May 23, 2015

Tales From /lost+found 8: Everyone’s a Critic

It is a well-known tradition in Doctor Who fandom prior to 2009 that the immediate reaction to any new piece of media must be outrage and disappointment expressed in the form of a lengthy, poorly-researched rant, preferably one packed with misinformation, wild speculation passed off as fact, and casual misogyny and/or homophobia.


Doctor Who: The Last Time Lord

a review by J. R. Vincent

Originally Published 27 May 1996

In the long and glorious history of Doctor Who, the programme had rarely if ever contradicted itself. There were momentary aberrations, of course, such as the three destructions of Atlantis, but these are by and large easily explained. The much-loved Virgin New Adventures owe much of their success to the care with which the details of the rich continuity of Doctor Who were preserved. But now in one fell swoop, this long and august tradition has come to nought with The Last Time Lord, or as it should perhaps be called, The Last of Continuity!

In the interest of fairness, we should perhaps start by considering the programme through the eyes of someone who knows little of Doctor Who‘s rich past. The set designs, costumes and visual effects are quite effective and polished, as one would well expect from the Yanks, and admittedly none could fault the performances of Hugh Laurie, Peter O’Toole, or this Harden bird. The story is fair. But for a story which draws its inspiration quite clearly from City of Death, it rings hollow and inadequate, a poor imitation.

Now, let us look at this telefilm as Doctor Who viewers. The following is not only my view, but the view, I think, of most enthusiasts of the programme. And on this level, The Last Time Lord is far worse than we had feared when it was announced that the Americans would get their hands on our beloved cultural institution.

From its very title, it immediately becomes clear that we are in substantial trouble. On the most simple level, the title completely spoils the plot, as it is clear even from the advertisements that the major “twist” of the story is that the Doctor’s race has been defeated and he is the sole survivor. On a simple dramatic level, this renders the story’s single most important plot element utterly transparent rather than a shocking reveal. Compare this with, for example, serial WWW, whose first episode aired under a false title, changing to Invasion of the Dinosaurs only for the subsequent episodes, once the dramatic reveal had been made.

To add insult to injury, the telefilm does not even have the decency to place this revelatory title up-front, instead using the terrible American cliche of the “cold open”.  What point is there in placing a scene before the opening title sequence? The entire purpose of a title sequence is to let the viewer know what show they are watching. Instead, the viewer must sit through three minutes of Marcia Gay Harden wasting our time doing a medical investigation first.

But even ignoring all this, the whole conceit is utterly laughable. What enemy could possibly defeat the Time Lords? Who could even think to wage war on them? It was established utterly in The Invasion of Time that Gallifrey is impervious behind its transduction barriers. With weapons like the demat gun or the ability to lock away entire planets in time-loops, as seen in Image of the Fendahl and The War Games, what enemy could possibly even engage them in battle, to say nothing of waging such a complete genocide against them? Indeed, even if such an enemy did exist, it is impossible to imagine that the rest of the universe would survive unscathed. Surely a race that could conquer the Time Lords would have no problem going on to enslave Earth and every other planet in the universe. No, the destruction of the Time Lords here is nothing more than an obvious attempt to make the Doctor more palatable to Americans by giving him a backstory similar to Superman. Next, they’ll propose that he can fly!

Then of course there is the matter of the new TARDIS interior. All part of the rubbishing of the Time Lords, I suppose. The Type 40 TT capsule is meant to be a technological marvel beyond the imaginings of most species. Yet here it looks like some kind of Gothic cathedral. Where are the roundels? Where are the computer monitors and screens? Why does it look to be cobbled together from bits of clockwork? It should be full of bright lights and gleaming control panels, not look like it was thrown together in some Victorian’s study.

And what is this nonsense about the Doctor’s father? Where has there ever been the slightest indication in the programme that Time Lords have fathers, or indeed family of any kind? The only possibility I can imagine is that this is an attempt to placate feeble-minded American audiences who would demand the Doctor shag his assistants. The far more creative and canonical fact that Time Lords are woven in genetic looms would of course mean that the Doctor is sterile and therefore could not possibly have the desire or ability to commit bestiality with a lowly human.

In addition, the laws of time as presented in this story are utter rubbish. It has been an inviolable rule since the sixth serial that, “You can’t change history, not one word of it!” How then could anyone with any knowledge of Doctor Who contrive a plot whose climax involves the Doctor, one of the lords of time, themselves charged with protecting the absolute law of history, altering his own past? We know from The Time Meddler that if the past is changed, everyone’s memories of it change instantly as well. We might perhaps grant that his Time Lord powers might protect The Doctor from this, but how do you explain Kelly retaining her own memories? Likewise, if Gallifrey was “deleted from every moment in space and time,” how can the Doctor possibly still exist? How can the Jagaroth know of them? Nonsense!

There are other problems as well, less central to the story but no less damning. The return of the Jagaroth, of course, completely contradicts their extinction in City of Death. And how could the Doctor of all people forget that the Time Destructor is a weapon of Dalek origin? Though it would clearly be within their power to do so, no one could imagine that the Time Lords would ever build such a weapon themselves.

As a story, The Last Time Lord is just not worth considering. The reports of its high ratings in its first airing are surely proof positive that it is targeted to the basest and most American of audiences, who care more about Porta-Loo jokes than a programme with a long and noble history. I am confident that when BARB releases the audience appreciation index for the BBC airing, our more discerning viewers will prove the American telefilm as the travesty that it is.

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE MAGIC OF DOCTOR WHO?

Editor’s note: The Broadcaster’s Audience Research Board later reported an AI score of 89% for Doctor Who: The Last Time Lord.

May 20, 2015

Thesis: The Walls of Jericho (War of the Worlds 1×02)

John Vernon in War of the WorldsIt is October 10, 1988. Over the weekend, a fire caused $2000 in damage at the Seattle Space Needle and Felix Wankel, inventor of the rotary engine, died. A new ATF regulation passed in 1986 comes into effect, requiring hard liquor labels and advertisements to state their percent alcohol by volume instead of or in addition to the more traditional system of “How much do you have to water it down before using it to douse burning gunpowder” (I’m not even making that up. “100 proof” originally meant “Not too watered down to give to sailors, as evidenced by the fact that you can pour it on gunpowder and still get the gunpowder to burn,” which by a remarkable coincidence, is about 57% ABV, which in US usage is rounded to 50%, meaning “proof” is just twice the ABV, but keep in mind when drinking abroad that in the UK, proof is 7/4 the ABV, so 100 proof is 7% stronger). Billboard’s new chart isn’t out yet, leaving “Love Bites” at the top. MacGyver‘s a repeat, but ALF is new, a riff on It’s a Wonderful Life, with a guardian angel showing Gordon how much better off everyone would be if he’d never moved in with the Tanners. Friday the 13th The Series airs “And Now The News”, wherein Ryan and Micki track down an old-fashioned radio which dispenses psychiatric advice in exchange for frightening listeners to death.

War of the Worlds airs its second episode, “The Walls of Jericho”. This is a pretty uneven episode. The first half has a lot of the same first-time-jitters I found so grating in the last episode. In fact, despite the fact that there’s an explicit six week time gap, the first half of this one feels like a very direct continuation of the first episode’s story. “The Walls of Jericho” is basically about two things. In one plot, the Blackwood Project tries to justify its continued existence, while in the other, the aliens try to assure theirs. It’s kind of a plot-Voltron, with the first half of the episode floundering as the two plot threads limp along, but then for the last half, the two halves of the plot join up and form a giant plot-robot of awesome.

War of the Worlds The SeriesThe title sequence is a simple montage of clips from the pilot as Harrison sets up the premise via narration, but at it’s end, the screen fades to black, over which a line of the episode’s dialogue is played. This week, it’s John Vernon announcing, “They sure don’t die pretty, do they?”. What’s been cut from the DVD is an intertitle afterward showing a poorly rendered CGI alien hand reaching up over the top of a globe.

Ironhorse is getting antsy and wants to get on with his life, to which end he’s started unsubtly suggesting that maybe the aliens all died when they blew up their war machines, since they haven’t heard any more out of the aliens since then. The rest of the team is less optimistic and has been working on studying Forrester’s research.

War of the Worlds The SeriesSuzanne presents her theory about how alien possession works. She describes it as a combination of osmosis and “cell-phase matching”, a term which, so far as I can tell, she made up in the previous episode. She has a little flash animation to demonstrate the process, in which a triangular alien cell ejaculates its innards into a human cell, whereupon the little triangular bases of the alien DNA wrap themselves around the human DNA helix, which kills the host cell but gives the alien access to the host’s memory, because that is how memory works I guess. They have the good sense to keep it pretty vague, but there are some pretty sizeable gaps in the explanation, like the handwavey bit where they pretend that the description they give — which I guess isn’t too far off from how gene therapy works — could end with an intact alien consciousness possessing the memories of the host. I think there’s an implication here that the aliens lack any sort of fixed internal organs, and rather than having a single brain, their cognitive processes are sort of distributed through all of their cells. Which, okay, neat sci-fi concept, nice potential for a Golden-Age style story where an alien survives getting cut in half but ends up schizophrenic because the halves of his mind diverged while he was healing. But how you get from there to absorbing the contents of a human brain I’ve no idea (also, it’s not clear why aliens would be susceptible to bullets if their bodies are made entirely of undifferentiated tissue). Also, no one ever talks about the question of what happens to the bulk of the alien’s biomass.

When Suzanne lets it slip that, although the aliens require radiation to remain active on Earth, they’re still vulnerable to deleterious effects from prolonged radiation exposure, Ironhorse jumps to the conclusion that even if any aliens had survived the battle at Kellogue, they must have all died since. He summons General Wilson for some more exposition.

Meanwhile, cattle mutilation! My minimal research suggests that the late ’80s was not exactly a big time for Alien Cattle Mutilation Stories. It was a big thing in the ’70s, given a signal boost by stuff like Satanic Panics (I always hear that phrase as part of a Schoolhouse Rock song: Satanic Panic, what’s your mechanic? / Mutilatin’ cows and sacrificin’ babies!), with good upstanding white Christian folk afraid that legions of satanists were exsanguinating livestock in rituals to awaken the beast, then died down for most of the ’80s, and had a resurgence in the ’90s that probably peaked around the time South Park premiered. The whole notion is based on a number of real-life incidents of cows and other livestock found dead, drained of blood, and with unusual wounds. Such events have been attributed, in order from most to least likely, to particular combinations of predation and scavenging, punk kids screwing around, convoluted insurance scams, pervs making really disgusting homebrew sex toys, cults other than satanic, cryptids such as El Chupacabras, satanic cults, aliens researching HIV, aliens with really kinky fetishes, aliens just fucking around with us, and spontaneous bovine inversion.

In any case, “aliens mutilate cattle” must have still had enough cachet in the mass media in 1988 that it seemed reasonable for it to be a Thing Aliens Did, because our introduction to the B-plot comes in the form of a comic relief hick farmer calling the local sheriff because his cows have been mutilated. Unfortunately, the local sheriff is of the “comic relief useless backwoods sheriff” archetype that I assume they’d have gotten Don Knotts or Alan Hale Jr. for if they’d been available, and he reckons it was probably just a wolf, despite the fact that wolves would usually eat some of the cow rather than just draining its blood. He helpfully suggests that the farmer hold a barbecue.

It is, in fact, aliens. Of course it’s aliens. War of the Worlds The SeriesAs Suzanne discovered, while exposure to radiation neutralizes Earth bacteria, it also affects the aliens’ metabolism, causing their body temperature to eventually rise dangerously high. They’ve been out exsanguinating cows because… Okay, honestly we should all be grateful that they don’t go into the details of why bathing in cow’s blood helps with the whole metabolism thing.

Even the advocacy themselves are affected, with one of them already weakening and the other two looking decidedly Dawn of the DeadWar of the Worlds The Series. He’ll be sidelined by the next scene for a cow-juice bath. One of the recurring themes in this show is that the advocates have very little patience or respect for the scientist class. They spend a good long time berating a scientist to his face about how long he’s taking to come up with a solution and how he needs materials to make stuff with rather than conjuring it out of thin air. I guess that maybe I’d be bitter too if my scientists had failed to notice that the planet we were about to invade was MADE OF POISON. The scientists have come up with a long-term solution to the heating problem in the form of refrigerated suits, but because Earth’s chemical composition is different from their own planet, they don’t know how to manufacture the plastic sheets and tubing they need, nor how to build the equipment to extract and liquefy nitrogen from the atmosphere using locally-sourced materials, so they’ll have to steal it.

The robbery of a plastics factory is depicted by way of having a cliché hard-nosed cop with the chief breathing down his neck about the paperwork investigating the scene. War of the Worlds The SeriesThe only surviving witness speaks only Chinese, but fortunately, they’ve got an Asian guy on their crime scene crew who remembers just enough of his ancestral tongue to muddle through a translation. But since the cliche old Chinese woman just tells a story about the place being invaded by “dragons”, the investigation doesn’t go anywhere. This scene is basically more of the series’s trademark “black comedy”, and I am at least happy that they’ve gone for something more wry than the redneck humor they used twice in the last episode and once already in this one. It still doesn’t quite work, but it comes closer. The writers have a nasty habit of trying way too hard to be funny, and it hardly ever works. The scenes explicitly coded as “humorous” are far and away the least funny things in the show.

For instance, while all this comic relief has been going on, Uncle Hank has shown up at the cottage to demand Harrison justify his existence. John Vernon is far and away the best thing in this episode, and it makes me really sad that he becomes an entirely off-screen character after this. For all I am totally on board with the Harrison-Ironhorse dynamic being the thematic and emotional center of this show, I would also totally get behind restructuring the show with General Wilson as the “Brigadier”-character.

Richard Chavez plays Ironhorse as professional, intense, and no-nonsense, constantly grating against Harrison’s very different style. Their dynamic is a little bit reminiscent of the myriad cop shows about a pair of partners who don’t get along, where one of them is very by-the-book and the other isn’t, and one of them has a normal name like “Smith” or “McCoy” or “Johnson” and the other one’s name is a compound word at least part of which sounds like a building material, like “Slaterock” or “Steelbrick” or “Ironhorse”, and the title of the show is something like “Steelbrick & Johnson”. Ironhorse is a little bit Drill Sergeant-y, and that makes him sometimes just a bit silly because, though it’s in the opposite direction, he’s far enough over the top that he’s almost as much of a weirdo as Harrison.

John Vernon, on the other hand, plays General Wilson by just bringing way more gravitas than this show could possibly merit. Seriously, if you got him, Walter Cronkite and Martin Sheen in a room together, their combined gravitas would probably collapse into a black hole. He’s a bit Santaesque as he greets Debi, gracious to the Mr. Kensington, the groundskeeper, who he addresses by rank despite his long retirement, and respectful to Harrison even as he hands him his walking papers. A series of scenes each lead into the next as the gang apparently tour the estate.

The sequence is cut together kind of awkwardly. Wilson arrives, greets Debi and Kensington, and Harrison, openly suspicious about the General’s intentions, proposes to show him, “What he’s getting for his money.” Then bam, they’re in the lab talking about what they’ve learned about the aliens. Then Wilson asks Harrison about his theories regarding alien-related memory loss. Harrison is caught off-guard by the question and seems uncomfortable trying to answer it, so then we cut to them on outside on the patio.

Harrison’s explanation amounts to little more than a superficial description of the problem: people who have had alien encounters have a hard time remembering them, often requiring hypnotic regression therapy. This was, of course, a hot topic in paranormal studies, what with alien abduction narratives having a popularity boost from the publication of Communion the previous year. Harrison proposes that the effect might be due to a combination of an alien ability to affect human minds with a normal human psychological defense mechanism that suppresses memories of alien contact. John Vernon in War of the Worlds The SeriesWilson gets a reflective expression and muses that he’d seen a lot of action during the 1953 war, but is unable to recall a single detail of it.

And then later, they’re sitting around the fireplace at night. General Wilson tells them a bit of the backstory of the cottage’s elderly caretakers, Mrs. Pennyworth and Kensington, who, despite their unassuming appearances, had been extremely valuable to the Allies while undercover in Berlin in the forties. I kinda get the impression that they want to imply that they’re basically retired John Steed and Emma Peel. He also muses on the history of the cottage, which had over the years been home to various scientists, diplomats and defectors. Norton is the first to cotton on to the fact that they’re being evicted. Wilson is very gracious and heartily thanks them for their service, but accepts Ironhorse’s conclusion that the aliens were either all killed at Kellogue or died shortly afterward from radiation. When Harrison challenges him on his assumptions, the General becomes suddenly angry and defensive, seemingly way out of proportion.

General Wilson’s anger, strange as it seems on its own, justifies the otherwise also very strange scene that preceded it. The implication, and I wish they’d been explicit about this, is that, even knowing what’s going on, Wilson is affected by this “alien amnesia”. His brain simply doesn’t want to register the aliens as an ongoing threat, and when Harrison tries to force him to, he defends himself by angrily shutting him down.

Like I said, John Vernon is great here. It’s almost like he’s visiting from another, very different show, one that’s more serious and less action-oriented. I think that may in fact be part of this show’s MO: little vignettes with guest characters that kind of feel like War of the Worlds has smacked into some other show in a a different genre. They’ve already done it twice in this episode: first, a little drive-by with a show about a quirky rural community with goofy law enforcement, then a hard-biting cop show, and it’s going to happen one more time before we’re done. This one, the military drama about the old soldier, is the only one that really works.

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May 16, 2015
May 13, 2015

Synthesis 1: Next Phase, New Wave, Dance Craze, Anyways

Well that was harder than I expected.

As much as I might want to pretend that the second season of War of the Worlds is its own independent show, it’s incredibly clear here that this is a sequel to something: a lot of the structure and setup of “The Second Wave” doesn’t make any sense except with the knowledge that there’s a previous series. That said, it’s very much a sequel rather than a continuation. It’s just about possible to view season 2 as a later part of the same story as season 1, but only if you presume a lot of time to have passed. The thing “The Second Wave” is a sequel to isn’t the actual first season of War of the Worlds, but rather a slightly bent hypothetical version that retains the broad strokes of the aired first season, but also implies a number of differences both specific and broad. If this had been a real attempt at a “distant” sequel, a la Star Trek the Next Generation, you’d either want a clean break, with new characters and fewer ties to the past, or, alternatively, if we’re going for something like a “Distant Finale” or in-canon time-skip, a la Dawson’s Creek, Dollhouse, One Tree Hill, or Glee, you’d want there to be flashbacks later filling in the major gaps. With War of the Worlds, you’d want there to be an episode where something forces Blackwood to relate some of the tumultuous events that made the world go to hell. That’s not going to happen.

Mancuso, of course, didn’t think it was realistic that “our world” could lie 35 years in the future of the 1953 movie. The implication, then, is that the dystopia is the world as it was left by the invasion. But it’s interesting to observe here that the Morthren never claim credit for the state of the Earth. If anything, they instead take it as an indictment of humanity. Later on, Mana and Malzor will reflect that humanity’s destruction of the environment is making the world more amenable to their species. If you do want to force the two seasons together into one, perhaps the key might be the central observation I made during “The Resurrection”: that their world appears to be a sort of collective neurosis. Perhaps we can posit that the season one world is, if not already collapsing, very much on the brink. But the same shared neurosis that makes humanity reluctant to acknowledge the war is also preventing them from taking a particular interest in the immanent collapse of civilization. Something, we could propose, occurs between the seasons that forces the scales from everyone’s eyes. There’s evidence in the second season that the affluent and influential still retain a very ’80s sort of lifestyle, shutting out the poverty and social disorder of the lower classes. It could well be that the first season setting was every bit as dystopian as the second, but that we too are being shielded from the worst of it. And if that stretches your suspension of disbelief too far, just consider how much of the poverty, homelessness, mental illness, exploitation and despair in your own world you choose not to see.

I used to re-watch War of the Worlds from time to time from my off-air tapes, but I don’t think I’ve done it in close to a decade now. I bought the DVDs as soon as they came out, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t watched the second season in that format. This time through has really been a revelation. The very first thing you notice switching from season 1 to season 2 is how completely different the visual texture is between seasons. Very simply put, season 1 looks and feels incredibly 1980s, and season 2 does not. I don’t know if season 2 was shot on film — that would be unusual to be sure, but it certainly has a grain to it and a depth of field I associate more with film than tape. The lighting is completely different and the visual style is far more cinematic. The hair and fashions are also radically, almost shockingly different. Suzanne is the most obvious example of this: compare her shoulder pads and big hair in “The Resurrection” to her appearance in “The Second Wave”, and it’s like night and day.

The other big revelation on this watching is just how rough-around-the-edges “The Resurrection” is. The audio is terrible. The direction is terrible. Most of the characterization is terrible. Lynda Mason Green is terrible. I don’t even know what’s going on. Everything’s working much more smoothly in “The Second Wave”, as well it should be, since these actors have a year’s worth of experience working off each other by now (Except for Adrian Paul, who, as I noted, doesn’t seem to know what the hell he’s doing here. Seriously, he acts like a 14 year old being hassled by The Man). On a purely technical level, “The Second Wave” is the superior episode, which I wasn’t expecting at all.

It’s not a rout though: “The Resurrection” scores more highly on several fronts. The plot is rather more dense, with two parallel lines through much of the story as Harrison and Ironhorse follow different paths. There’s a bit of that in “The Second Wave”, with Blackwood and Kincaid following a parallel path to Ironhorse and his men at the alien stronghold, but there’s much less to it, really just a plot contrivance to allow for the rescue of Ironhorse. “The Resurrection” also spends a lot more time with the regulars, giving very rich character scenes to Harrison, Suzanne and Ironhorse (Norton gets less focus, but even he does get to introduce his wheelchair and talk about coffee). By contrast, Suzanne and Norton are barely characters in “The Second Wave”. Even Blackwood is only a minor player after his rescue at the punk club. And while Kincaid is important to the story, we don’t learn much about him yet.

You could say that’s to be expected, of course, since “The Second Wave” isn’t a pilot, no matter what contrivance I’m blogging it under. We already know Harrison, Suzanne, Ironhorse and Norton. We met them way back in “The Resurrection.” But did we? The Harrison Blackwood we met in season 1 was a weirdo academic, and kind of a jerk, and an inexplicable ladies’ man. By “The Second Wave”, he’s a grizzled ’90s anti-hero who’s comfortable with a gun. There’s nothing in the episode to suggest that he’s a scientist per se — he knows a lot about the aliens, but nothing that falls clearly outside “stuff a seasoned alien-fighter might want to learn about his enemy”. Same for Suzanne. There’s no indication of their specific roles on the team, and as the second season progresses, there won’t be very much emphasis on it. That’s definitely a black mark against the second season. The first season followed in the popular action-adventure tradition of the four-person superhero team, with each character having a clearly defined role. Ironhorse was the muscle, Suzanne the expert in biology, Harrison the expert in all other forms of science, Aquaman to stop the levees from breaching, Ma-Ti to talk to the animals (Y’know, for all the flack that the power of Heart gets, Ma-Ti’s powers allow him to communicate telepathically at a distance, manipulate animals into serving him, literally make the bad guys stop and realize they’re being jerks, and to some extent mind control people into switching sides. By contrast, the only thing the fire ring can do is act as a flame thrower, and because it’s a kids’ show, he can’t even use it to just immolate Looten Plunder and be done with it. Wheeler is the one with the useless power), and Norton the dispenser of Plot Tokens whenever the narrative gets bogged down by calling them up to tell them what the supercomputer had just churned up. There’s far less of this in the second season, and while the characters aren’t exactly fungible, their respective roles in the various episodes tend to center more around temperament than skill.

The characterization isn’t nearly as distinctive in season 2 as it is in season 1: the characters are all much more similar to each other. Funnily enough, though, at the moment, this works to season 2’s advantage and season 1’s disadvantage: Blackwood, Kincaid, Suzanne and Debi might all be one-note characters, but they’re at least consistent in “The Second Wave”, rather than a disparate bag of quirks and mannerisms. But that victory for season 2 will be short-lived. As the seasons go on, we’ll get greater context and coherence out of the season 1 characters that will at least try to bring them together into developed characters, while we won’t see the same growth out of the season 2 versions.

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May 9, 2015

Tales From /lost+found 6: The Bottom Half of the Internet

Let me be clear here. My purpose is not to suggest that this reality is better than our own. In many ways, it is worse. In many respects, this universe is the end result of a million little answers to the question, “What’s the most ridiculous thing to happen here that isn’t quite completely outside the realm of plausibility?”

In other ways, of course, it is exactly the same as the real world. For example, USENET.


 

From odysseus@nospam.test.com Thu Sep  4 16:40:04 GMT 2003
Article: 128485 of rec.arts.drwho
Path: sn-us!sn-xit-06!sn-xit-09!supernews.com!postnews1.google.com!not-for-mail
From: odysseus@nospam.test.com (odysseus)
Newsgroups: rec.arts.drwho
Subject: Re: REVIEW ''Doctor Who and the Philadelphia Experiment'' (SPOILERS)
Date: 04 Sep 2003 16:40:04 -0000
Organization: http://groups.google.com/
Lines: 60
Message-ID: <2f3a497e.0904261640.1f89s930@posting.google.com>
References: <2f3a497e.0903210746.5q298a55@posting.google.com> <20030921143654.07482.00001524@mb-j32.aol.com> <3e2a657c.090110746.hsq456@posting.google.com>
NNTP-Posting-Host: 257.4.88.802
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit
X-Trace: posting.google.com 1056234018 19193 127.0.0.1 (04 Sep 2003 16:40:04 GMT)
X-Complaints-To: groups-abuse@google.com
NNTP-Posting-Date: 04 Sep 2003 16:40:04 GMT

theycallmemisterthedoctor@aol.coma (They Call Me MISTER The Doctor!) wrote in message news:<20030921143654.07482.00001524@mb-j32.aol.com>:
>pete.DELETEME.gilgamesh@stop-spam.org (Pete Gilgamesh) wrote in message news:<3e2a657c.090110746.hsq456@posting.google.com>:
>>
>> I'll admit, as much as I've complained in the past about the Flamel episodes, I'm sorry to
>> see him go. Sam Neill brings a lot to the part and it was a major coup getting him to
>> come back one last time. All the same, gah, I hate these episode titles. The SHOW is
>> named DOCTOR WHO. Why would anyone think it was funny to put it in the episode title too?
>
> LOL TOO TRUE MATE. IT IS A JOKE BECAUSE THE FIRST ONE WAS CALLED DOCTOR WHO AND THE
> PHILOSOPHERS STONE AFTER THE HARRY POTTER NOVEL.
>

You see! That's everything that's wrong with this programme these days! REAL Doctor Who
never had to pander to stupid Yank audiences by giving episodes cutesy titles!

>> And is it just me, or was Flamel kind of flirting with the Doctor during the sequence in
>> the engine room? I wonder if he would have pulled that with the old Doctor. Good on them
>> for giving the fans what they've been asking for even if they're one Doctor too late.
>
> GAH NO THANK YOU FAR TOO CONTROVERCIAL. WHAT IF THERE ARE CHILDREN WATCHING?

Dude. Tone down the homophobia. It's 2003. You should be ashamed of yourself.

>> It was nice to see Flamel and the Doctor on different sides this time. It really
>> harkened back to his first appearance back in Season 2.

Character assassination is what it was. If he could live through all those centuries of war
and plague and everything else, we're really supposed to believe that the NAZIs are
SO BAD that he'd decide to blow up the planet?

>> But I know what we all really want to talk about is that ending. Just who is this
>> one-eyed soldier character and how did he get into the TARDIS?
>
> THE DOCTOR SURE BIT OFF MORE THAN HE CAN CHEW WITH THIS ONE.
>>
>> It seems pretty clear who they want us to think he is: a past version of the Doctor
>> from some secret past he's disowned.


Yer right. Like they would hire David Hasslehoff to play The Doctor. He's from bloody Knight Rider for chrissakes.


> IT CANT BE THE DOCTOR BECAUSE THE DOCTOR WOULD NEVER CARRY A GUN

Too right. Even you cretins should be able to figure out who he is. He uses HIS
OWN KEY, walks in, points a gun at the Doctor and demands to know what they're doing
in HIS TARDIS. How many times has the Doctor said that his TARDIS was STOLEN.
Baywatch-boy must be the original owner. It will probably turn out that the TARDIS
has secret weapons systems that Knight Rider used to use to blow up planets and
now that The Doctor knows about them the Doctor can use them to fight the War
Lords.

>> Grr. It's going to be so hard to wait until november for the next episode.
>>
>> ---
>> Pete Gilgamesh
>> ''I've been living a lie. There's nothing inside.''
>
>+-----+-----+-----+------+
>They Call Me MISTER The Doctor!
>For God King and Country!
>+-----+-----+-----+------+
---
--O

May 6, 2015

Antithesis: The Second Wave (War of the Worlds 2×01)

Author’s note: For the benefit of those who haven’t read my first post on this series, in these “Antithesis” articles, I intend to review and analyze the second season of War of the Worlds The Series under the self-imposed fiction that the first season of the series does not exist, and that this is an entirely new show with no antecedent other than its loose connection to the 1953 movie. 

War of the Worlds Season 2 Title CardIt is October 2, 1989. Over the weekend, Glen Frey and Don Henley performed on-stage together for the first time since 1981 and the US Post Office issued a stamp with a Brontosaurus on it, prolonging the century-old conflict over whether or not there’s any such thing as a Brontosaurus. Yesterday, Denmark legally recognized civil unions of same-sex partners, the first country in the world to do do. The guys who sing on behalf of Milli Vanilli top the charts with “Girl I’m Gonna Miss You,” better known as “The Milli Vanilli Song that isn’t Blame it On the Rain“. Cher, Madonna, Janet Jackson and Warrant also chart. TV is all new this week, with ABC showing MacGyver ahead of Monday Night Football, ABC airing new episodes of Alf and The Hogan Family ahead of a TV movie about domestic abuse survivor Tracey Thurman, which would leave its star, Nancy McKeon, typecast in the public consciousness for years.

Star Trek the Next Generation is still in reruns, though, running in many markets in a 7 PM time slot on Saturdays. At nine on many of those channels is the final season of Friday the 13th The Series, which, strangely unrelated to its namesake, documents the adventures of an antiques store owner and her partner, who track down cursed objects sold by the former proprietor. Mostly antiques that provide some boon to their owner in exchange for a human sacrifice, like a murder-powered cradle from the Titanic that can cure sick babies. Looks like the first few episodes aired out of order, as the actual season opener will air next week in a special two-hour block. The episode that airs this week is meant to be the season’s third, “Demon Hunter”, which will pit newly-promoted-from-guest-star Johnny Ventura against a demon summoned by a murder-powered cursed dagger.

Over the next week, independent stations who buy content from Paramount will air “The Second Wave,” the first episode of Frank Mancuso Jr.’s Sci-Fi action-adventure series War of the Worlds, sometimes syndicated abroad as War of the Worlds: The Second Invasion.

The basic concept is a little bit complex: in an alternate near-future, society has collapsed due to a failed alien invasion some time in the past. The aliens have now returned from space to complete their conquest, opposed by the last survivors of a now defunct government alien-fighting taskforce.

War of the Worlds Season 2 Title SequenceThe opening title sequence is interesting. The art style of the sequence reminds me a lot of the model work in Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future. Kind of artsy and unusual for a US action-adventure series of this era. Almost all American TV shows use a montage for their title sequence. The last action-adventure I can think of that didn’t is Knight Rider, and even that still had a couple of short clips integrated to put faces to the names in the credits. The only other adventure series airing at the time to use a purely “artsy” title sequence I can think of is Star Trek the Next Generation.

This one starts with the world blowing up. A world, I guess, perhaps it’s not meant to be clear which. The remainder of the sequence is a fly-by view of a dilapidated city shrouded in fog, devastated by rioting. Over the theme music, a news reporter describes the scene:

There’s rioting breaking out through the city. Fire is continuing to burn everywhere. Troops are shooting people. My God, I…I don’t know why! There’s a woman dying in front of me, and no one’s helping her! There are conflicting reports about who or what started the chaos. Will someone tell me what’s happening? This is madness! What is this world coming to?

The words are original, but the style, the content, and the delivery are all very reminiscent of Orson Welles’s 1938 adaptation. War of the Worlds: MothraiThe sequence culminates with the destruction of a monument — a statue of Revolutionary War-era soldiers being shattered and pulled to the ground. Cracks in the pedestal resolve into the series title.

After this, we’re treated to a very fake-looking late ’80s computer rendered purple and brown planet, spinning in space. It glows red, then explodes unconvincingly. We cut to a very fake-looking late ’80s computer rendered Earth, which darkens visibly as a shadow grows across it. Symbolism!

We cut to a dystopian urban sprawl full of filthy urchins, barrel fires and left over smoke from every outdoor scene in Captain Power. Announcements of a police curfew are audible, and between buildings we can occasionally see what looks like a military cordon. A dateline tells us that this is “Almost Tomorrow”. Driving through the sprawl is our hero Harrison Blackwood. War of the Worlds: Jared Martin as Harrison BlackwoodHe’s a scruffy-looking, bearded type in a battered Cadillac. He stops at a pay phone to inform his friend, Suzanne McCullough, that he’s on his way to a secret meeting with a “General Wilson”, who they haven’t heard from in some time.

The next few scenes give hint at the background for these characters. Harrison and Suzanne, Suzanne’s daughter Debi, a wheelchair-using computer programmer named Norton, and a special forces unit commanded by Colonel Paul Ironhorse are part of some sort of secret organization that fights aliens. A bit like Torchwood by the look of it, only with less sex and exactly the same amount of killing off cast members. Their headquarters appears to be concealed under a McMansion where the team lives. There hasn’t been any alien activity for some time, and it’s got them antsy, and even worse, their leader, General Wilson, has gone missing. Norton is tracking unusual weather patterns — lightning strikes without rain, occurring at regular intervals, which we can assume to be some kind of interstellar transporter beam bringing the aliens to Earth.

I kind of imagine this team as being kind of analogous to Stargate SG-1. War of the Worlds: Ironhorse, Norton and SuzanneHarrison seems to be the expert on aliens, probably the Daniel Jackson analogue. Ironhorse is obviously O’Neill. Suzanne, I imagine, is Samantha Carter by default. We don’t know much about her role on the team yet, but she carries a gun despite being a civilian. Maybe she’s local law enforcement who some how got tangled up in this?  That would also make her kind of similar to Gwen Cooper from Torchwood. General Wilson would presumably be General Hammond. Norton seems like the “mission control” character, so Walter maybe?

Meanwhile, an abandoned power plant is full of people with slicked-back hair in gray coveralls. Off to one side, naked people covered in K-Y jelly are being hosed off and issued gray coveralls. War of the Worlds: MorthrenThese, of course, will be our aliens for the piece, the Morthren. Two of them are marked out as leadership by their even more slicked back hair and the fact that their coveralls have shoulder pads and epaulets. They’ll later be identified as Malzor, played by Denis Forest, and Mana, played by future Forever Knight costar Catherine Disher. They make their way to a kind of giant green snotball thing with three people inside, naked and covered in K-Y jelly. Seriously, there is so much personal lubricant used in this episode that anyone trying to have an orgy in the Toronto area the week of filming would be totally not-screwed. They burst out in a weird parody of birth, and are carried away to be hosed off, except for one slimy nude chick who sticks around so that Malzor and her can exposition a bit: their planet, Morthrai, was just destroyed in a “light storm”. But their god, this kind of giant floating one-eyed brain-jellyfish-cthulu thing called “The Eternal” is on his way here right now, and is going to make Earth into a “new” Mothrai. The Eternal appears in the flesh a bit later, and speaks to Malzor in whalesong for a bit.

There’s a good sense of weirdness to the aliens here, but also a fair amount of depth: Malzor and Mana agree that humanity is a pestilence and are looking forward to slaughtering mankind unpleasantly. But while Mana seems to actively take pleasure in committing genocide, Malzor sees it more as a means to an end. Malzor, for his part, is much more interested in punishing the survivors of the first, failed invasion. War of the Worlds: The EternalMalzor also shows a lot of trepidation around the Eternal, like he’s scared of something, or perhaps just desperate to please. It’s a decided contrast from the very strong, determined attitude he shows when giving orders. In religious terms, Malzor seems very inwardly focused, most concerned with maintaining the purity of the faith — punishing traitors and heretics, as it were, while Mana is more outwardly focused, interested in conquest and punishing those outside the faith. In a way, she’s also interested in conversion, as we’ll soon see when she reveals the “weapon” she’s been building. There’s signs of friction between the two as well. Mana even complains to another alien, Ardix, that Malzor is too interested in punishing their own and not enough in committing genocide. Which is not to say that Malzor is completely disinterested in wiping out the humans: his first priority is to take out General Wilson’s team: Blackwood is, it turns out, walking into a trap.

Blackwood nearly misses falling into the trap, though, as his meeting with Wilson is in a punk rock bar in a bad part of town, and he nearly gets himself murdered in a knife fight with a street tough before two aliens show up in army uniforms to escort him out. He very nearly gets into a car with them when Adrian Paul pops up and shoots them. War of the Worlds: Dying AlienWhen shot, the aliens bleed the contents of green glow-sticks. Once dead, their faces and bodies sort of collapse inward, then quickly dissolve into dust. Their weapons seem to grow out of their bodies; they sort of appear in their hands without them apparently taking them from anywhere, and look sort of like large eyeballs with a long tendrill that extends from the back and wraps around the arm. They can fire small red blasts which maim, or larger green ones which vaporize their targets, as demonstrated by the wino who evaporates when Adrian Paul dodges a shot.

Blackwood notes that the aliens have changed: they decompose differently, and he’s surprised that the soldiers didn’t show physical degeneration. We’ll get a better understanding of what he means when we watch Malzor supervise some executions. The Morthren were not originally humanoid, it seems. War of the Worlds: First Wave AlienSome of the first wave soldiers retain their native form, a brown, leathery creature with a single eye and three-fingered hands that look vaguely related to The Eternal. The second wave has perfected the reconfiguration of their bodies into human form, but the human-form survivors of the first wave all show severe scarring, sores and other indicators that their bodies are deteriorating.

Adrian Paul’s character. John Kincaid, gives Blackwood a gun and introduces himself as a former soldier who had been working for General Wilson on covert missions. Just before Wilson vanished, he’d sent Kincaid on a mission that had turned out to be an alien trap. Kincaid suspects that aliens have infiltrated the chain of command and are responsible for Wilson’s disappearance. When they return to base, we further learn that Kincaid had once been in Ironhorse’s unit, but had been given the boot because Ironhorse is a no-nonsense by-the-book sort of guy who didn’t take kindly to Kincaid’s maverick-renegade-bad-boy thing. War of the Worlds: Adrian Paul as John KincaidIronhorse softens a bit toward him when he learns that his brother Max was killed in the last mission.

Norton is able to locate the abandoned power plant by judicious use of computers and science and something to do with the lightning, and Ironhorse decides to immediately go in with a couple of commandos. About thirty seconds after he leaves, Kincaid decides to secretly follow, and Blackwood tags along. While they sneak in through the roof and witness the execution of the first wave survivors, Ironhorse goes in through the front door, guns a-blazin’. I guess that the idea here is that the first wave were a more straightforward, traditional military target, and that Ironhorse is not used to facing an enemy whose tactics rely more on deception and stealth. They’re immediately detected by a small flying orange thingWar of the Worlds: Drone, a drone camera that sends images back to a stretched membrane where Malzor observes and orders only Ironhorse — it’s noteworthy here that Malzor knows both Blackwood and Ironhorse by name — to be taken alive.

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May 2, 2015

I see a long future in Constitutional Law

Scene: DADDY is watching a show. DYLAN wants to watch Dinosaur Train. DADDY has agreed to let him watch his show once DADDY’s show is finished

 

DYLAN: How much time does your show have?

DADDY pauses his show, causing a blue indicator bar showing the progress of his show

DADDY: Twenty minutes

Thirty seconds pass

DYLAN: Now how much time does your show have?

DADDY: A little less than twenty minutes

Thirty seconds pass

DYLAN: Daddy, now how long your show has?

DADDY: Ninteen minutes

Fifteen seconds pass

DYLAN: Now much longer your show is now?

DADDY: (irritated) Dylan, you’re nagging. If you ask me how long the show is one more time, you won’t be allowed to watch your show at all.

DYLAN: Even if I say please?

DADDY: Even if you say please.

DYLAN: Why?

DADDY: Because when you are a nag, people don’t want to do nice things for you.

One minute passes

DYLAN: Daddy?

DADDY: Yes?

DYLAN: (thinking) Can you… Show me… The blue line? The line that says how much of the show there is?

DADDY: … Touche, son.

April 30, 2015

Ross Cooks: Chorizo Stir-Fry

I hesitate to call my son a “picky eater”. It’s really more that he’s a dinnertime-reluctant, spontaneously declaring on a day-by-day basis things that he doesn’t like despite having always liked them before, often that same day. There are few enough things that he’ll outright refuse (Mostly legumes), but it’s hard to get him to eat an entire meal at dinnertime (But on schooldays, he usually eats breakfast twice so that makes up for it). But, kind of inexplicably, he liked this one, the result of me throwing together the leftover odds and ends from Leah spending a day preparing frozen slow-cooker meals. A better mix of vegetables probably wouldn’t go amiss here, but really the key thing to this is the chorizo-mushroom sauce, which is incredibly rich and tastes kind of like a slightly spicy demi-glace. In general, I don’t like frying things, especially stir-frying, because it makes a mess and because the smell permeates the house and gets into my CPAP machine filter, but this was absolutely worth it.

There’s a lot of back-and-forth in this recipe that you could streamline, particularly if you’ve got a second wok (I actually do have a second wok, but I try not to use more pans than I absolutely have to), but my method had the advantage of everything being the right amount of hot at the right time.

For The Stir-Fry

  • 1 lb pre-cooked Iberian-style chorizo, cut into rings.
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • ½ can beef broth
  • 2 tbsp white truffle butter
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • ½ of a jalepeno, diced
  • Slices equivalent to 1 bell pepper, assorted colors
  • 1 lb white mushrooms, washed and salted
  • 4 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 sprigs of parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp capers, because why not

Additionally

  • 1 pt. white rice, steamed and chilled (ie. “leftovers from Chinese take-out the previous day”)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Soy sauce
  • 2 tsp corn starch

Melt the butter in a large wok. Add the onions, peppers and mushrooms. Dylan asked me to leave the mushrooms whole instead of slicing them. They’re hard to cook that way, and I have no idea why I would listen to him since he had absolutely no intention of eating mushrooms, but it came out okay. Drizzle with olive oil and sautee over medium-high heat until the onions just start to turn translucent. Add everything else except the beef broth, and stir-fry until the onions are fully translucent and the mushrooms are giving up liquid. Add the beef broth, reduce heat to medium and cover. Cook until the mushrooms look cooked, about 5-10 minutes, stirring infrequently.

Put a colander inside a large bowl and dump the wok into it. Return the wok to high heat and add the vegetable oil. When the oil gets hot, scramble the egg into it, then hack the egg to pieces with your stirring implement. Add the rice and a few spoonfuls of liquid from the stir-fry and soy sauce to taste. Fry the rice, stirring constantly, until lightly golden-brown. Remove the rice to a serving bowl. Put the rest of the liquid back in the wok and whisk in the cornstarch. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently until it thickens. Transfer it into a serving dish and return the stir-fry to the pan for a minute to warm it up.

April 29, 2015

Thesis: The Resurrection, Continued (War of the Worlds 1×01)

Previously…

History Channel Aliens Meme

And now, the conclusion…

While Harrison and Suzanne have been patiently waiting in the woods outside an alien-infested ghost town, Ironhorse and his sidekick have been tracking the “terrorists” using the more conventional means of interviewing drunken rednecks who show up at police stations with wild stories of hairless gorillas or people speaking in tongues. War of the Worlds: Richard Chavez as Paul IronhorseI like the way this plot is set up. As I said before, the direction, the audio and a lot of the acting in this is terrible, but the actual structure of the show is really fantastic. You basically have Harrison and Suzanne in one plot pursuing one track, while Ironhorse and Sgt. Reynolds are in an independent plot pursuing another track, both converging on the same place. I wonder if there were plans early on for Reynolds to be a regular character, because he works well enough as someone for Ironhorse to order around. He’s the one whose job is to dismiss the crazier parts of the story as drunken fantasy, while Ironhorse stays overly intense and military. Instead, Reynolds is going to buy it later in the story, which I guess kinda presages Jessie in the first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Ironhorse and Harrison finally collide after his nap, when Delta Squad catches them in the woods near the ghost town. Harrison isn’t able to persuade Ironhorse that he’s making a huge mistake sending his men in to raid the place, and it turns into a bug hunt. Game over, man, game over. After a few minutes of dutch angles as Delta Squad is systematically murdered by aliens, Ironhorse decides it’s time to have a crowning moment of badass as he rushes in with a grenade launcher and manages to kill half a dozen aliens before he’s dropped by a three-weighted bola. He manages to get off one more good shot, which is snatched out of the air by a possessed redneck, though he just stands there staring at it until it blows up in his hand. A second bola restrains Ironhorse’s arms, forcing Harrison to come to his rescue on an ATV. Unable to find Suzanne after their escape, they dig in for the night, then search the re-abandoned ghost town in the morning, fearing she’s been taken. Fortunately, Harrison refers to her as “uptight”, which,War of the Worlds: Jared Martin, Lynda Mason Green and Richard Chavez in accordance with the laws of dramatic necessity prompts her to come out of hiding to chew him out over it. We also get our first look at what happens to the aliens when they die, as Ironhorse’s kills of the previous night have melted into white, foamy puddles dotted with human remains. There’s certainly some unreality to it — the identifiable human bits all look more than a little like discarded disguises from Mission: Impossible, but rather than looking cheap and fake, the rubbery skin and lack of blood or organs serve to reinforce the sense that the human victims have been, in essence, hollowed out and taxidermied.

War of the Worlds The Series: Alien RemainsIronhorse is finally willing to believe that there’s “something” weird going on, what with the bolas and the terrorists melting when shot, but he still maintains that, “I don’t believe in ghosts and I sure as hell don’t believe in aliens from another planet.” Keep in mind, he is literally the only person in the show who has come right out and said he doesn’t believe in aliens.

They meet with General Wilson again, who plays really coy. He rambles a bit about how little they know about the capabilities, resources, intentions and strategies of their adversaries, then insists that their eyewitness reports still don’t count as “evidence”, especially as Ironhorse still thinks it’s just terrorists with magic powers. But then he does a weird about-face and admits that, yeah, it’s aliens. In exchange for being discrete about it, Wilson hires Harrison, Suzanne, and Norton and gives them unlimited funds, a secret base, their own private supercomputer, and Ironhorse.

At this point, they strike the sets, fire the minor cast members, and pack everyone up for a government property called “The Cottage”. This is about the one-hour mark of the show, and there’s a big transition at this point. It wouldn’t surprise me if the last third of the episode was filmed much later. The supporting characters vanish: Charlotte, Harrison’s colleagues, Ironhorse’s subordinates. Rachel Blanchard gets some lines. There are subtle shifts in characterization too, with Harrison becoming less of a jerk and Ironhorse being more personable and less shouty. And Norton’s got a mild Jamaican accent for a few scenes. Perhaps at this point they told him to tone it down, and it was mild enough that they didn’t need to redo it?

Ironhorse provides concierge service for Harrison and his team, following them around to make sure they don’t need anything. Norton falls instantly in love with having his own personal Cray. Suzanne laments about the difficulty of engineering a radiation-resistant bacteria. Suzanne: Someone sure spent a fortune.
Ironhorse: Well, the government wants to see that everyone’s happy, doctor.
Suzanne: Now all I have to do is find, no, better yet, create bacteria that is impervious to radiation, lethal to aliens and absolutely harmless to humans. Maybe I could just cure the common cold in my spare time.
Ironhorse: Well if you find yourself with any spare time, doctor, you must be doing something wrong. Have a nice day. 
Harrison has a very mild freak-out when he discovers that they’d decided the set they built for his office in the first half of the pilot was too expensive to tear down, so the government inexplicably decided to painstakingly recreate it in ever detail at the cottage (“I have two offices which are absolutely, disconcertingly identical,” is a cost-saving measure I have seen a handful of times in the history of TV). Ironhorse is confident that their stay here will be a short one, since the aliens lack significant resources, weapons, or numbers. It’s a reasonable conclusion for anyone to draw, particularly someone whose role in the show is mostly to be a reasonably-minded military man who is nearly always wrong because he thinks he’s in a world where the laws of probability are more powerful than the laws of dramatic necessity. But it seems kinda cold given what happened to Delta Squadron a few scenes ago.

Debi, who I would not blame you for having forgotten, turns up again to complain about having to move and leave all her friends, because they’ve forgotten that she’d already moved once this week and is not nearly charismatic enough to have made any new friends yet. War of the Worlds: Rachael BlanchardThen she sees that they keep horses at the compound and is instantly okay with moving here and wants to take riding lessons. Because she’s a little girl and little girls are fickle and shallow, amirite? Oh, the hilarity! Debi isn’t much of a character this season, existing mostly just to occasionally pop up and complain about things, and once or twice to be a peril monkey. It’s hard to justify the character’s existence at all. She seems like one of several elements of the show that don’t serve any real purpose, but which they keep coming back to for some reason. My best guess is that they were concerned the show was tacking too dark, and wanted something to lighten the mood a little. Debi is here to be a character that the rest of the cast can show their softer side around. For example, that evening, they all gather around the fireplace, and Ironhorse, who spent most of last week’s segment barking orders, tells an endearing folk story from his native american heritage as a sort of ghost story for Debi, which is so cute that I forgot to check my watch and make a note of how long it took them to get around to having Paul Ironhorse dispense a bit of native american folk wisdom, in keeping with the fact that as of 1988, Graham Greene is the only indigenous person of the Americas who is allowed to hold a speaking role without breaking into folksy native wisdom. And that’s just because he only had like three lines of dialogue.

It is, at least, a plot-relevant folk tale, about his grandfather, a shaman, (because every native american has a shaman grandfather) encountering some prime grade-A Von Daniken bullshit an ancient petroglyph depicting what might possibly be an astronaut. Once Debi’s gone to bed, though, he dismisses the story as, “Indian folklore, nothing more, nothing less.” There’s just a hint in his expression, though, that he might have some regrets about the extent to which he’s forsaken his cultural heritage. This is a theme with Ironhorse’s character that will come up perhaps as many as two more times in the series.

War of the Worlds: Alien Cave

While Team Earth does some endearing team-building exercises, Team Alien has moved into an abandoned nuclear test site in a cave in Nevada a leftover set from Land of the Lost complete with matte painting, where they prepare their next move, namely, “Justify a cameo from those martian war machines from the movie which literally everyone watching this show has been waiting to see, and is going to be kind of disappointed when they show up for thirty seconds then are never seen again.”

War of the Worlds: Lynda Mason GreenThe plot kind of spins its wheels for five minutes to make it look hard. Norton isn’t having any success decoding the alien transmissions until Harrison reminds him about the alien fascination with the number 3, citing the three-lensed optics and three-craft battle groups from the movie, as well as the three-weighted bola from the ghost town battle. Then Harrison compliments Suzanne on her work in a scene that is weirdly out-of-nowhere flirty. There will be a couple of hints throughout the series of the possibility of romance between Harrison and Suzanne, but they’re fortunately rare, and this is the last we’ll see of Harrison the Sex God for this episode.

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