31 January 2016

Sir Terry Wogan 1938-2016

The renowned broadcaster has died from cancer aged 77.

Sir Terry was a highly genial and entertaining presenter, loved by millions and for many years the host of Children in Need, something he would do (like nearly everyone else involved) without taking any money for it; helping that worthwhile cause to raise many, many millions.

He will be deeply missed. Rest in Peace.

Things What I Have Watched - January 2015

In this first of a new series, I do a brief look (a paragraph each tops) on some of the things I watched in the previous month.

Sherlock - The Abominable Bride

I have on more than one occasion wondered what Steven Moffat takes to come up with his strange ideas. This was a pretty weird instalment of the show that is the televisual equivalent of a bus (you wait ages and then three come along at once, although not in this case). Lot of humour and knowing references to the Holmesian canon, with one of the better twists I've seen, but flagged badly in the middle.

Tyrant - Season 2

While perhaps not the greatest series about, it does have a superb performance from Ashraf Barhom as Jamal al-Fayeed, the paranoid leader of Abuddin who is conflicted and yet pretty terrifying, notably killing a general with a model oil rig. This has got a Season 3.

Castle - Episodes 8.1 - 8.3

I was in fact spoiled for this by a website I won't name that slated the entire opening story. Well, the first two-parter was... not that good. Castle has never done international conspiracy well. That said, it was a strong Alexis episode. Fillion and Katic did the best they could with some pretty bad material - the ending of that story was drama for drama's sake. Episode 3 was a good deal better, but still, this will probably be axed come May and it's probably had its time now.

War and Peace

A sumptuous adaptation of Tolstoy's novel (which I reviewed here) that is pretty easy to follow once you've learned everyone's names, has a great cast and also has a truly superb display of hats. Seriously great hats of the sort you just don't get today.

Stan Lee's Lucky Man

Not too bad from the first episode, but does James Nesbitt do anything apart from snark in a Northern Irish accent?

16 January 2016

Fringe 1.10: Safe

This episode features Amir Amirson, later to appear in The Blacklist and the plot here is actually more crazy than an episode of that show, which starts with a man getting literally stuck in a wall and ends with someone being teleported.

Speaking of crazy, Walter Bishop is definitely very funny in this one - his mind works in his own distinct way and no-one else can quite grasp how. However, Olivia and John are both very good in this - the scene in the bar with the card tricks in particular.

Jared Harris appears in this again and it's clear that he's doing what British actors do best - play bad guys. This also has an appearance by James Frain, a British-born actor who has turned up in quite a few American works, as a lawyer who has to get some unusual things for his client... and won't sadly appear again.

There's even a good cliffhanger as Abrams can now have his cake and eat it by putting the female lead in peril... which she will course get out of by herself in style.


A very good episode indeed - the show appears to have finally got fully going.


14 January 2016

Alan Rickman 1946-2016

For the second time this week, the entertainment world has lost a legend, the British actor Alan Rickman.

While I've never seen Die Hard, I have watched all the Harry Potter films and can imagine no-one else as Severus Snape. In addition, he was great in Galaxy Quest. His death of cancer - a horrible condition - at only 69 leaves another void that can never be filled.

Rest in Peace.

12 January 2016

The Moderate Irritation of Khan (Review: 'Star Trek' 1.22, "Space Seed")

Yes, we're reached one of the most famous episodes of the entire show - the one that got a sequel in one of the best movies of the franchise (let's not mention the other one, shall we?) and inspired William Shatner's hammiest line ever.

The Enterprise locates a derelict vessel floating in space broadcasting Morse code... a spaceship launched in the 1990s. One with life on board...

I'm going to start by saying that I wouldn't be seen dead, let along spend over two centuries asleep, wearing that net thing that we discover the crew of SS Botany Bay wearing. William Theiss was definitely a man who liked his bare flesh, that was for sure.

The triumvirate (now there's a word that I don't get to us every day) are very firmly established at by what today would be near the end of the first season instead of three-quarters of the way through; 29 episodes in the first run would be unthinkable today. Kirk's emotion versus Spock's logic makes a good mix, with both him and Bones having fun bantering with a guy who doesn't do 'banter'. Or irritation for that matter.

 It's interesting to note that this year, 2016, is the 20th 'anniversary' of Khan's departure in the first major bit of back story added to the Trek universe; another 'World War' would later get added to the continuity by the time Star Trek: First Contact was made. With not that many lines of dialogue, the rich seeds (no pun intended) were laid for many licensed works covering the 'Eugenics Wars', the first point where the prime universe diverges from our own in a big way. Of course, the creators of the show at the time did not think there would still be Star Trek being produced in 1996... let alone 2016.

Khan Noonien Singh, escaped former tyrant is deeply compelling and played superbly by the late Ricardo Montalbán who in his long career was also a strong advocate for improved representation of Latino actors in television and actually spent much of his life working with a severe back injury that would eventually put him in a wheelchair - including this role. His chest is definitely very impressive (and the director insists that was his real one in the The Wrath of Khan) and he comes across as very manly despite long hair... not to mention eyeshadow! It's also clear that Khan is a ruthless ruler; he's perfectly willing to suffocate Kirk et al to get what he wants.

Also, I'm going to have to add my annoyance at the depiction of near-suffocation in any fiction; you don't just end up walking off after losing consciousness from lack of oxygen (notable recent exception - The Librarians, in an episode that starred John de Lancie aka Q and was directed by Jonathan Frakes aka Riker).
Then we get McGivers... who doesn't really do much for feminism at all. Uhura does more in one glance after being slapped than McGivers, who falls head over heels in love with Khan. Her scenes with him are reminiscent (at least to someone who has never read them) of a Mills & Boon novel. Sigh...

Since Khan hasn't actually killed anyone, Kirk decides to put him and his crew on a barely hospitable planet where they can survive with their ingenuity. He's going to come to regret that later.


While Khan is a highly memorable villain, there is a fair bit wrong with this episode, namely the entire McGivers plot for one thing. Perhaps I would have ranked this higher on a first watch, but I can only give it...


11 January 2016

David Bowie 1947-2016

The death of this musical legend came as a surprise to most of us considering his comeback in recent years - he'd only just released another album. It seems that he chose not to let his cancer stop him from producing and to go out still swinging as it were.

And he was definitely swinging. Going through multiple musical personas and genres over the years, he produced a big number of classics over 51 years in the business; "Life on Mars?", "Major Tom", "Ashes to Ashes" and "Let's Dance" for one thing. He even did acting.

He will be considered one of the all-time greats and will be deeply missed.

Rest in Peace.

03 January 2016

All Together Now, In Their Hoods (Review: 'Star Trek' 1.21, "The Return of the Archons")

I've been getting into Star Trek Online recently and have bought myself a Tier 1 Constitution class vessel i.e. the same type as the Enterprise. It's a lot cooler to fight Klingon Birds of Prey in than the standard light cruiser you start with in the Federation faction.

Anyway, there's none of that in this episode, which starts strange and gets stranger...

While on another planet in search of a long lost spaceship, while dressed in rather old-fashioned clothing, Sulu and another crew member encounter some dudes in brown robes with big sticks. Only Sulu manages to beam back up and he ends up being very strange indeed...

Kirk and his team go down to discover a society with all the locals behaving very strangely indeed, including having an exactly 12 hour riot.

This review contains spoilers.

This episode contains a lot of 'possessed acting', as the locals are under the control of a mysterious computer called Landru that has decided to eliminate society's disorders but at the cost of free will. In short, this is a classic Star Trek story and was frankly pretty predictable.

We get McCoy possessed, while Kirk and Spock end up pretending to be possessed as they attempt to destroy the computer, freeing society from its control. All the regulars get good material and do a decent job of being 'possessed', something that sci-fi actors need to learn to be able to it seems. The late Lis Sladen from Doctor Who was a master of this in fact. We also get the amusing sight of Spock (whose big ears are pretty conspicuous) dressing like a monk.

Speaking of intervening in a society, this is the first mention of the Prime Directive in the show's history - and it immediately gets a loophole, in which getting involved to restore a society to its natural development is permissible.

The plot is a deeply philosophical one about the flaws of trying to create a perfect society, especially when machines are involved. The climax involves Kirk talking a computer to death through logic, something that reminds me of Zoe doing something similar in Doctor Who. We also get one of those 'humorous' endings in which Kirk says Spock would make a great computer.

None of the locals (who are all dressed in Western garb in an episode shot on a backlot used in Westerns) are particularly memorable in this; most of them do end up doing 'possessed acting' for most of the episode and I'm really not sure what the 'Festival'/Riot was all about.

The henchmen of the main villain dress in brown cloaks with hoods, reminding me after the episode of outfits worn in the Red Dwarf episode "Angels and Demons", which Kirk and Spock later take to infiltrate the main base. Difficult to take them entirely seriously nearly 50 years on considering how much this has been parodied since.


An interesting episode with a lot of philosophical concepts but not a classic.


Next up one of the most famous episodes of the entire run... "Space Seed".

02 January 2016

2016 plans

Things are going to be somewhat less active in 2016, as I will be working on getting my novel finished and published, as well as other RL things. I will finish the current major history post on neutral nations of the Second World War, but I do not plan for any other of these on the blogs.

There will be fewer individual reviews; while I hope to do all the Doctor Who episodes, another Castle and another The Librarians among others, as well as some films, I will instead be doing a monthly feature called 'Telly I Watched', where I will be provide a brief opinion of the key series that I watched that month, say a paragraph each.

The US Presidential Election will get some coverage, as will elections in the UK, including the EU referendum if that happens this year.

Star Citizen will get a number of articles as will some other games.

As usual, all plans are subject to change without notice.

I wish you all a prosperous and healthy 2016.