sake!  His kumbaya attitude never worked for me either and these telepaths resort to the same tactics as mundanes, thus establishing that they are no better than those they fight.  In fact, Byron the Noble was once Byron the Partner of Bester and Murderer of Mundanes.  This is a fact that Lyta tries to learn only to be told not to ask questions for which she won’t like the answers.  Not the sort of character I take to.  But then I guess in the end this isn’t a far cry from where he ended up: he still becomes a murderer.  He ends up taking his own life and murdering those who loved him.  Yeah, they had a choice and chose it, but it’s no less death.  Come to think of it, it’s even worse than that!  When he points the gun at the explosive chemicals, shouldn’t someone have told him that they are on a space station and the hull could rupture killing far more people than just his little group of hippie telepaths.  “And we will all come together in the vacuum of space… the vacuum of space…”  On top of that, it’s not just that this story isn’t that compelling to me; Byron’s story also breaks Lyta’s to some extent.  Wasn’t she so powerful she could activate a Shadow planet into self-destruction from miles away?  Why can’t she take control of the hostage-takers and make one attack the other?  Maybe disarm them before they start shooting Michael, Stephen and the rest of the med-staff?

On the other hand, the allusion to this episode during The Deconstruction of Falling Stars was fantastic.  I never thought Garibaldi would die on the show, but who could say for sure?  Sheridan did go out of his way to point out all that Michael had survived during his time on the station.  Maybe that was to be foreshadowing!  (I loved that Sheridan still considers Michael a friend considering all that happened during season 4!)  Alas, what befalls Michael might be worse: he goes back to the bottle.  After learning that Bester hit him with “an Asimov”, a neural block which prevents Michael doing anything bad to Bester, Michael buys himself a drink.  This can lead to nothing but heartache.  However, as bad as this is, it might not be without merit.  It is possible that drinking could cause the neural block to fade, much like we see with Londo and the Regent on Centauri Prime.  The thing is, will he be able to test it?  If he gets drunk, how will he find Bester?  Can he use the alcohol to his advantage, or is this just a one way ticket to hell?

Oh, tell me you didn’t want to hurl Bester out an airlock!  I wondered why Sheridan didn’t.  (When Sheridan asks Bester what happens if Michael is killed, Bester says “Zack gets his room”, and you could see the fury in Sheridan’s eyes.)  So yeah, why doesn’t he put Bester down?  It’s the question I was asking myself during the shootout too.  When the shooting starts, Lochley and Sheridan start firing at the surrendering telepaths but they only were opening fire because of Bester forcing the issue.  Bester, however, was right next to Sheridan and Lochley – had either of them turned and shot him they’d have been getting rid of a pestilence that had been on the station since season 1 and maybe saving a bad situation from escalating as it did.  Then Byron wouldn’t be a martyr; he’d still be alive to calm his people.  Instead, that rotten misery goes free and now people on earth will go around wearing black clothes and buying expensive hair products to “remember Byron”!

Elsewhere, observations abound!!  When Garibaldi is flung onto the desk, a monitor is seen being knocked over.  Those enormous monitors were out of style 10 years ago!  Can you imagine them being used in the 2260s?  Peter’s telekinesis could have used a bit less close-ups on his face as the actor gave himself whiplash!  It was painful to watch.  Trek had it right with Gary Mitchell, calmly looking at what he wanted to move and making it happen.  The corpse in the elevator seemed a bit drastic but it did make the point!  And speaking of points, I like that Bryon reminds Sheridan what it means to be a symbol for people.

In the end, it was a good episode to wrap up the Byron story, but boy am I happy it’s over.  Now we can get on with the good stuff for the last 11 episodes of this fantastic series!  ML

The view from across the pond:

Well, that was a little disappointing, after so many weeks building to this point. The lead up to this episode has been really interesting, but to end it all with Byron and his most loyal followers going up in flames is about as downbeat an ending as you could get. Maybe I just dislike unhappy endings, but I found this all rather unpleasant to watch, although I can’t deny it was effective, and I have to confess to feeling quite emotional when I was watching Byron’s final moments.

I can see the point of it. Byron has become a martyr and the end of the episode made it clear what he has achieved. He has become a symbol for a new movement, with telepaths now attacking the Psi Corps. The interesting thing will be finding out whether Garibaldi helped with that or not. He didn’t seem to react to the news at all, so it remains to be seen whether he was blanking out the whole world while he hit the bottle again, or if that news report was an indication of why he was hitting the bottle. Mind you, he has enough reason to feel a bit down, after his failure to kill Bester. Was he really about to commit murder in cold blood? It certainly looked that way. I suppose what happened to him at the hands of Bester has to count as extenuating circumstances, but even so it was hard to watch one of our heroes reach such a low. I presume a final confrontation between Garibaldi and Bester is being saved for later in the season, because it needs to happen. Ironically, if Garibaldi wasn’t so prejudiced against all telepaths, he could simply had talked to his captors about what Bester had done to him, got them to remove the block, and worked with them to put an end to Bester once and for all. Instead, hostage and hostage taker, who should have been working together against a common enemy, just fought like thugs.

That brings me to the most important reason why I felt this whole storyline went so astray. I get that JMS wanted to make Byron a martyr so the phoenix of an anti-Psi-Corps movement can rise from his ashes, and that does actually make for a very interesting story, but I don’t think he knew how to make that happen convincingly, and instead threw all logic out of the window and ignored facts that are already established. As I mentioned in a previous article, we were shown telepaths attacking people with their minds several weeks ago. They can stop attackers in their tracks, inflict pain, brainwash them, make them turn back. They have all sorts of tools in their armoury. Instead, all that was ignored, and they ended up fighting with conventional weapons, a desperate ragtag bunch of terrorists being hunted down by the authorities and taking hostages, which was never going to work. Sheridan’s hands were tied. He simply couldn’t negotiate with hostage-takers, setting a precedent to encourage future terrorism.

“If we open that door even one, we will never be able to close it again.”

So instead of telepaths battling with their minds, which would have made them a powerful force and made the whole story much more interesting, eleven weeks of story arc in the end boiled down to a small oppressed minority group taking up arms for their rights, and inevitably failing as an amateur army of a couple of dozen people at most. Their best weapon was one unusual telepath who could throw things around using his mind, leading to a laughable scene where Zack ordered a load of troops with guns to retreat, just because some debris was being thrown at them by one aggressor… because random things being chucked around is much more of a threat than guards with guns of course. In the end it all relied on a writer ignoring all the much more realistic ways this could have played out and presumably hoping we wouldn’t notice. We weren’t supposed to notice that these were powerful telepaths who were not using their own natural inbuilt weapons, for no reason at all. We weren’t supposed to notice that Byron was failing to publicly expose Bester’s mass murder of “mundanes”, for no reason at all. Maybe we’re still not supposed to notice that Lyta isn’t doing that either, although she is clearly now in possession of the information. But hey, that’s life isn’t it. The journey is so often more fun than the destination. Some brilliant episodes led to this moment. I loved the journey, but in the end I didn’t think much of the place we ended up.   RP

Posted in Babylon 5, Reviews, Science Fiction, Television | Tagged | 1 Comment

Violence in Video Games: Diablo

Hello my friend!  Stay awhile and listen…  In September of 2019, Roger started a series looking at the “rights and wrongs” of Fanservice in anime.  Today, we continue that tradition with Violence in Video Games.  Today’s focus… Diablo.

What’s the Deal?

Diablo is a top down, hack-and-slash video game released in 1997 by Blizzard Entertainment. In 2000, the second game in the series was released with an expansion following a year later.  It wasn’t until 2012 that the final game arrived but even then, more expansions followed.  And amazingly, there’s talk of a 4th game in the future. Diablo is also considered a dungeon crawler because you basically work your way through dungeons using spells and weapons to hack your way out.  However you remember the game, you know one thing: it was an instant classic.  Once you created your character – warrior, rogue, sorcerer, necromancer, druid, assassin, and more – the quests lead you across the lands of Sanctuary to defeat the devil and some of his ilk.  Having gone to a Catholic high school with a teacher who had a very pronounced way of saying “Baal”, he was one of my favorites to fight simply because it made me laugh!  I had considered starting this series of articles with Diablo because back in 2012, when the third game was released, there was some controversy around the rating the third game was getting.  Did Diablo really need an M rating?  There was talk that Blizzard was releasing the game with the M rating because they did better in sales.  But looking back, all of the Diablo games are listed as M rated games.  On top of that, anyone who knew the name – meaning every gamer of the time – knew the quality of the games, so they didn’t need to rely on simple trickery to make their sales.  They were going to make their money!

Why it’s not ok

Well, it’s the same old story: you spend the game killing.  I don’t care if they are demons!  What are demons aside from creatures that are not like us?  Ok, sure, there’s the religious side of it, making demons actually evil whereas aliens, like Daleks, are not demonic, so maybe you can argue that these creatures need to die (like spiders) but the fact is you spend the game killing.  No moral dilemmas, no chances to let the “bad guy” go, or even finding another way.  And the methods of killing are varied: smash, slice, burn, freeze, electrocute… you find the spell, you can use it.  The enemies die in splashes of blood and gore.  Can’t deny it: the ESRB on the game says: “Animated blood and gore, Animated Violence.”  It has that.   On top of that, there are the video clips.  It has got to be said that Blizzard has done some amazing cutscenes over the years.   So much so that I still have my collectors box of Warcraft III which has a DVD of all the cinematics.  On its own it’s watchable!  Blizzard does great work but that works against it when you’re debating if a younger audience should try this game out.  Can they handle what those videos offer?

Why it’s ok

The thing about a game like this is that it relies on a top down view of very cartoonish characters.  Especially the earlier games, they are grainy and very dated looking!  These are not highly detailed scenes of destruction and we’re a far cry from, say.. Far Cry, which leaves nothing to the imagination.  The characters and monsters are not overly detailed and the effect is little more than a splash of red.  And the truth is, you probably don’t pick up a game named for the devil if you don’t expect some monster killing.  Then there’s the story which is engrossing; one of the first games that let me see just how good storytelling was in video games.  And from the point over view of pop culture, is it fair to deny children of Deckard Cain, whose voice I always heard as a weird amalgam of Sean Connery and Patrick Stewart?


I realize it’s always going to come down to the child.  Some kids can handle it, some can’t.  The parent needs to make the call ultimately! But I don’t think this is going to inspire a raid on the local mausoleum to see if anyone can start hacking and slashing skeletons.  And when I think of violence in video games,  Diablo doesn’t even show up on my radar. That might be a sad commentary on all the other games I’ve played over the years but Diablo is more of an adventure.  I recall no bad words in the game (although in fairness it’s been a long time since I’ve played it) and I think there are far worse games from the perspective of violence.  The other thing that this game has going for it is that it’s fairly easy to learn.  Point click, point click… No major button mashing so, while some boss battles are tough, you’re unlikely to want to give up and despondently wander the nearby cemetery.  On the other hand, to some extent that works against the game because it means the game is pretty mindless.  If the story and cinematics were not as good as they are, I’d be hard pressed to say a lot about the mind of the player.

So like so many others it’s a toss up.  I think if it’s the violence that concerns the parent, this one should be on the “ok” list, because I truly don’t see the dark fantasy world with it’s top down view as being more than mildly violent, even if you are spending the day killing monsters.  On the other hand, if you want a game for the kids that will spark the imagination and give them choices to think about, there are probably far better games, like Detroit Become Human which still has me talking!  But that’s a very different style of game so the comparison mightn’t be entirely fair.

For my money, Diablo is a classic and should be played by gamers who want to see what started a genre.  Games like Dungeon Siege and Torchlight owe their existence to this game.  It has it’s place in the annals of gaming and is worth the time.  Plus, you really want to get to know Deckard Cain!  But you’ll have to make your own mind up.  After all,  no one ever listens…!  ML

Posted in Entertainment, Games, Reviews | Tagged , | 3 Comments

The Outer Limits: The Human Factor

Outer Limits 1963 titles logo originalStardate 1312.4, Gary Mitchell, long term friend to Captain James “R” Kirk, and Dr. Elizabeth Dahner have an incident at the edge of galactic space.  Dahner and Mitchell both develop heightened ESP and telekinetic powers.  What we didn’t know is that on Stardate 1312.1, Dr. Dahner was on Starfleet’s newest social media app, 23 and the NCC, checking on her ancestry.  She discovers that her great, great grandmother’s name was Ingrid Hamilton, nee Larkin, and she too had some ESPer ability, brought on by a machine that kicked off some strong emotion using avocados to create the first non-Vulcan mind mind!

OK, maybe I’m just having fun with Sally Kellerman since just three years after this story, she plays Dahner in Star Trek and both feature some little bit with mind reading and ESP.  The truth is, The Human Factor is far more Freaky Friday with a touch of Scrooge.  The idea is tried and tested, but it often works better in comedy where two guys of drastically different personalities find themselves in each other’s bodies.   They live through some funny story and they both benefit by the end.  It’s effectively a chance to walk a mile in another person’s shoes.  This takes the comedic trope and adds guilt to it.  Now the ghost of Marley shows up and starts randomly pointing at our Freaky Friday recipient and he’s determined to blow up the entire mountain because the ghost “lives there”.  As soon as Major Brothers ends up in the body of Dr. Hamilton, he hatches a plan to get a nuke and blow up the mountain and if that means the real Hamilton gets locked away, so be it.  All good dramatic ideas.  Sadly, the monster of the week was just a frozen image of a dead guy that Brothers allowed to be left behind after falling to his death.  That’s why Brothers is so torn apart inside, and why the Marley’s ghost starts popping up.  I was hoping he actually knew about something living on the mountain and the truth would come out.  Sadly, no.  It’s just a guilt ridden maniac in the body of a well respected doctor and he’s going to milk that for all its worth.

Depressingly, when the story started and Brothers was raving about the thing on the mountain, I had high hopes for a bit of Lovecraftian horror nearby At the Mountains of Madness.  Alas, no such luck.  The entire story can be summed up like the name of the base: the total abandonment of better understanding.  My issues with this come from expecting better having seen so many body-swap movies and shows done to far better effect.  In fairness, this is 1964, so maybe I should be kind but I wanted a thought provoking science fiction story and, at best, we get a mildly clever ending.  I’ll come to that.   This ends up being a weird mix of drama and love story and it comes off as a pale version of both.  The love story is between Larkin (Kellerman) and the older Dr. Hamilton.  During a mind meld that looks like an X-ray of two avocados, Hamilton finds out Larkin loves him.  Immediately we know how she’s going to know it’s him when he goes “freaky Friday” with Brothers.  I could live with that if the rest of the story was better executed.

Doctor Hamilton is a doctor.  They are typically smart people.  Surely he realizes quickly that telling the guards, who already think Brothers has lost it, that he is in fact “Hamilton in Brothers’ body” won’t go well.  When he then spouts all the necessary facts of his life in front of the real Brothers (in Hamilton’s body), he’s basically given Brothers enough information to sell the lie and get away with murder, and he intends to do a lot of murder!  The rest of the story features Kellerman trying to help rescue Hamilton (in Brothers’ body) out of his cell so he can stop Brothers (in Hamilton’s body).  Lord, never expected this to be so hard to write about…   In the end, the best thing that happens is that Brothers (in Hamilton’s body) shoots Hamilton (in Brothers’ body) just before the mind swap happens again leading to the conclusion that Brothers shot himself… quite literally.   But that payoff scarcely warrants the 50 minutes.

I really wanted more of a meaty thought piece. O.B.I.T. is hardly a favorite of mine, but it did get my creative juices flowing.  This mildly interested me and left me thinking about the lesson.  Were we to take away that love really can conquer all?  Or unaddressed guilt can eat us alive?  OK, I’ll talk about what I’m guilty of so I don’t nuke mountains.  I’ll hope my wife loves me enough that when I find myself trapped in the body of our cat, she knows its me because the body of me now sits on the window sill meowing and randomly flailing my arm around while my cat types up articles for a blog.  I have a better chance of not letting guilt eat me alive…

And even though I’m about to sound superficial, (blame the mind experiment with my cat) I was shocked by Kellerman’s appearance.  Kellerman was a beautiful woman and in Where No Man Has Gone Before, I was enamored with her beauty.   It’s amazing how much a hairstyle, a ridiculous coat and a cigarette can change her appearance.  I was flabbergasted that this was the same woman!  It’s mostly that dreadful hairstyle but the cigarette was the nail in the coffin.  Still, she is the best part of the episode and she spends the first half calling to get a replacement for herself because Hamilton now knows she loves him.  The irony is that in the end, it’s that love that saves him so he learns the value of love.  Not a bad lesson, but a really painful way to get there.  I trust he and Larkin move and eventually have kids… eventually Dr. Dahner gets the report and puts in for time off to find her roots, but alas, Kirk happens and… well, thank goodness we got to the bottom of that, huh?

Brothers sums the episode up as he rolls his r’s like a Sylvester McCoy fanboy with “round the rugged rock the ragged rascal ran”.  He says this no fewer than 3 times to prove that he’s not insane, because insane people can’t say that.  Bet you didn’t know that!  Just to be sure, by the time this episode was over, I was saying it over and over again…  ML

The view from across the pond:

“There is nothing wrong with your television set.”

Yes there is. I’m supposed to be watching an episode of The Outer Limits, and instead it’s showing me Freaky Friday. Actually, that’s deeply unfair. Freaky Friday is miles better than this. To keep the movie references going, you know that scene in Mr Bean’s Holiday when he is struggling to stay awake while he’s driving, and ends up using matchsticks to prop his eyelids open? That’s how I felt watching The Human Factor.

It seemed promising at first, with a monster living in an… isthmus, was it? I should have paid more attention in Geography. If you’re playing a drinking game of Outer Limits Bingo then one category you will probably have is magic invisible waves. I think we’ve had some variety of those in every episode. Our magic waves this week are brainwaves, which get combined together for the mind swapping. The screen graphic for the two brains aligning is actually quite good, a simple but effective visual shorthand. Actually, I wouldn’t say this is a bad episode as such. It’s extremely competent in what it does. It’s well acted, and the romance subplot works well enough. I’ve seen comments from other fans who don’t think it works because Ingrid has the choice of dozens of soldier boys and chooses the old man, which ignores the likely reason for that: all the soldier boys are dull as ditch water while Hamilton… well, he has all the great qualities that Ingrid describes. What he doesn’t have is any interest in her, but she initially walks away too quickly. Once the cat’s out of the bag, it can start thought processes whirring away. Sometimes love has to grow steadily like a flower, rather than burst into life like fireworks. What Ingrid needs is staying power, and I think eventually she realises that.

There were other good things. The ghost was well done and quite creepy, although not especially memorable, but I thought it was clever how he points a finger accusingly at Major Brothers all the time, playing on his guilt at losing a man. The setting was suitably bleak, and very well done, considering that creating a snowy location in a studio is notoriously difficult to do realistically. Black and white helps of course. But the very best bit of the episode for my money was the moment Major Brothers takes his hat off to reveal that his hair underneath is exactly the same shape as his hat.

So no, not a bad episode as such, but avoiding being bad isn’t the same thing as being good. It was a competent execution of an unambitious script. We had a body swap, a romance, and a haunting, which was pretty much left up to our interpretation, but was likely all in the Major’s head, a “creation of his own guilt-ridden mind”. That was it. You might be thinking that sounds like enough, but it’s not. Every episode of The Outer Limits so far has delved into deep thematic territory, with something important to say. Sometimes more than one episode has been trying to say the same thing in different ways, but always there has been something to say. If you want to argue that there’s some kind of a deeper theme going on here, some kind of a metaphorical reflection on contemporary life or the human condition, then you are pretty much going to have to make something up and then twist the episode to fit your theory. There’s little here beyond spectacle and human drama. It’s just another meddling scientist (check! down a shot) using magic waves (check! down a shot) and a very large computer (you get the idea) to tinker with people’s brains, while a man suffers with a guilt complex and only escapes from the ghost of his past by death. The more I type the more I think it sounds like it should be a great episode, but I do think this is a series that needs to make the viewers think. Instead, it made me snore.

We now return control of your computer, until the next time we visit the outer limits of the Junkyard…  RP

Posted in Entertainment, Reviews, Science Fiction, Television, The Outer Limits | Tagged | 2 Comments

Class: The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo

Class is back in session, this time focusing largely on Ram, the school sports king.  I haven’t warmed to the characters yet, but I think that was the point: introduce us to some that are hard to like and slowly pull us in with a few at a time.  Charlie, April and Tanya are very likable.  Ram and Quill, not so much.  But by giving us a coach who is an even bigger jerk to offset Ram, we can bond with him more.  With Quill, she gets a very strange inspector to be colder than she is, which takes some doing, and it makes us more compassionate toward her.  But what is the issue with The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo?  It’s a surprisingly clever means to an end.

The entire episode focuses on the PTSD that Ram is experiencing.  He suspects it himself at one point when he thinks he’s been hallucinating but that’s not the only sign of PTSD.  As he has flashbacks to the death of his girlfriend, the evidence is writ large on the page of his life.  He’s suffering.  The filming is pretty fantastic for these sequences, interspersing the images from the previous episode over the current one in brief bursts to let the viewer know what is going on inside his mind.  It’s pretty impressive that the show was willing to tackle this issue as it’s one that is almost never touched upon in the parent series, Doctor Who.  The thrust of the episode is that Ram’s friends are all trying to get him to talk about his feelings and they think a shared trauma will help him express himself.  But it’s Tanya, the 14 year old hacker, who is able to get through by doing exactly the opposite; letting him come to terms with it all on his own.  It leads to an outstanding moment in the series.  Ram asks: “how did you know when to start talking?”

I can’t overstate enough how impressive this question is.  The show, an underrated and unsung hero in the Doctor Who universe, was addressing the value of opening up and the merits of seeking help when needed without flattening us with an over-the-head bashing like some writers do.  It’s only after Ram finally opens up that he’s able to save everyone.  He actually talks the attacking dragon into attacking the coach thus saving his friends, and then for an encore, goes home and opens up to his dad.  In so doing, his father helps him practice (albeit probably with a head full of questions) and Ram starts to achieve his goal.  It’s not an instant cure!  It’s a step to getting better, and it starts when Ram opens up!  Bravo to some really spectacular writing!

Quill, on the other hand, gets a more humorous storyline to offset the drama of what Ram is going through.  She verbally assaults the strange inspector, then jumps on him and eventually throws him to the dragon only to learn his a robot.  The payoff is more humorous than serious with her telling her newfound team only for them to totally dismiss it, until they find out that she kissed the robot.  It’s a weaker story but opens a door to the mysterious “Governors”, mentioned earlier in this episode by the headmaster (“The Governors wouldn’t like it!”)  The thing is, if it’s an evil entity or organization, does it really make sense to brand that title on a robot?  In other words, do the Cybermats have a brand that says “Cybermen Inc”?  Daleks might come up with a dippy plan like that, actually.  Right after they create a game network to harvest humans… But seriously, what other race would create a brand?  Unless the Governors are a human agency.  Let’s give it time to unfold.

The biggest oversight of the episode for me is after Ram gets attacked, he does the logical thing: he hits the showers in the school.  How did he get there unseen covered as he was in gore and viscera?  Moreover, when the kids come into the locker room, does no one see his cybernetic leg?  Maybe he wore socks into the shower?  As a fun observation, I very much enjoyed that Quill wanted to play Sherlock Holmes, giving a complete rundown of the Inspector from calluses to suit fabric.  She even sports a rather large magnifying glass later on.  (Apt day for me; I watched this on January 6th – Sherlock’s “birthday”!)  April says she doesn’t want to kill anyone, including bad guys.  And Tanya has a line I applaud as well; when finding out that Ram is an athlete who smokes, she says, “how can you do anything that stupid?”  I am truly amazed this show didn’t catch on.  I really blame the powers-that-be for not broadcasting more about it.  (Good lord, maybe that’s the work of The Governors!)

Well, the Class will go on protecting the Bunghole of Time, as they enjoy calling it.  They might not be doing quite the same job the Doctor would have done but they will do their best and if this episode is anything to go by, they’re making great strides.  Guess we will see how next week brings us deeper into the fold.  Until then… Class dismissed.  ML

Posted in Doctor Who, Entertainment, Reviews, Science Fiction, Spinoffs | Tagged | 2 Comments

Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kunI’ll start this article with a question for anyone who hasn’t seen this show. What do you think would be the genders of the following characters:

(1) Mikoto Mikoshiba, popular but shy, gets carried away with the popularity and sometimes says inappropriate things, and then gets crippled with embarrassment.

(2) Yuzuki Seo, incredible at any sport, but can’t do teamwork. Goes into any game like a bull in a china shop.

(3) Yuu Kashima, tall and handsome, nicknamed “the prince”, idolised by almost every girl in the school.

(4) Mikoto Mikoshiba, the archetypal tsundere, falling in love with Kashima but often responding with violence.

Anyone who has seen a few anime series will probably recognise some familiar character tropes there, and you would probably expect: (1) female, (2) male, (3) male, (4) female. You would be wrong about all four, because this series gloriously subverts just about every possible gender stereotype. But the really clever bit is that the main character, Nozaki, is a manga artist, and he takes inspiration from his friends to create characters for his shojo manga work (a boy creating shojo manga, aimed at a female demographic, is already an unusual gender flip), but all his male friends get used as inspiration for the female characters, and vice versa, with just one exception.

Nozaki has no personal experience of relationships, but he has to get his ideas from somewhere, so he looks at the interactions and behaviours of his friends, a constant source of good ideas for him. At the same time, most of his friends help him with his work in some way, colouring in, drawing in the backgrounds or textures and effects, etc. This has the added benefit of giving them lots of time in his company, often staying over at his flat to get work done.

One important character is not gender flipped, and that’s Chiyo Sakura, a girl who has fallen in love with Nozaki. It reminded me a bit of the set-up for My Love Story!, with a diminutive girl falling for a big, hulking teenage boy, who looks tough but is actually in touch with his emotions, but the two series follow very different paths. There is sadly virtually no development in their relationship across the series, which was my main reservation about this, but instead Sakura’s crush on Nozaki is used to illustrate how his knowledge of relationships all comes from reading manga, and that doesn’t actually translate to the real world. He buys into his own character tropes and rom com scenarios, which just don’t pan out like that in reality, and in the process fails to notice the love that Sakura has for him. It’s a bit frustrating at times, but it’s played for laughs and is admittedly often very funny.

The gender stereotype flips are nearly all absolutely brilliant, and the beautiful thing is how accepted everyone is in this series. For example, Kashima is idolised by all the girls for her princely manner and looks, and nobody cares that she’s wearing a skirt. Even better, she’s not even used by the writer for a bit of lazy yuri romance. Instead, she gradually develops feelings for Hori. Oh, and by the way none of these scenarios are ever used as an excuse for fanservice. But I did have a problem with one character and that’s Hori. Here is where a gender flip really can’t work, because he’s the male version of a typical tsundere girl, and anyone familiar with that character trope will know that they often engage in a bit of comedy violence against their love interest. Surely you can’t just port that over to the opposite genders, right? Except that’s exactly what happens here, with Hori frequently physically attacking Kashima for one reason or another, to the extent that she is often shown with bruises or plasters afterwards. I found that very hard to stomach, and it was the one area where the humour fell flat. I would like to give the series the benefit of the doubt and assume that I was supposed to feel like that and the writer was cleverly highlighting the uncomfortable side of the tsundere trope, but actually it just comes across as lazy and inappropriate humour.

So what’s the point of the gender flips? Is it simply for the sake of doing something different? No, absolutely not, because the genius of this series is the way it illustrates the absurdity of the gender stereotypes we create for ourselves. The characters’ genders are swapped for Nozaki’s manga and it works seamlessly, and that’s because characteristics such as shyness, embarrassment, selfishness, physical prowess, pride and conflicting emotions are not gender specific. None of them are owned by one gender. At times this series is deeply flawed, but it has one hugely important point to make: stereotypes should always be challenged, and nobody should ever have to conform to those stereotypes. Most characteristics that get classified as “male” or “female” probably belong together in one box that just says “human”.   RP

Posted in Anime, Entertainment, Reviews, Television | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Columbo: Death Lends a Hand

Columbo Peter FalkIn this, the second episode of the first season of Columbo, the brilliant Robert Culp stars as Carl Brimmer, an incredibly wealthy and successful private investigator. It seems that Columbo’s adversaries are going to follow a pattern of wealthy, powerful people.

The Motive

Brimmer is really looking to make his job easier, when he attempts to blackmail Lenore Kennicut into providing him with information on people he is investigating, sourced from her husband, who runs a media empire. Unfortunately for him, she decides to come clean to her husband about her “indiscretion” rather than giving in to her blackmailer, and that means Arthur Kennicut will find out all about the PI he trusted. He’s a powerful man to make an enemy of. Lenore has to be stopped…

The Murder

As far as I can recall from watching this series many years ago, this one is unusual because it is a crime of passion. Brimmer panics, strikes out at Lenore, and kills her. Later he claims that he never meant to murder her, and he seems genuine about that. In the heat of the moment, I don’t think he really had a plan at all. He’s making it up as he goes along. Normally this would be a problem for a Columbo episode, because the whole point of these is watching a very clever person commit an ingenious crime, and then seeing how Columbo figures it out. In this instance, the challenge instead becomes the intelligence with which the murderer attempts to cover his tracks, and the power he can wield against Columbo.

The Mistakes

Brimmer tries to make it look like a random mugging, but immediately that’s a problem because it’s obvious that the body has been moved. That wouldn’t matter, because there is nothing to lead Columbo to Brimmer, and here is where Columbo really gets a lucky break because Arthur introduces Brimmer into the mix as an extra detective on the case. So unusually we are about 35 minutes into the episode before Columbo is really interacting with the murderer. From there, Columbo is incredibly sneaky, if you look closely at his actions. He knows that Lenore was struck by somebody wearing a ring, and figures out the murderer is left handed. The fact that Brimmer fits that description is not evidence, but sets him on the right track, and he pretends to be interested in palmistry in order to get a feel of the ring. Brimmer clearly makes a tactical error by offering Columbo a job as a PI on triple his wages, because of course the first question Columbo asks is if he will be working on the Kennicut case, so at that point he has confirmation that Brimmer wants him off the case. He also allows his temper to show, but the big mistake is falling into a trap laid by Columbo, who leads him to believe that the murder victim lost a contact lens. Brimmer searching his car and finding a lens is behaviour that cannot be explained away, and the punch-the-air moment is when it turns out that Columbo fabricated the whole story about the loss of the lens.

“Whose was it?”
“Who knows.”

The script never makes it clear that Columbo planted the lens in the car to be found, and I’m not sure why not, unless he’s pushing up against the boundaries of what a detective is allowed to do, but a contact lens just happening to be in Brimmer’s car is obviously beyond coincidence.


As usual, he acts the fool in order to get him what he wants, including mistaking a closet for a doorway in order to sneak a look inside. The state of his car, causing him to get stopped by the local police, perhaps indicates that being disorganised is a little bit more than just an act. His wife is a useful tool for him again, used as an excuse for taking a close look at Brimmer’s rug (because his wife wants one like that, of course!) and also the person he has to consult before he can decide whether to take the PI job (he clearly isn’t interested, but plays along). She’s a great excuse for just about anything he wants to do. Note how he barks out the order to his subordinate to grab Brimmer’s hand and retrieve the lens. In moments like this, the real Columbo beneath the bumbling exterior allows himself to be seen, briefly.

The Verdict

The moment that will stay with me from this episode is an incredibly clever bit of artistry from the director. After the murder, we zoom in to Brimmer’s haunted face, and then his glasses tell us the tale of how he disposes of the body and covers his tracks. Each lens shows something different. I’ve never seen anything like it before, and it must surely have been enormously technically difficult for 1971.

This episode does lack something for me by being a crime of passion rather than somebody who thinks they have figured out how to commit the perfect murder, which is the usual format for Columbo. But that’s more than made up for by seeing Columbo outwit somebody in the same profession as himself, and at the very top of the tree of that profession. It’s fun to see the mighty fall.   RP

Read next in the Junkyard… Columbo: Dead Weight

Posted in Reviews, Television | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment