The London 2012 Olympics Are a Hotspot of Doctor Activity

New Doctor Who for us! Written by kids as well, should be fun 😛

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Did somebody say they want to see fresh Doctor Who material before the next season starts in a few months? Well then check out this brief video about the 11th Doctor helping out an Olympic torch-runner in the London 2012 Olympics. It was written by the students of the Ashdene School in Cheshire, England as part of a “Script to Screen” competition hosted by the BBC kids show Blue Peter. Because I guess that kind of thing happens in England. Either way, it’s a fun new bit with the Doctor and Amy Pond.

Though as any fan will tell you, we already know that the 10th Doctor is already at the scene of the London 2012 Olympics, and in fact he will eventually be the one to carry the torch the final leg of its journey to start the games.

Because that’s how time travel works.

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The War Game (1965)

There is nothing more terrifying than watching a “what-if?” film about a nuclear holocaust. If done correctly, such programs can really stir fear in one’s heart and make anyone think about the ramifications of such an event to their lives. I particularly remember watching the American TV movie The Day After some years ago, and while not acted in the best manner, it was disturbing in many ways. First of all it was filmed in my home state, using buildings and town names that I’m used to, and it showed what could happen after a nuclear bomb falls. I can only imagine how messed up it would have been had they had done it as a faux documentary rather than a drama, it would most likely have ended up like BBC’s The War Gamea far superior film, and much more scary. A film like this is only as powerful as the time we live in, and today much like the sixties, we live in fear of idiots flaunting their missiles all over the world. This short black-and-white film was recently added to Netflix instant streaming, so I figured that it would be interesting, little did I know it would also be amazing.

Produced in manner similar to a documentary-styled magazine program, The War Game tells the story of a nuclear crisis in the “near future” of the 1960’s Britain. The whole mess starts when China invades South Vietnam, an act that America sees fitting to retaliate for with a decree of nuclear intentions. This idea angers all of the Communist nations leading to a small-scale nuclear war in Berlin between the two German halves and a handful of allies on either side. Eventually, it all escalates into an all-out World War with Britain getting hammered with over sixty bombs.

This film shows everything thereafter including the collapse of society, sick people, and mental traumas resulting from the bombings. What follows is a scathing look at how the director, Peter Watkins, sees Britain’s preparedness for such an event. All that “stiff upper lip” stoic nature from the blitz goes out the window in this documentary, and everyone turns into animals once things get bad. All Civil service agencies are lampooned as well as church elders, but this is not humorous satire, this is the stuff of nightmares.

One of the most unnerving segments in this film was a series of black cards with white lettering read by the narrator. Throughout the film, these cards come up to show facts, news quotes, maps, and other tidbits that really help this to look like a news show. The most poignant ones were statements from officials such as government workers, press agents, and other high up big-wigs. The card that creeped me out the most concerns the manner in which the church took notice of the bombings, coming together to issue the following odd statement:

“The church must tell the faithful that they should learn to live with, though not love, the nuclear bomb, provided that it is ‘clean’ and of a good family.”

And later:

“During a recent meeting of the Ecumenical Council at The Vatican – a bishop told the press that he was sure “our nuclear weapons will be used with wisdom.”

With how “out of reality” the church tends to be these days, I’m not too convinced that something like this wouldn’t leave the lips of a spokesman at the Vatican today! I’m not sure whether to take stuff like this as black comedy much on the same way that Dr. Strangelove handled such things, or a hard condemnation on how stupid and/or heartless people can be. With our politicians today, I think the latter is most fitting.

The written content found within isn’t the only thing that makes this film so dark. It’s also filmed in a manner reminiscent of actual news footage – meaning that they created staged building collapses and deaths, and filmed it all with a handheld camera to make it far more realistic than many movies of the time. This was Cloverfield, only forty years early. For the 1960’s, these special effects are amazing and would honestly look great if used in a modern production. This isn’t a cardboard walls Doctor Who budget, this was made to look as real as it could to strike fear. I think the only effect that was sort of “iffy” was the way in which they depicted nuclear blasts. Since they didn’t have computer generated effects back then, and stock footage is tiresome, we didn’t see any mushroom clouds. Usually somebody would be outside and the screen would flash white for a moment, leading the actor to cover their eyes and scream. While not great, this effect does its job, and doesn’t look unrealistic, just uninspiring. It was like hearing the sound effects from an off-screen battle in a Lord of the Rings movie, some of the impact is taken away if you can’t see it.

Gritty scenes such as one featuring a group policemen being forced to employ mercy killings on people so severely injured that doctors could not help them seems so out of place for any film made in the 1960’s. I can see why this film was immediately hated by higher-ups at the BBC, as it basically mocked authority on all levels. Also, if people used to call in to complain about things in Doctor Who in the 1970’s being “too scary” this would have given these same people heart attacks. I cannot stress how much this seems like a modern film in terms of tone and nature. The War Game didn’t actually get shown on any TV network until the mid-1980’s, and I’m thankful it didn’t meet the same fate as other 1960’s BBC productions –wiped and junked. It was deemed too dark, it made the British infrastructure look bad, it belittled civil servants, and it stood in the face of over-zealous national pride –things that weren’t cool forty years ago. At least now we can watch it, and enjoy it without any censorship involved.

Another scene that really struck me, on a deja vu level, was one that was used much later for a plotline in a David Tennant era Doctor Who episode called Turn Left. In The War Game, threats of an imminent nuclear strike force the evacuation of millions of people to the country-side. The streets run foul with protests and uncertainty as many households were forced to take in and feed as many as eight guests for the duration of the events. People caught on camera include many that act very selfish; this includes people trying to hoard resources and even bigots. One woman interviewed remarked that she hoped her new lodgers “weren’t colored” as was the norm back in the sixties.

The aforementioned Doctor Who version of this happened in a similar manner. In Turn Left, the Earth fell to utter ruin when the titular character died in an alternate reality. His companion at the time, Donna as played by Catherine Tate, was forced to board with other people when London is totally destroyed in a nuclear accident. The racial sentiment is still jarring now as it was in the sixties, and it really shows that accidents and other catastrophes bring out the worst in people. I’m really surprised that there haven’t been a lot of people that have picked up on this connection between the two shows accidental or intended– then again this movie may be pretty obscure due to its age and its banned status.

If you want to see a great disaster movie that doesn’t resort to over-the-top special effects in lieu of drama, please check this out. For a film that I assumed would be schlocky 1960’s faire, The War Game was awesome. This movie is so dark, violent, pessimistic, and edgy, that one would assume that it came from the brain of a modern director. Since it was shelved so long ago, I feel that many have not seen a true speculative fiction classic. I know this kind of film is not for everyone, it’s sort of depressing, and makes you feel bad. But that shouldn’t stand in the way of the punch in the gut you get watching it.

Here is an excerpt from the film:

Red Dwarf: Series 1, Episode 1 “The End” (1988)

This fall is going to be a great time for fans of UK-based science fiction. Not only are we going to have six episodes of Doctor Who just after the Olympics, but there is a new Season of Red Dwarf on the way as well! Since there still is a ton of time left, I figured that I could easily pass it by looking back at some older episodes of Red Dwarf, sort of like a countdown to the new ones. So, without further ado, my review of the pilot episode from the far off time of 1988 – “The End”

When I first watched Red Dwarf, I immediately fell in love with it. My (now) wife had actually seen it on a PBS affiliate, and at the time I was oblivious to it aside from a passing mention. I wasn’t really into my full “anglo-phile” mindset at the time, and didn’t really seek out older shows yet. That all changed in 2004 when I got Netflix and started renting old Doctor Who episodes and Red Dwarf. I loved the idea of a science fiction sitcom, although very few of these cross-genre mergers were any good. Shows like Homeboys from Outer Space and Small Wonder put a bad taste in my mouth, but I was willing to try something new. I was immediately sucked in by this incredibly powerful and somewhat intense introduction:

I actually wish they’d bring a version of this introduction back. I like the more jazzed up one and all, but this is a nice palette cleanser for the hilarity about to ensue. I know some would say that “it doesn’t fit the show”, but I still love it, and that’s all that matters to me.

From the very beginning of the first episode we learn the dynamic between the two main characters –Lister and Rimmer inside and out. Lister is the lowest ranking guy on the ship, and a total slacker. His main goal is to simply collect a paycheck until he can retire to Fiji and start a farm. He’s all about having fun, and has no interest in his work. To foil this, his direct superior Rimmer (the second lowest ranking guy on the ship) is a self-righteous know-it-all with a severe inferiority complex. He always strives to become an officer on Red Dwarf, but ruins his chances with his manic nature, poor people skills, and sheer arrogance. This “odd couple” motif has been done countless times, but rarely is it done in such a humorous way as we see it here.

The thing that truly stands out with this show is the characters themselves. We might be used to seeing the exploits of all the highest ranking officers on serious shows such as Star Trek, but imagine an entire program consisting of “red shirts”. And not just plain “red shirts” but the ones that aren’t even cool enough to go on away missions and get their faces eaten by aliens. Focusing on characters that are destined to fight, screw around, and do nothing of any real importance whilst trying to get back to Earth basically writes itself. We see other characters in the beginning like Captain Hollister, but they won’t matter for too long, as they all die within minutes of the opening credits.

This is where the show gets fun. Lister gets in trouble for smuggling a pregnant cat named Frankenstein into his sleeping quarters on the ship. This is against regulation, and he is sentenced to stasis – a choice he made rather than giving up his pet. Lister’s job was to work on food replicators, and ironically, one messed up royally while he was unable to fix it. Rimmer tried to fix it, but Rimmer is Rimmer, and he messes it up even more. The entire ship went through a huge dose of nuclear radiation – killing everyone on board except Lister and Frankenstein, who was safe in the cargo bay. Three million years later, Holly (the ship’s computer system) informs Dave of some shocking news:

“They’re Dead, Dave….Everybody is dead, Dave.”

To fill this cast out, Lister is joined by other rejects, we have a holographic version of Rimmer, the person that the ships computer feels was Lister’s closest friend, a human-like creature that evolved from his stow-away cat simply named “The Cat”, and the ship’s computer itself, driven mad for the last few million years. Credits roll, and that’s why we kick off history folks! If you haven’t seen this show, and don’t mind special effects that are 2 decades old, I would definitely recommend checking it out. Currently you can watch it for free on Amazon Instant Video, if you happen to have an Amazon Prime subscription, or you can rent it on Netflix. The episodes used to be available on Netflix streaming, but they let the videos lapse for some reason.

Join me soon, for a look at episode 2!

Survivors (2008) Episode 4

As is the norm with this show for a while, we have the episode split into a few separate story strands to keep everything rolling nicely and to give each character something to do. There are actually three main segments to follow: one with Abby, one with just about everyone else, and one with Greg and Anya. Mysteriously, we don’t really hear from the scientists that have been popping up in the last few episodes. You’d think that their search for the cure to the virus would get some mention here.

Abby found out about a group of kids occupying a large mansion from the eco-commune last episode, and has gone out to find out if her son is there. These kids have gone into full-on Lord of the Flies mode without any parental supervision, and are causing havoc around the grounds of the mansion, much to the dismay of the original owner of the mansion, a man that is hiding in the woods while his belongings get ransacked. She’s caught between these kids that “couldn’t make it outside” and said owner. She realizes that she could maybe get them to form an alliance of some sort, an option that seems easier said than done.

The second segment involves a familiar setting from last week. Here I thought the previous episode was the last time we’d see Samantha Willis and her creepy eco-commune, a place that gets worse by the second. How wrong I was, as we only had to wait one mere episode! The previous episode saw the former Health Minister becoming more and more of a ruthless despot as she clings to power. Abby was completely unnerved by the way the members of this commune handled “law” in their new community, and opted to leave despite all the good things such a community could offer.

The problem is that Willis is definitely making the hard choices that any leader should make, and as the sole authority from the government left, she’s bound to start making a few bad choices sooner than later. We saw her do things like punishing would-be supply thieves by public execution to send a message, thus continuing her fall. In episode 4 we have the arrival of Tom, Sarah, Najid, and Al in this community – possibly to stay for the long haul. It seems that despite the bad stuff going on, Abby let everyone else know about the place, and wants to move on to find her son. As one would imagine this lasts about three seconds before bad stuff goes down.

The weakest story in this episode has to be one involving Greg and Anya at the house. This segment seems to be a situation of trying to find something for these left-out characters to do, and serves little purpose otherwise. Basically, the pair find themselves under siege by a pair of rapists, and spend a few moments fighting them off. Unlike the chicken coop minor-segment in episode three, this piece was not very good.

I’d say this episode was a step down from the last one, but that isn’t a bad thing. This show usually stays pretty interesting, and the weaker episodes are still better than most other shows in the same vein. I am worried that the show will keep having segments for characters left out of the main plot such as tonight’s foray into rape-busting, as these sort of scenarios have seemed sort of half-assed so far. Hopefully we get to see what our bunker-bound lab coat guys are up to, I miss those guys 😉

Survivors (2008) Episode 3

It’s been a while since I did a write-up for this Survivors; I guess I had a lot going on and got a bit sidetracked. Recently, I got hooked on a U.S. based reality show called The Colony, in which people are made to live in a situation resembling a post-apocalyptic virus outbreak; I immediately thought of Survivors. A lot has happened in the first few episodes of Survivors, and now that the main cast is all together, it’s time to break everyone up into little groups to look into the inner-workings of their characters. In the last episode, we had things like Al finally opening up – moments like this are really the best thing the show can offer. We get two such occurrences in this episode:  Abby in one case, and Greg and Tom in another.

In the first half of the story, Greg and Tom come across a family that has somehow managed to stay isolated during the viral outbreak. The father of this family goes to insane lengths to protect his family, such as forcing his kids to stay inside at all times. If he sees any living creature, whether it is an animal or human, it needs to be killed to preserve their unaffected status. He bathes in harsh chemicals if he steps outside, and burns his clothes afterwards. This is all done because he loves his kids, but this extreme nature does nothing but bite him, when he attacks Greg and Tom. They are forced to hide in this man’s barn for a bit after their car is destroyed, and accidentally expose the daughter to the virus. This brings up a very bad situation where the father must choose for the daughter to leave with two unknown strangers, or to stay there and possibly kill the rest of the family.

After seeing some terrible new 2012 inspired American TV shows such as Doomsday Preppers, the attitude of the father makes me a bit sad. His paranoia for the unknown nature of the virus makes his entire family miserable, and resent him. In the aforementioned program, people hoard food, make ridiculous precautions, make their kids run paramilitary drills and other stuff that seems to be a great idea, but as Survivors illustrates, would just end up failing anyway.

The other half of the episode sees Abby coming across a haven for other survivors while she is out looking for her son. This camp is run by Samantha Willis, possibly one of the few government heads left alive after the virus hit. While the place initially looks like a utopia as it has food, electricity, and multiple survivors of all ages, it has a dark secret. These people don’t like outsiders, and have a warlike relationship with a group of marauders that are trying to share the wealth. Problems like the viral epidemic seem to bring out the worst in people, a running theme in this show, and a place like this colony go from being awesome to just as bad as the gang that our characters met with in episode two.

I liked this episode a lot because of the above situations the characters are forced into. The story of the little girl is heartbreaking, and was the highlight of the show drama-wise for me. I’ve seen other shows recently like Outcasts that try to be an interesting drama with a bit of science fiction flavor, but end up being a glorified snuff film to make the audience feel bad. These gruesome acts take the place of good writing, but fail to do anything for me. Survivors doesn’t rely on shock tactics and we see a bit of the other side of drama – warmth. The scenes were the remaining Survivors help build a chicken coop while Abby, Tom, And Greg are out gives this slow a glimmer of hope, and that’s why I can always come back to it.

Doctor Who: Loups Garoux

Loups-Garoux-doctor-whobig-finish

Synopsis

Brazil, 2080: The Doctor and Turlough arrive for the Rio de Janeiro carnival.
Is wealthy heiress Ileana de Santos all that she seems? What sinister ailment afflicts her invalid son, tended by the mysterious Dr Hayashi? And who exactly is Rosa, engaged on a secret quest to fulfil the destiny of her extinct tribe?
Time is running out for Rosa, Ileana and the Doctor, as the fearsome shadow of an ancient werewolf moves ever closer…

Written By: Marc Platt
Directed By: Nicholas Pegg

I’m just going to start this off by saying that I was not a huge fan of Marc Platt going into this audio drama based entirely on his earlier contributions to Doctor Who, a TV episode called Ghost Light and a book called Lungbarrow. In fact, I would rather watch the terrible charity episode Dimensions in Time than sit through Ghost Light again. Thankfully, Platt seems to be on his A-game in Big Finish as I thought Loups Garoux was quite enjoyable. This is surprising as I think that Davison has got the worst scripts of all the Doctors (up to this point); a problem that seems to be sorted out.

First thing first, Turlough is awesome and I was pretty excited to hear Mark Strickson reprise the role in this drama. This isn’t just a guest role either; Turlough is up in the forefront of this whole play. As listeners, we get a glimpse at his mysterious darker nature, a fact that he has hidden from the Doctor and the other companions. He gets separated from the Doctor at one point (as with many Doctor Who stories), and takes center stage for a bit, even getting his own temporary companion in the mix. We also see a bit of a reluctant romance for not only Turlough, but the Doctor as well (Gasp!). This added romance is surprising for those familiar with Platt’s writing as Platt himself created the ridiculous “The Doctor is Asexual and Timelords are born in looms” garbage found in Lungbarrow, a piece of novelized fanwank that many fans cling to despite countless contradictory pieces throughout the show.

The rest of the actors are pretty solid as well, especially Emily Bron as Ileana. She plays the matriarchal leader of a group of old-world werewolves clinging to a hidden existence in the future. Despite a few wonky stereotypical accents, there really was nobody to single out as the weak link of the production. Everyone had their part, and everyone was important here. Even the Fifth Doctor, who did very little in his past few plays, was on top form here both in Peter Davison’s acting and the storyline itself.

The actual story is a solid plus from me as well, as it delves into the topic of werewolves without zany Hollywood movie hijinks. The creatures are treated in a manner that I’m not used to, and I really liked it. Basically these wolf creatures live among us, but use an ability to stay hidden from our eyes. While this isn’t exactly talked about at length, it’s sufficient to explain why we don’t have huge wolves walking around all the time. Of course the wolves can also take a human form, something that sickens a few of them to their core. This shape shifting is more-or-less the basis for the main plot. You see, Ileana has a son that can’t turn to a human appearance. She wants her son to be able to walk amongst the “cut-claws”, but he has a feral monstrous disposition and appearance. Oh and there is an ancient demonic former ex-lover of hers out there trying to kill the other wolves!

I guess I gained a new-found respect for Marc Platt, a writer who I was not too enamored with in the past. I’ve actually listened to one more of his Big Finish plays that I enjoyed, but that’s a review for another day. In closing, if you want a solid Peter Davison title to start out with in Big Finish, you could probably pass on the ones before this, as Loups Garoux is definitely a new benchmark for this Doctor.

WIN!: Impersonator WIN

LOL!

Outcasts (2011) Episode 2

The main point of my previous review was that episode one of Outcasts was utterly depressing, so depressing that it seemed like a worthy companion to all those shows about compulsive hoarding. In one episode, the producers and writers played multiple games of bait and switch on us, leading me to have no idea who the main character was. “oh look, I better pay attention to these guys” DEAD! “wait, maybe that person will be important later in the sh..” DEAD! “What about…” DEAD! I know some shows start killing off hoards of characters for dramatic effect throughout a story to build drama, but leaving half of the initial introduced cast in the first episode either dead or mortally wounded? Onward to episode two, I guess.

Episode two thankfully does what episode one should have done- it introduces us to things like backstory, character development, and gives the viewer a firmer grasp on the setting. In the previous episode, I really had no idea what the planet of Carpathia was like. At first I was lead to believe it was a desert planet based on a random sandstorm that happened, and the presence of dunes, only to find out it had vegetation and rocky hillsides. Confusing things like this made the first episode seem weird and disjointed, and not in a mysterious Lost sort of way.

This episode also introduces us to another group of people on the planet, a group of “Outcasts” who I assume are going to be the main antagonists of the citizens of Forthaven. We find out that Forthaven once had far more people than it currently does, and a virus outbreak drove them away. More specifically, they were slated to be executed, but were let go. These people resent the settlers, and want revenge.

Sadly, while there is character development present, nobody really breaks the archetypical mold they are set into, and as a result we have a cast of one-dimensional characters doing utterly predictable things. Present are characters like the wise captain, the motherly older woman, the hot-headed military man, the snake in the grass, the punk teenager, and many more. It is because of this that most of the characters feel like chess pieces created to achieve the goal of a story rather than fleshed out humans in a real world. For me, the character of Cass was the only character that I cared about in episode one. I thought he was going to be the comic relief character at first, only to find out that he’s much more valuable to the story. With the introduction of a super-creepy guy like Julius to throw disarray into the camp, I can see a glimmer of hope for later episodes.

While I didn’t hate episode two of Outcasts, It isn’t out of my doghouse quite yet. It seems that it has finally found its footing on the teetering platform of watchability, and is pretty close to being entertaining. As long as they don’t kill of these good characters I like, and people start doing things outside of their archetype I think this show could be salvageable.

Dirk Gently (2012) Season 1, Episode 1

While everyone may be enjoying the infrequent adventures of a certain pair of detectives from 221b Baker Street, there is another duo of private eyes on the loose at the BBC. What? You have no idea who I’m talking about! Does Douglas Adams ring a bell? How about an unreliable brown British Leyland Princess? Of course, I’m talking about Dirk Gently and MacDuff of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, and their quest to understand the “fundamental interconnectedness of all things”. As with the pilot episode, in which I did a write up for a while ago (HERE), Dirk Gently isn’t mainly a science fiction show, and teeters closer to being a straight comedy show. The source material was written by Douglas Adams and has some sci-fi elements like robots, time travel and such; this keeps it on topic enough for me.

I’m glad that the BBC decided to pick the series up for some further adventures after 2010’s pilot episode, as I felt that the show had a ton of potential, despite a miniscule budget. The three part nature of this series makes me hope there is more after these initial stories. I guess the Sherlock similarities continue in that regard; just when you want more of the show, you realize that there is a miniscule amount of episodes available with a long space in between seasons.

This new series has the same cast from the pilot episode including Stephen Mangan as the titular holistic detective and Darren Boyd as Richard Macduff (Watson to Gently’s Sherlock as it were). For those totally new to the character, one can imagine Gently as the complete antithesis to Sherlock Holmes. While Holmes is amazingly clever, makes light of every miniscule detail that mere mortals would never pay attention to, and makes everyone look foolish just by his sheer presence, Gently does none of these. He makes ridiculous leaps of logic, mutters about an esoteric philosophy that only he subscribes to, comes to the wrong conclusions, ends at a result that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, and yet is somehow correct every time. His randomness and eagerness to make a quick buck makes him look like a total con-man in just about every way, and everyone hates him for his incompetent manner in which he works.

This episode contains two seemingly separate storylines that, as anyone who has seen the pilot or read the books, will come together in the end. Dirk’s whole theory is that everything in the entire world is somehow intertwined, so things that seem totally unrelated end up being just the opposite. One of these plotlines involves the death of a conspiracy theorist that believes the Pentagon is out to get him; the other is a man that takes horoscopes far too seriously. In fact, all of the supposed red herrings that we see in the show coalesce into one large and absurdly convoluted mystery.

Sadly, while I loved the pilot, and felt that it came together very well, I felt that this episode fell a tiny bit short. There were some hilarious gags, great dialog, and enough of a mystery to keep one guessing the whole way through, but something was off. I think it just seemed rushed or something, like they tried to put way too much into one story and ended up with something incomplete as a whole. This isn’t to say that it’s a bad episode; it’s just the weaker of the two that I’ve seen. Hopefully the next two pick it up for me.

Two shadows loom over this production, both of which are unnecessary in my opinion. Some fans will be sad that these stories are not literal versions of the original books, yet borrow heavily from the source material. This has caused the whole production to be unfairly “pooped on” by many people, the irony being that Adams hated for his stuff to stay the same whenever he produced it. The Hitchhikers Guide series was originally a radio show, it was re-written as a book, and then further changed to be a 1981 TV series, all under the direct supervision of Adams. He even helped write the script for the 2005 movie, but sadly died before it could be finished. Whining about any changes in plot are silly, and aren’t in the spirit of the material.

Our second shadow happens to be the aforementioned Steven Moffat helmed Sherlock craze. While I agree that Sherlock is a superior show in every way, I don’t feel that people should compare the two as they have little in common. The reason I keep mentioning Holmes and Watson when relating to the show in this review, is that the pairing has basically become a character archetype and anything similar can naturally be elaborated on as such. And while Gently may not be as “cool” as Sherlock, the show still stands as a great piece of light entertainment for weekend viewing.

In conclusion, episode one of this new series of Dirk Gently is pretty decent, if not a bit underwhelming compared to the pilot. The promise of the show and the strong acting keeps me coming back, and makes me love the show even more. If they can capture the magic ratio of mystery to jokes that we’ve seen before, I think this could go down as one of my favorite comedies of the year, if not it could be a huge disappointment. Only time will tell….

I definitely agree that a lot of our science fiction gets mishandled on TV. While this doesn’t exactly stay on topic with my blog 100% I remember how the Sci-fi channel nearly killed Doctor Who in America due to crappy timeslots, editing, and other stuff. Now look at it, it’s the top download on iTunes whenever it’s out. The same channel now has cancelled almost all of its programming and shows wrestling. I’m a fan of pro wrestling, but not on a channel like that!

Faster Than Light News

Just a post to let you all you guys know about a very interesting group on Facebook called Save Sci Fi!  The group is growing in numbers very quickly and it’s sole purpose is to encourage networks to create more quality sci-fi TV!  With Fringe leaving the air next season, there isn’t much left out on the small screen!

Join this group https://www.facebook.com/SaveSciFi and help in the fight for the future!

-Tom

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The Day of the Triffids (2009) – Part One

Having enjoyed the 1981 BBC miniseries for The Day of the Triffids (review of that here),I jumped at the prospect of watching a newer take on the story. At some point I really need to get the books and dig into the original stories; but with my limited time as of late I have to settle for movies. The 1981 TV miniseries was fairly iconic, in that parts of it were used an inspiration for the film 28 days Later, especially the opening hospital scene. The one thing that really drew me to this show was the inclusion of a handful of actors that I really like – Eddie Izzard, Dougray Scott, and Brian Cox. These guys are usually in larger productions, and it was cool to see them here. Izzard and Scott are especially awesome actors in this film, basically carrying the production. With a bigger budget, a great cast, and modern special effects, one would hope that a new take on the story would be truly exciting and a feast for the eyes; luckily it is for about half the time.

Despite a few changes for the sake of modernity, and adding a more “cinematic” feel, a lot of the story in part one stays largely the same. Bill Masen (Dougray Scott) is a scientist that studies Triffids on a Triffid farm – an area where an odd species of plant is harvested to make a type of fuel that has made fossil fuels obsolete. This comes at a cost, however, as Triffids are very dangerous to work with. Bill knows this all too well, as we see the death of his mother at the leafy hands of these creatures in the opening moments of the film. Bill is stung early on by one of these guys, and spends a while in the hospital with his eyes taped up. Luckily for him (as his eyes are covered), a crazy solar storm happens that knocks out power and makes much of the populace blind (those who were watching the storm), and helps cause a post-apocalyptic Triffid-running-amok scenario. He is joined by a BBC television reporter named Jo (Joely Richarson), a con-man (Eddie Izzard), and a few others as they try to survive the ordeal.

In the original, the bright lights that blinded everyone were the result of a meteor shower, so changing it wasn’t too much of a change at all and somehow seems more realistic. This inclusion also helps tap into the zany 2012 theorist wet-dream that we are going to be hit with a large EMP/solar wave that will destroy the Earth this year.

While I feel that our films and other media are largely getting over-saturated with zombie apocalypse stuff, Day of the Triffids puts a new spin on this trope. Instead of the horror of mindless masses of flesh eating monsters running around, we have a situation where most of the world has been rendered blind resulting in a writhing mass of humanity trying to stay alive when the more predatory folks out there try to take advantage of the situation. These people aren’t zombies, but are fueled by pure hysteria and helplessness. In many instances, when someone finds out that someone else can still see, they try to harm them or force them into a situation where they are now these people’s eyes. The hysteria causes many a massacre with policemen firing on civilians trying to get to safety, people getting trampled, and the weak (children and elderly) getting lost in the shuffle.

With everyone on Earth subdued, suddenly we are at the bottom of the totem pole with Triffids suddenly at the top. There are ten million of them out there on various farms, and they are hungry for human flesh. This is especially made more shocking when we find out that these monsters are most-likely intelligent and seem to communicate to each other.

My main concern going into this film was that the production staff would somehow mess up the design of the Triffids themselves. Granted, the 1981 series depicted them as slow bell-shaped pitcher plants made out of fiberglass. Since these guys could “walk” the 80’s take would scoot around on the ground ever so slowly. It seemed that as long as people could take them out within about three feet or so, and keep from being over-run, everything might be cool. This time around, the Triffids have long tentacle-like appendages that can go great distances and sting anyone capable of doing them harm. Rather than a three foot radius, these new stingers are truly terrifying and could come out of nowhere. In the first part we gradually see the Triffids, but in very small doses. They stay in the shadows for the majority of the film, making them a bit scarier despite the silly premise of the creature (sentient walking plants). When we do finally see them, they are pretty well done special effects-wise.

After all the praise for story and acting, there has got to be a few bad apples in the bushel. Some of the CGI effects in this movie are questionable at best. Towards the beginning of part one, we see a multitude of news reports rolling in, talking about an impending solar storm hitting the Earth. For some reason we see these news reporters standing in front of obvious green screen backdrops of swirly sun energy in the sky, the effect it so bad that I cringed a bit. In an era where one can see even the cheapest of TV shows implement some sort of competent computer effects, it makes this stand out even more. This isn’t to say that it all looks bad; some of the cinematography and effect shots are quite impressive for a TV miniseries –bordering on Hollywood caliber. Scenes like one in which an airplane crashes into a busy city-scape after the EMP hits are quite scary and very well-done. One can definitely see where the money went, I just wish there was more consistency.

In the first of two parts, we also see the ugliness of heavy-handed preachy dialog starting to roll in. Bill talks about global warming, fuel consumption, and other ills that we are currently dealing with at this time. I’m really worried that the production will suddenly turn into a PSA for the environment or something that wasn’t intended in the original story. This sort of thing makes sense in a film like The Lorax, which was based on a book about the ailing environment. Subtlety can be great with messages in movies, but when overdone you can end up with something like October Baby, which was more message than film.

Aside from a few wonky solar flares, I really enjoyed part one of Day of The Triffids, and am confused by all the bad press this movie got. Looking at Amazon.com’s listing for this DVD, one comes away with the impression that Ed Wood had directed it. Maybe I’m easy to please, or maybe the whole thing goes awry in part two; all I know is that this first episode is well worth a watch for fans of the original 1981 miniseries and sci-fi fans as a whole.