Star Trek: By Any Other Name

Star Trek Opening TitlesReplying to a distress call, Kirk and crew find themselves on a stunningly colorful planet. They encounter humanoids that can immobilize them for some classic 60’s “stand still” action. Kudos to the cast for really sticking with it and not moving a muscle. I don’t think I could have done that. (What I want to know is: what was McCoy saying to Spock? Kirk has just been told that the Rojan is going to take over the Enterprise and Kirk says he has a strange sense of humor. McCoy turns to Spock with his finger pointing. What was it to be? See the value of a sense of humor, Spock?) Continue reading

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unregenerateI was just starting to wonder if I’d fallen out of love with the Doctor Who audios when I’d started this.  I mean, I loved when McCoy became the Doctor.  Everything about him was wonderful.  He was comical, but dark and mysterious too.  He rolled his r’s and had a Scottish accent – who doesn’t love a Scottish accent?  But when I started Unregenerate, his confused ramblings just annoyed me.  He rolls those r’s where there’s simply no need.  And Mel… goodness, I was not a fan of her originally and was glad when she left.  But as this story went on, I was becoming increasingly intrigued and Mel carries the bulk of the story.  I’d go so far as to say she makes the story!  That’s a tough thing for me to admit, but there it is. Continue reading

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Made in Abyss: Dawn of the Deep Soul (Review)

Made in Abyss Dawn of the Deep Soul Nanachi Riko PrushkaYou might have reached this point by watching the first series of the anime, or you might have watched the two compilation films that proceed it. Either way, this feature film is the continuation of the Made in Abyss story, and picks up right where the first season left off. There is no attempt to make this accessible for new viewers, so if you haven’t yet watched either the series or the compilation films you will be completely lost. The action takes place in the fifth layer of the Abyss, and this is an ideal leg of the journey for the big budget treatment, because it marks a significant moment: the sixth level is extraordinarily difficult to get into, and nobody ever comes back from there. This is the point of no return. Continue reading

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The Box of Delights Episode 4

The Box of Delights Opening TitlesThe Spider in the Web”

The “spider” of the title presumably refers to Abner, but what flies has he caught, and what will he do with them? There is a theme of capture and escape this week. We get confirmation that Caroline Louisa is officially missing, Abner admits to imprisoning Cole Hawlings, and by the end of the episode Peter has been “scrobbled” too. But the really interesting one is Maria, whose loyalties were in doubt. She certainly comes up trumps here. Continue reading

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The Avengers: Death Dispatch

The Avengers DVD releaseSome poor quality stock footage signals that this episode takes place in Jamaica, at least to start with, and from there becomes a bit of a globe-trotter for Steed and Cathy, with Steed posing as a courier delivering important dispatches from Britain, after the original courier has been murdered. They face some fairly incompetent enemies this week, who are out to kill them right from the start. At the airport, they bizarrely wait patiently while Steed finishes his phone call to Cathy, although he’s clearly playing for time, allowing her to rescue him. Continue reading

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The Outer Limits: The Premonition

Outer Limits 1963 titles logo originalI had a premonition that The Premonition was going to be a lame duck episode and was pleasantly surprised to find it was actually very good.  While it’s again about an experiment that goes wrong, a common theme in the series, it doesn’t play like a negative look at science.  Instead, it creates a situation where a husband and wife seem to fall out of sync with time for one purpose: to save their daughter.  That’s refreshing.  I was just recently talking about Jordan Peele’s Twilight Zone and what a bleak place that seems to be.  The Outer Limits, at least this once, offers us a really pleasant experience for a family, even if it was a bit scary for them.  In the end, they take the entire ordeal as nothing more than a premonition, and I can live with the poetic nature of that outlook. Continue reading

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Doctor Who Flux: Survivors of the Flux

We should have had more faith. When Chris Chibnall wrote UNIT out of Doctor Who in Resolution it seemed like sacrilege, but the man had plans. Survivors of the Flux shows us the Grand Serpent’s interference in UNIT’s history, right from the start, with a lovely little nod to the Brig (or the Colonel as he was at the time), the voice of the late Nicholas Courtney audible from behind a door. Importantly, Kate Lethbridge-Stewart is the only member of UNIT who is any kind of a match for the Serpent, a formidable villain. As soon as an enemy is aware of that he isn’t a human, that person is already in his death throes. It’s perhaps slightly gruesome for a family audience, but Chibnall has succeeded in creating another superb monster. He suddenly seems to have found a knack for that. Continue reading

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Star Trek: Patterns of Force

Star Trek Opening TitlesSome Star Trek episodes are hard to watch.  I’m looking at you, Space Hitler.  Patterns of Force had the decency to explain that the Nazi regime was wrong but hey, they were controlled by bad men and they didn’t intend to be bad.  It’s an enlightened view but it just doesn’t come off well on screen and Kirk is almost too forgiving of his former teacher when everyone knows you DON’T FOLLOW THE WAYS OF THE NAZI.  Like, that’s a universal truth, right there!  The regime was bad and that’s all I need to know.  Continue reading

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Three’s a Crowd

threes a crowdDoctor Who is a wonderful show and Big Finish does a great job keeping it alive.  It even adds some lore in the form of new companions that can smoothly fit in between stories and last for many episodes between the televised adventures.  But sometimes, where it might do a great job in the audio format, it actually can take away something from the televised version.  I’ll qualify that statement.  First off, we know the televised character is never in any real jeopardy because that character has to live to see the television episodes that a given story fits between.  But more than that, taking this episode as an example, there’s a moment when the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) is talking to Peri about the benefits of having three companions.  He mentions Nyssa, Adric and Tegan.  I love the fact that show remembers its history; it’s a complaint I have frequently when it gets ignored.  But the thing is, Erimem is never mentioned in the televised episodes and while we fully understand why that is, I almost feel its a shame. Continue reading

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Love Live! The School Idol Movie (Review)

Love Live MovieWhat better way to conclude a successful anime series than with a movie, and this feels very much like the last word on the story of the original line-up. Unlike a series where the storylines can be divided evenly between the main characters, a movie has to have a tighter focus, and this is very much Honoka’s story, although the other girls all get their moments to shine, particularly in the song performances. Continue reading

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The Box of Delights Episode 3

The Box of Delights Opening TitlesIn Darkest Cellars Underneath”

If you thought there was a weak cliffhanger to the end of the previous episode, it does at least lead to a very important scene at the beginning of the third. There are a couple of revelations here, one of which makes more sense if you have read The Midnight Folk. Most children watching this at the time, myself included, wouldn’t have realised they were actually watching a sequel, in terms of the original novels. Like many children who saw this, I was inspired to buy John Masefield’s original books. So when Kay sees Sylvia Daisy Pouncer and says, “she used to be my governess and she’s a witch”, it might seem like an odd info dump, but it’s a consequence of The Box of Delights being a sequel to The Midnight Folk, in which Sylvia was the antagonist. Abner featured too, but was of lesser importance. It seems a little odd that this information was even included here, as Sylvia is re-established as Abner’s lover, so why do we need to know about any past history beyond that? It’s possible that Alan Seymour was keen to keep his script as close to the original as possible (and it is a very faithful adaptation), although he didn’t bother explaining the backstory with Rat, who used to be Kay’s ally in The Midnight Folk and has now turned traitor. Continue reading

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The Avengers: The Big Thinker

The Avengers DVD releaseWe start with a slow pan around an impressive studio set, and I don’t blame the director for that. He was probably very pleased with the designer’s work for this one and wanted to show off what he had to work with, a two-layer set with a super computer. Looking back at representations of computers on television in the 60s, you’ve got to laugh really, haven’t you. I’ve seen a few of them now, in shows such as Doctor Who and A for Andromeda, and they are always huge affairs, normally with spinning tapes and flashing lights, but Plato is even more bizarre and amusing, with massive tangles of wires, and a giant pipe with… well, I think it was supposed to be some kind of coolant. That was actually the one area where the designer failed to do a convincing job, because that pipe looks like a gentle breeze would bring it crashing down, or at least break the link. Continue reading

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The Outer Limits: The Brain of Colonel Barham

Outer Limits 1963 titles logo originalHere’s all you need to know about The Brain of Colonel Barham.  Col Barham is a really smart dude, but he’s dying of an incurable disease.  As part of an experiment to colonize Mars, the powers-that-be decide they could remove his brain and put it in a jar, pairing it with a computer, and all could be right in the world, but the brain has other ideas and starts showing just how powerful a mind it is. Continue reading

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Alice’s Adventures Underground

Alice Liddell, photographed by Charles Dodgson

Alice Liddell, photographed by Charles Dodgson

On this day in 1865, one of the most remarkable books ever written was first published, but its genesis can be traced back to the summer of 1862.  On 4th July that year, Dodgson went on one of his many boat trips with little Alice Liddell and her sisters, the daughters of a friend and colleague of his, and improvised much of the Alice story.  The real Alice insisted he write the story down, and Alice’s Adventures Underground (as he originally called it), was eventually published as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865, after a great deal of hassle trying to get illustrations drawn to his liking by John Tenniel.  The following are two contemporary newspaper articles, reflecting the positive reception the book received when it was first published: Continue reading

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Doctor Who Flux: Village of the Angels

Doctor Who Flux Village of the Angels televisionThese are the days where writing doesn’t come easy. Why? Because the episode I have to write about is just too good, and there’s nothing particularly interesting about pointing out how good something is. You’re probably not interested in my problems as a reviewer, but they don’t end there, because Village of the Angels is an episode that is very, very good indeed, but only in one specific way that doesn’t invite much comment: it’s pure, unadulterated entertainment. There’s no deeper meaning, no themes to discuss, nothing to get the brain working in particular, and normally that would be a criticism. Typically an episode that doesn’t make us think in some way is a soulless exercise, but it just doesn’t matter with an hour of highly effective horror movie tropes, deftly adapted for a family audience. Continue reading

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Star Trek: Return to Tomorrow

Star Trek Opening TitlesFor having one of Star Trek’s best remembered quotes, Return to Tomorrow is a dreadfully slow affair that offered the chance for greatness and delivered mediocrity.  Conceptually, this is an episode about godlike beings who just want a favor.  That would have been enough; there didn’t have to be a threat posed by a rogue member of the group.  The threat could have been a race against time or something else, that would have still given the actors a chance to flex their muscles while offering mind candy instead of the standard villain of the week.  And Spock is the most notable character change, because he spends far more time smiling than we’ve ever seen before! Continue reading

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catch-1782Which is why I’ve always said that detectives and computer technicians have something in common.  I’d even go so far as to say it’s why I enjoy detective stories; as a fan of time travel, the storytelling is often surprisingly similar: we start with an end result and then have to work backwards to see how it got there.  Take a murder mystery: there’s a murder that frequently is known to the audience in its entirety.  We’ve seen who did it, we know how it’s been done.  Now the fun is in watching the detective piece it together.  In a time travel story, like Catch-1782, we start in the future and have all the pieces presented to us.  When Mel is cast back in time, we needn’t worry because we’ve been given the outcome from the start, but it’s still loads of fun taking the journey to see how we arrived at it.  It still makes for good, fun storytelling but the real delight is in watching the events unfold. Continue reading

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Mysteria Friends (Anime Review)

Originally titled Manaria Friends, but retitled Mysteria Friends by Sentai Filmworks for the international market, this short anime series combines slice-of-life with fantasy. It is inspired by a chapter from a computer game that also spawned its own anime, but apparently no knowledge of the game or the other anime is required or even helpful prior to watching Mysteria Friends. In fact, I didn’t even find out about that until after I had watched it all.                  Continue reading

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The Box of Delights Episode 2

The Box of Delights Episode 2 Snowy LandscapeWhere shall the ‘nighted Snowman go?

We start this episode with Kay slicing at some wolves with a sword and stabbing one to death. OK, we never see the blade make contact with anything, but it’s still pushing things a bit for a children’s show, and it’s an indication of how Kay is having to grow up quickly here. Within minutes of the start of the episode, Cole has made Kay the new guardian of the Box of Delights, and pretty soon Cole has been “scrobbled” by the bad guys, taking away what felt like a safety net of an adult protector and mentor. With Carolina Louisa also out of contact, and the telephone line down, the writer is systematically stripping away everything that normally brings security to the life of a child. Just in case anyone thought the police would be any use, the Inspector writes off Cole’s kidnapping as young officers “having a bit of a frolic”, and seems more interested in showing off his magic tricks than checking if the reported kidnapping really was just “a bit of Christmas ragging”. This is all part of a key development that nearly always has to happen in a children’s adventure story. The fallback position of getting help from adults has to be removed from the equation. Continue reading

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The Avengers: Traitor in Zebra

The Avengers DVD releaseAt the start of this episode I thought I had put the disk in for Doctor Who: The War Games by mistake, with the opening shot of General Smythe looking thoughtfully out of the window, but it was actually not Smythe, but another high ranking military officer played by the same actor. Noel Coleman was presumably typecast as that kind of character, but you can’t really blame the directors for choosing him for those kinds of roles because he’s a natural at them. Also a natural at wearing a uniform is “Commander Steed”, who looks great in that navy hat. Continue reading

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