Thursday, 28 November 2013

Review: Voyager 1.14: Faces

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Human and Klingon B'elannas.
Star Trek Voyager - Season One, Episode Fourteen - Faces
Written 16/6/13

Apparently the attraction of Phage's premise was too good to just leave hanging, and so this week we get delivered a sequel to that episode, as well as a chance to focus upon B'elanna that doesn't make physicists cry. For an episode with a number of quite absurd moments and ideas about how people work, it was surprisingly moving in places, down entirely to the brilliant acting from Roxann Dawson. (Who would later go on to direct episodes of Lost and Heroes, as well as later Voyager and Enterprise stuff.)
     Tom, B'elanna and some random yellowshirt from last week get kidnapped while off on an away mission by the Vidiians, the race of fleshy people from Phage who are affected by that eponymous virus and thus harvest other species' organs to survive. Crazy Vidiian scientist Sulan has worked out that Klingons may be immune because of some intangible "strength" to their species, and so has managed to use technobabble to split half-Klingon B'elanna into two individuals; one Klingon, one human. While he infects angry Klingon!B'elanna with the Phage, which she survives easily, her human counterpart reveals to Tom how she feels weaker and despite her childhood identity issues, wishes they could be together. Chakotay disguses himself and beams inside, and Klingon!B'elanna helps Human!B'elanna to escape, giving her life in the process. The reset button is pushed and B'elanna is returned to normal.
     Despite the odd idea of having a hybrid split into two different species is by modern biological standards (the rules regarding hybrids seem to be consistent if different in Star Trek), I think that it worked to bring B'elanna out from her shell. The normal B'elanna would rely too much on her defences, built up from years of abuse and mistrust, to ever reveal as she does Tom her childhood issues surrounding her poor mother and absent father, and the stigma presented about being neither Human nor Klingon felt very akin to the issues felt by mixed-race people in the US.
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If this is what the title is referring to, I'm going home.
     The episode's more odd moments came quite often. Dr. Sulan is an incredibly creepy character; not in a mad scientist way, but in a "this is a really creepy guy" way, especially as Klingon!B'elanna offers sexual encounters in return for her release and in response he goes off and grafts the yellowshirt's face to his own as some kind of plumage. The scene where he reveals his new face paces that very fine line between the terrying and the hilarious, and which I think it is very much varies on my state of mind at the time. (On this viewing, for example, I was laughing my ass off.)
     Voyager is clearly trying, and for that you have to give it some kudos. I think that the episode should have been a bit more about B'elanna than it was, and the way that the premise was handled meant that the final messages felt very insincere, as I felt as if it was treated as through B'elanna has some kind of multiple personality disorder with a Klingon voice and Human voice always arguing in her head. Which isn't how brains work, unless the show was trying to tell us that B'elanna has some serious mental issues. But it was nice to get some development out of her at all, and I think that made up for the rest of the episode's faults.

Thanks

NEXT WEEK: Voyager gets serious as we talk about war criminals, genocides and we wonder if they can write an episode in which Neelix is not a dick... it's Jetrel.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Review: Lost 1.22: Born To Run

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Whachu doing, Kate?
Lost - Season One, Episode Twenty-Two - Born To Run
Written 11/6/13

Kate's character in the first few seasons is a great deal more complex than later seasons would end up portraying, and this fourth centric episode for the character, despite revealing slightly how over-exposed we've been to her, adds another huge dollop of complexity upon her backstory as well as sorting out a few more threads to be left hanging for next week's finale.
     In her flashback, we saw Kate visit childhood sweetheart Tom Brennan, the owner of the Toy Plane. She wants him to arrange a meeting with her dying estranged mother, and, his family out of town, he accepts. While they wait, they go and dig up a time capsule they buried fifteen years prior, and both of them look back on the way things went wrong. Tom arranges the meeting but Diane isn't as pleased to see Kate as she hopes, and Tom is still in the car when Kate runs from the police. In a shootout, Kate walks away unscathed while Tom is killed in the crossfire, leading Kate to blame herself for his death and hold so much value on the plane later in life.
     On the Island, and as Locke showed the Hatch to Jack and Sayid, Kate was spurned by led by Charlie's dreams of post-Island fame to try and earn a place on the Raft, reasoning that she has more boating experience than Sawyer. The hillbilly is understandably pissed, especially as crazy Dr. Arzt has said that they have to set sail by the next day or they've got no chance. Sun, not wanting Jin to go, accidentally poisons Michael, and when suspicions fall to Sawyer he outs her to the group as the Marshall's criminal. Everything continues on as normal, with the raft due to set sail the next day.
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Kate bonds with childhood sweetheart Tom.
     The scenes in the past revealed a new side to the character. I get the feeling that when she's with Tom we actually get to see the real Kate - someone a little more compassionate and vulnerable than her criminal past would have us believe. Her relationship with Tom felt very believable, especially in the Time-capsule scene, but there was a problem in the manner of his dispatch that made it feel very rushed - it lacked a certain momentum that robbed it of the empathy it so sorely needed.
     The main island storyline felt very much like a quick cleanup operation, trying to shove in some light character dysfunction after the past few weeks of intense.stuff. It didn't take away from Born To Run's better moments, but it certainly felt as though in the long run very little was acheived. Of course, that wasn't really the point. This week set the targets and the stakes for the three-part finale, and it worked very well in fitting in some character development as it did that. We're in for a kerazy ride, readers. Just you wait.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: Danielle says that The Others are coming, The Raft sets off on its journey and Jack and the gang prepare to blow up The Hatch.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Review: Doctor Who Classic: The Deadly Assassin (Revisited)

See here for my previous look at this story.

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The Crispy!Master in his first and most subtle appearance.
Doctor Who - Season 14, Story Three - The Deadly Assassin (Revisited)
Written 4/6/13

The Deadly Assassin is bound in my memory to a certain level of uniqueness, standing out from the rest of Season 14 for not just its various casting and setting decisions, but for the levels of inbuilt political commentary and satire that rarely seem to show up in this era. The most detailed (and most well-done) portrayal of Time Lord society is riddled with reflections of 1970s politics, taking issues from both sides of the pond. At the same time, its story is pioneeringly different, taking place for the majority in a virtual reality, and forcing Tom Baker's Doctor to embody his more brutal and animalistic traits.
     Before this point, Time Lords and Gallifrey were held in a great deal of mystique. They first appeared in lofty positions during Two's last story, The War Games, and in the 10th Anniversary story The Three Doctors. To the outrage of many a comtemporary fan (and to my absolute delight), The Deadly Assassin humanises the Time Lords and paints a picture of the unequal, degenerative society that The Doctor was so desperate to get away from. Cardinal Borusa tries to "adjust the truth", the Capitol is filled entirely with white males (probably an unconscious choice on behalf of the producers but what ho) and there are high-ups so deperate for power that they'd work with The Master.
     The story's companion-replacement is the wonderful George Pravda as Castellan Pravda, adding his Czechoslovakian tones to both great comic relief and in enforcing some of the story's political ideas. He heads up a strong (unfortunately all-male) cast that also features Hugh Walters as the young newsreader Runcible, three-time guest actor Bernard Horsfall as misled villain Chancellor Goth and Angus Mackay as the first-seen incarnation of Borusa, one of the more interesting Time Lord recurring characters. All are quite strong, especially Horsfall who relishes his final and lengthiest appearance as the story's villain, joining The Doctor in exploring his own ruthlessness in the Matrix.
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George Pravda is great as Castellan Spandrell
     The Matrix sequence, beyond the rest of the episode's satire and political themes, is what should make this story stand out for the everyman. Robert Holmes uses the opportunity to throw everything at us, mixing imagery of clowns, World War II fighter jets, samurai warriors. There are a few scenes where The Doctor attempts to deny the reality that he's fighting in, and that leads to some cool effects. Perhaps a tiny complaint would be that half-way through Part Three when you're watching Tom Baker and Bernard Horsfall play a game of cat and mouse in a Jungle, you get either so engrossed or so bored that you forget that it's Doctor Who at all.
     The Deadly Assassin marks the transition between the era of Sarah-Jane and the beginning of the end of Hinchcliffe's tenure. It was a challenge for the show, its charismatic lead and for the contemporary fanbase, but in this one little story the show was redefined as something with a rich backstory and a grandeur to it. It opened the door for the remaining Gallifrey stories, for references to Gallifrey and the Time Lords throughout the rest of the Classic Series, to the Expanded Universe and Koschei and Theta Sigma. The Deadly Assassin showed us that putting human dramas onto alien cultures, especially ones as revered as the Time Lords, was not a bad thing - and sometimes worked better than looking at them first hand.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: I decide whether Leela is eye-candy or brain-food in The Face of Evil.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Review: Doctor Who 7.Z: The Day of The Doctor

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Totes epic, brah. From the BBC
"Wow, I wonder what the 50th Anniversary is gonna be like!" What I probably said in around 2004 when I learnt to count and found that Doctor Who was 41 years old.

Saturday, 23rd November, 1963. A little show, pioneered by a Canadian, a 26-year-old woman and a gay asian director, is broadcast on the BBC as a gap-filler between Grandstand and Jukebox Jury. Despite low initial ratings on account of the recent death of US President Kennedy, it would go on to run continuously for 26 years before a spectacular revival series in the early Noughties. Three films, thirty-three seasons and 798 individual episodes later, and we find ourselves at the mercy of the hand of one Steven Moffat as he invites us to share in the 50th Anniversary. In this, my 800th Post, I look at what went right, and what went wrong with this thing. I will try not to spoil, as I know this is going out at weird times and some people may have to catch up, but do be cautious.
     The idea behind a "War Doctor" is one that troubles me greatly, and that seems to have been concocted mainly to allow Moffat to deal with the 13-regeneration limit with Matt's regeneration at Christmas. The endless layers of PR promoting this as "the regeneration The Doctor tries to forget" is totally at an odds with Nine and Ten's characters, both of whom were underlined by the guilt of the War, both in terms of Survivor Guilt and at having been the one to end it. It contradicts pretty much all of Nine's tenure, in fact, from the quiet musings on his people in The End of the World, the brilliant outspill of rage and anger in Dalek, and the quiet resolution and acceptance of his fate in The Parting of the Ways. If anything, the quirky little minisode featuring Paul McGann, Night of the Doctor, makes this worse, because that means that there really is no reason other than Moffat's insulting regeneration-shuffling for it to be John Hurt in the role instead of McGann. It's a narrative and promotional misstep that gave me a lot of misgivings about this episode before it even began - and that's not even taking into account my increasing wearyness when it comes to Moffat's blatantly sexist and queerphobic moments.
     That said, the special did surprise me in that it aimed high and, for the most part, reached it without making too much trouble for itself. It felt quite odd in the way that it blended a plot which was quite epic and large-scale with one that was more run-of-the-mill, giving proceedings a quiet intimacy. The interactions between Doctors Smith, Tennant and Hurt were quite well-written, even if there were one or two off-colour jokes upon their initial meeting. I felt that the three were done well, and were more enjoyable together than apart, especially as Moffat tackled the issues surrounding the Time War in a way which, despite being a clear attempt to negate its effects upon the Whoniverse, didn't feel that insulting towards his predecessor. 0The special to me feels weirdly paradoxical in that blend of grand-stand anniversary and quiet contemplative piece, but the structure of the story itself was quite well thought-out, with not a single introduced element or reference going unused, and this provided the story with quite a fun pace inbetween segments of character bouncing.
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Clara is actually written well! It's a miracle!
From the BBC
     It's still a bit of a continuity nightmare in that one of the defining events of the New Series has essentially been thrown out of the window and taken under Moffat's custody, as well as yet another instance of Moffat bringing in all of the Doctors since Hartnell in on a plot point and re-writing 50 years of Canon for his own little schemes. But despite that, despite the astounding levels of egotistical crap which have gone into the mythos on this one, I'm not sure that I currently mind. Not right now. Because the idea of the The War Doctor, while terrible, was made to work by a combination of an okay script and John Hurt being a fantastic actor. It wasn't perfect, it wasn't the massive ground-breaking, ball-blowing Anniversary that I'd been waiting for. But for some reason, simply because it wasn't as terrible in its substance as it had the potential to be, I'm not walking away from The Day of the Doctor disappointed.
     If you really want a show which'll celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the show, I'd head over to the BBC Bio-drama An Adventure In Space And Time, which, while simplifying things a little for a modern audience, portrays Doctor Who's beginnings in a way which is moving and brilliant. If you want an episode written by Moffat featuring Ten and Eleven that isn't terrible, then I suppose this is the one for you. It got stuff done, didn't fuck it up too badly in the execution - hell, what do I care. It was good television. And for a show that recently's been rather up and down in quality, that in itself is a fantastic thing.

Thanks.

P.S. Those who haven't seen it yet... look out for a surprise appearance by someone you may or may not recognise!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Review: Voyager 1.13: Cathexis

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This is kinda a Chakotay episode, even though Robert
Beltran gets to sleep for most of it.
Star Trek Voyager - Season One, Episode Thirteen - Cathexis
Written 16/6/13

Cathexis, joining the ranks of Voyager titles made up of single, hard-to-define words (Looking at you, Parallax), is a word which describes the mental energy put upon an object by a person. It is a title that brings us an oddly tense episode which uses several tropes I usually find annoying, and I can't really decide if I like it or not. It's an episode about paranoia and trust and it could quite possibly be something terrible that's just well-executed.
   Chakotay and Tuvok come back from an away mission severely injured, with Chakotay's mind having been extracted from his body, leaving him braindead. Tom Paris sends the ship away from a nebula that they'd been trying to go into, but can't remember doing it - other people keep reporting similar things across the ship. Suspicion falls upon a moving alien parasite that seems to be posessing people and not wanting to enter the nebula. The Doctor finds that the people affected have had their brain-waves replaced by another one. Paranoia sweeps the ship; especially for Neelix, who's on full asshole-mode this week. As things turn out, there are two possessing creatures - one that's taken over Tuvok permenantly and is trying to lead Voyager into the nebula to its doom, and the disembodied mind of Chakotay, which has been trying to help them out.
     The episode's execution is as muddled as its core premise, with one producer wanting to focus on the tension of the situation and the other wanting to make the episode a study of paranoia. The result is an exploitation of the tried-and-tested Posession trope, executed in a way which is quite muddled and garbled. And yet, I did enjoy it. The beginning of the episode runs along quite nicely, building the tension consistently, and once we reach the mind-fuck "what the hell is going on?" stage it's quite fun to see Tuvok as the possessed evil guy for a change. It's rare that Voyager delivers some honest-to-god tense drama, especially with its fondness for the reset button.
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Also, we never see this haircut before or after this episode.
     An entertaining diversion came in the first appearance of a strange subplot surrounding Janeway's favourite Holonovel, wherin she takes on the role of a governess in a 19th Century manor. This storyline pops up for a while into the second season, but it unfortunately doesn't get to develop into much. It was originally supposed to be introduced in Eye of the Needle, and it feels as out-of-place here as it does there. It did perhaps have a minor connection to the episode's theme of paranoia, as the Lady of the House is suspicious of Janeway's intentions. But that's ridiculously tenuous, even for me.
     So, while its tension wasn't bound together with its plot, Cathexis was a decent outing. I had to call a little bullshit on the whole "Chakotay's flying mind" stuff, but otherwise the episode provided a few nice surprises and it ran together in a way that early Voyager doesn't tend to do very often. It lacked focus a little, and if it was really attempting to focus on paranoia I think I'd have put the odd beginning subplot somewhere else, but at this stage in the game you have to take what you can get.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: All around me are familiar aliens, worn out plot points, worn out Faces.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Review: Lost 1.21: The Greater Good

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Essam is a little pissed when he discovers Sayid's lie.
Lost - Season One, Episode Twenty-One - The Greater Good
Written 10/6/13

The arc surrounding Boone's death forces Lost to become a show where actions have definite consequences. The Greater Good is the reverb of the events of last week, taking stock of the characters affected and how it impacts the deceptions that our characters hold. It is a new and exciting brand of storytelling that Lost is making great use of, tying multiple characters into a rich blend of tension, character development and anticipation of what's to come.
     Locke turns up at Boone's funeral and explains what happens, to varying levels of belief. Despite pouring his soul out to Shannon, she's still pissed off (more so than I think she really should be) and basically tells Sayid to do his thing. Sayid is more rational; he has Locke take him to the plane, where he confirms his story. In order to gain Sayid's trust, Locke confides that it was he that knocked him out all those weeks ago. Sayid returns and tells a resting Jack that he believes him, but Shannon still doesn't and she tries to kill Locke with a gun from the case, only to be stopped just in time by Sayid. As return for saving his life, he then asks Locke to take him to the Hatch.
     In the past, we find a rather dark sequence to explain Sayid's presence in Sydney. He's cornered at Heathrow by a CIA agent and her Aussie mate, who tell him that one of his old schoolmates, Essam, has become part of a terrorist cell in Sydney that has stolen 300 pounds of C4 explosive. They want to catch him in the act, and in return they will tell him where Nadia lives and prevent her from being deported to Iraq. He goes into the cell and gains Essam's trust, having to at length convince Essam to go through with his matyrdom. When Sayid reveals his plan and tells Essam to try to get away, Essam shoots himself. The CIA give him a plane ticket to LA, but he picks the next day's flight in order to have time to bury Assam, leading him to Flight 815.
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Locke has no idea about decent timing.
     I find Sayid and Locke's interactions in this episode to be really interesting, with Sayid the master interrogator and Locke the master deceiver. They work very well off of one another, and there's this dynamic level of trust and mistrust that runs through their relationship that makes everything wonderfully unpredictable. Of anyone to force Locke to reveal the secrets of the Hatch, Sayid really is the perfect candidate, especially as he has that cool demeanor to him and we can see from both he and Locke's development that they're fundamentally opposite. Sayid has a lot of things that he wants to make up for in his life, whereas Locke is all about taking back his life from his own misfortune. In this episode their roles are reversed, which is what charges their scenes.
     It's a real sign of Lost's confidence that a show already about an unexplained plane crash could go further and do a subplot about preparing to blow up innocent civilians in an era of history where 9/11 was stil particularly raw (although that period did last for a long time.) It's another sign thatr thais fits seamlessly into the themes of an episode that not only gives us fascinating character dynamics but that also pushes us on towards the finale in a way which maintains the tension in a remarkabley controlled manner. One more episode before the three-part finale, and I'm stoked.

Thanks.

NEXT: We see at least one of the things Kate is so guilty about in Born To Run.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Review: Doctor Who Classic: The Hand of Fear

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Sarah is controlled by Eldrad's hand and their gaudy ring.
Doctor Who - Season 14, Story Two - The Hand of Fear
Written 3/6/13

The Hand of Fear has gained its main place in Who lore as the last episode of the Classic Series to feature Sarah-Jane Smith as a continuous companion, and after three and a half seasons her presence has really made itself known. While I never really liked anything specific about Sarah Jane's character, she had very enjoyable chemistry with Tom Baker, and in the two and a half seasons since I started looking at Classic Who again, she and Tom have been the two things I look forward to most with each story. From the perspective of someone whose first experiences with Sarah Jane came from first The Five Doctors and then in NuWho, getting to see her original stories has justified to me why so many people love her.
     The Hand of Fear as a story, however, does not betray its starring feature until the last few minutes. Instead, we're given a sotry in two distinct halves whose tone and atmosphere couldn't be more different. The first, taking up the first two episodes, feels very much like a UNIT hangover and sees a magic stone hand possessing people and causing The Doctor to go running round hospitals and nuclear power stations. The second half is much weirder and much sillier, where the episodes' main concepts spill out like angel hair pasta and it's not very clear what's going on. My cup of tea entirely then.
     The main villain of the story is the memorable Eldrad, and their (I'm going to use neutral pronouns because they're both a woman and a man at different points in the story) abilities make this quite possibly the first story that I think I would have really enjoyed as a child in a "re-enact it in the playground" kind of way. Director Lennie Mayne's odd camera angles add a wonderful sense of mystery to the first half of the story, as we're unsure of what exactly is going on even as Elisabeth Sladen does her best as a possessed Sarah. Later, when Eldrad manifests themselves, they are a remarkably complex villain who despite their ranting and raving is given just the right treatment to make us wonder whether or not they're right.
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Eldrad in their female form gives us most of their complexity.
     While some may argue that the final episode on the barren planet of Katria devolves very much into silliness, I think that comes as a light relief to the first few episodes of gripping power-plant action. Not to put those episodes down, though - there are attempts made to evoke the horror of the Nuclear Threat during the Cold War, and it has moments both very effective (the head of the plant calling his wife and saying he loves her when he believes the plant is going into meltdown) and less so (the Government decide to kill the radiation-absorbing creature by firing a Nuclear Bomb at it, because logic.) It's a matter of personal taste, really.
     My apologies if this review has come off as a little rambling, but that's because of its final few minutes. Written by Sladen and Baker themselves, Sarah Jane's departure has the right amount of tragedy, the right amount of love and just the right amount of humour. There's this definite feeling of loss; the unimaginable concept that after all this time, Sarah-Jane's just gone, and she won't come back in any permenant capacity in Doctor Who. It took me back to Elisabeth Sladen's death in 2011 and underlined it painfully. But, despite that, I am still thankful that Sarah Jane's character was there through these past two and a half seasons, and I am looking forward to seeing her beginnings when this run-through ends back at Season 11.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: A slightly less rambley revisitation of The Deadly Assassin.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Review: Voyager 1.12: Heroes And Demons

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The Doctor hits it off with Freya the Sheild Maiden.
Star Trek Voyager - Season One, Episode Twelve - Heroes and Demons
Written 14/6/13

This week delivers us a double whammy - a Doctor-centric episode and a holodeck episode. Holodeck episodes are generally cool because the holodeck allows the show to explore locales and characters that would otherwise be impossible in its futuristic sci-fi setting. While the cliche of "something going wrong on the Holodeck" is ever-present, this episode's use of The Doctor (for this episode calling himself Dr. Schweitzer) keeps things lively with Robert Picardo's sense of comic timing.
     Harry Kim goes missing on the Holodeck (ahem, Kim Death Count - 2) and is followed by Chakotay and Tuvok after they investigate. When it is discovered that they've been converted from matter to energy by the Holodeck's systems, The Doctor is sent into Kim's Beowulf program to attempt to discover where they've gone. Along the way he meets and forms a relationship with holodeck character Freya, and uses his hologram powers to appear like an invulnerable warrior. The Doctor discovers Grendel, the beast in the story, to have been replaced by a technobabble life-form angry at the fact that the energy it's made from has been scooped up by Voyager. The Doctor releases the life-forms, Freya sacrificing her life in the process, and the three crew members are reconstituted.
     A lot of the episode's humour comes from The Doctor's relative dryness. A later Doctor would be a lot more enthusiastic about getting in the Viking mood, but as we're in the early stages of his character development he reacts to the world of Norse legend with a kind of matter-of-factness that is mostly quite charming. The relationship with Freya, while a little too reminiscent of a hidden Women In Refrigerators for me, was at least a continuation of the feelings he appeared to share with Kes in Eye of the Needle. It was nice to see him out and about doing things instead of in his normal, claustrophobic surroundings. That I suppose is the problem with early Doctor episodes - they're mostly set in the same grey-lined set. (Most sets in Star Trek are grey; the weird architecture in Deep Space Nine is one of the reasons I love that series too.)
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The Doctor is badass in order to avenge Freya's death.
(Even though by rights it's a holoprogram and he could
just switch her back on if he wanted.)

     Other than that... the episode was a tad linear. I understood that it was probably an episode used to let the main cast get on with filming some other episodes, filming the on-location scenes with Picardo at the same time as other episodes' ship scenes, but it felt a little straightforward. The problem with stories like Beowulf in the modern era is that we're used to something a little more complex than the hero arriving, getting the girl and defeating the monster. Heck, the original Beowulf is more complex than that, it's all about temptation and regret and the story ends with him killing his son who happens to be a dragon.
     I never throught I'd be criticising Heroes and Demons for that, though. Because I think I enjoy the Doctor enough that despite the relative calling-it-in nature of the plot, Picardo's natural charm and some stellar writing for The Doctor's interactions with that world made it really quite captivating. I liked that Star Trek got a chance to be all olde-worlde and that pretty much everyone involved in the Holodeck scenario got to do old-timey-times overacting, which from experience is the most fun kind of acting there is. Indeed.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: Who's possessing people? How many people are getting possessed? Who will save Chakotay? We ask these questions and more in Cathexis.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Review: Lost 1.20: Do No Harm

Lost - Season One, Episode Twenty - Do No Harm
Written 9/6/13

Do No Harm shifts the show's gear-lever up to maximum as we face the first season's most intense and beautifully tragic episode, seeing the culmination of both a long-awaited event and of a more recent, more surprising one. Matthew Fox's acting and Michael Giaccino's score do everything in their power to make Boone's death as sad as is physically possible, and they jolly well manage it, too. Do No Harm seems custom built to balance just the right amount of happiness with these tragic events - not to even them out, of course, but to in comparison make the tragedy even worse.
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Boone takes one for the team.
     Jack desperately tries to treat Boone, ranging from using his own blood to transfuse him to creating a make-shift guillotine in order to prepare to chop his leg off. Just as he's pouring his own blood into Boone and praying that it'll work, Jin rushes through the jungle and Sun translates that errand-running Kate has stopped to help Claire, who is now having the baby in the middle of the jungle. He sends Jin and Charlie back with the message that Kate will have to deliver it. Boone awakens before Jack prepares to amputate his leg and tells him to stop, soon after succumbing to his wounds. Claire's baby is born, and in the celebration Jack must tell Shannon of Boone's death. Later, he goes off on a hunt for Locke, whom he blames for the whole affair.
     In his flashback, whose purpose seems to be a wonderfully cute counterpoint to the main plot, Jack is getting married to Sarah, who conveniently explains via an expositional wedding rehearsal speech that he performed miraculous back surgery on her a few years ago and saved her from paralysis. He struggles to come up with his own vows, frightened of getting them wrong, but a visit from not-quite-yet-disgraced Christian helps him to channel his thoughts. At the wedding, he claims he hasn't written any vows, because he can't put down in words how much she means to him. Aww.
     Initially I thought that the focus on Jack was a little odd for Boone's last episode, but the development of Jack's main character trait in the early seasons (obsessive commitment) really works well with both of these scenarios and you can't help but feel for the poor guy as he, in the words of Christian Shephard, "isn't good at letting go" when there's little hope of Boone's survival. Had anyone else been in that situation, it would have probably been euthanasia time, considering the level of bleeding and the fact that they're on an Island in the middle of nowhere, but Jack's desperation to save him just this once ties into a deeper insecurity that we see in his flashbacks. It's really well-done character development and I think it's just marvellous.
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Jack is nervous about writing his vows for wife-to-be Sarah
      The birth of Claire's baby (which fans all know as Aaron) is also a big moment in the season, with Kate's delivery forming the inception of the Kate/Claire relationship that would get so much time spent on it in the later seasons. I don't really think the baby could have been born in any other circumstances, really - the deliberate life-and-death symbolism aside, I think that its presence here allows all sources of tension to be stretched to their absolute limits, which leaves behind an episode that is powerful and memorable.
     Do No Harm was a sad episode for me, and thus as far as I'm concerned that meant that it was a qualified success. I had a lot of nasty things to say about Boone over the course of his run, but the character was beginning to grow on me in his last few episodes and this is the beginning of a looooong Lost tradition whereby the moment that a character comes to terms with their personal baggage, they get killed for their troubles. I'm going to miss Boone, but my feelings around that are less important than how excited I am as we inch ever closer to this season's finale.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: Sayid gets to the bottom of whatever the fuck Locke's doing in The Greater Good.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Review: Doctor Who Classic: The Masque of Mandragora

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The Doctor gets a Salami as a reward.
Doctor Who - Season 14, Story One - The Masque of Mandragora
Written 2/6/13

Season 14 gets off to a very impressive start. All it takes for Doctor Who to get really good is a believable setting that facilitates strong characterisations - in this case, a good old-fashioned historical, mashing alien fireballs with ancient cults and the turbulent world of pre-Enlightenment Italian politics. On every level, Mandragora gets it right as a compelling and exciting Who adventure - one that left me on the edge of my seat with every cliffhanger. With a few nice ideas about religion to bandy about, I really can't fault the story for anything but minor quibbles.
     The Doctor and Sarah, having found the wood-themed Secondary Control Room, are pulled into the Mandragora Helix, an energy realm with a controlling entity. This entity stows its way on the TARDIS and forces them to land in 15th Century Italy, where it uses the local cult of Demnos as a power base in order to manipulate the local royalty in an attempt to prevent The Enlightenment and man's rise to power. As The Doctor is caught between Enlightened Prince Guilliano and his evil uncle the Count, he must find a way to prevent the Mandragora from gaining influence over the entire Earth.
     Season 14 sees the slow beginning of a slide into humour - much more pronounced and painful in Season 17, but at this stage it's a welcome surprise as Tom Baker 's Fourth Doctor outwits his enemies and the audience by always jumping to the unexpected. This shows itself in the resolution to the first clever, where The Doctor manages to use his scarf to halt his own execution. Not only has Baker completely settled into the role, but it appears that by this point he's reached a peak of flexibility where he can pull off pretty much anything.
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The new Autumn range from Paco Mandragora.
     The metaphors surrounding the transition into The Enlightenment were handled a little scruffily, especially surrounding the use of astrology. At first I found it a wonderful twist that the astrologer who predicted people's deaths then killed them to boost his credibility, but then it turned into the tale of a man who believed his prophecies to the extent that he could be manipulated by Mandragora. It was a human villainy, and while it wasn't the intricate character studies like those of the past, it was still sufficiently familiar to make him a far more effective villain than a rubber-faced monster.
      The Masque of Madragora gets a hell of a lot right - it combines the fun that Tom Baker was introducing into the role with a great setting (with costumes and a location borrowed from Hollywood) and a great set of performances from the secondary cast. As the first non-Britain Historical since The Gunfighters in '66, Masque uses the politics and ideas of Renaissance Italy to bring the season into a shining new start - and one of the best episodes since I started my look through Four's era.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: I get teary over Elizabeth Sladen as we see Sarah Jane's final continuous story, The Hand of Fear.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Overview: Doctor Who Classic: Season 13

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The Doctor begins the season with a Scottish theme.
Doctor Who - Season 13
Written 28/5/13

Hinchcliffe and Holmes, now free from the pre-ordained stories set down by the previous show-runners, had their chance to shine. Their Gothic influences really began to shine through, and their statement against the continual presence of UNIT made most definitely known as this is the final season to feature them until Season 26, a good thirteen years later. As such with the Gothic theme, many stories are lifted from more classical allusions, and good deal of them feature psychopaths and their henchmen.
     For some reason, the characterisations felt very different to the previous season. While the loss of Harry once again gave Sarah Jane the prime companion position, her development since her first season seems to have taken her down an odd route. The confident, staunchly Feminist icon that so defined Pertwee's final season seems to have given way to a classic Who screamer who runs around in pjamas. Luckily, she does have the incredible knack of saving The Doctor at least once a serial, which is generally a positive thing. The Doctor himself spent far too many serials acting grumpily, the worst being his totally uncharacteristic taciturnity in The Pyramids of Mars.
     The season's villains followed three main trends - opportunistic alien invaders, transformative substances and insane evil geniuses. These are all of course taken from standard literature - the third being a given in Who at large but especially prominent here, and the second being taken from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. On the one hand I am tempted to scream about the season's clear lack of originality, and go on some mislead diatribe about how the popularity of this season in the fandom shows an underlying self-loathing due to the rejection of the show's own new ideas. But then I take another sip of my tea and realise that it's the way these themes are so well transcribed to what it a Saturday tea-time show that makes it so ingenious.
     I will admit that I found the first three serials of the season to be a little lacklustre. Terror of the Zygons and Pyramids of Mars, although fan favourites, were not stories that I really enjoyed. With Zygons it was due mainly to a malaise from all the bagpipe music and the terrible special effect used for the Skarasen. Pyramids was a little more overall negative; I just found it to be overwhelmingly boring despite itself, and didn't see any redeeming features beyond the decent execution of the villain by the end. The second story, Planet of Evil, suffered from several poor design choices all rolled into one. My favourite story of the season by a country mile is The Android Invasion, whose sheer sense of fun and mystery is exactly what I love about the show.
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The Doctor mindbends with Morbius four serials before
we finally see Gallifrey.
     The comfortable days of Four and Sarah are almost over, and in these six stories we see an attempt by the new producers to properly stamp their influence on the series with as little fuss as possible. There may be a few stories which aren't to my tastes, but there is an undeniable sense of professionalism that runs through the season and even if you don't agree with the borrowing of story themes from classical literature, you have to admit that Season 13 has some of the most memorable and iconic villains and stories in the entire Classic era.

Thanks.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Review: Voyager 1.11: State of Flux

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Martha Hackett's starring role as Seska.
Star Trek Voyager - Season One, Episode Eleven - State of Flux
Written 1/6/13

Plot movement is rare on Voyager, at least this early in the game. The plotline for the first two seasons, with Kazon and all that bizniz, really gets going with this episode, which doesn't so much pose a mystery as it does develop one background character both directly and indirectly into the season's villainess. It was the first to try to really present the Kazon as something other than a joke, and in that it failed, but that's more of a fault of them than it is of this otherwise okay episode.
     When the Kazon (the asshole aliens who we first met in the pilot) ambush Voyager's crew on a planet, Seska is found near them in some caves. She organises a pantry raid for Chakotay, her old flame, but he is less than impressed. They find a Kazon ship which has been ravaged by an explosion - an explosion which has emanated from a Federation Replicator. Many people are under suspicion for having handed the tech over - Seska being a prime candidate. While she tries to blame it all on Carey, a blood test shows that she is biologically a Cardassian (the arsey Roman-esque villains of DS9 who would have reason to infiltrate Chakotay's ship.) A trap is set to find the traitor and Seska stumbles right into it, leaving her to cackle and teleport away.
     I might as well talk about the Kazon now in case I never get to review Season Two. They are the least intimidating villains that I have ever seen in Star Trek. Yep. They're terrible, on every level. Their design and conception seemed to try and combine the angry, honour-obsessed Klingons with the smarmy bastards the Cardassians, but the writing team completely shits the bed and the result is a species presented to us as one capable of warp technology who struggle to find water despite interstellar travel and who basically fuck up at every turn. When we meet Seven of Nine in Season Four, she tells us quite happily that the all-consuming Borg collective refused to assimilate the Kazon because they would present a step backwards.
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Poor Chakotay.
     This is really Chakotay's episode, and Robert Beltran gets a decent showing as he fights between his former loyalties to Seska and the evidence in front of him. Beltran had a more negative attitude to the show than some of the rest of the cast, noticing its faults in the writing department, but that's not really noticable here as the character isn't made to sprout Native American stereotypes and is instead a complex and somewhat likeable man of values. Plus, seeing him all confused and torn up as he realises that his tight-knit Maquis had not one but two spies on board, one from each of the major powers trying to wipe them out, is both funny and endearing at the same time.
     Plotwise this really is the only contribution to Voyager's overall arcs that the rest of Season One has to offer. I wish that it had a couple of decent concepts in there, but Martha Hackett's Seska is a charming enough villainess that it really doesn't matter. It was fun watching the lies and manipulation of character that's been doing this for years and has done so almost habitually, to the extent that she's still in character 70,000 light years from home. The last five episodes of the season are all pretty enjoyable, and this episode is pretty awesome too.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: It's an entire episode surrounding The Doctor, and he's awesome awesome awesome. Watch Robert Picardo take The Doctor to a land of Heroes and Demons.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Mass Effect

The game has plenty of tough situations
where there are multiple ways to handle things.
To celebrate the religious festival known only as N7 Day, I will review the video game Mass Effect which is, in my definitely not biased opinion, the greatest video game ever made. Set in the near future, humanity is a newcomer on the galactic stage, yet to earn the trust of the Space UN Security Council. You are Commander Jesus Shepard (first name, gender, appearance and personality are customisable), a bad-ass war hero on the SSV Normandy SR-1. After an attack on a human colony by a rogue Council agent and the mysterious robots known as the Geth, she has hallucinations dreams caused a strange alien artifact and the game revolves around solving the mystery that could change the galaxy forever...

But seriously, the story is engaging; you surround yourself in the world and become as much a part of it as you want to be. For many people, ME is simply a decent shooter. There's nothing wrong with that, but underneath that, there's a galaxy to discover. In this world, humanity aren't a galactic superpower. They're newcomers trying to earn their place, similar to humanity in Star Trek: Enterprise (in Mass Effect, instead of First Contact with Vulcans, they had a war with the turians). You represent humanity and as you travel the cosmos, you uncover the stories of the galaxy's inhabitants and you can change those stories forever. Outside combat situations, the game revolves around choosing dialogue options. The game has a dialogue system in which you can choose between Paragon, sympathetic and moral, or Renegade, be an arsehole. If you keep making Paragon choices or keep making Renegade choices, you gain access to dialogue options you wouldn't normally have, allowing you to convince others to help you or talk someone down. This system is clear, precise and allows conversations in the game to flow. The system is also where you make key choices that define the game. You can choose who lives or dies. Or you can defend the religious freedoms of the jellyfish preacher. I'm super cereal. The choices in this game carry on and affect the story of later games.

Chillin' on the moon.
One of the main inspirations of the game is obviously Star Trek. There are missions in the game that happen no matter what, but by exploring the galaxy you can see things and play missions that another player may have completely ignored. This creates a sense of exploration about the game that stands out. From your ship, you can travel to other star systems and you go to the planets in these systems, learning about their history, their structure (politically, astronomically and geologically speaking), even make one small step for mankind (as well as turian, asari, krogan...) and land on strange new worlds, travelling in the Mako, which for some unknown reason looks like one of those old Big Trak toys from the 80's.

Garrus' rebellious streak contrasts
his people's martial discipline and
"society first" attitude. He's also
just an awesome bro. 
This game oozes immersion and this immersion strengthens this game's greatest achievement: your crew. You may love them or hate them, but your squad-members are well-written, interesting and feel real. They give you a window into the game's universe and if they were aliens, a window into the culture, history and society of that particular species. A good example is Wrex, a krogan. Without Wrex, the krogan would seem to us to be henchman of the main villain and nothing more. Having Wrex on your squad gives them a personal story and shows the hardships the species had faced. Thousands of years ago, the krogan were decimated by a sterility plague created by the ruling races of the game, the salarians and turians. Wrex tells you how it destroyed their society and how krogan became simple soldiers of fortune or bouncers: trophies and not the great race they once were.

But the game isn't just serious story. The game is funny when it needs to be, especially if your character is a Renegade. Shepard becomes a sarcastic arsehole (like me in real life) and the game just becomes pure awesome. All in all, the game has balance and variety with the hope and humour of the personal elements of the story offsetting the annoying-as-fuck politicians and morally grey galaxy. You know, like in real life.

Even though Mass Effect is the story ever told by humanity, the gameplay is less than stellar. The game has a few immersion breaking glitches and the combat needed improvement, no matter how fun throwing singularities at robots was. Side quests reuse the levels, so you may be fighting through the same warehouse over and over again. It can get repetitive and it sometimes feels like the combat gets in the way of the story. If you play the game for combat rather than story, you are better off with one of the game's sequels or another series altogether.

Even with this in mind, Mass Effect makes you feel like you are the captain of the Normandy and is one of the most immmersive experiences I've ever had. Bioware have created a universe and characters people can invest in, in the same way people immerse themselves in Star Wars or Doctor Who. It's a great game.

Review: Lost 1.19: Deus Ex Machina

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The hatch light is the last beacon of hope.
Lost - Season One, Episode Nineteen - Deus Ex Machina
Written 30/5/13

Locke is a character whose flashbacks serve only to make us feel sympathy for him. Not that it's unwanted, of course - Locke-centric episodes are the ones that show him as a real human being. The story of Locke's faith and the harsh, harsh life that led him to possess it provide a great deal of tragedy, and help define him as the starring character that he really is. The episode also introduces the most despicable character that it probably ever will - the evil conman Anthony Cooper.
     In his flashbacks, we see a haired Locke stalked by his estranged mother Emily, who tells him that he was special and that he didn't have a father (she says immaculately conceived, but that's not what that means). He does some fact checking and finds his father, Anthony Cooper, who invites him out hunting and spends a few months bonding with him. Locke finally feels at home. Cooper reveals that he needs a new kidney, and a grateful Locke is glad to oblige. When he tries to return to see Cooper, he is rejected - his mother explains that it was an elaborate con to persuade John to hand over his kidney.
     On the Island, and John is having no luck with opening the Hatch. His leg is injured when a trebuchet splinters and he begins to lose feeling. He has a vision of a plane crashing and he and Boone go off in search of it, Locke revealing to him that he feels that Island granted his mobility and that he's been following what he believed the Island wanted, making him frustrated that it seems to be taking his mobility away. They find the plane, but when Boone climbs into it, he finds only cocaine inside Virgin Mary statues. It then falls and he is fatally injured. Locke carried Boone back to camp and, frustrated, bangs on the lid of the Hatch in despair, only for a light to come on inside.
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So... conning your son out of a kidney. Can't get much worse,
right? Well, just you wait, kid.
     Deus Ex Machina provides quite succinctly the reasoning behind John's entire belief system. The rest of the time, John seems to be this mystic knower of great knowledge who helps people out, but from this point onwards we finally see the neuroses that made him into such a believer in the Island's mythos. He was fed all of the lies by his parents in this faithful incedent, which provided the precedent for his belief in his "specialness", but then the Island's healing actually forced him to believe that it was true. And up until this point, up until the weird and tragic incidents of the day, it was working for him.
     This episode's writing is pretty solid, but it would have none of its impact without the ridiuculously talented Terry O'Quinn, whose acting in this episode has me blubbing like a baby every time. Deus Ex Machina is everything a Locke-centric episode should be and more, not just exploring Locke's character but picking it apart and then stitching it back together in just the right way to break our hearts. It's a great episode, and I for one won't have a damn word said against it. (Not that anyone does.)

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: Boone dies. Despite Jack's eternal promise to Do No Harm. Also, Jack's fourth centric episode. In the same season. I know!

Monday, 4 November 2013

Review: Doctor Who Classic: The Seeds of Doom

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The Doctor is attacked by a hard-line Carnivore.
Doctor Who - Season 13, Story Six - The Seeds of Doom
Written 28/5/13

As is the tradition for the vast majority of his era, this season ends with a six-parter, a straightforward story that uses the well-worn sci-fi trope of evil man-eating plants come to reclaim the Earth. There's nothing particularly special about the serial besides the quality of its execution, which incorporates a delightfully insane Big Bad, a famous-faced Anti-hero and the last appearance of UNIT for the next 13 years. The UNIT era of setting every other story in an ancient manor or a scientific research facility is about to come to a swift end, and Seeds feels like a worthy tribute.
      While on an expedition in the Arctic, three scientists discover what appears to be an alien seed pod. The pod opens while The Doctor and Sarah are en route to examine it, and it infects one of the research team, turning him into a planty humanoid monster. The Doctor recognises it; it is a Krynoid, an infectious alien plant with a murderous hatred for animals that can control the plantlife surrounding it. Although the first Krynoid is destroyed, another seed pod is found and, due to the machinations of stooge Corby, it ends up in the hands of fanatical plant devotee Harrison Chase. The new pod infects another scientist and Chase is posessed by its influence, but The Doctor summons UNIT and they manage to destroy the creature with short-range missiles before it does too much damage.
      As far as plant stories go, I really can't think of a sillier premise. I know that's kind of the point - that plants are angry at us for taking advantage of their resources - but there really is nothing sillier than seeing someone attacked by a hedge. One of the only stories of the JNT era that I dislike is Terror of the Vervoids, which is a plant story (although it has a few other ridiculous features that drive it into the murky depths). The Seeds of Doom, however, is the Who story I would hold up as a successful example of this plot, simply for how devoted it is to wringing the fear and paranoia out of the situation. If the plants are attacking, then of course being trapped within the largest plant collection in England is going to be shit-scary.
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Always water your Geraniums...
     Helped, of course, by this week's master-and-servant duo Chase and Corby. Corby, played by John Challis (Only Fools and Horses' Boycey), develops from dangerous villain at the beginning of the story into a reluctant anti-hero as he is forced to question the wisdom of allowing the Krynoid to wreak havoc upon Animalia. Chase (Tony Beckley) is a fun main villain and, comparisons to Uma Thurman's Poison Ivy aside, has a marvellous decent into madness that may even rival that of last week's Solon.
    Season 13 has thoroughly redeemed itself. After a run of three stories that really didn't do much for me, the last 16 episodes balanced a fun streak with well-executed concepts, getting us good and ready for the next season, where the comfortable era of Sarah Jane comes to an end after three and a bit years. The Seeds of Doom, the first of Baker's six-part finalĂ©s, doesn't fall into the six-parter trap of going all saggy in the middle and manages to sustain the evil plant concept with much vigour.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: One hopes the acting isn't as wooden as the new Console Room... it's Season 14, and The Masque of Madragora.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Overview: Heroes: Volume Two - Generations

Welcome back. As Heroes' ratings skyrocketed, the new season was a given. But a great evil loomed over the horizon in those halicon days of 2008, as angry writers took up pitchforks and ripped up contracts in protest of poor pay and a high workload. The result was catastrophic, and affected dozens of US Shows. It would go down in History as the Writers Guild of America Strike of 2008, and as well as shorter seasons of LOST it gave us this much, much shorter second volume... Written 31/5/13
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Adam Monroe. Evil badass. Awesome mofo.

The difficult second album. Heroes had originally meant, in the planning stages, to have a rolling cast which showcased new stories with each volume. With that scrapped, the writers instead planned a three-volume second season, which would have taken all sorts of weird and wonderful directions. The Writers Guild of America Strike, however, cut that short, and the resulting season could only manage eleven episodes, making this the shortest of the five volumes. It was a season ravaged from all directions by characterisation trouble, new characters who didn't mean much, crazy plot twists and a pace that failed to match its more brief running time. (And yet somehow, it's still better than Miracle Day.)
     I think it's fair to say that the vast majority of the Volume's troubles fall down to the Strike, but even despite that there are a few weird issues here or there. Peter is given soap amnesia, Hiro spends eight or so episodes in the 1600s, Claire and HRG have assumed a suburban life again. It feels like the writing team had a bit of bother in trying to fit the old characters into the "brand new world" after the finalĂ©, where by rights everyone should know each other and be out doing daring do. This could have been used as the build-up to something truly spectacular, looking better in hindsight, but unfortunately the storyline that would have followed had to be cut off.
     The big trauma of this Volume is that of the Shanti Virus, a disease that only affects Supers. In the 1970s, the company that HRG worked for (and spends this season trying to bring down, to no avail) mutated the virus into one that could infect normal humans, and in a Bad!Future Peter sees the effects of the virus in the deaths of 93% of the world's population. The original brief for the series would have seen immortal badass Adam Monroe release the virus, leading to eight episodes of death, destruction and quarantine that sounds totally awesome. The strike forced the writers to reshoot several key scenes, instead ensuring that Peter caught the vial of the virus just in time, and had Nathan shot by a mysterious assailant. The potential of that scenario tears my heart out cos it just seems so good.
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Cool powers. Complex characterisation. Kristen Bell.
She had to be my favourite character,
you just don't understand.
     Despite its adherence to a lot of the old cast members, that doesn't mean that we didn't get some good new'ens. Company leader Bob Bishop is cool, as is his daughter Elle, who is my favourite Season Two character, mainly due to her deep-seated psychosis brought up around impressing her abusive father. We also have aforementioned British Badass Adam Monroe, whose tenure was far, far too short, as well as the slightly more useless Maya Herrera, whose power is to kill people with a plague at will, her brother Alejandro, whose power is to stop Maya's power, and Monica Dawson, Micah's cousin who can replicate anything she sees and who subsequently disappears (and was apparently always going to.)
     Talking of Monica, let's discuss her uncle, D.L. Hawkins, whose appearance in Season One was totes badass. D.L. suffered a similar fate to that of Nina in Being Human - a finale uses the threat of his death as a dramatic element, only for him to survive that and then die inbetween seasons. As we only find this out in a flashback episode that comes about eight episodes into the Volume, it feels like the most frustrating motherfucker in the world. D.L. might as well have just died at Kirby Plaza, because the overall effect is the same and the subplot used in that episode to explain his death is one of the most stupid things that the show has ever done and probably will ever do, featuring a second alter-ego of Niki's called Gina who never appears before or after.
     The vote for my favourite episode of the Volume is a bit difficult given the circumstances, but oddly enough it would have to be that aforementioned flashback episode, Four Months Ago... . It's a strangely absorbing episode that really fulfils that need to see the cliffhanger of Season One resolved. I think the choice to leave that resolution to episode eight of eleven was god-damn stupid given that that's not the way TV has ever really worked (It's a bit like showing Boom Town straight after the cliffhanger in The Empty Child and then coming back the next week and saying, "Oh yeah, that cliffhanger, here's how they got out of it.") In showing what happened to our characters between the seasons we are better able to follow them as people, and that is what characterisations are about.
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Amnesiac!Peter has a relationship with Caitlin, an irish girl
who ends up trapped in the Bad!Future and is thus
subsequently never mentioned EVER AGAIN. Cool.
     So much potential; so much silliness. But I don't necessarily thing that it's a bad thing in the long run. Generations set the season off on a bad road in the public eye, and while ratings were steadily declining anyway, it was the season that gave the writers this impression that they needed to step things up. The results of that were... good and bad. I think that the knowledge that so many of the Volume plot lines will have very little impact later on gives the volume a reckless charm that for me at least makes it that little bit more enjoyable than otherwise. Think of this volume as a warmup for next time, where the plot twists run thick and fast and no-one really knows what's going on.

Thanks.

IN EIGHT WEEKS: Arthur Petrelli. Is Sylar really Peter's brother? Cool powers for everyone! Oh, except you Peter. Sorry about that. It's Volume Three - Villains.