Felicity Smoak, My Heroine

And the title of my blog comes from this scene in the CW’s Arrow.  No copyright infringement intended.

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Doctor Who – The Moonbase Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Moonbase
  • Story #: 33
  • Episodes: 4 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 1
  • Network: BBC
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Anneke Wills, Michael Craze
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“No, Ben, we can’t go yet!” – The Doctor
“But why not? They don’t want us here!” – Ben
“Because there is something evil here and we must stay.” – the Doctor
“Evil? Don’t be daft.” – Scientist
“Evil is what I meant. There are some corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things. Things which stand against everything we believe in. They must be fought!” – The Doctor

“Resistance is useless!” – Cyberman

Episodes 1 and 3 of “The Moonbase” are black and white animation with the original audio. Episodes 2 and 4 are the original film/video. I like this approach for stories where some episodes are lost, rather than telesnap reconstructions. “The Moonbase” also picks up directly from where “The Underwater Menace” left off – with the TARDIS having a bumpy flight. When the camera pulls back a bit, we can see that Polly is still in her seaweed dress from the previous story and Ben’s still in his wetsuit. the TARDIS lands and the Doctor has his companions change in to more appropriate clothing. They also put on bubble-headed spacesuits to head outside. Once outside they realise they aren’t on Mars as the Doctor promised but on the Moon. Jaime finds this hard to believe. Once walking on the moon, Ben, Polly, and Jaime all discover they can do “super jumps” due to the low gravity. Unfortunately, Jaime gets a bit too enthusiastic and knocks himself out. A pair of scientists from the moonbase bring him inside and Jaime, Ben and Polly join them.

The moonbase is an international station, with an international crew of men. It’s purpose is to monitor and control the gravitron which in turn controls the Earth’s weather. It is of note that while there are scientists from many countries working side-by-side on the moonbase – there aren’t any women. Polly is the only woman in the entire story! A number of the men have suddenly taken sick, with black lines on their faces and hands. Jaime is taken to the medical unit where he is feverish, and keeps muttering that the “Phantom Piper” is going to take him. Polly, acting as nurse, explains to the Doctor it’s a legend of his clan – the Piper appears to those soon to die. Polly continues to act as nurse.

The Doctor finds out what is going on – and offers his services as a scientist and doctor. But, as he admits to Polly, even after examining everything he is stumped – he can’t find anything. But when one of the people from the base enters he asks Polly to look busy, and rushes about, blustering that he needs more time. Jaime sees the Piper – a Cyberman. Polly also sees the Cyberman and to her credit remembers it (having met them in the last Hartnell story, “The Tenth Planet”). The scientists poo-poo Polly, saying there once were Cybermen, but it was eons ago. Even the Doctor isn’t quite convinced.

Meanwhile the base is getting signals from Earth, since the not-quite-controlled gravitron is allowing a hurricane to build that is threatening Hawaii. Later it will turn out these signals are being faked by the Cybermen in both directions. A relief rocket is sent to find out what’s going on – because as far as Earth knows the base has been radio silent for days. The commander’s reports of a mysterious illness are simply never received. The commander also briefly suspects the Doctor, but fortunately that doesn’t last. The Cybermen reveal themselves and even let the commander know how they got in – a hold through the bottom of the store room. This explains the sudden but momentary lost of pressure the base is experiencing.

Meanwhile, the Polly is helping Ben in between playing nurse to Jaime and the others and making the coffee. She asks Ben what the Cybermen are made of, he says metal, she asks about the chest unit, and he tells her it’s some kind of plastic. Polly realises that they can melt the plastic with nail varnish remover (aka nail polish remover). She does have to ask Ben what nail varnish remover is chemically, and he tells her acetone. Polly then does an experiment and melts some plastic in a petri dish using acetone. Ben figures that if one chemical is good – several will be better, and they mix up a cocktail of acetone, benzene, etc. Jaime, now awake and wanting to be helpful, offers to help Ben go after the Cybermen. Ben tells Polly it’s “men’s work” and leaves her in the lab. Polly though doesn’t stay behind, she grabs one of the spray bottles and heads to the control center. Ben, Jaime, and Polly successfully attack and destroy several Cybermen with Polly’s “nail varnish” cocktail.

The Cybermen have become more bold, however, and threaten the control center – taking control of some of the men with units attached to their heads, shooting a hole in the outside wall (letting out the air), threatening to turn off the air entirely, etc. The Commander keeps refusing the Cybermen – even after they reflect the relief rocket into the sun. One of the controlled men gets into the Control center and messes-up the gravitron – but the Doctor notices and stops him.

Eventually the Doctor realises they can use the gravitron itself to reflect the Cybermen off the moon’s surface, just as the Cybermen used it to reflect the rocket. They turn the gravitron manually towards the surface of the moon, and the Cybermen and their ships float off into space, including the reinforcements. The Doctor, Ben, Polly, and Jaime leave.

“The Moonbase” deserves it’s reputation  as a classic. It moves at a fast pace, and the Cybermen are a bit more finished looking than in “The Tenth Planet”, yet still have the really spooky, grating, mechanical-sounding voice. Polly finds a way to defeat the Cybermen using nail varnish (polish) remover (acetone) and she’s also the one who figures out that the poison the Cybermen are using against the men on the base is in the sugar. I guess all that pouring of coffee was worth it! But it’s frustrating that in such an advanced, international station – there isn’t a single woman to be found. Polly is literally the only woman in the entire story. Most of the Doctor Who stories, even in the 1960s had female guest stars, so this one really stands out for it’s total male cast. (“The Underwater Menace” had Ara the handmaiden who helps Polly, a old woman in the market who also helps, several unnamed handmaidens in the market, and all the Fish People are women. Power of the Daleks has the scientist/rebel Janey, and a few unnamed background characters for example.) One really wonders what they were thinking to not have any women working on the moon base.

There is also one on-screen blooper. The cyber-controlled man goes into the gravitron control center, knocks out the operator (during the ruckus with the laser shot that puts a hole in the window) and takes the operator’s place, including putting on his helmet – backwords. The poor guy makes quite a show of trying to force the helmet on his head too – when the reason it doesn’t fit is it’s on backwards.

But even with the sexism of such an important Earth institution not including women, and the little opps with the helmet, it’s a good story. I liked seeing Polly being so prominent in the story, though poor Jaime spends two episodes knocked out in the med center. Recommended.

Doctor Who – The Underwater Menace Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Underwater Menace
  • Story #: 32
  • Episodes: 4 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 1
  • Network: BBC
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Anneke Wills, Michael Craze
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“Just one small question, Why do you want to blow-up the world?” – The Doctor to Professor Zarkoff

“Nothing in the world can stop me now!” – Zarkoff

Part 1 and 4 of  The Underwater Menace are presented as telesnaps with the original audio. Parts 2 and 3 are the original black and white film/video episodes. Telesnaps are what they sound like – pictures taken off a television screen. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work nearly as well as actually re-creating the episodes with animation. Part 1 is especially confusing – Jaime is a new companion in the TARDIS, and they land on an ocean shore. Even Polly remarks that they’ve landed “in Cornwall”. It’s actually Dorset according to the making of featurette included on the DVD, but it’s a sign of things to come in this somewhat off-center Doctor Who story. The Doctor (Troughton), Ben, Polly, and Jaime explore and Polly wanders off – she finds some artifacts and is taken hostage or something. The TARDIS crew find themselves in Atlantis.

In Atlantis the Doctor and Ben are nearly sacrificed to the god, Amdo, while Polly is taken to Professor Zaroff to be turned into a Fish Person. Polly screams and proclaims she’ll “not be turned into a fish!” But the Doctor knows of Zaroff, a famous researcher in getting food from the sea. The Doctor, Ben, and Jaime are treated to a meal that the Doctor claims is delicious, ambrosia. Then the Doctor is taken to Zaroff, while Ben and Jaime are sent to work in the mines. The Doctor does some minor sabotage to the lighting so Polly can escape. Meanwhile, Ben and Jaime meet two miners, Jacko and Sean, who are determined to escape the mines. They all become partners. The Doctor meets up with Zarkoff and realizes he’s completely mad. Moreover, his plan to raise Atlantis by lowering the level of water in the Ocean (by allowing it to drain through a drilled hole into the center of the planet) will destroy the Earth.

Polly makes friends with a handmaiden in Atlantis who helps her out – aiding her escape from the scientists trying to turn her into a Fish Person, getting her clothes and a place to hide in the temple, passing messages along. Jacko, Sean, Ben, and Jaime soon get the chance to escape the mines and follow a tunnel that leads to the temple, so they are re-united with Polly quickly. The Doctor, learning that Polly is hidden in the temple, goes to meet with the priest, Ramo. Despite a rocky start (Ramo had tried to sacrifice the Doctor after all) the Doctor ends-up allied with Ramo, as both want to over-throw Zarkoff. Ramo gets the Doctor a disguise and brings him to the head of state, Thous, to try to get him to stop Zaroff. Thous only wants to raise Atlantis from the sea, though, so he orders the Doctor to be sacrificed again. Ben stops this by pretending to be Amdo, and directing all the religious observers to avert their eyes – while the Doctor and Ramo escape behind the alter.

The Doctor, Ramo, and the TARDIS crew, with help from Jacko and Sean then work to stop Zarkoff. Sean baits the Fish People into going on strike – which stops the food supply for Atlantis. The food that the Fish People raise for the city may be delicious – but it spoils quickly and cannot be stored. This food shortage causes the miners to stop working, and Ben, Jaime, and Jacko help them escape through the tunnels to the higher levels of the city. The Doctor, with help from Polly, breaks the sea wall, flooding Atlantis, including Zarkoff’s lab. The Doctor does try to rescue Zarkoff, but his own arrogance dooms the insane scientist.

Some of the people of Atlantis are drowned, but the rest survive, including Ramo and Thous. When Ramo suggests building a shrine to the Doctor and company, Thous insists they will have no more shrines and no more slaves (the Fish People) they will re-build Atlantis together. The Doctor meets up with Polly, Jaime, and Ben at the TARDIS and they leave – but the TARDIS seems to encounter a problem in flight.

Overall, “The Underwater Menace” is a bit, odd, as a Classic Doctor Who episode. It’s a very fantasy-oriented episode – with Fish People, ancient gods, Atlantis, and the classic battle between scientists, politicians, and religion. But, surprisingly, here – it’s the religious priest who is actually the calmest, most logical, and most sane man of the three. Even when he tries to sacrifice the Doctor it’s more of because he’s been ordered to do so by his king, rather than because he wants to. And Zarkoff is just simply insane. When the Doctor asks him why he wants to blow-up the world, his answer is basically “because it’s there” and as a demonstration of ultimate power. Although with every living thing dead on the planet one wonders who he thinks will observe this demonstration? The Doctor also cleverly manipulates Thous, asking him if he’s ever observed Zarkoff’s eyes. This causes Thous to realise himself that Zarkoff is mad (though Zarkoff then shoots him, but not fatally). Unfortunately, with parts 1 and 4 missing – it’s very hard to figure out what is going on, especially in part 1. I’d really like to see a special edition release of this story with the missing episodes re-created with animation. I don’t understand why BBC Worldwide choose to use telesnaps for the missing stories rather than animation as they have for other stories where individual parts of the whole story are missing. Overall, this is one of the more “campy” episodes of Classic Who (especially Zarkoff – he’s way over the top in every scene he’s in). But it has some good points as well: the inverse of the science vs. religion debate, some great costumes and sets, etc. Yes, I thought the Fish People costumes, and the sea-shell and seaweed dresses were inventive and impressive.

Overall, I’d give it a 3 out of 5, and I’d pay money for a fully restored/animated Special Edition, even though I seldom re-buy something I already own.

 

Doctor Who The Power of the Daleks Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Power of the Daleks
  • Story #: 30
  • Episodes: 6 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 2
  • Network: BBC
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Anneke Wills, Michael Craze
  • Format: Widescreen, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“Life depends on change and renewal.” – The Doctor (Patrick Troughton)

“Why do human beings kill human beings?” – Dalek

The Power of the Daleks is one of several early Doctor Who stories that were lost or destroyed in an effort by the BBC to make more room in the archives. In the UK, the BBC did not repeat or syndicate old programs, and while Doctor Who was sold to other countries, a number of stories were simply lost and haven’t been seen since they originally aired in the 1960s. This DVD set recreates the story of “The Power of the Daleks” with animation and the original audio, using photo references, telesnaps, the original camera scripts, and other information to recreate the original story. I am reviewing the US release which includes one disc containing the story using black and white animation (to recreate the black and white filming) and one disc using color animation (a more modern look). The UK PAL release, which I also have, only has the black and white version. Having seen the PAL black and white version, the US color version, and the US black and white version – I actually prefer the black and white version. Monochrome animation successfully recreates the original experience. I was surprised when I realised that it is in widescreen proportions though, as the original series was in 3:4 (standard), though technically PAL which has more lines of resolution than NTSC from the same (pre-high definition) period.

The story opens with the Doctor regenerating in the TARDIS. The previous Doctor’s coat slips off his new and smaller frame, and the previous Doctor’s signet ring falls off his finger. The Doctor checks his reflection in a mirror held by Ben and first sees his old self (Hartnell’s Doctor) and then his new self (Troughton). For the first episode, the Doctor refers to himself in the third person as, “The Doctor”. Polly (Anneke Wills) accepts he is the Doctor, while Ben (Michael Craze) is more doubtful. The TARDIS lands and the three head outside to explore. The Doctor finds the body of an Examiner from Earth who has been murdered and takes his identification, and is then knocked out. Meanwhile, Ben and Polly are checking out some pools of mercury. Even though Ben warns Polly to be careful, she is overcome by fumes. The three are picked up and taken to the colony.

It appears the TARDIS crew are on the planet Vulcan, an Earth colony. We’re told there is some minor problems on the colony, a group of rebels. The Doctor uses his Examiner’s badge to gain every access to the colony and to ask questions. Also, a scientist, Lesterson, has uncovered a spaceship capsule in the mercury swamp that has been there for hundreds of years. He claims he can’t get inside it. The Doctor and others in the colony quickly figure out how to get through the first door using a laser. Later that night, however, the Doctor discovers that Lesterson has already gone inside and discovered three unactivated Daleks. The Doctor precedes to warn everyone in the colony against the Daleks. But of course, no one takes him seriously – and no one appears to know anything about the Daleks at all.

Lesterson starts to experiment with the Daleks – using electric power from the colony to reactivate one. The newly activated Dalek fires it’s weapon on another colony scientist – the scientist collapses and Janley, a scientist in league with the rebels, reports the scientist is only stunned. Later, it is revealed the scientist is dead. The rebels will try to hold the death over Lesterson to bribe him to help their rebellion. But in the meantime, Lesterson and Janley remove the gun from the Dalek. Lesterson is convinced the Daleks will make great servants and help the colony.

The Doctor, after the first episode or two, acts much like himself – using his position as Examiner to ask questions, and trying to stop Lesterson from activating the Daleks. At first it appears there were only three Daleks in the capsule. But one of the Daleks, now castrated (it’s gun removed), convinces Lesterson to provide them with materials. As  we find out later, the Daleks also get Valmar, one of the rebels, to lead a power cable into the capsule. In a chilling scene, the Doctor, Ben, and Polly witness a Dalek assembly line with Dalek creatures being taken and put into Dalek machines. The sucker arm and gun are attached and the top put on, one by one the Daleks become active as they roll off the assembly line. The Doctor becomes more determined to stop the Daleks and save the colony.

In the second half (last three episodes), the Governor of the colony is off checking on the perimeter stations, so the rebels take their chance. The assistant governor takes over, Janley re-arms three Daleks, Lesterson finally realises that the Daleks are dangerous and that there are many of them. He briefly agrees to help the Doctor, then gives up and offers to serve the Daleks – he’s killed for his trouble. The now armed Daleks kill everyone – rebels, guards, and colonists alike. They even kill the assistant governor who was using the rebellion to take over (he also personally kills the governor). The Daleks use a electrical cable loop to generate static electricity, which they use as a power source. This is how the Doctor defeats them, overloading the static power loop and blowing up the Daleks. This harms the colony’s power system. Although many are now dead, some colonists survive. Some of the survivors aren’t too happy about the damage to the colony’s power plant and systems. However, they will rebuild and improve the colony. The Doctor, Ben, and Polly make their way through the mercury swamp and leave in the TARDIS.

“The Power of the Daleks” is a good story. Surprisingly, it’s about exactly what the title says: how to power the Daleks. First, Lesterson uses the colony’s power to re-animate the three Daleks. Then the Daleks plot to get power (and supplies) to their ship to power their assembly-line and to bring to life the Dalek creatures in the vat. Finally, as the Daleks use static electricity for power, they plot out how to lay cable to generate the static electricity they need. The assembly line scene is very chilling, and perfectly done in the animation.

Overall, the animation for “The Power of the Daleks” is very good. There is one scene where Polly and others are leaving a scene to unseen stage left and instead of turning and walking off stage, they face front and sort of hop and disappear to the side – like puppets, but that was one odd scene. The facial expressions and detail, is very well realized and I just enjoyed it a lot. I would love to see more of the Doctor Who missing stories re-created with animation. Unlike “Power of the Daleks”, many of the stories have some of the half-hour original episodes left on film/video, so not the entire story would need to be animated. That is, a story might have two out of four parts remaining as actual original black and white film/video so only two parts would need to be animated. Furthermore, several of the William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton stories have already been released in this hybrid fashion – as many of the original film/video episodes as possible and the missing episode filled in with animation and the original audio. This seems like the only way to bring these original early stories back so Doctor Who fans can see them.

Again, “The Power of the Daleks” is an excellent Doctor Who story. I really enjoyed it, animation and all. I’d love to see more missing stories released this way. Highly recommended.

In Plain Sight Season 1 Review

  • Title:  In Plain Sight
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 12
  • Discs: 3
  • Cast: Mary McCormack, Fred Weller, Paul Ben-Victor, Lesley Ann Warren, Nichole Hiltz
  • Network:  USA Network (NBC, Universal Production Companies)
  • DVD Format:  Widescreen, Color, DVD, R1, NTSC

In Plain Sight is a little different from the typical Whodunit or traditional cop show – this series is about the US Witness Protection program (aka WITSEC – Federal Witness Security Program) and the Federal Marshals who work in the program to protect witnesses. Some are criminals who testify against other criminals in return for protection. Most are innocents who happen to witness a crime and offer to testify and need protection. Like many series from USA Network, In Plain Sight is character-driven and although it helps to watch the series sequentially it isn’t absolutely required to follow the show. In other words, it’s a bit of a throwback to 1980s-style television (highly character based, plot not so much, with little to no inter-dependency between episodes). Episodes typically revolve around bringing a new witness into the Program, or dealing with a crisis involving a witness who has been in the program for years.

Marshal Mary Shannon is a strong woman and the main attraction of this series – she’s strong, capable, and good at her job. Personally – that’s another story, her mother is an alcoholic, her baby sister is dating a drug dealer who’s using her to transport drugs, and her father’s been missing for decades (and was a bank robber and compulsive gambler before he disappeared). Mary is modern, but conflicted, and has a hard time letting others in to her life.

Marshal Marshall Mann, Mary’s partner, is quiet, intelligent, able to speak intelligently on nearly any subject, and the Yin to Mary’s Yang (or is that the other way around). Marshall and Mary are good partners, and in the first season there’s no “will they or won’t they” romance between the two. In some episodes, Marshall and Mary work together to help the same witness get settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and in others they each have their own witness to protect.

In one episode, Mary and Marshall discover their two separate Russian witnesses, on two completely separate cases, who should have no contact at all – are dating each other, having met through a dating service. While the two, and their boss, attempt to figure out what to do to keep both witnesses safe – and available to testify in two completely different cases, Mary discovers that Serge, Marshall’s witness, actually went through quite a number of women from the same service, and he’s making his money through an Internet payment service. Then they discover he’s installed a hidden webcam in his bedroom and he films himself having sex with women – then gets people to pay to watch it online. Basically, it’s live porn. However, he doesn’t tell the women what he’s doing. Mary reveals this to her witness, Tasha, who is understandably angry – and both witnesses have to be relocated.

The final two episodes of the season are a single story, and wind-up a lot of issues with Mary’s family, but not everything is resolved. Brandi goes to deliver the drugs for her boyfriend (having given herself a cover by having Mary drop her at the airport and pay for a plane ticket for her to go to New Jersey to see her boyfriend). She gets to the hotel, but not only does the guy and his drugged-up girlfriend scare her, but she’s appalled to find a live baby hidden in the bathroom tub. Brandi gives the baby her stuffed bear, Biscuit, which Mary had given her, and anonymously calls the cops on the drug dealers. Meanwhile, her boyfriend, Chuck is caught by the FBI – he offers to turn over info on the Big Cheese drug dealers in return for immunity and protection – but before anyone can do anything – Spanky the drug dealer’s gang shows up, kills the FBI agents, and takes Chuck. In a case of pure mistaken identity, they also kidnap Mary. Chuck is murdered in front of Mary, and Spanky tries to get Brandi to turn over the drugs. But Brandi, and Mary’s mother, Jinx, are being interviewed by the FBI, not to mention Marshall and Stan (his and Mary’s boss) are there because they are concerned for Mary. The FBI agent quickly treats Brandi as a criminal rather than a victim and keeps her at the house so she can’t complete her rendezvous with the drug dealer to rescue Mary. After Chuck’s murder, Mary manages to free herself, kills one of her kidnappers, and shoots up the place before Stan and Marshall come in to rescue her. Mary’s problems aren’t over, however. Not only is she suffering from trauma due to her experience – but one of the FBI agents is convinced her sister is the kingpin of the drug ring, and that Mary knew about it.

In Plain Sight is set and filmed in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It is great to see a show that isn’t filmed in Southern California. And it is also great to see a show that isn’t filmed in Toronto or Montreal, yet pretending to be “somewhere urban USA”. The show is filmed in Albuquerque, and that lends some real authenticity to the show. There are also Native American guest actors on the show, who aren’t automatically shown in a negative light – though, given the show’s subject matter, the Native characters aren’t all saints either. In other words, they are real people – who sometimes get caught up in Mary and Marshall’s world. Both the unusual location and the non-white casting gives the show flavor, and helps it stand out.

Overall, I enjoyed season 1 of In Plain Sight. It has a strong female lead, and women writers (I didn’t notice any female directors though). The other female characters, though a bit, off, are written in many ways also very realistically. At the very least they aren’t simply “eye candy” to serve the male gaze, or there as romantic interests of a male lead. (Marshall is unattached. Mary has an “friends with benefits” casual relationship with a major league baseball player.) The setting is beautiful and different. The plot of the show is also unique, or at least not your standard police procedural fare. Based on the first season, I’d call this a highly enjoyable show and I’m quite likely to purchase additional seasons.

Recommended.

Note: I did have technical issues with my particular set. I had one episode on the second disc that fritzed badly, and another episode on the same disc that would not play at all. I will replace this set when I can and hopefully get a playable disc two.

Grantchester Season 3 Review

  • Title:  Grantchester
  • Season: 3
  • Episodes: 7
  • Discs: 3
  • Cast:  Robson Green, James Norton, Morven Christie, Tessa Peake-Jones
  • Network:  ITV
  • DVD Format:  Widescreen, Color, DVD, R1, NTSC

Season 3 of Grantchester begins in Winter and the season runs through Summer. The first episode on the set is the Christmas special. Amanda, heavily pregnant has left her husband, Guy. The episode parallels her story with the story of Mary and the birth of Jesus in the sense that Amanda’s own family disowns her, and no one in the village wants to help her out of shame and disapproval of her upcoming divorce. Finally, she shelters at the vicarage, and gives birth to a healthy baby girl.

Sidney is torn for the entire season between his love for Amanda, and his sense of duty towards the church. As an Anglican priest he can marry, but not a divorceé. By the end of the season, he’s even ready to give up being a priest, and writes a resignation letter, which he shows to Amanda. The two look at a flat in London. But in the last episode of the season, Amanda first forces Sidney to choose between the church and her, and later gets him to realise being a vicar is who he is.

Meanwhile, Geordie is having an affair with Margaret at the police station. Margaret had been interested in Sidney last season. Geordie isn’t very discrete about his affair, and one of his police officers reveals to Kathy (Geordie’s wife) at the policeman’s ball that Geordie’s being unfaithful. Kathy throws Geordie out. Geordie is torn, but eventually goes back to Kathy and she forgives him and takes him back.

Mrs. McGuire, who is now seeing Jack, is walking back from the village to the vicarage, when she’s shocked to see her long missing husband, Ronnie, in the street. Everyone tells her to divorce him, but she believes divorce is a sin. He tells her he’s dying from lung cancer, then steals all her savings and her silver locket. Sidney, who at this point is trying to decide if he should satisfy his own happiness and marry Amanda or should he stay a priest and serve his people, leaves his dog collar and black suit in the church, changes into civilian clothes and runs to think things through. He hitch-hikes north, eventually finding Ronnie in a Romani (gypsy) camp. Ronnie is married and needed the money to cover his wife’s medical treatment. (As a Romani she doesn’t believe in doctors, and she also has no identity papers or national health care number.) There’s to be a marriage in the camp as well, an arranged marriage to join two families – and the bride to be is Ronnie’s wife’s daughter. Sidney notices something is off about the upcoming marriage. Ronnie however is killed. The Romani suspect Sidney of course. Purely by chance, Geordie shows up (he was looking for Sidney not Ronnie) – and working together the two find the real murderer as well as the motivation for the crime (the girl was in love with a local boy and was pregnant by him). Sidney returns to Grantchester.

In the final episode, Geordie gives up his mistress and returns to Kathy who forgives him (Sidney forgives him first in an incredible scene). Sidney ends up choosing the church. Leonard decides he can’t marry the girl he proposed to – and even approaches Daniel again. And finally, now legally free, Mrs. McGuire marries Jack.

The third season of Grantchester is beautifully shot. It really is just gorgeous. Oh, and yes, Dickens the black lab is still present and adorable. The season emphases the characters and their relationships over individual weekly mysteries. There are mysteries in some episodes – the opening episode (after the Christmas special) features a cricket game and a man who is murdered because of his race (he’s from India/Pakistan). But it’s really each of the main characters facing moral quandaries revolving around love verses duty that’s the theme of the season. And Grantchester falls solidly on the side of duty. Mrs. McGuire feels a sense of duty to her husband even though he left her during World War II and never returned, though she’s seeing Jack, she feels she can’t divorce and marry him. Legally, she could divorce – since Ronnie left her alone for ten years. Geordie feels a sense of duty and obligation to his wife and children, but what happens with Margaret is just something that happened – he, of course as he should, returns to Kathy. Leonard tries to do his duty and get married but he has a blow-up with his fianceé, and she drops him. Leonard sees Daniel and it looks like they might couple up. Or not – Leonard previously felt his duties to the church were stronger than his own feelings. And Sidney, as much as he wants to be with Amanda, his love, ends-up staying in the church as vicar. I do hope Grantchester gets another season, because I’d like to see how some of the decisions made at the end of the season turn out.

Please also see My Review of Grantchester Season 2.

Please also see My Review of Grantchester Season 1.

 

 

Doctor Who – Lost in Time Collection

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Season: Multiple
  • Episodes: Multiple
  • Discs: 3
  • Network: BBC
  • Cast: William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

The Lost in Time Collection also known as The Missing Years Collection is one thing from Doctor Who that I actually avoided collecting for a long time, and even once I bought the collection on DVD, it was a while before I sat down to watch it. This is a collection of incomplete Doctor Who stories, so I thought it would be hard to watch, or at least confusing. It’s definitely weird to watch partial stories, but it’s also amazing how well the individual episodes stand up.

Disc 1 is the William Hartnell Years and includes:

  • The Crusade Parts 1, 3 (with the audio only for parts 2 and 4)
  • The Daleks Master Plan (parts 2, 3, 11)
  • The Celestial Toymaker (part 4)

Special Features include:

  • Surviving Clips (usually censor clips)
  • 8mm off-screen footage
  • 8mm location footage
  • Who’s Who

Disc 2 and 3 is the Patrick Troughton Years and includes:

Disc 1 (Troughton)

  • The Moonbase (Episode 1, 3 audio only), Episodes 2 and 4
  • The Underwater Menace – ep. 3
  • The Faceless Ones Eps. 1, 3
  • Evil of the Daleks ep. 2

Special Features

  • Surviving Footage
  • 8mm films
  • Off-Screen Footage
  • Power of the Daleks trailer
  • Who’s Who

Disc 2 (Troughton)

  • The Abominable Snowmen (ep. 2)
  • The Enemy of the World (ep. 3)
  • The Web of Fear (ep. 1)
  • The Wheel in Space (ep. 3, 6)
  • The Space Pirates (ep. 2)

Special Features

  • Surviving Clips
  • 8mm Film – color (The Space Pirates, Fury from the Deep)
  • The Missing Years Documentary
  • Who’s Who
  • Location Film
  • Raw film trims
  • Commentary Tracks

The good news is that some of these stories have subsequently been released. “The Moonbase” is now available on DVD with animation filling in for the missing episodes (with the original audio). “Power of the Daleks” came out on DVD last year – animated in both black and white and color versions. “The Underwater Menace” is available on DVD, but with telesnap re-creations (with original audio) of the missing episodes rather than animation. “Enemy of the World” and “Web of Fear” were found and released on DVD, though “Web of Fear” is still missing one part – and the DVD includes original audio and telesnap recreations rather than full animation. Still it is good news that between this collection being released and now more stories have been found or re-creations were made using animation and the existing audio. Personally, I’d love to see all the Doctor Who stories re-created with animation.

I thought “The Daleks Masterplan” would be very slow, but each of the three episodes is in a completely different location. On the other hand, there is a lot of “McGuffin, McGuffin who’s got my McGuffin” going on. Well, the Doctor has it (the core of the Time Destructor) but everyone wants it back. But it’s still interesting – and I never knew The Meddling Monk was in “The Dalek Masterplan”. Also, one of the surviving episodes does feature Nicholas Courtney as Bret Vonn; and another features Jean Marsh as Sara Kingdom.

I also enjoyed “The Crusade” more than I thought I would. I’ve never been a fan of the time period of the Crusades – launching a genocidal war against people because of religion just seems so dumb. However, “The Crusade” works because Julian Glover plays King Richard, and Jean Marsh plays his sister, Joanna. The scenes between the two of them especially are full of fire. Marsh’s Joanna is feisty and knows her own mind. When Richard, the King, proposes marrying her off to the Saracen to avoid more bloodshed – she’s having none of it, and even threatens to take her case to the Pope. This feels a bit off – as a medieval woman and a noble, Joanna should be used to the idea of arranged marriages, even if she objects to her proposed husband. Since the last part is missing we don’t know what happened, though history tells us the Crusades weren’t successful and bankrupted England.

For Troughton the collection starts with “The Moonbase” which we now have and clips from “The Underwater Menace” – which was released but with only telesnap re-creations of the missing episodes, not full animation (I want a special edition that’s animated.) I did get to see two parts of “The Faceless Ones” and I’d love to see it finished with animation. That episode features Wanda Ventham as an airport officer, and. Pauline Collins as a girl who’s brother disappears. Ventham was in “UFO” and is better known now as Benedict Cumberbatch’s mother. Collins played Sarah the housemaid in “Upstairs Downstairs” and the spinoff “Thomas and Sarah”.

“The Abominable Snowmen”, very confusing; and two parts of “Wheel in Space” a very “futuristic” episode featuring cybermats (they are adorable! The Adipose of the Classic Era) and the Cybermen, also something about meterorites hitting a space station unless they shoot them out of the sky with lasers. ??? But it was great to see Zoe’s first story! “The Space Pirates” was a bit confusing, because it’s a middle episode that survives – but it’s also exactly what it says on the tin: Pirates…in…space! “Evil of the Daleks” also looked really, really interesting, and as it’s Victoria’s first story, I’d like to see more of that and “The Abominable Snowmen”.

What’s good about this collection though is several stories on it as “lost” have subsequently been released, either with animation, with telesnap reconstructions, or newly discovered. Whooot! I know it may not be economically feasible but the collector in me would love to see most of the Missing Classic Who episodes released as animated stories (incorporating any surviving episodes).

Overall as a collection, Lost in Time, is more an oddity and something for collectors and completists (yes, I am both). But, it’s interesting how well the individual episodes stand up even when all we have left are a few episodes here and there and not complete stories.

The Rockford Files – Season 2 Review

  • Title:  The Rockford Files
  • Season: 2
  • Episodes: 22
  • Discs: 4
  • Original Network:  NBC
  • Distribution Network:  Universal
  • Cast:  James Garner, Noah Beery Jr, Joe Santos, Gretchen Corbett, Stuart Margolin
  • Format: Standard, Color, DVD, NTSC

The Rockford Files isn’t nearly as formula as Batman (1966) was, but it’s still a very episodic show. Every episode, other than the occasional two-parter stands completely on it’s own and you could watch this show in any order, though I watched it in the order presented on the DVDs. There isn’t a set formula to the episodes, but they do have a sameness to them. Rockford is actually a very unlucky PI – his clients lie to him, or misrepresent information, or straight-out use him for often nefarious means. It’s a 70s show so there’s usually at least one car chase and fist fight per episode, and the occasional gun fight as well. James Rockford comes off as a guy who’s just trying to get by, and Garner plays him in a very likable manner. Truly, anyone else playing this part and it would never have worked.

Season 2 promotes Beth Davenport (Gretchen Corbett), Rockford’s lawyer and lady friend to a regular – present in most episodes, and Rockford’s client in two – one where a friend of hers is murdered and she asks Rockford to look into it for her, and a second one where she’s set-up by one of her law clients and nearly dies. Angel (Stuart Margolin), Rockford’s ex-con friend who’s still involved in a number of cons on the side to his newspaper job, also makes a number of appearances. Det. Dennis Becker is pretty much a regular. Rockford’s father, Rocky, is also a regular though not in every episode. The two-parter for the second season focuses on Rocky.

There are a number of prominent guest-stars in this season, sometimes in small roles where the actor is obviously just starting out. It’s often a pleasant surprise to see recognizable people, often “before they were stars”.

Overall, The Rockford Files is fun. There is a lot of action, but there are also some nice complicated plots. In fact, for the most part, many of the episodes have plots full of twists and turns as Rockford tries to figure out just what is going on and keep himself and his friends alive and out of jail. It’s an enjoyable show.

Please also see my Review of Season 1 of The Rockford Files.