The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Episode Six

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe on screen titles episode six“The witch knows the deep magic but there is a magic deeper still, which she has never known, for her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. In the stillness, in the dark before time ever began, there was a different incantation. When a willing victim who has committed no treachery offers his life in a traitor’s stead, the stone table will crack and death itself will be denied.”

The Christian allegory is clear here, with the resurrection of Aslan in the final episode of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. He gave his life to save a sinner, and came back from the dead, thanks to a power that existed before the creation of the universe. The parallel is not exact, because Aslan does not ascend to heaven after that, instead heading off to help “other countries”. He is a wild animal at heart, who “needs to be free”, so the inspiration is there, but C.S. Lewis was not simply retelling the Bible story. Continue reading

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Amends

For some people, Christmas might be a time for making amends for mistakes in the past, and perhaps making things right with friends or family. It’s a time for healing, not recriminations. Lots of that happens in this episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The isolated Faith is welcomed into Buffy’s home for Christmas, and she manages to get past her initial instinct to refuse the invitation. Willow tries to prove something to Oz by offering… well, let’s just say she uses the obvious cliché, and Barry White music is playing when he arrives, but he doesn’t want the next phase of their relationship to be about making amends, so he proves once again that he’s an all-round good guy by refusing her advances. Continue reading

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The Twilight Zone: The Odyssey of Flight 33

The Twilight Zone Original Logo 1959Now this is more like it.  Rod Serling has been hitting us with a number of characters of questionable merit, and ironically it ties in with a discussion I’ve just been having with friends.  In a discussion of Resident Alien and Strange New Worlds, we were talking about characters we can identify with.  One of our friends commented on the difference between the blue collar workers of Resident Alien versus the top tier educated people of Starfleet.  Apt timing after watching Twenty Two and The Odyssey of Flight 33 because it drove home one of the issues I have with many of Serling’s characters: they are often not very well educated.  Many times, they are the down-and-outs who struggle through life.  Rarely has Serling introduced us to members of the upper end of the spectrum. Continue reading

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Sherlock Holmes: An assortment of games…

This article will post just before Christmas so it might not be surprising that some of you could be interested in a Sherlock Holmes gift or two.  Perhaps a Christmas Goose, maybe with a special present in its “crop”?  Or a couple of severed ears under the Christmas tree?  No?  Me neither.  Terrible to keep those from stinking up the house!  Formaldehyde and all that…

speckled band puzzlePerhaps something a little less macabre, then?  Maybe a puzzle, like The Speckled Band!  This little puzzle I found in Home Goods, a store I seem to be dragged into with shocking regularity, and decided to have a go at it since we’d just completed a map of Ireland that was immensely enjoyable.  In The Speckled Band, you don’t know what the image will be and one has to read the titular story to figure it out.  As it’s an absolute classic, I thought it would be good to get the family reading one of the best.  Alas, no one did…  So my family and I worked at it for days over the summer, and eventually nailed it, but it lacked the very thing that it needed most.  Yes, it has a number of elements of the room, but the actual speckled band doesn’t show up.   Color me surprised!  I thought I had missed it; perhaps it had blended seamlessly with the carpet, but no, it’s just not there.  I even had my Sherlock Holmes magnifying glass to search thoroughly.  (Yes, I really have one, because I ordered it from the Sherlock Holmes museum.   Elementary, really!)
Continue reading

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The Avengers: The Little Wonders

The Avengers DVD releaseI always thought the highly effective use of cliffhangers was something peculiar to Doctor Who, with few other series doing anything remotely similar. After all, most contemporary series were a collection of individual episodes rather than one serialised story, for a start. Something that has surprised me with The Avengers is how extraordinarily good this series was at cliffhangers, despite the stories only lasting for a single episode. Instead, there are three cliffhangers, which would be spread across a whole month in Doctor Who, but are included within each episode here. The first can be found near the start, just before the episode title appears on the screen, and that’s the forerunner to what Doctor Who does in the modern era with a pre-titles hook. The second is at the end of Act One, and the third at the end of Act Two. It takes some skilled writing to include three dramatic hooks within a 50 minute episode, but The Avengers rarely misses the mark. The later ones in the episode tend to be the discovery of a body, or one of the main characters captured or in danger, but the pre-titles one is the really inventive one, because that has to establish something of what each story is about, while providing us with a reason to keep watching. This week we have a prime example of how well that can be done with a striking and unusual image: a bishop starts to disrobe for a medical check, take off a gun and holster, and we are treated to a shot of a dog collar being placed on top of a gun. How could we not want to find out what that’s all about? Continue reading

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Space: 1999 – A Message from Moonbase Alpha

breakaway20 years after the series ended, it still had fans. If I’m being honest, I wonder how. I would understand and support a Maya Fanclub but the show was often slow and plodding offering a crotchety commander and a wooden second in command with Helena. Tony and Maya added a little something and one can’t deny the charisma of Alan Carter and Victor Bergman, but they did not make up enough of the crew to really make a difference and are only in the first season. Still, 20 years after the show was abruptly canceled, a fan production came out called A Message from Moon Base Alpha. It’s a nice coda to the series. Continue reading

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Wish

There is a long tradition of parallel universe episodes in science-fiction, and The Wish immediately reminded me of the mirror universe episodes of Star Trek and Doctor Who’s Inferno. They are nearly always a huge amount of fun, because they give us a chance to see our favourite characters acting in a completely unfamiliar manner, and the actors obviously enjoy making them as well. Sci-fi and fantasy are genres that are joined at the hip, so the idea easily translates to the Buffy universe, with a wish being granted so that history has followed a different course. Continue reading

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The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Episode Five

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe on screen titles episode fiveAt the end of the last episode we caught a glimpse of Aslan for the first time, but this week he is very much the focus of the whole episode and we get to see him in his full glory. I first watched this series when I was 10 years old, and I was absolutely mesmerised by the Aslan costume/prop. I’m not quite sure how to describe it, because there are puppeteers inside (one of whom is Ailsa Berk, a name that should now be familiar with any Doctor Who fans who watched Confidential), but it also has animatronic features. Rewatching this series as an adult, I still think Aslan is a superb creation, with the blinking eyes really helping to sell it as a living creature. It is only slightly let down by the monotonously opening and closing mouth. Ronald Pickup is perfect as the voice, but I think it might have been better for his voice to have arrived in the children’s heads without seeing any mouth movements, in the absence of the necessary technology at the time to make the mouth move naturally in synch with the words being spoken. An unmoving mouth would have worked fine with the supernatural nature of the character anyway. But despite that, I was completely convinced by Aslan as a child and I still think he’s a remarkable bit of special effects work for the time. The integration of animation and live action also works well this week, for Aslan’s flying beasts and the scary creatures the Witch summons. Continue reading

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Lovers Walk

Spike is back, and immediately the series hits a level of fun that it simply can’t achieve without him. It makes you realise what a poor imitation Mr Trick has been so far this season. Spike needs to be in this full time, and there are hints here of how that could be done. The key is to make him more of an annoyance than a threat. He is de-fanged to a certain extent here by making him an alcoholic, which would not be sustainable of course in the long term, but it does show how he could move towards being part of the main cast of characters rather than somebody they are trying to kill. Continue reading

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The Twilight Zone: Twenty Two

The Twilight Zone Original Logo 1959Twenty Two isn’t the first time that Rod Serling introduces us to a flawed character, this time in the form of Liz Powell.  She’s a nervous wreck suffering from a nightmare that she refuses to believe is a nightmare.  It’s a surprisingly vivid dream but the fact should be clear the moment she steps out of bed and onto the freshly broken glass from her clumsily handled drink.  Still, her dream is chilling even when the exotically beautiful Arlene Sax opens the door to the morgue because her next words couldn’t be more ominous: she says “Room for one more, honey!” Continue reading

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Sherlock Holmes: The Mystery of the Persian Carpet

persian carpet1As I come to the end of the year, we’ve exhausted Jeremy Brett’s run as the great detective and somewhere in the future, I will come back to other greats who have played Holmes but for now, I want to wrap up with a brief discussion of a less well known person who played Sherlock Holmes: me!  Well, I only played him in each of the video games and a couple of the board games, but I still had fun.  And early 2023, I’ll be doing it again, or so the rumors have it.  However, for right now, I wanted to talk about a little video game that seems to fall off the radar even when I try to find more about it on wikipedia.  It’s definitely not going to be to everyone’s liking but I had a surprising amount of fun playing it.  Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Persian Carpet. Continue reading

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The Avengers: The White Elephant

The Avengers DVD releaseOn 22nd November 1963, at almost the exact time that JFK was assassinated, the cast of The Avengers was busy filming this episode, and by the end of the evening the cast would also have borne witness to a tragic death… perhaps. For once, the usual caption about no animals being harmed in the making of the programme did not apply… or did it? Continue reading

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Space: 1999 – The Dorcons

breakawayFor the finale of Space: 1999 we have a special treat: legendary actor Patrick Troughton stars as the Archon. His people, the Dorcons, hunt and kill Psychons for their brain stems because of their unusual properties in giving eternal life. With Maya being the last Psychon alive, the stakes are high. The dorks… I mean Dorcons will stop at nothing to get Maya and prolong the life of their dying leader. An episode about Maya featuring Patrick Troughton… what more can you ask for?  Well for one, I wish they didn’t call this The Dorcons, because how can you not make fun of it??? Continue reading

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The Andromeda Breakthrough: The Roman Peace

With Gamboule dead and Kaufman ready to share the cure for the bacteria with the rest of the world, what dramatic tension remains? Well, for a start Kaufman wants to make money in the process, a slightly more sane and businesslike version of Gamboule’s plan to hold the world to ransom, but it has already been established that the cure won’t work unless it is used worldwide, so he’s gambling with an empty hand and has no real power base of his own, so the main thrust of the story fizzles out rather predictably, with the running time instead made up with distractions such as an odd scene of some Azarans being entertained by a dancer, and the sad fate of Abu Zeki.       Continue reading

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The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Episode Four

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe on screen title episode fourBack in the first episode, Mr Tumnus complained that it is “always winter, and never Christmas; think of that!” This week, Christmas finally arrives in Narnia, quite literally, because Peter, Lucy and Susan get to meet Father Christmas, who has been kept away by the magic of the White Witch. With the arrival of Aslan, the witch’s magic is fading and Christmas can return. He brings some gifts we would not normally associate with Christmas: weapons. He also brings the gift of sexism, telling the girls they aren’t supposed to fight (but it’s fine for Peter), although oddly they are given weapons, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out. Note that each child gets one means of attack and one means of defence: Peter gets a sword and a shield; Susan gets a bow and arrow, and a horn to summon help; Lucy gets a dagger and a healing potion. Continue reading

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Revelations

The secret is out. Well, one of them. In Revelations, everyone finds out about Buffy and Angel, resulting in a nasty little “intervention”. It makes for an interesting character study. The reactions of Willow, Xander and Giles are the key here, because they are the major players in this game who have the most emotional investment. Continue reading

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The Twilight Zone: A Penny for Your Thoughts

The Twilight Zone Original Logo 1959I’ll be the first to admit that I often root for the underdog; I’m an infracaninophile.  When Hector B. Poole gets the unexpected ability to hear people’s thoughts, he has a chance to improve his life a bit.  Considering he’s such a nice man, I should be overjoyed by this.  But I take issue with a few things in this episode and it spoiled my enjoyment of it.             Continue reading

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Sherlock Holmes: The Cardboard Box

It’s the last episode of the great Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes.  Overall, even with a handful of duds, I still say, there is no man who has done such justice to Sherlock Holmes.  There are others that warrant some recognition (stay tuned) but no one captured the character off the page as well as Brett.  

How do we do on the last episode?  Thankfully, very well.  Brett’s health, while declining, seems to have given him some respite for him to truly be Holmes one more time.  The story is a macabre one too; just as I like them.  And the final scene is a disturbing one to go out on, but hey… it’s memorable.  Continue reading

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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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