September 2, 2015

Antithesis: Loving the Alien (War of the Worlds 2×07)

War of the Worlds: Rachel BlanchardIt is November 13, 1989, a slow day in a big week. Prince Franz Joseph II of Lichtenstein dies and is succeeded by his son, Hans-Adam II. Yesterday, Brazil got around to holding its first free election after the fall of its military dicatorship in 1985, electing Fernando Collor de Mello, who would serve from 1990 until 1992, when he resigned in disgrace while facing impeachment. He is currently a member of the Federal Senate. Tomorrow, Namibia will hold elections for its constitutional assembly, leading to the adoption of its constitution and official independence from South Africa in March of next year. In South Africa proper, President de Klerk announces the dismantling of the Reservation of Separate Amenities act, the law permitting racial segregation in Thursday. It’ll be officially repealed next October. Lech Wałęsa, leader of Solidarity, Poland’s non-communist trade union which had evolved into a full-fledged opposition party during June’s partially-free parliamentary elections, addresses a joint session of the US Congress Wednesday. Wałęsa, an electrician by trade, would find himself the first democratically elected president of Poland the following year (Though the second president of the Republic of Poland, as the last head of the former communist state, Wojciech Jaruzelski, held the title until the election) and would serve until 1995, a couple of weeks after I did a report for my World Geography class where I said that he was basically a shoo-in for reelection. My bad. In other Cold War news, the Velvet Revolution breaks out in Czechoslovakia with a peaceful student demonstration in Bratislava, but more on that next time.

The Little Mermaid, Steel Magnolias, and All Dogs Go To Heaven open in theaters. Batman comes out on VHS. Roxette loses the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 to Bad English’s “When I See You Smile”, a song I can only assume was created to burn off all the leftover ’80s all at once since the decade was about to end. Breaking into the top 10 this week is Milli Vanilli with the song you’ve actually heard of. Star Trek the Next Generation airs “The Price”, a mind-numbing slog of an episode about the Ferengi trying to buy a wormhole and a telepathic ambassador seducing Deanna Troi, but at least it did provoke this revelatory comment about the nature of Troi and Riker’s relationship over on Vaka Rangi when Josh talked about the episode. Friday the 13th the Series airs “Night Prey”, which is about sexy, sexy vampires. Vampires were a recurring enemy in Friday the 13th the Series, but I only really remember the one from the first season, where they go back in time and inspire Brahm Stoker. Nothing of much note on network TV this week, though I do particularly recall Friday’s episode of Perfect Strangers, which guest starred James Noble (Most famous as Governor Gatling on Benson) as Larry’s father, in a plot involving the gang being trapped in a flooding basement as a result of Larry’s desperate attempts to elicit his father’s approval. It sticks in my head partly because of James Noble and partly because I particularly enjoyed the phrase, “I just want him to say ‘Well done, son,’ as something other than how he wants his steak cooked.”

So last week, War of the Worlds gave us an episode that did a lot to expand the world by introducing elements that seem important but will never come up again, and had a really terrible child actor. This week, it’s an episode that will expand the world by introducing elements that seem important but will come up again exactly one time, and has some pretty decent child actors.

“Loving the Alien” is primarily a character focus episode about Debi, and you can probably guess by the title what’s going to happen. Oh yes, Debi is going to snuggle with a Morthren. It is also, as you may again have guessed, long on reproductive futurism. Yes, it’s the “Daddy, what’s Vietnam?” of episodes, where children will pledge to break the cycle of war and violence while the adults use “for the sake of the children” as justification.

Knowing what we’re in for, we can at the least appreciate the craftsmanship of the arc between Debi and her new alien beau Ceeto. We’d better, because the other half of the plot is a bit of a mess, with the rest of the cast basically going around in circles and spinning their wheels in order to make sure everyone shows up at the climax at the same time.

This episode, by the way, is directed by Otta Hanus. Hanus, you may or may not recall, directed eight of episodes of Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, including “The Ferryman“, “Gemini and Counting“, and “A Summoning of Thunder” — that is, Hanus directed the good ones (And also “The Mirror in Darkness“, but you can’t have everything). And this opening scene is more than a little Captain Power, fast-paced, violent, set in a crumbling urban sprawl, and pointlessly smoky. We’re going to see little touches of “Flame Street” later as well. I mentioned way back in “The Ferryman” that Hanus is most associated with children’s shows. Since Captain Power, Hanus had landed a regular gig on the Jerry O’Connell child-superhero series My Secret Identity. It’s fitting, then, that Hanus’s one contribution to War of the Worlds is its first child-centric episode — and the only one of the child-centric episodes to also be action-driven. If we were developing a theory of What Otta Hanus Is Good At As A Director, the balance of evidence seems to be “Directing young actors in heavily physical roles.” Because the physical acting from the child actors in this episode is really quite good. War of the Worlds, for an action-adventure show, has not been hugely great in its physical acting. Adrian Paul is perfectly fine, of course, as you’d expect (His weaknesses in this part have nothing to do with the way he uses his body), but Jared Martin is hit-or-miss and Lynda Mason Green is outright terrible in the action sequences, and the Morthren are all very deliberately stiff. We start out with mercenaries raiding the hideout of a resistance cell. We have resistance cells now. It’s not clear at first, but this is specifically a resistance against the aliens. There is an organized resistance against the aliens. They’re in friendly terms with the Blackwood group but aren’t apparently affiliated. I’m having a little trouble with just how weird this is. Does the general public know about the Morthren or not? There’s no organized governmental response, but it seems like that’s down to the government having been rendered so ineffectual or outright corrupt that they either can’t or don’t want to do anything about it. Which seems pretty over-the-top to me, but I’ll roll with it. Back in the pilot, Malzor referred to there only being “few” humans who knew about them, but in “Breeding Ground”, Gestaine didn’t seem to have any difficulty accepting the presence of aliens. We won’t be seeing this resistance cell again, and I’m not really clear on whether or not we’ll be seeing any resistance cells: there are organized groups who seem to be resisting something, but I can’t recall whether they’re clearly alien-fighters, or just an advanced form of street gang.

The Morthren are engaging the resistance this week using hired human mercenaries on the premise that there’s going to be a lot of shooting in this episode and those glowsticks cost money it will keep their soldiers out of danger, and the authorities will assume it to just be gang violence. Everyone at the hideout is killed except for Jo, the teenage daughter of Marcus Crane, the resistance leader. War of the Worlds: Mia KirshnerThat’s Mia Kirshner, an actual genuine famous person, and this is her first screen role. It is a fairly small part, but she manages to really impress in it. Jo runs to what she thinks is her father, but it turns out to be Ardix wearing the same kind of hat.

The other survivor of Marcus’s group is Marcus himself, as he wasn’t there at the time. In an interesting move, Marcus’s contact with Blackwood’s team is Suzanne. In fact, I’d even speculate that he was the contact she’d been going to see in “Seft of Emun”, except that it becomes clear later that Marcus and Blackwood have met. Marcus and Suzanne meet up in the Awesome Van because he’s found an alien weapon, and he wants to send Jo somewhere safe while the Morthren and their agents are out for blood.

Even in a modern show, this would be a little interesting, and back here in 1989, it’s a bit exceptional. Jo gets kidnapped at the three-minute mark. Marcus and Suzanne meet to discuss Suzanne taking Jo a commercial break later, and Marcus won’t discover that Jo’s missing for another twelve minutes (Not counting commercials). That might not sound like a big deal, but take a close look. When Marcus mentions his daughter to Suzanne, we already know it’s too late. And conversely, when the mercenaries raid the hideout, we don’t know who these people are or why they’re dying. We don’t know why the Morthren want to kidnap Jo, or indeed who she even is. Practically any other time you see this sort of plot, it would happen the other way around: you’d put the scene with Marcus and Suzanne first, so that we knew who Jo was and why the Morthren would want to kidnap her. And you wouldn’t spend twelve minutes with Marcus still thinking that Jo was waiting for him back at the hideout — you’d have them go straight back there in the next scene and have him spend those twelve minutes desperately trying to find his missing daughter.

War of the Worlds: Keram Malicki-SánchezIt’s almost as though this episode is playing around with disparities in knowledge and perspective. It’s par for the course by now that we know the details of the Morthren plan before the heroes do, but this episode in particular gets very complex about who knows what and when. And I’d like to think that’s deliberately reflective of the episode’s theme, namely the reproductive futurism bullshit that the children can see what the adults can’t.

Back at the Morthren base, we get our first look at what the alien educational system is like. Young Morthren stand (We have not yet seen a Morthren sit at any point in the series) at devices that look like a hybrid of a Virtual Boy and those phallic feeding devices from last week. Questions are asked in rapid succession, and they respond by squeezing crystals in the handles of the device. It’s clearly meant to be showing them things to accompany the questions, but all we see is a fibrous yellow region in the center of the device. Incorrect answers prompt an electric shock to the user, as we see when a student who kinda looks like Jonathan BrandisWar of the Worlds: An actor who kinda looks like Jonathan Brandis botches questions about Mayan history and the length of the Venusian day.

No zaps for this week’s new named character, Ceeto, though: he’s easily able to answer questions about strategy at the “Battle of Miantes in the Lower Galaxy”, and about countering human atomic weapons, and even “How do you feel?” with so much ease that he gets bored with it and wanders off. Ceeto is played by Keram Malicki-Sánchez, an actor, new media pioneer, filmmaker and musician. At the time, he was probably best known in Canada for playing Zardip Pacific in the educational series Zardip’s Search for Healthy Wellness, wherein he played an alien robot who’d come to Earth to lean about nutrition and exercise. He meanders over to the cloning device just as Ardix is doing his Edvard Much pose to duplicate Jo. Personally, I don’t blame a 14-year-old boy for wanting to watch a writhing Mia Kirshner clad only on in an amniotic sac, but apparently the cloning booth is off-limits to students, so Ardix rats him out to Malzor. As you’d expect, Mazor disapproves of Ceeto’s independent nature and desire to learn things for himself rather than being fed information in a simulator, so he’s punished by being strapped, shirtless, onto a big green thing and tortured. to teach him discipline. The number of scenes with shirtless gurning teenagers in this episode has now exceeded the threshhold where I am starting to get seriously concerned as to whether it’s okay for me to be watching this, and there are going to be two more of them.

Parallelism demands that we transition to Debi having a nightmare in which masked surgeons hold her down and put a sheet of rubber vomit on her face. War of the Worlds: Rachel BlanchardThis is a great surreal horror scene of the sort we kind of expect out of Mancuso, but it’s also so oddly specific that I wonder if there wasn’t originally supposed to be another episode before this where Debi experiences something scary and medical-related. Though Blackwood and Kincaid try to comfort her, she goes on a tirade about how much she hates living in a sewer, and how they’re all going to eventually get captured, cloned and/or killed. And bless her for trying, but this dialogue is just way too weighty for Rachel Blanchard. You can almost hear the writers struggling to figure out what an angsty teenager sounds like and just utterly failing. Kincaid spouts grizzled loner platitudes about how they need to let Debi find herself and how Blackwood should teach her how to fight and survive on the streets, and how he was homeless at her age and he turned out fine (aside from the fact that he lives in a sewer.) While they’re having this little heart-to-heart, Debi loads her backpack up with guns and pepper spray and sneaks off. There’s a great look from her as she pushes the clip into her gun. Reminds me of Crazy Slasher Debi from “Terminal Rock“. I’m pretty sure last week’s episode was the first time Debi held a gun, and she’s clearly not fully comfortable with one yet (It takes her three tries to get the clip in), but you can see a pattern of escalation as the season goes on, and while there’s a lot I don’t recall yet to come, one thing I do remember is that Debi is going to actually shoot someone by the end of the season (She’ll fire a gun in this episode, but just to shoot the lock off of a door). I rather like the idea that Debi’s been left sort of profoundly broken by these events, and that what we’re seeing over the course of the season is Debi being slowly turned into a soldier.

The first half of this episode is heavily invested in establishing Ceeto and Debi as parallel characters, and so at the same time as Debi’s making her escape, Ceeto’s been watching Mana give the clone Jo her orders: she’s to find her father and through him, the weapon. Jo cheerfully promises to retrieve or destroy the weapon. War of the Worlds: Mia KirshnerAsked about her father, she speculates that her father might be useful to them as he might know how to find other resistance cells, then, incongruously, promises to kill him if possible. The scene is a little tonally weird, since Jo seems sort of lighthearted the whole time. With the exception of Father Tim in “No Direction Home” and Stephen in “Doomsday“, a common theme about the cloning process is that the clone retains the personality of the original, but with their loyalties firmly turned toward the Morthren. The original Jo has exactly one line of dialogue, and it’s just “Daddy!”, so we can’t really compare, but later, when clone-Jo interacts with her father, she’ll act kind of similar to the way Debi is a lot of the time: a teenage girl who’s hardened and a little broken from living a hard life in a vaguely cyberpunk dystopia. But here, she’s different. Maybe what we’re seeing is actually Jo’s personality from before the invasion and the societal collapse: Jo the way she would be freed from the stresses of living rough in a world that could try to kill her at any moment.

Anyway, Ceeto slips out after the clone and quickly finds his way to a street market that may or may not be same one from last week — the muppet vendor is still there, though now there’s a stall where you can buy pigs’ heads, chickens’ feet and whole rats. War of the WorldsHis acting all weird an alien attracts the attention of the Thompson Twins, who we’ll be seeing again later. Debi and Ceeto finally get around to meeting each other when she saves him from getting run down by a very slow-moving car. The music tries to tell us that the two have an instant and intense connection, though they themselves behave with all the awkwardness of a pair of sixth-graders at a middle school dance. Technically, I guess that makes it a realistic depiction of a couple of kids in their early teens forming an instant romantic connection.

Some other plot has been happening while this was going on, and that leads me to my big complaint about this episode. The normal laws of how television works say that when we cut from one scene to another, unless the narrative gives us some reason to believe otherwise, we should normally assume that time is still moving forward at the usual rate. You might show two scenes in series which are meant to occur at the same time, just because the camera can’t be everywhere at once, but in general, everyone has to travel through the same net amount of time.

And that’s where this episode gets sloppy. Because, like I said, about twelve minutes passed in audience-time from when we left Suzanne and Marcus to them arriving at the hideout to find everyone dead. Another five minutes pass before Marcus is reunited with what he thinks is his daughter at an abandoned theater. The next time the plot threads sync up is at the 20 minute mark, when Blackwood goes to comfort Debi some more and finds her gone, while the Morthren discover Ceeto’s absence.

Continue reading

August 29, 2015

Tales from /lost+found 22: Starcross’d

I know what you’re thinking, but David Hasslehoff’s guest appearance on Eureka! didn’t happen until after the series had ended, so it doesn’t really count.

DVD Box Art from hypothetical Doctor Who starring Hugh Laurie and Rowan Atkinson

Click to Embiggen


 

August 26, 2015

Thesis: Goliath is my Name (War of the Worlds 1×07)

War of the WorldsDid you see that Parkins boy’s body in the tunnel?
Just the photos. Worst thing I’ve ever seen. Kid had no face. What kind of monster would do that?

It is November 14, 1988. This week, the Soviet Buran space shuttle will make its first and only unmanned test flight. The Soviet Union would collapse before the next scheduled test flight in 1993, and the Buran shuttle would spend the next decade gathering dust in a hanger in Kazakhstan until a storm brought the dilapidated hanger down in 2002. Here’s some neat pictures of the two remaining unused Buran shuttles. Pakistan holds its first free election in a decade, electing Benazir Bhutto as their Prime Minister. She’d hold the office until 1990, then be reelected in 1993, and was widely assumed to be about to return to that position in the 2008 election before her tragic assassination.

The Escape Club’s “Wild Wild West” unseats “Kokomo” in the music charts. Yesterday, The Wonderful World of Disney aired “Mickey’s 60th Birthday”, which I remember pretty well, but not as well as 1984’s “Donald’s 50th Birthday”. Mickey angers a Peter Cullen-voiced wizard and is cursed such that no one recognizes him, and has to get help from the casts of Family Ties(History doesn’t back me up on this, but I could have sworn this was after Family Ties had ended its run, making this a reunion show), The Golden Girls and Cheers to make his way home, while the cast of LA Law defends Donald against mousenapping allegations. ABC will spend the week showing the first half of the World War II miniseries War and Remembrance, the sequel to 1983’s Winds of War. Friday the 13th the Series brings us “Wax Magic”, in which, let me see if I can get this straight, a sculptor wax-dips his wife, then uses a cursed handkerchief to bring her back to life, but then she’s got to commit axe murders to stay alive.

I’m very worried now, after last week, because three weeks ago, if you’d asked me what my two favorite episodes of War of the Worlds were, I’d have said “The Second Seal” and “Goliath is my Name”. And then it turned out that “The Second Seal” was loaded down with gender essentialist bullshit, so what are we in for this week?

We’ve touched just a little bit on the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. That multi-headed hydra grew out of a storm of influences that were all coming together at this point in history: the growing influence of the religious right and their fierce desire to cast themselves as holy warriors against a demonic conspiracy; reactionary disapproval of the increased visibility of women in the workforce (particularly in the association with ritual abuse at day care centers, which caught zeitgeist of a public already primed to disapprove of working women leaving their children in the care of “strangers”); growing distrust of academia; increased visibility of religious and sexual minorities; increased visibility of psychological disorders and any number of other forces that made people particularly willing to believe that dark forces were conspiring to kill their children.

In 1979, James Dallas Egbert III attempted to commit suicide in the steam tunnels under Michigan State University. The media, incorrectly, decided that this had something to do with his interest in Dungeons and Dragons. In 1981, Rona Jaffe published a fictionalized version of the misreporting, Mazes and Monsters, later adapted into a TV movie starring a young Tom Hanks as a college student who suffers a psychotic break while live-action-role-playing in the steam tunnels under his college (Neither the book nor the movie asserts that the game caused the break, but both imply that his interest in the game was symptomatic of the underlying pathology). In 1982, Patricia Pulling founded the group “Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons” after she decided, for no clear reason that her son had committed suicide due to a D&D curse on his player character. In 1984, Jack Chick’s tract, Dark Dungeons asserted that D&D was a satanist recruiting tool (But then, Jack Chick thought that about freemasonry, communion wafers, rock and roll, the NIV, and women wearing pants). And in 1988, Chris Pritchard and a group of friends conspired to murder his stepfather to inherit the family fortune. Since Pritchard and his friends were D&D players and admitted to mapping their college’s steam tunnels (Am I the only person who went to a college without a network of underground steam tunnels?) for the game, the media decided that must have been the catalyst, directly blaming the game in both of the 1992 TV movies about the crime.

War of the WorldsGoing out on a limb here, I’m going to guess it’s that story that put the writers in mind to do an episode whose plot revolves around LARPing in the steam tunnels under a major university. What we have this week, in part at least, is essentially War of the Worlds crashing into Mazes and Monsters.

The advocacy has dispatched a pod of alien soldiers to the then-fictional “Ohio Polytechnical University” (In an odd coincidence, the University of Akron recently adopted the phrase as part of their branding) to steal the “Y-fever”, an experimental bioweapon they plan to use to make North America “look as pleasing” as the documentary they’re watching about the Bhopal disaster. For some reason, the alien unit goes under cover dressed as Blues Brothers (their incidental music even includes a jazzy harmonica riff). For some reason, this works, as they show up at what I assume is a Blues Brothers theme party.

War of the Worlds: Jill Hennessey

Alpha, I need you to recruit a team of five teenagers with “Attitude”

Why they go to this party is a mystery, since they’re under orders to stick to the steam tunnels under the campus in order to remain covert. Like I’ve said before, there’s a lot of evidence that the aliens… Are not all that smart. The plan here is something like, “This is a sneaking mission, so dress up in fancy dress. If by some chance the fancy dress lets you blend in, make yourselves look extra suspicious by wandering around restricted but easily-accessible steam tunnels.”

Naturally, this plan puts them in the path of a group of body-doubles for The Goonies LARPers. They’re playing “Aliens and Asteroids”, which is an entirely realistic name for a late ’80s role playing game trying to cash in on the success of Dungeons and Dragons. The market was flooded at one point with such stuff: Tunnels and Trolls, Shinobi and Samurai, Villains and Vigilantes, Bandits and Basilisks, Bunnies and Burrows, Orcs and OubliettesNinjas and Narwhals, Houses and Humans, Powers and Perils, Sense and Sensibility, and the like. Now, as you all know, the mutants have invaded our universe, and we have but one choice. The mutants travel over time and space to do battle. They are foresworn [sic] to annihilate us. This is something we can not allow. Intelligence reports that their staging area is in the Orion chamber. We’ll intercept them there and wipe them out. With luck, we’ll be the rulers of the universe by lunch. But I should be clear here: we can safely guess that no one involved in the writing of this episode actually knew a damned thing about Dungeons and Dragons or about role playing games at all, beyond what they’d seen in Mazes and Monsters. Because this game isn’t a pen-and-paper RPG. From what we see of it, it’s Urbex Laser Tag with a sci-fi backstory. Fun fact: there is a modern laser tag-based LARP. It’s called Lasers and Logic.

The “Venusians” are your standard well-balanced eigenvector of ’80s teen stereotypes: the preppy (as indicated by his popped collar), the classic nerd (as indicated by his glasses), the rebellious indie chick (one large, exotic earring), the hot chick (The one they send to distract the guard, one of the first screen roles for future Crossing Jordan star Jill Hennessy), the allegedly homely chick who is actually way hotter than the hot chick, the short, smarmy wisecracker who is usually from Brooklyn (Think Marshall Blechtman or Vinnie Delpino or The Booch or anything Samm Levine has done), and the jock (who isn’t actually here yet because he’s got football practice or something). Kidd VideoSo basically a bunch of people who would almost certainly never be seen together in real life mixed with a certain amount of confusion as to whether they’re college or high school stereotypes. I note that we’ve got an even gender balance, which is a nice touch abstractly, even if it’s kind of hard to accept as a historical reality given the considerable social pressures of the 1980s.  Also, they look like the cast of Kidd Video. I am not going to bother to learn most of their names, and I am not even sure they all have them.

Parkins, the classically nerdy one, gets separated from the others while mutant-hunting and comes across one of the Elwood gang. War of the WorldsThere’s an odd presumption here that the players would not recognize each other on sight (Later, the preppy will mention that the mutant players don’t know the jock), as he assumes the Elwood to be a mutant. And despite the fact that it was only 30 seconds ago that the preppy explained to the homely chick that you have to shoot a mutant in his laser tag target for it to count, he immediately shoots him in the face. With a visible laser beam. Jerk. Once the Elwood realizes that he has not just been decapitated, he walks over and peels the kid’s face off, which I’m not going to show you, in case you are eating.

As was the case in the past two episodes, the Blackwood Team becomes involved in events more due to coincidence than anything else. Norton interrupts Harrison’s meditation to accuse him of upsetting Suzanne. There’s a callback to the friction we’d seen between them back in “A Multitude of Idols,” with Norton referring back to them working out their differences. The usually laid-back Norton is up in arms because Suzanne is crying in her lab, and he assumes it’s Harrison’s fault.

Philip Akin is playing Norton a bit differently in this episode from previous ones. There were moments before where he’s bring out this hangdog, put-upon thing, but he goes all-in this week: rather than the unpleasant fratboy persona he’s defaulted to recently, he’s focusing on being irritable, annoyed when his work isn’t appreciated or when he’s distracted from it. It’s an improvement over the way he’s been acting, except for the fact that there’s no justification for it or any build-up.

Harrison, on the other hand, shows some actual character growth. Indeed, these first scenes at the cottage seem like a direct response to “A Multitude of Idols” that’s very parallel in construction. Rather than taunting Suzanne and justifying his own behavior, Harrison instead goes down to the lab to check on her, and preemptively apologizes on the assumption that he actually had done something to upset her without realizing it.

War of the Worlds: Lynda Mason GreenInstead, she’s crying because she’s received word of Parkins’s disappearance. They actually go to the trouble of filling in a bit of Suzanne’s backstory here: we know from the pilot that she’d been in Ohio prior to coming to Pacific Tech. We now learn that she’d left Ohio Polytechnic (Home of the Molecules) when she found out that the “pure research” dream job she’d been working was actually developing bioweapons. Admittedly, I am not a microbiologist, but I am not sure how one could be developing bioweapons without realizing it. Parkins had been her lab assistant, and he was the one who blew the whistle on the project. Though Harrison suggests that he’s just out somewhere on a bender (it’s Greek Week), Suzanne is worried that there’s been a lab accident and cover-up, as the bioweapons under development include Y fever, which she warns us is, “The same biotoxin that killed all those people”. Um. Oh, those people. Yeah. Lynda Mason Green is way too over-the-top in this scene, crying and sobbing when literally all she knows at this point is that he missed debate club this morning.

Harrison offers to help, by which I mean he volunteers Norton. A search of the AM and FM bands turns up campus security walkie-talkies (just roll with it or we’ll be here all day) where they hear the title-card conversation, confirming Suzanne’s fears. Harrison and Suzanne set out for Ohio, with Ironhorse in tow to bring them back after the 48 hours he’s grudgingly allowed them. “You’re my hero, colonel,” Harrison says, “Strong, determined, and sensitive.” Continue reading

August 22, 2015
August 19, 2015

Synthesis 3: Band-Aids Don’t Fix Bullet Holes

So let’s talk a little about “Breeding Ground” and “Seft of Emun” as relates to the first season, and about “Eye for an Eye” and “The Second Seal” as relates to the second. I was originally just going to babble a bit about the use of alien-induced mind-altering in “The Second Seal” compared to “Terminal Rock” and “No Direction Home”, but then I actually watched the episodes, and…

The simplest thing in this cluster of episodes to get worked up about is the appearance of the first-season alien costumes in the Seft’s flashback. We got a little glimpse of them in “The Second Wave”, but not a good look. The costumes are the same for obvious reasons, but you’ll note that if this version of the alien form is meant to have three arms, we never see them pull the middle one out. Of particular note is the accouterments (Did you know that the plural of “accoutrement” is “accouterments”?). You may notice that the Morthren in “Seft of Emun” are wearing the suits we saw them manufacture in “The Walls of Jericho”. That’s a very easy thing to get upset about, but this one, ironically, I think actually makes for better continuity with the first season. Obviously, it’d be a mistake if the aliens in the flashback, aliens who haven’t yet come to Earth (they’re vague about when the invasion of Emun happened. Mana says only that Seft has been asleep for “the time it takes to cross a galaxy.” The invasion could have happened before the 1953 invasion, or closer to the series’ present as a prelude to the arrival of the second wave) were wearing literally the same refrigerated suits. But there’s nothing to imply that the aliens didn’t have combat uniforms prior to coming to Earth, and it makes a lot of sense to imagine that the suits made in “The Walls of Jericho” were typical of alien fashion. So there’s really no reason that the uniforms worn by Morthren soldiers at some unspecified point in the past shouldn’t look basically the same as the uniforms they made for themselves on Earth. That said, much later in the series, keep an eye out for a completely different style of Morthren clothing. We saw an alien hand weapon in “The Second Seal”, an elegant sort of metal dousing rod. It’s a new design for the show, but one that looks perfectly in keeping with the visual style of the alien technology in the 1953 movie: it looks like copper, it has the same sort of curves and lines, and it fires green pulses that closely resemble the “skeleton beam” of the war machines. Even though we never saw anything like it in the George Pal movie, if you hold that thing up next to the Al Nozaki war machine, there’d be no question in your mind that they were designed by the same race. That’s particularly pleasing after just how unimaginably fucking awful the detached gooseneck weapon-arm looked in “Eye for an Eye”.

The Morthren weapons used on Emun take an entirely different approach. They’re essentially just sci-fi rifles, but for one very interesting addition. They’ve got these bulbous lamp-heads attached to the top like bayonettes. What’s strange is that they’re so very clearly meant to look like the cobra-head of the Nozaki prop, but they’re incredibly different in a way that’s deliberate, rather than the incompetent clusterfuck we saw in “Eye for an Eye”. Rather, it feels like Mancuso’s propmasters set out to harmonize the 1953 designs with the visual motif of the show and meet in the middle.

This was going to be tricky business, given that absolutely nothing we’ve seen of Morthren technology looks even the tiniest bit like the technology from the 1953 movie. The Morthren weapons therefore are the right shape, but they’re made not out of a coppery metal, but out of a dense, fiberous substance, and the weapon fires not a heat ray or skeleton beam, but a narrow beam identical to the usual Morthren hand weapon. In some regards, it’s a nice touch to try to bring the styles together like this, but on the other hand, it really serves to draw a big red circle around just how little this show has to do with its namesake. It reminds you that, so far, there’s been nothing in the show which requires or even benefits from this being a sequel to the 1953 movie — you can attribute the societal collapse to the invasion if you like, but the show is never going to come right out and do that itself.

Season 1, on the other hand, has just done a pair of episodes which draw heavily on the past continuity of the universe, even attempting to harmonize the 1953 movie with the 1938 radio play (I wonder, had the Strangises remained in command for the second season, would the Blackwood Project have set out for Buffalo to investigate a series of small sorties in ’68, ’71 and ’73?). Once again, when the first season draws from its source material, it does it with an eye toward details and and very literal, straightforward reference of the past. The second season approaches its past much more abstractly, almost impressionistically.

The big point of comparison in the last four stories we’ve visited, of course, is the unforgivably awful way women are treated in “The Second Seal” and “Breeding Ground”. And while it’s miles better on this front, “Seft of Emun” still features the shameless fridging of Blade, and to a lesser extent, Seft. These three articles were uncharacteristically difficult for me to write, almost as much of a chore as some of the late-season Captain Power ones. For the first two, the difficulty was essentially the same: these are both technically proficient episodes, that hit on a good mix of action, adventure and drama, and which speak to some of the issues I’ve been having with the series so far. They’re both episodes I very much want to like. There’s a fantastic guest cast in “Breeding Ground” and amazing performances out of Julian Richings and Patricia Phillips. And “The Second Seal” had always been one of my two favorite episodes. But how do I overlook something like Harrison grabbing Suzanne, violently shaking her, then throwing her to the ground shouting, “You’re not my mother!”? Or Kincaid stonily asserting that they’re going to give a seventy year old woman an abortion in their squalid underground lair whether she likes it or not?

War of the Worlds is, at the end of the day, part of the sci-fi horror genre. This was true to some extent in 1953, and it’s far truer in 1988-1989. There’s undeniably a history of violence specifically against women being a staple of the horror genre — season 2 is the work of Frank Mancuso Jr., a man who’s very well known for his work on a film series whose entire premise (particularly during the part of the franchise he’s most associated with) is built around a masked revenge-zombie taking a machete to teenage girls for the sin of putting out. But even Friday the 13th doesn’t have Jason forcibly impregnate someone, then treat Jason as the victim for the remainder of the movie (I think. The last few movies got pretty weird). The kind of violence we see in these episodes isn’t within the tradition of the slasher movie, but is much more in line with simple, straight-up abuse. And while that abuse may not be outright glorified, it is at no point treated with the gravity it deserves.

The eighties were a different time, and the public sense of social consciousness wasn’t as advanced as it is now. But somebody ought to have noticed Harrison acting like a wife-beater. Somebody ought to have noticed that Kate might as well have been a sack of potatoes for all the agency she has in the plot. I didn’t get it when I was nine. I didn’t get it again later when I was fourteen and it was airing in reruns on The Sci-Fi Channel. But I get it now.  You can explain, and you can justify, but people still had to write this. Someone sat down and said, “You know what would make a good story? Let’s have an alien crystal zap Harrison and make him slap Suzanne around a bit. Ooh, and let’s have that make her horny, and she can spend the rest of the episode trying to get into his pants.”  Someone had to sit down and say, “Let’s do a tragic story about a noble doctor who is tricked by the Morthren into sticking an alien fetus in an elderly woman. Oh, never mind how the woman feels about this; the story’s really about the doctor and his pain.”

Those someones were Patrick Barry and Alan Moskowitz. Patrick Barry’s resume is pretty short. He’ll go on to write two more episodes for the first season of War of the Worlds, his only later credit is for an episode of Transformers: Beast Wars almost a decade later. He was also a staff writer for the mid-80s animated series M.A.S.K., a sort of Transformers/GI Joe hybrid about a counterterrorism agency that used transforming vehicles (Twenty-five years later, GI Joe adopted the MASK toyline, recasting the lead character as leader of a Joe specialist unit), which I liked because, did you just listen to the premise, of course I would like that. His biggest credit is for the first-season Star Trek the Next Generation episode “Angel One“. It’s surprising that the same writer who gave us TNG’s first explicitly feminist episode would turn around and give us this. Though “Angel One” is also complete crap, and fails so hard in its attempt at feminism that I think Vox Day nominated it for a Hugo, so maybe that explains why Barry didn’t have a little light go off in his head to tell him this was a bad idea.

Alan Moskowitz is harder to dismiss. His resume is fluffy, but long, with a lot of sitcom credits, including the 1991 revival The Munsters Today (This version was my first introduction to the franchise, which managed to transcend its status as a really shameless knock-off of The Addams Family by being really clever and visually appealing. The series would go on to be rebooted in 2013 as Mockingbird Lane, an absolutely beautiful clusterfuck that couldn’t decide what kind of comedy and/or family drama it wanted to be. Also its theme song is sampled in the Fall Out Boy song Uma Thurman), Charles in Charge, and the TV adaptations of Harry and the Hendersons and Police Academy, as well as Out of this World, on which he served as a story editor. That seems pretty far afield from sci-fi horror, which might explain why the story is set up like body horror but all the emphasis is on the tragic downfall of Doctor Gestaine instead.

It’s hard (and probably unnecessary) to declare one or the other “worse”, but on balance, I’m bothered more by “The Second Seal”. “Breeding Ground” does manage to deliver some reasonably good tragedy, even if its heart is in the wrong place. And it doesn’t involve character assassination against the leads.

War of the Worlds: Jared Martin and Lynda Mason GreenNow, with the distance of years and the insight that comes from looking through the lenses of how television has matured over the past quarter-century and how much more socially aware we are now of the culture of violence against women, what “The Second Seal” reminds me of is — you’ll have to bear with me here — “The Twin Dilemma”.

I’m going to have to unpack that a little, aren’t I?

“The Twin Dilemma” was the final story of season 21 of Doctor Who. Back in 1984, executive producer and sexual predator John Nathan-Turner made the really bizarre decision to pull Colin Baker’s first story back up to the end of the season, rather than giving the creative team a couple of months to think things over and doing it at the start of season 22. It was declared that the previous Doctor had been too nice, so the next one would be meaner, and that maybe the audience shouldn’t entirely trust him. Also they dressed him in a clown costume.

Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant in Doctor Who The Twin DilemmaSo to really drive home that this new Doctor was Edgy and Unpredictable, ten minutes into his first episode, he tries to strangle his companion to death with his bare hands.

Just as we can try to “justify” Harrison’s behavior by the fact that his mind is being affected by the alien crystal, defenders of “The Twin Dilemma” (NB: There is actually no such thing as a defender of “The Twin Dilemma”) can point to the fact that the Doctor is suffering a particularly intense bout of post-regenerative trauma when he does this: his brain literally isn’t working correctly. But like I said before, someone had to write this. Neither the Doctor nor Harrison Blackwood are real people, alien mind-control crystals aren’t a real drug, and post-regenerative trauma isn’t a real mental illness. These things all do what the writer says they do. And Anthony Steven in 1984 and Patrick Barry in 1988 both, at some point in the creative process, asked themselves, “What’s a good way to show that this character has become dangerously unhinged?” and the answer they came up with both times was, “Let’s have him batter a woman he’s close to.” Right from the get-go, there’s an assumption that having your male lead commit violence against women is a way to make him “dangerous” and “edgy”, rather than, y’know, abusive. The whole scene, in both cases, is set up to minimize the importance of the victim and emphasize the altered state of the attacker. If you’re a kid in 1984, watching “The Twin Dilemma”, the lesson you’re learning is that when you see a man attacking a woman, you should think, “That poor man! I wonder what adverse influence is compelling him to do this?”

But you know, for me, these are things you could walk back. Okay. This happened. You have the hero confront that. Have him come down, and realize the horror of what he’s done, and have to live with the fact that something like that is inside of him, and have him work to make it better.

Guess what both “The Twin Dilemma” and “The Second Seal” do next? Did you pick “not that”? They both instead go on to compound their sins by never once having the hero apologize. Doctor Who could have, maybe, recovered from having the Doctor try to murder Peri with his bare hands, but it would have had to try, and to do that, it would have to have first admitted that it had done wrong, which never ever happens. Rather, the Doctor simply dismisses his behavior as a temporary aberration due to his trauma — he never actually addresses the fact that the person he tried to murder is a person and might have feelings about almost being murdered. In fact, he compounds his sin by declaring that he’s immediately got to go live as a hermit and take her with him. At no point is his vicious unprovoked attack on Peri treated as something about her: he engages in what looks for all the world like classic abuser behavior by making himself out to be the victim, cruelly betrayed by his own synapses, and then making a direct move to isolate the actual victim by dragging her off somewhere where she’ll be alone with him and unable to escape.

Harrison doesn’t do that. I’d probably say that Harrison does not behave as badly as The Doctor (Even beyond the fact that Harrison never gets as violent as The Doctor does). But War of the Worlds behaves at least as badly as Doctor Who on this count. Because while the Doctor may have behaved exactly like you’d expect a domestic abuser to behave, at least Peri, the actual victim, never backs him up. But once Harrison’s forcefully exposed Suzanne to the crystal against her will, mind-altered Suzanne responds to his macho bullying by getting turned on by his rugged manliness. And when they speak about it later, Harrison talks about the incident as though him roughing her up and her coming on to him were morally equivalent things. The juxtaposition between their behavior, particularly in light of Harrison’s reaction to it once he comes down, implicitly sexualizes the violence. The show itself is going out of its way to frame Harrison’s actions in a particular way that completely hides the fact that physical abuse and heavy flirting are not even remotely the same thing.

When Doctor Who did this, it was the third of the classic series’s three cardinal sins (The others being the Doctor’s abandonment of Susan in “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” and Nyssa’s failure to react to the murder of her father, destruction of her planet, and genocide of her entire species with anything other than dull surprise in “Logopolis”), and the one that finally killed the show off, and that was a show with twenty years under its belt. I’m not prepared to give up on War of the Worlds for this, but this show can’t afford to keep pulling shit like this.

August 15, 2015
August 12, 2015

Antithesis: Seft of Emun (War of the Worlds 2×06)

wotw20616It is November 6, 1989, and there’s no point in burying the lede: the cover of Time this week proclaims, “Moscow lets Eastern Europe go its own way,” and that about sums it up for this week in international news. Last Wednesday, East Germany opened its border with Czechoslovakia. By Friday, East German refugees were filtering into the West German city of Hof. Tomorrow, the East German leadership will resign en masse, save for head of state Egon Krenz. This Thursday, they’ll save their fleeing populace the trouble of a stopover in Czechoslovakia (And the resulting hassle in Hof) by opening up the Berlin Wall. They hadn’t actually intended to just open the thing up, but rather introduce new regulations for border-crossings, but the word got out and when a mob of East Germans showed up at the wall, no one was left in the government with balls big enough to order the guards to shoot them, so that was that. Years ago, I read about a woman who considers herself married to the Berlin Wall. On her website, she says, “My husband used to guard the border between east and west Germany. He is currently retired.” Mrs. Berlin-Wall’s husband suffered numerous small indignities over the following days and weeks as unofficial demolition commenced months in advance of the wall’s official decommissioning. This was all greatly exciting to the Germans, as well as to the Americans, who largely attributed the whole thing to former President Ronald Reagan. Far less optimistic about it were British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and French President François Mitterrand, neither of whom were especially happy about the prospect of Germany reuniting, or, well, existing at all, really.

All other news pretty much pales in comparison to the news from Germany. In other Cold War events, on Friday, Petar Mladenov will replace Todor Zhivkov as the head of Bulgaria’s Communist party, beginning that country’s transition to democracy. At home, tomorrow’s elections will see the first elected African American mayor of New York and Governor of Virginia, great and historic moments we can now look back on and say, “Why the fuck did it take so long?” even though we all know the answer. Friday, the WordPerfect Corporation will release WordPerfect 5.1, proficiency in which will, according to my mid-1990s High School teachers, be the single most marketable skill for a person my age who works with computers.

Unseating Janet Jackson, Roxette takes the top spot on the Billboard chart with “Listen to Your Heart”. Network TV is all new this week. Star Trek the Next Generation does “The Enemy“, a pretty straightforward “Enemy Mine” plot about Geordi getting stranded on a hostile planet and having to work together with a shifty Romulan to escape. Only it also apparently has an uncomfortable subplot about Worf refusing to donate blood to a dying Romulan which I have completely forgotten. Friday the 13th The Series gives us “Hate on Your Dial”, in which the cursed radio out of a ’54 Chevy helps a racist travel back in time to save his klansman father from a murder conviction.

After the bad taste “Breeding Ground” left in my mouth, “Seft of Emun” is refreshing. A good, solid, enjoyable episode. Not, as I find myself saying all the time, perfect: the plot stumbles in a few places, characters have unjustified mood swings, and the resolution feels forced and there’s a shockingly awful child actor. But all the same, it’s a very likeable episode.

It’s also a very visual episode. War of the Worlds has been fairly distinctive, visually, among shows in this style and format of the era. This is less profound watching it now, because making your sets damp and filthy and keeping your key lighting low are fairly standard practice these days for anything trying to be Dark and Gritty. But TV has a long history of clean, brightly-lit dystopias, probably because TV cameras have a hard time with low light: War of the Worlds could only look the way it does because it was shot on film — though there’s a couple of scenes at the Morthren base in this very episode that have the “flat” look of video tape. This episode in particular uses more than the average number of special and visual effects. When they roll out the visual effects, you can really tell that this is a Mancuso show: there are certain effects and techniques that I guess he must like or something, because War of the Worlds looks a lot more like Friday the 13th The Series when the folks in the post-processing department get their Video Toaster on.

The Morthren are having an energy crisis. They’ve resorted to attacking smugglers to acquire “radioactives” — there’s apparently a big street-trade in radioactive minerals. No one ever specifies why. The world is a post-apocalyptic hellhole, so I assume the default response is so that punk-rock addicted juvenile delinquents can build dirty bombs in their basements, but you’d think trade like that would be handled clandestinely, rather than in a big Portabello Road-style street market, which I’ll get to in a bit.

After a shootout with some stylishly-dressed radioactive material smugglers, the Morthren try to clone themselves a guy who can get them the materials they need, but Earth-based power supplies aren’t compatible, and they cook him instead. I’ve noticed that the Morthren have a hard time using locally-sourced materials: they can’t use human power sources here, have a considerable failure rate trying to breed, and in a couple of weeks, it’s going to come up that they can’t eat the local food. This whole conquest of Earth thing seems like they may not have thought it all the way through. Indeed, the notion that the invasion of Earth was not a strategically well-thought-out idea is going to be something that haunts the end of this season.

Malzor consults the Eternal about their power supply issues, and returns with the news that the Eternal has ordered him to awaken “Seft of Emun”. Mana doesn’t like the idea, given how much power it will take to bring her out of stasis, and Malzor shouts at her about defying the will of the Eternal. Given that Malzor had just said himself that he hadn’t wanted to do it until he’d been ordered to, his reaction seems a little intense.

War of the WorldsMana begrudgingly plugs some crystals into a casket-shaped pith-pod, which ejaculates some steam and opens up to reveal Seft in a really nice practical effect. She’s a priestess from the planet Emun, with the psychic ability to convert radioactive minerals into the sort of energy crystals the Morthren use. Unlike the Morthren, Seft’s natural form looks humanoid, and the Emun seem to follow an at least roughly human family structure: Seft has a son, Tori, also in stasis, and she refers to a husband, presumed deceased. A flashback as she awakens depicts Emun as a sylvan world with two suns and a purple sky, and shows its conquest by the Mothren.

wotw20602

The Morthren are depicted in their original form, the best look at them we’ve seen so far. While clearly inspired by the 1953 movie, this version is larger and bulkier. They have two arms with three enormous fingers, a single, three-segmented eye, and wear cloaks with large cowls. They carry energy weapons that remind me a bit of the copper-powered weapon from Tobe Hooper’s remake of Invaders from Mars. The shape of the bulbous end of the weapon is probably based on the cobra-head of the heat ray from George Pal’s War of the Worlds, though it’s made not of metal, but a dark, dense form of the organic material that makes up most Morthren technology. War of the WorldsFrom the sound of it, the Morthren completely exterminated Seft’s people and devastated their planet. Given that the Morthren seem to have no problem hanging out on Emun in their natural form, and the natives are able to spontaneously produce a compatible power source, it seems a little odd that they chose to move to Earth rather than Emun when their own planet went up. On the other hand, back in “The Second Wave”, Malzor said that Mothrai was an idea created by the Eternal rather than a physical place. Could it be that the Morthren did invade Emun, and it was actually a conquered and renamed Emun that we saw explode at the beginning of the series? That would actually simplify a lot of things and make a lot of sense, though there’s one great honking wall-banger with it that will come up at the end of the season.

Malzor is alternately polite and cruel to Seft, addressing her politely and referring to her by title, explaining her situation and their need for power crystals, and channeling a 1930s movie gangster by reminding her what a shame it would be if something were to “happen” to her son’s stasis pod. One touch I really like is that she doesn’t recognize the Morthren at first: she’s never seen them in humanoid form before, and it isn’t until Malzor starts making demands that she figures out what’s going on. Seft agrees to make crystal for the Morthren to protect her son, and she’s whisked of to a street market.

War of the WorldsThe street market is a kind of Mad Max-themed Renaissance Festival, with vendors selling exotic foods on sticks, weapons, drugs, clothes, and even muppets (I am not making this up). As it happens, Blackwood is at the market as well. He’s at the minerals booth, because he needs sulfur and magnesium. He never says why. It sounds like it might be dietary, as Suzanne is out at the same time looking for vitamins (Which are obtainable only via a “contact” who has demanded that she come alone. This will not come up again). The vendor, Victoria Snow in War of the WorldsBlade, is one of the smugglers from the opening scene. She is the textbook archetype late ’80s successful post-apocalyptic female trader, with big earrings, big hair, and big shoulder pads, like a less colorful version of the cover of the April 1987 issue of Playboy (G’head, look it up. I’ll still be here when you get back). She reminds me a lot of Mindsinger from Captain Power, and claims to have, “Alum to zinc and everything in-between.” Later, we’re going to find out that she’s another of Kincaid’s parade of old female friends he’s on a flirty basis with. While Blackwood is inspecting rocks, some Morthren soldiers escort Seth to the booth so she can pick out raw materials. No one recognizes Blackwood, but Seft manages to brush his handWar of the Worlds as they’re ushering her away, and this apparently creates some kind of psychic connection between them, as Blackwood is compelled to follow after her until he loses her in the crowd.

When he returns to the bunker, he hears her voice in his mind, and is drawn into a shared vision of the market at night, where she begs for his help, but does not yet specify the details. She’s forced out of the vision when Mana shows up with a crystal and a couple of rocks for Seft to play with. She cuddles them for a bit, strains, and then a bluish halo effect replaces the crystal with a bigger one. Seft refuses to do any more, since the low-quality rocks don’t work quite right and trying to use them will kill her. War of the Worlds: Catherine Disher as ManaShe and Mana get into it a bit about the whole genocide of Seft’s race thing, which leads to Mana slapping her. Well, it leads to Mana gently waving her hand in the general vicinity of her face while an impossibly loud slap sound effect plays.

After Seft demonstrates a failed attempt at crystal making, by hugging some rocks until they turn into a pile of broken glass, Mana agrees to let her go pick out her own supplies. I know I’ve said a lot of times that it’s borderline criminal how badly this show uses Catherine Disher, but she seems really on the mark here. It’s clear that she’s disgusted by the idea of being dependent on an alien, but she’s also pragmatic, and she’s scientifically curious about the process. She cottons on to the very obvious fact that Seft is up to something, and cautions Malzor that she might possess other weird alien powers than just hugging rocks into magic power crystals.

Kincaid stops by to visit Blade at the market. Luckily for us, this is charismatic, flirty Kincaid rather than the mopey version we get so often. Blade tells him about the attacks on her radioactive materials shipments. Kincaid is aloof, not really interested in her problems. Blade starts to explain about the alien weapons used in the attack, but is interrupted by a customer. While he’s off getting a drink, Seft returns with Ardix and a soldier to make some late-night purchases. For no very good reason, though, when Blade brings up the matter of payment, Ardix loses his cool and has her killed, and then they run away just before Kincaid returns, summoned by Blade’s death-screams. The aliens have too big a lead on him, but Kincaid does get a good look at both Ardix and Seft — though he somehow misses the fact that she’s in obvious distress and being forced.

Between Malzor patiently explaining how scary and violent humans are and them sending Seft back out to try again, Blackwood has a nightmare. War of the Worlds: Jared Marin and Laura PressHe’s summoned back to a vision of the market where Seft leads him to a store (I assume it’s a store. We never see any actual wares for sale, or indeed a shopkeeper or customers or anything. It could be a restaurant for all I know) then her face turns into a Morthren in natural form. This freaks Blackwood out so bad that he wakes up in a sweat and instinctively grabs his gun and waves it around, and needs to be calmed down with hugs from Suzanne and Debi. He blows off Kincaid about Blade and sneaks out to find the shop from his dream.

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August 10, 2015

Dylan’s Sunday Round-Up, August 9, 2015

Scene: MOMMY is trying to jump-start her car. DYLAN has woken DADDY early for some company.

DYLAN: Why mommy’s car not working?

DADDY: Someone left the light on in her car all night so the battery died

DYLAN: You mean the dome light? (nb: DYLAN has previously gotten in trouble for leaving the dome light in DADDY’s car on)

DADDY: Yes.

DYLAN: Well I didn’t do it. Did you do it?

DADDY: No.

DYLAN: Then I think Mommy did it. Because she’s the only one left in our family.


Scene: DYLAN and MOMMY have just returned from church

DADDY: How was church?

DYLAN: Good.

DADDY: What did the priest talk about?

A pause. DYLAN struggles to remember.

DYLAN: (dismissively) Nothing you’d be interested in.

(later)

MOMMY: Oh. Dylan briefly lost his pants in church.

August 8, 2015