The Twilight Zone: Among The Untrodden

The Twilight Zone Original Logo 1959So far, this season has impressed me more than season one, but none of the episode really wow’d me… until now.  I finally feel we have  a strong episode that can hold up as an example of what The Twilight Zone is really all about.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, Downtime was conceptually excellent but it still didn’t have that zing we expect from The Twilight Zone.  I think what it comes down to is that we had a good story, with a cast of people I could relate to, going through things all teenagers go through (namely struggling to fit in), sprinkled with a dose of superpowers and a twist ending that would impress the late Rod Serling.  It’s about time too; we needed a win like this.
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Star Trek: I, Mudd

image003Star Trek is nothing if not inventive, but I think this has got to be one of the worst episode I’ve ever seen. In fact, while I remembered it was a weak one, it was actually embarrassing to show my wife and son. I was so glad my wife fell asleep when the cast starts working on invisible bombs and whistling death to one another. What you have to remember while watching this is that at the time, it was new and clever but by now we’ve confused enough computers that this one comes off as absolute trash. The best thing about it is the parting shot in the remastered version. Continue reading

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Arrangements for War

arrangements for warI remember there was a lot of hype around this story when it was being released.  It didn’t wow me then and it almost didn’t now. However, active listening is very different from passive listening and that may have saved this story.  Arrangements for War borders on not being a Doctor Who story at all, but a story set in another land filled with political intrigue, romance, and life lessons.  And that changed my opinion of the story quite a bit. Continue reading

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Bakemonogatari (Anime Review)

I’ll start with the visuals. Bakemonogatari is anime as a modern art form, and that presents some problems. When I say art, I don’t mean beautiful backgrounds etc. No, this is symbolic art, expressing ideas and situations non-literally and/or non-realistically. This is a conscious move away from visual reality. The biggest problem with that is how effectively it can be used as financial necessity disguised as creativity. Continue reading

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Columbo: Lovely But Lethal (Review)

Columbo Peter FalkWe are back for the third season of Columbo and what’s this at the start? A bunch of quick clips of the episode we are about to watch. Spoilers! Then we are treated to the sight of a man with shaky hands scraping away at women’s faces with a scalpel, which doesn’t seem like a good idea, but he is working in the cosmetics industry, and the company he works for needs a miracle… Continue reading

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The Avengers: The Frighteners

The Avengers DVD releaseOur experience of watching The Frighteners today is very different to a viewer in 1961, because this is the 15th episode of The Avengers but is our first opportunity to see Patrick Macnee as John Steed, with all his previous appearances in the series missing from the archives. It’s immediately obvious why he became so popular. Keel is a great lead for the series, but Steel commands our attention. He’s just so charismatic and fun, and I particularly enjoyed his undercover stint as a posh gent, towards the end of the episode. But Keel is still the lead at this stage, and gets the lion’s share of the action. He’s an interesting kind of a hero, quite ruthless in a way. The way he manipulates people using his medical knowledge is impressive but also a little bit uncomfortable to watch. He persuades one man into thinking his neck is broken, and won’t help him until he has taken him to see his boss, the Deacon. Later he threatens the Deacon with a syringe, which is a positively nasty moment, even if there’s something harmless in there instead of the acid he claims it contains. His methods are on the verge of bringing him down to the same level as the criminals, but this is clearly a 007-inspired series, and we can’t expect our heroes to play by the rules of civilised society. They fight the criminals at their own game, and win, but crucially they do that through superior intelligence and cunning. The syringe ploy is a classic case of pretending something is a weapon while actually being unarmed. It’s a post-watershed version of the Doctor threatening his enemies with a jelly baby. Keel bluffs with an empty hand, and wins. It’s a clever ruse, but not as clever as the plan Steed comes up with at the end, which gives us a delightful twist ending. Continue reading

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The Outer Limits: Soldier

Outer Limits 1963 titles logo originalThe opener for season 2 had a direct impact on the future.  No, I don’t mean Qarlo Clobregnny being from the future, but this is the episode that made writer Harlan Ellison go after James Cameron for plagiarism.  He claimed Cameron copied the idea for The Terminator.  In some ways, I can see that, but it is a bit tenuous.  Both feature a soldier from the future coming back and having an impact on the present.  The Terminator was about a machine that is sent back to save a woman.  Soldier has a man from the future grow to trust a married man who happens to have a wife and kids.  Yeah, like I said, I can see it… if I squint real hard. Continue reading

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The Twilight Zone: Ovation

The Twilight Zone Original Logo 1959Last week I mentioned just what a bleak place the Twilight Zone could be.  While I stand behind that, it’s not really the Zone itself that’s bleak, but the people who we find entering it.  The problem is often one of perspective; people don’t always understand the ramifications of what they want.  More importantly, they don’t recognize that to really achieve greatness, it has to be earned.  If it’s just given to you… well, things don’t always work out the way we think they will.  I think Ovation is best summed up by Spock in the classic Star Trek episode Amok Time.  Spock tells Ston that sometimes having isn’t as pleasing a thing as wanting.  In other words, be careful what you wish for.  
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Star Trek: Catspaw

Star Trek Opening TitlesCatspaw takes place on a planet out of my dreams. It has everything I love: wicked witches, creepy castles, clawing cats, freaky fog, Stygian skeletons and dank dungeons! What more could we want? It’s an episode perfect for Halloween, which in fact it was. The episode is written by noted horror author Robert Bloch, probably best known for writing the classic thriller Psycho. From the moment the crewman collapses, cursing the crew, (you can tell I’ve been listening to Jago and Litefoot) while barely moving his lips, I was hooked. (But boy did that actor take a plunge, huh?) Everything that followed this was a dream-come-true for me… For about 15 minutes. After which, it drops into this slow, plodding, when-will-it-bloody-well-end story that I found myself looking around my room trying to get an idea of how many days had passed. How did it go so wrong for me?? I mean, for the love of the Federation, this started so well! Continue reading

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The Axis of Insanity

axisFans of Doctor Who are used to the versatile nature of the show.  If there’s one thing Doctor Who has always been good at, it’s mixing and matching different formulae to create something that works.  Oh, that’s not to say they are always successes, but the show allows for a great deal of diversity.  Comedy, horror, fantasy, drama and Sci-fi all blend in the world of our favorite Time Lord.  It allows for a series that can blend almost anywhere.  Continue reading

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We Without Wings (Anime Review)

We Without Wings OVAThis was another impulse purchase on DVD at a very reasonable sale price, and I didn’t have much idea what I was buying. Halfway through the series, I still didn’t have much idea what I had bought. This one is confusing, to say the least. The first few episodes throw an astonishing amount of characters into the mix, and it’s not like you can just latch onto a couple of important ones because they all seem to be of roughly equal significance to the story. It doesn’t help that a few of the characters look very similar, but eventually I figured out pretty much who everybody was. It’s just odd to be watching what appears to be about four different anime series all thrown together. There is a reason for that, but this is an anime that demands concentration. Continue reading

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Breakout (1959) Film Review

Breakout 1959 FilmEach volume of The Edgar Wallace Mysteries on DVD contains a bonus film made by the same studio. For the first volume it was the thoroughly watchable but slightly depressing October Moth, and for the second volume it was The White Trap, a film about a man who tries to escape imprisonment and goes on the run. It was the film that has stuck in my mind the most from the second DVD set, and I think the same will happen again with Breakout, an excellent film that covers some of the same ground as The White Trap, because it is about a prison break. However, the focus of attention this time is not the criminal on the run, but the men who are being paid to get him out, and how they achieve that task. Continue reading

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The Avengers: Girl on the Trapeze

The Avengers DVD releaseSo here we have the first full episode of The Avengers that we can watch, the sixth episode from the first season. Episodes 2 through to 5 are missing, and we’ve already talked about the partially missing Hot Snow. This is one of a couple of first season episodes in which Steed does not appear, so we’ll have to wait a little longer to see him, but at this stage Ian Hendry as Dr David Keel is very much the star of the show anyway. In Hot Snow we saw Keel lose his assistant/fiancée, and we’ve missed the introduction of his new sidekick in the second episode, Brought to Book, Ingrid Hafner as Carol Wilson. She also appeared in the missing episodes Square Root of Evil and Nightmare, but not in the fifth episode Crescent Moon. In total she will appear in 19 of the first 26 episodes, so she’s our first Avengers girl, although I suspect if they asked a question about them in Pointless she would be a pointless answer. I must admit I had never heard of her before embarking on this journey. She’s a fairly positive portrayal of a female sidekick here, resourceful and brave, although she does partially exist to be captured and rescued, so it’s a little bit Perils of Pauline. Continue reading

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Babylon 5: The Lost Tales

Babylon 5 ArtworkI always knew the day would come and I’d be stuck.  We’ve had Babylon 5 on the Junkyard now for some 3 years, covering 110 episodes, 13 episodes of Crusade, and the half dozen movies.  We finally arrive at the last of them, The Lost Tales, for which we waited until after Crusade due to the inclusion of Galen.  Now, as I write my final words on the subject, I’m a bit choked up.  It takes place 10 years after the start of the Interstellar Alliance.  This is significant: A Call to Arms took place 5 years after the IA started, which means the Drakh plague has been cured.  Just last week I wondered about the outcome of that event in the show and speculated on how reality might mirror art.  We can only hope that 5 or even 10 years from now, Covid will be as distant a memory. Continue reading

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The Twilight Zone: The Who of You

The Twilight Zone Original Logo 1959Sometimes The Twilight Zone feels like a very unpleasant place, doesn’t it?  I mean, it’s bleak.  We meet a guy who is just awkward to watch.  He comes home to a miserable girlfriend who is unsympathetic.  Not that he deserves it.  He seems to be unable to figure out how life works.  Then we meet a detective who actually seems like a reasonably decent guy; flawed but decent.  He might be the only redeeming character in the story.  But first we have to travel with Harry as he moves from one body to another.  And it’s not a pleasant ride!  That’s not to say that the story isn’t good, because this season has been far better than the first, but it’s just an unpleasant place to find oneself.
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Star Trek: The Doomsday Machine

Star Trek Opening TitlesI ask you, what makes a classic Trek episode?  Is it the incredible music that features in The Doomsday Machine or the special effects that are even more amazing when seen in the remastered format?  Or is it something else?  I’m going to explain what makes it a classic and sum up the plot in just two words: Moby Dick.  The Doomsday Machine is a fun adventure but when you come right down to it, it’s Moby Dick.  Commodore Decker is Ahab and he is determined to find and kill his white whale.  Or more specifically, the giant cone that floats through space with its maw wide open.  See: space/water … spot the differences.  It’s not the maw. Continue reading

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The Twilight Kingdom

the twilight kingdomIf you are unfamiliar with Big Finish, you’re doing yourself a disservice.  Big Finish has a motto: “we love stories”.  It’s simple but extremely evident.  When you love something, you take care of it.  Two stories back, with The Creed of the Kromon, I ridiculed the writer for the whole “time” thing.  Apparently, people can understand French, but the concept of time is too big for them… even though they talk in hours and minutes.  (I mean, French?!?!)  But The Twilight Kingdom does get around to adding some context to that.  Maybe we need to credit writer Will Shindler for bridging that gap, but then again, for a company that loves stories, maybe it was the plan all along.  I’d like to believe the best of them, at any rate! Continue reading

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Shakugan no Shana: Season Two (Review)

Shakugan no Shana Fumina Konoe

Mysterious transfer student Fumina Konoe

The second season of Shakugan no Shana shares a lot of the same problems as the first. About half the cast of characters are highly irritating, although I did find myself warming to the main trio of Yuji, Shana and Kazumi more and more over time. There is also still the same inconsistent mix of relationship drama and sci-fi/fantasy action. We get several episodes that focus on the character dynamics, and then all of a sudden there will be a big dramatic moment like an enemy arriving on the scene, and then all the relationship stuff gets abandoned in favour of an episode or two of battle sequences. I suspect that more viewers will enjoy the big battles than the relationship dynamics (although I’m the opposite), but either way it seems like an odd approach, which must surely satisfy nobody. Continue reading

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Board Game Tour of Britain: Exeter

Board Game Tour of Britain Exeter CathedralExeter.  We have a mission: to follow the route of an old 1940s board game around Great Britain, sticking to the instructions as closely as we possibly can. Along the way we will look at the history of the places we visit, with a particular focus on how things have changed since the tour was created around 70 years ago.

The 13th square on the board is Exeter, the first of two locations in the county of Devon. We have two specific instructions here: to visit the Cathedral and also the Guildhall. Continue reading

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The Edgar Wallace Mysteries: Playback (Review)

Edgar Wallace Mysteries PlaybackVan der Valk fans will enjoy seeing this film, because 11 years before he debuted in his iconic role Barry Foster played bobby on the beat Dave Hollis in this entry into The Edgar Wallace Mysteries series of British B movies. Dave is a lot less competent at his job than Van der Valk, but it’s a great performance from Foster, showing how a basically decent man can give in to temptation and spiral into a desperate situation, where he feels that the only escape is to commit murder. He comes across as a man who is thoroughly out of his depth. Continue reading

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