21 October 2016

His gold leaf provider, maybe? (Review: 'Star Trek' 2.2, "Who Mourns for Adonais?")

When I said we needed a hand, this not what I meant...

Forgot to mention something last week - T'Pau also gave her name to a 1980s British band, best known for "China in Your Hand".

Anyway, moving on...

Exploring another planet (Pollux IV), the Enterprise gets grabbed by a mysterious green hand in space, which belongs to a - yep, another one - powerful being. This one, who goes by the name of Apollo, claims to be a god, who wants the crew of the ship to worship and serve him. He's also rather interested in a female member of the ship's crew...

Looking at this episode, it's got a couple of elements that would figure majorly in other franchises - firstly powerful aliens being treated as deities, something that would be a major part of the Stargate universe. Also, attempting to do deal with a problem by 'reversing the polarity', before Doctor Who did it, but that line actually goes back as far as 1968.

Most of the regulars do well - Uhura gets to showcase some new skills for example - but pride of place goes to Chekov, in his second episode. His character beats get established quickly (including a bit involving the Cheshire cat), he has some genuinely good observations and anyone who can answer back a 'god' with the line "And I'm the Czar of the All the Russias" gets my vote. His hair is a bit distracting though...

We have only a few guest stars in this episode. Pride of place goes Michael Forest as Apollo and Leslie Parrish as Lieutenant Carolyn Palamis.

Apollo first appears as a disembodied headshot in space in a scene that reminded me of a 1980s Doctor Who title sequence and then spends the rest of the episode being pretentious while dressed in a chest-baring gold toga. He throws about lightning bolts and can hold a ship in place, but the guy is lacking in menace. Mid-Atlantic accents are probably not the best choice for ancient 'gods', not without vocal treatment at any rate. There are frankly better super beings in the show.

Palamis is not so much remembered for her character (who is pretty but far too 'airy'), but the outfit that Apollo magically puts on her... or the distinct lack of one. The pink dress she wears - and a modern female character would hopefully complain about it (if I was magically undressed without my consent, I'd deem that sexual assault) - is basically draped over her breasts, looking like a wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen... which is almost certainly what William Theiss, a man who seems to have designed costumes using his male urges, was thinking. Parrish (who had chunks of skin torn off by the sheer amounts of double-sided tape used) was apparently completely fine in the outfit... it was everyone else who had concerns about it! Also, 1960s US television had a strange hang-up over showing the female navel... I will also comment that "woman falling in love with a clearly dodgy guy" (and not dodgy in a good way) is the sort of thing that riles feminists and I like to think of myself as well.

Another quick point - Pollux or Beta Geminorum is only 33.72 light years from Sol... that seems rather close for an exploration mission. Did they know it was that 'close' back then?



There's some decent stuff in this episode, but it's overly pretentious and drags something awful at times.  


13 October 2016

Donald Trump

More video has come out and more accusations of sexual assault have been made against the Republican candidate for president.

At best, this man seems to me to be a vile lecher with no respect for women. He is not fit to run a whelk stall, let along a nation.

04 October 2016

40 Years of the '125'

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the full introduction of the iconic High Speed Train to British Rail's Western Region; while some trains were in traffic from August 1976, 4 October marked the beginning of their 125mph operations on the Great Western route out of Paddington.

These iconic diesel units made the UK the second nation in Europe to run trains at over 200 km/h and remain in daily service, now older than some of their drivers. Some of the features may be antiquated now, but with the plans to upgrade the Mark 3 carriages with sliding doors and retention toilets for the surviving units, the story of the InterCity 125 is not over yet.

Happy Birthday, Congratulations and thank you to Sir Kenneth Grange for such an iconic shape.

03 October 2016

Southern and the closing of doors

Southern Rail have made a 'final offer' to the RMT in the dispute over the role of guards on trains.

My view is that driver door closure is fundamentally safe and any potential dangers are avoidable with improved technology or indeed simpler stuff like the extendable mirrors used on the Berlin S-Bahn.

However, having a second highly trained person on board for customer assistance and to deal with emergency situations is something I definitely support.

Finally, the railway is a lot safer than it was. Compare the twenty years before privatisation with the twenty years after it and you will see what I mean. There have been no fatal crashes since 2008 and long may that continue.

25 September 2016

Sex, Drugs and Strange Weapons (Review: 'Star Trek' 2.1, "Amok Time")

She's just watched "The Alternative Factor"

Spock starts acting very strangely indeed... he's all emotional. It turns out that he's in his 'mating period' and has to return to his native Vulcan to get married or he will die...

Right, let's get the 'saucy' bit out of the way first. "I have to mate or I'm going to die" is the sort of plot one commonly associates with a bad comedy or a porn film. Indeed, it was considered too adult for West German television (which was also easily receivable in East Germany) and the episode got majorly edited in the dub there... Also, 'pon farr' sounds like the sort of thing that immature teenagers would snigger at and "I'm in my 'pon farr' period" sounds like the sort of chat up line you'd use at a convention...

Leonard Nimoy spends most of the episode trying to contain his raging hormones... well, that's something every adult has experienced at some point or the other... as either the giver or the recipient. He does a great job at trying to suppress his emotion and not always succeeding, although we never entirely seem him completely lose it.

It's a credit to the writers of the show that they resist the opportunity to use Spock's predicament as fodder for jokes... or maybe they weren't allowed to by the network. Kirk comes across as a good friend understanding what Spock is going through, especially in an well-played 'awkward' scene in which Spock opens up to him about his biological urges. McCoy isn't the kind of gentleman who makes sex jokes and he has another strong performance in this - Season 2 also marks the promotion of DeForest Kelley into the opening titles of the show.

Speaking of regulars, this episode has the first appearance of Walter Koenig as Ensign Pavel Chekov and it's clear from the start why he became a fan favourite. Brought in to draw younger viewers to the show and made Russian by Roddenberry after he received a complaint from the USSR that the other superpower was being ignored in his vision of the future. He's a charming character who has an enjoyable cyncism - and anticipates changes in orders - although his hair (Koening wore a wig for the first few episodes he filmed) is a bit distracting. He definitely works well with Sulu.

This episode sees the début of two of Trek's most famous bits of iconography, the Vulcan salute and their associated catchphrase, "Live long and prosper". We also get to meet plenty of other Vulcans, most notably T'Pau, who is a pretty big cheese in Vulcan society and the Federation in general. Celia Lovsky, who was born in what was then Austria-Hungary in 1897 had a thick accent that got her cast in 'exotic' dignified old lady roles after her divorce from Peter Lorre, very well known for playing sinister foreigners himself and  with a distinctive accent commonly imitated by Looney Tunes.

The Vulcan ritual is very ornate and is the sort of thing I'm sure some Trekkies have actually employed for their wedding. Mind you, Dothraki weddings are far more violent.


Well known for establishing a good chunk of the Vulcan backstory, this episode is far better than its plot would suggest.


22 September 2016

James Bond: Never Say Never Again

When I saw that this was being aired again on ITV4, I finally decided to record the unofficial James Bond movie from 1983 i.e. the remake of Thunderball that Kevin McClory was allowed to make as part of the deal that allowed EON to make the original Thunderball... which honestly isn't that good a Bond movie to begin with.

This is simply put a dire film. The direction is awful, the music gratingly inappropriate at times and the so-called comedy is very, very forced. Connery is the best thing in it and even he's sub par...

After half an hour, I asked myself whether I wanted to carry on with this. The answer is 'only if accompanied by Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot...' because this turkey is only suitable as material for a Dr. Forrester experiment i.e. Mystery Science Theater 3000.

I hope no-one involved this piece of foulness is proud of this junk.

0/10 (Automatically awarded for any movie I decline to finish)

17 September 2016

Hooten and the Lady on Sky1

Three comments on this:
  • Definitely not in the least bit post-modernist; in many other shows made today, the clichés would have been called out to the audience with a knowing wink. Here, it's like the characters are wearing blinkers and I'm not talking about the horse.
  • Leads aren't that bad, but roguish male meets posh uptight female has been done before and better.
  • This is definitely a post-watershed show in some respects. Was not expecting buttocks that's for sure.
Not great, but I'll stick with it for a while.