30 July 2015

Fringe 1.9: "The Dreamscape"

A very Olivia-focussed episode on this; as she investigates the death of a Massive Dynamic analyst who ends up throwing himself out of a window after being apparently attacked by killer butterflies, she decides to go back into the sensory deprivation tank from earlier in the season to retrieve some of the late John Scott's memories that ended up in her brain. We get an indication that Scott was definitely a dodgy geezer and there's clearly more to be mined from that. Anna Torv is clearly settling into the role now, demonstrating someone who is prepared to risk her own health for justice.

This gives some interesting material for John Bishop, who is rivalling, nay beating, the Twelfth Doctor, in saying inappropriate things in certain contexts... seriously, you don't say that around someone half your age unless you're in a relationship with her. The man is definitely not quite right in the head, although probably not a hospital case.

The Massive Dynamic arc is starting to shape up nicely; it's clear that their dodgy extends further than, as we learn in this episode, using hallucinogenic venom from toads on people without their consent.


A good episode. Not exactly completely ribbiting... sorry... but definitely kept me engaged during it.


27 July 2015


Thought that I'd give a little shoutout to a rather superb game site that I have used for a while: https://www.gog.com/

This allows you to buy classic games, DRM-free and fully capable of being used with your modern PC, for pretty low prices. I've used to reload some classics I played in my youth... or wish that I had.

22 July 2015

Review update - again

A large amount of TV has come up for me all at one go, which is going to have to push the Star Trek and Fringe stuff to the backburner; the former will be prioritised if I get to it.

Also, the Spectre review (the trailer today looks great) is going to be a Phoenix Roleplaying newsletter exclusive, although I will post the link here.

In other news, I'm working on the Second World War neutrals post; but this is likely to be done later in the year than initially planned.

The novel is going well; over halfway through.

20 July 2015

The Logical Song (Review: 'Star Trek' 1.16, "The Galileo Seven")

This is a good Kirk episode, but a superb Spock episode.

While passing a quasar formation on the way to a rendezvous to drop off some medical supplies, Spock, Bones, Scotty and four other crew members head off in a shuttle to investigate it as per Starfleet standing orders. However, quasar-y effects causing the vessel to go out of control and make a forced landing on a planet in the formation...

Let's get the bad parts out of this episode out of the way first. In what is a race against time story for both the shuttle crew and the Enterprise, there is a bit of cliché going on here. Kirk is on a clock with a rather tetchy Galactic High Commissioner wanting him to depart promptly at a given time to ensure they make their rendezvous. Certain aspects of the resolution are ones we've seen time and time again.

Then I have to knock CBS Digital's handling of the remastering here; dumping the model work entirely for some not entirely convincing CGI is one of the weaker parts of the episode.

All this is however relative small fry compared with the strengths of this episode. This is a character study of Spock, the logical Vulcan. His logic comes into confrontation with some rather illogical spear chucking natives - who off a couple of people, neither wearing red shirts- and the more emotional crew, especially over burying their dead; although as far as reactions to death goes, the Twelfth Doctor's "he's the top layer" comment beats him on unintentional offence. A final desperate act proves to be the salvation of his crew, although he insists it was logical. It's a great vehicle for Nimoy, unlike the shuttle, which isn't.

The others aren't bad either; Bones is delightfully cynical and Kirk continues to demonstrate why he should be in that chair.

I gave some serious consideration to giving this a 10/10. If this was an amateur production, I would have most certainly done so. However, the bar is raised for professional works of whatever genre and so I can 'only' give it one mark lower.

Best episode I've seen so far.


15 July 2015

Labour leadership contest

I'm planning to vote reluctantly for Andy Burnham in this as the best of a bad lot. We need to present a credible alternative to the Tories at the next election. Kendall isn't an alternative and Corbyn isn't credible.

In fact, if Corbyn wins this, I'm going to be giving serious consideration to resigning my Labour membership as I'd have difficulty campaigning for that man on the doorstep and I'd rather not ride along on a likely train-wreck of 1983 proportions.

13 July 2015

Don't Call Me Funny Bunny (Review: 'Star Trek' 1.15, "Shore Leave")

Vasquez Rocks County Park.jpg
"Vasquez Rocks County Park" by Thomas from USA - Vasquez Rocks
Uploaded by PDTillman. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The first season of Star Trek is 29 episodes long. Today, most American shows go for 22-24 episodes and if they go for the latter, there's usually at least one episode that is essentially a cheap filler or a clip show.

I'm not sure this one qualifies as either, but it's definitely got some of the stranger scenes that I've seen in an episode of Star Trek.

Kirk, McCoy, Sulu and a few other junior officers beam down to a seemingly uninhabited planet to check it out a head of some possible shore leave. However, Bones soon spots a rather large white rabbit... and no, he hasn't been on the LSD.

Mind you, when I saw the trailer for this episode, I did wonder whether LSD was also involved in the writing of this episode. On conclusion, however, the blood test would probably have come out as negative.

This is a somewhat more fantastical tale, with the aforementioned rabbit followed by Don Juan, a samuari, a Japanese Zero (that's very clearly stock footage for most of its appearance - and not even all of a Zero!) and a tiger, which Shatner wanted to wrestle... but was wisely advised against. This is reasonable enough and the story is actually quite decent once everything is revealed.

Oh and Finnegan, a fellow cadet of Kirk's whose love of pranks against our Captain is beaten only by an accent so Oirish that leprechauns would loath it, who takes part in an extensive fight scene with Kirk that sees him ruin yet another tunic. He is played by Bruce Mars, whose acting career was otherwise short and unremarkable - IMDB says he became a monk.

Star Trek may well have been very forward thinking in some aspects, but in others it is still very much a product of the 1960s. Hence the fight scene is filled with wide telegraphed punches and unnecessary forward rolls. We also get a scene where another Yeoman encounters a fairytale dress and is encouraged by Bones to put it on. Sam Carter would have told him where to get off.

We get some really extensive location shooting in here in the vicinity of what has come to be known as "Kirk's Rock" (its first appearance of nine to date in the franchise and pictured above)  - the Vasquez Rocks County Park roughly 30 miles north of LA that has become an oft-used filming location for alien worlds, Westerns and I'd imagine a few shows set in the Middle East. I recognised it on sight.

The last scene is one of those "Wasn't that hilarious? Everybody have a laugh" scenes that sometimes fill out episodes of a slightly lower quality. Not saying this is one of them - at any rate, Trek does better than many shows even on a bad day.


Light and (relatively) inoffensive. It's not stand out good or stand out bad.


07 July 2015

7/7 ten years on

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the murder of 52 people by suicide bombers on London's transport system, who also injured 700 more.

May they never be forgotten.

06 July 2015

The Chains of Command (Review: 'Star Trek' 1.14, "Balance of Terror")

The Enterprise follows a distress signal from Earth outposts monitoring the Neutral Zone between the Federation and the Romulan Empire; they've come under attack from a very powerful vessel. Kirk must lead his starship into battle to prevent a wider war.

Now, this is an episode that I've seen before on the CBS Action repeats; in fact, the first one in the televised running order that this is true for. Thus I have some memories of it, although not as many as I thought I did. There are three elements that I wish to focus on in more depth here..

Firstly, the battle sequences themselves, made better by the CGI remastering. There is a (probably intentional) major submarine versus destroyer element here, with the Federation ship taking the part of the latter. To give some examples, the Romulans have to 'surface' (i.e. de-cloak) to fire; the Enterprise lays down 'depth charges' via blind phaser fire and the bridge of the former rather resembles that of the main control room of a submarine. It allows for both captains to make move and counter-move; while I of course know what happens to Kirk's ship, I'd forgotten what happened to the latter, so the result is a bit more up in the air.

Secondly, the Romulans. This is the first appearance of one of the major races in the franchise and there's an awful lot of interesting story material woven with sometimes single lines; most notably a Romulus vs. Earth war that would later feature in prequel series Enterprise. The war clearly has major impact on some; both ships have a decidedly hostile senior officer on board. I note that the Romulans have 'Bird of Prey' style ships; these tend to be associated in my mind more with the Klingons, but my anciliary research shows that they are fully present in Star Trek Online.

Lastly, this story does an excellent job of showing the responsibilities of command in a warship with both Kirk and the Romulan Commander (played by Mark Lenard, who made also play Klingons and Vulcans in the franchise); remember that the Second World War was only just over 20 years in the past and so people, including some of those involved, would still have memories of the naval engagements of that war. Kirk knows full well that he is ultimately responsible for the welfare of all of his crew - and that at some point, to protect the former, he has to do serious harm to the welfare of someone else's crew... with as happens here,  a commander has no guarantee that everyone on his command will make it out alive.


A highly absorbing 'battle episode' that combines strong action with a thoughtful story and great performances. Does drag a little though, but that might be familiarity breeding contempt.


03 July 2015

Fringe 1.8: "The Equation"

I had to stop this quite early on to look up where I recognised a red-haired woman from. Turns out that Gillian Jacobs was in Community, but I've only ever seen four episodes of that, so it seems odd that I'd remember that face... I thought initially it was Elena Satine, who played the annoying Louise Ellis in Revenge... and on looking up her up on IMDB, she appears to have born in Georgia i.e. the former Soviet state. Very interesting.
Rather than do a long drawn out post, I'm just going to outline some key points about this episode, which sees Walter have to return to his former mental hospital to find out key information to save an abducted boy.
  • John Noble is investing Walter Bishop with considerable depth and humanity; you really do feel for the poor guy.
  • I'm sure that real-life mental institutions are less oppressive than that, at least in the 21st century.
  • J.R. Orci has been involved in a number of Abrams shows and The Blacklist as writer and producer. Oddly enough, his episodes on the latter are not in the more disturbing category... unlike his work here which is definitely on the horrific side.
  • Do TV shows ever find that their gloomy ex-industrial facility is booked by someone else?
  • When you enter the room where the kidnap victim is being held, Olivia, for crying out loud - make a Spot Check!
  • What's with rejuvenating an apple? A test run for something else?


A good intriguing episode with a lot of questions being raised that I'm sure will be answered in time.


01 July 2015

More Bard Than Good (Review: 'Star Trek' 1.13, "The Conscience of the King")

As it's over twenty quid cheaper than Amazon Prime, I've forked out for the DVD... so we can now resume our trip where no man has gone before...

Captain Kirk and the Enterprise is diverted off course when an old friend of his, one Dr. Thomas Leighton, believes that he has identified the lead actor in a Shakespearean acting troupe, one Anton Karidian, as Kodos the Executioner; who was responsible for the murder of 4,000 people on a colony twenty years ago in a massively misguided famine relief effort. Leighton is one of the surviving eyewitnesses, as is Captain Kirk and one Lieutenant Riley. Yep, the Irish-American dude is back and more on him later.

Leighton duly gets murdered and Kirk, acting in a rather secretive manner, decides to offer said troupe, which includes an attractive lady who the Captain does get to snog, a lift to Benecia (oddly enough, where Phoenix's Star Trek sim is currently at). His aim to make sure that it is indeed Kodos...

The three regulars are good as usual; there's a wonderful scene with an off-duty Bones and Spock as the former tries to persuade the latter to have a drink. We also get some extensive vocal stuff from Majel Barrett, who would provide computer voices for all six TV shows in the franchise as well as most of the movies. She does computer very well, that's for sure.

Then there's Riley. The man gets moved down to Engineering, then someone literally walks up to his coffee and sprays poison into it (with a sprayer of the sort you use to clean windows!) while his back is turned because he's listening to Uhura singing. Now I know that many actors do get a decent singing training, but her performance just felt like padding. Riley does not exactly cover himself in glory, but does end up covered by a rather tacky blanket later.

Things get worse with the guest cast... Arnold Moss as Karidian, who spent a lot of time on Broadway in his career, and Barbara Anderson as his daughter Lenore. Unfortunately, both decide to play it as if they were actually in a Shakespeare play, resulting in some very non-naturalistic delivery style and the latter, who clearly could do much better as she won an Emmy for Ironside, providing a cringe-worthy performance, especially at the end. Also, Karidian's actual acting... sorry, but Sir Patrick Stewart knocks his Macbeth into a cocked hat.


Sadly, a bit of a clunker. Poor guest actors do not a good episode make.


The DVD box set contains the original "Next Time" trailers for the relevant episodes, which I intend to watch once I've concluded each ep in the run.

The next episode, however, is going to be a more complex one to review. With "Balance of Terror" I've at last bumped into one that I've actually watched before.