18 Days of Paranoia #18: Nineteen Eighty-Four (dir by Rudolph Cartier)


Well, here we are at the end of both March and the 18 days of paranoia.  We started things off with a review of The Flight That Disappeared and now, we end things with a look at the 1954 BBC production of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

“Orewllian” is a term that gets tossed around a lot nowadays, largely by people who the real George Orwell probably would have viewed rather dismissively.  Ever since the election of Donald Trump, for instance, it’s become rather common for certain people of twitter to say that “Orwell was right” or that we’re living in an “Orwellian nightmare.”  I remember after Trump’s press secretary blatantly lied about the size of the crowd at the inauguration, there was even a commercial that featured Zachary Quinto giving a hilariously overwrought reading of the final passage of George Orwell’s 1984.  “He …. LOVED …. BIG …. BROTHER!” Quinto declared while staring grimly at the camera.

Interestingly enough, many of the same people who complain about Trump’s lies being Orwellian never used the term during the previous 8 years, when we were being constantly told that a permanent recession was actually a sign of a strong economy and that if people liked their doctor, they could keep them.  The fact of the matter is that, for a lot of people, “Orwellian” is just a term that they use whenever a politician from the other side does something that they dislike.  It makes you wonder how many of them have actually read 1984 because, if they had, they would surely know that — if we truly were living in the world depicted in Orwell’s novel — no one would be allowed to acknowledge it and, in fact, Orwell and his books would have vanished down the memory hole.  Just the act of saying that we’re living in 1984 without getting sent to a reeducation camp is proof that we’re not (or, at least, we’re not just yet).

That’s not to say that 1984 isn’t an important work of literature.  In fact, it’s probably one of the most important books ever written, which is why it does it such a disservice to glibly toss around the term Orwellian.  Even if we aren’t living in Orwell’s world right now, it’s probably easier than ever to imagine a scenario where we eventually could.  The Coronavirus pandemic, for example, is just the sort of thing that could lead to the people accepting the idea that the government is meant to be a Big Brother and that those who disagree deserve to be reported for the good of the people.  It’s easy to imagine a future where people believe that history started with the Coranavirus and that everything that happened before the pandemic was just a hazy rumor, like Europe before the Renaissance.  As such, even if the term Orwellian is overused, 1984 is still a book that needs to be read and understood.

There have been several film adaptations of 1984, some of which are better than others.  My personal favorite is the 1985 film, which was directed by Michael Radford and which starred John Hurt and Richard Burton.  Running a close second, however, would be the version that was made for the BBC in 1954.

This version sticks closely to Orwell’s novel, though it downplays the book’s sexual themes.  (This is not surprising considering that this version was made for 1950s television.)  Though it condensed Orwell’s story, it hits all of the important points.  Winston Smith (Peter Cushing) is a member of the Outer Party who works at the Ministry of Truth and who lives a rather drab existence in London, “the chief city of Airstrip One.”  He is a citizen of Oceania, which has always been at war with Eurasia.  Winston lives under a system of government called Ingsoc and every day, he spends two minutes hating a mysterious figure named Goldstein.  All around him are posters of Big Brother, watching him and judging.

On the outside, Winston is a loyal party man but on the inside, he has questions and doubts.  How can he not when he works for the Ministry of Truth?  His job is to change history to reflect whatever the current version of it may be.  Some of his co-workers, like Symes (Donald Pleaseance), are openly cynical about what they do.  Others, like O’Brien (an imposing Andre Morell), seem as if they might be sympathetic to Winston’s doubts but Winston cannot be sure.  Meanwhile, Winston has found himself obsessed with Julia (Yvonne Mitchell), who is a member of the Anti-Sex League but who might have doubts of her own.  (Then again, she could also be a member of the Thought Police.)

When Winston is finally arrested for being a thoughtcriminal, it leads to a harrowing interrogation where he learns that truth doesn’t matter, the numbers add up to whatever the party says that they add up to, and that no one is strong enough to survive the ordeal of Room 101.

The BBC adaptation of Nineteen Eighty-Four was, for the most part, a live performance with a few filmed scenes inserted into the action.  Still, the fact that the majority of the actors were delivering their lines lives brings a certain immediacy to the film.  Everyone seem nervous and edgy.  In real life, that could have been due to the fear that they would miss a line but it also feels appropriate for people who spend every day of their life being watched and judged by Big Brother.  The entire production does an excellent job of creating a world where every minute is suffused in an atmosphere of dread and fear.  From the minute we first see him, Winston seems to know that he’s doomed.  The fact that Big Brother would rather torture and brainwash him rather than just make him disappear just makes things worse.

The production is full of actors — like Cushing, Morrell, and Pleasence — who would go on to become leading figures in the British horror industry and all of them do an excellent job bringing Orwell’s horror to life.  Peter Cushing, with his mix of intelligent features and neurotic screen presence, makes for the perfect Winston Smith and Andre Morrell is just as perfectly cast as the fearsome O’Brien.  The scene in which Winston is forced to confront Room 101 is still a harrowing one and this film perfectly nails the novel’s famous ending, doing so in a low-key manner that’s far more effective than the overwrought approach that other adaptations have brought to the final scene.

Nineteen Eighty-Four can currently be viewed on Prime.  The print is a bit grainy but that only adds to the film’s power.  It comes to us like a hazy vision of the future.

Other Entries In The 18 Days Of Paranoia:

  1. The Flight That Disappeared
  2. The Humanity Bureau
  3. The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover
  4. The Falcon and the Snowman
  5. New World Order
  6. Scandal Sheet
  7. Cuban Rebel Girls
  8. The French Connection II
  9. Blunt: The Fourth Man 
  10. The Quiller Memorandum
  11. Betrayed
  12. Best Seller
  13. They Call Me Mister Tibbs
  14. The Organization
  15. Marie: A True Story
  16. Lost Girls
  17. Walk East On Beacon!

Great Moments In Television History: Ghostwatch Traumatizes The UK


On this date, twenty-seven years ago, children across the UK were scarred for life.

It was on Halloween night that the BBC aired a live call-in discussion show called Ghostwatch.  Recognizable BBC reporters like Craig Charles and Sarah Greene were seen investigating a reputedly haunted house and playing Halloween pranks on each other.  In the studio, host Michael Parkinson interviewed an expert on the paranormal and invited viewers to call in tell their own stories of the supernatural.  Many people called throughout the show, telling stories about how they had been haunted by a malevolent spirit called Pipes.  Even as Parkinson laughed off the stories, strange things started to happen in the house and the studio.  A mirror fell off the wall and landed on a member of the crew.  The calls into the show started to get increasingly desperate as the callers said that they were being attacked by Pipes at that very moment!  The show’s paranormal expert said that the show was acting as a “national seance” and soon poltergeists would be attacking ever home in the UK!  Suddenly, viewers saw something inside the haunted house grab Sarah Greene and drag her off camera!  Inside the studio, the lights exploded and everyone fled, except for Michael Parkinson.  After saying he wasn’t sure if anyone was still out there who could hear him, Parkinson suddenly started to recite a nonsense rhyme.  But his voice was different and viewers realized that Parkinson had been possessed by Pipes!  “Fee fi fo fum!” Parkinson threateningly intoned before the picture finally went dead.

Ghostwatch, of course, was an enormous prank.  Though it was presented as being a live broadcast, the whole thing had actually been filmed a few weeks before.  Even though Michael Parkinson gave out the BBC’s actual number when he asked viewers to call in with their ghost stories, viewers who called during the airing of Ghostwatch heard a message telling them that the show was fictional.  (Unfortunately, so many people tried to call during the show that most callers got a busy signal instead.)  Michael Parkinson, Craig Charles, and Sarah Greene were all recognizable, real-life BBC news personalities but none of them were actually attacked by ghosts or possessed on Halloween night.

Just try telling that to the children who watched Ghostwatch.  Some were reportedly so traumatized by the show that they were still having nightmares weeks after it aired.  Despite the fact that Ghostwatch had aired as a part of Screen One, many were convinced that they had just seen Sarah Greene killed by a ghost and Michael Parkinson possessed by Pipes.  Even though Sarah Greene made an appearance on Children’s BBC to assure young viewers that she had not been killed (despite that ghost dragging her under the cupboard while the entire nation watched), many were not convinced.  What if Sarah Greene had become possessed just like Michael Parkinson?

Always eager for a chance to condemn the BBC, the British press had a field day condemning Ghostwatch.  The BBC responded by placing a 10-year ban on the show.  Ghostwatch would not be released on video until 2002 and it has never again aired on the BBC.  You can watch it on Shudder, though … if you dare!

Previous Great Moments In Television History:

  1. Planet of the Apes The TV Series
  2. Lonely Water

Here’s The Trailer For BBC One’s The War Of The Worlds!


Now, this looks really good!

This is the latest of several adaptations of H.G. Wells’s classic tale about Martians invading Earth.  What sets this one apart from some of the others is that 1) it’s set close to the time period that the novel was originally written (the novel was published in 1898 and the new miniseries takes place during the Edwardian era so it’s only a difference of a few years) and 2) it takes place in the country where the novel is actually set.  In other words, the Martians have arrived and it’s up to the British to save us all!

Well, maybe.  Not to spoil the book but let’s just say that humanity didn’t do a very good job when it came to defending Earth from the Martians.

Anyway, this is a 3-episode miniseries which will air on the BBC sometime in the autumn.  (Hopefully in late November or early December, hint, hint.)  Eventually, I imagine that viewers in the States will get to see it.

For now, here’s the trailer!

A Movie A Day #188: The War Game (1965, directed by Peter Watkins)


“Do you know what Strontium-90 is and what it does?”

That question is asked as part of a man-on-the-street interview in The War Game.  Despite a pledge by the Home Office to educate the British public on the possible effects of atomic war and nuclear fallout, the man being asked has no idea what Strontium-90 is.  For that matter, I have no idea what Strontium-19 is.  The War Game makes a good case that the only way anyone will ever understand that true horror of atomic conflict is to live through it but, by the point that we have no choice but to know what Strontium-90 is and what it does, it will be too late.

Clocking in at a brisk 50 minutes, The War Game is set up like documentary, though the majority of the film is staged.  (That did not stop The War Game from winning an Oscar for best documentary feature.)  Made at the height of the Cold War, The War Game suggested that not only was Britain not prepared for a possible nuclear attack but that the attack itself would be so devastating that was literally no way that it ever could be prepared.  Opening with interviews with typical Britons expressing both their ignorance about the longterm effects of an atomic war, The War Game proceeds to visualize what would actually happen if the UK ever did find itself attacked. When the bomb falls, most people are nowhere near a shelter.  (“Within this car,” the narrator says, “a family is buring alive.”)  Even for those who get to safety, it turns out that there is no shelter strong enough to protect its inhabitants from both physical and psychological damage.  The film ends with chilling scenes of London bobbies executing looters and British children saying that they never want to grow up.

The War Game was originally made for the BBC, which deemed the program to be to “upsetting,” refused to air it, and subsequently tried to bury it.  This attempt at censorship had the opposite effect, earning The War Game a theatrical release and exposing it to an even larger audience than would have seen it originally.  However, it would be another 20 years before the BBC allowed The War Game to air on television.  Though, especially for media-savvy viewers, the staged nature of this “documentary” is sometimes too obvious, The War Game is still a powerful and bleakly disturbing vision of an all-too possible future.

Listen to A Christmas Carol!


Now that you’ve had a chance to listen to radio productions of both It’s A Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street, how about A Christmas Carol?

This version was produced by the BBC and it features Sir Ralph Richardson in the roles of both Scrooge and the storyteller!

From 1965, here is A Christmas Carol!

 

“Good Luck, Everyone”


I can still remember the day that my high school history teacher decided to teach us about World War I by showing my class the final episode of the classic BBC sitcom Blackadder Goes Forth.  At first, I was just happy to get a chance to watch television in class but, by the end of the episode, I was simply devastated.

There’s something very appropriate about the fact that one of the best depictions of the futility and destructiveness of war came at the end of a comedy.

And during this Memorial Day weekend, as we pay respect to the men and women who have died in the course of fighting the countless number of wars that have been waged over the course of this country’s history, it seems to me that this final scene is far more eloquent about the costs of war than I could ever hope to be.

Trash TV Guru : “The Day Of The Doctor” — The “Doctor Who” 50th Anniversary Special


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First off, a couple of disclaimers : this is one of those reviews that’s going to pre-suppose a fair amount of knowledge about the BBC’s Doctor Who  from the outset, so if you’re not at the very least a casual viewer of the show, you’re going to feel pretty lost right from the word go. So, ya know — newbies beware. Secondly, it’s well-nigh impossible, at this point, to discuss The Day Of The Doctor without indulging in some pretty serious “spoiler talk,” so if you’re part of the legion of “spoiler police” that apparently have nothing better to do than troll around the internet looking to play seagull (fly in, make a lot of noise, shit all over everything, and fly back out) with any review that gives away any plot points whatsoever, now would be a good time fuck directly off. Major “spoilers” do, in fact,  abound here, so — you’ve been warned.

Now, with all that out of the way —

For those of us who have been “Whovians” for a long time, the 50th anniversary really has been something of a “pinch me, I gotta be dreaming” type of year, hasn’t it? Especially for us sad souls who stuck with fandom during the so-called “wilderness years” between 1989 and 2005, when the 30th anniversary gave us the debacle that was Dimensions In Time, the 35th anniversary gave us — well, nothing, I guess — and the 40th anniversary essentially went unnoticed, even by us, because we were all too busy speculating about what the  just-announced-at-the-time new series would end up looking, feeling, and being like.

Our only frames of reference, then, for how the BBC would celebrate a major anniversary with the show as a going concern were the 10th, 20th, and 25th anniversaries. For the tenth, there wasn’t much by way of hoopla and tie-in merchandising and the like, but we did get The Three Doctors (why I’m saying “we” here I have no idea, as I was barely two years old at the time and had never, to my knowledge at least, seen the show — but whatever), which was not only the first big “reunion story,”  but a pretty cracking good adventure, as well, that introduced the now-legendary figure of Omega into the Who mythos.

For the 20th, it has to be said that the Beeb pulled out all the stops. For one splendid year there they seemed to be willing to acknowledge that this creaky little cheap show that they tried their best to keep out of the public eye really was a genuine global phenomenon despite their best efforts to make it anything but, and we got a slew of anniversary-themed books, toys, magazines, posters — you name it.

And there was Longleat. Ah, yes, Longleat. Fandom’s own Woodstock. The biggest single Doctor Who-related event ever, tales of it still abound — and, like fish stories, grow with each re-telling — to this day. I wasn’t there. I was a 12-year-old kid in the US. But  we heard about it,  even without the benefit of instantaneous online communication. It sounded great then. It sounds even better now. Memories, real or imagined, of Longleat frankly eclipse anything else as far as the 20th anniversary is concerned, especially since the special 90-minute “reunion story” we all got to see, The Five Doctors, was a rather tepid affair at best.

I’ll tell you what, though — warts and all, The Five Doctors was a key moment for American fans for one simple reason : we got to see it first. That’s’ right, us poor yanks, who had yet to see William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, or, in most cases, even Jon Pertwee reruns — we sad former colonists who had been subsisting on a diet of the same Tom Baker and Peter Davison stories over and over again ad infinitum — we got the anniversary special a matter of hours before it was shown on its own native soil. There was a quiet message being sent here — try as the suits at the BBC might to present an image on the home front as a broadcasting organization that specialized in period costume dramas and in-depth news (remember when there was such a thing?), internationally, they knew which side their bread was buttered on. Doctor Who was their number one worldwide property, and the booming American fan market was where the action was. Let’s just not tell the folks back in the UK, shall we?

Following on from that, though, something curious happened — more or less immediately after admitting that an international breakthrough was taking place, with a Doctor Who  convention going on, quite literally, every weekend in one major American city or other, Auntie Beeb suddenly remembered that the show was an embarrassment. At the very same moment that an ever-hungrier North American fan base was clamoring for more Who, the powers that be decided to give us less. In these days before mass-released DVD or even VHS, a famished fan can only subsist on the same set of re-runs over and over again for so long, and the BBC effectively killed its own golden goose by putting the show “on hiatus” for 18 months — then giving us drastically shortened seasons when it did, in fact, quietly return.

As a result, the 25th anniversary was a complete disaster, both at home and abroad. Very little recognition was given to the occasion from official quarters, and the “special story” broadcast to commemorate what should have been a proud milestone instead was a limp little Cybermen three-parter called Silver Nemesis that essentially followed the exact same plotline as the recently-concluded (and far superior) Remembrance Of The Daleks, only with different villains.

All in all, it was an anniversary well worth forgetting.

Fast forward a quarter century and things couldn’t be more different. Doctor Who is the shit, as far as the BBC is concerned. This is is a new iteration of Who, of course, broadcast by a new BBC that, for good or ill,  has its eye more on its balance sheets than its purported reputation.  Fans around the world are lapping it up, Who-themed merchandise is ubiquitous, and the money machine is rolling. Of course the 50th anniversary is going to be the biggest multi-media juggernaut the BBC has ever undertaken, what do you think they are — stupid?

Full disclosure — I’m something of a curmudgeon when it comes to Doctor Who. I miss the days when the cracks showed and the creaks could be heard. I loved the inventiveness that the Philip Hinchcliffes and Robert Holmeses and Barry Lettses and Malcolm Hulkes (among too many others to mention) were forced to either find or fall back on to make silk purses out of sow’s ears. I loved the first season of the new series, to be sure, but it’s been leaving me feeling increasingly unimpressed ever since. Under Russell T. Davies’ stewardship, I felt it became bland and formulaic. Under Steven Moffat’s.  it’s become bland, formulaic, and overly impressed with itself.

But never once did I consider throwing in the towel and walking away. No sir (or madam). You always keep hope alive for the home team.

And so here we all are — November 23rd, 2013, exactly 50 years to the day from the broadcast of An Unearthly Child, and all of us, everywhere around the world, get to see The Day Of The Doctor, the culmination of an entire year of set-to-overdrive mass-marketing, at exactly the same time.

But was it any good?  And, furthermore, are we all still a bit too giddy to even care?

Well, having watched it twice now, I feel the time has come to give it at least something  of a fair-minded analysis, even if the glow of the occasion hasn’t faded entirely just yet.

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Indications were that we would probably very well be in for a monumental-type story that would shake the foundations of everything we knew and shake up the Etch-A-Sketch all over again. After intense months of speculation, the Night Of The Doctor mini-“webisode” (and thank you thank you for bringing  back Paul McGann !) confirmed that John Hurt was, indeed, a “missing Doctor” that none of us had known about before — furthermore, he was no ordinary Doctor, he was “The War Doctor,” whatever that means. We figured there would be Daleks. We knew David Tennant and Billie Piper were returning. We assumed we’d be plunged back into the Time War — and, once it was announced that Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith would be departing come the Christmas special, we guessed that we might finally get some inkling as to what his (far too heavy-handedly) forthcoming demise at a place called Trenzalore was all about.

We got some of that. And something else that we probably weren’t expecting, as well — an accessible, “stand-alone” story featuring the return of fan- favorite monsters the Zygons. For a time, at any rate.

There’s some rather bland set-up material (that once again bastardizes the memory of U.N.I.T., this time doubling the insult by throwing The Brigadier’s daughter into the mix) with Smith and current companion Clara (played by Jenna Coleman) at the outset, then we do, in fact, go back into the Time War with John Hurt’s War Doctor, then we get re-introduced to Billie Piper (not, mind you, as Rose Tyler — in fact, she seems to still think she’s working on The Secret Diary Of A Call Girl here), and then, after cribbing much of the basic multi-Doctor story set-up idea from both The Thee Doctors and The Five Doctors, writer/head honcho Steven Moffat takes a turn and gives us a somewhat nifty standard-issue Zygon -invasion story that pretty much works, even if he did rip the core idea straight from Grant Morrison’s old Doom Patrol story “The Painting That Ate Paris.” No real harm in that, mind you — Doctor Who has often been at its best when liberally “borrowing” from other works.

Then, though, things do go a bit pear-shaped (again). After lots of fairly successful three-Doctor banter, some good, old-fashioned breaking out of jail cells (that were never locked, but that’s another story), some running around in corridors (yes!), and some nifty little doppleganging that should adequately thrill n’ chill the kiddies in the audience (and ,okay, some of us grown-ups, as well), Moffat does something — I dunno. Curious, I guess, if you’re being generous, and stupid and/or lazy if you’re not.

After spending over 40 minutes bringing the human/Zygon confrontation to a head, getting them all in a room, and employing a very nifty conceit to flat-out force them to negotiate, he drops the whole story. We never find out how it ends. And we’re back in Time War territory again. Only this time with a bigger Deus Ex Machina at the center of it than even anything RTD ever gave us — a big Hellraiser-box-on-steroids with a gleaming red button that the Doctor can push to just end everything.

And he does. Or did. But he doesn’t anymore.

Doctor Who – 50th Anniversary Special - The Day of the Doctor

 

Look, we all know that this show has strayed pretty far from its roots. “You can’t change history, Barbara! Not one line!” has given way to a new “philosophy” of “time can be re-written.” But this, well — let’s just say that the very events that gave birth to the Ninth (or I guess that should now be Tenth) Doctor, Christopher Eccelston, and in turn his successors in the role — well, they’re just no more. The past seven seasons of the show? Well, I guess they still happened — but now, apparently, not the way we saw them. At least not anymore. And the Doctor is most certainly no longer the “Last Of The Time Lords.”

So — what does it all mean? Shit, I dunno. Gallifrey still exists. In a painting.  It never stopped existing (except, ya know, when it did). And whereas the entire history of Doctor Who is based on the concept of a Time Lord running away from home (even though that mythology was developed nearly a decade after the show first aired) — a point that was re-emphasized in The Five Doctors with Fifth Doctor Peter Davison”s famous “Why not? That’s how it all started!” line — now we’re told that the Doctor is going “where I’ve always been going — back home.”

So, ya know, all that Trenzalore stuff we’ve been building up to? Forget all that. It’s Gallifrey or bust now, folks!

I guess all this should be exciting — and maybe, on paper, it is. I like being thrust into unknown waters as far as Doctor Who goes. Even though I’m a bit of a self-admitted sad old traditionalist, as stated earlier. In the days when all we had going were the Eighth Doctor BBC novels, Lawrence Miles’ much-maligned Interference, which basically set all of Who continuity on its ear (for a time, at any rate) excited me. And all this could well do the same — if I had more confidence in the current show-running regime to get things right. Which I don’t. Buuuuuuttttt —

They did get some things here right, unquestionably. The “old school” opening shots in  black and white, complete with vintage theme music, were marvelous. The direction by Nick Hurran was energetic, pacy, and cinematic (in a good way) throughout. The Three Doctors redux portion of the story, with John Hurt functioning as a William Hartnell stand-in, was a joy to watch. Clara seems to be coming along nicely as a companion and was essential to the proceedings here without overshadowing them — as Davies had a tendency to do with Rose, in particular.  And as for that ending —

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Okay, it was about as subtle as a neo-Nazi march through downtown Tel Aviv in broad daylight, I’ll grant you — Clara : The curator wants to see you. The Doctor (sitting, as Clara exits) : Okay. A curator. I’d like to be a curator. I’d be a good curator. Curators are cool. I should retire one day. Maybe I’ll be a curator when I retire. Yes, that’s it, I’ll retire and be a curator. In fact, I bet in some “timey-wimey” way I’ve already done that. And this curator guy who’s about to talk to me, shit, who are we kidding? It’s me. Or another of me, at any rate. It’s Tom Baker. He’s here. In the building.  That’s Tom Baker standing right behind me — but still : it was. Tom Baker. Standing right behind him. And yes,  the dialogue was trying too hard to be mysterious and momentous and came off instead as clumsy, but cone on, people. There he was. The Doctor. My Doctor. And I deserve to smile for the rest of the day for that reason alone. And so do you.

So who knows? Maybe a partial changing of the guard is all that’s in order here. Maybe Moffat just needs to scrap all the baggage that’s hanging on Matt Smith — baggage that, okay, “The Moff” himself put there, but let’s not nitpick here — and start fresh with Thirteenth (did I get that right?) Doctor Peter Capaldi, who actually makes his brief debut in this story in another very cool (if, yeah, very gimmicky) moment. Maybe a re-write of the last seven-plus seasons is just what — sorry! — the Doctor ordered. Maybe it’ll be good for him to go home again. If — and only if — once that’s all over,  he follows the best advice his Ninth (excuse me, I guess that’s Tenth) persona ever gave : “run for your life!”

I’ve been waiting a good few years now for Doctor Who to relieve itself of the burden of its own excesses and get back to the strength — and dare I say beauty — of its core premise, as so splendidly told in Mark Gatiss’ awe-inspring TV movie (and the real highlight of the 50th anniversary so far) An Adventure In Time And Space — a mysterious traveler making his way through the the past, the present, and the future of the whole,  entire universe in a rickety old blue police box that’s bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. That, right there, is all we’ve ever needed.

The Day Of The Doctor did enough , glaring flaws notwithstanding, to make most any fan — including this one — feel more than just a little bit giddy throughout, and I’m reasonably thankful for that,  but it came up short in terms of re-setting the table in the kind of fundamental fashion I’m still hoping to see. It rattled the cupboards, and that’s a good first step, but we’ll have to see where and how the pieces fall after the Christmas special, which has rather stolen its thunder as the big “event” piece of Doctor Who for the year. We seem to be heading straight into the heart of Who mythology and continuity for one last (I hope, at any rate) big blow-out. So, yeah — let him go home again. If that’s what he needs to do to run away.

After all, that’s how it all started.

 

Review: Torchwood: Miracle Day Ep. 08 “End of the Road”


“End of the Road” is quite an apt title for the eight episode in the fourth season of Torchwood. We see the end of a couple characters during the episode and at the same time we finally get the final pieces to the question of who or what caused “Miracle Day”.

The episode begins with the Torchwood team arriving at the Colasanto estate and led by Olivia Colasanto to her grandfather and Jack’s former companion and lover from the late 1920’s. We find out that Angelo Colasanto has kept himself alive through natural means, but is now in a coma as Jack looks on. Angelo’s condition when revealed almost felt like a cop out, but in a major exposition info dump done by his granddaughter we find out who is behind Miracle Day”. They’re called The Families and are made up of the descendants of the three men last seen in the previous episode forming an alliance to study Jack’s seeming immortality.

Angelo himself has been kept out of the alliance due to the three men’s discomfort over his homosexuality. Angelo has been observing not just the three families through the years, but Jack as well in an attempt to either stave off whatever plans The Families have in regards to the “Miracle” or, at the very least, give Jack the clues needed to fix the problem. But before Jack, Gwen, Esther and Rex can do their thing to save the day there’s the little obstacle of Rex’s old boss in the form of Wayne Knight interrupting the Jack/Colasanto reunion. The rest of the episode never lets go of the throttle once John De Lancie’s CIA head honcho Shapiro show’s up and we get closer to this season’s endgame.

The episode was well-written even with the major expositional scene involving Nana Visitor’s character. Each character in the Torchwood team got a chance to shine in their roles with Barrowman making Jack’s bittersweet reunion with Angelo a mixture of happiness and regret. If there was a weak point in the cast’s performance it would continue to be some of the side characters like Wayne Knight’s deputy director Friedkin and Bill Pullman’s Oswald Danes. While I can understand the role of Knight’s character in the overall scheme of things this season I still can’t quite grasp just exactly what Pullman’s Danes character is suppose to do other than be over-the-top creepy. Even Ambrose’s Kitzinger got a chance to own her scene as she finally unleashes what she truly feels about Oswald Danes despite having to be his publicist.

“End of the Road” ends on a major cliffhanger with one of the Torchwood team members shot and the team split apart as the CIA, The Families and everyone else seem to be pulling at them from all directions making their task about solving “Miracle Day” that much more difficult. With only two more episodes remaining this season what looked to be a show that seemed stuck on idle for most of the middle episodes has suddenly begun to speed ahead towards what could be an epic conclusion.

Review: Torchwood: Miracle Day Ep. 07 “Immortal Sins”


I didn’t think Russell T. Davies and his writers could pull off moving the story of Torchwood: Miracle Day towards a resolution that would be interesting, but it looks like they might just do it. The series is now on it’s final stretch run and fears that the show was spinning its wheels about not having any idea what the cause of “Miracle Day” was and what was the endgame looks to be easing somewhat with this 7th episode titled “Immortal Sins”.

The episode was mainly told through a flashback to the early 1920’s where we see Jack entering the U.S. through Ellis Island and befriending an Italian immigrant who also happened to have tried to steal his visa papers. We learn that this man is one Angelo Colasanto and his bright-eyed outlook on being in a new land has made quite an impact on the well-traveled Captain. Soon enough Jack and Angelo become companions and romantically involved, but as with everything involving Jack such happiness never last for long as we find out why Jack was entering the U.S. in the first place. It’s a consequence of Jack and Angelo’s attempted escape following Jack’s mission that his companion  later learns of his inability to die.

In one of the more disturbing sequences throughout this series, so far, Jack’s immortality was tested time and time again. Angelo’s misguided betrayal of his lover leads to Jack being killed over and over only for him to return. It’s from this sequence we see what could be the birth of the shadowbrokers pulling the strings behind PhiCorp and the many others complicit in moving “Miracle Day” along.

While the bulk of the episode was taken up mostly by Jack’s flashback to his meeting with Angelo we still got enough time given over to Gwen as she attempted to save her family from the very people who also want Jack. Even with her loyalty to Jack we see that Gwen will be willing to turn him over to the very people holding her family hostage if it meant saving them. It’s only through a timely intervention by Esther and Rex that Gwen and Jack get out of another crisis. It’s the final moments of this sequence that we finally learn the name of the person who has the key to learning the true nature of “Miracle Day”. Sins of the past looks to have caught up to Jack this time around and it’ll be interesting to see if “Miracle Day” becomes the elaborate plan of a spurned lover and companion and whether Jack will be the key to unraveling the effect of the world’s current bout of “immortality”.

Overall, “Immortal Sins” was a good episode that gave us a nice look into a part of Jack’s past that has only been shown briefly in the past. The episode was actually stronger when it focused on Jack’s past with Angelo and the discoveries made by both men about each other that looks to color the current situation occurring on the planet right now. While the other half with Gwen had it’s exciting moments (mainly once Esther and Rex get involved) this section of the episode looked to be more of an expositional trigger to get Jack to recount his past. I did like how Jack and Gwen seemed to make-up and get back on track as partners once again when the danger had passed. The chest bump between the two was quite amusing. Only time will tell if Gwen’s attempt to save her family’s life by trying to turn Jack over to the very people opposing them would have any lingering effects as the season comes to a close and towards any potential future seasons.

The final three episodes of this season should make for some interesting tv watching.

Review: Torchwood: Miracle Day Ep. 06 “The Middle Men”


Torchwood: Miracle Day is now into the second-half of it’s 10-episode latest season and something just occurred to me even while I was enjoying this 6th and latest episode. For a new season that’s just 10-episode the writers seem to be doing things as if there’s more than just the 10 episodes. For some people this slow pace has become an annoyance as the mystery of what is “Miracle Day” seem to be doing the glacial unveiling. I’m beginning to lean towards these individuals who thinks this season, as entertaining as it has been, looks to be wasting too much of of the season’s remaining episodes introducing new characters left and right to be nothing more than exposition mouthpieces to help add another clue to the mystery of the season.

While episode 6, perfectly titled as “The Middle Men”, was entertaining as we see Rex, Esther and Gwen deal with their part in exposing the government “Outflow Camps” (aka extermination camps for those deemed braindead but still alive), the episode seemed to spin it’s wheels in place once Jack met with one of PhiCorp’s executive who may or may not know the company’s role in “Miracle Day”. Ernie Hudson plays PhiCorp’s COO, Stuart Owens,  who also has begun to investigate on the true nature of the Outflow Camps. One of Owens’ operatives in Shanghai tasked with investigating that country’s Outflow Camps relays an ominous and cryptic message to Owens in the form of jumping off of the roof of the tallest building in the city after what he had uncovered. It looks like the burn units in the Outflow Camps’ module might not be the only way to get around the forced upon “immortality” everyone now has.

The episode actually takes place pretty much where the last one ended and it spends most of it’s time with Rex and Esther finding out who was responsible for Vera Juarez’s “death”. This part of the episode was actually quite frustrating to watch. Some of it was very difficult to watch in a good way as Rex goes through a form of torture that had even me averting my eyes. But it was also a part of the episode where both Rex and Esther make one stupid mistake after the other. Esther I can understand as she’s become almost useless as a Torchwood member outside of her hacking skills. Rex on the other hand I thought would’ve been more wary of his surroundings and those in the Camp he interacted with. The fact that it took a bumbling idiot to save the two put this whole part of the episode into the realm of the absurd.

Gwen’s time in the Cardiff Outflow Camp was a bit more successful though this leads to consequences which puts her in a no-win situation as the episode draws to a cliffhanger close. We did get to see her get into badass mode as she figures out in her own way to put a temporary stop to the burn modules. She does this all the while playfully bantering back and forth with Jack back in LA. This past of the episode was actually the best of the three concurrent story plot threads which has been running for the past couple episodes.

The third part of the episode is more of an exposition dump than anything else. For some reason this season has seen Jack in less of badass role while at the same time the one member of the team who seems to run across people who do nothing but act as exposition dump devices. While Ernie Hudson’s character unloading information on Jack was good and all most of it was something that audiences probably have figured out by now and that PhiCorp is just a link to the those in the shadows pulling the strings on “Miracle Day”. He did give a little tidbit about what might be the endgame for those behind-the-scenes of this worldwide event: The Blessing.

All in all, episode 6 (“The Middle Men”) was a good episode but definitely a step back from some strong ones previous to this one. With only four more episodes remaining in the season I’d be really interested in how Davies and his writers will be able to wrap things up without rushing things. Part of me thinks they may not be able to pull it off and another part of me suspect that there won’t be a true resolution and that a follow-up season may be what’s in store.