Book Review – CryoBurn

  • Title: CryoBurn
  • Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/13/2012

Update: This is a little different than most of my book reviews. It’s from a blog I had on a blogging platform that, for all practical purposes, no longer exists. And it was my first reaction upon finishing the book. But I’m presenting it as is, except for fixing a couple of typos and formatting the post to meet WordPress specifications. Other than this update paragraph, the rest is my original post. Enjoy!


Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold is Lois’s first new Miles Vorkosigan novel in years. And it’s really good, as all her Miles novels — is has a mystery, action, and humor. The book has less humor than other books, however, especially A Civil Campaign, which I would have wondered about until I got to the end — where the book hits you with a kick in the teeth.


The last line of the novel proper, is a chilling kick in the teeth that both made me want another Miles novel to read immediately — and saying, aloud, “Oh my god, no.” And since it’s at the end of the novel, there’s no time to see how Miles will react.

Miles and Mark, his clone brother, are sitting in the Escobar jump-point station, when they notice a Barrayaran courier in military dress greens. Neither thinks this is all that unusual, and Miles is even silently cursing the courier in a way because he assumes it’s a new mission from Emperor Gregor and he wants to go home to see his wife and child. The courier comes over and greets Miles by saying, “Count Vorkosigan, sir.”

No, seriously, that’s the end — if it hadn’t been for the afterword of 5 drabbles I would have totally freaked.

As it was, I was, seriously, saying “oh, god, no…” aloud to myself. And “Poor Miles” too — and the hardest part, besides the fact that Miles and Mark had been discussing their father the Count just before, was that it was, well, two things — Miles wasn’t being allowed time to mourn his father before being thrust into his shoes, and Miles would be entering yet another completely new phase of his life — because as Count Vorkosigan, he can’t still be Imperial Auditor.

And the thing is that for Miles — Aral wasn’t “Count Vorkosigan”, or “The Viceroy of Sergyar”, or “The Butcher of Komarr”, or Emperor Gregor’s right-hand man, or even a military genius — for Miles, Aral was his father. His Da’. Someone Miles loves.

Not that Miles doesn’t know all of his father’s history (or his mother’s for that matter), but to them they are both his parents first and foremost. I found it so painful to think of the ramifications of just those three little words, by anonymous courier in official Barrayaran dress greens, addressed to Miles — meant his entire life was going to change and he’d lost his father as well.


But damn do I want a sequel! I want to see what happens to Miles — and what Gregor does with him now.

For another note. Miles also doesn’t seem to really see himself as Lord Vorkosigan either — but as Miles. Neither does he realise that while he’s going at Warp 10, everyone else is going Warp 1, if that. This is a man, who, attempted to get into the military academy on his home planet by asking that his written exam scores be averaged against his physical scores. Because his written scores would be so HIGH they’d offset his lack of physical prowess due to his his brittle bones and medical problems.

By the way – I read this as an e-book version in EPUB format on my Sony Reader.


Framed Review

Previously posted on 9/30/2012 on my LiveJournal.

  • Title: Framed
  • Format:  TV Movie (90 Minutes)
  • Discs: 1
  • Cast: Trevor Eve, Eve Myles
  • Network:  BBC / Masterpiece Contemporary (PBS)

Framed is a wonderful story, filmed in gorgeous Welsh countryside. When the National Gallery in London is flooded, curator Quentin Lester proposes temporarily moving the paintings to a cave in Northern Wales, just as they were during World War II during the London Blitz. Upon arriving in Wales, Quentin in thrown into a completely alien world. Always more at home with priceless works of art than people, the characters of the town pull Quentin out of his shell. And as he realizes that art is to be shared not hidden away, and shared with everyone – rich or poor, Quentin’s perspective changes.

From the strange butcher who’s inspired by an Impressionist painting to re-open the town’s lake-side park, to a pair of ancient sisters who discover the “worthless” painting they own is actually a priceless one that went missing the last time the paintings were stored in the town – everyone is changed. Quentin begins to fall for the beautiful, clever, and enigmatic schoolteacher played by Eve Myles. In the end, not only are the townspeople changed, but so is Quentin.

During the painting’s exile, one painting a month was shipped back to London. There Londoners would queue up to see one painting, one masterpiece. After the Gallery is cleaned, dried, and repaired, the paintings are shipped back. However, Quentin is instrumental in starting a new program – he has one painting a month moved to the town in Wales and displayed for the people to see – in different venues around the town. Quentin Lester, a man who once stated that art was “for those who can appreciate it”, has come to realize that art is for anybody and for all. That beauty is something that anyone – rich or poor, from urban areas or the countryside, young or old, can appreciate. And, really, since they rarely see such treasures, the folks of the town are more appreciative than the bored school children on field trips in the city.

Framed is filmed in Wales, and the scenery is breath-takingly beautiful. Every outdoor scene is simply gorgeous – the mountains, hills, clouds, sky and everything is incredible. I loved the shades of green and grey everywhere. Definitely something that makes one want to visit Wales.


The Complete Sherlock Holmes (Granada)

  • Title:  The Complete Granada Television Series
  • Number of Discs:  12
  • Number of Episodes per Disc: 2-4
  • Original Network:  ITV
  • Production Company:  Granada
  • Cast:  Jeremy Brett, David Burke (first season), Edward Hardwicke (subsequent seasons)

This is my original review for The Complete Granada Television Series of Sherlock Holmes, starring Jeremy Brett as Holmes and, David Burke and Edward Hardwicke as Watson. I’ve edited it a bit to clean it up and fix some typos, but it’s pretty much the same as my Live Journal entry from 12 November 2008.

First, this is the BEST traditional version of Sherlock Holmes ever.  Jeremy Brett is THE perfect Holmes and I just love him.  Both David Burke and Edward Hardwicke play Doctor Watson as an intelligent man with a deep, caring, (non-romantic) love for his best friend, Holmes.  Brett plays Holmes as a brilliant man, with little to no social graces (He even attacks Watson when he must) – true to the books.  Holmes is the original geek.

One of the interesting things about the Granada series is that they did adaptations of the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories, rather then thrusting Holmes into the modern day or at least “modern” stories.  Holmes is a Victorian and Edwardian hero – and he’s at his best in the original stories as written by Conan Doyle.
I also love both Watsons – quietly supporting Holmes, because he IS the Doctor’s friend.

Both of the Watsons are intelligent, smart – and the handover, from David Burke in “The Final Problem” to Hardwicke in “The Empty House” and all subsequent episodes is handled well.  Holmesian lore remarks it’s like 2-3 years from Holmes “death” to his resurrection – an older Watson fits.
I can’t even say one or the other actor’s my favorite, since Burke fits the early Holmes stories and Hardwicke fits the latter ones.

The set is gorgeously packaged in a double slip-case, green with gold embossing, with Holmes’s sayings embossed on the inner case.  The DVDs are packaged in two foldout cases, but at least the discs don’t overlap.  Also, the set is digitally remastered. The episodes look fantastic, much, much better than the original “Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” box set release of the first 13 episodes (only).  If you do have the original box sets of:  The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, and the Feature Film collection – then you already have the material in this set (there are only a couple of extra features unfortunately) – but the gorgeous, book-like case, and digital re-mastering might make you want to pick this up as well.


Hamlet (2009)

  • Title:  Hamlet
  • Director:  Gregory Doran
  • Date:  2009
  • Studio:  BBC / Royal Shakespeare Company
  • Genre:  Drama
  • Cast:  David Tennant, Patrick Stewart, Penny Downie, Mariah Gale
  • Format:  Color
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

The DVD is a filmed version of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Hamlet, starring David Tennant as Hamlet, and Sir Patrick Stewart as Claudius, costumed in modern dress — and it’s brilliant!  Instead of merely filming the production straight-on, this is an actual film (and shown on BBC television per IMDB) – shot on location at an old abandoned seminary (according to the behind-the-scenes feature).  A few scenes do look like an older college building, rather than a castle – but for the most part the location really works.

The main location in the film, the court at Elsinore, has a jet black shiny floor that would make an Art Deco set designer from RKO Pictures proud.  Seriously, I thought this was a set when I watched the film, though a brilliantly designed one, for a play about deception and secrets. That the basic space really existed is amazing!

Anyway, David Tennant is so brilliant in this — and I thought he was brill in Doctor Who.  He has a wonderful manic energy — but, because this is film, and shot as film – not a mere theatre archive piece, he also has the ability to go very quiet and intense (such as in the famous “To Be or Not To Be” speech). Tennant also brings to Prince Hamlet the impression that he’s really quite clever and crafty – he’s faking being insane while trying to decide what to do with the information provided by his Dad’s ghost.  OK, so maybe not totally sane — but Hamlet doesn’t come off at the whiny wimp he sometimes can.

Sir Patrick Stewart, meanwhile, is also brilliant as Claudius.  You can see how he manipulates everyone around him – Gertrude, and Laertes, especially.  But even courtiers like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern jump to do Claudius’ will, immediately.

Both Gertrude and Ophelia were brilliantly played.  Gertrude is especially good in the “closet” (or bedroom) scene with Hamlet.  And Tennant is scary good in that – especially when he breaks the mirror! Mariah Gale as Ophelia does a great job with her mad scene, though it’s a thankless role.

The only one I didn’t like in the play was Polonius – whom I found annoying.  Now maybe he’s supposed to be annoying, but his quoting of quaint proverbs sounds actually clichéd, and he underplays giving the lines too! (E.g. bits like giving his son the advice “neither a borrower or a lender be” when sending his son off to college or wherever Laertes is going at the start of the play).

I loved the use of highly polished surfaces throughout the play, such as the floor in the court, and also the mirrors.  The cracked mirror in Gertrude’s room seems to symbolise Hamlet’s cracking soul.  Brilliantly realised that!

The use of cctv footage (breaking to a view through a camera) I found less successful – it was distracting, and I even wondered if there was a fault in my DVD at first (like it was going to an alt-angle view or something for no reason).  According to the “Behind the Scenes” documentary on the DVD – this is meant to suggest the lack of privacy and the “all-knowing, all-watching” state that prevails at Elsinore.  It didn’t quite work for me.

But I do highly recommend this – Tennant is brilliant, Stewart is brilliant, the rest of the cast is fantastic, the film is quite, quite good.

Running time was at least three and a half hours, though.  I watched it last night, and man – it did feel a bit long. But still well worth it.  There are two special features and a commentary.  There’s a nice behind-the-scenes feature, which runs a bit over half-an-hour, and there’s a quick advert for careers in the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company), that’s actually pretty cool.  Haven’t listened to the commentary yet.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  5 of 5 Stars!

Thunderbirds (British TV Series) Info and Review

This blog entry was originally published on my Live Journal on 2/14/2009.

Character and machines information sheet — Thunderbirds

Production info.

Thunderbirds  (ATV, British Independent TV, made for export). Export production co. ITC

Season 1 1964 (eps. 1-26) Color.

Season 2 1966 (eps. 27-32) Color

Arguably, Gerry Anderson’s most popular “Supermarionation” program.

The set up: After the death of his wife (we are given no information whatsoever about this — when she died, how, etc, is not spelled out, viewers don’t even know her name) American millionaire Jeff Tracy is left to raise his five sons alone. Well, with some help from his own mother. Jeff Tracy soon tires of running multi-national Tracy Enterprises and decides to gather his grown sons together. He buys an island, hires an engineer, and begins building the fantastic Thunderbird machines (yep, Anderson stole the name from an American air force base where his brother served). He then gets his boys to leave their careers and join him in founding International Rescue – a group dedicated to rescuing and helping people anywhere in the world who are beyond the abilities of normal rescue services to aid. The series starts with the five Thunderbirds up and running and the five boys experienced at piloting them. All five of Jeff’s boys are named after US astronauts and early space program people.

Characters – The Tracy Family

Jeff Tracy – Patriarch of the Tracy family.  Multi-millionaire founder and CEO of Tracy Enterprises, though he leaves day-to-day operations to his trusted advisors. He’s head of International Rescue.  Jeff  had also been an astronaut in his past and walked on the moon.

Scott Tracy – eldest of the Tracy boys. Pilot of Thunderbird One (see machines). Heads co-ordination and control on most rescues. (Scott is only NOT present on a rescue if there’s a good reason for it, such as in “The Uninvited” when he’s shot down and needs to be rescued himself). Jeff is obviously grooming Scott to replace himself as head of International Rescue (or IR). Scott was a US Air Force test pilot prior to retiring to join IR. Scott is brunette with blue eyes. Scott wears the standard IR uniform with a blue sash.

Virgil Tracy – Second oldest of the Tracy boys. He and Scott are also quite close, closer than perhaps any of the other boys (Though Alan and Gordon have been known to team-up to play practical jokes on their older siblings). Virgil is the pilot of Thunderbird Two. He also has an artistic soul – painting, playing the piano, and pursuing other such interests. Virgil has auburn/golden brown hair and hazel eyes. Virgil wears the standard IR uniform with a yellow sash. Virgil also has skills in practical engineering.

John Tracy – There is some dispute about where he fits in birth order – some sources list him as eldest (older than Scott) but it makes more sense if he’s in the middle. John was an astronaut prior to joining IR, and still has an interest in astronomy. He’s the de-facto space monitor aboard Thunderbird Five, though in the series it is often stated he splits this duty with Alan. John’s blonde, with blue eyes. John’s sash is lilac.

Gordon Tracy –  Fourth in birth order. Gordon’s an aquanaut, who served in the World Aquanaut Safety Patrol (from Gerry Anderson’s series Stingray) until his career was cut short by a hydrofoil accident that nearly killed him. This accident was several years before the series, but shook up the entire Tracy family. He did recover from the accident, but suffers occasional serious back pain. Gordon is the pilot of Thunderbird Four. Gordon has reddish-blond hair, and golden brown eyes. Gordon wears an orange sash on his uniform.  He also has a pressure suit that he wears when piloting TB 4 in deep water. Gordon’s the practical joker of the family – something he sometimes drags Alan into. Like Scott and Virgil; Alan and Gordon are especially close – in a close-knit family.

Alan Tracy – The youngest of the Tracy brothers, but still a quite competent member of IR. Alan’s passion before joining the family business was racing cars – now he brings his passion to rescuing people. Alan also, like John and Jeff, has a background as an astronaut. He’s the pilot of Thunderbird Three, and does occasional duty onThunderbird Five. Alan’s blond, with blue eyes. His sash is white. He’s also somewhat impetuous – and his older brothers occasionally have to rein him in.

Grandma Tracy – Jeff’s mother, she aids somewhat in looking after the family – cooking, cleaning, etc. (Hey, it was a 60s show, after all.) She knows all about International Rescue.

Characters – the Tracys’ Friends and Enemies

Brains – The engineer Jeff found to design and build the Thunderbird machines. According to the bio on the DVD set, his parents “died in a hurricane in Michigan” (yeah, right, tornado or water spout maybe, but hurricane?) and he was raised in foster care and orphanages – this left him with a stutter and extremely shy. He once used the name Hiram K. Hackenbacker, though he later claims it to be a made-up alias.

Lady Penelope – Think Joanna Lumley as a secret agent, oh wait, that’s The New Avengers. Anyway, the puppet and voice for “Lady P” has always reminded me of Joanna Lumley. Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward is IR’s London Agent. She’s also a love interest for Jeff, though it’s very low key. She’s upper crust British, and can get into places the boys couldn’t to check things out and prevent disasters before they happen. Also, called “Lady PEN-oh-lope” by her butler/driver, Parker. Jeff normally calls her “Penny”.

Parker – Lady Penelope’s butler, he’s as lower cast as she is upper – but they get on like a house on fire. Parker speaks with a thick East End / Cockney accent. He also was a jewel thief, safe-cracker, and black bag man before Lady P rescued him and employed him as her butler and driver. Parker used his unique skills in the aid of Lady Penelope and by extension, IR.

Tin Tin – a girl living on Tracy Island, and daughter of  Kyrano, Jeff’s Asian servant. Alan has a major thing for her, which she returns within limits. Tin Tin knows about International Rescue, but is seldom allowed on missions.

Kyrano – Quite possibly the strangest character on the series, he’s Jeff’s Malaysian servant. Jeff for some unknown reason trusts him completely. However, Kyrano has a half-brother, the Hood, who occasional takes mental control of him and tries to force him to sabotage IR. Kyrano knows about IR but has not revealed all the details he knows to the Hood.

The Hood – The enemy of IR — he simply wants their technology to use for nefarious purposes. He’s Asian, bald, and his eyes glow when he’s using his mental powers. He has the ability to control his half-brother Kyrano.  He can also hypnotize and control people at close range.

Ned Cook (occasional) – A reporter who originally tries to find out and reveal to the world who the men are who make up International Rescue. However, in “Terror in New York City” (One of my absolutely favorite episodes), IR rescues him, saving his life and the life of his cameraman, after that he reports on IR’s feats but carefully avoids revealing who IR is.

The Machines

Thunderbird One Grey with blue accents, she’s a super-sonic plane or jet, usually the first into the “danger zone” or rescue scene. TB 1 is a VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) craft, meaning that although she lifts off from Tracy Island like a rocket, the retros allow landing and taking off in a vertical position and from tight quarters. She is much smaller than either TB 2 or 3, but probably only slightly smaller than your average passenger jet. Thunderbird One’s great speed and maneuverability are often used on rescues. It also holds “command and control” the computerized center used to run communications during rescues. Scott commands TB 1 as well as being in charge on the scene during rescues.

Thunderbird Two A huge green transport jet, with yellow piping/accents, it’s the workhorse of International Rescue’s operations. TB 2 includes a pod bay with interchangeable pods that carry specialized rescue equipment. During operations TB 2 lands and raises on its hydraulic legs, exposing the pod. Pod 4, which houses Thunderbird Four can be dropped in water. Thunderbird Two is slightly slower than Thunderbird One, but still capable of high speeds.

Thunderbird Three The big red rocket (with white piping/accents) it’s main purpose is to ferry International Rescue staff back and forth to Thunderbird Five. However, it has been used in rescues in and of itself such as in the episodes “Sunprobe” and “Ricochet”.

Thunderbird Four  The tiniest Thunderbird — it’s a little mini-sub. And yes, it’s yellow, with red-orange accents/piping. Piloted by Gordon, it fits snugly into Pod 4 of Thunderbird Two, which normally carries it to the rescue area. However, in “Terror in New York City”, it is shown that there is an emergency launch from Tracy Island itself that TB 4 can use.

Thunderbird Five The Tracys’ private geostationary satellite. TB 5 monitors all radio frequencies for calls for help. The space monitor, usually John but sometimes Alan, sorts through the radio traffic (which is also coded by computer) to find the disaster to which International Rescue will respond.

The Firefly An unique craft (which fits into a pod carried by Thunderbird Two) used to fire fires, it includes a bulldozer like blade on the front, a pipe which allows spraying of accelerate for setting backfires, and a cab for the driver and rescuees.

The Mole A gigantic drilling machine.

Fab 1 – Lady Penelope’s pink Rolls Royce – it has six wheels, and has enough gadgets to make James Bond jealous. Among them — total remote control, oil slicks, fog/smoke banks, machine guns, bullet-proof glass and frame, etc.

The Tracys also have all sorts of specialized rescue equipment, besides the Thunderbirds themselves, usually each episode of the series has at least one special piece of equipment.

The Episodes — my personal favorites and key episodes

“Terror in New York City” – Begins with Scott and Virgil finishing up a rescue. Scott’s loading Command and Control back into Thunderbird One, as Virgil takes off in Thunderbird Two. Suddenly, TB1’s camera detector goes off. Scott tracks down the offending cameraman – reporter Ned Cook, looking for a scoop. Scott destroys the film, then leaves the former danger zone for Tracy Island. Meanwhile, a new Navy super air craft carrier on maneuvers detects Thunderbird 2 flying nearby and starts shooting at the Thunderbird. Two of four shots hit home before Scott (who’s caught up to Virgil by then) and Jeff convince the Navy that they are shooting at an IR craft. Scott must then talk Virgil through the flight over open ocean back to Tracy Island. Virgil crashes onto Tracy Island’s runway, but has only minor injuries. TB 2, however, is trashed and will take weeks to fix. Meanwhile, in New York City a plan to move the Empire State Building with hydraulics has gone disastrously wrong, trapping Ned Cook and his cameraman under ground in a cavern filling with water. Normally, TB 2 would take TB 4 to the site to rescue the two men (who can be reached by a network of underground rivers). However, with TB 2 out of commission IR has no way of getting there on time. Jeff then gets the idea to have the Navy help out, since they destroyed the Thunderbird in the first place. TB 4 is carried to the danger zone, and barely reaches Ned and his cameraman in time.

Why I like it: Just the scene of Scott encouraging Virgil and talking him through getting his Thunderbird home makes my h/c -loving heart flutter. (It’s a great scene, trust me). But the rescue itself, with the cavern slowing filling with water, and Gordon and Scott constantly calculating and re-calculating if they will be there on time – is also great.

“Danger at Ocean Deep” – One of the few times we ever really see John on a rescue. Giant ocean tanker transports are suddenly disappearing in the Mediterranean. Lady Penelope investigates what could be causing the disappearances. Meanwhile Scott, John, and Virgil head out to sea in Thunderbirds 1 & 2 to protect one of the tankers and find out what’s going on. Lady Penelope, with help from Brains discovers that the transports are carrying alsterine which reacts with a chemical grown in the sea for making pet food. The combination produces deadly heavy mists, and eventually the ship explodes. Scott, John, and Virgil, have discovered this the hard way, as the mists are taking over the ship they are trying to protect. They manage to get the skeleton crew off the ship and escape before it explodes.

Why I like it:  It’s a good rescue, with an unusual plot (Deadly dog food?). Also, it’s really nice to see John on an actual rescue for once, instead of stuck in Thunderbird 5 co-ordinating rescues from thousands of miles away.

“Atlantic Inferno” – Lady Penelope finally convinces Jeff to take a vacation with her. Scott is left in charge of IR base. Alan gets to pilot Thunderbird 1 and take control (with help from Virgil) on site in the danger zone. This arrangement proves to be a bit of a disaster, as Scott makes mistakes (such as refusing help to one reported disaster – then having to go in when things get much worse). Meanwhile, Alan is competent at his job, but Virgil keeps trying to take over. And Jeff, spends more time worrying about his boys and how IR is doing, than relaxing on Penelope’s sheep farm. Scott initially sends out IR (Gordon, Virgil and Alan) to cap a 200 foot gas jet that’s opened on the seabed (after a World Navy missile goes astray) near Seascape – a huge oil drilling rig. Jeff admonishes Scott for it – saying it was an unnecessary rescue. Then another crack opens, with gas jets, closer to Seascape and Scott first ignores it. When it gets worse, IR has to scramble to help.

Why I like it:  It’s nice to see Scott (and Virgil) as less than perfect. Alan comes more into his own, but his impetuous nature doesn’t suit command and control. And even Jeff, can’t relax because his mind is on International Rescue and his sons. Plus, it’s an “ocean” episode — something I always like.

“Move – and You’re Dead” –  Alan gets an invitation to race at Parola Sands, and accepts, going back to the world of racing for the first time in years. He wins the dangerous and long race, but angers a rival who was counting on winning to settle some debts. This rival follows Alan (and Grandma Tracy who Alan’s picked-up to take back to Tracy Island), and forces them off the road on to an uncompleted suspension bridge. Alan and Grandma Tracy are forced onto the bridge supports, high above a river. If that weren’t enough, a timed bomb is set below the bridge to destroy it, and a motion detector is set near Alan which will explode the bomb if he so much as twitches. And it’s getting hotter by the moment. Alan manages to raise his wrist-comm. and call IR. Scott and Virgil must race to get to their brother – before the bomb explodes, Alan or Grandma move setting off the bomb, or either falls to their death.

Why I like it: More brotherly smoochness. Also, the episode starts with Alan stuck on the bridge and calling IR, then explains how he got in the predicament in the first place as he talks to Scott explaining while Scott races to the scene in TB 1.

“Sunprobe” – Another Alan episode, though all the boys except Gordon are closely involved in the rescue. A rocket called Sunprobe launches a probe to “grab parts of the sun”, which is successful, but after retracting the probe the rocket is locked on a direct course for the sun and unable to fire retro-rockets to change course. After some deliberation, Jeff decides to launch a two pronged rescue attempt. Virgil and Brains take Thunderbird Two to a mountaintop with microwave transmitter to try to contact the rocket and change it’s course. Meanwhile, Alan, Scott and Tin Tin launch in Thunderbird Three to get closer to the rocket to attempt to fire its retros with a “safety beam” (apparently the transmitter on TB 3 is short range). Thunderbird Three makes two failed attempts to save the solar nauts, before Alan has the bright idea to cut the safeties and boast the power. This works, saving the rocket and solarnauts. However, TB 3 has gotten so close to the sun, Scott, Tin Tin and Alan have all collapsed and the ship itself is trapped on a direct course for the sun. The focus shifts to rescuing TB 3 and it’s crew. Virgil and Brains, with the help of Brains mobile computer/robot “Braiman” work out some complicated equations which allow them to fire TB 3’s retros and change it’s course – rescuing Scott, Alan and Tin Tin from certain death.

Why I like it: Although at first a bit slow, it’s a episode where most of IR is involved in the rescue and it works well.

“City of  Fire” – A new huge skyscraper / mall is opened, but when a car crashes in the underground parking ramp, the entire building is threatened with fire. Scott and Virgil are dispatched and try to cut through the fire doors to get to a family trapped in the basement/parking lot.  However, the doors are thick and they are running out of time, forcing the boys to use an experimental cutting gas that when tested knocked them both unconscious. They rescue the family. Brains then discovers that the heat of the actual fire vaporized the gas as it escaped, preventing the build-up that had knocked out Scott and Virgil during the test.

Why I like it: The idea of a huge skyscraper fire could have been really exciting (The Towering Inferno, anyone?), however, the focus quickly changes from the entire building to a single family (something Thunderbirds does a lot). Still, the interplay between Scott and Virgil is great, especially when Scott convinces Jeff that they have no choice but to try the cutting gas. Also, the scene at the beginning with the test of the cutting gas is well done, and has a high h/c quotient.

“Cry Wolf” – Two boys in the Australian Outback are playing “International Rescue” with real walkie-talkie radios. John picks up their transmissions, and when it sounds like real trouble – sends out a rescue. Scott arrives and discovers the boys are merely playing. He explains the importance of not making prank calls. Later, another call is received from the boys father. Thinking it to be another prank, Jeff at first ignores it. However, soon their father’s boss calls, saying the boys have been really trapped in a mine. Scott is dispatched in TB 1, and Virgil and Alan in TB 2. Virgil and Alan rescue the boys, while Scott rescues their father and discovers the Hood has been behind everything. He gives chase to the Hood who has photos from orbiting spy satellites.

Why I like it: This is one of the few episodes (along with “Atlantic Inferno”) that I clearly remembered watching as a child – maybe because it involves children (and children who Scott gives a personal tour of Tracy Island to, no less). Anyway, the story works better than you might think giving it revolving around children and the old fable of crying wolf. There’s a good rescue as well.

Vocabulary and Language

F.A.B – Doesn’t actually stand for anything, but used to signify agreement. Each letter is pronounced separately, not as a single word.

Thunderbirds Are Go – Jeff’s catch phrase when sending the boys on a mission.

Danger Zone – The area where the disaster has occurred. Often used with the estimated time of arrival or actual arrival, as in “I’m 10 minutes from danger zone”, or “Have arrived danger zone”.

Note – during disasters the boys are likely to speak in a clipped tone, ignoring things like pronouns.

Batman DVD Reviews (General – from 2009)

Originally published on Live Journal:  13 March 2009

Note, these are some older reviews, originally published exactly as below in a single post.  Please note that the post below is from 2009, so some of the information is out of date and/or has been supplemented with more recent info.  I have reviewed the DCAU Batman movies that I own (well, I’m working on The Dark Knight Returns, which was awesome).  I’ve also now read most of DC’s Final Crisis series of Graphic Novels, but very little of The New 52.  So, I’m a bit more familiar now with Tim Drake than when I wrote the series of reviews below.  And I must say, as Tim got older and started working with Dick Grayson, I liked him better.  Thinking about it… I’m only going to correct typos below, and leave the out-of-date information.  Enjoy!

Oh, and yes… this previously appeared on my Live Journal, which is under a different name.

Batman DVD Reviews  (Minor Spoilers)

Batman Overload (DVD Reviews)

Well, I kinda’ stocked up on Batman DVDs and now that I’ve watched everything I’m a bit overloaded – tho’ I still need to track down the DC Animated Universe movies.
Anyway here’s what I now have:

Batman: The Animated Series Vol. 4 (DVD set) (aka “Gotham Knights”)
I was a bit dubious about this collection, because I much, much prefer a solo Batman, than a Batman-with-a-family. However, this collection is better than I expected. First, tho’ Robin is now Tim Drake and Dick Grayson has moved on to become Nightwing — the production crew gave Tim Jason Todd’s personality and backstory. This fits better than Tim Drake, who with his “Oh gee whiz” personality reminded me of Beaver from Leave It to Beaver and drove me nuts! (Mind you, I’ve only encountered Tim Drake in the graphic novel “A Lonely Place of Dying” where he’s introduced — and he may have been toned down later.) Jason Todd, OTOH, was a street-wise kid famous mostly for his end (see the wonderful graphic novel “A Death in the Family”). Batgirl is also present in this collection. However, there are several solo Batman adventures that at least feel like the classic Batman the Animated Series program. Overall, I liked it and it finishes off the B:TAS DVD collection nicely. (I have all three previous volumes)

I also bought Batman: The Dark Knight on sale at Target (more about why it was on sale in a moment) for $10.00. ‘Course, that meant I had to see Batman Begins and Batman Gotham Knight first. I checked Amazon, decided I didn’t want to wait (especially with my trip to Florida with Mom to think about) and bought both at Best Buy.

Batman Begins was awesome! In some ways, I liked it better than The Dark Knight and I really liked Dark Knight. I’d somehow managed to miss all the announcements for casting, so besides those from Batman The Dark Knight that I really liked (Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman) – I was pleasantly surprised to see Liam Neeson! I must admit tho’ — as good as the training scenes between him and Christian Bale were — I half expected him to say “You must learn to use the force, young Padewan.” And so much of what he said sounded like it should have come from a script for a Star Wars movie. I also was very surprised by his return at the end of the movie (and it explained why Wayne Manor was a burnt cinder in “The Dark Knight” – something that confused me).
Again – Chicago was the setting for Gotham City – which was awesome! As I had when I first saw The Dark Knight in the movie theater – I recognized parts of the Loop and the Chicago River area. But I loved the way the movie used the back story lore of Batman — Bruce’s fall into the well, and the death of his parents. The kid playing young Bruce did an excellent job! I also really liked Bruce’s father — too often there just isn’t any information about him, yet Bruce seems to dedicate everything he does to his parents’ memory (including as CEO of Wayne Enterprises). I also liked Christian Bale better as Batman in this film — I really didn’t like the “motorized”-sounding voice in the second movie (oh, Kevin Conroy, where are you?) – Bale did a better job playing both Batman and Bruce Wayne and I liked seeing Bruce’s journey into becoming Batman.

Batman Gotham Knight was an interesting experiment. I liked having Kevin Conroy back as the voice of Batman (and Bruce Wayne). Conroy really is my Batman in a sense, and since I started watching B:TAS about a year or two ago — he’s now the voice I hear in my head when reading the graphic novels (even re-reading ones with a distinct style like Frank Miller’s classic “The Dark Knight Returns”). David McCallum does a good job as Alfred, tho’ I was a bit disappointed with the writing for Alfred. Michael Caine played the part perfectly in the two new movies; and Efrem Zimbalist Jr., did an excellent job in Batman: The Animated Series. Both actors gave Alfred that nice, dry, sense of humor, but also showed his caring for Bruce – the man he raised. Actually, I really like Efrem Zimbalist Jr., because he managed to put across both his understanding of why Bruce has to go out each night as Batman, and his concern for Bruce’s physical and mental well-being. Michael Caine has his moments as well – in both movies, encouraging Bruce, as well as doing the “Alfred-thing” of reminding Batman of his obligations as Bruce Wayne – something that Batman tends to forget. (It’s complicated).
What I didn’t like about Batman Gotham Knight was the animation style. Sorry – but Japanese Animé style just doesn’t work for Batman – a quintessential American hero. Even in the better stories of the six – the Japanese Animé style was distracting (especially the way Bruce Wayne was drawn – he looked like he stepped out of Star Blazers (aka Space Battleship Yamato) and into a business suit). In terms of stories, the quality varied. The first one, with three street kids telling their own stories about Batman was a direct copy of two B:TAS episodes — I didn’t really like them in B:TAS, and a third go was totally pointless. The remaining five stories are better, with each getting better as it goes on. I was probably most excited to see another take on Bane – but that “part” felt a bit flat. In fact the whole movie, with its six inter-related parts felt kinda’ flat. It also didn’t really seem to do what it needed to (or stated it would) do, which was link Batman Begins with Batman the Dark Knight.
Batman The Dark Knight of course is an awesome movie. In many ways, the villains, Harvey “Two-Face” Dent, and The Joker (often named Jack Napier in the comics, but not in this movie) steal the show. Also, Batman’s costume seems to be a step backwards — less flexible and with the annoying voice-changing box, that I didn’t like. I DID like the movie tho — great cast: Christian Bale (who does do a very, very good Bruce Wayne — I especially liked the bit where he smashes his Porsche to save Dent then claims he didn’t do it on purpose), Michael Caine (excellent as Alfred), Morgan Freeman (as Lucius Fox – so nice to even see the character – sorta’ a “business” Alfred for Bruce), Heath Ledger of course (fantastic as the Joker), Anthony Michael Hall (as the reporter who keeps showing up – I kept expecting him to have visions! Yep, he was in the TV version of “The Dead Zone”), Gary Oldman again as Jim Gordon (and doing a darn good job!), and even Keith Szarabajka (Chicago native and of The Equalizer), oh – and Eric Roberts was in one of the movies as a mob boss. Again – nice to see Chicago playing the part of Gotham City.   (To quote The Blues Brothers, “This is definitely Lower Wacker Drive!” – what the movie identified as “Lower 5th”).  And the real Chicago PD Pipes and Drums band playing for the funeral.
But yeah, Batman Dark Knight — awesome.
But about the sale part — yep, it’s widescreen, but the disc has no special features, not even a commentary, I’d have to “trade-up” to the “Deluxe” edition to get any special features — and I hate buying something twice.
But, despite all the Batman stuff – I still want to find the two Batman “TV” movies (DC Animated), and perhaps Batman Beyond on DVD. (I’d like to SEE Batman Beyond first to find out if I like it!).
If you haven’t seen Batman Begins /  The Dark Knight – I highly recommend them.

Bruce Wayne isn’t Crazy – Book Review – “Batman and Psychology”


  • Title: Batman and Psychology A Dark and Stormy Knight
  • Author: Travis Langley
  • Format: Trade paper

I loved this book. Often “pop culture and academic subject” books are great 101-level introductions to whatever the academic subject is (Philosophy, Physics, Science, etc) but the pop-culture references are shoved in with a shoe-horn, almost as if a research assistant summarized Buffy or Star Trek or Doctor Who for the author who didn’t really understand it, and the book was written with few, if any, good examples drawn from the pop culture source — though the 101 academic info is always good.

Batman and Psychology, however, is different — Batman, the dark, complex alter ego of Bruce Wayne is a deeply psychological character that begs for serious analysis. Langley is obviously a fan of Batman comics, graphic novels, and the Christopher Nolan films (even including the third film of the trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, though this book pre-dates the film’s release. Langley gives a detailed history of the Dark Knight, and some of his companions (such as the Robins) and different versions of his rouges’ gallery villains (such as Joker). Plus this book introduces basic concepts of theorists and founders of psychology: Freud, Jung, Adler, Maslow, Erikson, etc.

If you would like an introduction to psychology, a history lesson (an interesting history lesson) about DC Comics and one of it’s most enduring heroes – Batman, and to read a good psychological analysis of Bruce Wayne/Batman and his friends and enemies, buy or borrow this book. You will most probably enjoy it, I did.

This review previously appeared on my Goodreads page, and on my Live Journal blog.