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Wednesday, 4 December 2013

I've been watching good stuff. Have you been watching good stuff?

It's been so very long, I'm sorry. It's been so long in fact that for a little while there I was staring at a blank screen, convinced that I had forgotten how to do one of these. Until I remembered that I had never really known how to do it and basically just made shit up as I went. After that, I was flying!

First thing's first, anyone expecting a post about Da Vinci's Demons; since that is what is mentioned in the 'Next Time' bit at the end of the last post... yeah, sorry, no. That was fecking ages ago and I've completely forgotten like 90% of what I was gonna say. Maybe after season 2, eh? If I'm still here. We cool, yo? Awesome.


Just because I haven't been posting on here much of late; or, you know, at all; doesn't mean that I have been idle in my pursuit of the impossible quest. Oh hells no! Many and much is the sci-fi and fantasy that I've been cramming down my eyeholes and for the first time in a long time I'm actually enjoying more than I'm hating. There are some duffers of course; Atlantis springs immediately to mind, and, sickeningly, The Tomorrow People; but for the most part this last year has seen me getting very lucky with what I've watched.

Take Arrow for instance.

It's nonsense, of course it is, but it's enjoyable nonsense that doesn't take itself too seriously (except when it does, but they get that out of their system and move on pretty quickly).

Stephen Amell, or Tom Cruise's little brother as we must call him now that Natasha of House Kingston (she of Unspoiled Podcast, check 'em out) has pointed it out,

acquits himself well enough as the square jawed hero; although where he really shines is when playing the younger, more naive version of his character in flashback; and his bodyguard/friend/sidekick/hilarious pomposity burster Diggle, as played by David Ramsey, is one of my favourite creations of recent televisions seasons.

It's a shame that one of the shining lights of the first season had to be killed off the way they were but new paths are being forged this year and I for one am more than eager to go along for the ride. Especially if they keep Black Canary around.

It's not even about the leather
Then there's Supernatural. With three episodes left of S8; insert now traditional complaint about never quite managing to catch up; I'm going to have to throw my hat in with the minority opinion and say I'm loving this. It's not perfect, but after the (surprisingly) poor Sera Gamble seasons; how did she get it so wrong?; this run has been a real return to (almost) top form.

It's a little frustrating that they haven't managed a total return to the glory days because the niggles are so obvious and so easy to fix (says the layman who's never written a script). Stop having the season arc revolve around Sam and Dean falling out and just let them be brothers for 5 minutes; stop coming up with new and ingenious ways to alienate Castiel; stop trying to make us love Garth by having Dean warm to him...

Can't we all just get along?
I'll leave it there, before I lose myself in a rant. I don't want to bury the fact that I do indeed love the show now, almost as much as I did in the glory years.

And speaking of returning to past glories while inexplicably failing to see the problems that caused the fall from grace in the first place, I give you...

Actually, I give you...

I'm loving The Originals in a way that I haven't loved it's parent show in a very long time. In a way, that makes me all the more wary of the show, because I can already see it traveling down exactly the same path as TVD. The new characters are great, but there are too many of them; there are hardly any humans on the main roster (I count two, if you include the priest and he has cannon fodder written all over him); Klaus, stripped of his God-awful pining over Caroline is chasing another hot blonde within 5 minutes of the pilot starting; the over-used to the point of dramatic uselessness 'daggering' was used to put one of the leads on ice in the fucking pilot...

As I say, I'm enjoying the show. It's bringing back warm and fuzzy memories of when The Vampire Diaries could produce episodes that you actually believed would have some genuine consequences. I just hope that Julie Plec and her team can resist going back to their favourite old tricks time and again.

Oh, and give your greatest assets a chance to shine. Be it Claire Holt on The Originals, or Candice Accola on The Vampire Diaries, this franchise has two awesome female characters played by two fantastic actresses. Let them off the leash, let them be bad ass, and stop burying them under tired old love triangle bullshit.

The future of tv bad assery. If only they'd let her.

So that's what I'm currently watching, and enjoying. (Although you'd be forgiven for thinking I hated them from the tone of this post; I really need to stop moaning) Maybe it was taking a break from writing this blog that has allowed me to view these shows purely for the sake of viewing them, that has allowed me to garner more enjoyment than I had been for a while. If that proves to be the case, I may reconsider the renewed writing schedule I have planned, but for the meantime expect to see lots more of my meandering stream of consciousness waffle on here than has been the case for a while.  You love it!

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

But That's Just Wrong!

Do you have a pet peeve when it comes to watching TV? That one little thing that winds you up really badly but you don't like to tell people about it because it makes you sound really petty?

I do.

Before we start, let me share with you a tweet from a spoof account that I follow on twitter, because it perfectly encapsulates what I'm talking about;

Do you see the problem? If you remove the 'of course' from the end of that tweet, you have weapons grade geek bait; leave the 'of course' on the end and you're drawing too much attention to the punchline; you're advertising that it's a joke. Remove those last two words, and it's a massively better joke.

Now, that's a joke tweet from a spoof twitter account. What has it got to do with television shows, I hear you cry. Well, I'll tell you.

Television shows are written, by and large, by professional writers. Networks tend to insist on it, sadly. Most of the time, they even expect a certain level of talent to go along with the business card, unless you're Tony Blake & Paul Jackson, or Chris Chibnall, in which case the incriminating photo's are enough. But if you're a professional writer with a modicum of talent, shouldn't you be able to recognise when a line just sounds wrong?

The most recent example of this, and the one that prompted me to write this post; you were gonna get a bit on Da Vinci's Demons, but you'll have to wait until next week for that now; was the 'The Originals' episode of The Vampire Diaries. (Don't worry, this isn't going to be a rant about the continued neutering of Klaus' character; I got that off my chest on twitter.) No, it's about the final scene, between Elena, Stefan and Damon.

Picture the scene. Elena is being held captive by the brothers. They enter her cell with the intention of torturing her. She knows what's coming, and greets them with the following line.

"Go ahead. Let's see who breaks first. Me...or you."

Couldn't find a relevant screenshot so you're just getting Nina Dobrev looking all smouldering and shit.
That line just made me want to scream at the television. 'Let's see who breaks first' is a challenge. It makes her seem confident and strong. The 'Me...or you' bit at the end was completely unnecessary and if anything it weakens the line by beating you over the head with her point. Why do it? It doesn't sound natural coming out of the actresses mouth, and it doesn't give the ending any more of a dramatic punch. It just sounds wrong.

Of course, I said that was the most recent, but it's far from the only example that springs immediately to mind. Take the Spartacus: Vengeance finale, for example. Season villain Glaber is having his climactic fight with our main man Spartacus; Spartacus has him beat, and he knows it, so he spits out a desperate...

"I will not die, at the hands of a fucking slave!"
The obvious retort from Spartacus of course, is...

"I am not a slave!"

See? Makes perfect sense, doesn't it? It was so obvious in fact that I said it before the actor did, so certain was I that that was the line that was coming. It's a perfect, punch the air, hero triumphant moment that sounds right.

So of course he didn't say it. He said this...

"I am a free man."

Exactly the same meaning. Shouldn't matter. But it does, because the line they went with  just sounds wrong. (I found it so troubling that I actually told the TV, out loud, that it was wrong and had to rewind to convince myself that they really had botched it so spectacularly.)

There are a million of them. I could bore you with them all day, but I won't. I'll just do a couple more; both from the Whoniverse, because while they are quite far back in the distant past; Tennant was still stinking up the show, for heavens sake, that's how long ago they're from; they stick with me to this day as being really horrible, annoying lines.

The first is from The Master. He's giving his speech about the country being in a bad way. You know the one, it ends on the 'what this country needs, is a Doctor' line. That is a good line. A really good line. It's zingy enough to lead into the titles with an appropriate flourish, whilst at the same time serving the plot by letting us know that The Master is calling out the Doctor. Perfect.

'This country needs medicine' - A Tit.
Except, to get to it we have to listen to the rest of the speech. It's patently obvious that RTD knew were he was going with the speech, knew what the punchline was, and didn't give a toss how he got there. 'This country needs medicine' indeed! Is that a phrase that anyone has ever said ever that wasn't a two year old at the time? That one line, in all it's infantile lack of glory, ruins an otherwise serviceable speech. It just sounds wrong.

The medicine line is a glaring example of something that worked fine as a first draft placeholder, but should have been excised and/or replaced before they ever switched on a camera. Which is convenient for me, because so is the next line that I'm going to tell you about.

Torchwood is the culprit this time, and would you believe it, it's good old Chris Chibnall who provides it. The episode is Countrycide, the culprit is psycho daddy dude, and the line is...

"Because it made me happy."

Fuck Off
It's meant to be chillingly banal, a reminder that sometimes ordinary humans can be far more scary than any monster or alien. It's not that, though; it's rubbish.

I'm not saying that a villain who did terrifying things just because he felt like it is a bad idea. There's nothing wrong with it at all, as concepts go. But just say that line to yourself; doesn't sound right does it?

"Because I liked it."

Exact same meaning. Shouldn't matter, but it does. Because the line they went with just sounds wrong.

I'm not a writer; I'd like to be, and if I ever win the lottery you can expect my atrocious vanity projects to be clogging up the interwebs; but then again I've never been behind the wheel and I still recognise reckless driving when I see it. So if I can see, or rather hear that these lines don't work, then why can't these so called talented professionals (and Chris Chibnall)?  Come on Telly bosses! Sort it out!

There you are. My pet peeve about the telly. I told you it made me sound really petty, didn't I?

Come back next week when I'll attempt; and probably fail; to express why Da Vinci's Demons is hard for me to watch, despite being objectively a very good show.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

He's the greatest! He's fantastic! He's not half as funny when he's not David Jason.

I have started watching Supernatural Season 7. Haven't got far, but I've started it. Just thought I'd let you all know that, since my 'I can't fucking get caught up with Supernatural' woes seem to amuse certain people.

 (I wrote this post ages ago, and it sat idle as I intended to wait until I had a cushion of a few posts so I could guarantee not to miss any more weeks. Then I forgot about the blog for 4 months. So, you know, I finished Supernatural S7 ages ago. Haven't touched S8 yet though, so the point still stands.)

This weeks Quest, however, is not to be about Supernatural. Oh no. I have a very special treat for you all today, so I have, so I have. I'm going to talk about one of the shows that influenced my sense of humour more, probably, than any other in my young life. The one, the only...

Fuck Yeah!

Dangermouse ran for many years, and the reason for that is really very simple; it was freaking awesome. This show was to the '80s what The Animaniacs was to the 90's and Phineas and Ferb was/is to the '00s and beyond; namely a show that manages to be as funny for parents/adults as it is for the kids, albeit for different reasons, usually. (And yes, I did say Phineas and Ferb. I'm championing a Disney show, what of it?)

This type of show; the kids show that makes adults laugh too, have always been thin on the ground. I don't know whether this is down to program makers not trying it very often, or whether they are trying, but just aren't very good at it. If it's the latter, then fair enough, but if it's the former then I think it's a crying shame, because that implies that making shows that the whole family can watch together, and enjoy, without anyone over the age of 12 wanting to throw themselves through the window head first, is not something worth striving for.

Anyway, what was I talking about? Dangermouse, yes. Right!

I could talk about the many running gags that the show developed over the years; the mispronounciation of 'fiend', Penfolds eyebrows as a plot device, the homo-erotic exchanges of punnery between Greenback and Stiletto, the narrator using the closing spiel to pimp out his other services and big up his CV, the narrator mucking up the opening narration and getting a bollocking over the phone from his boss, the narrator interrupting the episode to complain that the plot makes no sense...

(I really like the narrator)

Krumhorn waits for the narrator to stop talking

I'm not going to talk about those though, or the sublime characters like Colonel K; who may well be one of my favourite fictional characters ever; because I want you to experience them for yourselves. Seriously. If you don't want to do what I did, and buy the complete series box set; although I'd say go for it if funds allow, because it's a thing of beauty; then there are many full episodes on youtube. Go on, treat yourself. I'll wait here until you get back...

Watched one? No? Fine, I'll wait...

All done? Right then. Onwards!

So if I'm not going to go into details about that lot, what am I going to talk about? Well, I put my thinking cap on, and I decided to give vent to my thoughts about the original Danger Mouse pilot, which is on the DVD box set (bizarrely, it's an extra on the season 9 disc, but hey ho).

Watching it at that late stage, with so many episodes under my belt; I would have watched it before the show proper, but I didn't know it existed until I found it on the season nine disc at which point I had watched, somewhat surprisingly I know, nine seasons; is a bit of a harsh comedown.

Don't get me wrong; the tone of the show is spot on, from the off. You get exactly the same style of humour as you would expect to see in any episode of the series, and other changes, like Baron Greenback being called Baron Greenteeth, are purely aesthetic. It's just...well...

What's my name? WHAT'S MY NAME?
The cast of the pilot is different to that of the main series and David Jason and Terry Scott are so instantly recognisable, even as voices, that to hear the characters of Danger Mouse and Penfold being performed by other people is just...wrong. Not to mention the fact that DM is voiced as a kind of suave, action hero type and Penfold is saddled with a comedy accent, which cheapens the whole thing. No, even if they hadn't got Jason and Scott, I think these two would have needed to go.

That one difference is enough to make the whole thing just feel...wrong. Despite the fact that the plot and script are well up to par, with several moments that should, objectively, have been laugh out loud moments, I just couldn't get over that sense of wrongness, which means that the episode can be enjoyed, by me, purely as a historical oddity, rather than as a decent episode of Dangermouse. Which is a shame.

So I say this to Fremantle Media, Talkback Thames, or Cosgrove Hall, next time you bring out a new edition of the boxset, put this on disc one. I'd suggest simply listing it as episode one, but then you couldn't advertise it as an extra, so I beg you, at least put it on the first bloody disc, and allow newcomers to the show to enjoy it properly, before their preconceptions mar it, as mine did.

Look how nice.

(It's actually possible that this could happen, because they have certainly proven that they are willing to improve their products and won't just sit on their backsides. When the 25th anniversary edition came out; in a very fetching silver case; all the episodes were present and correct, but completely out of broadcast order. Madness. Luckily, at least in hindsight, my copy was among those dvd's stolen by my druggy brother to pay for his next batch of whatever he was smoking at the time, so I bought the 30th anniversary set and lo and behold, the episodes were in the right order. Kudos. The box wasn't as nice though. HashtagNeverSatisfied)

Not as nice. 
Next week I'm going to talk about something else entirely which may or may not include pictures of hot women. (It will. One post without is more than enough, thank you.)

I do hope you'll join me then.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Doctor Who Season Two

I haven't, recently, reached any milestones, completed any shows or experienced any WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED moments that might, with a bit of fiddlery-faffery, justify a post.

The truth is that my 'main' project at the moment; the complete Dangermouse boxset; is taking much longer to get through than it's run time would ordinarily justify. Not because I'm finding it a slog, but because I'm rationing it, because if I ever allow myself to reach the familiarity has bred contempt stage with Dangermouse then I'll have to hire someone to stamp on my balls for a week as punishment.

So it's going to have to be another season round-up of my thoughts on Doctor Who then. I know, it's not long since I did season one, and I had hoped to wait a while but fuck it, right? That would mean planning ahead and shit with this thing and we all no that isn't going to happen. Don't worry, it'll be well into February before I finish watching season 3, so...

So without further ado, I present


Yes, my boy, it's still me. Yes, me, indeed, mmm?

Planet of Giants

The first serial of the season is a fairly short one, at 3 episodes, and they're 3 episodes that never outstay their welcome. All of the regulars seem to be having a good time, and in three of their cases that translates to great little performances. (We all know a 'great little performance' is a physical impossibility for Carole Ann Ford)

Can't act to save her life. Looks cute in this ep though.

Basically The Doctor, Ian 'should have been Bond' Chesterton, Barbara 'worship me, for I am your Goddess' Wright, and Susan, all land on a planet of giants. Except really it's Earth and they're just really small because, and you won't believe this, something went wrong with the TARDIS. Shocker, I know.

They all wander around for a bit being scared by bugs and almost drowning in sinks and being menaced by cats before taking five minutes out of their busy schedules to help catch the worlds most incompetent murderer and then figure out a technobabble way to get large again. Just in time to save one of their number from death by insecticide. Spiffing outcome all round, apart from Susan not being eaten by a cat or drowned in the sink.

I liked it. Nothing special, but doesn't make you weep for humanity.

The Dalek Invasion Of Earth

This is a good 'un, and not half.

Barbaras greatest chance to shine since The Aztecs, with everyones favourite MILFy Goddess getting to kill at least one Dalek and bamboozle a bunch of others with her history knowledge; Ian goes full on Bond, even going so far as to essentially defuse a nuclear bomb on it's way to blow up the Earths core at one point; The Doctor is only mildly inept, disappears for a bit, then comes back and is actually fairly endearing for a bit; and Susan is inoffensive. Then leaves! Hahahaha, fuck yes, finally! Job done.

There are flaws of course. That mobile compost heap thing that contributes precisely nothing to the story is an embarrassment, for one thing. And the magic mineshaft lift bucket thing that is nowhere to be seen at the end of one episode but right there for the characters to jump into at the start of the next is a bit of a 'Flash Gordon in the 30's' contrivance but what the hell.

The Rescue

You'll see the twist coming a mile away but who cares? Because look! Over there! It's Vicki, here to be cute and endearing and funny and charming and have great chemistry with The Doctor and not grate on your last nerve ending every time she does anything or says anything or appears in the programme. Or, you know, be Not Susan. Yay Vicki!

The Romans

Gloriously funny, best ever use of the Ian/Barbara 'are they shagging like rabbits but we just aren't allowed to see because it's a kids show?' dynamic and Hartnell seems like a new man playing off Vicki, in her first proper adventure. She really is a breath of fresh air for the show; and she wears a sheet very fetchingly too.

Come along my dear. You know, you're much better than that other girl!

Only downside is that Nero is played a little broad for my tastes, but it's a farce, really, so I'm probably being a nob and picking fault for the sake of picking fault.

The Web Planet

From the sublime to the... utter fucking bilge. Far too long at 6 episodes, with some of the most incredibly annoying aliens that make it nigh on unwatchable with their ridiculous prancing around and ear searing screeching.

Go! Away! You! Prick!
I applaud the attempt at something a little bit different, but they botched it; they botched it baaaaaaad!

The Crusade

Richard the Lionheart is a bit of a prick and Ian gets knighted. Lots of running around and getting captured, and the story isn't all that much to write home about, but credit where it's due; the Saracens are never played as 'villains' and both sides of the war are equally sympathetic. Or unsympathetic, at times.

Not dross by any means, but also not the rousing success it needed to be to drag the show out of the doldrums caused by The Web Planet.

The Space Museum

Interesting twist to part one, that doesn't seem to have any real bearing on anything else that happens; they talk about it a lot, and they pretend it does, but it's just a futile attempt to glam up what is, when you get right down to it, a basic 'run away from the bad guys for three episodes, take ten minutes to start a revolution, then piss off' type of story.

The villains are a bit meh as well; nothing wrong with them as such, but nothing to really make them stand out. 

I'd like to point out at this point that I do actually like this show. Because I've just realised how fucking negative, or at least neutral so much of this post seems so far. 

The Chase

The Daleks don't work as figures of fun, which; when you consider the ridiculous design, and I'm sorry but it just fucking is; is odd. You'd think something that looks that silly should be perfectly suited to comedy but for some

Farewell, old friends.
Thankfully, on the whole, this is not a comedy story. A couple of episodes out of the six are played for laughs, but they're mainly filler and could almost be excised completely if not for one plot point; Vicky getting separated from the TARDIS crew; which itself could have easily slotted in elsewhere.

The rest of the serial is fairly straight, and I'd have been annoyed if it wasn't because it sees the departure of my beloved Barbara and Ian 'the 60's John McClane' Chesterton. If they'd gone as part of some daft farce I'd have been getting a petition up at the very least.

The Time Meddler

Now you're talking!

I loved this story. The Meddling Monk was fantastic, and his plan ingenious; The Doctor played off against him brilliantly and Hartnell seemed to be having the time of his life; and new companion Steven develops fantastic chemistry with Vicki almost from minute one. Genuinely, those two are a joy to watch together.

How to end a season on a high
The subplot about the viking fellas wandering around was a bit weird and ill defined, but apart from that this is Doctor Who firing on all cylinders in what I'm pretty sure is the first time we've gotten a story that is both a historical and a sci-fi story. The pseudo-historical as they would become known are of course a staple of Doctor Who now, so it never really occurred to me to question it while watching, but if you think about it this must have been quite the revelation to those viewing at the time.

So there you have my slapdash thoughts on another season of Doctor Who.

The overall story strength wasn't as high as season one, in my opinion, but the character interaction was a massive improvement, thanks to Vicki replacing Susan and instantly being more fun and having more chemistry with everyone, and then Steven coming in late and immediately sparking with Vicki too. Post Dalek Invasion of Earth, this cast was nigh perfect.

No idea what I'll be talking about next week. You'll find out when I do. Have some blooming patience! Sheesh.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Doctor Who: Season One

The little brain fart that constituted last weeks rambling pseudo-essay about Doctor Who was inspired; as I think I mentioned but can't be bothered to check; by my watching a lot of William Hartnell episodes of late.

I've now finished watching the entire first season; some for the first time, some I'd seen before; and so I thought I'd do a little rundown of my thoughts. I'll admit that the timing isn't great, because I don't usually like to talk about the same show two weeks running; apart from that time I didn't shut up about The Tomorrow People for a year and a half of course; but what the hell, right?

So, here we go; my thoughts on the serials from season one of Doctor Who...

You'd best like my show, dear boy! Yes, you'd just better had, hmmm.
An Unearthly Child

Extremely slow going, which can be trying until you get used to it, and I'm not convinced that there is enough story here to warrant even half the running time, to be honest; something which will be a recurring theme.

Saved by some committed performances from the guest cast and the fact that Carole Ann Ford hadn't yet achieved maximum annoying-ness levels.

The Daleks

How slow??? (Told you that would come up again)

As the show's first proper villains the Daleks acquit themselves well, even if their reliance on static electricity; I'm guessing included as part of the educational remit, though I could be wrong; is a mite silly.

Again, the pace is glacial, which might not have been so bad had so much of the 'action' not taken place in a bunch of very similar looking (I wonder why that was) corridors. At least we get to see the beginnings of Ian and Barbara coming into their own as characters; the show is much more engaging and entertaining when it's focusing on them, rather than the crotchety and downright unpleasant Doctor or the shrill harpy that is Susan.

The Edge of Destruction

Doesn't work. Looks cheap and is far too reliant on Carole Ann Ford who, lest you haven't picked up on my subtle comment in the previous serials, CAN'T ACT.

Marco Polo

Another one that's far too long, but nevertheless I enjoyed it. Polo himself is an engaging character; a 'villain' in that he holds the Doctor and co. captive, but one with very understandable and believable motivations.

Also, the real villain of the piece, Tegana, is cool as fuck.

I aint sweating you clowns. Bring it on, suckas.
The Keys Of Marinus

Another long one, but it gets around that by having lots of different settings and guest casts for the regulars to flit between, so it doesn't get dull. Well...

The Doctor himself disappears for a sizable chunk of the running time, which actually makes it a little more exciting; Ian and Barbara being far more interesting protagonists; and the ending is a decent bit of switcheroo, if a little rushed.

Shame the show gives every indication of having skipped an episode between parts 4 and 5. Major script fail there, with events jumping forwards without explanation in an extremely off putting manner. Oh well, we're none of us perfect.

The Aztecs

I fucking loved The Aztecs. Susan is sidelined, Barbara is fierce in her beliefs and just a proper full blooded heroine, and Ian gets to be the suave action man he so obviously should have always been; on the strength of this serial alone I wanted him to have gone on to be a major movie star.

What's more, the depiction of the Aztec society is fascinating, the 'villains' actually aren't, really, and The Doctor makes sense for once, before being given a rather sweet love story that should be rammed down the throats of anyone who bemoans the Madame Pompadour incident as out of character. (I know he's kind of using her, but there's obviously genuine affection there as well)

The serial reaches it's only logical conclusion, with no easy answers to be had for anyone, and the travelers head off having learned a valuable lesson. This is proper drama, and the cast play the shit out of it; just brilliant stuff.

And the lead 'villain' is creepy as fuck.

The Sensorites

A serial in which some incredibly badly acted humans encounter an alien race based entirely on bureaucracy and placid acceptance of a class system that makes them indistinguishable to each other by any means other than their insignia. And the size of their beer bellies, although they're all too polite to say that bit.

It's a nice idea, to do a story about a benign alien race with just a couple of bad eggs. Shame this one is so dull. Especially when it didn't need to be; all the elements were there for a gripping little political thriller.

Also, it relied heavily on Carole Ann Ford, so it has that acting against it.

Reign Of Terror

It's the French Revolution; people are getting guillotined left and right, spies for various factions (and the English) stalk the streets, and our intrepid heroes are in prison.

It's great.

The bumbling jailer is just the right side of parody, the politics are clever enough to keep you thinking without being too confusing for the kids, and the Doctor hits a man over the head with a shovel.

The ONLY downside is that the guy playing Robespierre is awful; they even manage to get Susan out of the way for a while with a phantom illness that seems to come and go on a whim and has no real resolution, which makes me think it was just there to get Susan out of the way. Well done Dennis Spooner.

SO, those were just some off the top of my head reactions to the serials making up season one. Throwing them onto the page without any planning or too much editing, I see several patterns emerge that I wasn't really aware of when I was watching.

I hate Susan of course, that much is obvious, but the big one I hadn't realised is that I genuinely love the historical stories, whilst a lot of the sci-fi left me cold. I really wouldn't have thought that when I sat down to watch the show.

That's all from me for now, but I'll be back next week with something that has nothing to do with Doctor Who. Promise.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Bag of Bones

Hello, and welcome to the first post of 2013, here on The Impossible Quest. I hope you haven't missed me too much during my extended break.

As with the first post back last year; because tradition is important, dontcha know; I was determined to find something in the terrestrial schedules to write about. After all, isn't the Christmas break supposed to be a time for the television stations to break out their big guns? Also as with last year, I struggled to find something that wasn't the Doctor Who Christmas Special. ALSO, as with last year, Channel 5 came to my rescue late in the day with a mini-series imported from the states. Well done Channel 5. And so, without further ado...

First things first, because I'm told that's the way to do it, I just want to get a little bit of a moan off my chest. Bag of Bones was a mini-series, written and shot to air over two nights. Channel 5, in their infinite wisdom, took the decision to condense it into a movie and show it in one go. Given it's themes, it obviously had to screen post watershed, which meant they had a 3 and a bit hour production that ran until past midnight; how did they not anticipate that that alone would put people off?

Then, of course, the people who did watch, and who were expecting a movie; since Channel 5 were billing it that way, and hadn't made it's original form clear; were faced with over an hour of very slow scene setting and build up. The air of boredom radiating from twitter during the screening was maddening. A slow part one with a decent cliffhanger is one thing, but lumping it together like this meant that when the big finish to part one happened... people looked at the clock and thought 'Another hour plus of this? Nah thanks mate' and went to bed.

They fucked up, is what I'm saying.

But what of the show itself? We all know that Stephen King material can have a bit of difficulty transferring to the screen; for every The Stand or Stand By Me we get, well, virtually everything else ever adapted for the screen from a Stephen King story. Where on the scale is Bag of Bones?  It wasn't awful, let's put it that way.

Hello. I used to be Remington Steele you know.
I'm fairly certain Pierce Brosnan was high, or drunk, or something, for most of the filming, because he hammed it up like no-ones business, but the rest of the cast were excellent, and the little girl playing the main kid managed to stay just on the right side of annoying, so they win points for that at least.

I say the cast were excellent, but here's the thing... they hired a lot of people for this who, when they first appeared on screen, made me very excited. Matt Frewer is here, Melissa George, Jason Priestley... and yet they barely appear; a massive wasted opportunity. And before anyone says anything; I know George's character dies early on in the book too, but she's much better developed there, before she goes, which made the eventual shock of her death that much more, well, shocking. Here you barely care, because you just don't get the sense of her importance. As I say though, she does brilliantly with what she's given.

The mystery at the heart of the story is simplified a hell of a lot in the show, and not in any way that seems particularly necessary, either. Certainly the explanation in the novel is not one that is problematically complicated; it's complex, yes, but makes sense and would have been relatively easy to explain in dialogue. Also, eliminating several characters altogether in order to allow Brosnan more to do might seem logical; you want your hero to be a hero; but it does raise the question of how a middle aged writer is so good at so many things.

Stop diluting my part you fuckers!
The ending of the book is watered down significantly here too, again to the detriment of the story, and again to every character not played by Pierce Brosnan. The book has the villain despatched by the ghost of one of the deceased characters, in defence of their daughter; the show has the villain killed by Brosnan, in defence of someone elses daughter. A small thing, to be sure, and it does play to the paternal responsibility theme, but still, it just makes Melissa George's character that much less important.

If you've not read the book, it probably played a little better; assuming you watch it in it's intended form and therefore haven't fallen asleep at the halfway mark. Certainly the new, truncated version of the mystery is not in itself offensive and makes sense in it's own right; the villains are genuinely creepy, if a little over the top in one case (and they get points for casting Death from Supernatural in one small but pivotal role); and Melissa George looked, as Melissa George is wont to do, very lovely indeed.

In all, I would say watch Bag of Bones. Make sure you're watching it as a two parter with a break between episodes, make sure you brace yourself for the alterations to the book, and make sure you don't expect to take Brosnan seriously; make sure of all those things, and you should have a good time.

It would have been so much fucking better if Priestley and Brosnan had swapped roles though. So. Much. Better.

Maybe in the remake mate. Maybe in the remake.

No idea what I'll be talking about next time, but I'm sure it will be riveting stuff indeed. Riveting, I say!

See you then. Maybe