No Offense Series 1 Review

  • Series Title: No Offense
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 8
  • Discs: 3
  • Network: ITV
  • Cast: Joanna Scanlan, Elaine Cassidy, Alexandra Roach, Will Mellor, Colin Salmon
  • DVD: Widescreen DVD (R1, NTSC)

Set in Manchester in the UK, No Offense at first seems to be your typical British procedural cop show, good, but not great. However, as the show builds its characters and plot it develops into something different and enjoyable, though as with all procedurals, at times the show can be violent. During the first episode, DI Viv Deering’s squad realizes that they may have a serial murder on their hands. A young woman is kidnapped and after the previous deaths of two young women with Down’s Syndrome, they think they have a third. When it turns out the young woman doesn’t have Down’s Syndrome but was in a severe accident and her nose was packed with gauze and her eyes swollen, they think it could be the same person. The hunt is on to save Cathy before she is killed. The squad manages to rescue her, but she’s a street kid who will go into foster care. Dinah, one of the officers, feels sorry for Cathy and decides to take her in.

Each episode of No Offense has our officers solving one case, but continuing to work on the serial murder case – at first their DSI (Viv’s boss) doesn’t believe it’s a serial case, because Cathy doesn’t have Down’s Syndrome – but Deering and Dinah point out that at night, in the rain, with her eyes and nose swollen, it was probably a case of mistaken identity. When another Down’s Syndrome girl goes missing, the serial murder case is confirmed. At first DSI Maclaren assigns it to someone else, but DI Viv Deering and her crew get it back. In each episode, as they work on and solve other cases, they also make progress and have setbacks in the main case – the serial murders.

The season develops, and also develops the characters, becoming an intriguing mix of short cases, long-form mystery, and development of flawed but dedicated detectives – including unconventional and hard as nails DI Viv Deering, her new sergeant DS Joy Freers, and detective Dinah Kowalska, who is now caring for Cathy. Traumatized by her experience, Cathy cannot remember the details of who took her, including what he looked like. She works with a female forensic psychologist to try to restore her memories. The gradual recovery of her memory and the clues the police team discover leads to solving the case, but not before another Down’s Syndrome girl dies. However, when the killer is caught, Cathy realizes he wasn’t acting alone, and it was his partner who raped her.

This fact creates a brand new wrinkle in the case. DI Deering also realizes that someone in her department is leaking information to the killer, intentionally or not. She and Dinah launch a secret investigation into their own department, even including DSI Maclaren in their suspects. This is a bad decision with huge consequences for everyone. Eventually, DI Deering discovers this mole is much closer to her than she realizes and she’s faced with some serious questions.

I don’t want to spoil the ending of the season, but this is not, after all, just another typical police procedural. I highly recommend it, especially if you like complex mysteries with quirky yet real characters.

Book Review – The Martian Invasion of Earth (audio)

  • Title: The Martian Invasion of Earth (based on War of the Worlds)
  • Series: Big Finish Classics
  • Discs: 2 CDs
  • Author: HG Wells (original novel); Nicholas Briggs (adapted screenplay)
  • Director: Nicholas Briggs
  • Cast: Richard Armitage, Lucy Briggs-Owen, Hywel Morgan, Ewan Bailey, Richard Derrington, Helen Goldwyn, Christopher Weeks

The Martian Invasion of Earth is Big Finish’s full audio play adaptation of War of the Worlds. They couldn’t use the actual title due to copyright reasons. The audio play is an adaptation of the original 1897 novel and thus is set in the UK. Herbert Wells and a scientist named Ogilvy are studying meteorites in the night sky when one seems to become a shooting star. They track it to a field or common in the country and find a fallen cylinder. Herbert hears movement inside the burning hot cylinder and goes off to find help. He finds a guy with a cart who completely and totally doesn’t understand the urgency of Wells’ request for help. This will be a reoccurring theme, as nearly everyone our main characters encounter who represent “normal” working people are complete idiots.

Eventually, a group of people gathers near the cylinder to help and begin working to get around or through the pit that surrounds the cylinder. One is the scientist, Ogilvy, who insists that any culture advanced enough to travel to another planet must be advanced and peaceful, therefore they must help. One of the workers falls into the pit, and the crowd tries to get him out. Even soldiers arrive in case the cylinder is a threat. The creatures inside do emerge and before long they attack the soldiers with their heat ray, a sort of invisible laser. Ogilvy is one of the first to die, as do many of the soldiers.

Wells and his wife, Amy, return home. The next day, it’s clear there is great danger from the cylinders as the Martians are now in metal machines that attack with their heat rays and clouds of deadly black smoke. They are also turning the countryside red by leaving behind some type of red weed. Wells urges Amy and his servant to leave. They get in a dog-cart and run, but during a storm spot a  Martian machine literally on the warpath. There’s an accident and the servant girl is killed, as is the horse, and the cart is destroyed and useless. Amy and Wells survive and begin to walk, hoping to find safety by getting to the coast. Herbert mentions his brother, Edward lives in London and that the Martians seem to be heading towards the city.

Meanwhile, near London, a woman named Agatha is trying to escape in her hot air balloon. She’s being swamped by other people who also want to escape. Edward Wells stops one of the men attacking Agatha and the two escape in the balloon. They are later attacked in the air by Martians, but Agatha sacrifices her nearly dead mother-in-law to escape. They reach the coast and try to get to a ship. Succeeding they will be at the center of a battle between the Royal Navy and the Martians and in the middle of a fleet of civilian ships that are trying to escape.

Herbert and Amy are simply trying to escape. They stay overnight at the house of a cleric, who loses it when he sees the actual Martian invaders. Amy and Herbert see people frozen and unable to move, then forced into pits. Herbert is even able to look inside an abandoned and partially scraped cylinder and finds dead beings with two arms, two legs, and a head – in other words, beings that resemble humans. They are the food of the bulbous Martians. The cleric attempts to give Amy to the Martians to save himself, but Herbert stops him.

Amy and Herbert leave, see that the Martians are moving to London, and attempt again to reach the coast. Herbert reflects that it makes sense the Martians would want to take over the greatest city in the greatest Empire on Earth. Once they reach the channel, Herbert and Amy strip to their underthings so they don’t drown, and attempt to swim the channel. They duck underwater to avoid the heat ray of the Martians. They are eventually picked up by a ship and get to France, where they run into Daniel, an Army sergeant they met before. He’s assembled a rag-tag group of soldiers and civilians to fight the Martians. Their idea is to shoot large guns straight up to hit the underside of the Martians – which is how they accidentally defeated one of the machines. It’s a good plan, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work as the guns explode instead, killing the men who load and aim them. Amy and Herbert see lights in the sky.

Meanwhile, Agatha and Edward are in the midst of a sea battle. A naval captain goes against orders to protect the civilians, ordering not only his ship but the others in his fleet to stop the Martians and protect the civilians. They shoot the Martian ships and even ram one of the machines – destroying it. Agatha and Edward see lights in the sky.

Amy is nearly panicked as she realizes there are Martian machines in the sky. But then, suddenly, everything stops. And the Martians simply collapse their ships and machines crashing to the ground. In a spoken coda, Herbert explains the Martians succumbed to Earth bacteria from the air they breathed and the human blood they drank. People returned from exile to the North of England, and the continent. Food was sent from the Continent and America to aid the recovery and things quickly returned to normal. But Herbert fears a second attack and urges that the government and scientific community keep an eye on the skies.

This was an excellent presentation of War of the Worlds – a familiar story since it’s been adapted many, many times. The British setting, which of course, is the original setting adds to the story as you have people in horse-drawn carts and on horseback battling Martians. But throughout the story, pretty much everyone Herbert and Amy meet is a complete and total idiot. They do occasionally get help from others, only to have that same person do something dumb because of their fears or just not quite understanding the situation. Edward and Agatha fair somewhat better – the Naval captain who does what’s right to save people instead of following his orders to retreat is one of my favorite characters (he also sounds like Captain Picard). But I wanted to see a fortunate reunion between the brothers Wells and for Amy to meet Agatha and that didn’t happen. I found myself wondering if Edward and Agatha even survived. I also found their story romantic! But overall, this is great story and I really enjoyed it. Recommended!

Supergirl Season 4 Review

  • Series Title: Supergirl
  • Season: Season 3
  • Episodes: 22
  • Discs: 5
  • Network: CW
  • Cast: Melissa Benoist, Katie McGrath, Mehcad Brooks, Chyler Leigh, David Harewood, Nicole Maines, Jesse Rath, Sam Witwer, Jo Cryer, Andrea Brooks, Bruce Boxleitner
  • Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC, R1

The fourth season of Supergirl breaks into two parts, which is why when I missed the first half of the season due to watching Doctor Who instead I didn’t feel all that lost. In the first half of the season, President Marsden (Lynda Carter) is attacked during a conference at Camp David. She’s revealed to be “an alien” and forced to resign. Her replacement is President Baker, played by Bruce Boxleitner, this new president seems obsessed with finding out “the truth” about Supergirl. But more about him in a moment.

Due in part to the revelations about President Marsden, anti-alien sentiment is on the rise. J’onn J’onzz, now a private detective (John Jones) is concerned about this anti-alien feeling. Kara ignores his warnings. Later, a friend of John’s is kidnapped from the alien bar. John meets her fiancé, Manchester Black. They become friends and allies and attempt to find the missing woman. Anti-alien attacks increase, fueled by a mysterious figure known as “Agent Liberty”, and his ruffians, the Children of Liberty, who wear a uniform of black pants, grey hoodies with a large bronze star on the right breast, and “Agent Liberty” masks – robotic-like gold/bronze masks. Whenever one of these agents is caught committing crimes against aliens (beating them up, kidnapping, firebombing homes and businesses, even murder) they claim, “we are all Agent Liberty”. As the attacks worsen, Kara is finally convinced to help J’onn find the mysterious woman and to try to stop the Children of Liberty. They find the woman, but it’s too late. Agent Liberty used an alien device to control her innate psychic powers and then control a large group of aliens and force them to attacks humans at the National County Fair. By the time J’onn and Manchester black find Fiona, she’s dying. This will set Manchester Black on a very dark path.

Although Agent Liberty is responsible for the attack, the aliens are blamed. James Olsen, who had escaped prosecution for being Guardian thanks to intervention by Lena, tries to break up the violence at the Fair. He becomes the Children of Liberty’s “Human Hero”. James considers denouncing the Children of Liberty for a few seconds but then decides to roll with it and go into deep cover to find out more about the organization and uncover Agent Liberty’s identity. President Baker starts to make noises about repealing Marden’s Alien Amnesty Act, which gives aliens civil rights. Baker also puts a new army colonel in charge of the DEO and charges her with finding out as much as she can about Supergirl, including her secret identity. Baker also sees the attack at the Fair as a personal insult to him and a threat to his presidency – something which doesn’t make sense and is the first real indication that something is wrong with Baker.

In an episode ironically called, “Man of Steel”, we find out Ben Lockwood’s (Agent Liberty) background. His father is an extremely prejudiced man who hates aliens, all aliens, and blames them for his own problems. He owns “Lockwood Family Steel”, a steel factory, and feels threatened when a new Nth Metal factory opens in his town, bringing jobs and opportunities for everyone. Even though this new plant offers opportunities to everyone, Lockwood Senior sees it as an “alien threat” out to destroy his factory. He goes to Lena at L Corp to demand she shut down the factory, but refuses her offer of a grant to modernize his own factory and re-train his workers. Initially, Ben Lockwood ignores his father’s prejudice and his wife even tells the man not to use pejorative language in front of their son. Lockwood Senior organizes an attack on the alien factory and attempts to burn it down. Later his own factory closes. The family also loses their home in one of the fights between superheroes and aliens (Ben sees Martian Manhunter knock an alien through his house, which promptly explodes – another scene which makes no sense). Ben is still teaching at a local university when his lectures become increasingly full of lies, manipulations, and slurs against aliens, including alien students. He’s fired after numerous complaints and warnings. (Among Lockwood’s telling quotes, he claims “the framers of the Constitution wrote it to apply to White Men only – not aliens”. Yeah. And apparently, women, African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, immigrants, and anyone who isn’t a white man doesn’t deserve rights – no wonder he got fired.) Although the entire episode is meant to make Lockwood more sympathetic and understandable (his father dies in a fire in his own factory) it really just shows how Lockwood, like his father, decided “other people” were to blame for his problems. It also shows both Lockwood and his father taking no responsibility for themselves, their actions, or others. Lockwood Senior fires all his factory workers – well before he has to, and also refuses to modernize his factory or re-train his workers. It’s also strange that a man who owns a Steel Factory is portrayed as Middle Class – when he’s more likely to be a billionaire, who could have sold his factory and moved his entire family to Aruba.

Getting back to Supergirl and company – with help from J’onn J’onzz, and Manchester Black – Supergirl finally discovers Lockwood is Agent Liberty, but she is unable to stop him. The situation at the DEO worsens, with one of the agents betraying Supergirl to Col. Haley. When Haley threatens Alex, they have J’onn wipe her mind of the knowledge. J’onn also wipes the mind of every DEO agent who knows who Supergirl is. Brainy is able to compartmentalize his knowledge and even erase it in the short term. But Alex insists she also must be mind-wiped. J’onn agrees. Kara objects, but the mind wipe is done anyway. This changes Alex’s personality, and she becomes as anti-Supergirl as Haley.

Meanwhile, at Catco, Kara takes a new cub reporter, Nia Nal under her wing. Nia and Brainy meet and become friends. Brainy seems to want something more, possibly romantic, in his relationship with Nia. Nia is a trans woman. She also is or will be, the superhero, Dreamer. Brainy knows her, or one of her descendants, in the future. Nia and Brainy are adorable with each other – and Nia is a lovely character. As she becomes aware of her powers, Brainy gives her a notebook of costume ideas, helps her design a costume, and trains her in the use of her powers.

Slowly introduced into the season is Lena working on the Haran-El, a substance she thinks can cure disease but that she later uses to give humans superpowers. We also meet Red Daughter – a clone of Supergirl, discovered in Kaznia, and trained by Lex Luthor, whom Red Daughter calls, Alex. Lex fills her head with propaganda, and when the Alien Amnesty Act is repealed by Baker, has her dress like Supergirl and attack the White House. Supergirl is also there, but helpless, as she’s held in a Kryptonite suit until the attack is over. Supergirl becomes Public Enemy #1. At this point, the connections between Ben Lockwood, Lex Luthor, and President Baker start to become a little clearer. Baker not only pardons Lockwood (who had been arrested for his crimes as Agent Liberty) but makes him the Secretary for Alien Affairs. That’s right – a man who started a radical and violent anti-alien hate group is appointed Head of Alien Affairs. His priority is to abolish the Alien Amnesty Act (which, remember, is basically an Alien Rights Act).

Supergirl continues on, trying to ignore the target on her back, but a chance encounter with a political prisoner at Strikers convinces her to temporarily do more good as Kara Danvers, reporter. She and Lena also examine Lex’s cell, discover he was able to come and go as he liked. Lex had also gotten compassionate leave to see Lena because he had cancer. He pushes Lena to cure it, and when she has doubts – he has James shot and shuts off the power to the hospital during his surgery. Lena uses the Haran-el to save James but decides not to save Lex. Unfortunately, he gets to it first, cures himself, and he and Otis tie-up Lena, then escape. Lena also ends-up with a contract to develop Haran-el into a super serum for the DEO. Lockwood also manages to steal Haran-el from the DEO, during a weapons sweep and injects himself.

But when Supergirl decides to investigate Lex and that leads to Kasnia, Lena joins her. They discover Red Daughter, her training tapes, and a lab where Lex is draining alien powers. Aliens he obtained from “the DEO Desert Facility”. Kara also discovers that Kasnia, led by Red Daughter, is planning an attack on the United States. Kara runs back to DC to inform the president. When she gives President Baker proof of the impending attack, she discovers he knows all about it, and he is Luthor’s stooge. The president has Kara kidnapped and is held in Kryptonite bonds. She and Red Daughter fight and Kara escapes. She goes to Lena and Alex, dressed as Supergirl, but is afraid she will be turned in. Lena and Alex vow to help her. Alex gets a call from her Mom that Kara is at the Danvers home. Supergirl and Alex head there. Supergirl and Red Daughter fight and Supergirl is apparently killed. But Alex, who has broken through J’onn’s mental blocks, remembers that Supergirl is her sister and brings her back. However, Kaznia attacks the US, Lex stops the attack – and Lex kills Supergirl (Red Daughter).

Lena, Alex, Supergirl, Brainy, and Dreamer work to stop this mess that sees Lex as the puppetmaster, pulling Baker’s strings. But it’s Lex’s obsession with finding and destroying Supergirl, as well as destroying Argo – the Kryptonian city in space (where Lois and Superman currently are because Lois is pregnant) that proves his downfall. Kara publishes an article laying out the facts of Lex’s deception, giving the background on Red Daughter, including her attack on the White House, and exposing Lockwood and Baker. The article brings down Baker’s government. The Alien Amnesty Act is reinstated. The aliens that Lockwood rounded-up are released (other than those that Lockwood and Luthor killed by draining them and converting their power to energy).

But unknown to Supergirl, Lex isn’t dead and he escapes. Lena tracks him to Kasnia and shoots him. However, as he’s dying he reveals to Lena that her friend, Kara Danvers, is Supergirl. This devastates Lena.

The second half of Season 4 works better than the first half. Lex Luthor is a formidable opponent. This portrayal shows him as a master manipulator and chess master. Lex actually gives himself cancer by exposing himself to high levels of radiation at a nuclear reactor in Kasnia, so he will be released from prison, sent to see Lena, and she will be forced to finish the Haran-el serum, which she will either use on him or he can use on himself. Lex also recruits Eve Teschmacher to work for Lena and spy for him. But Lex has a fatal flaw – he hates Kryptonians, and is willing to risk everything he gains – simply to kill Superman, destroy Argo, and kill Supergirl and Red Daughter. In essence, Lex’s anti-alien prejudice is what ultimately brings him down.

Ben Lockwood, on the other hand, is a more political and realistic villain, but his rhetoric is full of lies, manipulations, and he’s very good at whipping up fear, distrust, and hatred. Lockwood is a warning for our times, but at the same time, throughout the first half of the season, Kara especially keeps making mistakes – as do the people around her. At first, Kara doesn’t believe J’onn when he says the fear and hatred of aliens is becoming stronger and more dangerous. She even ignores the first few anti-alien attacks. When it becomes too extreme to ignore, Kara tends to trust the wrong people, including Manchester Black, who becomes consumed with the need for vengeance for the death of his fiancée. At least Manchester is straight forward, though his conflict with J’onn is forced. Kara, however, is blindsided by Red Daughter’s attack on the White House. Kara also stands by when Alex agrees to let J’onn wipe her mind of memories of Kara being Supergirl – something that proves to be a very bad idea. Yet there are also wonderful moments, Kara, not Supergirl, standing with Brainy, Nia, and John at the front of an alien counter-protest against Lockwood’s rally to appeal the Alien Amnesty Act. The entire episode where Kara and Nia go to her hometown, a town when humans and aliens have lived in peace together for generations, to visit Nia’s family. Kara’s interview with Dreamer (after Baker declares Martial Law and deputizes the Children of Liberty, freeing Lockwood to round-up innocent aliens). Unfortunately, Kara and her cameraman miss a perfect opportunity when they fail to film Lockwood’s attack on Catco, his men pointing guns at the unarmed Kara and James, and those same jackbooted men in black uniforms trashing Catco. The attack, if presenting on film, would have been as damaging to Lockwood and Baker as Kara’s later article. The series also missed a great opportunity in not having Kara and company prove that the “proof” that Marsden was an alien was faked and restoring her to her rightful position after Baker’s coup. Still, even though the season gets dark and depressing, especially the first ten or so episodes, in the end, Supergirl prevails.

Supergirl also includes the final part of the Elseworlds trilogy and the last episode includes a set-up with the Monitor for this season’s Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Read my Review of Supergirl Season 1.
Read my Review of Supergirl Season 2.
Read my Review of Supergirl Season 3.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Jigsaw War

  • Title: The Jigsaw War
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Eddie Robson
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Jaime, Second Doctor, Moran
  • Cast: Frazier Hines, Dominic Mafham
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 01/04/2014

**Spoiler Alert** Big Finish’s The Companion Chronicles focuses on the companions, who tell their own stories. The Jigsaw War starts with the Doctor’s companion, Jamie, being held and questioned in a cell. Someone wants to know where the Doctor is, what his plans are, how he is helping the Unhelt, the inhabitants of the planet. But this isn’t your typical interrogation – as Jamie moves back and forth in time, even becoming the interrogator – while his interrogator is now the prisoner. a being called Side tells Jamie if he puts the scenes in order he can create a code that will open the door, a door only he can see. Jamie does put his experiences in order – but he doesn’t key in the entire sequence – realizing that if he does, he will be truly trapped.

As to Side, he is a Fifth Dimensional Being, the Unhelt’s god, who feeds on the emotional upheaval of the Unhelt and the Humans who are repressing and killing them. The Unhelt didn’t attack the complex where Jamie is being held. Everything is an elaborate game. Solving this puzzle lets Jamie and his captor escape.

The Jigsaw War is complex, but not as confusing as one might think. It’s a good story. Recommended.