The Monday Meme: Tumbleweeds

doctor-who-GUNFIGHTERS-MEME

 

Whether it be Star Trek or Red Dwarf, I always cringe a little bit when I see that a “theme episode”is coming up. At least Doctor Who has a central time traveling theme to make this less silly, but some shows really stretch to allow for such things. Western episodes are especially goofy in UK-based sci-fi, as they take all of the tired cliches that were mainstays decades ago and exaggerate them to a spectacular degree.

Advertisements

Out of the Unknown (1965) Stranger In The Family

(AKA Series 1, Episode 3)

BBC-out-of-the-unknown-1965-no-place-like-earth-john-wyndham

Up to this point in my sporadic viewings of Out of the Unknown, I’ve been blessed with science fiction stories adapted from existing popular science fiction short stories and novels. First there was “No Place Like Earth” by John Wyndham and later “The Counterfeit Man” by Alan Nourse. What makes “Stranger in the Family” (our topic for today) really stand out against these popular adaptations is that is was actually commissioned specifically for the show. In series one, there only two such stories: This one by David Campton and “Come Buttercup, Come Daisy, Come…?” by Mike Watts. Thankfully both exist in a viewable form today, as many of these episodes sadly are lost to the sands of time.

David Campton was a popular UK-based playwright and dramatist that regularly worked on various British “anthology” shows such as this in the 1960’s. He did a few other episodes of Out of the Unknown, but this was the only one he wrote himself rather than doing an adaptation. He is definitely most known for his work as a playwright, which he was steadily involved in until his death in 2006.

out-of-the-unknown-stranger-in-the-family-boy

Charles Jr., or ‘Boy’ as he is simply referred to, is an odd child. Not only is he born with a strange deformity of having no fingernails, but he is “blessed” with powerful mental abilities that enable him to control others. This troublesome ability has caused nothing but grief for his family, who have had to constantly move from home to home to avoid trouble pertaining to Boy’s abilities. Most worrisome is the fact that he is being hunted by a mysterious surveillance team who have moved into the next-door flat in the tower block. Boy falls for a young actress whose agent / boyfriend encourages the relationship once he discovers his “gift” because he thinks Boy’s powers can be used to make a lot of money via TV commercials.

When I first saw this, I immediately started to be reminded of an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series entitled “Charlie X“. Without going into specifics, let’s just say that there are enough similarities to assume that somebody ripped somebody else off. After doing a bit of research I discovered that this came first, but neither David Campton or Gene Roddenberry copied each other, and that both were most likely inspired by an even earlier short story from 1953 called “It’s a Good Life” by Jerome Bixby. To add further confusion, Bixby’s story was adapted into a Twilight Zone episode! All three have the same basic story of a boy that “becomes God” and uses their powers to manipulate others.

out-of-the-unknown-stranger-in-the-family-2

Out of the Unknown: Stranger in the Family Stars Peter Copley and Daphne Slater as Boy’s parents. While Daphne Slater more-or-less stopped working in the 1970’s, Copley went on to be in some pretty big films like Empire of the Sun, and Kingdom of Heaven. The main character, Boy, is played by Rochard O’Callaghan, a man that went on to be in tons of stuff including an episode of Red Dwarf where he played “Hogey the Roguey”. He’s mostly known for roles in TONS of procedural police shows, and is still working to this day. Paula Wild is portrayed by Justine Lord and her agent Sonny is played by Eric Lander. Lander is perhaps best known for various soap opera roles including General Hospital.

I really enjoyed both the script and direction for this episode. The last two episodes have “dragged” a bit in the second act, but this episode kept me on the edge of my seat for the entirety of the show. As Boy gets continuously “messed with” and used by people that he mistakenly thinks are working in his best interest, he begins to go down the path of revenge that is all to familiar with these types of stories. Luckily somebody didn’t dump pigs blood on him at the prom, because the body count would have been crazy. One has to thank both Campton and the director Alan Bridges for keeping the whole thing tightly paced and interesting throughout.

out-of-the-unknown-stranger-in-the-family-3

Since this is more of a science fiction-tinged psychological thriller, there aren’t too many dodgy “special effects” shots to worry about. More than anything else, this keeps the drama from being so dated that everyone can tell exactly when this was filmed. Also, there are no zany “space costumes” or “bug-eyed monsters” there ramping up the cheese factor. Granted, Out of the Unknown usually resists such tropes, but with classic science fiction, one has to be prepared.

This is a great episode of Out of the Unknown, and is probably my favorite of the three so far. If I were to show this program to anyone, I think that “Stranger in the Family” is a strong contender for the episode I’d use to introduce it. The version I was able to watch had tons of audio and video defaults as well as BBC time numbers all over it, so it’s not the best looking thing out there. I wish a professional restoration was in the cards, but I’ll take it any way I can get it.

out-of-the-unknown-stranger-in-the-family-4

Sadly, obtaining a copy of Stranger in the Family or any episode of Out of the Unknown is basically impossible by legitimate means, but that’s where YouTube comes into play. I have included a link to the episode below,if you would like to watch this as well.

Enhanced by Zemanta

More Lost DOCTOR WHO Episodes May Have Turned Up « Nerdist

doctor-who-banner

More Lost DOCTOR WHO Episodes May Have Turned Up « Nerdist

I’ve been trying not to hype the so-called “omni-rumor” so much, but it looks like we have more recovered Doctor Who on the way. For those not in “the know”, there has been a rumor going around for months years hinting towards a MASSIVE haul of recovered BBC material that was believed to be lost. After the reveal of two such releases late last year, anything seems possible now! After the recent Gallifrey One convention, it seems that people high up in Doctor Who have all but confirmed that more is on the way, click the above link for details!

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

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 😉

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.