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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Sherlock Holmes: The Golden Pince-Nez

I typically like everyone.  My wife often makes fun of me for that.  It’s like I’m a golden retriever who is just happy to talk to people.  But when I started watching The Golden Pince-Nez, I couldn’t stand The Professor.  It was that utterly disgusting habit of smoking one cigarette after another. “The cold air won’t help my bronchial condition!”  You think that’s what’s causing your condition, do you?

I was recently outside a restaurant bidding some dear friends goodbye as they planned for a month away from home and this guy came out repeatedly to smoke sometimes 2 or more cigarettes before going back to his meal.  I was so disgusted by it.  I mean, I don’t like the idea of smoking to begin with because I think: hey, if you want to die, there are faster ways and I don’t have to get collateral poisoning, but watching someone chain smoke exacerbates an already grotesque habit.  It’s like biting nails, but with a higher risk of killing you down the line.  So watching the main character chain smoke to this extent was really off-putting.  Luckily, the story is a very good one. Continue reading

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The Avengers: The Grandeur That Was Rome

The Avengers DVD releaseRight from the start this episode had my attention, with a courtyard full of Roman statues and ivy growing around the walls. It’s a great setting for a story, but then I do have to admit that I share Sir Bruno Luca’s fascination with Roman art and architecture. I certainly don’t share his sad dream of the Roman Empire existing once more, and I’m not sure Sir Bruno entirely believed in his own weird ambitions either. I’ll explain. Continue reading

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Space: 1999 – Bringers of Wonder

breakawayIt’s the only two-parter in the whole run of Space: 1999 and the question I had been wondering is whether this would be too much tedium or would two parts actually be worth it.

Part one, now 1912 days into their travels, opens with Koenig going mad, taking an Eagle for an erratic joy ride before crashing into one of the nuclear silos.  He’s brought back to the base under observation and out cold when an alien ship arrives.  Long range scans show it’s a ship of known configuration; a Superswift.  (Tony still takes Koenig’s place by ordering the weapons to target the approaching vessel, because why be friends?)  When the ship lands, contact is made and to everyone’s surprise, they  know the crew.  Tony’s brother is at the helm.  They are allowed to enter the base. Continue reading

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The Andromeda Breakthrough: Cold Front

A couple of years ago I wrote articles about the one-and-a-bit remaining episodes of A for Andromeda, the 1961 sci-fi series. It has taken me two years to get around to the sequel from 1962, due to the difficulty in getting hold of these episodes. They were released on DVD in 2006 in a box set with the first series, titled The Andromeda Anthology, but the set has long since gone out of production and now exchanges hands for silly prices on the second hand market. Patience pays off, and I finally found a set listed for a reasonable price and snapped it up. At last I can find out what happened next to John Fleming, Madeleine Dawnay, and the sinister Kaufman… Continue reading

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The Edgar Wallace Mysteries: Strangler’s Web

The Edgar Wallace MysteriesWe are really getting into the spirit of the 60s here, with some interesting dance techniques at a hip and happening discotheque. Playing the most 1960s of all possible characters is Pauline Boty, better known for her pop art and tragic death at the age of just 28, as the bubbly Nell Pretty. It would be Boty’s final performance. She is great fun here, particularly when driving like a lunatic. Continue reading

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Dead Man’s Party

For the second episode in a row, the writers of Buffy deal with the metaphorical by translating it into the literal. Last week we had the idea of children being forced to grow up fast, represented by literal accelerated ageing. This week, the metaphor is put into words by Xander: “You can’t just bury stuff, Buffy. It will come right back up to get you.” Writer Marti Noxon gives us the literal representation of the “burying stuff” metaphor when a cat digs its way out of its grave in zombified form, shortly followed by a whole bunch of dead bodies. Continue reading

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The Twilight Zone: The Night of the Meek

The Twilight Zone Original Logo 1959It’s a funny thing: I knew this episode was coming and I was bummed.  As a kid, this was one of my least liked episodes.  Art Carney, who I loved in The Honeymooners with Jackie Gleason, stars as Henry Corwin, a drunk Santa Claus.  It’s a little depressing too and Carney plays the drunk almost too well.  John Fiedler, who seemed to turn up in everything back in the day, plays his annoying boss, Mr. Dundee.  I guess I wanted monsters in my Twilight Zone, not this!  But I’m not a kid anymore and tastes change as we age and we come to an understanding about the way things are.  Sometimes those things are unpleasant. Continue reading

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Sherlock Holmes: The Dying Detective

I am delighted to say that after a very weak start to Season 4 of Sherlock Holmes, the second episode was a major triumph.  It spends over half the episode getting us ready for the pièce de résistance, but when it comes, it’s extremely triumphant!  

Jonathan Hyde plays Culverton Smith.  This is the man known to genre fans as Eldritch Palmer in the FX vampire series The Strain.  I recognized him instantly and he’s excellent at playing a villain, so once again we see the value of a good villain.  Then we get Downton Abbey’s Lord Grantham, Hugh Bonneville as the primary victim, Victor Savage.  So early on we have a good cast.  Luckily both Holmes and Watson are also on form again although it’s hard to watch Jeremy Brett’s deterioration.  He was so perfect as Holmes that it’s hard to imagine that my final few episodes with him will show his weight gain and the paleness of his skin.  At least for this episode that might have worked well for him, but it isn’t a great state of affairs since this episode is called the Dying Detective.  Very sad indeed.  I still say, no one comes close to Sherlock the way he does!
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The Avengers: The Medicine Men

The Avengers DVD releaseIn 1961 Sydney Newman created The Avengers for ABC. Two years later he created another long-running series for rival channel BBC. You might have heard of it: Doctor Who. On 23rd November 1963, Doctor Who made it’s debut at 5.15pm on the BBC. Over on rival network ITV, The Avengers episode The Medicine Man was shown later the same evening, written by Malcolm Hulke, who would go on to create the Silurians and the Sea Devils for Doctor Who, and starring future Who alumni Peter Barkworth and Harold Innocent (although the latter’s appearance in Doctor Who would come some 25 years later). Had I been around at the time, I know which series I would have been happier watching on that famous evening in television history, because The Medicine Men is a slow-burner of an episode to say the least. Continue reading

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Space: 1999 – The Lambda Factor

breakawayA few episodes ago, I was surprised to see the writers Pip and Jane Baker behind an episode of Space: 1999.  Today, we have other news!  Terrance Dicks, one of the most prolific of the Doctor Who writers, makes his was onto Moon Base Alpha with another simple idea that captures the attention from start to finish.  Unsurprising, really.

2308 days into their journey, they find themselves in a “Peace Zone”, an area of space where nothing harmful happens.  Until something harmful happens.  Continue reading

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Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs

Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs Yaya FanserviceHappy Halloween, and what better time of year to take a look at an anime series about a ghost, a demon-slaying ninja, a psychic who fights evil spirits and a bunch of girls who regularly expose their naked bodies to the main character. Oh, that last bit isn’t particularly scary, is it (except in the case of predatory, drunken, anatomically-unlikely pervert Nonko), but this is what you get when ghostly tropes are combined with the laziest excesses of anime fanservice. Welcome to the Yuragi Inn, where nobody’s clothes stay on for very long. Continue reading

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A History of Yeti Sightings

If you’re a fan of classic Doctor Who, you’ll probably love the two Patrick Troughton stories featuring the Yeti, from 1967 and 1968.  It’s not hard to see why Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln might have been inspired to write stories about Abominable Snowmen, which were often the subject of fevered news reports in the 1960s in particular.  Earlier the same decade, Sir Edmund Hillary had brought back a scalp from a Himalayan monastery, purportedly evidence of a Yeti.  Actual sightings are far rarer than most people probably realise, and the first I can find is from the 1832 Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, which included an article written by Brian Houghton Hodgson. Continue reading

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Anne

Like Season Two, we begin the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with the world turned upside down for Buffy’s friends, with Willow, Xander and Oz trying to cope with life without her. They are a haphazard substitute for a slayer, but they are doing their best. Hope keeps them going, with Willow’s “past tense rule” showing her refusal to accept that Buffy is gone. Meanwhile, hope springs eternal at the start of the new school year, with Xander and Cordelia expecting fireworks when they reunite, and a great little cameo appearance from Larry:

“If we can focus, keep disciplined, and not have quite so many mysterious deaths, Sunnydale is gonna rule!”

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The Twilight Zone: A Most Unusual Camera

The Twilight Zone Original Logo 1959Ok at this point, I think it’s got to be a joke.  The universe is having a laugh at my expense.  Everything I’ve been watching has been chock full of terrible characters!  What happened to the Mr. Bevis’s and the Mr. Bookman’s?  Remember them from season one?    They were such likeable people.  Within the first minute of this story, we are introduced to 2 crooks.  Are we meant to like them?  They sure aren’t loveable rogues.  They are even a bit dim!  Oh, who are we kidding?  A bit??  They’re imbeciles.  I was reminded of a cartoon from when I was a kid with Bugs Bunny being told to Shaddup (shut up).  Now that character was funny but it was funny because Bugs drives him nuts.  It’s the contrast that makes that work.  And there’s a big difference anyway to cartoon violence.  Real people being crude and stupid to one anther without the contrast character loses its charm fast. Continue reading

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Shadows Over Baker Street

shadows over baker streetI couldn’t let the days before Halloween go without one more side-step into the alternate realms of Sherlock Holmes.  This is, simply put, a work of genius and one of the best collection of pastiches I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.  (Twice.) 

Sherlock Holmes is probably the most well known detective in the world.  He is a man of logic; a reasoning machine that can deduce solutions to crimes with barely a glance.  But what happens when he enters the world of H. P. Lovecraft; a world of madness and insanity, of otherworldly gods and denizens of the deep?  Can his deductive reasoning find a way to pierce the Shadows over Baker StreetContinue reading

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