Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Overview: Doctor Who Classic: Davros Stories

Davros in Season 30's two part finale,.
Ah, Davros. Such a wonderful villian, the scheming megalomaniac in control of the Daleks. In the classic series he was portrayed in five different stories by three different actors, and his effects on the story vary greatly. So; here's a quick run down of all of the stories in which Davros appears.

Genesis of the Daleks

Take the most popular villians on the show and give them an origin story packed full of fearful real-life echoes and a main villian that would wipe out his own people for science, and you have something very good. The budget was medium range, and yet it was used so well and the story just gleams. Acting is top notch, Tom Baker is on form and we get our first, and sad to say, last performance by Michael Wisher.
     The Daleks in this story are mere underlings, but when they appear they do hold stark contrast to the human fighters from previously in the serial. Those human fighters were intimidating, and so this more alien death machine works perfectly to show how perverted their race has/will become. Davros here is the quiet schemer, never predictable, never understandable. He had a subtle ruthless streak that made his very presence intimidating, and his command of these scary, Nazi-like Kaleds is a great garnish to the dish.

Destiny of the Daleks

Cheap, tatty and a terrible excuse for a story - Terry Nation's Dalek swansong is unintentionally poor, with a real lack of effort made to use the visuals budget well. It seems many of the ideas have slipped as well, and now the Daleks are for some reason robots. Which is wrong.
          There's a big distinction between Davros and the Daleks here, the inverse of what we saw in Genesis. We're supposed to feel like Davros has power over the Daleks, who come to find him so that they can win their war with the Movellans. But in fact, it comes off quite differently; without Davros, the Daleks are more ruthless and are much better villians because of it. On the other hand, David Gooderson;s performance as Davros is pityful, shouty more than anything else. The way that The Doctor drags Davros around while he shouts inanely can be nothing more than a reference to elderly people. It's just too over-the-top not to be intentional. This story is a real let down.


Resurrection of the Daleks

So, JNT asked scriptwriter Eric Saward to do an Earthshock for the Daleks. What resulted wasn't quite along those lines, instead practicing a lot of fanwank as JNT stories do. However, among the nest of inconvenient and oddly place subplots, we do have a more convincing return for Davros, this time played by the wonderful Terry Molloy.
          Terry manages to make a good balance between Wisher's scheming and Gooderson's ranter, as well as adding his own brilliance to the role. The Supreme Dalek is brilliant, but overall the Daleks pale in comparison to the rest of the cast. And in a story of this low quality, that's saying something.

Revelation of the Daleks

Ah; after two bad Dalek stories, we find this gem. A wonderful piece, examining several themes ranging from honor to caniballism. Terry Molloy again here, and now we have Colin Baker as the Doctor. The main problem with the Daleks in this story is that they're a bit of an afterthought; any villian could have been The Great Healer, and the inclusion of Davros seems to be only for the viewing figures. Otherwise, a brilliant story.

Remembrance of the Daleks

A final farewell, it seems. This last Dalek story, added in for the show's 25th anniversary, is a triumph. It has brilliant Dalek action, the complete and total revival of the villians from their slump. Here they are intimidating and cunning, and seeing the brilliant Dalek Civil War is just too awesome for fans of the show to miss.
     So, with the Daleks being so awesome here, surely we missed out Davros? It is true that he seems attatched onto the story; an unwelcome visitor that spoils the party, but his appearance does give The Doctor some of his best lines in the season. Overall a wonderful story.

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Monday, 30 August 2010

Review: Doctor Who Classic: Resurrection of the Daleks

To complete my Davros Story reviews, I present to you 1984's Resurrection, which was the first and only story of Davison's era. It's an Eric Saward script, and so is unrelentingly messy and complicated (For more examples of Saward doing this, see Attack of the Cybermen, Revelation of the Daleks) It saw the return of Davros after five years, this time played by Terry Molloy (who would go on to play Davros in his next two appearances.) This Davros was a much better send off to Michael Wisher, despite keeping some of Gooderson's ranting.
     The basic plot is that the Movellans have created a virus that kills Daleks, and are using it to win the war. They attack a prison ship holding Davros in suspended animation, and release him. He pretends to start work on a vaccine, but instead plots his revenge...
    It's some more of the JNT classic fanwank, taking ideas from all of the past Dalek stories. There's also a sense that it was a little thrown together; Davros seems to be holding the plot by a very thin string while random schemes are thrown about to explain stupid behaviour. For example, the Daleks are A.) Trying to find a cure for the virus via Davros, B.) Trying to duplicate the Doctor and have him assassinate the Time Lords, C.) Duplicating key world figures to collapse Earth's government, and D.) Fighting lots of wars. B.) and C.) are litterally thrown in, mere sentences that may have seemed tense but instead are paper-thin excuses. So, while the characterisation of Davros is sound, the rest doesn't make up for it.

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P.S. The commentary's nice though.

Review: Red Dwarf: Better than Life

Following on directly from Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers, BTL is another wonderful piece of writing. It combines elements from many Series Three episodes as well as having a surprisingly large amount of new content, some of which would be used in later episodes of the show.
     As before, it helps to have watched the show a little, but here is the point where having done so does reduce the experience. I found myself cringing when Polymorph was wedged inbetween original content, and found it hard to visualise Norman Lovett reading lines that were used, to my knowledge, by Hattie Hayridge.
    Familiarity issues aside, it's another great read that expands nicely on the first book while giving is smashing new original content and a good mix of stories from the show. Things to note are the brilliantly characterised Talkie Toaster and the eventual fate of our good planet Earth...

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Saturday, 28 August 2010

Review: Doctor Who Classic: Destiny of the Daleks

1979. After Season 16's Key To Time arc, Season 17 was to open with the return of an old monster - in this case, the Daleks, who had last been seen in their retcon beginnings story, Genesis. Also, Mary Tamm refused to return as Romana, and so she was replaced by Lalla Ward (currently married to Richard Dawkins, and used to be married to Tom Baker.) Michael Wisher, who played Davros in Genesis, was also unavaliable, and so he was played by David Gooderson.
      The randomiser drops the TARDIS off on Skaro, Romana having regenerated and K9 with laringitus. There, they find the Daleks, at war with a race known as the Movellans, androids with whom the Daleks share their logic. In an attempt to escape the stalemate, the Daleks are burrowing down beneath the ruins of Scaro to find their creator, Davros, who seemingly survived his extermination at the end of Genesis.
      I think I'll start with the negatives of this story. The Daleks are a little shoddy, the fakes being obvious, and there are a few logical inconsistencies. The ressurrection of Davros is a massive cop-out, and David Gooderson completely misunderstands the character, changing him from omnicidal mastermind to ranty grandfather. The Daleks' need for emotion is the story is completely unfounded, as Daleks are usually extremely emotional.
     In the positive, the Daleks in this story are on the whole more menacing and likely to entertain, mainly in the areas where they aren't squabbling over their leader. The Movellans are unsettling if gaudy, and there's some good acting from Ward and Baker. The whole thing is ultimately quite entertaining, if deeply, deeply unnecessary.

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After my week-long break, I've decided to review each Blackadder series as a whole. I'll also be reviewing the X-Factor live segments when they come around. Thanks.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Review: The Defamation of Strickland Banks

The Defamation of Strickland Banks, by Plan B (2010)

Ben Drew presents to us a very different direction in his musical tone. While his prior efforts had been gritty street-rap, he has now exploited the more high-pitched side of his vocal range and created this piece of brilliant modern music, a sort-of fusion between soul and rap.
     And even better, that fusion works. It works perfectly. His lyrics and almost supernatural sense of rhyme portray a gritty urban reality, clear and persuasive. The religious themes of some of his songs occasionally make him sound like a one-man gospel choir.
     One often finds that there are too few ways of saying that something is good. And that applys here. It's sylish, modern, and yet it's got something sincere to get across about our urban culture and how that has influenced his music and his life. Simply brilliant.

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Sunday, 22 August 2010

Characters: Red Dwarf

A basic run down of all of the characters present in Red Dwarf, so that you're able to better understand my reviews. Unlike Survivors, any insults I throw at these characters were provided by the program itself.

Dave Lister

Dave "Cinzano Bianco" Lister, both his own father and son, was the last human alive. Born through artificial insemination on Starbug, in around 3,002,200, he was taken back in time by his older self and left under a pool table, with the word "Ouroboros" written on the side. As he grew up, he lost his virginity at the age of 12 on a golf course. Then, on a drunken pub crawl around London, he for some reason used all of his money to get a space-flight to Mimas, a Spanish-colonised moon.
    After waking up drunk, with only a passport with the name of Emily Berkenstein, he took up stealing taxi-hoppers and gathering the five-thousand Dollarpounds needed to return to Earth. It was on Mimas that he first met Arnold Rimmer, who was on Space-Leave from Red Dwarf, and took him to a brothel. It was this incident that inspired him to join the Space-program in an attempt to get home. Lister bought a cat on Mimas and smuggled it on board, meaning that after a period of working under Rimmer, he would be put in Stasis for the rest of the trip back to Earth.
    However, when Dave woke up, he found that there had been a radiation leak on Dwarf soon after he was put in stasis. This leak had killed everyone on the ship, and had taken 30 million years to fade away to a safe level. He was, in effect, the last human being in existence. Beknownst to Lister, not only had a race of creatures evolved from his cat and left one survivor, the ship's computer had ressurrected Rimmer in android form.
   Lister is one of the two main characters, but he is never given as much focus as Rimmer. He is a slob and idle by nature, often unable to complete the most simple tasks, but he is also very intuitive and is often the voice of reason. He is also deeply moral, a form of chaotic good, and believes the same of everyone else. Over the series, he becomes more mature and begins to take a greater interest in more philosophical ideas, although he still takes basic pleasures.

Arnold Rimmer

Arnold Judas Rimmer, Bronze Swimming Certificate, Silver Swimming Certificate, was a Second Technician about Red Dwarf. He was born the fourth son of mad parents; his father was obsessively bitter about not getting into the Space Corps, and always expected much from his children, while his mother was ignorant and adulterous. Rimmer and his brothers were often stretched on a rack to meet the Space Corps height limits, and Rimmer was constantly picked on by his brothers to the point of abuse.
      In boarding school, he wore boxing gloves to bed and had the nickname "bonehead", although he always wanted to be known as "Ace". As his brothers advanced into their respective fields, Rimmer remained a Second Technician, and was always humiliated, and steeped in self-loathing. One of the more traumatic events of his life, in his eyes, was when he was invited to the Captain's table and proceeded to ask for his cold soup to be re-heated. Before the accident, Rimmer had only one sexual encounter - a one-nightstand with officer Yvonne McGruder.
     Rimmer took the Astro-engineering exam, the exam that one needs to pass to rise in rank past Technician, a total of eleven times. It was his stress-induced coma during the last of these tests that prevented him from fixing a faulty drive-plate, the consequences of which led to the radiation leak. After he was resurrected, he felt deeply responsible due to this fact.
     Red Dwarf is essentially the study of how Rimmer is humanised by Lister, how he comes to terms with the negative aspects of his personality and becomes the ideal Rimmer, as his Parallel Universe counterpart(s) display. His final act on the show was an act of bravery, and he finally had enough self-confidence (and humility) to become Ace Rimmer.

The Cat

Cat is a creature born to a cripple and an idiot, one of the last few members of the Cat people, a race that evolved on Red Dwarf from the off-spring of Lister's pregnant cat. Like real cats, he's vain (taken Up To Eleven), sex-crazed and obsessed with preening and style. In later series he develops a much greater sense of smell, which adds some exposition.

Kryten

Kryten is a droid created by Crapola, designed as a sanitation droid to scrub toilets and fix pipes. He was working as a general servant droid on the Nova 5 when he decided to give the circuitry a good clean, accidnetally making the ship fly into an android. He looked after the crew for three-hundred years (long after their deaths) until he was picked up by the crew of Red Dwarf around 3,002,300 AD. There, he broke his programming and gained a personality. Soon afterwards he left on a space-bicyle, and after he had been blowen up by a passing asteroid, the crew of Dwarf picked up his remains and put him back together again, albeit with a new personality.
   
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Review: Doctor Who Classic: Remembrance of the Daleks


1988. From the first of the new Dalek stories, to the last. There were five new Dalek stories, and this was the fifth. Remembrance is interesting because even though it is a little fanwank, returning to the original location and reviving the Daleks for a civil war, it's somewhat more bearable because it's an anniversary year on the program. For the first time, the boasts by the Doctor feel earned.
     Superb direction, brillaint writing and excellent turns by all actors involved, this story seems to be half-knowing that the series was coming to an end. The Daleks are excellent in this story, both varieties, and it just advances the idea wonderfully.
     1963, and The Doctor and Ace return to Coal Hill School, where the Daleks have come together to find an artifact called the Hand of Omega, a star-accelerator. They're split into two factions; the Imperials are bound into their shells and are pure white, while the Renegades are free and have more firepower. The Doctor left the Hand of Omega in Shoreditch during his first incarnation, waiting for anyone that would come to claim it...
     In essence it's a wonderful tale that has a touching look back upon the history of Doctor Who, and it stands out as one of the best in the 25th season.

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Review: The Black Adder: The Foretelling and Born to Be King

The Black Adder, Episode One - The Foretelling
Blackadder is one of the big greats of British comedy, written by Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis, it takes a fun look at history with a satirical eye and a brilliant manner.
     But where did it all begin? In this wonderful episode, we learn the basics surrounding the alternate history that the show presents, in which the Battle of Bosworth Field was won by Richard III, but he had his head chopped off by his nephew, Edmund (Rowan Atkinson). Edmund's father (Brilliant Brian Blessed) then becomes King, leaving him Prince Regent. Along the way he nurses a man back to health (Who turns out to be Henry Tudor) and plans to become the king of England.
     It's a very funny episode, that seemlessly and hilariously introduces the basics. In this series in particular we see the dynamic; The Black Adder (Edmund) and his trusty servants Baldrick (Tim Robinson) and Lord Percy (Tim Mcinnery). Edmund and Percy are stupid; Baldrick is unfortunate but more cunning. This would evolve as the series went on.

The Black Adder, Episode Two - Born to Be King
 We get to see a lot more of Edmund's innate cunning here, but also his power-madness. He will go on ramges against those he dislikes despite it interfering with his ultimate plans, and his companions' pandering to his needs goes unnoticed.
       In this episode, King Richard (IV) has gone off to the crusades, leaving Edmund and his brother to ook after the castle. Upon his immenent return there arrives a mad scotman that Edmund loaths, although he has some information that Edmund might need...
     This series so far is witty and brilliant, not sparing the blood and guts to make the comedy work. Another excellent episode.

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Review: Red Dwarf/Film: Back To Earth

Spoilers. Ten years after Only the Good... and we find that TV-Channel Dave wants to satiate the appitite of the Dwarf fanbase. Dave broadcasts regular repeats of Red Dwarf from all series, and so, where better to show new material?
     Dave is part-owned by the BBC, and so there were no rights issues to work around. Here, with original cast and crew, we have a 90-minute film.
     Set 9 years after Series Eight, and after the fictional Series Nine and Ten, Holly is offline and Kochanski is believed dead. After Kryten comes back after a holiday, they find a large squid in the water tank on G-Deck. After that, a hologram appears named Katarina, a Russian scientist who is taking over from Rimmer. She creates a dimension-cutter for Lister to return to Earth, and they do.
     The dimension the four end up in is in fact our reality, in which Dwarf is fictional. What results is a fun piece of meta comedy, with the four going across Britain trying to find their creator, bumping into fans. It sounds horrifically bad, but it's actually done quite well; it helps that the whole thing is written like Series Six, with the fast-paced comedy. In turn, the series has lost its laugh track and it's now a "comedy-drama". While the move towards serious drama, this time done much better than in Series Seven, affects the film, it is still much funnier than most of Series Eight.
     The good? The CGI is now more convincing and used to better effect, the writing is powerful and evocative and, most importantly, funny. The bad? Not only does the crew visit Coronation Street, they also end the show with the twist from Back To Reality, in that they've been under the influence of a Despair squid.
     It's a much better episode than all of Series Eight, and a good semi-pilot for the next two series in 2011. I'm looking forward to it. I think that the series still has some heart left in it, and as long as that remains, there could still be some good, high quality Dwarf.

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Review: Doctor Who Classic: Genesis of the Daleks

1975. The Doctor's greatest enemies, The Daleks, are suffering from a lapse in popularity, as the Third Doctor's encounters with the Daleks were formulaic and complicated. Terry Nation, their creator, decided to write a story that would put the focus back on the Daleks and rejuvinate their history.
     Genesis is a powerful story, making use of excellent writing and the acting talents of Micheal Wisher, perfect in the role of new villian, Davros, creator of the Daleks. The backstory is introduced smoothly, and the two sides of the war are characterised in chillingly familiar ways.
     On the planet Skaro, the Kaleds and the Thals are two fascist races who are fighting an everlasting war. The war has been going on for so long that more primitive weapons are developed to make up for the lack of supplies. Eventually, the scientists of the Kaleds find that if the nuclear war continues, they will evolve into horrible mutants.
     Davros is the greatest scientist on Scaro, scarred by life-experience and confined to a life-support wheelchair. He has invented a new way of containing these mutants - the Mark III Travel Machines, or Daleks. He is staunchly fascist and obsessed with racial purity, condemning any none-Kaled life as scum. To the anger of his scientist colleagues he gives these traists to his Daleks.
     The Doctor arrives on Scaro at the bequest of the Time Lords, tasked with either averting the creation of the Daleks or making them less aggressive. He and his companions Sarah-Jane Smith and Harry Sullivan get caught up in the war that envelops the planet, and the creation of the machines that will one day be feared in the Universe.
     In short, a masterpiece. There's wonderful cold-war imagery floating through it, an echo to the conflicts in our own world that makes the world of Scaro more frightening. The Daleks are a little clunky when compared to the modern versions, but they still manage to be sinister. Also of note are the Nazi-like Kaled army, and the brilliant performance as aforementioned. Davros really comes across as a schemer, a genius whose ideas lead him towards eugenics. This is by far the best Dalek story, short of 2005's "Dalek," and to some it is the greatest story of them all.

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Friday, 20 August 2010

Birthday!

21st August is my Birthday. What does this mean? Well, it means more Classic Doctor Who, Red Dwarf, Music Reviews and also some Blackadder. Fun, eh?

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Review: Torchwood: Everything Changes

Series Two of Doctor Who was, in essence, a series-long viral marketing campaign for this spin-off. Torchwood follows the tale of a branch of the eponymous group, specifically the branch that clears Cardiff of the aliens scum that come through an inter-space-dimensional tear known as The Rift.
     Here, we have to set up the new series. Captain Jack, a minor companion in Series One of Doctor Who, is our only connection here, and so it's up to Eve Myles (who previously played her ancestor in Series One) to give us Gwen Cooper, policewoman.
      So, how does it do? Well, it throws us in at the deep end, woth Gwen discovering Torchwood using a "ressurection gauntlet" to discover information from a corpse. Torchwood is believed simply to be "special ops," but Gwen is suspicious. She is introduced by Jack into the world of Torchwood, with doctor Owen, techy Toshiko, handyman Ianto and weapons expert Suzie. After retconning her (erasing her memory), she ends up being confronted by Suzie, who has been killing people to test the gauntlet. She ends up shooting Jack, who turns out immortal and shoots her back.
     It's a little forced, to tell the truth. We're introduced to the concepts smoothly, but the storyline behind that isn't very gripping. It helped on the night to have the second episode played just after the first, but here I'm treating it as a standalone, and thus it has very little weight of its own. Regardless, it's a quite important episode, as we get thrown all of the basic background info.

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Review: Doctor Who Classic/Film: Doctor Who The Movie

When American broadcasters try to recreate a British show, the results are almost always bad. Life On Mars USA, for example, completely missed the point of the show and gave an awful twist ending.
     1996. American Broadcasters rabble with the BBC about rights issues. They want to create a new series of Doctor Who, for broadcast in the US. To do this, they first commission a pilot - The Movie.
     And here we have it. Sylvester McCoy (Doctor7) regenerates into Paul McGann (Doctor8). And it's a complete and total bastardisation of the series. It's negative effects on canon have spiralled through time and now only the very basics have been accepted.
     So, Doctor7 is taking the remains of The Master (who was trialled and excecuted by The Daleks on Scaro... despite the fact that Scaro has already been destroyed...) to Gallifrey. However, the remains (which move about like spludge, something completely unknown to Time Lords before and after this movie) get into the TARDIS, forcing it to crash land in San Franciso, on 30th December, 1999.  When he walks out from the TARDIS, he is shot by gangsters. One ganster gets him to a hospital but duting operations they can't navigate his alien biology, and so inadvertantly kill him and postpone his regenerative process. Meanwhile, The Master possesses the body of an ambulance driver named Bruce.
     And so, in the Morgue, The Doctor regenerates (with some good special effects) and wakes up; his wanderings around the hospital lead him to entail the help of the cardiologist that killed him, Dr. Grace Halliwell. As he explains that The Master is trying to destroy the Universe, (which he is) they run about looking for various items which end up having very little relevance to the end-plot, in which The Master is thrown into the Tardis' Eye of Harmony.
    The only thing done well in this movie is The Doctor himself, Paul McGann, who gives an excellent performance despite having been left with many ridiculous lines. The rest is convaluted and camp, less a tribute to the show and more of a violation.
    Despite this, this film did have a few good concequences. Not only did it bomb in the US, meaning that we wouldn't have to watch any more of this crap, it really, really succeeded in Britain, where one Russell T Davies then considered reviving the series...

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Thursday, 19 August 2010

Review: Doctor Who Classic: The Five Doctors

1983. Twenty years have passed since the first episode of Doctor Who in 1963. Celebrations are in order. And here we are; The Five Doctors was a commissioned film of sorts, displayed at the end of Season 20. It was to have had all five of the current Doctors and their main companions; the main changes were as follows: William Hartnell was dead, and so Doctor1 was played by Richard Hurndall, and Tom Baker turned down the role, and was instead portrayed using stock footage.
     I have a confession to make. This was the first piece of Doctor Who that I ever saw, and I fell in love with it. Especially since this was a Cyberman story.
     The basic plot entails a mysterious watcher who scoops the five Doctors out of their time-zones and into the Death Zone on Galifrey, complete with companions and their greatest enemies. The Fourth Doctor is however stuck in a time loop. The aim is to reach the top of the Tower of Rassillon, where the secret of this watcher can be found, before any of the villians do. So, each Doctor makes his way through the Death Zone, with their companions, fighting Cybermen, a Dalek, The Master and a Yeti. They all meet in the Tower, where they discover that the whole enterprise has been the machination of Borusa, Lord President, who seeks Rassillon's eternal life.
   Yes, it's fanwak of the purest kind, and each of the Doctor's is playing more to their stereotype than to any realistic degree. Despite this, it is entertaining, a good turn by the Cybermen in particular and such a wonderful thing to see more than one Doctor together. It was the second canon multi-Doctor story, and by far the most famous, as well as introducing a new TARDIS console. Richard Hurndall is an ok replacement, although never as good as the real thing, and I think that Tom Baker's refrainment from appearing is for the best. Compared to his counterparts, he would have completely stolen the show.
    To conclude, I love it. I love it I love it I love it. It's had a monumental effect on Doctor Who, and while it signalled a decline in the quality of the show, the film itself is a wonderful thing. Just wonderful.

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Review: Doctor Who Classic: The Androids of Tara


1978. After the end of Season 15 (the abominable Invasion of Time) the show needed a new companion and, after the failure of that finale, something to pick the show up. So stepped in The Key To Time, a season-long arc in which the Doctor and new companion, Time Lady Romana, searched the universe for six parts of a powerful weapon. Androids of Tara (hereafter AoT) is the fourth part of this arc, but doesn't hold much of its baggage...
     The basic setting is the planet Tara, a medieval fantasy land. The only difference, it seems, is that wild beasts do roam the forests and while the peasants work with androids, the nobles use electrically powered swords. It's all a little odd, and the class divide isn't much elaborated upon. Instead, the entire episode is a homage to (well, more of a rip off of) fantasy novel Prisoner of Zenda. 
     Just for starters, the episode isn't bad. The melodrama just punctuates the whole thing, and there's a good medieval fantasy that The Doctor seems to fit quite nicely into. The android aspect makes the original book's logic a little more realistic, and if you excuse the appalling Taran Beast (pictured) then all of the effects are quite well done.
     Prince Reynhart is about to ascend to the throne of Tara, and is being sneakily fought for the title by the evil Count Grendel. When the Princess turns out to look very much like Romana (identical, in fact) then Grendel uses both her and his knowledge of Androids to try and kill Prince Reynhart. On the other side, The Doctor is assisting Reynhart in using androids of his own, to act as a decoy for Grendel's men. It all climaxes in a wonderful swordfight between Grendel and the Doctor, after which Grendel escapes to fight another day.
    As I say, it's more mediocre than bad, and anyone with knowledge of the original book will feel slightly cheated. I hadn't, and so that had an effect on my enjoyment of the episode. As it stands, this adventure with Doctor4, Romana and K9 is quite well-done and a nice change to the horror storied that preceeded it.

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Review: Doctor Who Classic: The Two Doctors

1985. While not a complete mess, The Two Doctors certainly falls under the criticisms of JNT's era; it's such a blatant fanwank that quality gets put buy the wayside. While the Sontarans' appearance here is less awful than in The Invasion of Time, it's a little unneccessary, and the story really doesn't deserve its three episodes.
   The Second Doctor and Jamie are working for the Time Lords, in the period known by fans as Season 6b. They go to a large space laboratory where two scientists called Carts and Rheimer are experimenting with time travel. Doctor2 argues with Dastari, the head of programming, who has biologically worked on Androgums to make them more human. He ends up being drugged, as his Androgum protogĂ© have let Sontarans invade the laboratory. They kidnap The Doctor and leave Jamie with an illusion of his death.
   Meanwhile, Doctor6 is out fishing with Peri. He feels the "death" of Doctor2 and he begins to ramble. He questions what's going on ( note that for the whole story he remembers nothing of his time as Doctor2 in this story). He remembers Dastari and decides to go and consult him on what's going on. When they arrive, they find it wartorn, abandoned quite recently. He learns from the ship's computer that the effect was the fault of the Time Lords, and the ship gets put on Defense Alert, turning it into a giant death trap.
   In Seville, Spain, the Androgums (augmented Chassini and madman Shockeye), Dastari and the two Sontarans enter an old house, where they set-up operations. Back on the ship, and the ship is hunting the two through the ship. They find Dastari's office where they find his journal, which explains everything that happened. They at first assume that the Time Lords caused the carnage, but they work out that it's probably someone trying to blame them. The two try to work their way down to the central power centre to turn the computer off.
   They drop down into the service hatches, and are stalked by some creature. They get to the central control box. Back in Seville, the Sontaran ship gets nearer and we get introduced to two tourists. The Sontarans and Shockeye argue some more, and the Sontaran ship lands.
   Into our cliffhanger, Peri is attacked by the creature and The Doctor gets clouded with a gas that leaves him unconsious. It isn't bad, totally watchable and maybe even enjoyable, but at this stage there are some of the smaller glaring inconsistencies. Everything's working rather nicely though, even if there are too many villians, and the villians we do have are extremly melodramatic.
   The creature, it turns out, is Jamie, and The Doctor manages to keep conscious though his alien biology. Jamie explains himself tiredly, cueing The Doctor in on the Sontarans. He suspects that his death in the past will lead to the end of the universe. While pondering, he discovers a machine that presents an illusion of anyone who's been on the ship dying, and thus Doctor2 isn't dead. Doctor6 goes into meditation, and is somehow able to hear a bell, and realises that not only where the bells are, but how far away he can hear them. They go to Seville and meet the two tourists. Doctor6 pretends to be a policeman.
   The basic plan of the bad guys is to extract the biological mark of the Time Lord that lets one travel through time. They can then use this to ajust their time machine and travel through time. Sontarans want to use it to fight the Rutans, while the Androgums want to turn The Doctor into an Androgum through augmentation. I'm just gonna simplify the rest of the story; There's a lot of moving about; the two doctors are locked together at one point, and then later Doctor2 is temporarily turned into an Androgum and goes for a meal, where he kills one of the earlier tourists. The Androgums end up killing the Sontarans and exploding their ship, while The Doctor chloroforms Shockeye for trying to kill Peri and Chassini, mad and returned to her lesser form, tries to use the broken time machine, which kills her.
   The episode is fun, but the excessive melodrama and pointlessness of several characters means that it is a little odd. I may be a little biased; this was the first episode that I held on record, a video handed down from my cousin. Regardless, it isn't a bad episode, simply a shoddy one, and it's inefficiencies do have some charm.

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Review: Doctor Who Classic: Inferno

1970. John Pertwee's Third Doctor has been a powerful influence on the show. Season 7 has been one of the best in recent history, with high quality stories boasting powerful messages and top quality acting. The fact that budget constrained the series to Earth had very little effect, and for the first time, the newly colourful Doctor Who is a real ratings-topper.
   Here, as a finale to Season 7, is Inferno, a story about the dangers of ignoring safety guidelines. Well, it's better than it sounds. In short, it is a revolutionary piece of television that makes the most out of the format, including interesting monsters, a parallel universe and great human enemy as well.
   A group of scientists are digging deep into the Earth's crust, attempting to harness an new energy source deep below. UNIT is supervising the operation. Within the operation, Proffessor Stahlman is determined to complete the operation, at the cost of all safety procedures. Sir Keith Gold is the voice of rationality, representative of the Ministry financing the operation. The whole project is disturbed when a strange green substance begins leaking from the coolant towers, brought up from the depths. People who touch the substance turn into heat-loving mosters that have a contagious touch.
   Meanwhile, The Doctor visits the project while using their nuclear power supplies to power his TARDIS, which is now cut down to the console. During one argument with Stahlman, he goes off and attempts to travel away, but Stahlman unknowingly cuts the power half-way through, throwing The Doctor into a parallel universe. In this Universe, Britain is a fascist state, and the drilling project is in a much further stage. Even though he is captured by this universe's version UNIT, he manages to watch on and tries to help as the monsters spread and the planet literally crumbles around them. He escapes the parallel universe, and manages to save our Universe just in time.
   The two main plots, both fighting for attention, are the Parallel Universe Plot and the Drilling Plot. Both are intertwined quite nicely, and white it starts quite slowly, it soon picks up. The acting is superb, and you can tell that the main cast had real fun being their evil counterparts. As a finale it passes with flying colours; as a story is does so even more.
   A quick comment on the Commentary, as usual, and this one is quite splintered, with certain episodes being devoted to the writer, producer and The Brigadier, while others to Sergeant Benton. It's still as informative as usual, though.

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Review: Doctor Who Classic: The Invasion of Time

1978. This six-part serial is widely considered one of the worst in Tom Baker's seven year tenure. Bad acting, bad writing, complete misunderstandings of characters, and villians less threatening than a wet rag. Hell, even the co-writers Graham Williams and Anthony Read didn't want to be part of this, instead using the infamous pseudonym David Agnew. In this Bad Sci-Fi review, I take a look at the "sequel" to The Deadly Assassin, The Invasion of Time.
   Episode One is composed of The Doctor consulting with an alien race and signing and agreement that will let him control Galifrey. As the Tardis arrives, a warrant is ill-informly given for The Doctor's arrest and he claims his right as the President, seeing as in his last visit he was running, and there has been no-one else in what, the past MONTH?! Anyway, he gets pally with Chancellor Borusa (who's regenerated since TDA, and now played by John Arnatt)  Well. He acts like a complete and total arse, out of character to the highest degree. He orders that his quarters is redecorated with thick metal gears. The induction ceremony involves him getting access to the Symbols, and to be connected the The Matrix. When he is exposed to the Matrix in the ceremony, he collapses down in pain.
   So, our first episode has The Doctor acting ridiculously out of character, badly acted roles (Baker is Ok but the aliens are monotone and Leela is an embarrisment) and aliens that sit in big egg-shaped chairs and sound like they're from upper Belfast.
   The next episode, The Doctor recovers in his chambers, and then banishes Leela, to die in the wastelands. He sneaks back to the Tardis and discusses his plans with K9, while Leela is running across the Capital trying to escape. K9 is helping him with success in allowing a full invasion. Meanwhile, Leela comes across a force-fielded Time Lady called Rodan, who's the space traffic controller. Rodan lets past an alien ship, thinking it will do them no harm, but K9 has been ordered to go and destroy the forcefield. The Doctor calls a meeting of the council and the Vardans appear, shimmering bits of tin foil.
   Slightly better than the first, but there are plot holes the size of belgium and not in an acceptable way, either. The Doctor is slightly more temperate and cunning here, if still seemingly to be a little bit of a dick. Heading into Ep. Three, and The Doctor chats with Borusa in private, in his now lead-lined office. The Vardans leader has a monotone voice that get gratingly annoying after a short while.
   Leela and Rodan meanwhile decide to head off into the wastelands anyway, so as to gather forces to kill the Vardans. Back in The Doctor's room he explains to Borusa that his entire act has been a falsity, and that he is trying to destroy the Vardans. The lead-lined rooms are to make sure that the Vardans can't pick up their brain readings. Meanwhile, Castellan Kelner, a weaselly fellow who reminds me facially of Norman Lovett, is getting pally with the Vardans and is banishing people left right and centre. The two ladies find a tribe of outsiders who have chosen to live outside the city. They go on a bit.
  Borusa is put under house-arrest, and the Vardans tell The Doctor to destroy the forcefield seperating Galifrey from the rest of time. Meanwhile, there is a gathering amongst the guards against the invaders and the outsiders get ready to fight. The head guard breaks into the Tardis and sentences him to Death in the name of liberty.
   Finally we lose the masqurade, and the whole episode is better for it. The villians are on the whole pityfully unconvincing, and everything is still wooden. Episode Four starts by K9 stunning the head guard. Yet another group of henchmen remove the rebels and he walks safely out into the main room. He then helps the head guard with a lead-lined helmet, so as to make sure he isn't affected by the Vardans. They find out that something's wrong, and he needs the Vardans to materialise in their true forms as soon as possible. To do this, he decides to destroy the quantum field.
   He disables the field, and then asks the Vardans to disable their covers. They do so, revealing three HILARIOUS (seriously, it is) looking people. They're just shorties in green costume! Anyway, the outsiders break into the capital. The Doctor meets up with Andred and K9 in the President's office. The Vardans give Kelner the power and order the Doctor's execution. K9 has broken into the Matrix and the Outsiders get into his office. K9, on the Doctor's order, sends all of the Vardans back to their home planet and then locks them there. We all cheer as we hope the story is over.
   Well, that wasn't too bad overall...OH MY GOD NO. The cliffhanger of this episode has a Sontaren suddenly appear. Another alien race, just appear. I wanted this to be over, but no, we have to have two more episodes. So basically, the Sontarens were following the Vardans and have broken through the hole that The Doctor made before. Since there only seem to be ABOUT 3 TIME LORDS, it seems pretty easy.
   Episode Five and for some reason the Sontarens have cockney accents. The leader is Commandor Stor. They go off, trying to find "Doctor," The Doctor introducing himself as Lord President. He gives an aural key to Borusa, who manages to set off an alarm that stuns the Sontarens. All of the good guys get away. Leela kills a Sontaren. Kelner is pally with the Sontarens.
    In essence, The Doctor goes to Borusa, who asks him to finally reveal the location of the fabled Key of Rassilon, which activates the De-Mat Gun, the most powerful weapon in the Universe. He gives him the Key and they all go back to the TARDIS, where Rodan gets to work on using the Tardis to fix the forcefield. Kelner however activates a machine to throw the Tardis into a black hole.
   Episode Six, and they fix the machine remotely. They then go on a wild-goose chase through the Tardis, running through room after room in search of the gun. When The Doctor gets the gun, Stor makes orders to blow up the Eye of Harmony, but he is shot by The Doctor. Then, the gun erases itself and erases his memories. The Doctor gets ready to go and Leela decides to stay behind on Galifrey with the Head Guard and K9.
   So. So. The more watchable episodes are the middle two, as the last two are tacked on and the first two are truely, utterly bad. Why didn't they elect another president? Why would The Doctor, when faced with the Vardan threat, decide to endanger not only his homeworld but the whole of time in a stupid plot? Why would he use the gun? This episode is just rife with madness, and really puts shame on the greatness that was The Deadly Assassin.

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Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Review: Doctor Who Classic: The Deadly Assassin

1976. Season 14 was preceeded by a warning by Elizibeth Sladen, to the producers, that she would only play popular companion Sarah-Jane Smith for a certain number of episodes. Thus, at the end of The Hand Of Fear, The Doctor was whisked away to his home planet of Galiffrey, where humans couldn't visit.
     Not feeling the need to find another companion in a hurry, this serial stands as the only episode of the classic series (and really, of the entire show) to not have even an unofficial companion. And while it might play that as a gimmick, the story is revered as a classic, with brilliant writing, inspired set design and the return of one of The Doctor's greatest enemies, The Master.
   The plot is based off of the popular film/book The Manchurian Candidate, which is a fast political thriller. Indeed, the previously mystical Time Lord society is explored deeply for the first time, and to the upset of many a contemporary fan, portrayed as a group of babbling politicians. I personally prefer this more realistic portrayl of the Time Lords as a failing society. There are also many things said here that later become set-in-stone rules, such as Time Lords only having 13 lives.
    So the Doctor lands on Galifrey and gets premonition that he will shoot the President of the Time Lords. In the Capital, he sneaks round trying to not get caught (as, a fan would remember, he is a Time Lord renegade). The President is about to name his successor, and Chancellor Goth and Cardinal Borusa are rivals. When the time comes, The Doctor finds the gun, and then notices the assalient in the crowd. The gun misses, but the President is already dead and they head to arrest The Doctor.
     They arrest The Doctor and begin to sentence him to death (permanently). He claims a right which means that he can run for President himself, and as long as he wins he can stay free. He takes the time before the election to investigate with the head Police Chief. They discover the gun was bent sideways, and so he couldn't have hit the President if he had tried. Looking at the cameras, they find the cameraman killed in a manner which would suggest that The Master had killed him. They then discover that someone is working in The Matrix (Doctor Who invented the concept 23 years before Hollywood), a virtual reality that covers and scans over all time. To fight this person, who they suspect is a servant of The Master, The Doctor taps himself into the Matrix.
     In the Matrix, he fights nightmares, and one Hunter that seems to control this world. They spend the entire third episode in The Matrix, fighting and running. Eventually, the Hunter reveals himself as Chancellor Goth. They have a final fight, but Goth's body gives up and both leave the Matrix. They track Goth down to The Master's hideout, where it is revealed that The Master has apparently killed himself and Goth with him. They go away and consider the events, with The Doctor amazed at how The Master accepted death. However, his remains disappear and he is chased to The Eye of Harmony, source of all power in Galiffrey. Eventually he falls into the eye, killing him.
    It's very good story, and its status shows that. To this day the episode has profound influences on Doctor Who. The 2entertain DVD commentary? Well, it's a little bumbling because of the age of the actors, but Baker's charm is inescapable.

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Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Review: Survivors 1.6

As we reach the finale of the first series, an attempt has to be made to round certain things up and to make the choice as to whehter the series will end ambiguously or on a cliffhanger. Like all young dramas, Survivors follows the latter option, rather annoyingly. Although, the quality of this episode doesn't exactly have us running back for more...
   So Samantha Willis' commune is branching out, trying to create some form of government. They've recruited Dexter as Lead Henchman, and their first port of call is a visit to the House. There, they get info on all of the survivors. Anya tries to hide her status as a doctor, but Sarah rats her out because she wants to fuck Max Beezely. They kidnapp Anya and Tom, Al and Greg go off in hot pursuit, leading to a standoff where Greg and Al are sent away while Tom shoots Gavin.
     They get Anya back, and they decide they need to move, possibly south, to get away from Samantha. Najid doesn't like the idea, and so like all rational eleven year olds, runs away into the filty, disease ridden hellhole that is Post-Apocalypse Manchester. There he ends up with a group of modern Oliver Twists who steal food and supplies in return for a warm meal and video games. The group, instead of ignoring the teenage boy, go off on a wild goose chase, fighting through shopping centres. Anyway, it all climaxes as they're chased by not only Dexter but also Scientist Helicopters. Dexter shoots Greg, the scientists abduct Abby and we get an annoying cliffhanger.
    So, two loose strands of plot tied together with a sugar rush, not resolving any aspect of the series but promising more. The big dramatic developments are of people revealing information from Episode One to other people and them taking it rather well. I don't have Series Two on DVD, so I can't review it yet, but I'll soon pick it up in the nearest bargain bin in Tescos.

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Monday, 16 August 2010

Review: Doctor Who Classic: Revelation of the Daleks

1985. Colin Baker's run as The Doctor has been turbulent and unpopular to say the least. This series finale was quite possibly the last episode of Doctor Who, and so the series hinged on the success of this serial.
     As it stands, Revelation is an improvement on the series as a whole. It still suffers from the ridiculously low budget of Season 22, but the themes it presents are well-presented enough for it not to matter. The whole thing is a little mad, but in a way that suits the ideas it's trying to get across.
     Near the end of Tom Baker's tenure in Doctor Who, there was a whole Dalek-story reboot called "Genesis of the Daleks". Sticking to a Biblical theme, Peter Davidson got "Ressurrection..." and here, like the strange, strange Biblical endpiece, is Revelation. It's unique in this series for the fact that the entire first half is made up of The Doctor and Peri actually getting to the building in question while the villians and supporting characters get everything into place. Our main antagonists here are Davros, mad creator of the Daleks, and a new race of his creations that he is creating out of the DNA of dead humans. He's been doing this from the safety and convenience of Tranquil Repose, a celestial undertaker's.
   The Doctor and Peri materialise on Tranquil Repose because The Doctor has found out that his old scientist friend has died, and so they're going to visit his tomb. When they (finally) get to the building, they find that Davros has set himself up as The Great Healer, and is using human flesh to sell to poor countries across the galaxy, while creating personal Daleks. There're also quite a few subplots weaved into it, including a one-sided romance in the undertakers', two space mercenaries, and a DJ.
   Bakers' garish garb is covered by a blue shawl, and Peri finally gets some warm clothes, meaning that both can be taken more seriously. The other characters, on the other hand, are an assortment of madmen and eccentrics, meaning that for once The Doctor is the Only Sane Man. Also to look at is the quaint Egyptian deisgn of Tranquil Repose, the 1970s feel of the DJ, and the eerie soundtrack.
   The 2entertain DVD Commentary has the voices of David Molloy (who played a bit part in Attack of the Cybermen, and plays Davros here,) Nicola Bryant (Peri), Eric Saward (Writer) and Greame Harper (Director, who went on to direct many New Who episodes). It's quite informative, but really could have done with Baker on the team.

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Sunday, 15 August 2010

Review: Survivors 1.5

Quite a strong episode, where we deal with how apocalyptic events spark superstition. It does have some really stupid segments in it, but the acting is good, the idea works well and for the first time it really feels as if our "family" of characters act that way. We also (at last) get a subplot surrounding the Lab.
     Naj stumbles upon a group of campers who are listening to some sort of prophet (pictured) talk about how "He" spoke to him once the silence came. Naj and the preacher talk and he leads them back to the house.
     In the house, Greg is pointing out how Abby won't help the group is she goes looking for Peter every five minutes. She refuses to take the hint. Upstairs, Tom has had sex with Sarah, for some reason. I mean, seriously? This relationship comes smack bang out of nowhere, has little relevance to the plot and is gone by the next episode!
     Anya goes out looking for Naj and they just happen to be at the gate. The preacher (now named John, most likely a reference to the John from Revelation) and the rest end up camping in the house garden. Naj wants them to stay but the rest of the group are realistically skeptical. Al and Sarah are serving tea, and Al notices an almost due pregnant woman, who isn't scared by labour without hospital care. John, meanwhile, displays open signs of talking to voices in his head.
    Abby and Anya talk to John, who reveals that he used to be an architect but now hears the voice of God. He explains that they want to rest in the house until the baby is born. All of the group vote, and the majority vote is that they can stay until the baby is born. To cut a long story short, Anya is forced to reveal her medical credentials when the baby is born and John breaks down. Anya diagnoses him with scizophrenia, and he is forced to accept that that is true, at least after a rampage with the newborn baby. Oh, and Anya, after having slept with Tom some other time, tells him about her lesbianism (well, Bisexuality). He isn't impressed.
     In our subplot, people are being round up by the Scientists, studying them to see why they are immune, and trying out cures. The head scientist shows some questionable ethics. Then, one of the scientists picks up on Abby's video recording, and they rush to try and find her.
    It's certainly entertaining, and these little details regarding human behaviour when faced with an event such as this should be cherished. In my honest opinion theological episodes often blur things up, and sometimes things can be held unsensitively. But this bucked that trend, landing firmly on the side of rationality, with the moral being that you should always keep a clear head in times of trouble. And I like that.

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Characters: Survivors

This post is just a basic rundown of all of the characters in Survivors, so I don't have to elaborate when reviewing them. Note that these descriptions examine their roles throughout the whole two series.

"Heroes"

Abby - Mother of the Group/Screeching Protagonist

Abby Grant is the only person to survive the virus by fighting it off naturally, and this makes her hopeful towards finding her son, Peter. If you didn't know that her primary objective was to find her son, you'd just have to wait five minutes, for her to either brood or scream his name loudly. The plot is often moved in the wrong direction because she thinks she saw her son, or thinks she saw someone that knew her son, or is looking for her son etc. . She's supposed to fill the "normal woman" role, but it rarely works as she's always swanning off to look for her boy, or being abducted by scientists, or having sex with strange men. Her background is revealed as the main plot of the first episode.

Greg - Survivalist/Only Sane Man

Greg has a very lax character, but he's basically the straight man to Abby and Tom's madness. He appears at first as a survivalist, and often talks about how his wife left with his two children, and thus his objective is to find them. Unlike Abby, he doesn't really make use of this objective, instead just acting like a househusband and, occasionally, a rational thinker. His stereotype is "modern black man," very P.C. . His background is only revealed in Series Two.

Tom - Hard Man/ Ex-Con Nutjob

Tom Price has been in prison and the army, and acts as the more gun-happy member of the group. He's the "right-wing white man" but he's Ok. He doesn't have much to say, and the acting is a little stiff; very little voice inclanation or tone is used to try and create an ex-con out of charmer Max Beezely, but it doesn't work well. Regardless, he seems to have the most common sense, and tensions with Abby and Greg just make the group stronger. Somehow. Background is revealed in Series Two.

Al - Playboy/ Whiny Arsewipe

Al, short for Ali, is used to a life of luxury - fast cars, booze breakfasts and deep-seated loneliness. His attitude to the world in general is less annyoing thn Sarah's but still manages to be annyoing whenever someone damages his pride. Acts like a father to Naj, even though most of the time he fails quite considerably.

Najid - Whining Muslim Boy/ Whining Muslim Boy

Take all of the muslim zealots of the world and condense them into one little boy, and you have Najid, whose actions are nonsensical, illogical and unrealistic. He is also extremely annoying and upon occasion makes the show unwatchable. Serves as the series' only main child.

Anya - Deppressed Doctor/ Lesbian Deppressed Doctor

Anya is bearable to say the least, ignoring the obvious issues regarding her having had to watch people die consistently throughout the epidemic, scaring her mental state. Despite being a lesbian, most of the boys don't catch on, and so early on she serves as Al and Tom's main love interest. 

Sarah - Pretty Girl/ Shallow, Manipulative Bitch

Sarah Boyer is empty-hearted, callous, stupid, lazy, ignorant, annoying, manipulative, and dowright useless. Why she exists as a character at all is beyond me.

"Villians"

Samantha - MP for Flydale North

Sam Willis is the last MP, and she's trying wholeheartedly to create her little commune in the North, and eventually tke over the whole country. And to be honest she's only presented as a villan because she does morally ambigious things and isn't part of the group; murdering Tom on the other hand, is loveble. Sam's my favourite character mainly because she does things that make sense. It's bovious that this series views sense as a threat.

Dexter - Rampaging Gunman / Spindly Idiot

My main problem with Dexter is that he's never actually shown trying to kill anyone until the last few minutes of Series One, by which point we're supposed to already think he's badass. But he's not. He practices kung fu, and drives around with his gang, but they only hold guns to peoples' heads in their main performance. Once he joins up with Samantha, he provides a good foil for Tom. Which is odd, seeing as out next villian serves the same purpose...

Gavin - Government Gunman

So the Commune's security needed a toughman. Here comes Gavin, who has the same ideals as Samantha but likes to kill people anyway, just to make sure other people agree with him as well. Despite him being in three episodes, he's killed off by Tom.

The Scientists

They're not really revealed until Series Two, but in Series One we get small tastes of what's going on, and how they're cooped up to make sure that the virus they accidentally released early doesn't infect them.

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Review: Survivors 1.4


This is certainly the most lacklustre episode of Series One. It's got a lazy storyline that doesn't really advance any interesting plotlines, and some of the breaks in logic present in the episode mean that the whole thing is a little difficult to watch.
          Our first, rather dull storyline, concerns Abby, who at the end of the last episode was told of a large house run by runaway children. She heads down there and meets, along the way, a man who's been fighting with the children, as it was his country home that they now live in. They bond, and he helps her to find the kids because she thinks one of them is PEh-TER!!!! By god, that screaming is getting annoying by this point. Oh, and they go skinny dipping. It's only been a month since her husband died, and already she's swimming nude with a man she's known for a few hours! Anyway, the child isn't Peter (who'd have known) and everyone lives happliy etc.
     The secondary storyline, which is more interesting if just as stupid, regards Al, Tom, Anya, Sarah and Najid taking up residence in Samantha's commune. They seem to be fine, but Al, being a lazy, unlikable bum, is unhappy with the commune's strict work guidelines, and isn't really up the whole Communist utopia thing. So, he leaves, and for some godawful reason, all of the other survivors go too. WHY? It isn't like Al hasn't got a place to stay, because Greg's still back at the house. Their decision, to completely shun their more comfortable existence for one lazy bastard, is not so much admirable as downright braindead.
    Looking for some positives, there are some ok chase scenes between the forest man and the boys, and good tension between ex-con Tom and Samantha. But otherwise, it's just this mess. Not unwatchable, by any stretch, but nonsensical.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Review: Survivors 1.3

The question always arises in these post-apocalyptic situations; what form of government remains? In this political themed episode, we answer that question quite nicely, as well as fuelling the elusive scientist subplot. Luckily, most of the characters are given things to do, most of which are interesting in their own right. There's still that absense of characterisation, but by this point you really don't expect anything more.
          Our main plot deals with Greg and Tom, who upon finding a country farmhouse discover that a father is trying to keep his two children away from the outside world, in a seemingly irrational fear of infection. It turns out, however, that they soon agree with the father, and as they discuss it with the daughter they realise they may have killed all three of them. You see, they all had food poisening during the flu epidemic, and so were never exposed. Luckily, the virus has been "blown away by the wind" and the three live happily ever after.
          A notable, and perhaps more memorable subplot entails Abby, who has stumbled upon a country commune that has working electricity and water, where the last cabinet member, Samantha Willis, has created a stable local government. They store a video diary of Abby if Peter ever drops by, and Abby begins to like the lifestyle. However, after witnessing Samantha's harsh punishments, she walks out.
        It's a captivating episode that manages to be greater than the sum of its parts. The acting's a little stodgy, the character depth absent, the plot a little unbelievable, but there's a good plot and a good atmosphere. The series takes its time with things and that's to its credit.

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Review: Survivors 1.2

As per the rules of the second episode, this is where we fully work with premise. While this episode is not as captivating as the first, it still works with the ideas presented quite well. The lack of depth in the characters is an issue, but at this early stage we rattle along anyway.
          Our survivors have found a country house and as of the start of the episode are going out to get supplies. However, the supermarket is being controlled by a group of gun-toting survivors headed by the manipulative Dexter, who serves as this series' main villan.
          Meanwhile, over in a large warehouse full of enough goods to feed a city, Bob and his helper/manipulative lover Sarah watch on. As the survivors trek around Netto, Greg goes into the offices and finds their supplier. In the supermarket, the group find a speared corpse. On the way out, Dexter stops the group from taking anything, claiming property rights. As they're forced to drive away, Abby's plot device kicks in as she thinks one of the gang is Peter's instructor from the holiday.
          Abby broods (this will become more familiar as we go on) and when they get back, they all argue some more about the reality of the situation. Tom (pictured) describes his now personal vendetta against everyone in their way. Back at the supplier's, and we see that Sarah is bribing Bob with sex.
          Anya decides to go out to get some supplies and Tom tags along. They're packing medical supplies, Anya being a doctor'n'all, and Tom is trying to chat her up (blissfully unaware). He guesses correctly that she was a doctor, and she says that she doesn't want him to tell anyone because she wants to start afresh. In return, he tells her about his criminal past.
       Bob has an accident with a forklift, crushing his leg. Back in the morning, and the survivors are split up into two groups - Greg, Tom and Abby go out to look at the other supermarkets, and Anya, Al and Najid go out to the small country shops. They also discuss having to raid houses as well. Anyway, Greg decides he'll go to the supplier's instead.
       Abby drives Tom to the supermarket from the day before, against Dexter's orders. Tom thinks it's just to get supplies, but Abby, being a cmplete and total waste of air, honks the horn repeatedly to get the attention of Dexter's gang and hopefully find Peter. This doesn't go down well. They get held at gunpoint, Tom ends up really not liking Dexter, but luckily Dexter has mercy on Abby and they get away scott-free.
     Greg goes to the suppliers, where Sarah (the most shallow and undercharacterised person in the world) stops his car, and asks for help regarding Bob. He drives into the warehouse and lifts Bob out of his inprisonment. Along the way, Greg finds that Sarah is a complete incompetent. That night Greg decides to stay at the compound to make sure Sarah can look after Bob, and to get a few supplies. This obviously worries the rest of the survivors when he doesn't return.
     In the other subplot, Anya takes up raiding houses while Al and Najid rob a sweet shop. However, the owner is still alive and trys to kill Naj, meaning that Al is forced to kill him instead. It weighs on the conscience of them both. The three get back. Meanwhile, in the morning, Greg starts to head back and Sarah comes with him, abandoning Bob. Abby has set off looking anyway.
     Al and Najid also go off, and find some chickens, which they plan to take back and keep. Al moans about having killed the shopkeeper. Abby arrives at the supplier's and there's some tension, which doesn't really work because no-one has any character! The Dexter arrives and claims his territory. He slaps Sarah (and the audience cheered!) Greg ends up attcking Dexter and then Tom arrives, making Dexter choose as to who he'll kill. Choosing peace, Dexter tells them to go and they do.
     As a second episode, it doesn't carry the gravitas of the opener. The desolation that endcapped the premiere isn't mirrored here, and that's a bit of a let down. We still know little about the characters beyond their stereotypes and basic motivations (PEh-TER!!!). However, there is some good drama and while some of the acting is a little stiff, it works.

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Thursday, 12 August 2010

Review: Survivors 1.1

To make up for my lack of Lost reviews, I'm going to be taking on a much smaller project, reviewing Series One of the remake of Survivors. You see, to those who weren't born, Survivors was a 1970s drama series based on an idea which at the time seemed practically impossible; a supervirus wiping out most of Earth's population. It was very depressing, but ran for four series. When there were fears over the various forms of Influenza around the globe, some bright spark at the BBC decided that it would be fun to bring the series back for a remake in 2008.
          And so here's the first, feature length, episode. We focus on all of the main characters, which cover most of the basic ethnic groups to fill in the modern consus form, as they go about their daily lives. As it happens, a terrible virus is spreading across the world, named "European Flu." Our main character, Abby Grant, is worried about her holidaying son, who's quite recently recovered from a terminal illness. She ends up trying to drive to get her son from the holiday camp, while the world falls apart around her, and she gets the virus. As our lucky protagonist, she manages to fight it off. All of the characters fall asleep somehow, and when morning breaks 99% of the world's population is dead.
          Our main characters, all immune to the virus, which include a muslim boy (Najid, perhaps the most annoying thing the BBC have ever produced), a sorta-muslim bachelor (Al), Abby, a survivalist black man (Greg), an ex-army prisoner (Tom) and a lesbian doctor (Anya), meet up on the Manchester Ringroad and decide to stave out this new world together.
          I may have simplified the plot a bit, but that's what it is. There's some marvelous tension and some well-used gore that accurately and skillfully covers the virus' spread. It doesn't fall back on the "touchy subject, good programme" excuse and is actually quite a skillful piece of television. My only gripe at this stage is that none of the characters are very developed; they're just a bunch of grouped stereotypes. The only character with any backstory is Abby, and her whining for son Peter is quite irritating at times. Still, it's a good one-and-a-half-hour of sci-fi, and gets off to a good start. We have the hope of exploring a secret scientist lab, as shown in the end of the episode, and this should help keep away the tedium of the open country setting.

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PS. A quick note in this episode is that publicity focussed heavily on the roles of lesbian teacher Freema Agyeman (Who played Martha Jones in Doctor Who Series 3-4) and Abby's husband David, played by Shaun Dingwall (Who played Rose's father in Doctor Who Series 1-2). Nonetheless, both die in the virus attacks, making it a little pointless.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Review: Sherlock: Part Three

An exciting if manic episode, "The Great Game" saw the culmination of this short series, and the reveal of Sherlock's man enemy Proffessor Moriaty. It was more a cluster of mini-mysteries than one long story, although I expect that this was the point, demonstating how Moriaty works.
        A series of victims, attatched to ticking bombs, contact Sherlock. Each time they do so, they indicate a case which they have to solve and submit to the victim before the bomb goes off, to save their life and the lives of the people around them. At the end, Moriaty was revealed, and we were harshly given a cliffhanger as Sherlock threatened to kill him.
        It's got all of that detective skill, as well as some growing-up by Watson, but it wasn't as energetic as the previous two episodes, despite the fact that timers made up most of the episode's structure. It all worked, but since most of it was crucial to the particular mystery it was solving, it became very easy to miss important details.
          That cliffhanger is one of a worrying number, tacked on to British dramas to try and get another series. It's a shame that Sherlock resorted to this, as it didn't need to in the long run.

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Saturday, 7 August 2010

Prologue: Lost: Season Four

Before I start to review Series  Season Four of Lost, I thought I'd get abit of background in. S4 was produced at the time of the Writers Guild of America Strike, which affected shows across America. This meant that character background and certain iportant scenes had to be dropped, and left over for the next season.
         Despite this, Season Four is the second-favourite amongst fans, after the revered Season One. It's not hard to see why - a basic, centralised storyline, the partial fulfillment of the show's aims and a heavy emphasis on more scientific explanations.
        Unlike brief British series, one doesn't just skip through series with American shows. Season Four has 14 episodes, the shortest season of Lost. And starting Monday, I'll be reviewing one episode every day, culminating on Monday 23rd.
        At the end of Season Three, the survivors faced off the Others, who they'd been fighting since Season One. They succeeded, and we got what we thought was a flashback, a staple of the series. However, the shock cliffhanger was that this was in fact a flash-forward,and that at some point Jack and Kate get off the island.

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Friday, 6 August 2010

Overview: Red Dwarf: Series Eight

The general law of TV shows is that shows follow a general pattern. They build up, have a golden period, and then collapse down. The general consensus is that this series is what happens when a show goes beyond the collapse; an expanse of bad material. And it just goes to show; this series has produced the two worst half-hours of Dwarf I have ever witnessed.
          One has to start with the blaringly obvious. Reversing the concept which made your show unique and interesting, the cosmic misfits exploring the universe, is such an ignorant and downright stupid move that I'm suprised Naylor can write his own name. Want a way to lose all chemistry with your characters, to take the spirit of the show and grind it into the mud? Do what Naylor has done here.
          Another thing is the logical problems. Dwarf has never been particularly known for its logic, but where it mattered, things were cemented up. It made at least a little sense, and it was realistic with the absurdity it was given. What we have here now is a show trying to be funny by copying that which went before it; copying the wrong things and to too great an extent.
          The only episodes which stand out are Cassandra and Only The Good... , which have quite a few decent jokes and, apart from an off-colour joke in the last episode, made a little bit of an effort. The rest is unadulterated muck, and Pete (Part 2) is so embarrissingly bad that it took me around four hours to review it. And the most tragic thing is, it didn't end well. Red Dwarf officially ended on a bad cliffhanger, with a mediocre episode backing it up. Such a shame.

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Review: Red Dwarf: Only The Good...

Series Eight, Episode Eight - Only The Good...
And so, we finally reach the last episode of Red Dwarf. Eight series. 52 episodes. It would be another decade before any more Dwarf was produced, and when it did, it completely abandoned this storyline. For what was supposed to be the last episode ever, it should have made more effort. True to form, it's an examination of Rimmer, but it's just a little lacklustre.
         We start out with a message broadcast to Dwarf by an escape pod, its ship eaten by a chameleonic microbe. The pod enters the ship, and the microbe escapes. We see Rimmer serving the Captain, who is cooped up in bed with yellow fever. He wants the Captain to get rid of his criminal record, so he can properly advance up the ranks. The Captain puts him down, and asks him to look elsewhere in life. Meanwhile, his beautiful blonde girlfriend comes in and Rimmer is dismissed.
             Swearing he'll be the Captain, Rimmer has an argument with the food machine after stealing a chocolate bar. The machine swears that one day, he will destroy Rimmer. Rimmer says that on that day, he'll be the captain. Elsewhere, The Cat moans about how his job as the ship's disk-jockey is hurting his back, and his mind. Meanwhile, there's a tasteless section where Kryten tries to help Kris get over PMT. She gets very, very mad at Lister. Kris and Kryten start to conspire...
         Back in Lister's quarters, and Lister and Rimmer are playing draughts when Holly shows up and tells them that there wil be a cell inspection in ten minutes. They're then told the same by a guard. Moving on, the two compare scars, and they get a fax from Kryten, who has left them a note, telling them that they've placed some stolen alcohol in Lister's shower. Lister is worried about the inspector while Rimmer is scared of Hooch, who the alcohol belonged to. They're forced to drink the entire thing. After falling about, they manage to finish it and are very, very pissed. When the inspector comes in, they're unable to properly respond to anything.
        We cut to lunch, where Baxter is on the warpath. He comes over and tells Kris and Kryten about how he's going to kill the others in hospital. Those two sneak in, while to help get into the medibay, Cat tries to get himself hospitalised. This is quite a funny scene, as his blatant disrespect for one of the beefy prisoners actually earns him that prisoner's respect. So hes forced to sneak in as a nurse.
        As they escape, they find that the ship is being slowly eaten by the virus. Hollister addresses all of the prisoners, and tells them that most of them will be staying there to die so as to conserve the escape pods. Kryten examines the compound in the virus, and Kris decides that to eradicate it they need an antidote from a a parallel universe. They create aa portal (using some random tech) and Rimmer goes through first, leaving him trapped there. It turns out, however, that in this universe, Rimmer is the captain. In a scene mirroring the one that began the episode, he mercilessly belittles this universe's version of Hollister. The girlfriend comes in, and Rimmer tries to snog her, when she reveals that she is in fact his sister. Feeling awkward, he then acts like a big brother - she then reveals she is a sister in the religious sense. Going to the ship's science advisor (in this universe, The Cat) he gets the antidote and gets back through.
        When he gets back, all of the remaining crew have gone back into the mirror universe, as the ship slowly decomposes. He has another argument with the dispenser, who, seeing as he is the highest ranking member of the crew left, starts firing chocolate bars at him. As he fights to keep conscious, he meets the Grim Reaper, who he knees in the groin and runs off. 
       What we have here is a charicature, a basic shrinking down of all the major motivations of the entire series. Lister; basically good in going back to tell the crew about the virus. Rimmer; aspirational but unlucky. The Cat; he believed that he was the centre of the universe, and his presence makes the brute bow down to him. Kris; well, there was never really a lot of development for Kris. Kryten; always wants to help but has little understanding of deep human concepts. I like this episode, very much, even though the one that proceeds it is the worst Dwarf has to offer.  

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Review: Red Dwarf: Pete, Parts One and Two

Oh god, we're finally here. The worst episode of Dwarf, Pete (Part Two). Hold on tight.

Series Eight, Episodes Six and Seven - Pete
 Pete (Part Two) is hideous. It just is. But Pete (Part One) is slightly better. I'm going to review them side-by-side, god help me. Here I go.
          Lister and Rimmer are taken to see the Captain, for playing a prank on the prison warden. Their punishment is to have to play basketball against the Prison warden team. (Already, Dwarf? ALREADY?) They play the game, and get beaten up considerably. However, Lister has managed to sneak a form of viagra into the warden's team's drinks, and so in the second half they win. There's no comedy here. It's... just wrong. So once again they're escorted to his office, where they get punished again for the drugs fiasco.
        Their punishment is to peel spuds for two weeks. There's some more prison room comedy, where Lister is shown to not be able to do a crossword. We see Lister talking with the scutters, who are smuggling them things. rimmer, curious, asks if the scutters can smuggle them something to help with the spuds. Lister suggests a programmable virus which would eat the skins.
          Kryten, Cat and Kris are on a canary mission, looking through a ship that has swallowed up two entire canary battalions. Inside, they find a group of canaries frozen solid in time, looking at a machine. The machine is a time wand, which froze them, and can store time. Trying it out, Kryten accidnetally turns Kris and Cat into children. He then fast forwards them to their teenage years,  (bad 70s hair gag). Returning to normal, Kris anticipates that the wand could make the prison term pass by almost instantly.
          Back at the spuds, and Lister releases the virus. It works, but it also starts to eat their clothes. Bald and naken, they are once more escorted to the Captain's office. He tells them to go away, but not before shaking his hand and accidnetally transfering the virus onto himself. As he loses his hair, they're sentenced to two months in "the hole".
          In the dining room, Cat is beatun up by Baxter. Turning his lunch into a chicken, Kryten is forced to freeze him as he jumps for Cat. They escape. Meanwhile, in "the hole," Lister and Rimmer meet a madman called Birdman, with a pet sparrow called Pete. The scutters manage to help them escape, all of the crew frozen in time by Kryten. They follow the scutters until they meet the other guys in the landing bay, where they're having a picnic. Kryten ages their hair back, and Pete dies. Feeling sympathetic, they try to use the wand to de-age the sparrow... but for some reason, a tyranosauus rex appears instead.
          As we go to cliffhanger.. WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!? ARE YOU INSANE?!? I mean, that episode was ok, if you ignore the tasteless basketball and the sheer idiocy of the cliffhanger. And they've frozen the crew! Not only is this task so great it beggars belief, but the fact that they haven't hitched a Starbug and gotton out of their is just insane!
          And now we plung, arse-first, into Part Two. I took a two-hour break just to prepare. We get a recap. Chased by the T.Rex, Kryten throws the time wand to Bob the Scutter, who is eaten by the T.Rex. They hide in a store-room, behind steel doors. Kris sugests that they need to get the wand out of his system, and so to speed up his bowel movements, plan to feed him a large curry. (A bowel movement/curry joke? Seriously?) Meanwhile, inside the T.Rex's stomach, Bob accidnetally activates the time wand, unfreezing the crew. Cutting back to the cargo bay, and they've made a large swimming pool of vindaloo and are... hanging a cow over it.
          The T-Rex comes in, and starts to eat. He starts screaming, to emphasise, "Duh dudes curry is hot lol". The dino crashes through a wall and two guards come in. Lister and Rimmer once again march into the Captain's office. He straight-facedly berates them, TALKING ABOUT THE DINOSAUR INSTEAD OF DOING ANYTHING ABOUT IT. He then goes on to describe the dinosaur's burp, and then its vomit. Lovely. He then confronts them about the dinosaur's diarrhoea attack. One moment.
          THUD THUD THUD THUD THUD THUD THUD THUD
          Moving swiftly, on, the Captain tells Lister to use the wand to revert the dinosaur. They get prepared, and in the one funny segemnt in this thing, Rimmer, thinking Lister has the time wand and can easily reverse the Captain, tells the captain exactly how much he hates him. The captain then gives him the time wand.
          And... oh god. No. Please. Don't. They introduce... Kryten's... pet... penis. And it's called Archie.
          I CAN'T GO ON! I REFUSE! I WILL NOT REVIEW ANY MORE OF THIS EPISODE!!!
          Kris is cleaning under a bed as part of her punishment, trying to get a mouse. Kryten comes and tells her that it isn't a mouse, but his pet penis, Archie. Apparently he made it so he could be classified as a male. Kryten then calls for it.  It then escapes and runs away. They're then given a canary mission, to stop the dino. The guard says it totally non-shalantly, as if a rampaging dinosaur is a normal sort of problem. On the way there, there's a T.Rex masturbation joke.
         Then, Cat starts to spasm. It turns out that Kryten's pet penis is crawling around in his suit. Moving on, some mad prisoners, who want to have a fist fight with the dino, threaten Lister and Rimmer to stop them from doing the sane thing. For some reason, when the time wand is used on them , it doesn't work. They try punching the two but nothing happens. It turns out that they froze their bodies in place. The two madmen then steal the wand and run away.
          For some reason. they end up marching back to the Captain's office. He tells them to get them back. Unfortunately, their bodies catch up with the rest of them, meaning that they are beaten up, seemingly in mid air, right in front of the captain. Cutting forward, we see that the two madmen have been reverted to gorrillas (DO YOU EVEN UNDERSTAND BASIC BIOLOGY?). They take back the wand. Finding the T.Rex (who's sleeping like a dog...) they use the wand to ressurect Birdman, and then fast-forward Pete to a sparrow. Rimmer then tells him to destroy the wand so nothing like this could ever happen again. As they head back, they pass a giant dino egg. That's opening. The baby dinosaur get in the lift and climbs into the Captain's quaters, and on to his back, where he mistakes the dino for a masseuse.
           They end up marching back again, and the captain is so stressed he is speaking with cards. He says that he is going to spend 12 months in the hole, just to get over it.
           I don't blame him. This episode was bad. Really, really... just wrong. I need to stop now. I need to rest.

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