Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Review: Lost 3.4: Every Man For Himself
The true nature of The Others' prison is revealed.
From Wikia
Lost - Season Three, Episode Four - Every Man For Himself
Written between 23rd and 24th February 2014

Every episode of Lost has its favourite allusions, but none so more than my treasured Sawyer episodes. This week was a string of allusions to Of Mice and Men, from shaking rabbits to death all the way down to musings on the nature of mankind. It felt like something of a sign that the show seems to be feeling more comfortable in this story than it was last week, resulting is an hour of intrugue and drama with barely a misstep to talk about. That this comes from a centric of one of my favourite characters is not lost on me, and I'd be the first to blast my own bias, but perhaps those lengthy narrative references have just rubbed off on the writing.
      After the shooting two weeks ago, Other member Colleen is rushed to their surgery. In order to teach him a lesson, Ben abducts Sawyer from his cell and, after injecting him with a sedative, informs him that he's been fitted with a pacemaker which will kill him if his heartrate goes too high - thus discouraging him from trying to escape. Jack is called into surgery when Juliet reveals that she's just a fertility specialist - he isn't able to save Colleen, despite best efforts, but he notices that someone in The Others' group has a spinal tumour, and seeing as he's a spinal surgeon he guesses that he wants them to save them. After some argument, Ben reveals to Sawyer the truth - the pacemaker was an elaborate con, and they couldn't escape even if they wanted to, as they're on Hydra Island, a fair stretch of water away from their people. At the beach camp, Desmond saves Charlie's life thanks to a premonition. In the past, Sawyer is in prison and discovers that he has a daughter by Cassidy, the woman he conned in The Long Con. He cons a fellow prisoner in order to earn his way out of jail and set down a nestegg for his daughter.
     The cornerstone theme of this episode was about love, however indirectly. Aside from the ridiculously back and forth relationship between Kate and Sawyer (which is better than Kate and Jack, at any rate), we have that relationship compared to the love shared between Danny Pickett and his now late wife Colleen, as well as Sawyer's muted actions in the past to go against his usual principles and betray his friend in order to make a better life for his estranged infant daughter. Sawyer's path of redemption is touched upon quite nicely here - most of his actions throughout the episode are done to protect Kate from physical or emotional pain, just as he puts aside his grudge against the prison warden in order to snitch his way free.
"Can I still tend the rabbits, George?" From Wikia
      The developing story with Jack and Juliet, ignoring for now the potential for fun fun fun emotional polygons, is doing something of a stellar job of developing Juliet's character within these limited time constraints. Parallels are constantly drawn between Jack's captivity here and Ben's captivity in Season Two, with Jack in this episode pulling off on Juliet almost exactly what Ben did to Locke in Maternity Leave. Except that, to be fair, Juliet is a fair bit more put together than Locke was at that stage, and Jack doesn't need to push that much to reveal the underlying hatred that exists between her and Ben - the cause of which we will find out later in the season, and in Season Four's The Other Woman.
     At times, this episode's theme couldn't get any clearer - "every man for himself" doesn't work. That's a nice uniting theme throughout Lost, and one that this episode embodied in ways that made it slightly deeper than the past three weeks. It's still not Lost gold, and I'm still damning this arc with the faint praise of being "entertaining," But this week's episode recaptured something in the series that this season had been lacking so far - a sense of thematic potency, of the kind that Lost excels in delivering. And it referenced Steinbeck, which is always a good thing in my book. As we enter the final stages of this arc, I hope that the show gets better, although I know that there are some corkers and some stinkers waiting on the other side.


NEXT WEEK: The third and final outing for my fave character, Mr. Eko. Nikki and Paolo start to get annoying. The Monster starts showing teeth. And Eko must discern The Cost of Living.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Review: Lost 3.3: Further Instructions
Locke versus Predator... From Wikia
Lost - Season Three, Episode Three - Further Instructions
Written 23/2/14

The show's third season hosted a number of the show's weirdest plotlines, and this episode's look back on the beach-camp set up quite a few of them. Principally, Locke's flashback this week is the first of a number of "what the fuck does this have to do with anything?" flashbacks that Season Three particularly excels in, falling as it does outside of the continuity of any of the other flashbacks that Locke has had. Like most Locke episodes, we're in for a treat of depression and vague "spiritualism" which involves copious amounts of shakey-cam, but we're also expected to swallow a few other explanations that don't quite sit right.
      Locke awakens after the Hatch implosion at the end of the last season, unable to speak. He immediately enlists Charlie to help him as he takes some funky jungle drugs to "speak to the Island," wherein a vision of Boone appears to give him a good scolding, and to tell him to save Mr. Eko's life. Able to speak again, he and Charlie go off on a trek to find Mr. Eko, whom Locke deigns has been attacked by a polar bear. Along the way they meet Hurley, who relays the news about Jack, Kate and Sawyer, who himself later finds Desmond running through the jungle naked. Desmond, as it turns out, now gets visions of the future. Locke eventually finds and saves Mr. Eko before giving a speech to the camp about how they're going to mount a rescue mission. In the past, a still-haired Locke picks up a hitchhiker named Eddie on the way back to the hippie Commune where he lives. Eddie is immediately allowed into their world, although it's clear something dodgy is behind their lifestyle - as it turns out, the Commune is a weed farm on the side. Locke is told that Eddie is an undercover cop, but when he confronts Eddie about lying to him, he can't bring himself to do anything to stop him.
      This episode sees the first appearance of background characters Nikki and Paolo, who were introduced for very dubious reasons and whom we're meant to assume have been there all along. Not too annoying yet, but they'll get there, I promise you. It's also the first showing of Desmond's ability to see the future, which is conveniently forgotten come the beginning of Season Four but which drives two or three of this season's major subplots. I discussed why Desmond's abilities can fit in with a stable time-travel model in my essay on the subject, so I won't warble on about that too much, but I will say that compared to what came before and what would come after, it's the first of a number of overtly supernatural concepts to slowly work its way onto the show.
You know exactly why the Hatch blew
Desmond's clothes off. Don't pretend you
don't. From Wikia
     And that adds into this episode's main issue - the fact that, three seasons in, we've started to stretch our suspense of disbelief. A lot of crazy shit happened in the first two seasons, I grant you, but this episode's main island plot is so weird and mundane that you can't help but wonder. Not only are we expected to believe that Desmond, Eko and Locke happily survived the implosion of an underground bunker with a few bumps and bruises, but that the show would go and do something as unbelievably naff as having Locke fight a bear. I mean, with all the evil things on this show, you had a character dragged away by a bear? It's just silly, and when you add in Locke running around the island smearing mud on his face it becomes something of an unintentional comedy.
     Further Instructions was swapped with The Glass Ballerina, and I think that works - otherwise the lack of advancement for the Others' storyline might have soured the momentum of that plotline. I think it's a problem of Lost's format that they had so many different lines set up at the end of the previous season that they've taken three episodes just to address them all. It was good to find a Locke episode which was slightly less depressing than his usual fare, this co-incided with a decicive lack of direction - at least while we're still in this six-week arc.


NEXT WEEK: Ben kills a rabbit to scare Sawyer. Ben has cancer. We find out exactly where our intrepid heroes are being kept. It's Every Man For Himself.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Review: Lost 3.2: The Glass Ballerina
Seriously, don't mess with the pregnant daughter of
a Korean mob boss. From Wikia
Lost - Season Three, Episode Two - The Glass Ballerina
Written 22/2/14

Choo choo choo, chattanooga. This week we follow what will be a slow and deliberate trend for this arc of slowly widening the net on all of our characters, this time allowing our our intrepid Love Triangle peeps to share the limelight with the blazing lantern of mediocrity that is a Sun and Jin episode. This is, however, a Sun and Jin episode which is bolstered by cool Others action, some half-decent character moments for Sun in the past and the introduction of two minor characters, both of whom will be dead by this arc's end. It actually feels quite weird that Lost's usual standalone masterpieces have (however temporarily) given way to this narratively clandestine arc, but I think I'm rather liking it.
     Over with The Others, Sawyer and Kate were put to work breaking rocks in a quarry by angry shouty man Danny Pickett, whose wife Colleen headed off with a group of Others to confront Jin, Sun and Sayid near their ferry dock. While Sawyer kissed Kate to cause a ruckus that would allow him to assess the Others' level of fighting capability, Sun was forced to kill Colleen as The Others sailed away on the Elizabeth. Benjamin Linus explained himself to Jack and promised him that he would go home if he co-operated, proving he meant what he said by showing Jack a clip of the Boston Red Sox winning the 2004 World Series. In Sun's flashbacks, we saw her super-powerful dad employing Jin to take out Sun's secret lover, Jae Lee. Jin, not told what Jae Lee has done, can't go through with it and simply threatens him, but Jae Lee commits suicide anyway in order to avoid Mr. Paik's rage.
     I get the feeling quite often that the storyline with The Others takes itself a little too seriously, and there's always that repeating niggling doubt that beyond Ben's fetish for psychological manipulation, there's no reason for The Others to be so... villainous, if you get my meaning. All of The Others' goals and beliefs are ultimately their own business, and whatever they want from The Survivors could have just been talked over. The Others are perfectly correct when they say that they're not fundamentally bad people - it just feels like the writing is forcing them to be so for the sake of the plot. (Where have I heard that happening before?) In the end, the Picketts (the most blandly evil of our villains) are quite fun to see backhanded, especially as Colleen is stupid enough to try to and approach an armed Sun when she knows all about the Paik family business.
I'm a bad boy for breakin' her heart/
And I'm free, I'm free fallin' From Wikia
     The flashback business was a little off-centre. The two Jin/Sun episodes in Season One provided what felt like a very much simplified rundown of their relationship, and trying to fit everything else in around that often stretches credibility. While the presence of Jae Lee was useful last season to explain why Sun speaks English, the idea that Sun was having an affair with him comes out of the blue. While it comes as something of a non-sequitur given what we've seen before, it does lead into a number of different things - a concern over the identity of the father of Sun's baby, an insight into Sun's later vendetta against her father, and yet another sign that the asshole Jin we saw in House of the Rising Sun still hadn't lost his moral compass.
     This week had its missteps, and I'm still not as invested into this arc business as I'd like to be, but the rolling precedings are intriguing enough to make me want to carry on, as well as opening up yet another side of some of the show's less interesting characters. Only three of the six episodes in this arc manage to do that well - and the flunkers begin next week, where we see what happened to Locke as he miraculously survived an implosion.


NEXT WEEK: Desmond is naked in the jungle! Bernard did a funny run! Eko got kidnapped by a bear! And Locke awaits Further Instructions.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

My Wes Anderson Experience

The camera turns 90 degrees to the side, revealing some unknown figure. They make a sardonic reply. Maybe they're smoking on a cigarette. A child says something no child would say. Time slows down in a dramatic moment. A classic rock song comes on. A dog or other small animal is killed in a way which is both tragic and hilarious. People don't have the right accents. You're reading something and the cover appears with bold yellow letters in the Futura font. A narrator discusses your every move. You pass Owen Wilson, Jason Scwartzman and Bill Murray and think nothing of it. You're in a Wes Anderson film.
     Wes Anderson films are some of my favourites, not only because of the times they came into my life but because of the inventive style and themes which don't hide his problems but instead do their best to make up for them. Having seen all the films now, I wanted to put down my thoughts on my experiences with each of these varied and wonderful films, for better and for worse.
From Wikimedia

Bottle Rocket (1996)

Based on a short of the same name Anderson directed in 1994, Bottle Rocket is the debut of the Wilson Brothers Owen and Luke, the former now known mainly for wacky comedies. This was the last of Anderson's films that I saw, and what is immediately noticeable with hindsight is how simply normal the style is - the camerawork is more naturalistic and the characters distinctly more human. The tale of two friends, one attempting to become a career criminal and the other trying and failing to move away from that life, works mainly because of the brothers and their familial relationship.
      Although Wilson's directorial style is typically absent here, there are hints towards it development. The film ends with the first of Anderson's famous slow-mo scenes as Owen Wilson's character goes to prison. It's not a film I love, but I don't really hate it either, and it's fairly fun where it needs to be.

Rushmore (1998)

From Wikimedia
Rushmore is my least favourite Anderson film by a pretty wide margin, and is thus of course a critical darling. It's not that it isn't good - in place it's brilliant - it's just that I don't enjoy the way it was executed. Jason Schwartzman, another of Anderson's major collaborators, makes his début here in what is his most complex and thought-through performance as the central character Max Fischer, a brilliant-but-lazy fourteen year-old whose crush on nursery teacher Miss Cross (Olivia Williams) leads him into direct competition with tired industrialist Herman Blume (Bill Murray, in his first of many Anderson appearances.)
     Instead of developing any particular relationships, the film is focused entirely on the development of Max's character, from his ignorant and arrogant beginnings to what is hopefully (and deliberately ambiguously) more wise ending. His sparring with Blume ends up failing spectacularly in a fantastic scene which rips away the film's prior pretence of being a romantic comedy, with Williams' Cross tearing into both Max's adolescent sexual posturing and Blume's desperation. The rest of the film sees Max rebuilding the bridges he burnt with his barber father and the few classmates who actually liked him.
     The reason why I can't really watch this is for that first half, in which Max's personality is so grating that it makes the film difficult to watch. The implication at the end that the vast majority of his development has been for show doesn't make that any easier, and neither does this being the first example of Anderson's habit of giving children adult voices. It works here because it shows Max's precociousness and arrogant naivety, but in later films it stands out and adds a strange tone to proceedings, especially in films which focus on children as main characters.

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
From Wikimedia
The archetypical Wes Anderson film, and by far the most well-known. It's the first with an all-star cast, as well as being the first which really displays the style Anderson is known for. Unlike his first two films, which could conceivably take place in our reality, Tenenbaums is the first which feels like it exists in a bizarre parallel world where everything has been subtly rearranged to be more whimsical. This also brings out another shade of Anderson's work in which dark themes take the wheel, even though humour and whimsy surround them.
      Following the decline and rise of the Tenenbaum Family, the family's many members and their respective backstories (explained in a long intro by narrator Alex Baldwin) means that there's something for everyone. The film's nature means that everyone is stained by tragedy - Richie by his failed career and life-long obsession with his adopted sister, Margot by her abandonment issues and eternal dissatisfaction, and Chet by the death of his wife and the obsession with health and safety that follows. This is all bound together by the film's central focus on patriarch Royal (Gene Hackman) and his attempts to bring his family back together by any means, even if that means that he has to change his character to do it.
     For me the film is in a weird place - I love the film's style and aesthetic, as well as its fantastic soundtrack. The dynamics of the Tenenbaum family are ridiculously enjoyable to watch - as is the liberal amounts of development that every single character gets in spades. Where I end up feeling a little awkward is during the film's depiction of suicide and the underlying misogyny that surrounds that entire issue. Mid-way through the film, Luke Wilson's Richie discovers that his adopted sister Margot has in her life had a string of lovers, and for a reason I can't fathom this drives him into a suicidal state which Margot later blames herself for. It's a stain on what is otherwise a fantastic film with some really warm themes.

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004)
From Wikimedia
Bill Murray is a prolific contributor to the Anderson oeuvre, and this film is his day in the lime-light. The Life Aquatic is a tribute/ripoff of the works of famous oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, who style and works are borrowed by Anderson to create a tale of redemption and loss. Critical reception to this film was terrible - it is thus, of course, one of my favourites. The main criticism of the film is that Anderson's direction and set design so often breaks with convention that it often becomes impossible to maintain the suspension of disbelief, but I think this is what the film wants, as it continually plays with the audience's expectations by comparing and contrasting with reality.
     Bill Murray is at his best when playing characters who are tired of life - this is true of more or less all of his Anderson appearances, with the possible exception of his cameos in The Darjeeling Limited and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Here though is where that performance gets to shine, as through the guise of defamed oceanographer Steve Zissou we see his cynicism develop to a fever pitch. At the same time, Wes Anderson gets in his daddy issues with the character of Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson playing against type), who believes himself (falsely, as we discover at the end) to be Zissou's son.
     Mark Mothersbaugh (who scored the first four Anderson films) adds to the film's distinct aesthetic with his score - half of which is Seu Jorge's brilliant Portuguese covers of David Bowie songs, some out-of-nowhere electropop and then the chilling Zombies b-side "The Way I Feel Inside" for Ned's death.
     It's tempting to call Wes Anderson the king of Daddy Issues, and this film is the middle of a trilogy in which those themes are at the forefront. The Life Aquatic instead focuses on isolation and, as is as also a common Anderson theme, the idea of lost glories. This is big in every Anderson film from The Royal Tenenbaums onwards, but here is where it first became the star focus.

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
From Wikimedia
My favourite Anderson film, and one that I can quite literally watch at any time without getting tired of it. Following a successful and critically loved short called Hotel Chevalier, Darjeeling follows three American brothers (Played by Owen Wilson, Adrian Brody and Jason Schwartzman) on a train-ride across rural India, meeting for the first time since their father's funeral and, initially unknown to the younger two brothers, on a quest to find their estranged mother (Anjelica Huston). Along the way they indulge in spiritual encounters, obstensibly to gain enlightenment but actually coming to learn more about each other and the reasons why they fell apart in the first place.
     Unlike most of the rest of Anderson's post-Bottle Rocket films, there's very little in way of presentation and pretention. Not to say that his style isn't everywhere, but there's no narration or bookmarks or grand storytelling. He lets the three leads play out their own characters in a series of confined spaces, eventually casting them out into the wilderness and bringing their shared neuroses to a head. It's quite odd to think that Anderson's most heartwarming and uplifting film centres almost entirely around a sequence of two funerals and two seperate abandonments. But it's about siblinghood and family and overcoming past differences in a way which, while still fairly bittersweet, is somewhat more positive than elsewhere in the ouevre. (Last time I'm gonna use that word, I promise.)

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
From Wikimedia
My first exposure to Anderson, Moonrise Kingdom came into my life at a time where I needed escapism, and escapism is what I got. The world of New Penzance and the associated islands are incredibly isolated, and this makes the adventures of Suzie Bishop and Sam Shakusky all the more influential on the islands' tired adult populace. On a surface level it's a story about two children breaking free from the shackles of society and falling in love with each other. On a deeper level, it's about the adults of the story realising that their lives could do with a bit more of the couple's childlike idealism.
      Also making Moonrise Kingdom so memorable is the first appearance in the collection by composer Alexandre Desplat (he's done so many scores it's not worth listing just a few of them), whose floaty original music is mixed in with a score heavy in the works of Benjamin Britten. The resulting score gives the film an ethereal atmosphere and underlines both the film's sense of adventure and its sense of nostalgia.
      My favourite performances in the film are those of Bruce Willis' exasperated Captain Sharp and Bill Murray in a role which makes Steve Zissou look like a beacon of positivity.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
From Wikimedia
Anderson's most recent production is one in which every single shot is an Andersonism. It is, visually, an exquisitely constructed piece of artistry, in which every single shot has some great artistic reference (or simply looks pretty.) At the same time as maintaining this aesthetic, it also presents a continual mix of maddash comedy stylings and a great, all-imposing melancholy which encroaches on the film from beginning to end. There's no character development as in other Anderson films - instead, we examine a series of continual, domino-esque falls from grace as the eponymous hotel and the great figures associated with it each move past their golden eras.
      The result is a breathless film, as beautiful as it is horrifying, as funny as it is morose. Desplat's score not only enforces the film's strange omni-European roots, but also drives home the various styles of fashion and music that the film passes through as it flashes back and forth between the present and various decades of the 20th Century. Both Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori's lead characters are eccentric individuals with coloured pasts and a deep layer of sadness beneath their exteriors, and the relationship that develops between them (less father-son this time, at last) is a joy to behold, even when it ends up having tragic consequences. It's a beautiful film and, despite the very bitter end to its tale, it's an experience that's worth having. It's the pinacle of what Wes Anderson has acheived.


Review: Lost 3.1: A Tale of Two Cities
Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell) is going Downtown.
From Wikia
Lost - Season Three, Episode One - A Tale of Two Cities
Written 14/2/14

It's Valentine's Day and I'm bombing out, so let's get back to Lost. The third season of the show is the one I know the least about - often considered, in various sectors of the internet, to be a misstep in the show's momentum. Not that it's particularly obvious from the season's premiere episode, which follows the trend of fantastic Lost openers and more or less blows our minds with new concepts for the following season. As part of a six-episode arc focusing on the captivity of the show's native :Love Triangle, A Tale of Two Cities promises a lot and, mostly, it delivers, give or take a few odd decisions which still won't make sense down the line.
     Jack, Kate and Sawyer, having been kidnapped by The Others at the end of the last season, find themselves in captivity in a station called The Hydra, which used to hold animals in captivity. While Jack is kept in a swanky underwater cell with glass walls, Kate and Sawyer are put in cages and forced to live on Fish Biscuits. We discover that The Others are much more techy than they appeared previously, living in a modern-ish settlement called The Barracks (ooh, yay!) in the middle of the Jungle. Among their number is the frustrated Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell) who has been assigned by Other leader Ben (Michael Emerson, now a main cast member after his stint as "Henry Gale" last season) to soften Jack into compliance with their demands.
     The episode's flashbacks showed an obsessed Jack attempting to hunt down wife Sarah's new lover during the breakdown of his marriage, showing a malicious streak which would reappear in Season Four. This flashback was juxtaposed nicely with the interactions between Jack and Juliet in the main story, although it was weird as always that Jack just so happens to be thinking about the things we see in the flashback at that particular moment. It also made the episode feel very detached with Kate and Sawyer, both of whom had odd scenes of their own where The Others did various bizzare and wacky things with them.
"Henry Gale" is now in full force as leader Benjamin Linus.
From Wikia
     The introduction of Juliet is really where the episode strikes its most triumphant chord, as her character provides a very different perspective to that of the other protagonists. Her relucant stewardship under Ben is one of the show's more well-developped relationships at this stage, especially as both Emerson and Mitchell are fantastic actors who have the skill to capture the layered hatred and fear that both of them feel for each other despite their working relationship. Plus, Juliet was the star of the trademark season opening mindfuck, this time hosting a book-club in a village which is only revealed to be on The Island when Oceanic 815 breaks up above it.
     A Tale of Two Cities is nothing special, then, where Lost is concerned. Neither, I fear, will be this next month or so, as the six episodes in Season Three's intial arc roll by in all their famed mediocrity. Although, I am perhaps missing out on one important factoid. This is in fact the only episode of Lost written by series co-creator J.J. Abrams, who basically had the concept of the show dumped on him after fellow writer Jeffrey Lieber was fired from the project. The fact that some of our characterisations are a little on edge and there are certain gratuitous scenes involving Kate and a shower show Abrams' involvement, but aside from that it's interesting to note how similar his style is to the rest of the show's norm.


Friday, 4 July 2014

Review: Voyager 3.1: Basics (Part Two)

The more eagle-eyed members of my meagre readership will notice that it's been six months since I wrote anything to do with Voyager - this article being inspired by the end of my exams yesterday and the fact that the review of Basics (Part One) went up this morning. Here goes, then. :D
Chakotay can communicate with alien cavemen.
From Doc Oho
Star Trek: Voyager - Season Three, Episode One - Basics (Part Two)
Written between 20th and 21st June 2014

I've always thought that cross-season two-parters were weird. A two-part story is supposed to establish continuity within itself, both in terms of plot and tone, and one of the points of having different seasons is that each develops its own distinctive voice. The result is that Season Three's premier is quite deeply entrenched in the Kazon politics of its beleaguered predecessor - except, well, this time it's a damn sight better. While this vast improvement mostly comes from the fact that "take over the ship again" stories are more fun to watch than "see Voyager get its ass kicked" stories, there are also a few interesting musings on Star Trek's core philosophy which, while ultimately forgotten for the A-plot, were appreciated.
      On the pre-historic planet they were dumped on at the end of the last season, our intrepid heroes (I think I've used that term so many times ironically that it's become 100% serious) run into a tribe of caveman-esque aliens who kidnap Neelix and Kes before leading to an encounter with a weird space-dinosaur. Their animosity is put on hold when a nearby volcano starts to erupt, and the two groups bond. Out in space, and Tom Paris is on one of Voyager's infinite shuttlecraft, planning to attack the Kazon-controlled Voyager with the help of a fleet of Talaxians. On the ship, The Doctor does his best to act as an insurgent, with the help of crazed Betazoid Lon Suder who made two guest appearances in Season Two. Suder has trouble with the task, seeing as he's spent the past year trying not to give into his violent tendencies, but eventually he intervenes when The Doctor is deactivated and manages to aide Tom and the Talaxians in re-taking the ship, dying soon afterwards. Everyone back on board, they head off back to Earth, with Seska dead and Maje having done a runner with his baby.
     It was a bit weird that one of the episode's main focuses was on the adventures of the crew stranded on the planet. Ostensibly, this two-parter was about examining how the Voyager crew would react when their technology is taken away, but they react to it with a surprising level of acceptance - within a few minutes they've found food sources and made deadly weapons. It felt so tangential and most of the time incredibly weird, and there was little character development for them besides a few awesome moments with Chakotay, and Tuvok for some reason becoming a murderous little shit. (Apparently Vulcans have Professors of Archery, which is mind-boggling and is never mentioned again.)
Just before she goes - one thing I've always wondered
is why, after the restoration of her Cardassian physiology,
Seska still has pink skin and light features. Weird.
From Trekcore
     The episode is significant for ending (pretty much for good) the Kazon storyline, as the Kazon Nistrim scuttle away into insignificance. They would make only four more appearances (to my memory) in the rest of the show, all of which were deliberate call-backs. Despite the build-up this conclusion to their story had in the second season, it all goes rather splat, as the Kazon do what they normally do - they ignore every last piece of advice that Seska gives them, which inevitably on all fronts leads to their downfall. Added to that is the last-second script turnaround which results in Seska's death, and the revelation that Seska didn't impregnate herself with Chakotay's DNA after all, because she was already pregnant with a Kazon baby. It was somewhat fitting that the abject stupidity that often led the Voyager crew into the Kazon's traps is now exactly what causes their defeat.
     As I said, Basics II doesn't really fit in with the tone of the season it premiers, and it spends most of its time entertaining a story concept which doesn't really make any headway. The story could have been a single stranded, epic conspiracy in which the Voyager crew used espoinage and trickery to win back the ship. Instead, we wobble between Lon Suder undoing all of his character development and Chakotay playing Fred Flintstone. While it was probably a difficult thing to give characters like the Kazon a good send off, the episode's main problem is that it doesn't seem very interested in them at all - and that says everything it needs to, really.


NEXT WEEK: Voyager celebrates Trek's 30th anniversary with an appearance by Sulu in the imaginatively titled Flashback.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Prologue: Lost: Season Three 1/2/14.

So - to my final season of Lost reviews. Season Three is not anyone's favourite really, as it flashes up and down between some of the best episodes of the show so far and some of the worst. Such greats as Not In Portland and The Man Behind The Curtain, contrasted with the drecks that are Stranger in a Strange Land and Exposé. It was a season of production decisions and mistakes made on the part of the writers - mistakes which, when confounded by next year's Writer's Strike, led to the show's planned end three seasons later.
     On paper, the season doesn't sound so divisive. It begins with an in-depth look into The Others' society as our kidnapped threesome of heroes is kept in the Hydra, a Dharma station on a small sub-Island. Henry Gale, now called Ben, is leading the show while Jack makes liasons with an Other named Juliet, played by new cast member Elizabeth Mitchell. Elsewhere, Desmond is having visions of the future, and a strange woman parachutes onto the Island, claiming to be from a freighter of people sent there to rescue them.
     I'm keeping this short and sweet, as I'm a bit out of practice. I'm not quite sure what I feel about Lost's third season, as it's the one I've had the least exposure too and it marks a very clear boundary between what the show was in its first two seasons and the very different show that it would become starting in Season Four. I suppose I'm just hoping that I'll enjoy it, and that I'll have something to say about some of its less favourable hours, some of which are worse than the low points of Season Six.