The Seven Faces of Doctor Who: The Seeds of Death

January 31, 2015 in Dr Who, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782

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Today we continue our look back at Classic Who and shift the focus onto the Second Doctor played by Patrick Troughton. This week’s story is The Seeds of Death which features Frazer Hines as Jamie McCrimmon and Wendy Padbury as Zoe Heriot alongside Patrick Troughton’s unforgettable incarnation of everyone’s favourite Time Lord. For those of you who don’t know Patrick Troughton is my favourite Doctor and despite some tough competition from the likes of Tom Baker he is still managing to hang on to the top spot on my list. I choose this story because it shows both his silly and his serious side more-or-less equally and it also follows the format typical of many stories from his era. It is of course a base-under-siege story and while it does have some differences to the standard base-under-siege format it is still essentially what it boils down to. It is also the second appearance of the Ice Warriors who were primarily brought back because it was cheaper than making an entirely new monster but also because they had proved popular in the first appearance. The writer of said first appearance, Brian Hayles, was also bought back to write this sequel although script editor Terrance Dicks ended up rewriting the majority dues to issues with the original scripts. Michael Ferguson was bought on to direct the story and that is pretty much all the behind-the-scenes stuff in a nutshell so I think it’s about time to move on to the nitty-gritty of the story itself.

Starting off with the précis (which is basic a posh word for synopsis) for The Seeds of Death, the story begins with the TARDIS landing in the late twenty-first century where a revolutionary teleportation system called T-Mat has superseded all other forms of transport. It is controlled from a base on the moon but when all contact is lost the Earth enters a state of crisis. Unbeknownst to those on the planet bellow, the moonbase has been invaded by a group of Ice Warriors who plan to send seed pods to Earth which will spread oxygen sapping spores and end all life. With no other way to reach the moon, the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe pilot a rocket to there and discover the presence of their old enemies. They then manage to rescue the surviving technicians and teleport back to Earth using T-Mat, but the fungus is already taking effect and there seems to be no way to stop it. After some experimenting, the Doctor finds that the fungus can be destroyed with ordinary water and then goes to the weather control bureau to make it rain. Unfortunately, an Ice Warrior had been sent on ahead to destroy the weather controls but the Doctor is able to rig up a solar-radiation device to kill the Ice Warrior with. He then fixes the weather controls and causes it to rain, destroying all of the deadly fungus that was suffocating the planet. However, an Ice Warrior fleet is moving in and a signal is being transmitted by the Ice Warriors on the moon to direct them there. Earth then sends a satellite up which is transmitting the same signal to lure the Ice Warrior fleet off course and into an orbit which will send them into the sun. The Doctor then heads up alone to disable the signal on the moon so that the Ice Warriors will all follow the false signal but while he is successful he is also captured by the remaining Ice Warriors. Tired of waiting, Jamie follows on after the Doctor and then saves him from the Ice Warriors, dealing with them in the process. with all the threats to Earth now dealt with the Doctor heads off in the TARDIS with Jamie and Zoe, but it’s far from the last he’ll see of the Ice Warriors.

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On the whole this story is surprisingly well made given the moderately troubled pre-production and low budget and the effort that went into making this clearly shows in the end product. Obviously it’s not flawless but given what they had to work with they came out better than expected. The sets themselves look very sleek and futuristic but in that classic sixties way. It very much shows what route they thought we were going to go down in the future but now it seems like we’re heading in a completely different. As for the costumes, they are also rather simplistic and while it does make the majority of the male cast members look like rather tacky superheroes the performances thankfully draws the audience’s attention away from the costume and makes them instead focus on the acting and the story. As for Mrs Kelly, one of the few female members of the cast, she’s given a much nicer costume which really stands out as high quality when compared to the costumes worn by those around her. As for the Ice Warriors the general design is pretty much the same as what we saw in their original story, The Ice Warriors, only here they look much more tight and for the most part less tacky. The lip sinking doesn’t match up that well but luckily they don’t have much lines as most are said by their leader, Slaar, who has an entirely different design. He is much more sleek and almost snake like compared to the standard Ice Warriors’ more turtle-like look. He even has a great hissing voice which is reminiscent of a snake. The character is written very well and Alan Bennion gives a great performance. Director Michael Ferguson is definitely aware of the productions strengths and limits but by no means does he play it safe. He takes risks which ultimately pay off and his decision to keep the Ice Warriors hidden for the first episode though use of point-of-view shots was pure genius. There’s also a very nice low angle shot of an Ice Warrior with the sun in the background, it works so well as you can’t make out an of the Ice Warriors features and it gives a real sense of menace.

Interestingly enough, the Doctor doesn’t come in to the story until about half way through the first episode which means that there’s a fair amount of time setting up the characters and the plot even before the TARDIS lands which is nice. One of these characters is Fewsham who ends up helping the Ice Warriors for most of the story. But not out greed or a lust for power but simply because he doesn’t want to die which might not be the most commendable of attributes but it’s certainly realistic. He does, however, die a hero and makes up for his past mistakes which is a nice bit of character development even though it’s a bit predictable. Another great character is Gia Kelly who is one of the few female characters is the story but she is much stronger than most of the men. She doesn’t let anyone push her about, even her superiors, and is very much focus on getting the job done right. Now The Seeds of Death is very much the Doctor’s story (despite Patrick Troughton being on holiday for episode four) but that doesn’t mean that Jamie and Zoe are left with nothing to do and they are given quite an active role in the proceedings actually. It’s also interesting to note that they spend most of the story together whereas some stories like to split the main characters up to drive different strands of the story before reuniting at the end. Here they do split up fairly often but always met up again fairly quickly and practically everyone gets a chance to act opposite each other which is great.

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Overall, The Seeds of Death is another great story which is arguably more relevant today than it was back then. It’s all about space travel and how we should be exploring the stars which is something we seem to have given up on these days and are too focused on making our lives easier. Admittedly we don’t have anything like T-Mat to do this but there are loads of other luxuries in today’s world that we could quite easily live without. So it’s a nine-out-of-ten for me on this one and next week we’ll be moving on to the Third Doctor with The Claws of Axos, an absolute romp of a story featuring UNIT and the Master but until then be sure to sound off your thoughts on the story in the comments below.

Farscape : Natural Election

January 27, 2015 in Farscape by Firebird

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Crichton correctly predicts a wormhole’s appearance near Moya, but simultaneously a giant space plant captures the Leviathan. An attack with D’Argo’s ship only succeeds in sending the plant into Moya’s conduits, making it even more difficult to kill. Eventually, an agent is found that will repel the plant, but it only exists in Scorpius’ cooling rods. In order to save Moya, Crichton will have to place trust in his arch nemesis.

Synposis

A fairly standard ship in peril episode. Sikozu continues to buddy up with Scorpius. Aeryn makes the major mistake of trusting Chiana with a secret, which naturally she blabs to D’Argo who then tells Crichton.

Scorpius’ cooling rods allow him to clear poor Pilot of the invading plant.

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But it takes Noranti’s abilities as a chemist combined with Sikozu’s knowledge of Laviathans to find a solution that works for the whole ship.

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And finally after taking it in turns proves unworkable the crew hold an election for a permanent captain which D’Argo wins.

Star Trek : Balance of Terror

January 26, 2015 in Guest Blogs, Star Trek by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Mindless Droid

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This week’s classic Star Trek episode is Balance of Terror. While patrolling along the Romulan neutral zone Captain Kirk officiates at the wedding of two of the crew he receives word that they have lost contact with Earth Outposts number 2 and 3. As Kirk begins the ceremony a red alert is signaled outpost number 4 is under attack. Kirk orders full ahead.

As the Enterprise races toward Outpost 4 Kirk and Spock brief the crew about their mission. Spock explains that the neutral zone and the Earth outposts were put in place after the Earth Romulan war of over a century ago. He also notes that since the war the treaty has been unbroken and that neither side has seen the other due to lack of visual communications back then. Kirk then explains that his orders are explicit they are to defend themselves but they may not violate the treaty and that in order to prevent interstellar war the Enterprise and the outposts are considered expendable. Lieutenant Stiles says that it has to be the Romulans and they have violated the treaty. Kirk asks how they would know it’s the Romulans. Stiles says they are painted like a bird of prey. Kirk asks how he knows and Stiles tells kirk that several of his relatives died in the war.

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The Enterprise finds outposts 2 and 3 have been destroyed but re-stablish contact with outpost 4. The outpost has been attacked and severely damaged. Commander Hansen tells Kirk that the weapon was a sort of energy plasma and destroyed his base even though their shields were up and they are a mile deep in an asteroid of solid iron. Just then a ship appears on Hansen’s view screen he switches the screen over to the Enterprise just as the ship fires its weapon and disappears. Outpost 4 is now totally destroyed. The attacker has vanished. Spock discovers a blip on the motion sensor and the ship is headed back towards Romulan space. Kirk and Spock theorizes that being cloaked uses a lot of power and that the invisibility screen may work both ways. Kirk orders a parallel course to appear as an echo to the Romulan ship to which Stiles objects showing his hatred of the Romulans. Stiles then tells Kirk it’s possible that Romulan spies have infiltrated the Enterprise. Kirk orders a security alert. Just then Uhura intercepts a message from the Romulan ship Spock locks onto it and is able to get a visual of the Romulan bridge. To every ones shock the Romulans look exactly like Vulcans.

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Uhura tells kirk that they are still working on translating the Romulan message. Stiles mutters that they should give it to Spock to which Kirk asks if he is complimenting Spock on his skills to translate it. Stiles says he’s not sure to which Kirk orders him to leave any bigotry he has in his quarters there’s no room for it on the bridge. The Romulan ship becomes visible and changes course Kirk orders them to follow. Aboard the Romulan ship their commander knows they are being followed and consults with his centurion on what they will do next and what the ramifications will be. As they talk Decious who sent the message picked up by the Enterprise reports in. The commander reduces him two steps in rank for breaking radio silence. Centurion warns him that Decious has powerful friends that could be dangerous to him to which the commander replies “Danger and I are old companions”. The Romulan commander is wary of what will happen when they return and have proof of the Earthman’s weakness. Centurion is concerned that the commander isn’t fully on board with the mission but is reassured by him that he will do his duty.

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Aboard the Enterprise Kirk holds a conference on what to do next. Stiles wants to attack while they are still outside the neutral zine. Sulu is wary and asks how they will hit an invisible target. McCoy also voices resignation Spock then adds that if the Romulans are an off shoot of the Vulcans they cannot show fear and agrees with Stiles to attack. Kirk agrees and orders an attack as the Romulan ship turns toward a comet. They believe the ship will become visible as it enters the comet.

As the two ships enter the comet the Romulan commander is told that their shadow no longer follows. He is quick to realize Kirk’s plan and initiates an escape maneuver. When the Romulan ship does not become visible as predicted Kirk realizes this and changes course as well. We see each Captain commending the others skill. Kirk orders the Enterprise to fire at the Romulan ship blindly hoping to score a hit. The Romulan ship is hit and as a piece of ceiling falls toward the Romulan commander the centurion pushes him out of the way and is gravely injured. Back on the Enterprise the phaser control circuit burns out. The Romulan commander decides to attack they de-cloak and fire their weapon. Kirk orders all to stern as the phasers are inoperative. The weapon eventually overtakes the ship but has dissipated somewhat and only causes minor damage. The Romulans go back to their previous course, Kirk resumes a parallel course. Stiles informs Kirk that they’ll be entering the neutral zone in one minute Kirk decides to attack before then. The Enterprise fires and hits the Romulan ship. Kirk decides to continue pursuit into the neutral zone and continues the attack. The Romulan commander deploys a decoy as he has all the debris from the damage jettisoned into space as well as the body of his friend the centurion who has died. Spock scans the wreckage but it is to late the trick has worked and the Enterprise has lost contact with the Romulan ship.

Each ship now plays the waiting game looking for a clue as to where the other one is. Kirk and McCoy discuss the day’s events in Kirk’s cabin. Kirk is starting to feel the strain of command. McCoy reassures Kirk that he is doing the right thing. Back on the bridge Spock making further repairs on the phaser controls accidently hits his control panel and activates a signal that the Romulans pick up. The Romulan ship closes in but Kirk guesses their move and hits them with more phaser fire. The Romulan commander’s frustration grows as he keeps being out maneuvered. He orders more debris into the disposal tubes and also one nuclear device used for self-destruction. Spock scans the debris and picks up the metal cased object Kirk orders a point blank phaser strike. The device detonates one hundred meters from the ship damaging the Enterprise. The phasers are undamaged but only the crewman who was to be married Tomlinson is left to man them. Stiles volunteers to go as his first assignment was in weapons control. Spock tells Kirk that they can move off to make repairs but Kirk decides to play dead.

On the Romulan ship the commander wants to retreat as he does not trust Kirk. Decious reminds him that it is their duty to destroy the enemy, reluctantly he decides to attack. Spock checks on the phaser control room Stiles tells him rather rudely that everything is okay. As Spock leaves Stiles notices that the phaser coolant is leaking. Just then the Romulan ship turns to attack. Kirk orders the phasers to fire but Stiles and Tomlinson are unconscious. Spock hearing Kirk over the intercom rushes in and fires the phasers scoring a direct hit disabling the Romulan ship. Kirk hails the Romulan ship and offers to take on its survivors. The Romulan commander after expressing great respect for Kirk refuses the offer tells him that he has one last duty to perform and self-destructs. Kirk goes to sick bay. Spock had saved Stiles. Stiles expresses regret about his suspicion of Spock and is amazed that Spock would risk his life to save him after everything he said to him. Spock brushes it off as having saved an important crewman and has no other feelings in this matter. Kirk asks McCoy “How many men did we lose?” McCoy says only one Tomlinson who was to be married that day. He tells Kirk his fiancé is at the chapel. Kirk goes and comforts her telling her that there has to be a reason. She tells Kirk she is okay. Kirk leaves and heads back to the bridge.

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This is one of the best episodes of the entire classic series if not the best. The Romulans are introduced in this episode and unfortunately have never really been done justice afterward although The Enterprise Incident wasn’t bad and Deadly Years they really didn’t have a large part in. I often wonder why they never played up the Romulan plasma weapon again being it was so powerful. I never did like the way they were portrayed in The Next Generation they always seemed so stiff and dull it may have been the uniforms and let’s not mention Nemesis. In this episode they were awesome Mark Lenard who went on to portray Sarek Spock’s father was great in this episode as the somewhat conflicted Romulan commander. The interplay with him and the centurion gives some nice background on the Romulans and their culture. Having them also be an off shoot of Vulcan makes them even that more intriguing. The interplay between Kirk and the Romulan commander was great each one out guessing the other until finally Kirk got the upper hand. The final scene in which the Romulan commander shows his respect for Kirk is one of my favorites in the series especially this quote “You and I are of a kind. In a different reality, I could have called you friend.” This episode also lays the foundation for the cloaked ship being unable to fire its weapons unless it becomes visible. The subplots of the wedding and Stiles suspicion of Spock added to the drama of the episode.

Some trivia from this episode.

The episode is said to be based on two movies Run Silent Run Deep and The Enemy Below.

The Romulan crewman all wore helmets to cut costs on making them all prosthetic ears.

Mark Lenard also went on to play a Klingon in Star Trek the Motion picture always hated that title.

The ships phasers are shown more like photon torpedoes here as that term had not been invented yet but it is explained by Kirk ordering the phasers to be set for proximity blast, also this is the only time the phasers are fired through a series of commands to another control center other than the bridge.

A longer portion of Hansen’s transmission that was not used had him saying that the Romulan ship was similar to ours and that he suspects they may have stolen some of our technology this played up to Stiles having suspicion that there were spies on board the Enterprise.

If you watch closely when the Enterprise detonates the nuclear warhead (a favorite scene of mine “Helm hard over, phasers fire point blank!”) not everybody “falls” in the same direction.

The model for the Romulan ship was damaged and that is one of the reasons when the third season episode The Enterprise Incident aired the Romulans were said to be using Klingon ships.

When Kirk leaves the chapel after consoling Angela he is sullen and slightly slumped over but as he walks down the corridor he straightens up and regains his air of command.

The Seven Faces of Doctor Who: The Dalek Invasion of Earth

January 24, 2015 in Dr Who, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782

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While we sit back and wait for the highly anticipated series nine I thought it best to turn to the classic series to pass the time. So over the coming weeks I’ll be looking at one story from each of the original seven Doctor’s. The first port of call is The Dalek Invasion of Earth which of course features William Hartnell as the First Doctor, Carole Ann Ford as Susan Foreman, William Russel as Ian Chesterton and Jacqueline Hill as Barbara Wright. I decided to settle upon this story to represent the First Doctor’s era because it represents a change in direction for his character. Before he mainly trying to get himself and his companions out of dangerous situations but here he is trying to make a difference and leave the world he visits in a better state than it was when he arrived on it. It is also one of the most iconic Dalek stories to date with shots of them roaming about London that became embedded in the memories of an entire generation. The story itself is written by Terry Nation and directed by Richard Martin so without further adieu let’s get on to the synopsis.

The story itself begins with the TARDIS landing in a Dalek occupied London and the travellers soon become separated with Susan and Barbara getting caught up with the resistance while the Doctor and Ian become prisoners of the Daleks. The resistance then launches an attack on the Dalek saucer where the Doctor and Ian are held and while the Doctor manages to escape Ian is still inside and the resistance is torn to pieces by the retaliating Daleks. The saucer then takes off for the mines in Bedfordshire and the Doctor, Susan, Barbara and what remains of the resistance heads there too. After having a quick look at the mines the Doctor reveals that he believes it to be the heart of the Dalek’s operations on Earth and that putting a stop to he work here would cripple the Daleks plans. The Daleks themselves plan to dig to the centre of the Earth and replace the core with a device which will allow them to pilot the Earth. They send an explosive down to penetrate the crust of the Earth but Ian intercepts it and the Doctor is able to break into Dalek command and turn the Dalek’s robotic servants, the Robomen, against their masters. The Daleks device is unable to destroy the crust of the Earth but still causes a massive explosion which destroys the remaining Dalek saucers above. The Doctor and his companions then head back to London where a tough choice has to be made. Susan has fallen in love with one of the resistance members and rather than have his granddaughter choose between him and the man she loves he makes the decision for her and dematerialises without her, leaving her to settle down and aid in the rebuilding of the Earth.

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I’m not sure what it is exactly but I just absolutely love this story. I just get such a great feeling while watching early serials like this and I guess that feeling would best be described as nostalgia, which is odd considering that my parents weren’t even in double figures when this went out. So why do I get this feeling of nostalgia while watching old stuff like this? Probably because I watched things like it when I was younger but it’s interesting nevertheless. There’s also something just so appealing about a story where the invasion has already been and gone and the characters are now living in a rather well realised post-apocalyptic world. Obviously it’s the sixties so you can’t expect too much but it did have certain advantages with streets of an empty London being achieved in a way that couldn’t be replicated now because of people’s lifestyles today leading to the streets being filled at all hours. The musical score is also great for this. There isn’t much of it but what there is gives a feeling of emptiness and hopelessness. The first episode sets it all up particularly nicely with some great camera work as well as a tight script which builds up a great sense of mystery and eeriness.

Then there are the Daleks themselves who are very much of a bygone era here but I honestly don’t mind that and in some ways I actually prefer it this way. They’re still threatening and arguably more so because when you make an enemy so powerful like the new series did with them and then have then defeated fairly quickly then they’re just not threatening. Here they are threatening in numbers but when they are defeated it takes time to get to that point and therefor it doesn’t make them seem much less threatening. I honestly like the Daleks from the seventies the best as the weren’t too powerful for their own good like they would later become but aren’t as easily defeated on their own as they were here. We also have the appearance of the Robomen here who are humans conditioned to obey the Daleks and they are used as far more than just foot soldiers for the Daleks, they are used for emotional value too with interactions between them and people they used to know before they were converted. It’s things like that which make the Daleks much more evil and much more effective as villains, the idea that they’re not just killing people but taking their humanity away from them too. In fact the Robomen are a bit like Cybermen in that sense. There are also a great array of believable characters created here by Terry Nation but I’m instead going to focus on the four regulars to finish off. They all get to play a fairly equal share in the story with each of them carrying a separate strand of the story and leading said strand to it’s end point. Arguably the Doctor and Susan get slightly less to do than Ian and Barbara for the majority of the story but that’s more than made up for by the final scene in which the Doctor says goodbye. It’s a very heart-wrenching scene and it gets me every time. In fact I would probably say it’s the most emotional scene in all of the Doctor Who because it’s not overacted but done just right and it’s very probably William Hartnell’s best performance as the Doctor and the music afterwards signs the story off perfectly, simply perfection.

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In conclusion, The Dalek Invasion of Earth is a magnificent story and one which I would recommend all Doctor Who fans watch if they haven’t already. However, it isn’t flawless so it is one mark off with a nine-out-of-ten from me unfortunately. Still that’s a very good score and I hope you’ll join me next week when we take a look at The Seeds of Death, an action-packed Second Doctor story featuring the Ice Warriors but until then be sure to sound off your thoughts on the story in the comments below.

Star Trek : The Conscience of the King

January 19, 2015 in Guest Blogs, Star Trek by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Mindless Droid

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This week’s classic Star Trek episode is The Conscience of the King. The Enterprise diverts to planet Q. Doctor Thomas Leighton claims to have invented a new synthetic food but it is not the real reason he called the Enterprise. Leighton believes that an actor Anton Karidian in a traveling Shakespeare company is actually Kodos the Executioner who killed half the population of Tarsus IV years ago. Leighton and Kirk are two of only nine survivors who had seen the face of Kodos. Kirk believes that Kodos is long dead but after some research he returns to Leighton’s home to attend a party for the group hoping to meet Karidian. At the party kirk meets Karidian’s daughter Lenore and during a walk outside they find Leighton dead.

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Kirk now even more suspicious arranges for the ship that was carrying the company to leave orbit without them. Kirk then offers to take them to their next stop. Aboard the Enterprise Kirk discovers that Lieutenant Riley and he are the last of the nine survivors left alive. He demotes Riley to engineering to keep him away from Karidian. Spock suspicious of Kirk’s motives does some of his own research and discovers that when the other seven eye witnesses died the Karidian players were somewhere nearby. Riley alone in engineering calls to the rec room and is listening to a song by Spock playing a Vulcan harp and Uhura singing. Unknown to Riley someone sneaks in and squirts something into his milk. After taking a drink Riley starts choking Uhura realizing something is wrong sends help. Riley is saved but is in critical condition.

Spock is certain that Riley has been poisoned and that Karidian is Kodos. McCoy asks Kirk what he will do. Later in Kirk’s quarters as Spock and Kirk discuss what to do they hear the hum of a phaser that is set to overload that if it detonates would take out the entire deck? Kirk finds the phaser at the last second in the red alert light and ejects it into space. Kirk finally confronts Karidian who is evasive in his answers. Kirk has him record an order Kodos gave at the colony to compare with the ships voice records of Kodos. Meanwhile in sick bay Riley overhears McCoy’s log entry about the suspicion of Karidian being Kodos. The voices are a near perfect match but Kirk is still unsure as a man’s life is in the balance.

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As the Karidian players begin a presentation of Hamlet Riley sneaks backstage with a phaser intending to kill Karidian. Kirk finds Riley and talks him out of it with Karidian overhearing the conversation. Karidian comes backstage and Lenore notices he’s upset. He tells her that a voice from the past is haunting him a past he never told her about. It is then that she reveals that it was her who killed the other seven eyewitnesses and that after tonight all the ghosts will be dead. Karidian is horrified by what his daughter has done. Kirk overhearing the conversation approaches them and orders them to come with him. Kirk calls a guard to escort them and Lenore now totally over the edge grabs the guard’s phaser and runs on stage. Kirk and Karidian follow her. Lenore holds them at gun point and as she goes to shoot Kirk Karidian jumps in the way and she kills her father. Kirk disarms her and she is taken to sick bay as she has gone totally insane. McCoy reports to Kirk that Lenore will get the best care and that she believes that her father is alive and still performing. He then asks Kirk if he cared for Lenore Kirk doesn’t answer going through his command duties but gives McCoy a knowing look.

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This was a really good episode. It gives us some of Kirk’s backstory. We get to see Riley again and unfortunately this would be his last appearance. The twist at the end was unexpected. Lenore descent into total insanity was very dramatic and sad. No red shirts were harmed in this episode.

Blake’s 7: Project Avalon

January 17, 2015 in Blake's 7, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782

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The dreaded security robot returns in this week’s Blake’s 7 episode, Project Avalon. Now it’s well known that the budget for Blake’s 7 wasn’t that big but I’m sure a little bit more money could’ve been spent on the security robot to at least make it look competent. But other than that the effects and sets were quite good this time around. By today’s standard they’re nothing amazing but to judge them by today’s standards would be unfair given that it’s a product of the late seventies. I’m not sure whether they had more money for this episode or just made better use of what they had but either way the episode looked better for it. But anyway, the episode itself was once again written by the sole writer for the series so far, Terry Nation, and is directed by Michael E Briant. Briant had previously directed the first and fifth episodes (The Way Back and The Web) and will return one last time to direct the penultimate episode of the first series, Deliverance, but we’ve still got a few episodes to go before then so for now let’s focus on Project Avalon.

The episode takes place on an unnamed planet where Travis wipes out a group of resistance fighters and captures their leader, Avalon, who has started similar rebellions on many nearby planets. Prior to this, she made contact with Blake and had arranged for him to come and take her off world. With Blake on his way, Travis’s trap was set. Blake arrives and teleports down with Jenna and Vila to find all but one of the resistance dead. They then decide to rescue Avalon from the Federation’s underground facility but unbeknownst to them the real Avalon has been replaced by an android duplicate. Federation Supreme Commander Servalan then arrives to oversee the operation and brings with her a deadly and fast acting virus for Travis to use on the Liberator. Blake then infiltrates the facility, rescues Avalon (unaware that she is an android) and teleports back to the Liberator. He then becomes suspicious of the ease in which they escaped and then, after a brief struggle, stops the android Avalon from releasing the virus inside the ship. Blake then has Avon reprogram the android and teleports back down the planet with it. He then forces Travis to hand over the real Avalon while the android holds the virus and allows them to escape. Travis is able to stop the android releasing the virus but Servalan tells him that there will be a full enquiry into his failure and until that time he is relieved of command. He then once again swears that he will destroy Blake, even if it takes all his life.

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When we took a look at Duel last week I commented on how Travis seemed rather incompetent and more of a pantomime villain than anything else. Not wishing to repeat what I said last week, let’s just say this episode didn’t really help that too much. He’s so sure of himself all the way trough the episode until the final moments where he is outsmarted and then swears that he will destroy Blake once again. Now this formula worked the first time in Seek-Locate-Destroy but started to feel a bit repetitive in Duel and now in Project Avalon it feels tired and predictable, something which Blake’s 7 should never be. But while Travis may be failing as a villain, Servalan is excelling. This episode marks the return of the Federation Supreme Commander who previously appeared in Seek-Locate-Destroy and sent Travis on his mission to destroy Blake. Jacqueline Pearce does a great job at playing her and really gives a subtle sense of villainy. Villains are always more fun when they’re calm and collected which is probably why I prefer Servalan to Travis as the latter often has great outbursts of emotion which only make him feel more incompetent, but maybe slightly more interesting as a character in his own right. It’s also the little things which make these characters interesting as villains. The Mutoid having to pick up the map dropped right at Travis’s feet, the way Servalan questions the Mutoids choice of the word demanded when refering to Blake’s request and the subsequent fear in the Mutoid’s reaction, things like this say a lot about the characters and the society they live in. We then have Servalan calmly telling Travis that he is relieved of duty which at least shows there are consequences to Travis’s actions and that Servalan isn’t as foolish as Travis can be at times. We also get to see Blake and Servalan meet for the first time which provides an interesting scene to end the episode on.

The episode itself is also another action packed one in which everyone gets something good to do, even if it’s only a little. Gan is the one with the least to do however which is unfortunate given that he hasn’t had a chance to do much since Time Squad. Admittedly Avon and Cally are stuck up on the Liberator for the whole episode too but they’re not really in need of any action for the time being and do actually have a decent role to play here with Cally’s character being explored further by her admiration of Avalon and Avon making the tough call of retreating from their position when Federation ships show up. Then there’s Jenna and Vila who get to accompany Blake down to the surface so that they can rescue Avalon. Admittedly Jenna doesn’t get to do too much on the emotional side of things but does at least get to be involved in the action. Same with Vila who exercises his usual wit and charm, the scene where he puts his arctic gear on is a particularly memorable one. Then we have Blake who is very possibly the focus once again but at the same time it could be argued that Travis is or maybe even Avalon herself is, after all she is the titular character. But Avalon doesn’t have too much to do and I would say is more of a macguffin than an actual character. Everything that happens in the episode revolves around her and her presence very much drives the story forward but everything that is revolving around her is actually more interesting than her. So it’s back to Blake and Travis and who wins? Well I would say neither. It goes back to that issue of moral ambiguity and while it is clear who’s good and who’s bad you still get to see the story from both points of view equally. Chevner is the last character to talk about and he’s basically the main supporting character since Avalon spends most of the story imprisoned by the Federation. Chevner is a good enough character and serves his purpose well enough and it would’ve been interesting to see whether or not he’d of joined Blake’s crew or stayed with Avalon if the android hadn’t killed him. Also, the idea of Travis using a deadly, fast acting virus to wipe out the crew of the Liberator was a fairly gruesome one and this was made even worse by the fact that they showed an innocent person die from it purely to show the ruthlessness of the Federation. It’s an effective scene made all the more so by Servalan’s presence in it.

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Rounding off this episode, it’s another action packed one right off the back of Duel but where it differs from the previous story is that the scale is much greater and the episode is all the better for it. This means it gets a nine-out-of-ten from me, one mark higher than Duel got last week, but I’m still yet to give full marks to an episode. Hopefully that’ll change soon, maybe even with the next episode which is titled Breakdown and it looks as if it’ll answer my wishes and focus more of Gan but until we find out for sure be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.

Farscape: Promises

January 14, 2015 in Farscape by Firebird

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Crichton and the crew are reunited on Moya. Crichton finds Aeryn suffering from Heat Delirium and under the care of Scorpius, who wants asylum aboard Moya. Soon after, a giant Lukythian ship appears nearby, and its Captain, Ullom, claims that Aeryn was recently part of a team that assassinated an important Lukythian leader. Ullom offers to heal Aeryn in return for information about the plot. While battling with the notion of trusting Scorpius, Crichton remains unaware that neither Aeryn nor Ullom is telling the whole truth.

Synopsis

I love that Harvey wants Crichton to kill Scorpius

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but no great surprised as Scorpius has a device which he says can remove Harvey and it seems to work too.

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Meanwhile the Peacekeepers have come up with a weapon that will kill Moya while leaving her passengers unharmed and Braca sets out to deliver it. Luckily it turns out that Ullom’s ship has chameleon abilities which they use to fool the Peacekeeper missile.

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Although Aeryn did kill the Lukythian leader it was out of principal not for money. Ullom dies along with his ship.

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And so we are left with Moya and a full crew on the run with Scorpius as a passenger/prisoner. Sikozu was already an unpopular addition and her apparent friendship with Scorpius only makes that worse. While Crichton is of course happy to have Aeryn back he’s none too thrilled that she does volunteer the fact that she’s pregnant, although at this point it’s not 100% clear that she is, Crichton only has Noranti’s word on that and she’s not exactly the most reliable source.

Blake’s 7 : Duel

January 3, 2015 in Blake's 7, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782

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As the title would suggest, this episode focuses on a duel to the death between Blake and Travis. The latter has only appeared in one episode prior to this one and it’s amazing how well defined a character he is already. However, this isn’t a complete success for writer Terry Nation as at the moment Travis feels a bit too much like a pantomime villain to me, I can’t really see him ever catching Blake and this episode only helped to enforce that. Blake’s final line pretty much sums it up with him saying he’d prefer to have someone chasing him who he knows he can beat. This doesn’t establish Travis as a threat, it makes him seem like more of a nuisance and an incompetent fool. Thankfully, Stephen Greif’s performance helps save the character and makes him seem quite threatening at times but the writing itself often ends up not really supporting this. Now maybe this is the way that Terry Nation envisaged the character or maybe Travis will improve over time but either way I feel that something’s misfired somewhere along the line. Blake is suffering from a similar problem in that he’s almost too good to be interesting. Gareth Thomas makes up for this by really sinking his teeth into just about every line he’s given but it goes back to the issue that the merry men are always more interesting than Robin Hood himself. I think that just about every crew member of the Liberator (with the possible exception of Gan) is more interesting than Blake himself which is sad but true. Anyway, the episode itself is directed by Douglas Camfield who is a veteran director who had previously done loads of work on Doctor Who and is a really good at action, making him the obvious choice for an episode titled Duel. He directed some great Doctor Who stories such as The Invasion and Terror of the Zygons, all of which have a great sense of atmosphere thanks in no small part to Douglas Camfield’s directorial decisions so I went into this expecting great things.

By the start of this episode, Travis has managed to drive Blake into orbit around an uncharted planet and is preparing to go in for the kill. Meanwhile, the Liberator’s continual escapes from the Federation have drained the Liberator’s power and so Blake, Jenna and Gan take a trip to the planets surface while they wait for the power to recharge and from there they spot Travis’ ships going in for the kill. They teleport back up and prepare for battle. Seeing no other option, Blake decides to ram Travis’ command ship but just as he is about to do so both he and Travis are teleported to the planets surface where they meet Sinofar and Giroc who decide that the two must fight to the death to settle the dispute. Blake is joined by Jenna who helps him in his fight while Travis’ mutoid pilot is sent to help him. Meanwhile, the two ships sit stationary in space and can do nothing but watch the battle take place on the planet below. Travis and the mutoid set a trap for Blake but it fails and so Blake and Travis face off in single combat. Blake gets into a position to kill Travis but instead shows him mercy. He and Jenna are then teleported back to Sinofar and Giroc who congratulate him on his victory and also question his act of mercy. He then replies by saying that he’d rather have Travis chasing him as he knows he can beat him. The Liberator is then freed and allowed to escape. Once the Liberator is safely away Travis is also released and warned never to return to this planet.

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In the review of the previous episode I did mention that Jenna and Gan were in need of more focus and development. So imagine the pleasant shock I get when Blake goes down to the surface of an unidentified planet accompanied by none other than Jenna and Gan. Unfortunately they all return to the ship not long after this and Gan returns to the background again. Thankfully though Jenna does stick with Blake which gives her a much needed chance to shine after quite a few episodes stuck up on the Liberator. There’s also one very interesting scene up on the Liberator between Avon, Cally and Vila which is both moving and funny. Avon basically admits (in his own special way) that he does care for his fellow crew members which is quite an interesting turn of events for the character and while it was obviously coming sooner or later (as you need to soften these types of characters up at some point) it’s still a great moment in an episode not really about Avon at all. Some great stuff, shame about Gan being left out again though.

We also get an interesting look at how the Federation runs it’s operations with the inclusion of the mutoid pilot who is sent down to help Travis. The idea that she exists only for service is an interesting one and the vampire side of things is also quite dark. The relationship between her and Travis is an interesting one also it’s almost as if Travis feels morbid curiosity towards her. It shows a different side to Travis and his threat to court marshal her at the end was also quite a dark moment. However, two characters I weren’t too keen on were Sinofar and Giroc who’s motivations are confusing and they ultimately feel like a poor plot device simply to get Blake and Travis in a duel scenario. The way they’re written feels clunky and disjointed and they ultimately drag the whole thing down for me. However, one we get beyond their main part in the story and move on to the duel in the forest itself I was able to forget about them and enjoy that fight for what it was. The fight itself was standard stuff but everything that was leading up to it was very strong and quite tense at times. Not knowing where the characters were in relation to each other helped to build up this tension immensely and when Jenna was captured by Travis the tension was at its peak. Finally there was the space battle at the start which was a nice way to kick the episode off and was also quite tense. Things feel quite helpless on Blake’s side of the battle and the attempted ramming of Travis ship made it even more suspenseful.

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To sum up, we have yet another great episode here although there are some story telling elements which left me feeling rather cold. Nevertheless, it was probably the most suspenseful of all the episodes so far so Duel is getting an eight-out-of-ten from me because of that. Coming up next is Project Avalon and we’ll be taking a look at that very soon but until then be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.

Blake’s 7 : Mission to Destiny

January 3, 2015 in Blake's 7, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782

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After the introduction of Space Commander Travis and Federation Supreme Commander Servalan last episode, you’d be forgiven for seeing this episode as merely a filler due to it’s much smaller scale and lack of development in the overall story arc. But if you were to skip this one because of that then you’d be missing out on a real gem with Mission to Destiny. Writer Terry Nation has given us a murder mystery this time around, and a very good one at that. As ideas for fillers (and I hate having to call this that but in all honesty that’s basically what it is) go, this is a very unique one. Avon and Cally (and to a lesser extent Blake) step into the roles of the investigators while the crew of the ship serve as the suspects. So that’s what’s going on in front of the camera but what about behind it? Well, Pennant Roberts returns to direct his third episode for the series after previously being at the helm of Space Fall and Time Squad and also (since I actually paid attention to the credits for once) Chris Boucher serves as script editor for not just this story but the entire four year run. For those unaware, Boucher had previously written three Doctor Who stories, one of which, The Face of Evil, was directed by Pennant Roberts and another, The Robots of Death, was a murder mystery. Amazing what you can find out while watching the credits.

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Farscape : Lava’s a Many Splendored Thing

December 31, 2014 in Farscape by Firebird

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After a forced landing, the crew is divided by an eloborate trap that leaves Crichton, D’Argo, Noranti and Rygel underground in a lava-filled system of caves. Chiana and Sikozu are left outside, trying to re-activate D’Argo’s ship. Inside, Crichton and the others are hunted down by mercenaries who are not only protected by energy shield belts, but are led by a monster impervious to the fiery lava.

Synopsis

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