The Avengers: Dressed to Kill

The Avengers DVD releaseThe set-up for this story is an odd chain of events to say the least. The nation’s early warning systems for a nuclear attack are triggered by a deliberate hoax, with the exception of one military base in Cornwall. Our first link in the strange chain is why that leads Steed to be interested in the one that didn’t get set off, rather than focussing on how the others were set off, and in order to investigate he decides to buy a parcel of land from a wider area that is being divided up. That’s our second link in the odd chain. The third is an invitation for Steed to attend a fancy dress party on a train, where he meets rich potential buyers of the other parcels of land, and at that point the story really kicks off properly. Continue reading

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Space: 1999 – The Immunity Syndrome

breakawayThe Immunity Syndrome... you’d almost expect the Alphans to find themselves in a giant amoeba, but that’s a different show. However, the title isn’t the only thing this story shares with Classic Star Trek. It took me 47 episodes to notice, but Helena must have been a distant relative of Doctor McCoy – she spends far more time on the command deck than in medbay! The episode also shares some ideas with other classic Trek episodes, as we’ll see below. Continue reading

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The Andromeda Breakthrough: Hurricane

Last week I mentioned how close this series had come to being a pro-xenophobia story, with Fleming proved to be right in his assumption that the aliens behind the computer intended to take control of the human race and, failing that, destroy everyone. The fifth episode provides a good counterbalance to that, with the emphasis on how humanity can only survive if enemy nations cooperate with each other.               Continue reading

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The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Episode Three

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe BBC titles Episode 3For the second week in a row, Edmund is by far the most interesting character in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Last week we discussed how his lying was discovered, and whether he would react to that with contrition, or by doubling down on his treachery. This week we get the answer to that question, with Edmund sneaking off to see the White Witch and betraying his family. Continue reading

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Band Candy

At the end of Season Two and the beginning of Season Three, Joyce was the source of at least some of Buffy’s problems. With a more supportive mother, she would not have ended up running away, for a start. Arguably, Giles is now the source of Buffy’s Angel problem, because she is assuming a very negative (and possibly violent) reaction from him if he finds out, although it remains to be seen if she is underestimating the father figure in her life. Either way, Buffy has become like a child playing two parents off against each other, using one as the excuse for absence from the company of the other. The parental figures in her life have become a problem, stifling her and limiting her freedom. Continue reading

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The Twilight Zone: The Invaders

The Twilight Zone Original Logo 1959I think it’s safe to say that anyone who has ever watched The Twilight Zone has seen The Invaders.  It’s up there with those other classics like Time Enough at Last or Eye of the Beholder.  But let’s pretend it’s the first time we’re seeing it.  Rod Serling opens up with his standard monologue and then for the next 22 minutes, we get an episode without any words.  The entire thing is carried by Agnes Moorehead grunting and being frightened.  And it works exceptionally well.  Even the music adds to the sense of dread and this one does have an excellent score! Continue reading

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Sherlock Holmes: The Mazarin Stone

How do you ruin a Sherlock Holmes story?  That’s a loaded question which deserves a loaded answer.  For one, you take out the main character.  Brett was ill at the time of filming and has less than 30 seconds on screen.  This is an adventure for Watson and Mycroft.  On it’s own, it’s not bad but then there’s the little matter of the story itself.  Or should I say “stories”.

I remember The Mazarin Stone with fondness.  Holmes never leaves his room in the original story.  There was a coziness to that one that has a fun ending.  But the episode version merges The Mazarin Stone with another classic: The Three Garidebs.  Now what makes the utterly deplorable is that in all 60 stories, there is only one time that I recalled where Holmes has a genuine emotional response to something happening to Watson.  Continue reading

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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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