Book Review – Sapphire and Steel: All Fall Down

  • Title: All Fall Down
  • Series: Sapphire and Steel
  • Discs: 2 CDs
  • Author: David Bishop
  • Director: Nigel Fairs
  • Characters: Sapphire, Steel, Silver
  • Cast: Susannah Harker, David Warner, David Collings
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/20/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Sapphire and Steel was a British television series on the ITV (Independent Television) network, starring Joanna Lumley as Sapphire and David McCallum as Steel with David Collings as Silver. The series was about, well, it’s somewhat difficult to explain – we don’t know exactly what Sapphire, Silver, and Steel are – just that they are elements, sent to stop time from breaking out because it would be disastrous. Like the original classic Doctor Who series, the individual stories consisted of several half-hour parts and each complete story could be of varying length. For Sapphire and Steel, this could be 4, 6, or even 8 parts. The show was creepy, imaginative, thought-provoking and, also like Doctor Who, low budget.

Big Finish’s audio series of original Sapphire and Steel stories really is quite brilliant and it’s one of my very favorite non-Doctor Who-related series from the company. The series re-casts Sapphire and Steel with Susannah Harker and David Warner, respectively, but this volume has David Collings return as Silver. And it is a full-cast audio play with music, sound effects, and acting. It is not a straight audiobook.

This play, “All Fall Down”, begins with Sapphire and Steel arriving outside the archives of the City of London Corporation. It’s an old building that has been condemned, and inside a small group of archivists and students are trying to rescue the collection stored within. They are scanning or otherwise preserving the artifacts, such as rescuing audio recordings from old wax cylinders and uploading them via FTP to the Internet for access by researchers worldwide. Similarly, old papers and books are being scanned, enhanced, and uploaded. Steel flips out a bit when he hears about this, as old objects are often used as triggers by Time to try to break out, which would be disastrous.

Sapphire and Steel enter the building, meet Dr. Fleming, the head archivist and find out that Silver was sent to the building first and is already investigating. Dr. Fleming introduces them to her student, Mary, and Dr. Webber a forensic archaeologist. Dr. Webber is studying a collection of documents, objects, and bones from a nearby plague pit (burial pit filled with victims of the Bubonic Plague in 1665). Dr. Webber is, however, already acting suspiciously. Mary says he’s over-protective of a plague journal he found in the pit. He won’t let her even look at it, which is odd since it’s her job to scan, enhance, and upload documents and sound recordings. Later, he’s observed to be talking to a match flame outside, but when asked he says he was listening.

As Sapphire, Silver, and Steel try to pinpoint the source of the breakout and encounter more and more echoes of the past – children singing “Ring a Ring of Roses”, a nursery rhyme that refers to the Bubonic Plague, and voices chanting, “Lord, have mercy on us”, another plague reference. Other references are to Bedlam Asylum, especially in the late Victorian Age. Steel and Dr. Fleming start to show signs of plague, and Steel collapses.

On disc two, Sapphire and Silver work together. Webber has taken Mary and escaped into the past. Even though they know it’s dangerous, Sapphire convinces Silver she must create another tunnel to the past, using the same technique that Webber used – burning a blank page of the plague journal. Silver develops a machine to broadcast a homing signal down the tunnel so Sapphire can find her way back. Sapphire heads down the tunnel to 1665 and meets Webber. At first, Webber tries to convince her that he’s been reincarnated over and over by his imaginary friend, Maldeb, who has gained some form of substance. However, Webber is a projection from the past and not real. The creature caught in the time trap is Maldeb. She had been trapped before in the plague journal, but now she was trying to break out. Maldeb is the time disturbance. The various Webbers, including Anton Weber the German inventor, and the Victorian “gentleman” bringing his ward to see the mad at Bedlam Asylum in the late Victorian Age, and the modern Dr. Webber, are mere echoes, ghosts, projections from the past. Maldeb wants to escape it’s prison and plans to have Sapphire take her place.

Meanwhile, Silver succeeds in communicating with Mary. He uses the homing device to bring her back. But just before he succeeds in bringing back Mary, communication with Sapphire is cut off by Maldeb. Silver and Mary then realize that to bring Sapphire back they need to destroy the journal. They burn the journal, Maldeb is destroyed and Sapphire returns to the present. She, Silver, and a now-healed Steel stand outside the Archives building. The breakout has been stopped. Like Steel, once Maldeb was destroyed and time returned to normal, Dr. Fleming was cured of her plague symptoms – because she never had the plague. Sapphire and Steel say goodbye to Silver and they all disappear.

I’ve always liked the television program Sapphire and Steel but it is far too short with only six stories (although some are quite long). This series of audio plays successfully re-creates the mood of the original series, while presenting intriguing original stories. The stories, such as “All Fall Down”, which I have listened to before, are also very easy to listen to again and are still enjoyable. David Warner is perfect as Steel, and Susannah Harker is excellent as Sapphire. The rest of the cast also does an excellent job in their performances. This play and the series are highly recommended.

The CD includes a trailer for the next play in the series, “The Lighthouse”.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

Sadly, it looks like the Sapphire and Steel range is no longer available from the Big Finish website. But be sure to check out their other audio ranges.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

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Wonder Woman – Season 2 Review

  • Title:  Wonder Woman
  • Season: 2
  • Episodes: 22
  • Discs: 4 (Double-sided)
  • Original Network:  ABC
  • Distribution Network:  Warner Brothers
  • Cast:  Lynda Carter, Lyle Waggoner
  • Format: Standard, Color, DVD, NTSC

The second season of Wonder Woman feels almost like three different seasons. The first ten episodes or so feature an animated opening sequence, though the pilot brings the series into “the present day”. The “present” is 1977. Season 1 was filmed in 1976-1977 and set in 1942, 34 years earlier. Since it is currently 2018, which is 41 years after 1977 – the “present-day” episodes of Wonder Woman feel almost as historic as the episodes from World War II. This means that there are some incongruities of watching an older program: everyone uses payphones, though towards the very end of the season a few car phones show up; cars are rear-wheel drive, long, and handle very badly (there’s a scene with a police car where it fishtails unbelievably – and it isn’t even snowing); and as was common in the 1970s even though the show is technically set in or at least based in Washington, DC, most of the stories take place in Los Angeles and surrounding areas. During the first ten or so episodes Steve and Diana report to Joe Atkinson and receive orders from an unseen voice. It’s all very Charlie’s Angels. After a few transition episodes, where we barely see Steve, Joe retires (or is promoted out of the show) and Steve takes his job. For the middle run of the season, Steve sends Diana Prince, his top agent on various assignments. Finally, at the end of the season, Steve and Diana seem to be taking their assignments from IRAC, a talking computer. At the very least, IRAC will be consulted at least once per episode. IRAC is a talking box of lights, not very impressive looking, and totally unrealistic as a computer. Oh, and my smartphone probably has more computing power. Welcome to the 1970s!

Most of the episodes in the second season of Wonder Woman are very formulaic. Diana and Steve are given an assignment by Joe’s unseen boss, or Steve gives Diana her assignment once he’s promoted, Diana travels to wherever her assignment is – usually California, Diana investigates and finds clues, and at least twice per episode, she spins into Wonder Woman. Diana is kind, courteous, sweet, and gets along well with children and animals. The series has forgotten about her mimic power, but she seems to have the ability to mentally speak to animals, especially horses. Steve is much less sexist in his treatment of Diana – but she runs into sexist attitudes while doing her job as a government intelligence agent. Diana’s reaction is to grin and bear it – which was very common in the 1970s and 1980s.

My favorite episode of the entire season was “The Queen and the Thief”, which is absolutely delightful. Diana is awakened in her apartment early in the morning and spins into Wonder Woman basically to get to work on time for an emergency meeting. When she arrives, she, Joe, and Steve are told notorious jewel thief Evan Robley (David Hedison) has arrived and he’s after the crown jewels of a small country no one has heard of. The country’s new Queen (Juliet Mills) was an American citizen who married the country’s prince and when he died, she became Queen. (Never mind that monarchy doesn’t actually work like that. She’d be a princess by marriage, later a consort to the King (possibly with the title of “queen” but only out of courtesy) and only her children would be in the line of succession, not herself.) Anyway, if the jewels are stolen she will lose her position as Queen and the counts or something will take over. Steve and Diana are despatched immediately undercover to help the Queen and prevent the theft. Steve is almost immediately captured, and Wonder Woman explains to the Queen he’s “safer where he is” and leaves him there. Diana and the Queen then have to ensure the jewels are not stolen, only to discover they’ve been stolen – but the ones that were stolen were paste (fake). Then things get really interesting as the theft, Diana, and the Queen work together to recover the real jewels and expose the Queen’s ambassador (Played to perfection by John Colicos) as the person behind a plot to steal the jewels, expose the Queen, and place his own traditionally-minded puppet on the throne. It sounds like a typical plot for the show, but it’s played with an incredibly light touch, and the Queen and the Theif are excellent guest stars (they need their own show). John Colicos is brilliant as always as the bad guy. And Diana’s involvement is pretty much talking to the Queen to convince her she and Diana Prince, have her interests at heart – and a brilliant jewel-heist scene which takes place in a set that looks like it was borrowed from The Avengers, that’s the British TV series starring Patrick MacNee and Diana Rigg. The episode has a light touch, great costumes and sets, and a brilliant cast. It felt like it should have been a movie with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly (and in some respects was probably inspired by To Catch a Thief). And it was glorious!

Here and there, other episodes of season 2 of Wonder Woman are at least enjoyable, escapist entertainment, largely due to Lynda Carter’s excellent performance as Diana Prince and Wonder Woman. Lyle Waggoner’s Steve Trevor definitely takes a back seat, which is a shame – he has pretty good chemistry with Diana, especially when they are friends and colleagues, and since Diana needs someone to talk to – she’s usually paired with the guest star of the week, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. Unlike season 1, in which the show featured well-known guest stars, season 2 features familiar-looking actors of the 70s and 80s (especially if you watched The Rockford Files), but few “big stars”. And for some reason, a lot of children. No, seriously, several episodes revolve around young kids – which works if the kid can act.

Overall, I enjoyed season 2, but I also found it gets repetitive quickly. I’m going to hold off on watching season 3, but I will watch it at some point. Still recommended, if only for Lynda Carter.

Please also read my Wonder Woman Season 1 Review.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Binary

  • Title: Binary
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Eddie Robson
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Dr. Elizabeth (Liz) Shaw, Childs, Cpl. James Foster
  • Cast: Caroline John, Joe Coen, Kyle Redmond-Jones
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/13/2018

Binary is a story in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles line. The Companion Chronicles features stories told from the point of view of the companion. Although many audios in the line feature one of the Doctor’s companions telling someone a story about “a time when I was with the Doctor”, this one is in the present tense and it is more like Big Finish’s completely produced audio plays, as it features two guest players as well as Caroline John as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, a companion of the Third Doctor as played on the BBC television series by Jon Pertwee.

Dr. Shaw is sent to examine an alien computer by UNIT. The three previous people sent to examine it have disappeared. When Liz arrives she meets Childs, a UNIT soldier – she thinks. She begins to examine the computer and disconnects what she thinks is an automatic defense system. She and Childs are shrunken down and transported inside the computer.

Once inside, Liz finds she can communicate with the computer using the terminals inside. The computer points her towards the maintenance system. She and Childs are attacked by “drones” antibody-like beings. They find the body of one of the previous UNIT officials. When she and Childs are threatened with attack by a large number of drones, Liz orders the computer to make a new tunnel and seal it behind them. The tunnel takes them directly to the problem. The system that makes the maintenance drones is broken. Drones are coming out of the system and dying immediately. The few that survive are in horrible pain, unable to think clearly or perform their tasks. This is why the computer cannot repair itself – it’s maintenance and repair system is broken. Childs becomes pushy about Liz fixing the computer, but she isn’t so sure. She’s afraid this alien computer might be used for bad things. As Childs becomes pushier, Liz gets even more suspicious. She lobs a piece of pipe at him, and not only does he fail to catch it – it drops right through him. He’s an image, created by the computer. Liz asks him to explain why he lied to her instead of explaining what and who he was, but he doesn’t give her a satisfactory answer. Eventually, he disappears.

Liz returns to one of the terminals – and finds Foster there. She gets another communication from the Doctor. All his efforts to disable the force field surrounding the computer have failed. He advises her to start smashing vital components in the hope of destroying to force field from the inside, and eventually the entire computer.

Liz thinks this might be a good idea, and gets directions from the computer itself for the force field generator – but it’s too far, and it’s surrounded by drones. She gets directions for the computer core and finds it closer and easier to get to. She and Foster make their way there, but once they arrive, Foster becomes very pushy about her destroying the computer. So she hesitates – and tries the same trick, throwing a pencil through Foster. He goes through him – he’s another projection, this time of the computer’s Fail-Safe, which wants the computer destroyed rather than in enemy hands. Liz objects again.

She manages to repair the computer maintenance system, using directions from the computer itself. She then gets herself out. Once she’s safe and normal size in the UNIT lab, the computer disappears. Liz explains to the Doctor that she has freed a slave. The Doctor, though a little perturbed that she didn’t out and out destroy the computer, accepts this in the end.

This story is basically “Doctor Who Does ‘Fantastic Journey'” in an alien computer. But it is never the less an interesting story. I liked that they have three actors in the story. However, we only ever hear two of them at once – Liz and either Childs or Foster. This emphasizes the point of the story, that Dr. Elizabeth Shaw knows her own mind – and she isn’t going to do what anyone else tells her to do. In fact, Childs and Foster’s bullying is what clues her in that neither is to be trusted. Dr. Shaw is also struggling with her decision – should she leave UNIT and return to Cambridge. She decides to stay with UNIT. Recommended.

The CD includes trailers and a panel interview of the cast and director.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

Click this link to order Binary on CD or download.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Book Review – Sarah Jane Smith: Dreamland

  • Title: Dreamland
  • Series: Sarah Jane Smith
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: David Bishop
  • Director: John Ainsworth
  • Characters: Sarah Jane Smith, Josh Townsend, Natalie, Sir Donald
  • Cast: Elisabeth Sladen, Jeremy James, Sadie Miller, Stephen Greif
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/09/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Big Finish’s last Sarah Jane Smith audio play, Dreamland, begins by wrapping up the cliffhangers from the last story, Fatal Consequences. Josh rescues Sarah from the Keeper of the Crimson Chapter – not only does he stop the Keeper from killing Sarah, Josh kills the Keeper and administers the cure for the Marlborough Virus to Sarah. Josh also killed Will Sullivan – claiming it was self-defense. It should be obvious that Josh is a member of the White Chapter of the Orbis Postermo. Josh also reveals to Natalie that he killed her boyfriend, who was a Crimson Chapter member. Natalie accompanies Sarah to Will’s funeral. Sir Donald tries to convince Sarah to go to Nevada to see the first “space tourism” flight of the Dauntless. Sarah is hesitant and unconvinced until she sees Sir Donald and Josh together and realizes Josh is Sir Donald’s son. Sarah and Natalie head to Nevada, to the Dreamland Air Force Base.

Once in Nevada, Sir Donald’s poor health and eventual death mean it will be Josh, not his father on the flight, and Sarah fulfills Sir Donald’s dying wish by agreeing to go on the flight. Natalie will be on a headset in mission control.

The flight seems to be going well until the pilot fails to turn off the ship’s booster rocket after 90 seconds. As the ship continues to go up towards space Sarah and Josh realize something is wrong. Josh tries to force the pilot, Ben Kimmel, to cut the rocket thrusters but Ben is a secret member of the Crimson chapter. Josh pulls a gun, despite having earlier promised Sarah no more guns or killing. Not to mention the utter stupidity of bringing a gun on a spaceship, which Sarah points out. Josh and Ben struggle. The result is Ben is killed, Josh is shot and apparently dies later from his wound, the instrument panels are smashed, and a fire breaks out in the cockpit. And since the rocket thrusters are still firing the ship is hiding out much farther than it was either designed for or is safe. Natalie and Sarah are able to talk over their radio headsets briefly and Sarah tries to reassure her friend. Sarah then tells Natalie she sees a bright light and hears a terrible noise in her head.

The play ends with a news update that something has gone terribly wrong with the world’s first space tourism flight, and the fate of the three people on board the ship is unknown. So the play ends with a cliffhanger.

I’m going to assume that the light and sound were the Mandragora Helix since it’s been teased throughout the entire second season of audio plays. But I do wish Big Finish had recorded one more audio to wrap up the Mandragora plot. This audio play was recorded in 2005, and Elisabeth Sladen’s television series, The Sarah Jane Adventures didn’t even start until 2007. Still, even with the cliffhanger ending this series of Sarah Jane Smith audios has been excellent. The acting, sound effects, and music are all very good. I highly recommend the series and Dreamland in particular.

Please see my review of Sarah Jane Smith Buried Secrets.

Please see my review of Sarah Jane Smith Snow Blind.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

To Order Dreamland on Download only click the link.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Wonder Woman – Season 1 Review

  • Title:  Wonder Woman
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 13, plus pilot
  • Discs: 5
  • Original Network:  ABC
  • Distribution Network:  Warner Brothers
  • Cast:  Lynda Carter, Lyle Waggoner, Richard Eastham, Beatrice Colen
  • Format: Standard, Color, DVD, NTSC

There are some technical issues first to discuss regarding the DVD set for the first season of Lynda Carter’s TV series version of Wonder Woman. The first season, set during World War II, only has 13 episodes, yet it is spread out on five discs, with only two or three episodes per disc. As this series runs short, only 42 minutes, and is in 3×4 ratio and standard definition – they could have easily put four or five episodes per disc and reduced the number of discs to four. Since the only special feature is a short documentary – everything would fit and the package could be slimmer. Also, the episode menus refer to episodes “on the other side of the disc”, when these are standard single-sided discs and not double-sided ones. And all five discs were stacked on a single spindle. I hate that, it begs for the discs to get scratched or broken. I repackaged mine. The menus and cheap packaging made me wonder if this particular copy was legit, even though I purchased mine at Barnes and Noble during their sale on everything DC last year. Also, the copy quality leaves something to be desired – it really does look like a direct transfer from videotape. In short, if a cleaner, more compact “complete series” was offered, I’d definitely consider replacing this set, even though I seldom replace DVDs I’ve already purchased.

On to the series itself. This is the Wonder Woman that I remember watching as a little kid. Even back then, I knew that, at times, it was silly. The pilot has a great guest cast – of comic actors, including Kenneth Mars (The Producers), Henry Gibson (The Blues Brothers and Laugh-In), and Cloris Leachman (Young Frankenstein). It’s somewhat difficult to take actors known for playing “comedy Nazis” seriously. Lynda Carter does her best though – and I must say, the series steadily improves. Every episode of the first season features at least one actor I recognize, and frequently more than one. And it isn’t simply 70s talent either, as actors from the 50s and 60s make guest appearances as well.

Set during World War II, Diana rescues Steve Trevor after his plane crashes on Paradise Island. Diana’s mother, the Queen, played in the pilot by Cloris Leachman (and in the series by Carolyn Jones) holds a contest to choose the Amazon who will escort Steve back to the US. Diana wins the contest and heads back to America. She defeats some Nazis and ends up as Diana Prince, Yeoman First Class in the WAVEs, and secretary to Steve in Military Intelligence at the War Department, which makes her perfectly placed to find out about threats to the US and the world and to protect the country and even the planet as Wonder Woman. Diana’s only friend at the War Department is Etta Candy. Etta is a bit man-crazy, but she has a good heart.

In the first couple of episodes, Diana changes into Wonder Woman by doing a slow spin, ending up with her naval uniform on her arm – which she carefully puts away in a closet or storage locker. Later they sped up the spin and added the explosion – and her clothes disappeared. Diana also, besides her super strength, her magical lasso which forces people to tell the truth, and her bullet-proof bracelets, has the ability to be an incredible mimic – able to exactly duplicate a voice over the phone or a radio. She has her invisible plane as well.

In the first season, episodes range from foiling Nazi plots (many of which involving the Nazis trying to capture Wonder Woman) to the unusual (such as the two-part “Judgment from Outer Space” in which a guy (played by Tim O’Connor of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century) from another galaxy has to determine if Earth should be destroyed or not) to an episode involving cattle rustling in Texas and Wonder Woman at Beauty contests and in Hollywood. The series improves starting with episode four, “The Feminum Mystique”, which introduces Debra Winger as Wonder Girl (Diana’s younger sister, Drusilla) and Carolyn Jones (from The Addams Family television series) as Queen Hippolyta. Although the plot of the two-part episode is similar to earlier ones, with the Nazis out to kidnap Wonder Woman to learn the secret of her bullet-proof bracelets, the story is better developed, and both Drusilla and Hippolyta are wonderful.

The first season of Wonder Woman mixes the silly with great adventure. Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman grows from an innocent, totally perplexed by life in Washington, to a competent, professional woman. When her young sister arrives, she also is innocent and confused – but she learns without becomes harsh or cynical. The stories in the back half of the season tend to be better, with some interesting changes in location (despite the fact that absolutely every place they are looks like Southern California, including Washington, New York, Nazi Germany, Argentina, and Texas). Lynda Carter brings it as Diana – she is kind, thoughtful, understanding and caring – without being overly sweet or a “mary sue” character, which is difficult to pull off. Over time her end of episode speeches improve from sounding like Maxwell Smart’s “if only he could have used his genius for niceness” to something that approaches being more realistic, given this is a show from the 1970s that seems to be aimed at children.

Overall, though there are technical issues with the actual DVD set, and at times this show plays like a comedy or parody of the Superhero genre, considering when it was made – it is still worth watching and enjoyable to watch. Because season 1 is set during the war and everyone is in uniform, it looks less dated than other programs from the 1970s – though it is also very obviously set and backlot-bound. Lynda Carter is awesome in this. Lyle Waggoner is wonderfully dippy as Steve. Steve Trevor is incredibly dumb in this (he reminds me of the Ghostbusters (2017) secretary), though by the last couple of episodes of the season he’s not quite so stupid. Still, he spends a lot of time getting knocked out, kidnapped, tied up, and dropped into traps – so Wonder Woman can rescue him. I like Diana’s friend, Etta, even though she gets to do very little.

Wonder Woman was made in the 1970s – the same time as Charlie’s Angels and the Bionic Woman, and it some ways it reminds me of those shows more than any superhero TV show or film from now. Even the sound effect for Wonder Woman using her super strength is similar to the Bionic Woman. Still, this show is worth watching if you remember when it was made. Recommended with minor reservations.

 

The Rockford Files – Season 3 Review

  • Title:  The Rockford Files
  • Season: 3
  • Episodes: 22
  • Discs: 5
  • Original Network:  NBC
  • Distribution Network:  Universal
  • Cast:  James Garner, Noah Beery Jr, Joe Santos, Gretchen Corbett, Stuart Margolin
  • Format: Standard, Color, DVD, NTSC

Oddly enough, the third season of The Rockford Files starts with a few weak episodes, but the season steadily improves and there are some excellent episodes. Also, Season 3 seems to have promoted attorney Beth Davenport and Rockford’s prison buddy, Angel, to regulars. This season also features some great guest stars. Best of all, it’s enjoyable to watch and unlike many other shows of its times – it’s not cringe-worthy. Well, at least, not that often.

One of the best episodes of the season, “So Help Me God”, sees Jim Rockford railroaded by a grand jury attorney, played with relish by William Daniels (of St. Elsewhere fame, though he’s also known as the voice of K.I.T.T. in Knight Rider). Rockford is subpoenaed to appear in court. He does and tells the truth, but the attorney refuses to believe him. Left with no other recourse, Rockford pleads the fifth – which lands him in jail on contempt of court charges. Even his attorney Beth can do nothing. Finally, Angel, of all people, breaks the deadlock – he finds a picture of the person Jim supposedly met with, and Jim recognizes it as a client – who gave him a different name. Jim is willing to testify to this – but by this time someone is out to get Rockford, because, well, someone is always out to get Rockford. He’s attacked and stabbed in prison. Once he recovers from that, he testifies, and he makes a statement ripping into the attorney.  Why the attorney was so determined to “get Rockford” isn’t explained – but really Jim also was the victim of a mistake. He had no idea who the guy they wanted information on was, other than what he’d seen in the papers. Once he saw a picture of the guy – he knew it was a client who gave him a false name and was perfectly willing to testify to what he knew, which wasn’t much. But it’s an excellent episode.

“The Becker Connection” sees Sgt. Dennis Becker transferred temporarily to narcotics, a few days before he’s due to transfer back to robbery/homicide, he’s hauled in by Internal Affairs. Jim has to help Dennis find out what’s going on. That Dennis is having serious money problems doesn’t help matters. Rockford is able to prove that narcotics is running a serious drug ring, and with IA closing in, they decided to make the new guy the pasty. But it’s nice to learn a bit more about Dennis (a character I always liked in this show) and we meet his wife, Peggy.

“Coulter City Wildcat” and the two-part, “The Trees, the Bees, and T.T. Flowers” focus more on Rocky and Jim’s relationship with his father. Rocky’s also an iconoclast and a very kind person. By the time of “Dirty Money, Black Light”, Jim is frustrated that his father seems to trust anyone that asks for help, thus getting himself or Jim in trouble. But the two are also close, and if anyone threatens Rocky, Jim will stop at nothing to help his father. I’ve always like the character of Rocky too, and I would have liked to see more episodes that show the two together.

“Sticks and Stones May Break Your Bones but Waterbury Will Bury You,” is a great episode. Another PI, played by Cleavon Little (Blazing Saddles) comes to Rockford because his license has been pulled after he’s accused of breaking and entering. But the PI insists he was trying to save a girl, a client, so he had a good reason for the break-in. While investigating, Rockford runs into another PI – with virtually the same story, including the same girl being in trouble. And then they run into a third PI who has lost his license after a similar rather minor infraction. These PIs try to find out what’s going on. Rockford discovers that a large, corporate Security Service had decided to reduce the competition by twenty percent by eliminating the competition. James Rockford was at the top of their list, but their “client” couldn’t reach him since he was on vacation. Rockford and his PI buddies are able to prove what Waterbury is up to – since their dirty tricks including murdering a PI. But not only is the episode interesting in that it shows the depths an unscrupulous corporation would go through to destroy “the little guy”, but it is pure joy to watch the guest cast: Cleavon Little, Simon Oakland (Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Baa Baa Black Sheep, various movies, and lots of other guest performances), and Val Bisoglio (Quincy, M.E., Hill Street Blues, M*A*S*H, Saturday Night Fever).

This brings me to another point, The Rockford Files has some great guest stars. Sometimes you know their names; William Daniels, Ned Beatty, etc. and sometimes it’s just “that guy” (or gal) from “that show” – because Veronica Hamel and Joan Van Ark also make appearances. But I also noticed that the people in The Rockford Files look like people – they aren’t all gorgeous Hollywood twenty-somethings. In fact, most of the people you see in the show seem older – mid-thirties to even early forties, and that includes the main cast. The show also moves out of Los Angeles, Malibu, and Bel Air, visiting Oxnard, Ojai, and Ventura, California or at least claiming they are.

The Rockford Files is smart, fun, and most of the episodes follow a twisted as opposed to the obvious path to their conclusion. Of course, Jim Rockford gets in one fistfight or car chase per episode, and his clients still lie to him or use him. But in this season, Rockford is often helping his friends who are in trouble (even Beth calls Rockford for help when she is stalked). Thus Rockford who at times could be an unlikable character becomes more likable – and with James Garner playing the central character – you can’t not like the guy. And for a series made in the 1970s, there is little to none of the “bouncing boobs” of other series made at the same time. We don’t see Rockford dating a different girl in every episode. And although he gets some female clients, in this season most of the clients are friends or men. So there aren’t “women as victims” stereotypes. This makes the show still watchable and still enjoyable. Recommended.

Please see my The Rockford Files Season 2 Review.

Please see my The Rockford Files Season 1 Review.

Book Review – Sarah Jane Smith: Fatal Consequences

  • Title: Fatal Consequences
  • Series: Sarah Jane Smith
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: David Bishop
  • Director: John Ainsworth
  • Characters: Sarah Jane Smith, Josh Townsend, Will, The Keeper, Sir Donald
  • Cast: Elisabeth Sladen, Jeremy James, Tom Chadbon, Jacqueline Pearce, Stephen Grief
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/02/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Big Finish’s second season of Sarah Jane Smith has used news radio broadcasts as a framing device in each story. Two of the stories that have been consistently developed over the course of three stories have been: Sir Donald Westbury’s planned trip on the first space tourism trip on a ship called the Dauntless, and Sarah’s friend Maude holding a protest at a research lab that they claim is participating in unethical and even illegal animal experimentation. Fatal Consequences rewards longtime listeners by explaining why all that information is actually significant and not mere atmosphere.

Sarah is at her house with her friends, Will and Josh waiting for Dr. Dexter to appear. Dexter claims to have proof that Mandrake, the owner of his lab, which happens to be the one where Maude has organized her six-month protest, is involved in something shady. Mandrake is the new name of the corporation that was involved in illegal human cloning experiments in Cloots Coombe. Dexter arrives and tries to talk Sarah into investigating his lab. But when it comes to explaining exactly what’s going on or providing proof – Dr. Dexter is rather hesitating and less forthcoming. Sarah decides to try to find out more. She has Josh check the Internet for information and asks Will to go undercover at the lab, using his medical background to check it out.

Then the story really rushes forward. Will is a member of the Crimson Chapter of the Orbus Postermo, but we found out he joined in medical school – thinking it was a silly secret society. Will insists he won’t kill anyone, especially Sarah. We also discover that Josh is a member of the White Chapter, assigned as guardian to protect Sarah. And the billionaire Sir Donald who is so fascinated with spaceflight? He’s the Keeper of the White Chapter.

When Josh arrives at the lab – he discovers six of the protestors, including Maude’s daughter, Emily, have disappeared. It’s suspected they are in the lab. Will is able to get inside, where Dexter orders him to give a “cure” to the protestors. Will can’t really say no since Dexter is also a member of the Scarlet Chapter. Once the six are released, Will discovers it wasn’t actually a cure. Will ends up shooting Dexter. He goes back outside with a few doses of a real cure (he thinks – unfortunately, it only works for 24 hours). Will administers the cure, but is confronted by Josh. Josh admits who he is – and Josh and Will end-up in a struggle.

The Keeper of the Scarlet Chapter gets her hands on Sarah when she enters the lab and offers her a terrible choice. Sarah’s discovered that the lab has developed a new super-virulent variant of a hemorrhagic fever. The Scarlet Chapter plans to release this disease worldwide to see that their doomsday predictions come to pass. The Keeper also tells Sarah that the Book of Tomorrows was written by Duke Giuliano. The Keeper also recognizes that Sarah knows that name. Sarah blames herself, saying everything is her fault. Sarah also realizes that she is getting really ill. The Keeper offers her a quick death by being shot rather than the painful death of the Fever. Sarah asks the Keeper to shoot her. There are a scuffle and gunshots… and… cliffhanger.

Fatal Consequences wraps up a lot of things that have run through the entire series so far and even brings back a character from the first season of this audio play series. As a stand-alone it might not make a lot of sense but as the penultimate story of a series it’s immensely satisfying to see Sarah finally figure out Will is with the Scarlet Chapter, to find out just how Will got involved in such a group (and that he isn’t willing to kill Sarah even when ordered to by his Keeper), and to discover that Josh, as I suspected, is part of the White Chapter.

The entire second series has also served as a sequel to the aired story, “The Masque of Mandragora”. However, I just re-watched that story last night – and Sarah never tells the Duke anything about the future. In contrast, at one point Giuliano mansplains to her that the Earth is a sphere not flat. The two spend a fair amount of time together, so her “predictions” could have happened off-screen, but it’s not something we see in the actual aired story. However, it’s interesting that Sarah’s carelessness led to the Duke writing down everything he remembered her saying. And the group that evolved from reading his journal more or less took it from there, creating their own Doomsday Cult. The Scarlet Chapter even decided that since the promised Doomsday didn’t happen at the turn of the Millennium they would force the issue instead. Scary stuff! I do recommend this story and the entire series. The next volume is Dreamland.

Please see my review of Sarah Jane Smith Buried Secrets.

Please see my review of Sarah Jane Smith Snow Blind.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

To Order Fatal Consequences on Download only, click the link.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!