Buffy the Vampire Slayer: School Hard

By the end of School Hard, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a fundamentally different series to the one that existed the week before. This is a pivotal episode, and in my opinion is the most significant episode of the entire run, because it’s the one that ensures the show’s longevity. There is one simple reason for that: Spike.

Drusilla is an amazing character as well, of course. She veers back and forth crazily between mournful helplessness and pure evil. Like Spike (but in a very different way), her personality shows us a twisted version of human foibles without losing the element of danger. She is also a subversion of childhood, speaking to her dolls before biting into a neck. Continue reading

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The Twilight Zone: A Nice Place to Visit

The Twilight Zone Original Logo 1959Amazing that after so many years, I still remembered this episode so clearly.  Mostly, that’s because of the punchline.  One mistake in my memory was that I was certain the “guide” was named Cadwalader, so when he was introduced as Pip, I was surprised.  Not nearly as surprised as I was by the phone that had only 3 characters to select though!  I mean, real estate might not have been an issue, by why would you need 2 P’s when you could just use the same one twice? Continue reading

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Sherlock Holmes: Silver Blaze

When I’d first heard about this story, I had almost skipped it.  I think the idea of Holmes investigating a missing horse just screamed “boring” to me.  Boy howdy, am I glad I didn’t listen to that initial instinct.  Since that original reading, I’ve seen the episode more than once and have loved watching Holmes get the better of the pompous Colonel Ross, played brilliantly by Peter Barkworth. 

Interestingly, there is also a fantastic book written by Mark Haddon about an autistic lad who finds a dead dog on his neighbors lawn and begins investigating.  It’s a really enjoyable mystery written in the voice of the boy and has little relation to Sherlock Holmes beyond the boy’s acknowledgement of knowing the Holmes canon.  However, what stands out about it is the title: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.  A quote well known to many, but one that originates in Silver Blaze and makes one of the very best quotes of all of Doyle’s many great lines!  Continue reading

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Star Trek: All Our Yesterdays

Star Trek Blue LogoIt might have been nice for All Our Yesterday’s to be the last episode of classic Star Trek.  It’s a very well designed story.  There’s an A and B plot focusing on Kirk in a 17th Century time, accused of witchcraft while Spock and McCoy find themselves 5000 years in the past with Mariette Hartley (wearing another of the sexiest outfits in Trek history!)  And it has the universe’s most perfectly named librarian, Mr. Atoz.  (As in A to Z.) Continue reading

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Space: 1999 – The Troubled Spirit

breakawayWhat do you get when you cross a bulldog and a shih tzu?  No, I’ve got a better one.  What do you get when you take The Haunting of Hill House, add a pinch of Doctor Who’s Ark in Space and a dollop of Seeds of Doom?  You get The Troubled Spirit.

Mostly, it’s the Haunting of Moon Base Alpha; the Doctor Who moments are the man with the horribly scarred hand having to hide it as he leaves a room, reminiscent of Noah in Ark.  The episode opens with a number of the crew enjoying some 70’s style guitar music proving that Hendrix has a long lasting influence on humanity.  Meanwhile, four members of the crew seem to be holding a séance but we learn that they are actually running an experiment to communicate with plants a la Harrison Chase of Doctor Who’s Seeds of Doom.  Sure it sounds nuts, but then Mateo figures their dwindling resources is going to get them sooner or later so it’s better try whatever they can to coax a little extra food out of the hydroponics bay.  Hey, what people get up to on their free time is their business, am I right?  Plus it gave us an excuse to see more of the base.
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Koimonogatari

Koimonogatari NadekoWe have reached the final, six-episode arc in the second full season of Monogatari, and the focus is mainly on two protagonists. Hitagi Senjogahara has been largely neglected as a character for a very long time, her relationship with Koyomi remaining a private matter that the viewers are not privy to, so her involvement is not before time, and is independent of Koyomi. In an attempt to sort out the problem of Nadeko, which reached a crisis point in Otorimonogatari, and save the lives of Koyomi and Shinobu, Hitagi enlists the help of Kaiki. He has only been an occasional character up to this point, but he is the main player in this arc, and we experience events from his perspective. Continue reading

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Columbo: Identity Crisis (Review)

Columbo Peter FalkThere’s something about Nelson Brenner (Patrick McGoohan) that seems familiar: the clothes he wears, the Mediterranean architecture of his home, his career as an “operative”, the regularity with which he says “be seeing you”. Could this be… surely not. For now, he’s not a number. He’s a free man.

The Motive

… is never made entirely clear. There’s a strong indication that it’s something to do with the money Brenner owes to “A. J. Henderson” (Leslie Nielsen) from a side operation, or perhaps Henderson’s suggestion that Brenner is a double agent. The latter is the more likely motive, as Brenner is clearly rich. Maybe he fears being exposed by Henderson as a traitor. Either way, it doesn’t really matter, because Columbo fails to show any interest in establishing a motive, one of the many failings of this story. Continue reading

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Some Assembly Required

This might sound like heresy, but Frankenstein is a bit of a silly story, and that’s with a genius of a scientist creating life from body parts. When the scientist of the story becomes a couple of nerdy teenagers, trying to chop off somebody’s head and attach it to dead body parts as if it’s as easy as sticking together bits of cut up photos, things get really silly. Continue reading

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The Twilight Zone: The Big Tall Wish

The Twilight Zone Original Logo 1959The genius of The Twilight Zone is that it can introduce a few characters each week and make us care about them then pulls a fast one with some element of the fantastical.  It’s an interesting storytelling technique because we are typically meeting very regular people of very ordinary backgrounds.  Continue reading

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Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Foot

When I was a kid, I was a fan of horror movies.  They don’t quite have the same appeal these days, but I did have an affinity for some of the old Hammer Horror movies.  There was something wonderfully macabre about them, with their crushed velvet drapes and satin lined capes!  Sherlock Holmes takes place in the very real world away from monsters and vampires and all the things that supernaturally go bump in the night.  So imagine my delight when one episode does dive into a macabre story that calls back to my childhood, evoking those same feelings as the Hammer horror movies!  I know it’s down to the director and camera crew getting things just right: a twisted zoom in here with a touch of creepy music there, but The Devil’s Foot is a magical story and one I am delighted they brought to life so effectively.  While there is nothing supernatural about it, it has all the makings of a great horror story.  The reality is that it’s no different than any other of Watson’s chronicled adventures in that murder is the order of the day, but the cinematography really brings this one to another level.
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Star Trek: The Savage Curtain

Star Trek Blue LogoI find myself frequently asking a very important question when watching Star Trek: did the writers intend for that to be funny?  This episode has one of my top 5 funniest moments when Kirk, determined to show that good is better than evil, attempts to strangle a rock monster.  He barely gets to touch the creature before pulling back with an “ooo!”  I had to pause again even though I knew it was coming.  I know Jim isn’t the science officer but presumable he’s learned that steam indicates heat.  Red does too, and the thing is molten rock that goes red before becoming a strange but wonderful looking alien.  I mean, the clues were there.  Presumably the man has taken the odd shower in his life and saw red on the hot side and blue for the cool, right?   And the thing is, this episode is ridiculous.  Oh, don’t misunderstand me; when it ended, I was stunned that a full hour had gone by, but it’s a premise that fails on a lot of levels.  Weirdly, it’s not even that Abraham Lincoln comes aboard because they wrote him so well that I actually bought into that idea and loved the character!  So let’s explain why this episode is ridiculous. Continue reading

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Space: 1999 – Space Brain

breakawayI guess the Alphans couldn’t stay lucky for long.  Two episodes without a death and then we lose 3 in one episode (leaving 284 crewmen) and two Eagles.  At least my luck held out and I had another very enjoyable episode.  It’s not just an interesting one on the surface, but like that Near Death Experience one with Peter Cushing, this one also has a deeper meaning… or at least, it did to me! Continue reading

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Onimonogatari (Review and Fanservice Debate)

Onimonogatari Mayoi Hachikuj goodbye tearsWe have reached the penultimate arc in the second season of Monogatari, a four-episode story titled Shinobu Time. It is an absolutely magnificent run of episodes, for reasons I will enumerate later in the article, but first I need to start with a warning. I can’t possibly do this one justice without getting very spoilerific, so if you haven’t seen this you’ll want to go and watch it first before reading. More importantly, this is one of the most controversial arcs of the series due to Koyomi’s attraction to the physically youngest female characters. It is so integral to the arc that I’m not going to chicken out of discussing the issue, and the review that follows will contain images that may be considered NSFW, and plot details some readers may find disturbing. Continue reading

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Columbo: A Case of Immunity

Columbo Peter FalkDue to a mix up of names, Columbo ends up assigned to a security task force at the Suari Embassy, during the visit of the King of Suari, and it’s lucky that he happens to be there because a murder has just been committed. The problem is that even if Columbo can solve this one, he has no jurisdiction within a foreign embassy and diplomatic immunity will protect the murderer, but Columbo isn’t going to let a little problem like that stop him… Continue reading

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: When She Was Bad

When Buffy says, “hey guys, miss me?” at the start of this episode, she might as well be addressing the viewers. We did miss her, but we don’t actually get her back, at least not until the end of the episode. Instead, by her own admission, we get Buffy the Bitch.

The fact that there is some fallout from the events of the last episode, rather than just moving on, is a very good thing. Buffy lost a battle, died, and had to be saved by Xander, without whom she would have stayed dead. Something akin to PTSD makes perfect sense, and shows that this is a series that is not going to ignore the consequences of the big events. There is a problem in the execution of the idea, though. Buffy moves from being “distant”, seeming to be slightly withdrawn, to being a total pain in the butt, almost in the blink of an eye. She gets so far out of character that Cordelia, of all people, advises her to get over herself. As an aside, it’s nice to see Cordelia continuing her journey towards being a real person rather than a character trope. Continue reading

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The Twilight Zone: Execution

The Twilight Zone Original Logo 1959Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale; the tale of a fateful trip, that started on this tawny horse ‘longside this hangman’s noose…  (Well, nothing’s perfect…)

When The Professor (Russell Johnson) from Gilligan’s Island plays with a time machine, he accidentally snags a convict freshly hanged from a rope for crimes he committed against humanity.  Talk about an unlucky break.  The Professor, not the sharpest tool in the shed, even if he did build a time machine, realizes what Joe Caswell is all about and outright tells him that he has to be sent back to the hangman’s noose.  Needless to say, Caswell doesn’t just say “Ok, George, let’s do this!” and instead beats the life out of the Professor, literally.  Then he goes out on the town and it’s not quite what he expected.  Returning, he gets into a fight with a local criminal, ends up where he began, at the end of a rope, while the local criminal steps into the time machine and ends up back at the moment Caswell left, now the proud owner of a thick and uncomfortable necktie. Continue reading

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Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of Four

I loved reading the Sherlock Holmes stories and I push them like a dealer on a street corner, trying to get members of my family to read them like I get a commission from Conan Doyle’s estate!  But one thing I tell people all the time is to read the short stories first.  If you like them, go on to the four novels.  Don’t try to start with the novels because, no matter how good they are, there’s always a section that leaves you high and dry where Holmes goes missing.  Three out of four of them make Holmes take a backseat to go into exposition and backstory.  The Valley of Fear is by far the worst offender.  The Sign of Four does it to a lesser extent, but when the creators of this magnificent series made this one, they had little choice.  It becomes a bit like Inception, with a story in a story.  She’s telling the story of him, and midway, he tells the story of them… before long, you wonder how deep into the stories you are!  So huge swathes of The Sign of Four is backstory and that’s tedious.  Another big chunk is given over to the slowest boat chase in history.  And yet, the scenes with Holmes are fantastic.    
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Star Trek: The Cloud Minders

Star Trek Blue LogoThis is one of those episodes that never seems to turn up in reruns.  It’s like that forgotten gem that even the networks overlook.  But make no mistake, like so many episodes of season three, this one is important.  I often find myself thinking of it many times in my life when I wonder about the effects of some unseen thing.  What’s that 5g doing to us?  WiFi signal?  Heat from a phone?   Just because it’s unseen doesn’t mean it’s not there.  The Cloudminders dared to tell us that well before it was in vogue to draw our attention to it.  In that respect, Trek was once again looking ahead. Continue reading

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Space: 1999 – The Last Sunset

breakawayWhen the Alphans find a new and “well endowed” planet, Koenig launches an exploratory mission,  when a missile is shot at their Eagle.  Unable to avoid it, Carter readies for an explosion that never comes.  The crew land and take the missile, now deemed some form of probe, into their base where it begins emitting gas.  Before too long, more start raining down on the moon.  And then a lovely thing happens: the gas is actually air and the moon is given an atmosphere.  The group decide to enjoy the great outdoors for a while before Koenig sends Helena, Alan, Sandra and Paul out for a recon of the whole moon.  During the flight, the Eagle crashes and buries itself where no one can spot it. Continue reading

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Otorimonogatari

Otorimonogatari Nadeko MedusaAfter a little detour to watch Hanamonogatari, we are back with Monogatari: Second Season for a four-episode arc titled Otorimonogatari. The title loosely translates as “Decoy Story”, although as is often the case there are subtleties in the use of kanji that are lost in translation. But there is a sense of some kind of a deception, and that applies perfectly to Nadeko, who hides her true personality.                Continue reading

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