29 March 2014

Limited benefit of clergy (Review: 'NCIS' 11.9, "Gut Check")

Apologies for the long delay in doing this; this time of year is very busy for me in the TV department and I also went on holiday.


At the beginning of the eleventh season of this Navy-based cop show, former Mossad operative turned NCIS agent Ziva David had an existential crisis and decided to cut ties with the agency, staying in her native Israel. The result was that the desk nearest the world's most easily stoppable elevator became vacant for the first time since Ziva's deceased half-brother shot its previous occupant in the head.

(I'm not going to comment on Cote de Pablo's decision to leave the show here)

After a few episodes with various guest characters supplementing the line-up of Gibbs, McGee and DiNozzo, her replacement shows up at last... and quite frankly, she don't impress me much.

This episode sees the Secretary of the Navy, the latest one at any rate (I think this is number four; the previous SECNAV got blown up) discovering that someone has managed to put a bug on her person while giving a classified briefing on the new Zumwalt-class destroyer. As a result, Gibbs' team are tasked to find out who did this dastardly deed and recover the intelligence before it ends up in the wrong hands; discovering that the person responsible was following a NSA playbook drafted by an analyst for everyone's favourite email readers (hello, I hope you're enjoying this). The NSA's alleged activities don't get ignored in this and there is a humorous scene with Abby and said analyst discussing them.

The mystery takes its usual twist and turns before those responsible are found as usual. However, one doesn't watch NCIS for the investigations (fun though this one is), but for the characters. I personally came for Abby and stayed for everyone else. Abby Sciuto is her usually perky Goth self, demonstrating her lab rat skills with aplomb and McGee does well; NCIS chief Leon Vance isn't in this one. One major criticism I have of this is the actions of Tony, who seems to have become substantially less mature in the last few episodes although he's always good for film references. Gibbs is also a bit off in this one.

The NSA analyst, Eleanor "Ellie" Bishop, who gets offered a joint duty assignment at the end of the episode, is the main "attraction" here. An obsessive IT geek with a photographic memory, a tendency to food-associate, sit on things most people don't tend to sit on i.e. the autopsy table and finally demonstrate a lack of regard for her own personal safety, my thought on her first appearance was "Oh, no, that's Ziva's replacement?", which I can safely say was not my thought on Ziva's first scene, way back in Season 3. She's a lab rat in a show with four scientifically/computer-y minded characters already and her "I've got three older brothers" reason for demonstrating (or rather not; we only see her having made the capture) physical grappling prowess reeks of cliché. I actually found her rather irritating... although I didn't want to throttle her then and there. I'm willing to give her a further chance, but if she doesn't improve, I'm going to start wishing that someone crashes her at high speed into a planet.


A good episode, but Bishop isn't the reason for it.


18 March 2014


Today saw the first actual death in the 'war' between Russia and Ukraine, with a Ukrainian warrant officer killed when Russian forces stormed a base in Simferopol. One hopes that there isn't any more - I doubt either country really wants a proper war, but what people want and what they get are often not the same thing.
There is a valid case for a referendum on Crimea becoming part of the Russian Federation. However, when that referendum is conducted under what is basically a Russian occupation and with no international monitors present, it is completely invalid. The annexation of Crimea is illegal and invalid.

This said, I do wonder how far the West is prepared to go with sanctions... the EU economies are closely interlinked with Russia and cannot just cut them like what happened with Iran (the jury is still out on the effectiveness of those sanctions until any final deal is reached). Until something major happens in Moscow, Crimea is now a de facto part of Russia.

Oh, well, I needed to buy a new atlas anyway.

15 March 2014

Tony Benn dies

This week has seen the second death of a major figure in the British left, former Cabinet minister and MP for 50 years Tony Benn. Agree or disagree with him (and I frequently did the latter), the man had real conviction and was a great orator. I once attended a political discussion evening with him and it was very good.

He could have had a life seat in the House of Lords as a Viscount and instead he chose to renounce his title so he could be subject to the whims of the people. A major figure, the world of British politics is poorer for his passing.

Rest in Peace.

11 March 2014

Bob Crow dies

The highly controversial head of the RMT, Bob Crow, has died aged 52 of a suspected heart attack - this was a shock to everyone.

Like him or loathe him (if you were a London commuter, he inconvenienced you at least once in recent years), you cannot deny his popularity among his union and his overall sense of political style.

My thoughts and prayers are with his family. RIP.

05 March 2014

There's actually a lot there (Review: 'Doctor Who: Into the Nowhere', 2014)

So, now I've done two Matt Smith stories. Only three more to go in my series and in this next short story/novella, a story that would work very well on TV. Although the effects budget might be stretched.

The Eleventh Doctor and Clara land on an unknown planet, absent from all the databases. Naturally they investigate and find out precisely why...

The plot
This is a snappy read (it's only 49 pages) but a highly dramatic one, as the Doctor and Clara make their way across a planet trying to kill them, meeting a bunch of skeletons who are more than they seem - and quite disturbing. The planet itself is very well realised in print and it is the sort of world that could be realised well by Roath Lock, although the CG work would be extensive. The main villain is someone who we would feel pity for if he wasn't clearly completely evil and the ending works very well.

The regulars
Still fresh in most people's minds and until Capaldi takes over fully, the go-to for the conception of the Doctor remains Eleven. Here his overall grumpy old man persona is well-portrayed here, along with his deep anger when he finds out what is really going on. I like his dubbing of the planet "Anthony" and there is a rather good Hitchhiker's reference if you know that series.

What Clara Oswald lacks in her STR and DEX stats she more than makes up for in CHA and INT; in plain English, she may not be Buffy, but she certainly is a highly compassionate and knowledgeable woman. Negative points for the rather old cliché of her having to be rescued, but otherwise very good.

An excellent novella with a great deal going for it; definitely worth checking out.