Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Review

  • Series Title: Star Trek: Discovery
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes:  15
  • Discs:  4
  • Network:  CBS (CBS All-Access)
  • Cast:  Sonequa Martin-Green, Doug Jones, Anthony Rapp, Mary Wiseman, Jason Isaacs, Michelle Yeoh, Shazad Latif, Wilson Cruz, Mary Chieffo, Jayne Brook
  • DVD: Widescreen DVD (R1, NTSC)

This review includes some spoilers but seeks to not reveal major plot twists. Read with caution.

I really, really, really liked this newest version of Star Trek. First, it addresses two of the biggest issues I’ve ever had with Star Trek generally, especially Star Trek: The Next Generation – the non-alien appearance of aliens and the constant hitting of the reset button. First, ST always had “aliens” that didn’t look the least bit alien or different. Even Doctor Who, as low as it’s budget was, had aliens that looked more different – not like they had random lumps of plasticine stuck to an actor’s face for no reason. Saru looks alien – his face, his hands, and I don’t know if they digitally lengthened the actor’s legs, the actor is incredibly tall, or the actor wears stilts under his uniform – and I don’t care how they did it – Saru looks like a gazelle which is perfect for his character. They also really developed Saru’s background, while showing how who he is to his core can be an asset both to the rest of the crew and to him personally. And Saru, like the rest of cast, grows throughout the season, something I also really liked.

The second thing I liked about Star Trek: Discovery is that Season 1 is a continuous story. This is a Star Trek novel for television. Finally! It is also one addictive novel. I flew through the DVD set and not just because I had a lot of time on my hands. Most episodes end in a cliffhanger. The series continuously changes, even though it’s only a short fifteen episodes long. The characters also grow and change – this is not a flat character arc show, and it is so much better for it. Also, actions have consequences, and there is no reset button. Finally! This is a modern show in writing and execution and it shows how much better Star Trek can be with a continuing story and characters who change and develop and even die.

The two-part pilot (which is not marked as such on the DVD case, which is a problem) has our main character, a woman named Michael Birnham, serving on a ship called Shenzhou. She is the first officer and her captain is also a woman, Capt. Philippa Georgiou. The Shenzhou arrives at a binary star system – and most of the rest of the two-part pilot is actually irrelevant. What matters is the results. The Federation ends up at war with the Klingons. The Klingons actually have a good point – they believe that the Federation’s “we come in peace” is a lie and that if they join the Federation they will be forced to assimilate – that they will have to give up their own language, their own religion, their own culture. The Klingons believe that as part of the Federation they will be forced to assimilate completely. It is telling that the slogan of their leader is: “Remain Klingon”. They also are not a united empire but 24 Houses who more often than not are at war. The other thing the Klingon leader wants is to unite the warring Houses into a single Empire. Michael talks Capt. Georgiou into attempting to capture the Klingon leader. But instead, both Captain Georgiou and the Klingon leader are killed – making the leader a martyr – something Michael warned against. Since Michael had also attacked Georgiou and tried to get the Shenzhou to shoot first at the Klingons – she’s arrested for mutiny and other charges. Michael pleads guilty to all charges and prepares to spend the rest of her life in a military prison.

Enter Captain Lorca of the USS Discovery – he not only gets Michael out of her jail cell, but he also offers her a position on his ship. The Discovery was originally a science ship but now it’s one of a pair working on an experimental new drive system. Soon after Michael arrives on the Discovery, and while she’s still not sure about Lorca’s offer, the ship receives a distress call. It’s the Discovery‘s sister ship. Michael is on the team that goes to investigate. Everyone on the ship is dead, parts of the ship have been torn apart, and the ship itself wasn’t attacked from the outside but torn apart by a malfunction of the new drive. Michael and Paul Stamets, a scientist working on the new drive, investigate what went wrong. Paul thinks it was the length of the jump (the new drive allows instantaneous travel) but Michael believes it was the lack of an intelligent navigator. It turns out the “creature” they discovered, and that Lorca brought about the Discovery secretly, wasn’t a vicious attacking predator – it’s an over-grown microscopic organism that eats the mushroom spores that power the drive. Lorca and Stamets figure out some equipment they found on the other ship is a harness for it. They use it as a navigator. It works – but tortures the animal, finally nearly killing it. Stamets discovers he can be navigator instead.

In one episode Lorca is captured by the Klingons (remember there’s a war going on) and he shares a cell with Ash Tyler a captured Starfleet officer and Harry Mudd. Lorca and Ash escape. Over the course of the season, Ash and Michael become close. But Ash is also hiding a secret and it goes deeper than hiding his PTSD from being tortured by the Klingons.

The one stand-alone episode of the season is the obligatory time-loop episode featuring Harry Mudd. The episode isn’t bad, it’s actually pretty good for a stand-alone episode. But it seems much weaker than the rest of the season because the arc-plots are put on hold and you could skip it entirely without missing anything.

Returning to the main plot, the Discovery goes to an “uninhabited” planet that turns out to be the sentient planet Mogo from the Green Lantern Corps. OK, not really, but it turns out that there are glowing blue sentient tiny balls of light that flood the planet. Because the planet is inhabited, the crew can’t, per Federation rules, do what they were there to do. Also, these beings create a high frequency “noise” that humans can’t hear but that has a profound, and negative, affect on Saru. The situation is resolved, and it even looks like the Federation has made a great stride towards winning the war against the Klingons.

But in what should be a normal jump to a nearby starbase – the Discovery ends up in the Mirror Universe. This is not the obligatory Mirror Universe episode, though, most of the rest of the season has the Discovery in the Mirror Universe. And not only do characters have to deal with the Fascist Terran Empire or meeting doubles of people they know (including people who died in the first two episodes), but they now need to find a way home. The disastrous jump that caused the Discovery to land in the Mirror Universe has also physically harmed Paul Stamets and he’s in sickbay in a coma. Ash Tyler’s secret and his health become issues, though he starts out accompanying Michael on her missions inside the Terran Empire. And let’s just say this, episode 12 “Vaulting Ambition” has one of the most stunning and shocking plot twists I’ve ever seen in Star Trek. I’m not going to spoil it, because even watching this show about a year after it aired on a streaming service I can’t physically get, I had managed to remain unspoiled and my jaw dropped.

The Discovery does manage to figure out a way to return to the Federation Universe and cripples the Terran Federation in the process (no I won’t say more about that either). While they are figuring out how to do this, and discussing plans, and drawbacks to the various plans, Paul, finally recovered, mentions he can now get the Discovery home, but there might be a displacement in time. I don’t want to discount what happens in the Mirror Universe, it’s a lot, several episodes worth, and it is fantastic, plus we see a lot of character growth, but it is also extremely spoilry and I do not want to ruin it. The Discovery makes it back to the Federation Universe, nine months later. And the Federation is losing the war.

Once back in the Federation Universe, and up to speed, with Admiral Cornwall on board, a new plan is put together to defeat the Klingons – with input from a Klingon prisoner and a prisoner from the Mirror universe. These are not the best people to be asking for advice. In addition, the Federation has suffered great losses – ships, starbases, territory, civilians – Cornwall is desperate. Tilly figures out that the “plan” Cornwall and the Mirror Universe character came up with is different than what they agreed to with the Discovery‘s crew and other Starfleet military leaders – and it is truly horrifying. Michael and Tilly stop the Mirror Universe character and also manage to end the war for good, while their Klingon prisoner becomes the new Klingon leader. (The Klingon, L’Rell had been the second in command for all intents and purposes of the Klingon Empire. But with the leader dead, another Klingon took control who kicked L’Rell out of her place in the rather tenuous Klingon leadership. L’Rell implies this is a reason she wishes to “defect”, something considerably more complicated than it sounds.)

The series ends with Michael giving a very good speech about what it means to be Star Fleet and the importance of the ideals of the Federation, especially at times of war. All the main crew of Discovery is decorated by Starfleet (some posthumously) and it’s noted that Saru is the first Kelpian to receive such an honor. Michael’s record (the mutiny and other charges) is expunged and her dishonorable discharge is reversed and she’s accepted back into Star Fleet officially.

I loved Star Trek: Discovery. It’s more like a page-turning thriller than what one normally expects from Star Trek, but this is the Federation at war, and the Federation at war can be a scary thing. Captain Lorca was a character that as he was introduced I would normally hate, but I found that the way Jason Isaacs played him made him understandable and even likable. He also seems to be the typical maverick Star Trek captain and war covers a lot for some of his questionable actions. There is more to who Lorca is but’s it’s a spoiler. Yet, all the characters in Star Trek Discovery, even bubbly cadet Tilly are not simply well-rounded, but they are characters who grow, who change, they are not the same in the last episode as they were in the first episode we meet them. I really enjoyed seeing a Star Trek series that has a continuing plot and characters who actually change and grow. I loved the fact that Saru looks, acts and talks like he’s alien – but that he isn’t mocked for this. Star Trek: Discovery was already darker than most Star Trek series because: war, and then the show spends most of the back half of the season in the Mirror Universe, but, tellingly even in this situation we see the characters shine and more Star Trek optimism and decency of character. In a situation where the easy path was there and loud voices suggest taking it, the series itself goes the other way, and that is what creates the Federation we know as opposed to the Terran Empire we learn a lot more about. Also, when Paul Stamets mentioned “time displacement,” I thought the Discovery would end-up at the Battle of Binary Stars and the entire season would be re-written. I was extremely impressed the writing staff didn’t take this obvious easy way out and the Discovery turned-up nine months after it had disappeared from the Federation Universe.

I simply loved this series. It may be my favorite Star Trek series ever, and that includes Classic Trek. I liked Michael, she’s not the typical lead character, especially for Star Trek, and she grows just as much if not more than any other character. I highly recommend Season 1 of Star Trek: Discovery and I have no idea what they will do for Season 2. I hope it’s just as good.

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Book Review – Doctor Who 12th Doctor: A Confusion of Angels

  • Title: Time Trials vol. 3: A Confusion of Angels
  • Author: Richard Dinnick
  • Artists: Francesco Manna, Pasquale Qualano, Hi-Fi (Colorist), Richard Starkings (Letterer), Jimmy Betancourt (Letterer)
  • Line: 12th Doctor
  • Characters: Twelfth Doctor, Bill Potts, Nardole
  • Collection Date: 2018
  • Collected Issues: Year 3 (#10 – 13)
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 6/12/2019

**Spoiler Alert** The third and final volume of Titan Comics Doctor Who Twelfth Doctor Year 3 series, A Confusion of Angels actually picks up where volume 2 left off. Having picked up some spare parts they needed at the Ubermart, Bill, the Doctor (as played by Peter Capaldi on the BBC television series), and Nardole are in the TARDIS when they come across a container ship that is drifting in space. The TARDIS Team steps out into the ship and the first thing they hear is a scream – and thus starts an exciting, tense, homage to Alien. The TARDIS team encounters a very suspicious engineer and slightly less suspicious medical doctor who accuse them of being murderers and pirates. The Doctor sends Bill back to the TARDIS to enact emergency protocol 13-9 while the Doctor and Nardole convince the people they’ve encountered to take them to the bridge. Emergency protocol 13-9 gives Missy temporary control of the TARDIS and Bill is left behind on the endangered ship. Bill meets Chief Engineer Berthold who is accompanied by Gabriel, a host android she constructed from two broken Host androids. The Chief Engineer also shows Bill the ships’ company hold is filled with Host androids that are currently deactivated. As they head to the bridge, they meet the suspicious engineer who accuses Bill of piracy and murder. Bill barely manages to convince him to take her to the bridge and the Doctor rather than the brig.

Once they reach the bridge, however, they discover the Doctor has fixed the telecommunications system, sent an SOS call, restored lighting to the bridge, and started on a more permanent fix to the lighting, which is being drained by something in the hold. The Judoon arrive to “rescue” the ship, under the command of Margaret Ag-Kris-Therur-Ford-Jingatheen, essentially the Slitheen we know from the first season of New Who who, having been fostered from an egg by a good family, is now on the side of law and order and a Shadow Proclamation detective. The Doctor discovers that Weeping Angels are on the ship, the ship’s crew activate the Host to use as internal “eyes and ears” which backfires as “whatever holds the image of an Angel becomes an Angel”. The Doctor also realizes the missing crew members haven’t been murdered but are missing. Then, unfortunately, he is captured and sent back in time by an Angel.

Meanwhile, the Judoon ship, as well as the container ship, have no engines and are falling into a nearby sun. The crew, Bill, Nardole, and the Judoon, led by Margaret also have no idea how to stop the Weeping Angels and the Host that have transformed into Angels. They discover the container that is taking power from the container ship contains Cyborg refugees and their families who are fleeing an aggressively anti-Cyborg regime on Sto. One of the people hidden in the container wears a clown mask. He turns out to be the Doctor having gotten there by the long way around. He was sent back in time by the Weeping Angel to Sto, where he became involved in Cyborg rights and fighting the repressive regime. He eventually decided to work from within, getting a job at Max Capricorn Industries, giving suggestions for naming ships, and eventually creating an Underground Railroad to help Cyborgs escape from Sto to more tolerant planets. The people in the container were refugees he was helping. The Doctor also comes up with a plan to get all the people, including the refugees, the Container ship crew, and the Judoon on the Judoon ship and then use the Host Androids to both send the empty container ship and it’s Weeping Angels into the sun, and provide energy for the Judoon ship to escape.

A Confusion of Angels is a fun space adventure. The Weeping Angels come across as effectively scary again. It was also fun to see the Easter eggs: Max Capricorn, the Doctor’s reference to a mummy, the Host, the Judoon, and Margaret – Slitheen no longer (I loved that she was finally a good person). I did find this graphic novel to be a bit confusing at times, however. Still, it was a great adventure story. Recommended.

Outlander Season 4 Review

  • Series Title: Outlander
  • Season: 4
  • Episodes:  13
  • Discs:  5
  • Network:  Starz/SonyPictures
  • Cast:  Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan
  • DVD: Widescreen DVD (R1, NTSC)

This review contains spoilers for Season 4 of Outlander.

Claire and Jamie arrive in Colonial America a few years prior to the Revolution. They arrive in Wilmington North Carolina where they are wined and dined by the territorial governor. The governor makes Jamie an offer – a 10,000-acre land grant if he agrees to find settlers for the land, collect taxes and put down any resistance. Deciding there are too many strings, Claire and Jamie head to Jamie’s Aunt Jocasta’s. However, before they leave one of their friends is due to be hanged by the Colonial Governor. The friend accepts his fate, so Jamie cancels the plans to get him free. Unfortunately, the distraction goes off anyway and everyone else is freed – including the pirate Stephen Bonnet. Claire and Jamie book passage on a small riverboat with a few friends, including Jenny’s son Ian who has decided to stay in the New World and his dog, Rollo. On the trip, they are set upon by pirates, including Stephen Bonnet. Bonnet takes their money and jewels and even manages to get one of Claire’s wedding rings. He also kills one of Claire and Jamie’s friends.

Shaken but not seriously hurt, they arrive at Jamie’s Aunt Jocasta’s. Claire is surprised to discover Jocasta runs a large plantation and owns over 200 slaves. Jamie is surprised when Jocasta announces at a large party that she is making Jamie her heir. Claire tells Jamie in private she can’t own slaves. Jamie looks into it and discovers he cannot legally free his slaves and pay them to do the same work. Slaves can only be freed for special service to their master (such as saving their life) and even then the Crown demands £100.00 a slave for each that is freed. Jamie can’t afford that cost. Then an overseer attacks one of the field hand slaves and grievously hurts him. Claire, a doctor, starts to treat the injured man, ignoring the minor injuries of the overseer from the altercation. Not only is everyone perplexed by this, but it proves pointless as Claire ends up having to knock out the man with drugs before he’s hanged for his crime of “touching” a white man. Jamie turns down Jocasta’s offer and he and Claire return to Willmington with Ian. Having no other choices, Claire and Jamie accept the Governor’s land-grant offer and set out to make the best of it.

Meanwhile, Roger realizes he really loves Brianna, Claire’s daughter. He travels from Cambridge to the US to see her, and the two attend a Scottish Festival in North Carolina. They have a good time, and Roger proposes. Brianna is shocked by the proposal and turns him down, so Roger leaves. But both seem to feel they’ve made a mistake in breaking up. Roger finds a historical obituary that good news Jamie established the settlement of Fraser’s Ridge – but the bad news that he and Claire died in a fire. He calls Brianna to tell her, only to have her roommate tell him she’s returned to Scotland to “visit her mother”. Roger realizes Brianna has also found the same obituary and decided to head back in time to warn her mother. Roger follows her.

It takes some time and a few adventures, but both Brianna and Roger end up in North Carolina. Roger catches up with Brianna and she’s initially upset he followed her. Still, they go off together, realize they are in love, and even complete a handfasting ceremony (unofficial marriage) before sleeping together. But in the afterglow, they have a fight when Brianna realizes Roger knew about the obituary. Brianna runs back to the pub where she and her maid are staying. There she sees Stephen Bonnet gambling and using her mother Claire’s wedding ring as collateral. She offers to buy the ring from him. Bonnet gets her alone, rapes her and then throws the ring at her.

Meanwhile, Roger is conscripted into Bonnet’s crew and forced to sail to Pennslyvania. Once he’s paid and free of his service, Roger makes his way back to North Carolina. Brianna and her maid make their way to Fraser’s ridge and find Claire and Jamie. Brianna tells Claire what’s happened. Claire, Jamie, Ian, the dog Rollo, and Brianna’s maid settle in – even forming an alliance with the nearby Cherokee Native Americans. Eventually, it becomes obvious that Brianna is pregnant and she tells her mother not only about Roger but that she was raped, though she doesn’t tell Claire who raped her.

It’s at this point that Roger makes his way to Fraser’s Ridge. Brianna’s maid is with Jamie and Ian in the forest and she basically accuses Roger of attacking Brianna. Jamie beats up Roger, finally knocking him out and Ian takes him and sells him to the Mohawk. When they get back to the Fraser cabin everything comes out – Brianna’s pregnancy, the handfasting with Roger, the fight, and even that it was Bonnet who raped Brianna in the pub. Jamie, Claire, and Ian decide to try to find Roger to buy him back. Brianna and her maid are sent to Jocasta’s River Run estate for the pregnancy, and Jamie finds some friends to look after his property and animals.

At River Run – Jocasta tries to find Brianna a husband. Brianna accidentally sees Lord John Grey with another man, and that along with his kindness to her and basic human decency leads her to propose to him. He initially refuses though the two have a frank discussion, including Brianna’s feelings for Roger and Grey letting Brianna know he’s raising another man’s son. Grey, however, eventually comes around and proposes to Brianna – basically to get the other suitors off her neck.

Jamie, Ian, and Claire head off into the woods to find Roger. When they finally reach the Mohawk camp things go OK for about five minutes then the Mohawks spot Claire’s “bear tooth” stone and freak out. They refuse to sell Roger to her and kick them out of the camp. As Jamie and Claire try to figure out what to do they are approached by a Mohawk woman. She tells them of a strange man who came to their tribe, telling them strange stories of the future, and urging them to fight the white man. This split the tribe and eventually the man was banished. When he returned he was killed. This is the skull that Claire found with the stone earlier on in the season when she and Jamie made their way to Fraser’s ridge. They try a raid and fail miserably. The only way they can get Roger back is a like for like trade – Ian offers his life and service. He successfully runs the gauntlet and becomes a member of the Mohawk tribe, while Jamie and Claire get Roger back.

They all head back to Jocasta’s where Brianna has given birth. Jocasta mentions the birth is “in wedlock” something no one seems to pay attention to, especially when the Redcoats show up. Jocasta was hiding Murtagh, who is now leading The Regulators a rebellious group opposed to the corruption of the governor’s tax collectors. But the Redcoats aren’t looking for Murtagh and have no idea he’s there – they present Jamie with an order signed by King George III himself, demanding Jamie quell all rebellion on his land, especially the Regulators. Roger also returns and his and Brianna share quite the kiss.

So Season 4 ends on a cliffhanger – What will Jamie do about the King’s order? Also, Jocasta seemed to think Brianna was married – no doubt to Lord John Grey, so that might stand in the way of her relationship with Roger. Season 4 is set almost entirely in the US and mostly in Colonial Times, though I liked the episode with Roger and Brianna at the Scottish Festival. I still really missed seeing 18th Century Scotland, and I missed Jamie’s sister, Jenny, who is a great character. Still, I pretty much binge-watched this season in only a few days (it took longer to find time to write this review – I finished watching it last Sunday). The episodes tended to end in cliffhangers, as does the entire season. I enjoy Outlander and I recommend it.

Read my Review of Outlander Season 1 Volume 1.
Read my Review of Outlander Season 1 Volume 2.
Read my Review of Outlander Season 2.
Read my Review of Outlander Season 3.

Book Review – Doctor Who 12th Doctor: The Wolves of Winter

  • Title: Time Trials vol. 2: The Wolves of Winter
  • Author: Richard Dinnick
  • Artists: Brian Williamson, Pasquale Qualano with Edu Menna & Marcelo Salaza, Hi-Fi (Colorist), Richard Starkings (Letterer), Jimmy Betancourt (Letterer)
  • Line: 12th Doctor
  • Characters: Twelfth Doctor, Bill Potts, Nardole
  • Collection Date: 2018
  • Collected Issues: Year 3 (# 5 – 7 and 9)
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 6/10/2019

**Spoiler Alert** Vikings and Ice Warriors and Fenric, oh my! The second volume of Titan Comics third year of Doctor Who Twelfth Doctor stories brings in Bill Potts – finally. It’s good to have a permanent companion for the Doctor again. The TARDIS lands on a volcanic island in the 9th Century CE, where the Doctor and Bill meet some friendly Vikings. The Vikings assume the Doctor is a messenger of the gods, especially after they see inside the Doctor’s TARDIS. The Vikings tell the Doctor about seeing two lights in the sky – one which appeared to burn up but the other disappeared. Thinking it was a ship that landed, the Vikings, The Doctor and Bill investigate. They find a group of Ice Warriors. The Ice Warriors are pursuing one Warrior who was infected by the Flood and escaped Mars in a stolen vehicle. Knowing that if the Flood infects Earth it will destroy the planet, the Ice Warriors want to destroy it first. The Doctor quickly talks the Ice Warriors and Vikings into forming an alliance. They even agree to kill anyone on either side infected by the Flood and possessed.

The Doctor formulates a plan – the Vikings will go inside the warm volcanic mountain, where the heat threatens the Ice Warriors, and the Ice Warriors will guard the exits. All are armed with sonic weapons. But the Doctor also feels he has to give the Flood a chance, so he dresses in a spacesuit and enters the volcano to speak to the Flood. He discovers a Haemovore, Viking runes, a cursed treasure, chess pieces, and other clues that link to Fenric. The names of the Vikings are also familiar. The Doctor tells Bill a little of his Seventh incarnation’s encounter with Fenric.

However, The Doctor is able with the help of the Vikings and Ice Warriors to defeat Fenric (for now) and prevent his poisoning of the Earth with the Flood. The Ice Warriors leave in their spaceship and the Vikings head off in their longboat by “the South way” with their cursed treasure hidden away. As they leave, the Doctor and Bill see a polar bear with her cub – the purpose of their journey originally.

In the second, much shorter story, the vault where the Doctor is holding Missy, needs to have a part replaced so the Doctor, Bill and Nardole head to the Ubermart. There the Doctor and Bill are soon separated. Bill meets a young girl who has also gotten lost. Bill and the girl are pursued by Owl-like creatures and both Bill and the Doctor and Nardole are harassed by the store’s security bots. Eventually, they all meet up again. The young girl turns out to be a Pathicol – symbiotic beings that feed on empathy. The owl-like beings are the Pathicols in their natural, undisguised, state, and quite friendly. The child is returned to her family and the Doctor, Bill, and Nordole return to the TARDIS.

I enjoyed this story very much. It ties into the New Who Tenth Doctor story, “The Waters of Mars” and the Seventh Doctor story, “The Curse of Fenric” – which is one of my favorites. The Ice Warriors in this story are Classic Ice Warriors and also an intelligent proud warrior species, who end-up as good friends with the Viking Warriors. The story also has several awesome references to Norse Mythology that makes a lot of sense. The artwork in the story is also beautiful. And it was great to finally see Bill Potts in the comics! The second story is short and cute, and a good way to round off this collection. The Pathicol in their native state though did remind me of the Court of Owls from Batman. Anyway, this collection is highly recommended.

Shetland Season 4 Review

  • Series Title: Shetland
  • Season: 4
  • Episodes: 6
  • Discs: 2
  • Network:  BBC (Produced by ITV Studios)
  • Cast: Douglas Henshall, Alison O’Donnell, Steven Robertson
  • DVD: R1, NTSC DVD
  • General Information: Based on the mystery novels by Ann Cleeves

This review contains spoilers for Season 4 of Shetland.

Shetland Season 4 is a single mystery story told in six parts. The story opens with Thomas Malone being released from prison after his conviction is overturned. Malone was accused and originally found guilty of killing Lizzie Kilmuir but some evidence was ignored and not presented at his trial of a possible second suspect, thus Malone’s release. DI Jimmy Perez and his team are soon investigating the cold case, to try to find the other suspect and determine if Malone was guilty or innocent. Many people on Shetland, including the now-retired police officer who investigated the original case, believe Malone is guilty and it was “only a technicality” that got him released. Others are convinced he was railroaded and want actual justice for Lizzie. This causes high tensions in the small community.

Shortly after Malone is released and returns to Shetland another young girl is found strangled and left in a lime kiln, like Lizzie. Perez and his team investigate this murder as well. Everyone assumes the two crimes are linked. The second girl, Sally was also a reporter who worked for the Shetland Gazette but that seemed to be wanting to make her mark so she could leap to a bigger urban paper. Sally is found but her phone and computer are missing, making some connection to her work seem more likely.

Much of the story has Tosh trying to find out what Sally was working on and if it got her killed. She has a witness who tells Tosh that Sally was talking to and possibly arguing with a “Norwegian man” at the music festival before she was killed. At the paper, Tosh discovers Sally covered the Norway beat – stories from Norway that might have a connection to Shetland. She discovers a man was killed on an oil rig, and the company might be negligent. When Tosh interviews the man’s wife, she insists her husband was a teetotaler, so he couldn’t have been drunk when his arm was torn off by a drive shaft and he bled to death. At the company, she also discovers all records of random drunk and alcohol tests of the man have disappeared. But she also runs into the man’s wife, she insists she was mistaken. Even Tosh’s pleas that someone else might die fail to persuade the woman to not revise her story.

Tosh then starts to look into the “Norwegian”, eventually going to Bergen to investigate. She discovers Sally was looking into a Norwegian far-right group called the NDF that was planning a major terror attack against migrants and immigrants to Norway. However, the Norwegian police, though initially helpful, eventually stonewall because they know about the NDF and they have an undercover agent in place, plus they are monitoring in an attempt to prevent a terrorist attack by the right. Unfortunately, just the arrival of Tosh and Perez makes the double-agent vulnerable and he is killed. However, the police officer that Tosh met, Lars, seems to be very interested in her. Tosh turns him down.

Later Lars turns up in Shetland, and Tosh at first thinks he’s there because he wants to pursue a relationship with her. But he soon gives himself away – he’s a member of the NDF and he’s the one who exposed the Norwegian Security Forces agent, which led to his death. Lars also attacks the witness who saw him at the music festival where he talked to Sally. And Lars trashes the witness’s croft. But Tosh realizes that Lars lied about “never being in Shetland” and she and Perez arrest him when he goes to the hospital to “talk” to the witness. Perez and Tosh interview Lars, and he eventually says enough that they are able to conclude what the NDF target is and inform the Norwegian police and security services. But Lars didn’t kill Sally.

Back to square one, Perez and his team look at everything again about the murders of Lizzie and Sally, still assuming they are linked. By this time, they’ve had the second DNA sample analyzed and discovered it’s a partial match for a suspect (Alan) – meaning it belonged to the suspect’s father. But when Perez goes to Donna, the suspect’s mother, for DNA of her late husband, she refuses to provide it. The body is exhumed and doesn’t match. Perez confronts Donna and discovers her son, Alan, was the product – she says, of a one night stand and that she was so drunk she doesn’t even remember the man’s name. Perez has his doubts about that, but there’s nothing they can do – unless they have someone to compare the sample to, there is no way to determine who Alan’s father was. This sits on the back burner for a bit in the story.

Eventually, Perez both figures out and has confirmation of who Alan’s father was, and he gets a confession out of who killed Lizzie. It turns out not to be Alan, his mysterious genetic father, or Malone. And who it is is very interesting, as well as the actual motive – but I’m not going to reveal that. However, when the murderer confesses, first to Perez and then in an interview room formerly to Perez and his superiors brought in from Glasgow to investigate the cold case, the outside police accuse Lizzie’s murderer of killing Sally. She denies it and says she has no idea who killed Sally.

This throws Perez, his team, and the outside police force operatives from Glasgow into a tizzy. Everything was built on the cases being related and now, once again, they almost need to start over. But they know that Sally’s journalism career wasn’t the cause of her murder (though some of her photographs lead to finding Lizzie’s murderer). Perez goes back to the retired police officer for closure on why he framed Thomas Malone in the first place, destroyed and buried evidence, and basically did a lousy job – especially as they now know Malone didn’t kill Lizzie. This confrontation leads Perez to discover who killed Sally. I’m not going to reveal that.

I enjoyed Shetland Season 4, the scenery of the Shetland islands, and in this story of Norway is beautiful. The cases are complex and wind around through various information being uncovered, leading to a variety of suspects. The story also addresses the prejudice against someone different (Thomas seems to have some sort of mental defect or disability, but it’s never stated outright) and against someone who was convicted and then released. Scottish police officers from some form of major crimes squad are sent to take over Perez’s investigation and basically seem to want to convict Malone again, despite any evidence that he didn’t do it. However, Sally’s investigations in Norway turn out to be a red herring, as do her investigations of the oil platform drilling company, as her death really has nothing to do with her job. And as with most Shetland stories, yet again we have the uncovering of a decades-old affair in the midst of an investigation to lead to a lot of pain and hurt in the present. Still, overall it’s a great story and I really liked it. Season 4 and the series, in general, is recommended.

Read my Review of Shetland Seasons 1 and 2.

Read my Review of Shetland Season 3.

Book Review – Doctor Who 12th Doctor: The Terror Beneath

  • Title: Time Trials vol. 1: The Terror Beneath
  • Authors: George Mann and James Peaty
  • Artists: Mariano Laclaustra, Warren Pleece, Fer Centurion, Carlos Cabrera (Colorist), Hernán Cabrera (Colorist), Hi-Fi (Colorist), Richard Starkings (Letterer), Jimmy Betancourt (Letterer)
  • Line: 12th Doctor
  • Characters: Twelfth Doctor, Hattie, Penny
  • Collection Date: 2017
  • Collected Issues: Year 3 (# 1 – 4)
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 5/29/2019

**Spoiler Alert** The Terror Beneath is the first volume in Year Three of Titan Comics Twelfth Doctor (as played by Peter Capaldi on the BBC series Doctor Who) series. This volume consists of two complete stories. The Doctor is traveling alone but after a short trip to an aquatic world where he finds Quarks (from the aired story “The Dominators”) buried in an ancient undersea temple, he picks up Hattie on the Twist space station. The two travel to a seaside village for a relaxing break. The weather is colder, wetter, and less pleasant than Hattie would like for a seaside vacation. When they arrive the Doctor and Hattie read a newspaper report of strange creatures walking into the sea. They take accommodation at a nearby hotel and Hattie says she needs to lie down for a bit. Hattie awakes, having horrible, physically painful nightmares. Shambling seaweed creatures attack the hotel. The first wave is pushed back but the Doctor is found unconscious in the hotel’s kitchen. The hotel medical doctor brings The Doctor to one of the hotel’s room that has been turned into an overflow hospital unit. It seems lots of people in the little town are collapsing into comas and no one understands it. The Doctor soon recovers and he and Hattie investigate under the ocean (Hattie in a wetsuit and the Doctor using a rebreather). They discover a spaceship under the ground has been suddenly revealed by the erosion of a nearby cliff. The species is waking up but is still trapped. The Doctor helps get the ship free and the ship and it’s companion ships escape and leave Earth. the people in the town recover with no ill effects.

The Doctor drops off Hattie at the Twist, and then the TARDIS lands in a small town where the local people act like attacking Zombies. The Doctor meets a waitress, Penny, and for a short time ends up in the sheriff’s office. The sheriff is less than helpful though. Penny tells the Doctor the people in the town changed after a comet seemed to land near a local farm and the giant smiling mouth appeared in the sky. The Doctor knows immediately it’s psychic energy but needs to get to the source. Penny tells him there’s a service hatch he can use to get beyond the town’s borders and then gives him directions to the farm. The Doctor finds a horribly manipulated house and it’s three residents who have been taken over. He uses the sonic, frees the family, and the mouth and negative feelings taking over the family and town disappear. The family’s young son has a creature on his chest but with Penny’s help, the Doctor also helps the son to recover. The Doctor says no one will remember what happened besides Penny and the boy and asks her to look out for him.

I enjoyed reading this graphic novel but I found it really short, and I was surprised it wasn’t part of a continuing story for the year. Still, Titan does an excellent job with their Doctor Who graphic novels and this one has particularly beautiful art. Recommended.

Shetland Season 3 Review

  • Series Title: Shetland
  • Season: 3
  • Episodes: 6
  • Discs: 2
  • Network:  BBC (Produced by ITV Studios)
  • Cast: Douglas Henshall, Alison O’Donnell, Steven Robertson
  • DVD: R1, NTSC DVD
  • General Information: Based on the mystery novels by Ann Cleeves

The third season of Shetland is all one single mystery and at six hour-long parts you would think that it feels overly long, however, it doesn’t – it just feels almost like a real case, with the police pursuing multiple lines of inquiry, rather than simply running into red herrings. The season opens on a car ferry to the Shetland Islands, a 12-hour trip. A young woman witnesses an altercation between an older man and a younger man. When the older man pushes the younger one and falls, then leaves, she rushes over to the younger man. She finds out the young man is named Robbie, and the two get to talking and then share drinks in the onboard bar. But the next morning, Robbie is nowhere to be found. The girl, Leanne, reports him as missing to desk Sgt. Billy, but at first, he pooh-poohs her. Later, the police, under Perez, treats the case as a missing person case. Perez interviews the other man that Leanne described, who is known as Michael McGuire. When he returns to the station, his boss, Rhona, tells him that McGuire launched a complaint – accusing Perez of intimidation, harassment and using bad language. Perez is stunned. Rhona just tells him to stay away from McGuire.

A few days later, Robbie’s body is found at the recycling center. But before Perez, Sandy, and Tosh have even gotten the body down from a claw used to move old clothing and such – they receive a call. The local Shetland police are to have nothing to do with the case, it’s to be left to mainland police. Perez is confused. He and his team investigate quietly, and also head to Glasgow to get to the bottom of it. Perez is able to have Cora, his forensic pathologist unofficially look at the body. She isn’t able to do a full autopsy, but she tells Perez that the boy, Robbie, was locked in the shipping container and suffocated. Perez knows he must have been put into the container on the ferry by a person or persons unknown. He also eventually discovers that although the doors to the car storage area are normally locked, and all car ferry passengers are required to stay in the ferry’s passenger areas – one of the doors had a broken lock and the light by the security camera was broken.

Perez continues to do what he can do, investigating what he can, despite the stonewalling by higher levels of his own department. Then a sniper shoots Leanne and McGuire. Perez then finds out part of the story – McGuire is actually Michael Thompson. He was placed in witness protection because he was going to testify against Arthur McCall – a mobster and major player in the drugs scene in Glasgow. Perez and his team quickly realize that Michael and Leanne were shot by a professional hit man. Again, Perez and his team go to Glasgow. By this point, the police realize they made a mistake in not telling Perez who Thompson was. Perez also starts to become attracted to the witness protection officer who was Thompson’s handler, even though she had concocted the fake complaint against him and had set up a fake alibi as well.

Perez, Sandy, and Tosh become more and more involved in the investigation into McCall, who is now free since the case against him collapsed without Thompson’s testimony. McCall threatens Perez. Tosh is picked up at the airport by one of McCall’s men, kidnapped, threatened, and raped. Perez finds out that Michael left an answering machine message for his wife, but it’s badly garbled. Cleaning up the audio leads to the Level Nine club in Glasgow, and an old report of an attack on Burns Night. That investigation turns up some interesting history (especially considering what’s just happened to Tosh). Eventually, Perez and his team discover some police corruption and who ordered the hit on Thompson – but it seems to be completely unrelated to the death of Robbie.

Perez and his team return to Lerwick and start over investigating Robbie’s death. Perez does figure it out and catches the person who did it, and it is a tragic story, but I’m not going to spoil it.

Shetland is a great series. Even though Season 3 is all one long story, it doesn’t feel drawn-out, rather it’s like the real twists and turns and changes of focus one can imagine might actually happen in a real case. This season also expands the show – have Perez and his team flying back and forth to Glasgow and introducing some of the police officers there. We still get to see some of the wild beauty of the Shetland Islands, but we also see a lot of Glasgow. I enjoyed Shetland Season 3 and I recommend it.

Read my Review of Shetland Seasons 1 and 2.