The Avengers: The Removal Men

The Avengers DVD releaseVenus is back, and I’m starting to appreciate the approach of alternating between associates for Steed. It certainly keeps things fresh. This time Venus has found herself a job as a singer in a French nightclub, where there is a lot of 60s dancing going on: lean forwards, wriggle hips from side to side, repeat. It’s a good job with a decent rate of pay, and Steed waltzes in and messes it all up for her. She is remarkably tolerant of him. Continue reading

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The Outer Limits: Wolf 359

Outer Limits 1963 titles logo originalI’m betting most of you know the story of Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.  At least, you’ve either read the Illustrated Classic as a kid, or you’ve seen the Disney movie, or you just know the story because it’s one of the original science fiction stories.  But have you ever read it?  It’s not that it isn’t good; there is a story and it is intriguing but the book reads a bit like a text book.  It’s slow and chock full of facts about the depth of the sea and the water pressure that accumulates per square inch, and it talks about the various life under the sea… in short, it reads like Verne is teaching a bunch of bored kids and he puts a story to it to keep them interested.  Not a bad strategy but a bit slow by modern standards.  Wolf 359 is conceptually marvelous, but in production, it’s one of the slowest episodes of the series, rivaling The Production and Decay of Strange Particles.  That’s saying something! Continue reading

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What Remains of Edith Finch

20210912141959_1It’s been a while, but we’re back with some games that I got into while we were on a Twilight Zone kick!

Some time ago, I picked up a game called Gone Home which one might call a walking simulator, in that you spend the entire game walking around a house getting clues about a family while finding neat little secret passages.  The game is not exciting, but it is totally immersive, and for a mere $2, I found myself deeply interested in the story.  I played the game through in one sitting.  This is not a feat; the game might run 90 minutes.  Some time later, I found another walking simulator which Epic Games released for free called Tacoma.  This was superior in that there’s a real mystery and it was more my speed, which is to say: Sci-fi. I actually still highly recommend this game.  So I got talking to a good friend of mine over dinner one night and he suggested I try What Remains of Edith Finch.  I’d seen it many times and it looked interesting but I hadn’t picked it up.  As his recommendations are usually on the money, I thought I’d give it a whirl. Continue reading

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Star Trek: Wolf in the Fold

Star Trek Opening TitlesStar Trek decides to boldly go into some unusual places and for this episode, we are going to the planet Argelius II … or Whitechapel, circa 1888.  You know who we’re about to meet already, don’t you?

It’s always fun examining the object of the missions in this series.  In this story, “Doctor” McCoy prescribes rest for Scotty after he receives a major head injury.  Alright I put doctor in quotes because I am actually coming around to Roger’s belief about this guy… he is just a random guy who walked onto the Enterprise one day!   And why is that?  Because he has a litany of blunders throughout this episode. Continue reading

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caerdroiaI’d be lying if I said I liked the name of this episode, but it’s not one of those weirdly spelled alien names as you might expect, but rather it’s a Welsh word for, essentially, a maze.  That might not make sense in an alternate universe, but it’s explained away with a wave of the hand that just makes the listener think, “ok, let’s just accept it and move on.”  And then it gets really good, really fast.  The worst thing about this one is the cover art, in fact.  (Typically I love the cover art, but this one left a lot to be desired!)  One thing you never expect in a Doctor Who story is for the Doctor to start out with the upper hand, yet episode one basically puts the Doctor in a place to dominate the dominator.  The Kro’ka is trapped by the Doctor very early on which is a distinct change; a subversion of the standard expectation.  So from the word go, I wasn’t worried about much in the line of Welsh words turning up in the Divergent universe. Continue reading

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Domestic Girlfriend (Anime Review)

Domestic Girlfriend Rui Bath sceneNatsuo is in love with his young, beautiful teacher, Hina. When he is invited to a mixer by a couple of friends his heart isn’t really in it, but he goes along and meets a girl his own age, Rui. She takes him back to her place and suggests a one night stand. Being as he’s a teenage boy, he’s not going to say no to that. It’s not as seedy as it sounds, although the animation does go a bit further than the average anime in terms of what it shows, but the point is that Rui just wants to experience what it’s like and there’s no emotional connection at all. As is typical for the first time, the world doesn’t really move, even if the bed does a bit. Continue reading

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The Fanservice Debate: Nisemonogatari Episode 4

Can fanservice ever be justified in anime or is it a disturbing and unnecessary aspect of the genre? In this occasional series we look at the rights and wrongs of fanservice and other questionable content in anime. A warning: this series will have plenty of spoilers and sometimes NSFW discussions and images. This week, the fourth episode of the second full series of the sprawling Monogatari franchise, Nisemonogatari. Continue reading

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Columbo: Swan Song (Review)

Columbo Peter FalkHats off to Johnny Cash. Not only did he take on an acting role, and do an amazing job of it, the character he played here was a distorted version of himself. Tommy Brown is a big star in the world of country music, but he is also a murderer with a propensity for going after underage girls. It must have taken some courage for a successful singer to take on an acting role like this.

The Motive

Tommy Brown’s wife Edna is devoted to her faith, and like many religious zealots that means she talks a lot about God and lives her life in an entirely hypocritical manner. This doer of good found out that her husband had an affair with a 16 year old, and instead of bringing him to justice or at least trying to help the girl involved, she keeps the girl close by to use her as a tool for blackmailing her husband. She does that ruthlessly and uncompromisingly, allowing him no enjoyment in return for his successful singing career. Every penny must go towards building a temple. Tommy is a big star, and he wants the money and girls (young girls) that he thinks should come with that territory. Instead he’s not even allowed to buy his own car. Continue reading

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The Avengers: Mission to Montreal

The Avengers DVD releaseThe bizarre rotating door of associates for Steed continues with the introduction of Dr Martin King. I always insist on watching any series for the first time in the original broadcast order, but I am really beginning to understand the thinking behind the DVD release going with the production order instead, because the way these episodes were broadcast is a mess. Presumably nobody had any confidence in this episode as a debut for a new series, which is odd because I thought it was a very strong opener, and it really does feel like an Episode One of a new season. Perhaps somebody got cold feet about started the series with an episode where Steed doesn’t appear for the first 20 minutes, which therefore relies on the story holding your attention well enough not to miss the Season One regulars, which it certainly did in my case. Continue reading

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The Outer Limits: The Invisible Enemy

Outer Limits 1963 titles logo originalHoly Rosetta Stone, Batman!

One of my oldest friends often questions me on where it all began.  He tries to figure out if my love of science fiction influenced who I became or if I was on this path and found science fiction.  Like finding the center of a tootsie pop, the world may never know.  But one possible early influence for me was The Invisible Enemy.  When I was a very little boy, I was in the basement with my grandmother while she was doing laundry.  On a TV right outside the laundry room, The Outer Limits was on… and it ignited my imagination like a match in a room full of TNT.  After watching this very scary episode… well, at least to a young child… my grandmothers basement transformed into Mars, and heaven forbid you stepped on the rug.  What made it more fun was that there was a couch on the far wall and strangely, there was a light switch that changed the basement green.  (Ok, not exactly Mars, but I can blame my grandfather… if he were blamable for anything; the man was a hero to me even then!)  After my sister was born, this danger zone still existed and we would also pretend the basement was the surface of the planet; we’d climb over everything to avoid being eaten by the creatures that lived under the sand.  This episode may very well hold a key to why I love science fiction. Continue reading

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The Twilight Zone: You Might Also Like

The Twilight Zone Original Logo 1959When I watched Try, Try, I was disappointed and made the comment that out of 20 episodes, there were only 4 really great ones.  I neglected Blurryman when I said that, which would have brought us up to 5.  With You Might Also Like, I can say there were 6 really great stories, and three (Blue Scorpion, Replay, Downtime) were on the higher end of average.  Having said that, this episode is not without its commentary but it did one thing right – and I mean really right – it has a sense of humor.  I laughed a lot during this episode.  The episode is broken into 4 chapters focusing on Gretchen Mol as Mrs. Janet Warren who notices she’s losing time in her day.  She finds herself waking up in her bed when she wasn’t there previously. She invites her friend Greta over,  who experiences the same thing while in her company.  This leads to some outstanding dialogue because, while they are both freaked out by the events, Lee gets distracted talking about how much light a room gets and other mundane household things.   Janet is initially confused by Lee’s apparently casual dismissal of what happened, but ends up entertaining the conversation, which actually makes it even funnier.  Janet, unable to get her friend to help her (“your problems are not my problems!”), comes up with a plan, and then things get really enjoyable. 
Continue reading

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Star Trek: Obsession

Star Trek Opening TitlesWell if there’s an episode that goes heavy on redshirt deaths, its Obsession!  If I counted correctly, we lose at least 5, but some don’t die immediately, get brought back to the ship then die offscreen later, so I’m not 100% on the count, but I think 5 is a fair number.  This episode also improves upon an idea first posed during the Outer Limits episode It Crawled out of the Woodwork (1963), teaching us how to make a smell ominous.  It’s not repeating “deadly sweet” over and over, but the occasional use of “sickly sweet” which is far more accurate.  (I mean who ever died from smelling something sweet?  I can see getting a bit ill, but outright death?) Continue reading

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The Last

the lastNot for nothing, but you have to give Big Finish massive kudos for some of their stories.  The advantage of being in a different universe means they have the freedom of playing with the logic of the land.  Add to that, the very format is different to televised episodes which can give them the ingredients for some outstanding storytelling.  The Last is just another example of how to pull the wool over the… ears… of the listener. Continue reading

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Little Busters! (Season One Review)

I bought this anime series expecting a bit of fun about a group of friends putting together a baseball team. I wasn’t disappointed, but I also got an emotional roller-coaster into the bargain. After a few episodes I checked online and found this has its origins in a game made by Key, who were also responsible for Clannad, so I was no longer surprised to be watching something that stirs the emotions almost every episode. This is no Clannad, but it shares an ability to make the viewers care strongly about the plight of each and every character, despite a large ensemble cast. Continue reading

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Columbo: Mind Over Mayhem (Review)

Columbo Peter FalkWhen I was a child, I saw this episode of Columbo and absolutely loved it. This might just be the episode that turned me into a Columbo fan. Rewatching it as an adult, I thought it was the weakest episode so far. So what went so right and so wrong? Let’s find out.

The Motive

Dr. Marshall Cahill is the director of the Cybernetic Research Institute. He is a pushy father who loves his son, but wants the reflected glory of a son who follows in his footsteps. Cracking under the pressure, his son has plagiarised somebody else’s work in order to win an award. Cahill’s colleague Dr. Howard Nicholson has found out, and is threatening to expose his son as a fraud. Nicholson doesn’t realise that Cahill is a man who will do anything for his son, even murder… Continue reading

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The Avengers: Bullseye

The Avengers DVD releaseThere are three separate strands to the mystery in this episode, and the tricky bit is figuring out how those strands are connected: (1) weapons from a British gun maker are turning up illegally in Africa; (2) the company’s shareholders are being murdered, one by one; (3) a rich investor is buying up all the shares, in an aggressive takeover bid. Continue reading

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The Outer Limits: Cry of Silence

Outer Limits 1963 titles logo originalThe first time I’d watched The Outer Limits, I was not yet familiar with the works of H.P. Lovecraft.  Anyone who’s read The Color out of Space has experienced the terror and the dread of that remote farmhouse and the strange lifeform that crashed there.  I don’t remember any Outer Limits episode being quite so Lovecraftian as Cry of Silence.  It’s actually a very frightening episode and I was amazed at how fast it went by.  I wonder if anyone else has made the connection with The Color out of Space, but having recently watched the Nick Cage version, it’s fresh in my mind.  (Although in reality, that one has never faded from my memory!) Continue reading

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The Twilight Zone: Try, Try

The Twilight Zone Original Logo 1959Well, I can’t say I’m disappointed that the series is coming to an end.  We had a number of great episodes in a row, but for the penultimate one, Try Try, we’re back to heavy handed messages about the hostility of men in the world.  Didn’t we have that lesson in season one already?  Did we need it again?  Or was this story intended as just a repeat of this season’s empathy-lacking stories, Meet in the Middle and The Who of You? Whichever way you cut it, it felt like another of those groaners that must be how teenagers feel when you’re yelling at them for the umpteenth time that day.  It’s not a warm fuzzy feeling and it just makes you want to quit trying!  That’s a shame because I really thought Peele was onto something.
Continue reading

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Star Trek: The Deadly Years

Star Trek Opening TitlesTalk about depressing!  I mean, here’s the thing: Trek often tackles some big ideas and often that’s about slavery or racism or pets that reproduce so quickly they eat you out of house and home (…ok, fine, we’re not there yet), but when we start to look at a beast of indomitable power that will come for all of us… well, I want something a bit less … well, real!  In this episode, the senior staff really becomes the senior staff!  (Read: Senior Citizen Staff!)  And the reminder of what we may all face in our futures is a bitter pill to swallow.  At least they maintain standard orbit again, so I get one chuckle! Continue reading

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Faith Stealer

faithstealerSome Doctor Who stories are good, if a bit mundane.  I mean, it’s not an out-of-this-world story that has the Doctor’s friends under mental control of some alien influence that tries to kill them.  Been there, done that.  What is interesting is that this story has something to say about religion and that adds a layer of complexity to my feelings about it. Continue reading

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