Monday, 28 November 2011


Everyone needs a break once in a while. So I'm taking one for this week. Merlin and Misfits will be at their regular times, and Classic Doctor Who will resume next week along with a review of the German epic Downfall and of my local school production of The Wizard of Oz. Until then, over and out.


Sunday, 27 November 2011

Review: Misfits 3.5

Jen is a coma victim with a difference.
If there's one thing that Merlin has done to me, it's made me detest "not in their right mind" plots. I can't stand them. In the space of a few weeks this particular trope has become such a personal pet peeve to me that it stains everything that wants to use it. However. Misfits as ever provided a brilliant subversion of the concept and executed it in a powerful, touching way. It was less of a spotlight episode for Kelly and more for Lauren Socha, whose performance as a completely different character threw me from the off, while the rest of the cast got a fiar share of development too.
     Power lender Seth went to the Community Centre to visit Kelly, and he was immediately set upon by Rudy. Later, Kelly had the misfortune to walk in on a dying coma patient with the power to Bodyswap, and soon she was trapped in the old body while the coma patient walked away. Coma girl goes to her boyfriend Dom's house, and tries to reveal her true identity. In the meantime, Kelly is standing Seth up. Dom (Nick Blood, Trollied) is incredibly freaked out, but Coma girl tries to rectify that by changing into her own clothes and making full benefit of her new, more buxom body.
     Comagirl (Jen) awakens to discover Dom gone, still waiting at the hospital bed. They argue, and Jen decides to switch off the machine. Dom, disgusted, leaves her. However, Alesha and Simon have recognised Kelly's body and take her back to the Community Centre. Jen ends up having to face Seth, who she rebuts. Later, Seth inquires about Kelly and Alesha discovers that she's in the Hospital. They track the source down, and discover the coma patient, working out that they've bodyswapped. Seth, pretending to be the patient's brother, is told that they're going to turn the life support off - and soon. They hijack the body and take it back to the community centre. As Rudy is sent to collect Jen, Frudy talks with her in the pub - and Frudy finds out about Jen's true nature.
Seth is worried for Kelly.
     Frudy guides Jen back to her body at the Community Centre, but the desperate woman stabs Shaun to escape. She grapples with Seth, who argue about relationships. Jen laments about how Dom doesn't love her any more, and Seth asks for her to give he and Kelly a chance. The Misfits reveal their powers to a dying Shaun and Jen finally agrees to return to her body.  Later, Seth gives Dom one last chance to see Jen before he cuts off the life-support. Seth is announced as "part of the gang" when Rudy learns his name and uses his car to dump the body of yet another probation worker.
     Other subplots were also interestng from a character perspective. Rudy revealed to Simon how he was put on community service; his clone battered someone. During an anger management session, Rudy's clone keeps threatening to emerge. While the clone waits outside, it discovers that the therapist is having some problems of her own, and as the more sensitive side can understand. Let's call him Frudy. The next morning, the Therapist gets it on with Rudy, to his apparent delight, at the same time that Curtis was experimenting with female mastrubation. Rudy discovers that Frudy is also having it off with the therapist.He promptly breaks up with her, causing a misguided Frudy to get slapped.
     What was it then, that distinguished this "not in their right mind" episode from all of the others I've watched in the past month? Acting, that's what. Lauren Socha is a clearly different character, and despite retaining her thick accent she still felt like Jen the coma patient over Kelly. Also, it wasn't a transfer done out of malice or of manipulation. It was a move of desperation, a natural human act. Despite this, it did feel quite similar to a lot of stories this series, which I feel is about change. The Misfits have changed their powers; the lead role has changed hands. Each of the characters has changed into something that has advanced their character. Rudy is more sensitive, Curtis more aware of his feminin side, Simon more aware of his superheroics and now Kelly being shown the things she takes for granted in life. I also thought that the double focus on both Kelly and Rudy/Frudy helped a lot to examine both sides of this theme.
Rudy and Frudy got Fruity.
     It could have been terrible, but Misfits delivered yet another moving episode that touched upon this series' key theme of change. Lauren Socha and Joe Gilgum were on top form and I'm really looking forward to next week's quasi finale.


NEXT TIME: Rudy gets an STD, Kelly is Pregnant and Curtis is a girl for keeps.
P.S. This episode's soundtrack was very heavy on the Anna Calvi. I approve.

Review: Merlin 4.9: Lancelot du Lac

Guess who's back? (With a brand new track.)
I've oft mentioned how Merlin's main problem is that we know exactly how it's going to end, and any deviation from that path feels like a waste of time. It also spends a lot of time not bothering, reverting to status quo whenever something interesting happened. This week saw an incredibly tiresome plot development riddled with plot holes, that saw no such reversion. It wasn't clever, or funny, it just stank of false tension. A returning Santiago Canberra was fully wasted by the writer, showing that it's not only Julian Jones that hates Merlin's plotline.
     This week saw the exploitation of the Arthur/Guin/Lancelot Love Triangle, a key part of arthurian myth. Because of Jones' strange decision in the premiere, this was accomplished through means that I found rather dull - Morgana (the world's most formulaic villain) brought him back to the Land of the Living as her willing servant upon the news that Arthur and Gwen had become engaged. Now, with a trusted Knight under her full control, she proceeded to use him to assassinate the main members of Camelot followed by Arthur himself. Right? Oh wait, no. No. That's what should have happened, and what Morgana tried THREE EPISODES AGO. Instead, she decides to user Lancelot to exploit Gwen's love for him and break up their marriage, preventing her from becoming Queen.
     As it turns out, Gwen doesn't love Lancelot. Like, at all. So, as in a few previous episodes this series, Morgana throws a spanner in the works and makes sure Gwen gets a "Love-Lancelot" bracelet. Very specific, these magical spells. Anyway, everything goes according to plan. Everything. Merlin, despite discovering that Lancelot is a Shade and has been brought back from the dead to commit Morgana's bidding, and that he's been conspiring with Agravaine who is now definitely Morgana's tool as well... did nothing. Absolutely eff all. At the least the forumulaic stories allow our characters some competance; Merlin knew what he was doing, there.
Despite this episode being written by a woman, I'm going to
act like a completely sexist female stereotype and lust after
all of the men that I happen to set eyes upon.
     With 12 minutes to go, I was waiting for the story to be resolved. To get Gwen out of Arthur's bad books, to reveal Lancelot's true nature. But apparently the public love having their time wasted, as we are now expected to accept this as a real plot development. There are so many interesting and fascinating ways to have resolved this plot without hitting the reset button. But now Guinevere has been expelled from Camelot upon pain of death. It's inane.
     I'd perhaps be able to accept this ridiculous turn of events if it appeared that this was a huge multi-episode affair, but the way this episode concluded and our preview of the next episode indicated something much more disturbing. This is set in stone, a single episode not even written by the series' producer changing everything. It's already happened this series, but there the outcome meant positive progress. Here, we're stuck with possibly another series of time wasting and idiocy. Long live the bloody king.


NEXT WEEK: A mind-control plot with a random monster. Number fucking 4 this fucking series.
P.S. Thank god the Merlin web designers have put in a full gallery of images for this week.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Review: Lost 4.14: There's No Place Like Home (Part Three)

Ben pushes the Frozen Donkey Wheel
Season Four ends with the same poignancy of every Lost finale, the perfect culmination of the series' emotional development. At the moment that focus on character over logic isn't a problem, as it will become in later series. The last 45 minutes provide a lot of great closure for the series' themes while setting up a lot of detail for the two seasons to come.
     In the present, we built up to the flashforward events of Part One, and of The Shape of Things to Come. The copter lands on the Freighter, despite Desmond's pleas. The Helicopter is fixed up as fast as Lapidus can manage, and all of the Oceanic Six end up on the Copter as it leaves the now exploding Freighter; Sun is distraught at Jin's apparent death. They won't reunite until Season Six, in the same episode in which they both die for real. Locke is sent off to lead the Others, while Ben ignores Keamy's corpse and travels through a hole in the Orchid to a cold, underground cavern. There he finds a large Donkey-wheel, which he turns with visible anguish. Soon after, he disappears and the island does also.
      With nowhere to land, the Helicopter crew are forced to make a crash landing. They float in a lifeboat until they see a ship. This time it is Penny's Boat. I still get all gooey at this scene, because despite my lack of exposure to it, Penny and Desmond's romance is one of the most powerful and believable on the show. Jack formulates their cover story, and after a week they set off towards the mainland in a paddle-raft. This neatly connects back to Part One, and we finally achieve the series' goal of escaping the island.
Jeremy Betham is John Locke.
      However, in the Flashforwards things are afoot. Sayid takes Hurley into a safehouse, as both are being spied on by Widmore. Sun meets Widmore in London to organise terms. And a drug-addled, beardy Jack breaks into a funeral parlour to look at the body of the elusive Jeremy Bentham. Ben corners him, and tells him that Jeremy was right - they all have to go back to the island. Everyone - including the corpse, who it is revealed is that of John Locke.
     Part Three wasn't as tense or exciting as the first two parts and it came as more of an extended denoument. As an addage to Part Two, the episode ends the season on the same notes that it began - a poignant acceptance of a new reality and the tragedies that occurred to make it possible. It's been an easier series to watch than to review, but I've thoroughly enjoyed doing it.


P.S. Happy Birthday to Doctor Who, which is 48 today!

Monday, 21 November 2011

Review: Doctor Who Classic: Vengeance on Varos

Sil (Nabil Shaban) makes an unfair deal.
The Sixth Doctor wasn't liked. Simple as that; he's consistantly one of the lesser popular Doctors and his reign saw a number of problems that eventually led to the series' end. These issues are too often blamed on Colin Baker, when in reality the character's portrayal was because of the writing and was a product of his production team. However. The same team that brought Warriors of the Deep and Caves of Androzani in the same season take us from the relatively mediocre Attack of the Cybermen (which is my favourite story) to today's story, Vengeance on Varos - a Doctor Who Classic if I ever saw one.
     The main themes surround "video nasties", a concept emerging in the 80s due to the invention of the Video Tape that allowed more scenes of violence directly into people's homes. The people of Varos, a former prison colony, live under constant surveillance and spend their time working and watching television. They're shown the results of the former prison's death traps and executions, as well as a series of governor elections whereby the incumbent is hit with a death ray if disapproved of. In a way, Doctor Who criticised Video Nasties by becoming one itself, or at least highlighting such - death and destruction are abound, from the infamous acid bath scene to a corridor filled with deadly vines.
     The Doctor and Peri stumble in on this deathtrap while looking for Zeiton-7 ore, a substance designed for fueling time-space travel. The colony is being priced out of its mind by the Galatron Mining Corporation, whose representative, Sil (we've met him before! Or is it after. Regardless) is a sickly green slug, played by Nabil Shaban. His performance is simply wonderful; the power-mad grotesque with the spine-tingling giggle in the face of barbarity.
Arak and Etta watch Torture on TV.
     The episode is punctuated with scenes with two average viewers; Arak and Etta. They never interact with any of the other cast, and their Greek-chorus style dialogue allows a lot of brilliant satire to come to fore. ("This is a repeat!") And while it's obvious that they're really not necessary in the story, they act as a point of idnetification for the view - what better to demonstrate the point against graphic violence on television than to have to realisticly written people do exactly the same? Arak and Etta get their point across in the subtle things - the adherance to strict rules despite the chaos of the torturing chambers, the utter dismissal of every govenor regardless of policy. This wasn't very subtle, perhaps, but it was a great commentary on the mid-80s.
     Ironically, this serial has had issues in the past regarding violence within itself. There's a scene in the second half of the story that has been long used as an example of Six's violent tendencies - where, it would appear, he throws two guards into an acid bath and then makes a Bond-esque quip. The scene isn't as vindictive as described; the guards end up killing themselves, but Phillip Martin's debut script (followed up by Mindwarp) doesn't do him any favours. The Sixth Doctor is still in his "evil" phase of character development, a cruel mimic of the First Doctor's initial character - and this doesn't help to advance towards a likeable Doctor.
     There's also the unfortunate continuation of Peri's characterisation, which suggests that everyone in the universe has either fallen in love with her or wants to use her for medical experimentation. In Androzani she was Jek's obsession; in Attack of the Cybermen she was abducted by a race of space-lesbians. Here she's... turned into a bird. When I think about Vengeance, I try to ignoe this subplot, as it doesn't make much sense and demonstrates that at this stage in the series' history there were still a lot of problems with episode length. Really, this should be three episodes 25 minutes in length - shaving off that waste 15 minutes taken up by a few of the episode's less powerful subplots.
Stumbling into trouble. Again.
     Vengeance on Varos is a brilliant satire on the nature of 80s television, and predicted the burdgeoning nature of reality TV in the turn of the millenium. With a strong cast of excellent performances, the episode's only faults like in a little but of fluff to be trimmed around the edges. Varos isn't at all perfect, but it's the standout story of Colin's era and a great end to this triplet of reviews.


IN TWO WEEKS: We begin our look at the Beginning of Doctor Who...

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Review: Misfits 3.4

What respectable time-travelling protagonist hasn't considered killing Hitler? Our lot at Misfits have, and based on a throwaway remark about such from last year's Crimbo special, we get this interestingly Character-oriented piece that throws our kids into a world where Hitler is Irish, Homosexuality is gay and where Godwin's Law does not apply.
      A somber old Jewish man, regretful of not having done something during the War, buys Curtis' old power and goes back in time to try and kill Hitler. He unfortunately fails, but instead gives Hitler advanced knowledge of the future when he drops his mobile phone. He returns to a world where the Nazis succeed and still rule over Britain. Kelly and Gary work under the Nazi-controlled community service, where Simon (conscripted) and Shaun work as Nazi officers. Shaun has dragged in Seth to discover people with powers and to create supersoldiers with them. Rudy is soon discovered by a Nazi raiding party. Curtis and Kelly are working under a resistance movement, and Curtis gives Kelly the mission of killing Seth.
Poor Catrin Stewart is killed by the Nazis.
     Simon is also working against the regime, and steals antibiotics to save the dying time-traveller. Rudy tries to join the resistance. The... Irish head of the regime receives ice powers (courtesy of a returning Catrin Stewart!), and once again kills Gary. Kelly goes to poison Seth, but she finds that he has tried to hang himself in the meantime. Kelly saves his life, to Curtis' anger.
     The Nazi general, Smith, decides that Seth needs to see the benefits of their regime. As they take Seth to a more luxurious prison, they are stopped in the road by armed figures wearing Hitler masks - The resistance. They drive off with him. Smith is pissed and orders the entire estate searched. Simon helps the Jewish man recover as this universe's Kelly and Seth do some more flirting. Smith has, however, discovered their hiding place and the Rebel base is raided. Rudy and Simon appear nonchalant, but there's a tense scene where Shaun discovers Seth and Kelly's hiding place. The resistance, sans Kelly, are all arrested.
     The Jewish guy awakens just as Shaun discovers his letter, and Seth takes the power from him. Smith gets their just in time, and tells Simon to kill the Old Man to threaten Seth into destroying the power. Simon refuses, and so Smith does it anyway. Seth is then forced to put the power back into Curtis, whom he kills.  Alesha comforts Simon. Kelly, dual-wielding shotguns, raids the Community centre. Simon and Alesha help out. They break out Seth, but Smith has soon returned, and the gang are soon cornered by Nazis. Kelly distracts them with a "grenade" (a drinks can) and there's a firefight. Seth reveals he never gave the power away, and gives it to Kelly with a kiss, who returns to the 40s and nuts Hitler to save the world. Upon her return, she's the only one that remembers the Alt.Verse. She goes back to Seth, who takes the power from her and gives her back her rocket scientist power.
Smith and Shaun
     One thing that I found rather jarring was that this was a very, shall we say, British Nazism. None of the characters expressed any right-wing ideologies; it was more of an abuse of power thing. I never expected them to create a realistic study of what life would be like under a Nazi-regime Britain, but I felt like it didn't exploit that aspect as much as it could have. In many ways it felt rather juvenile about the whole thing, keeping the idea of the Nazis very much in the terms of today's modern slang terms. This was true from the first revelation of these events; Kelly standing on a street corner muttering, "Bloody Nazis". It wasn't Nazism - just an authoritarian regime. The Virtue Teens felt more oppressive. And the reason for the change doesn't feel right either. Hitler gets a mobile phone... so what? Even I, an Electronics student, find a lot of microcircuitry indecipherable. How would 21st Century data storage on a micro-circuit inside a rather basic mobile phone be able to let the Nazi's win the war? Also, it's all very... local. Smith comes to this estate, with our central characters. The plot revolves not around a multi-nation empire spanning over the breadth of the civilised world, but on one small section of urban Bristol where for some reason, everyone speaks English.
     As far as characters were concerned, this episode felt very transitionary. Both Seth and Kelly's and Alesha and Simon's relationships felt important, but one seemed to pass over to the other. Unlike the tease between Kelly and Nathan in the first two series, I feel that this relationship is being pushed a lot more, sometimes to the point where it overdid other areas. And, at the end of the day, it was the only character work in this episode that actually had any ramifications. 
Rudy and Rudy help to save Seth.
     The new setting allowed for yet more reinvention of the characters and their interactions, which I felt dragged away from the characters' progress. It was an interesting hour with some brilliant concepts, but a lot of them weren't translated that well. It was another typical episode of Misfits that held my interest throughout and at times made me jump up and down in joy. It just fell apart in the details.

NEXT WEEK: A Seth and Kelly episode.

Review: Merlin 4.8: Lamia

Lamia (Charlene McKenna) faded into the background.
I suppose that Uther's death is finally making a difference on the plot, making us less castle bound than before. However, this week did something that Merlin does often and used one of its formulas in a way that did excite me. This week was the turn of the, "Secretly magical pretty-girl" in its fourth iteration, this time a girl called Lamia. Maybe I'm just grateful for the change of setting and a mind-control plot that isn't played for laughs. In fact, nothing was played for laughs here. That's a bonus.
     The "sweating sickness" has fallen upon an albion village called Longstead. Merlin. Gwen and the Knights (sans Arthur) head out and discover that the sickness is caused by magic. Returning, they rescue Lamia, and the four knights suddenly become enamoured of her. Arthur and Gaius travel to Longstead themselves, where Gaius explains that a Lamia is a serptentine woman, capable of affecting men's minds, shape-changing and sucking the life from a man.
     While they're deliberating, Lamia has already incapacitated Sir Elyan, Gwen's brother (I completely forgot about that relation! Shows how little they used it for drama.) Lamia is played by Charlene McKenna, a brilliant actress that we last saw in Being Human Series Two, and here she is wonderfully creepy. Agravaine once again acts like a dick for the sake of it, covering their tracks so that Arthur can't find Merlin et al. Lamia guides the knights to an abandoned ruin, where the Knights turn on Merlin. Gwen realises that something is up, as Merlin is the only man to not fall under Lamia's spell.
     Gwaine is also incapacitated, as Arthur and co. arrive at the ruins. Sir Percival bites the dust and Sir Leon sees, before being knocked out by Lamia. She is confronted by Merlin, who manages to impale her with a sword, but she returns in a more monstrous form; a multi-headed-snake-woman-tentacle-thing. As it corners Gwen and Merlin, Arthur steps in at the last second and saves the day - as all good heroes should. The Knights all recover and everyone, including Gwen and Arthur, live happily ever after.
Sir Elyan nearly dies in this episode. Few cared.
     Without Morgana's cartoonish villainy, Agravaine felt a little useless here, his presence seemingly only needed for some panto evil. And that was one thing in the episode that I did like - the focus was on the heroes and their characterisations. Merlin had to pretend to be the wiseman in front of a bunch of villagers. Guinevere revealed her brave side, stabbing the tentacled behemoth with a sword. There wasn't a cartoonish evil behind it all, a baldy monk with moving tattoos or a busty sorceress with a chip on her shoulder. The evil of the episode didn't feel like it was there at all because it was so predictable, but instead of being detrimental it actually made perfect sense; Lamia moved the focus away from her and onto the characters that she affected, turning the Four Knights into more intimidating villains than she was.
     Overall Lamia could have been dull, but the episode's lack of comic relief and focus on characterisation meant that I enjoyed this week for the magical adventure it was supposed to be. I'm getting closer to discovering exactly what pisses me off about the majority of Merlin, and this week's pleasurable hour has allowed me some respite.



Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Review: Lost 4.13: There's No Place Like Home (Part Two)

Ben and Locke meet in the Orchid
One thing to bear in mind with these last two episodes is that they were meant to be shown back to back, as opposed to the more stand-alone nature of the first part. This will affects a lot of things, and I'm prepared to be much more lenient than usual because of it. Not that I particularly need to be, of course, because this episode is brilliant! It kept a fast pace and a tight sense of tension while still being enriched by those gorgeous character moments that make Lost the great show it is.
     Part Two follows directly on from the latest of all the flashforwards - the ones at the end of Season Three, where a bearded Jack tells Kate that they have to go back. Jack has invited her to the funeral of a man called Jeremy Bentham, who's been visiting all of the survivors. Kate refuses to return, saying that she will never do so. Later, Walt visits Hurley in the Santa Rosa institution, and Hurley tells him why they're being secretive about the crash. And that's it for the flashforwards, which were left rather out of the loop here. I don't really have a problem with that, though, as we've a lot to get through in the present.
     Somehow or other, the present storyline felt much less manic than usual, as all of the storylines started to merge together. Kate and Sayid, working with the Others, helped to rescue Ben at a battle at the Helicopter. Jack and Sawyer arrived at the Orchid, where they met Locke and Hurley. For the first time since this season's opener, Jack and Locke had a civil chat with one another - the one where Locke told Jack that they had to lie about the Survivors should they ever leave. I love this particular scene because it's the last time that they really speak (on the island) and both of them stick by their guns - they still have the same ideologies as they did in the beginning, but they have changed as characters and thus they aren't boring. Like a certain show I could mention. Merlin, it's Merlin.
We have to go back.
     Ben saved, he and Locke headed down into the Orchid as Jack, Sawyer, Kate, Hurley and Sayid went in the Helicopter towards the Freighter, where Desmond, Jin and Michael were trying their desperate best to diffuse the bomb. As the Helicopter is losing fuel and needs to lose weight, Sawyer gives Kate one last kiss and jumps into the sea, swimming back to the Island as his friends head to relative safety. In the Orchid, revealed to be a time-travelling station, Martin Keamy stalks Ben while he reveals his evil plan - should he die, a device on his arm will send a trigger to explode the Freighter. Taunting him over Alex's death, Keamy is killed by Ben in a fit of rage. When Locke tells Ben that he has just murdered dozens of people, we get out delightful cliffhanger line - "So?"
     And yet... it doesn't feel whole. But there's a good reason for that - it isn't whole. It's only one half of a story. But, for the sake of argument, I'll just say that this episode is brilliant by itself. It's tense, powerful and the pace is extraordinary, our characters heading in places that really keep the series fresh. After our season of flashforwards, it feels really fulfilling to finally see our characters making progress towards those events.


Monday, 14 November 2011

Review: Doctor Who Classic: The Caves of Androzani

The Phantom of the Opera is here, inside my mind.
"Change, my dear. And not a moment too soon."

Two of my Classics in the November collection were written by Robert Holmes, one of Classic Who's most prolific and talented writers. Despite a somewhat formulaic story structure of a disfigured, trapped villain fighting to return to former glory, Holmes penned some of the greatest stories of the Classic series, such as The Deadly Assassin, Spearhead From Space, The Talons of Weing Chang and today's story, The Caves of Androzani, which was Peter Davison's grand finale.
     There's a vaguely Shakespearean vibe to the story, especially in the comparisons to Hamlet; villain Sharaz Jek is a man whose lust for revenge has turned him into a monster. That, and Peri is the only character to survive the story, if you count The Doctor's regeneration as a death. Five's era was often accused of having death-filled episodes, and it's fitting that his final story leaves not even he alive.
     The Doctor takes Peri, fresh from her intro in Planet of Fire, to the planet of Androzani Minor, twin to the large trade planet of Androzani Major. The Doctor is intrigued to find signs of life in the caves, and after stumbling through some poisonous webbing, they become caught up in a gunrunning cartel and are accused by the local law enforcement of assisting the madman behind the operation, Sharaz Jek. Jek is being fought by the corrupt leader of the mining operation, known as Morgus, who has a long-running rivalry with the villain and has been running guns himself. At the first cliffhanger, it appears that The Doctor and Peri are shot dead by firing squad.
The Doctor and Peri face excecution.
     This cliffhanger is oft considered to be one of the best in Who history, and I can see why - its unrelentless, pessimistic scenario seems to have no escape, and the solution to the cliffhanger ties into the story instead of being a quick fix. The one problem that I have with the acting is this story is from John Normington's Morgus, who is incredibly, incredibly wooden.
     It turns out that the killed heroes were instead Androids under the control of Jek, who has lifted the pair to his deep sanctum. There they meet Jek, as well as a man named Salateen, the android version of which was monitering the authorities that found them. Salateen explains that the company mines a substance called Spectrox, which lengthens life. The pair have come in contact with the substance's natural form, and have now contracted a disease called Spectrox Toxemia. Jek reveals to Peri the reason for his Phantom-of-the-Opera-esque mask; Morgus led him into a mud-burst accident that permenantly disfigured him. Soon The Doctor works out a way to escape Jek's lair, but he becomes embroiled in an encounter with the gun-runners and is approached by a giant Magma Beast! Of this episode's few technical failures, the Magma Beast is the only one that really stands out. It has little to no real purpose being there really, and it stains what is otherwise a creepy, Victorian atmosphere.
     The Doctor escapes but is caught by Jek, who tortures him. Peri and Salateen return to the General, who they tell about the Android imposter. The Doctor is taken onto a transport ship on its way to Major. Salateen plans on using the android to lead Jek on a wild goose chase, while The Doctor manages to escape his bonds and takes control of the ship. Fearing deception, Morgus assassinates the President. The cliffhanger of this episode is also one of the best that I've seen, and is one of Peter Davison's finest moments. The episode ends on The Doctor about to crash the ship, and his desperate cry of, "I'M NOT GOING TO LET YOU STOP ME NOW" demonstrates Davison's range. You can feel his desperation, his will to fight his own demise to save the life of another.
Lots of rubber in this mine...
     On the run, The Doctor lands on Minor with an escape pod, arriving in time for there to be a tremendous gun battle between the androids and the gun runners. Jek's mask is removed and in his disgrace he assists the Doctor in retrieving the antedote to the Spectrox Toxemia. As a mud-burst arrives into the caves, killing both Jek and Morgus, The Doctor retrieves the antedote and carries Peri across the exploding surface of Androzani Minor to the TARDIS, where he sets her down and gives her the antedote. He collapses, and regenerates into Colin Baker.
     Davison's regeneration is actually one of the more interesting of the series, utilising the era's effects well. Instead of seeing him physically transform, we see what he sees, and the effect flashes on and off through his vision as he fights off death. Upon regeneration wee see all of the companions of the Fifth Doctor's era - Adric, Nyssa, Tegan, Turlough, Kamelion. It's quite good, actually, and provides a very interesting insight into the process of regeneration that standing up and firing energy out of one's arms simply doesn't do.
     The Caves of Androzani isn't perfect, but it comes damn near close. The writing is top notch with a wide variety of fascinating themes that reflect the nature of beauty in our society, as well as a lot of commentary regarding Capitalism. The Fifth Doctor's era was a rough one, but it ended on a story that did the era and his Doctor all the justice it deserved. We'll look more at the Doctor's era after Christmas, when I follow on in Chronological order from my review of Four to Doomsday.      
Goodbye, Peter.


P.S. A head's up to the Tardis Wiki for the screencaps.

NEXT WEEK: Colin Baker nearly meets his maker in Vengeance on Varos. Marshminnow?

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Review: Misfits 3.3

"Can I be your best friend?"
The Superhoodie storyline encompasses Misfits; as it's only arc it gets a great deal of plot attention. While the first two episodes of the series touched upon undeveloped characters, it's only typical that a Simon-centric episode would now have to focus on Superhoodie. In certain ways it had a Kick-Ass vibe - a relatively powerless Superhero-wannabe that gets in way over his head. It also did well something that its weekend comrade Merlin effs up all the time - the mind control plot.
     Superhoodie saves a comic book nerd, Peter, from being attacked. Alesha discovers that Simon has been off galivanting as Superhoodie and is not pleased, worried because she's seen Simon die. The Misfits and a group of thers, including , are forced into a community support conference, after which Simon accidentally reveals his identity to him. Despite being told to forget him, they chat the next day and he discusses his love for Superhero comics. It soon develops that, unknown to Simon, the nerd has the power to make anything he draws come true - including the entire conversation that they have.
     After Rudy manages to sneak his double past Shaun, the mind-controlled Simon becomes bezzie mates with Peter. To this end he learns about the Lair and Peter makes him break up with Alesha. Rudy tries to convince her that Simon's gay. Alesha discovers his drawings and works out Peter's mind control. In his desperation, he draws a new scenario. Kelly and Seth do their weekly flirting, just before the gang corner Peter. This, however, is also scripted; Superhoodie arrives to beat up the team.
     Kelly is spurned by Seth, who reveals that the girl at the cemetary from last episode was his girlfriend, who he feels responsible for the death of. Alesha uses perception to see that Simon is sharing comics with Peter, and so the gang head to his flat and start tearing up the drawings controlling him. He comes to, feeling incredibly guilty and making amends with Alesha. Simon confronts Peter, telling him that Superheroes are a fantasy. Just as all seems normal, it appears that Peter has reinvented himself as another Superhoodie.
Seth is guilty about a past love.
      Peter takes Alesha hostage but Simon arrives just in time; in the scuffle Peter is killed. His body is burnt where he died - the same place where Simon will later dies. Returning to the lair, Simon discovers that the whole event was scripted by Peter.
      The central plot is a beautifully paced tragedy of a man desperate to be loved by an idol, going so far as to die in the same method as he. Simon didn't get a lot of time to shine because of his mind-control, but his Future Persona is certainly starting to show through and I'm sure we'll see the result of that by series' end. It's interesting to compare this to Merlin, not only because I watched that recently but because Misfits uses a lot of its tropes to better effect. The main couple (a white, heroic figure and a mixed race girl) break up for a short period of an episode, both of whom are destined to be together. Where in Merlin it felt like an unwelcome and unrealistic excursion, the dynamic nature of Misfits meant that I still wondered whether they'd be together at the end.
       The pace of the episode did throw me somewhat; the final showdown with Peter felt a tad rushed and not very tense. However, as it was "scripted" by a character like Peter, I think that this structure was even more genius - it was as perfect as he would expect it to be. It's little things like this that make me really love Misfits, and the comedy moments this week - provided by Rudy - were as top notch as ever. I  loved Rudy's suggestion that Superhoodie was Shaun, which was my favourite theory last year. The Seth Plot is an interesting addition, and nothing that Misfits has really done before. It's developing quite nicely, and I think that as this long series goes on it'll develop into something brilliant. Presumebly it'll become more important when we finally hit a Kelly-centric episode.
Peter's demise.
      Misfits 3.3 had me on the edge of my seat with a plot that stroked the arc in terms of both plot and characterisation, delivering a script scultpured by the minds of its characters. It was tragic and funny, brilliant and barmy, poignant and parodic. Iwan Rhuon is a classic talent and we're lucky to have him on boy.



Saturday, 12 November 2011

Review: Merlin 4.7: The Secret Sharer

Morgana. This picture isn't relevant.
Ah, status quo. How very much we seem to love you so. So much, in fact, that poor Julian seemed to have been struck down with amnesia this week. A lot of the events of last week were ignored profusely, and simple elements of previous episodes were retconned to reinforce points which not only didn't make sense characterisation wise but also didn't amount to anything by episode's end. Sure, it's not the usual formulaic rubbish, but this series has invented its own formula to mix in with some "old favourites".
     Morgana, intent on finding out the identity of Emrys, decides that Gaius is bezzie-mates with him and needs to be tortured. To this end she has two ancient magical monks infiltrate Camelot to kidnap him as Agravaine (who Merlin has somehow forgotten is evil since last episode) convinced Arthur through some supreme bullshittery (which we'll get to later) that Gaius was the traitor in his midst. Merlin, despite his amnesia, was the usual voice of reason, and he and Gwaine easily rode off on horses to the villain's island. Morgana and Agravaine not far behind them, Gaius spilt the beans on the Merlin/Emrys relationship to the Monk, but nothing really happened because the Monk was too respectful of Emrys' legend. Morgana found out nothing, Arthur found out nothing and nothing has changed.
      Agravaine's key point of argument was that it was Gaius who knew the wizard Dragoon (Merlin. Again.) who "killed" his father. Firstly, it wasn't Gaius who told Arthur about the sorcerer; it was Merlin. That's a key point of the episode - Merlin recommended himself, Merlin did the deed, Merlin felt guilty about it. I know that Julian Jones didn't write that episode, but he probably wrote that detail of the story - you know, because of the whole "important development" thing? And also, disregarding the point made over and over again in the episode itself that Gaius has never, ever done anything suspect, if it was as Agravaine so described, why wasn't it brought up earlier? It's been a damn month since it happened. Oh, and Gaius finally told Arthur that it was Morgana's fault that Uther died. I'm sure the Magical community will thank you for your waiting, Gaius.
Gwaine's in this episode. Little more relevant.
      Luckily, this episode was at times hilarious! Well. Luckily for me, anyway, and not for the Mr. Jones - the humour in this episode came from the farcically bad script. It almost felt like a parody: Gaius was framed for using magic using a book titled, "Magic and Spells."; Agravaine was found out by Merlin because he had a book called, "Sourcery". You might as well staple the word to their foreheads and have done with it, instead of create these laughably uncreative book titles that belong more in the Beano than on primetime TV. And then there was Morgana being laughably ignorant as the Monk hinted at the identity of Emrys while staring directly at Merlin, and then saying, "Who is it then?" In internet lingo, I lolled.
       What else is there? Nothing. This week was yet another episode where characters' actions made no sense, where nothing that happened had any long-term consequences and where we got no closer to reaching the endpoint that we as viewers so deserve. It's the midpoint of this particular arc - what would have been the perfect time to let Morgana know about Merlin's powers after a year and a half of villainhood. But we drive stagnantly on, travelling on the back of the tortoise that is Merlin.


NEXT WEEK: More Filler. Happy Days.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Review: Lost 4.12: There's No Place Like Home (Part One)

Welcome back to LOST reviews I tend not to review American shows on this blog for two particular reasons. The first is simply lack of exposure; I live in the UK and don't watch many US shows. The second is a little more my choice, because of US series' length. This series of Lost is the exception, but the majority of US shows are either episodic with really, really long series or one story stretched out over 13 or so episodes. Lost is the latter type, and my problem here is that unlike, say, Doctor Who, each episode isn't easily defined on its own. For us here in the UK, continuity is lauded; in the US it's a given.
     My problem, then, with reviewing the finale of Season Four of Lost is that so much of it stems from what came before, and because of the serialised nature of the series the finale is a comparatively long 2 hours and 15 minutes. I've decided that I'm not going to review the finale as one entity, but instead cover it episode by episode over the next three weeks. That intro over, I'll get onto the review.


Funnily enough, I'm writing this after having reviewed the latest episode of Merlin. It's a fun counterpoint to that series in a few interesting ways, mainly because both rely on the audience knowing what's going to happen - Merlin because of the nature of mythos and Lost because of the flashforward technique. The difference is that while Merlin spends its time fucking with the audience, Lost actually provides tension and buildup to backup it's explanations. How will the Oceanic Six escape? How will Jin die? How will I finish this paragraph?
Can you remember what happened in the last episode?
     With three episodes to play around with, the writers used the first of the trio to ramp up the pace without bringing out the big guns. This meant, in Lost terms, allowing us to glimse some precious backstory that was being withheld throughout the season and having our characters on the island move tantalisingly close to that promised catastrophe. While it didn't feel like anything other than a progression from our previous episodes, the pace did start to increase and the cliffhanger was perfect for this sort of finale.
     An important part of the episode were the flashforwards, which covered the Oceanic Six's return to the mainland. They all meet their families and the scene is perfectly scored by Giacchino, as usual. The next flashforward is to the ensuing press conference, where the group tentatively explain their deliberately ridiculous (on the part of the writers, that is. Something to do with... tone or.... something) survival story. The survivors begin to readapt to life outside the island: Jack honours his father, finding out that Claire is his half-sister; Sayid reunites with his lost love Nadia; Sun buys out her father's business and Hurley is freaked out when the car that his dad gives him as a present has a reading of 481516,2342 (the mythical Numbers throughout the island). This is actually quite interesting, as this is the first time we see the Oceanic Six having to get used to their new surroundings, and it prepares us for the end of this season, when the two timelines meet and the Oceanic Six return to the mainland.
      In the present, things were a little more action packed. As the survivors on the beach finally realise that the Freighter mercenaries are there to kill them, Jack goes after the Chopter as his only escape route. The mercenaries have made their way to the Orchid, and wait there for Ben Linus, who with Hurley and Locke ventures there in order to move the Island. Sayid, aware of Keamy's intention to kill everyone, brings the Zodiac raft to begin to send survivors to the Freighter. Sun and Jin go there, but find that the engine room is filled with tons of explosives. Meanwhile, Jack meets up with Sawyer, who gives Aaron to Kate and then speeds off into the jungle with Jack and finds Lapidus at the Helicopter, who tells them that Hurley and Locke are still at the Orchid with Ben. Also, The Others are back. For whatever reason.
Technically already dead.
      Really that last paragraph highlights why I struggle with reviewing things like American finales. There's a hell of a lot going on from all sides of the story, and it won't all make perfect sense or comparison until a fortnight's time. So far in my finale review, the story is brilliant, and the cinematography, music and everything else is as good as I've come to expect from Lost. One down, two to go.


NEXT WEEK: Stakes get higher, challenges get tougher and quality gets painfully good.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Review: Being Human 2.8

Mitchell hunts down Lucy at CenSSA.
I've often mentioned that Being Human finales are always terrible. They may have good intentions at heart, and they may have good elements, but so far all three of them have been incredible disappointments. Nowhere is this more true than in today's episode, the finale of Series Two - an overstuffed, overlong hour of nonsense and fluff.
     Which isn't to say that the episode isn't enjoyable or rich. It's got a great deal of character work and those little precious moments that enrich the story in ways that other series' just can't manage. The problems is that it doesn't feel like it's in the right place; rather, the moments feel like all of the series' cuttings and leftovers put together. Overall there's about 10 minutes of actual plot here, as the rest is fluffy conversation pieces that may make our characters that little bit richer but really feel too late. This is the finale, the episode that the series has been building up to for the past seven weeks. We are invested! We want something to happen, something gamechanging, but the episode spends so much time advertising characters we already care about that all of the major developments are left for a rushed five minute stint at the end.
     George and Nina are waiting in the compound, where the CenSSA scientist is pre-ordering body bags for their inevitable deaths. As an angry Mitchell infiltrates the facility, George discovers Annie's intentions regarding the afterlife - which she explains as to avoid the loneliness that will come when George is normal and unable to see her. Meanwhile, Lucy is haunted by the ghost of Amy McBride, one of the werewolves she's killed (played, funnily enough, by Carys from Torchwood), and has a conversation with George where she attempts to moralise her actions with Mitchell.
Kemp turns up on Nina's doorstep.
     CenSSA are soon notified of Mitchell's presence when the corpses of the facilities young students start appearing. The werewolves are locked into isolation, ready to be killed, and Lucy locks herself into a saferoom - where Mitchell is waiting. Kemp, who is shown to have a soft spot for Lucy, forcibly exorcises Annie just to piss Mitchell off. The vampire tells Lucy that neither of them can talk about morality - they both have blood on their hands. In a contrived little add-on, the werewolves know what's going on because of a note left by Tully, the vampire who converted George. They escape, witness Annie's exorcism and then stop Mitchell from killing a gloating Kemp.
     This is where it feels like the episode ends, about 40 minutes in. The denoument is thus 20 minutes long, and boy does it drag. Three weeks later, and the remaining supernatural threesome are in the country, having abandoned The House forever. Nina has been obsessed with finding Lucy, but she comes to them. Nina is skeptical but Mitchell decides that she has the right to stay, as one cannot have forgiveness unless one gives it. Unfortunately for them, Kemp appears, kills Lucy, threatens Nina and then, in Being Human's worst Deus Ex Machina, is dragged into Hell by Annie. She then appears on a TV talking about Hell, setting the stage for Series Three. Oh, and Herrick's back.
     I think for the most part my negative opinion of this episiode stems from the denouement, which just drags on past its welcome. Lucy was a great character that could have had further exploration, but instead she was killed and her death used as an excuse for lazy storytelling. There were tons of brillianty ways to have fought off Kemp, but they went for the lazy option.
Herrick is back. A little random.
     The last episode of Series Two reflects the problems of the series on the whole, mainly Whithouse's early issues with an eight episode series. However, its character work and its revelations make it worth watching and as an end to this conflicted series it does as well as one would expect it to. As an end to my recorded reviews of Being Human, I couldn't think of anything more fitting.


Monday, 7 November 2011

Review: Doctor Who Classic: Spearhead from Space

Jon Pertwee makes his entrance.
In the past I've discussed something in Doctor Who that I call, "Spearhead Syndrome". This is a condition by which the protagonist of the story (in this case The Doctor) spends the majority of the episode unconscious. From what I can see, three stories have this condition in Doctor Who, and they're all post-regeneration stories. David Tennant had The Christmas Invasion, Peter Davison had Castrovalva and today we're looking at the namer of the trope, Jon Pertwee's Spearhead From Space.
     There are several things that make this story unique from a production standpoint. It was the first story to be broadcast in colour, and although not all people had a colour television, this was a huge step for the BBC. Also, all of the people working on the show changed at once - the producers, the script editors and every last member of the main cast. Furthermore, the production was affected by a strike, and so the entire 100 minute story was shot using film on location.
     The story, written by Robert Holmes, begins as plastic meteorites collide with Earth. These meteorites are being tracked by UNIT, led by The Brigadier. As the Brig interviews a woman called Liz Shaw, a body is brought in with the description of having fallen out of a police box. Hearing the news, The Brig heads over immediately with an armed guard as the doctors at the Hospital begin to discover this stranger's alien nature. The Brigadier doesn't recognise the unconscious man, but The Doctor happens to wake up and recognises him, expressing disdain at what the Time Lords have done to him. As the Brig leaves, the reporters at the hospital discover a strange, plastic looking man.
The Doctor has been exiled and regenerated.
     The Doctor expresses worry over his shoes - which contain the TARDIS key. The Doctor is kenapped by two plastic-looking wardens, led by the first strange man. The Doctor manages to escape them in which weheelchair, but The Doctor stumbles into the line of fire of the UNIT guards covering the TARDIS, sending him back to hospital with a wound.
     An engineer returns to the company that he left a few years prior, discovering slightly plastic looking stafff. His office has been rendered Out Of Bounds and his followed by the Strange Looking Plastic Man. The head of the factory is being controlled by the SLPM. Back at UNIT, Liz Shaw's experiments discover that the meteorite is manufactured. The SLPM tells the factory boss that the meteorites they haven't recovered yet will find their way to them - and that they are alive. They're seen to be controlling shop window dummies - the Autons.
     The Doctor is up and out of bed once more, and has a shower before stealing clothes. He jumps into a car (later to be christened Bessie) and drives off. UNIT recover another asteroid, but the soldiers are killed by an Auton. The Doctor makes his way to UNIT and everyone is fine and dandy - the story really begins, The man from before sneaks into the room that used to be his laboratory, and discovers a range of plastic shop window dummies - one of which moves to kill him.
An Auton.
      At this halfway point I'd just like to talk about the Autons. They're a decent enough horror idea - shop window dummies are a common enough feature of our lives that making them into aliens can scare a generation of children. I'm biased, of course - I was there when RTD did the same thing with the Autons. I actually think that Spearhead does it better, because they're actually treated like threats instead of jokes.
     SPLM (Channing) notices when the man (called John) escapes from the factory. John runs to UNIT, telling them about the Autons in basic terms. A farmer who had discovered one of the meteorites goes to UNIT as well. Liz steals the TARDIS key from the Brig for The Doctor, who tries to make his getaway. Unfortunately the TARDIS refuses to set off, setting the stage for the Third Doctor's exile on Earth. The Autons find the last meteorite at the house of the farmer, but UNIT arrive at the house, shooting the Auton and making it run away  - and then kill Ransome.
     UNIT arrive at the plastics factory, and are unsettled by Channing. Back at the Lab, The Doctor discovers that the sphere is alive. Army captain General Scobie, in charge of UNIT's army, is found by his Auton replica, who tells the Brig to stay away from the factory. Visiting Madame Tussauds, The Doctor discovers that the "replica" of Scobie is in fact the real General, solidified in plastic.
     Exploring further, The Doctor and Liz break into the factory, watching as Channing explains to the Factory Boss how the Autons work (they're living things) and they interrogate the factory boss once Channing leaves. Eventually they escape, warning UNIT and preparing for the next day's deployment - having received the last meteorite from General Scobie. The Autons prowl the streets, as The Doctor and Liz invade the factor with one of the Doctor's inventions, destroying the aliens and preventing the invasion.
     One of the best things about Spearhead is its acting roster. The Strange Plastic Looking Man, known as Channing, is played wonderfully by Hugh Burden, who imbues his character with a sense of otherworldlyness that doesn't just come off as wooden acting. I'm glad he's here really, as he provides fluency throughout a story that is slip very clearly into two distinct parts; the first half, in which The Doctor recovers from his regeneration and discovers his exile, and the second half, which focuses more on the Auton storyline. Jon Pertwee definitely gets to stretch his acting muscles, going from amnesiac to debonaire with incredible fluency, and his incarnation is almost instantly likeable. Caroline John is also very good as assistant Liz Shaw, although like a few other companions, her adaptation to this wonderful new concept of alien life isn't covered in the depths I'd like it to be. At the beginning she's an outright skeptic, and yet as these things happen she just seems to... accept it all.
     A big problem that I found stemmed from the production issues - the editing. The shot cuts were very clever - a character mentions Madame Tussauds' and suddenly we're there, cutting out all unnecessary traveltime. The problem as I see it is that in a lot of these transitions, the edit is obvious (a shot of the previous scene flashing for a second) and dialogue is cut off. For example; the cliffhanger to the first episode has a guard shouting, "Who told you to shoot, you stupid...", and the beginning of the next retcons this to, "No one told you to shoot, you fool!". It didn't overshadow the story, but it did distract me and ruined the immersion that the filmic tone of the story was trying to give.
"You really believe in a man that can change his appearance?"
     Overall Spearhead from Space is one of the better Post Regeneration stories. It does suffer from the fact that the two halves of the story keep trying to outdo each other and often distract from the main goal, but a lot of that just adds to its charm and the only real let down for me is shoddy editing. Jon Pertwee's entrance into Doctor Who was a sign of what was to come, and heralded the beginning of the program's golden era.


NEXT WEEK: We say goodbye in The Caves of Androzani

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Review: Misfits 3.2

Curtis uses "Melissa" to get running again.
One of Misfits' great virtues is that it isn't afraid to ridicule its own characters. This week was a centric for Curtis, and opposed to his heroic episode in Series One this week decides to focus very much on the more negative sides of his character that shone through in Series Two. It also confirmed my feeling that Seth, originating in the Christmas Special, is going to become a much more important character. I'm still a little put off by the developmental focus, but that's really because the series is making up for Simon and Alesha's heavy development in Series Two.
     Not content to lead a life without his old passion, Curtis uses his power to enroll in a women-only running team. As "Melissa," he meets Emma, a fellow runner, who then flirts with him in his male form, blissfully ignorant of their encounter. Kelly, using her specific knowledge of rocket science, helped to fix Seth's car. Meanwhile, Alyssa is then being hit on by social worker Shaun. Talking to Emma as Melissa, Curtis accidentally finds out that she thought that he was crap in bed. He asks Alesha for advice and she reveals that even Simon is better in bed. She gives him a big verbal talking-down to, telling him that his ego is ridiculous. (Something that I pointed out last series). 
     Using his female self, he "experiments" with the female body. Kelly watches as Seth visits the grave of his deceased wife. Simon discovers Curtis' secret and Kelly sees it out of context, leading her to think that he;s cheating. Melissa and Emma get very drunk together, and he/she bonks her. Later, Curtis and Simon discuss hwo to clarify his sexual orientation, and then as Curtis he approaches her and apologises.
     After thoroughly creeping Melissa out, her coach then gives her a date-rape drug. Rudy wanders in and based on her drunken advancements starts acting like a cunning linguist, throwing Emma off in the process. Creepy Coach guy proceeds to try and rape her, but the drug's effect kicks in and his power is reversed, leaving Curtis wandering around in a golden dress while the coach is confused. Emma visits Curtis at his flat and they nearly recompense - but for Emma finding the golden dress and suspecting Curtis of bonking... himself.
    Kelly confronts Melissa about Simon in front of Alesha, and he has a big outburst before having to escape because of his "period". Simon reveals what was going on to the rest, and Curtis heads off to tell Emma about his power. She's been taken in by the Coach, and Curtis finds out, only just managing to save her from rape. He reveals to her the power and they chat. Emme goes away (the running club was temporary, it seems) and Curtis lives happily ever after. 
    It didn't feel like the writers knew what to do with Rudy this episode, and he just seemed to float in and out borrowing Nathan's background jokes. This came in addition to an episode where the characterisation was just excellent, and any problems I had with Curtis beforehand have all been quashed. I wish I knew the name of the actress playing Melissa, but when that's my only complaint then we're getting something right. Oh, and there was a strange focus on cunnilingus. Overman has a weird mind..
Kelly helps Seth with his car.
     For those who thought that Series Two focussed too much on Alesha and Simon... this episode is for you. Curtis' characterisation was fully explored for the first time since the first series, and it made up for the problems with his character that had emerged inbetween. Instead of a freak-of-the-week, we got a brillaitn examination of a person's self-identity and the bias within society, presented in a funny-as-hell context.


Saturday, 5 November 2011

Review: Merlin 4.6: A Servant of Two Masters

Overall, this week tended to be better than both Series Three and Four's previous offerings, but it collapsed in its main execution of what was a fundamentally tired and cliched scenario. While it did manage to hit the majority of Merlin's main tropes, it was in some parts incredibly entertaining. The only problems arrived in the rest of the episode.
      This week's plot followed the well known sitcom formula of one of the characters not being in their right minds (see Angels and Demons in Red Dwarf, for example, or even GOBLIN'S DAMN GOLD). This episode it was Merlin's turn to become a mindless slave, having been injected with the forever-rejuvinating head of a magical serpent inserted into his neck, controlling his thoughts so that his one motive was to kill Arthur. Instead of using this to create a tense, menacing atmopshere in which Arthur can trust noone and death is barely minutes away, the episode decided to do what Merlin always does and played it for comedy in a way which illicited no response from me except a tired, anguished groan of disbelief.
       The reason that this most usual Merlin plotline really got on my nerves was that episode began as absolutely smashing - following a path through the woods, the Knights and Merlin are ambushed by an army that could only have been sent by a traitor within Camelot. Arthur admits to Merlin that, after 45 episodes, he really does care about him and think that he's one of the bravest men that he's ever met, before they're sperated and Arthur leads a long and tiresome search to find his long lost friend. The first 20 minutes of the episode contained this wonderful character development the likes of which the last two series have so far not seen, and that was immediately spoiled the moment that the horrifically cheery music started playing in the background.
I was a policeman once. That was fun. More fun than this.
       And yes, we got to see some more Old Man Merlin. This may have been interesting the first two times, but now it feels like a go-to-excuse and it must play hell with the filming schedule. Yes, "Emrys"' dual with a frightened Morgana was downright awesome, but it felt like so much fluffery that it didn't make a difference. Instead of the plot being resolved in any meaningful or compelling way, the character was used as a basic deus ex machina; an excuse for Merlin to be able to use his full powers in the open that feels like a laziness on the writers' part and certainly doesn't provide Colin Morgan with his best material. Oh, and more tavern jokes. Cos I love 'em.
     Was this week's episode of Merlin challengingly different and exciting? For 20 minutes. The rest... that way madness lies. A Servant of Two Masters was typical Merlin in nearly all respects; cliched plot structure, irritating characterisations that defy reality and a solution from thin air. It's struggling, it's trying to fight it, but so far this series has not yet escaped the biggest of its faults.


PS. Have a safe Bonfire Night.

Off To See The Wizard

Like last year, and less so the year before, I'll be reviewing my school's production this year, which I again have a part in. Compared to previous years, I expect that this year's review will be a lot more interesting due to our relatively messy production. We'll have to wait and see, I suppose. In any case, look forward to Wizard of Oz 2011 on the 9th December.


Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Review: Being Human 2.7

Mitchell and Daisy commit the Box Tunnel Massacre.
While the finale of a series is usually where the stories reach their climax, Being Human has always taken a different root and prefers to have its storylines meet in the penultimate episode with the finale as a sort of extended dénoument. 2.7 is no different, and as the first seventh episode it's the perfect test of the format. Of course there are aspects of the story and the format that fall down here, but overall it's an above-average episode of this series.
      This week, Nina returned to the fold with Kemp on her arm, with the intent to bring George and Annie back to CenSSA's Facility. This was greeted by Annie's enthusiasm (as she's not all that set on living until the end of time) and skepticism by George, who then decided to accept Sam's request to attend Molly's parents' evening. Despite even proposing to Sam, it all goes awry when George fails to register the clocks going back and ends up transforming in the middle of the school. Even though he manages to get home without hurting anyone, the event is enough to ruin his relationship with Sam and he accepts's Nina's proposal.
      Having escaped from the burning Parlour, Mitchell met up with Daisy (Amy Manson) and together they went to find answers. First dropping off at the Coroners, they assume that the police are to blame after Mitchell's murder of the Police Constable, but the Coroner laughs and gives him another name - Lucy. Angry at his betrayal by Lucy and thus humanity, Mitchell and Daisy attack a train full of passengers - the Box Tunnel Massacre seen throughout Series Three. As George decides to go with Nina, he and Annie discover a blood-drunk Mitchell, afraid of himself. Going after Lucy, he visits the Hospital Chapel, where we meet the Chaplain (Michael Begley, from 1.6) who tells Mitchell to be strong, and accidentally reveals that Lucy works at CenSSA.
A mistake means that George transforms in public.
     Unfortunately, I felt that Annie didn't have a lot to do in this episode other than try to communicate with Kemp - a product of her unfortunatley splintered storyline this series. What confused me is that Annie spent the first half of this series trying to avoid the Door, and in this episode she suddenly wants to jump into Hell like it's a trip to Summer Camp. These scenes did however provide an excuse for Kemp to expose a more kindly side, one that was all the more creepy for the casually delivered dialogue about Satanic posession.
       Episode 2.7 closed the storylines pretty neatly, but wasn't really very big on the aspects of Being Human that I like - no emotional poignancy, or real action. A lot of things happened, but nothing felt fully explored and the storylines that we'd supposedly been following for seven weeks seemed to come to a hilt without real warning. It was a climax that didn't need, nor deserve, to be here.


NEXT WEEK: The worst episode of Being Human, bar Adam's Family. Of course.