The Avengers: Death a la Carte

The Avengers DVD releaseOn the same evening that a Dalek first waved a menacing sink plunger at one of the Doctor’s companions, over on the other channel The Avengers offered Death a la Carte, later the same evening, written by future Doctor Who writer John Lucarotti, and starring no fewer than four Doctor Who alumni: Honor Blackman, of course, David Nettheim (Enemy of the World) as chef Umberto Equi, Henry Lincoln (co-creator of the Yeti) blacked up as Emir Abdulla Akaba, credited by his stage name Henry Soskin, and Robert James as Brigadier Mellor. James would later be menaced himself by the Daleks in Patrick Troughton’s debut story, Power of the Daleks. Instead here he provides most of the villainy himself, with the help of a couple of co-conspirators. The identity of the villains is revealed very early on and is never really much of a mystery, so the dramatic tension instead springs from whether they will succeed in their plans or not. Continue reading

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Space: 1999 – Devil’s Planet

breakawayLast week I made the observation that a Koenig-free episode was excellent and Koenig himself may play a part in why some episodes are especially weak.  This episode comes along and features only Koenig from the main cast (with no explanation of why, I might add) and the episode peters along at such a staggeringly slow pace, that I was looking for things to munch on throughout the episode, determined to keep my eyes open.        Continue reading

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The Andromeda Breakthrough: Storm Centres

The audience research reports for The Andromeda Breakthrough in 1962 indicated that viewers felt the series was slow to get going, but this episode finally picked up the pace with some exciting developments. I’m paraphrasing, but I think the viewers are the time were exactly right in their opinions. In a way, the extreme weather conditions happening in this series have been an accidental metaphor for the development of the story. Things started out a bit breezy and weird, but with this episode the storms really hit.           Continue reading

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The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Episode Two

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe on screen title episode twoIn the first episode, Edmund made the ironic comment that, “in the country, nothing ever happens.” This week he learns how wrong he was, becoming the second of the children to meet somebody in Narnia, but whereas Lucy was lucky enough to meet gentle, brave Mr Tumnus, Edmund is unlucky enough to encounter the White Witch, or the White Queen, as she calls herself. When she decides he is too useful to be killed, she enters into a period of manipulation, which is uncomfortably close to how grooming of a child must look: the creepy stroking of his face, being kind to him, plying him with treats, offering him the chance of more if he cooperates, persuading him that their relationship is going to be their little secret, and establishing a twisted parent/child relationship: Continue reading

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Homecoming

After a run of four high quality episodes to start the season, Homecoming feels like a throwback to Season One. Cordelia is social networking, literally buying votes in an attempt to become Homecoming Queen, Buffy is getting upset about not having a normal life, and a bunch of easily defeated villains have arrived in town with grand plans.

It’s all a bit silly and same-old-same-old, so let’s ignore all that and instead focus on three bits of big news this episode: the debut of the character of the Mayor, Buffy’s breakup with Scott, and that kiss. Continue reading

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The Twilight Zone: The Whole Truth

The Twilight Zone Original Logo 1959I guess I can’t fault Rod Serling for aiming for some comedy from time to time.  I spend a good deal of my time being whimsical and playful.  Why should Serling only write dark drama?  He’s as entitled to humor as the next guy. But The Whole Truth felt like the setup for a joke.  “A used car salesman and a politician walk into a bar…”  And yet that’s what we get here: a story about a used car salesman who has to tell the truth and a politician who gives him an idea… Continue reading

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Meglos 2022

We interrupt our regularly scheduled review of Sherlock Holmes for a Thanksgiving Day special convention report…

Long Island WhoOn Saturday, November 19th, I again set off on that 100 mile drive to Holtsville, NY where Ken Deep was hosting another Doctor Who convention.  This was one of the better conventions I’ve spent time at in recent years but that’s not to say it was flawless.  I’ve been to this venue before and I don’t think it’s really cut out for the crowd.  Arriving just ahead of the 10am start, I was amazed that I had to park all the way around the back of the hotel.  Walking in was a chilly affair since I didn’t want to have a jacket on the whole time I was in the building, but at least it was sunny; a fickle time of year and November is not known for being predictable.  Then I was again bummed that the dealers room did not open until 11 and I think it’s important to understand why that matters.  I go to these cons for a few things: the celebrities are a big part but that varies.  Continue reading

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The Avengers: Don’t Look Behind You

The Avengers DVD releaseIn the introduction to this episode on the DVD, Patrick Macnee describes it as “the best television show of the entire series”, and that’s despite having very little to do with the story himself. He can’t have formed that opinion just because he got to drive a fancy car, but when the opening shot is of a man cutting up a photo of Cathy and putting her eyes and mouth back upside down it feels like we are watching something very different to anything we have seen before. This is creepy and surreal, and leans far more towards horror than any of the previous episodes. Continue reading

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Space: 1999 – Dorzak

breakawayHere’s an observation: Koenig is utterly absent from this episode and it’s excellent.  Call me a cynic, but that stands out to me.  He’s apparently exploring asteroids that might be habitable.  I say: stay there.

This episode has an alien spaceship approach with a “universal plague warning sound” alerting Alpha to a problem.  Now, my first thought was, “how do they know that all races have the same sound for certain things.”  Shortly thereafter, the computer confirms the origin of the alien spaceship.  How??  Perhaps the main character of this episode, Dorzak, offers the line to explain it. He says to Maya, “Without your Psychon help…”  The rest of the sentence isn’t the important bit – it’s that if we go by Helena’s logs, Maya joined the crew during some of the earliest days of their travels and she probably gave them some advances including awareness of universal alerts, among other things.  Anyway, back to the story: the visiting ship has a prisoner: another Psychon (one of Maya’s own people) and he’s supposedly a criminal.  Maya doesn’t believe it.  What takes place over the next hour is a tense round of “who do I believe!”  And it’s one twist after another.

Continue reading

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The Andromeda Breakthrough: Azaran Forecast

The third episode of The Andromeda Breakthrough takes us on a journey from bad guys being in charge of alien technology, to very bad guys being in charge of alien technology. Most of the episode is concerned with a revolution in a made up country. The political intrigue is well-written, but it seems like a distraction from the main thrust of the story. After all, what difference does it make to Fleming whether the computer is in the hands of the President of Azaran, or Colonel Salim? From Fleming’s point of view, he just doesn’t want the computer to exist at all. Continue reading

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The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Episode One

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe 1988 title logoLast Christmas I wrote about the 1984 BBC adaptation of The Box of Delights, in a popular episode-by-episode series of articles. The obvious follow up to that is another series that captivated me as a child, the spiritual successor to The Box of Delights in many ways, the 1988 BBC adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Continue reading

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Beauty and the Beasts

So far this season every episode has taken an issue facing Buffy and dealt with it by translating a metaphor into a literal monster to fight. This week it is Faith’s turn to supply the metaphor: “all men are beasts,” and the problem Buffy has to deal with is the return of Angel in feral form. Meanwhile, people are being ripped apart by an animal, and the question is whether Oz is responsible or perhaps even Angel. One of the men in her life might be an out-of-control beast. Continue reading

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The Twilight Zone: Back There

The Twilight Zone Original Logo 1959Really though, what’s the likelihood that The Professor from Gilligan’s Island (Russell Johnson) would be in another time travel episode of The Twilight Zone?   Well, clearly the likelihood was quite high because he’s back for that very thing.  Last time, we saw Russell Johnson, he had pulled a guy from the past to the present then sent him back again.  This time as Peter Corrigan, he starts in the present, travels back there and ends by returning to the present.  Poetic justice, I say!  In Execution, he’s responsible for saving a murderer from the gallows (at least temporarily).  In Back There, he tries desperately to prevent a catastrophic event from happening, namely, the assassination of President Lincoln. Continue reading

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Sherlock Holmes: The Red Circle

I couldn’t recall what The Red Circle was about until I’d started the episode.  Then it came flooding back.  Could this have a stronger impact than the written version?  The answer is yes!  

Opening with a murder on the doorstep and a red circle painted on a nearby column, I remembered that Doyle had a thing about the Mafia.  Holmes’s assistance is requested because he had once helped bring “light into the darkness” for another Italian.  I think that sums up one of the things I thoroughly appreciate about this character: he’s a man who helps turn the bizarre into the ordinary! Continue reading

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The Avengers: The Golden Fleece

The Avengers DVD releaseA few weeks ago, The Gilded Cage blurred the lines between heroes and villains. The Golden Fleece goes even further down that path. Between 1945 and the end of the decade UK armed forces personnel were reduced from nearly five million to about three quarters of a million. By the end of the 1950s that figure had dropped to around half a million and today stands at around 145,000. So what happens to those men and women when they resume their lives on Civvy Street? Continue reading

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Space: 1999 – The Séance Spectre

breakawayIt’s a title one expects to find in a ghost story, but there are no ghosts.  This isn’t a horror story or anything of the kind.  We only lose a single crewman, so it doesn’t even come close to falling into that realm.  I’d barely say there’s even a séance, although the chief villains do sit around holding hands and chanting.  But there’s no evil entity of any sort short of the one guy, Sanderson, who is part of a team who explore the surface of the moon.  So let’s ask the Ouija board if this is a good episode…           Continue reading

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The Andromeda Breakthrough: Gale Warning

In the first episode of The Andromeda Breakthrough, Fleming was very much the master of his own destiny, on the run with Andromeda and successfully evading capture, even foiling the plans of gunmen who arrived at the hermit’s cottage where they were hiding out. Gale Warning is quite a contrast, because Fleming and Andromeda are swept up by events, captured twice and at the mercy of two different factions.           Continue reading

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The Edgar Wallace Mysteries: Dead Man’s Chest

The Edgar Wallace MysteriesThe idea for this film takes some believing. John Thaw plays David Jones, a young journalist who decides to fake a murder in order to generate a hoax story to make headlines. He is after “interviews, syndicated rights, television”. It’s a very warped idea, and one wonders how anyone would think they could get away with something like that and then make money out of it. Taking on the role of his victim is Johnnie Gordon, played by John Meillon, who has to be concealed in a large wooden chest. It all goes horribly wrong when the car Jones is driving gets stolen by the entertainingly-named Knocker (Jack Rodney), a member of a criminal gang that also includes characters played by John Abineri and Peter Bowles (the cast of this one is amazing), and the box is dumped in a dusty corner of a shed and forgotten about. Continue reading

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Faith, Hope & Trick

Faith, Hope and Trick. Let’s deal with those three in reverse order, as that approach will take us on a journey from least to most interesting. Mr Trick is presumably going to be around for a while, so it’s too early to stand in judgement over him too much, but first impressions would suggest that he’s a sort of watered down version of Spike. He’s a vampire who embraces the modern world and survives, in comparison to “Kissing Toast”, an ancient relic with a grudge who doesn’t make it to the end of the episode. I would think Mr Trick is an excellent character… if I hadn’t just watched Spike for a year. Instead, he just makes me want the real deal to return soon, instead of having to watch the tribute act. Continue reading

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The Twilight Zone: Dust

The Twilight Zone Original Logo 1959The Western has never been my thing.  Barring Tombstone, which was excellent despite being very true to form, most Westerns have some good scenes but are usually all about violence and revenge.  I don’t mind a good revenge movie, but I like them as occasional action movies, not an entire genre being about it.  The whole of the Western genre is about little more than cowboy justice.  Oh, I know some Western fans are going to tell me there’s more to it than that, and maybe there is, but Dust is a prime example that proves the rule.  Sure, it’s got a surprise ending but it’s a Twilight Zone episode, so what do you expect? Continue reading

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