Author Archives: Ross

Turn and Smile

Filler Column!

Possibly because I have been spending a lot of time reading Perfect Strangers Reviewed recently, when I heard someone in an internet forum say that something would “make a good name for a sitcom”, I felt inspired. So here’s a bunch of random phrases from my social media feeds which I have turned into title cards from ’80s sitcoms:

I didn’t actually mean for these to be deliberately political, but my main source was Twitter, so it was Trump jokes or appeals to send help for Puerto Rico.

See? Though this one feels like maybe it’s a detective show rather than a sitcom.

This one came from the caption to a story about Nazi remains being found in a beached whale carcass.

See? They’re not all political.

I don’t even know what this means, but look at the phrase. It’s hard to believe this wasn’t a real Miller-Boyett production.

I feel like this one’s gimmick is that the main character is the 8-bit computer that controls the house.

“Brexit” is hip free-spirited woman who impulsively agrees to a green card marriage to a straight-laced immigrant from Dublin.

It’d be unfair to do Bubsy and just kick Kirby to the, um, curb-y.

Obviously a work-com.

Apologies for the clickbait, but here’s the source

Tales From /lost+found 132: Week 5

Excerpt from IMDB for Doctor Who Flesh and Stone

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4×05 Flesh and Stone: Part Two of Two. The Doctor, Sammy, River and the surviving soldiers escape into the crashed ship. They discover what the Angels are really after: an energy source that will allow them to prey openly without becoming quantum-locked. Meanwhile, Sammy is counting down from ten minutes and the Doctor realizes that an Angel is taking over her mind.

Deep Ice: Oh yes, dear. Quite mad (Howard Koch’s War of the Worlds II, Episode 4, Part 3)

It just keeps getting worse and worse, but hang in there; we’re halfway out of the dark. Part of me is inclined to say that this episode is the worst of the lot, but I’ve already listened to part four and it’s pretty bad too. Though I can’t say for sure if it’s worse, or I’ve just completely depleted my will to live.

I don’t know why it keeps getting harder to write these. I mean, I talk a good game because I have a small amount of affection for hyperbole, but War of the Worlds II isn’t really even in the top five things that make me long for the sweet release of death. Top ten, sure, but not top five.

In fact, I will say from the outset that this section of the story does one thing well: it stays on topic. Out of thirty-eight minutes of side three, about thirty-four of those minutes stick to just one topic. This will not be the case in part four, for the obvious reason that they’ve got a fuckton of plot to get done before they run out of tape.

Here’s the bad news: those thirty-four minutes are about Ethan Allen Ratkin and his quest to find his mother and become a better-rounded human being. And the other four are about Tosh Motherfucking Rimbauch. Lord, give me strength.

We left Ethan and Kyle right outside Steinmetz, where they’d just evaded Ratkin’s personal physician Dr. Evans on his way home after murdering Ethan’s mom, who has been living under the name “Mrs. Rochester” for the past decade and change. Kyle explains to Ethan that he won’t be able to just knock on the front door and ask to visit his mom, as they are Just Some Kids. Instead, Kyle fakes some kind of psychotic break, running around in front of the lobby shouting about something being all over him, so that Ethan can slip in unnoticed while a nurse with an excessively southern accent tries to help the screaming street urchin.

Inside, Ethan hears someone coming and hides, I think, on a crash cart. I’m not sure. He says he’s going to hide under a table, then we hear someone say “Grab that crash cart!” and he ends up in the room where they’re taking it, but it really stretches the imagination to think Ethan would mistake a crash cart for a table, or be able to conceal himself on one such that no one would notice when they wheel it around the hospital. I mean, unless they’re imagining that a “crash cart” is basically the same thing as a catering cart, only with a defibrillator on top.

That is totally what happened, isn’t it?

In a plot contrivance which would be part of acceptable storytelling necessity except that this production has been nothing but storytelling contrivances, Ethan is thus delivered directly to his mother’s room. Mrs. Rochester is in cardiac and respiratory arrest, according to the excessively southern nurse. This is slightly odd, because we can hear her heart monitor, and everything sounds entirely normal until the nurse starts speaking. I assume they wanted us to understand what the sound meant, by playing us the normal beeps of a heart monitor before it transitioned into a solid flatline tone. But it comes off as though the staff is out ahead of her condition.

Idealistic Young Doctor from the last tape and Crusty Old Administrator work frantically to help her. Young Doctor explains that he’d been called away to take a phone call, but no one had been on the line. He’d returned to find her dying. They determine that she’s suffering from an opioid overdose, but assume an orderly screwed up her medications. The administrator orders a dose of naloxone to reverse the effects, momentarily startling me because this was made years before the current opioid epidemic, and it’s weird that they get so much right about treating the overdose. Young Doctor calls for a crash cart, which, as you know, is already on the way, and defibrillates and resuscitates her a second later, without any indication that one has arrived.

While Firstein (Administrator) is arguing that Bryant (Young Doctor) is obviously crazy for thinking that the mysterious call from no one that drew him away when his patient was given a deadly overdose might possibly mean anything other than human error, Ethan pops out of hiding to cry for his mommy. Bryant recognizes the familial resemblance instantly and intervenes to promise Ethan will be allowed to see his mother once she’s stabilized. Firstein wants to call the director and get permission from Mrs. Rochester’s family first. Which she doesn’t have, because they don’t know who she is.

Bryant manages to cajole his boss into keeping Ethan’s presence quiet for the moment and risking both their careers for the chance of turning Mrs. Rochester into “A fully functioning individual”.

The narrator helpfully explains to us that while Ethan waits for his mother to wake up, Nancy Ferris is still with Tom and Jennifer Connors, preparing to go recapture their hostage. Before going to Steinmetz, they decide to stop off at Nancy’s house so she can pick up some personal things.

Did they ever say where Nancy lived? I can’t remember if they ever actually say it. But it’s implied she’s within driving distance of NASA’s mission control center in Houston, so I’d kinda taken for granted that Nancy lived in Texas. Steinmetz is in Connecticut, and is in driving distance of Ratkin Manor, though clearly it’s not all that close since it takes hours to get there. The narrator is very clear that these events are meant to be contemporaneous with those at Steinmetz, but this makes no sense if Nancy is meant to drive from Houston to Connecticut in the space of the next scene. Or, indeed, if she isn’t. What’s she been doing all this time?

Tom isn’t comfortable with taking her back to her house. Nancy interrupts to ask if his car is new, since she doesn’t recognize it. This is foreshadowing, but it’s foreshadowing something stupid and pointless. They reach Nancy’s house to find that Ratkin’s had it firebombed. “My home. My beautiful home. Burned to the ground,” Nancy says with no conviction whatsoever.

Tom and Jennifer reveal that they belong to “The Underground”, a vaguely specified resistance movement that opposes… They’re not really clear about what. They oppose, and really, shame on you if you didn’t see this coming by now since literally every character in this series has complained about it, “a wasteful government, a government whose hands are tied by special interests and bureaucracy,” (Tom, you probably don’t remember, is a town councilman, but that’s “good” government I guess) and powerful corporations, and Ratkin in particular. That’s the reason for the comment about the car: it’s an Underground car, registered to the fictional “Killroy Burgess”, and therefore untraceable, except that it will be traced instantly the second time anyone cares to. Their main gig at the moment is running underground water refineries and selling water on the black market. Jennifer is their chief scientist.

Also, Jennifer uses the phrases “Smoke you out,” and “You can’t go home again.” within a minute of Nancy losing her house in a fire. Jerk.

“Mrs. Rochester” wakes up at Steinmetz and gets her reunion with her long-lost baby. This consists mostly of Ethan saying, “Mother!” and her saying, “My baby!” Ethan explains that he’s twelve, and I am quite sure they said he was fourteen back in episode 2. All goes well until Ethan proposes taking her back home to Ratkin, whereupon she becomes agitated and starts moaning, “No! No! He’ll kill me! No! Evans! Needle! No! Ronald killed me!”

Southern nurse shepherds Ethan out of the room and tells him that his mother is delirious from a “bad reaction” to some medication. Ethan reflexively threatens to sue if one of the staff was responsible for her overdose. Ethan is confused about his mother’s ramblings, and runs off to find Bryant. He does while Bryant and Firstein are discussing Mrs. Rochester’s overdose. Firstein has learned of the visit by Doctor Evans. They don’t go into how exactly this unknown-to-them doctor had gained entry and access to a patient without having to sign in and keeping his face covered by a large hat. Maybe it was explained in episode three, but I doubt it. Bloodwork reveals that she’d been given a large intravenous injection of dilaudid, which is not the sort of thing anyone would do by mistake, meaning that it was definitely an assassination attempt. Ethan puts this information together with what he’d seen earlier and what he’d heard from his mother, and realizes that Evans, under orders from Ratkin, had just tried to kill his mother.

He runs off, mumbling, “Oh father? Why did you do it?” He finds Kyle, who apparently is just freely roaming around outside the hospital, instead of having been taken into custody or anything, and they decide to flee together. Bryant chases after them, swearing that he won’t hurt them, but Nancy and the Connors arrive and the kids accept a ride from these strangers, leaving Bryant swearing to trace the license plate number in order to help protect Ethan and his mother.

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Tales from /lost+found 131: Week 4

Doctor Who Robert Carlyle Time of the Angels

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4×04 The Time of the Angels: Part One of Two. A clue left in a museum in the far future brings the Doctor back into the orbit of the enigmatic River Song. This time, she’s chasing a Weeping Angel to the planet Alfava Metraxis. It should be a simple containment mission. After all, how hard could it be to find one angel statue in the last graveyard of the extinct Aplan race? But why has the Angel brought them here? And why do River’s soldier companions keep referring to her as “the prisoner”? And what’s in Sammy’s eye?

An Evie Lexicon

While I buy myself time to struggle through writing about the penultimate War of the Worlds II episode (Hey, you know what character we definitely need more of? Ethan Allen Ratkin), my daughter has undergone a sudden and exponential growth in her vocabulary. Here’s a partial dictionary of the words my daughter can now say:

  • Awansy: Show me
  • Baf: To bathe
  • Side, Aside: Outside
  • Quac: Canine.
  • Fuff: The sound made by a Quac.
  • Daisy: Grandma’s Quac.
  • Caw: Any large herbivore, such as a cow or hippopotamus.
  • Sue: An item of footwear
  • My: More
  • Mama: Food
  • Mom: The sound made by a caw
  • Eye: Any facial feature
  • No: The eye in the center of the face
  • Seep: Ovine
  • Alma: A popular red muppet
  • Bye: (Accompanied by a wave) Please for the love of God don’t leave me
  • Uh-oh: I am about to throw something
  • Rasha: Trash
  • Aster: To climb a flight of steps
  • Nigh-nigh: Farewell
  • Fowl-foe: A flower
  • Ha: Hot
  • Coo: Cold
  • Eat: Feed me.
  • Baby: A baby
  • Butt: Her posterior
  • Wow: wow

Tales from /lost+found 130: Week 3

Fun fact: The first draft of this week’s episode was titled “Prisoner of the Sun”

Doctor Who Robert Carlyle

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4×03 Twinkle, Twinkle: The Doctor wants to observe a rare coronal mass ejection from an unusual star when another ship nearly collides with the TARDIS, forcing it to crash land. The Doctor and Sammy find themselves in Heliopolis, an impossible city built on the surface of the star itself. With a damaged TARDIS and only forty minutes until the coronal mass collides with the city, can the Doctor and Sammy save Heliopolis, and themselves?

Deep Ice: There’s more than enough for you and your friends, Senator (War of the Worlds II, Episode 4, Part 2)

Y’all ready for some political intrigue? Too fucking bad, it’s War of the Worlds II. The good news is that some actual stuff happens in this part. The bad news is that it happens on Earth, with all that implies. Oh yes, we’re back to the world of Ronald Ratkin (the world’s first Trillionaire) and Tosh Rimbauch (Making America Great Again).

But we’re not quite done with space yet. The Tor make their final preparations to send Jessica back to Earth, and it’s time for her to play her hand too early and gloat about her success with no consequences. She explains the Tor’s plan back to them for our benefit: Orion-1, newly refitted with a warp drive, will return to Earth, announcing success in finding water and forging an alliance with the Martians, which will surely prompt a ticker-tape parade and banquet in their honor full of world leaders. The Tor will follow Orion as far as the moon, and hide behind it until everyone’s at the banquet, and then they’ll “make their move”. The nature of this move is not explained, nor, honestly, what this plan will accomplish. It might make sense if the Martian clones were meant to assassinate or kidnap the world leaders. But there’s no indication that this is their plan, and it’s hard to believe that the Martians themselves would even be capable of it. It’s hard to fathom how Jessica herself could attend this hypothetical banquet, or indeed not be arrested for piracy the second Orion landed.

I mean, the basic concept that Orion with its ersatz crew will keep humanity from just shooting the crap out of the Tor the moment they arrive is solid. We learn over the course of this conversation that the Tor have roughly similar weapons capabilities to Earth, and that a Tor ship can’t withstand multiple nuclear warheads. This is an interesting shift from the trend in other adaptations, where aliens are sufficiently advanced that the only times humanity can fight back are in adaptations where they’ve repurposed stolen alien technology. Here, the entirely home-grown technology of late-20th-century Earth is equal to that of the alien invaders — the Tor leader will shortly mention that the lack of lightspeed space travel is the only area in which humanity lags behind the Tor. And little though this production has to do with the 1938 radio play to which it is nominally a sequel, it’s not a radical inconsistency; the tripods of the radio play were vulnerable to heavy artillery provided you were fast enough to get in a killing shot before they rolled over you, so it’s reasonable to imagine that the Martians (and the less-advanced Tor) were only a few decades ahead of human technology in most respects.

But when we get into the details, it all goes pear-shaped. Why hide the Tor behind the moon, where they’ll have to come out and make the last leg of the journey exposed, after they’ve been formally introduced at a banquet? Why bother refitting Orion at all — just show up in the Tor warship, broadcasting an announcement from the fake Orion crew that they found and borrowed a Martian ship. The whole point is to get Earth under their control without having to resort to a fire-fight, but there’s absolutely no indication how any of this would actually accomplish that. Are the Martians going to shape-shift back to their natural forms and just announce “Bwa ha ha! We’re not really the Orion crew! We’re aliens! And we’re conquering your planet!” whereupon the Secret Service will just shoot them and be done with it. Nothing in this plan makes it seem like it’s an improvement over “Just show up unannounced”.

While the main part of the plan is going on, Jessica will secretly communicate with Ratkin to reassure him that she’s got Orion under her control and he shouldn’t blow it up with his own private space-based weapons platform.

Yes, he has one of those. Don’t be stupid. Jessica cautions the Tor that Ratkin will try to double-cross them and conquer the galaxy, and the Tor counter that they’re going to kill her for suggesting such a thing. This is where she stops to gloat: on the last tape, she took a short break to hop back up to Artemis in order to murder her crew off-screen. I didn’t mention it at the time because it was handled as an aside by the narrator. But while she was up there, apparently, she filled Ratkin in on the bare outline of what was going on and had him arrange for his private space-based weapons platform to nuke the hell out of the Tor if they show up without her or try anything. The Tor congratulates her on having cleverly outmaneuvered them such that their only choices are to either agree to her terms or kill her and give up on Earth. For the sake of keeping this story going, they choose the former, but once she’s out of the room, they go back to bwa-ha-hahing about how they’re totally going to double-cross her once they’ve taken over the Earth and gotten rid of that pesky satellite.

Jessica also mentions in passing during this segment that the water crisis on Earth is entirely artificial; the Tor are concerned that even Ratkin’s empire wouldn’t be powerful enough to stop humans from pursuing Martian water out of desperation, and she flat out says that there’s plenty of water on Earth, and it’s only Ratkin’s machinations that are preventing humanity from making it potable.

The faux-Wagner music is traded out for the cheap ’80s crime drama sax on the transition to Earth. Major Stryker, Bob Boness, and the still-hospitalized President DeWitt get on a conference call to hear from Orion-1, which is finally checking in after an unspecified period of time which seems like it ought to have been at least a couple of months by now but time is passing at different rates in different parts of the plot. “Commander Ferris” calls NASA for the first time in months to announce that they’re on their way home to report success. They pretty much repeat everything Jessica already told us about their cover story: they claim that the Martians have agreed to help them, that the ’38 invasion was an by an unsanctioned rebel sect, that by way of apology, the Martians have upgraded Orion-1’s engines and agreed to help them extract water, and that the “feeble attempts” of Jessica Storm and the Artemis crew were “easily thwarted”. DeWitt finds the “feeble attempts” bit hard to swallow. We seem to have completely forgotten the bit from before where the jamming was attributed to a superluminal signal being transmitted from Mars to a distant star system.

Before disconnecting, Stryker gives “Ferris” the bad news about his wife: that she’s gone missing, suspected to have been kidnapped by Ratkin. The clone unemotionally responds, “That is most unfortunate.” But since this is the same character who has been acting like a particularly inanimate block of wood for three episodes now, everyone quickly dismisses any suspicion that there might be something “up” with the fact that he responded to the news of his wife’s abduction without any hint of actually being bothered by it. Just as predicted, DeWitt’s first thought is to throw a ticker-tape parade and state banquet for them.

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Tales from /lost+found 129: Week 2

Once again, turning to the Tardis Data Core for inspiration…

Legend of the Cybermen

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4×02 Legend of the Cybermen: The Doctor takes Sammy to Mythtopia, the greatest amusement park of the second Great and Bountiful Human Empire. But this playground of fantasy has become terrifyingly real: King Arthur searches Atlantis for the Holy Grail while Beowulf enlists the help of Count Dracula to defeat the Loch Ness Monster. But the greatest danger lies within the “Aliens Invade” attraction, where a long-extinct enemy from humanity’s past is being resurrected, and is intent on giving Mythtopia a deadly upgrade.

Deep Ice: They made a copy (War of the Worlds II: Episode 4: The Eye of the Storm, Part 1)

Am I the only one really bothered that they commissioned four different covers, each of which is its own variation on “Terrible composite of the Earth against a nebula of some sort in proportions that aren’t even vaguely plausible”?

Okay. Okay. Enough stalling. Let’s get into this thing. Part four. The exciting finale. Or whatever. As you can tell, I haven’t been looking forward to this.

In case you’ve forgotten, the missing-but-not-missed episode 3 ended with the deaths of Commander Ferris, Nikki Jackson and Mark Rutherford at the hands of Jessica Storm and her hired gun Walsh. After the ridiculously lengthy recap, we rejoin Jessica Storm on Mars, under interrogation by the Tor. It’s not clear to me whether there’s meant to be one or two of them there. The voices of the Tor are distorted with an echo and flange, slower and deeper than the Martian voices. This is justified in-universe by the fact that the Tor are communicating using the telepathic Martians as intermediaries: their native form of communication is based on smell.

They inform Jessica of their intent to destroy Earth: since humans will kill for water, the Tor can’t tolerate them as a threat to their supply of quorrium. Jessica counter-proposes that they make an alliance with Ratkin, who can provide them with unlimited slave labor and block any attempt to extract Martian water. The Tor accept her offer, and please her further by planning to work the Orion crew to death in the mines in order to gauge human physical endurance. We fade to the theme music as Jessica Storm laugh maniacally.

Which pretty much sets the stage for side one of this episode: it’s going to be a whole lot of villains monologuing and laughing maniacally as they plan their various double-crosses and backstabs.

The decidedly not-dead crew of Orion-1 wake up in a chamber deep below the Martian surface. It takes them little time to work out that they are prisoners of the Tor, the events of the previous episode having been some kind of mental simulation to test their levels of murderocity. The fact that Walsh and Jessica passed the test, while the others apparently failed does not fill them with optimism.

Everyone is so happy to not be dead that Nikki and Mark immediately go back to sniping at each other, giving us an opportunity to notice that I think they’ve recast Mark again. He actually kinda sounds like Dick York now. Or Dick Sargent. One of them. With maybe a hint of Jack Lemmon in there. And a hint of Boris Karloff a la How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

If, for some unthinkable reason, you’re just picking up the story now, then here’s some good news: Since Commander Ferris was up on Orion for the entirety of episode 2 and didn’t get to meet the Martians, and spent episode 3, I assume, fighting to the death, he never actually got to hear all that exposition the others got, so they get to spend the next five minutes catching him up on who the Martians are, who the Tor are, what quorrium is, how Hanoi Xan rose through the ranks of the World Crime League, and whether there’s water on Mars.

The Tor go back to Jessica to talk with her about Walsh. He passed the murder test, so they like him, but they don’t trust him. Jessica offers to sort things out, so they send her to see him. She slaps him for referring to her as “The Broad”, and his main concern is to accuse her of “going soft” because having been captured by powerful, murderous aliens and trapped many kilometers below the surface of Mars as the fate of the Earth hangs in the balance, her first priority isn’t to find and murder the Orion crew. This annoys Jessica enough that she kills him.

She explains to the Tor that Walsh didn’t count as a “peer” because she hasn’t got any, and that Walsh had orders to kill her anyway: she’d tapped Ratkin’s phone and knew of the planned double-cross. This evolves into a long discussion about the nature of trust, wherein Jessica expositions that the Tor appear as moving shadows, but this is not their natural form (We’re told later that the Tor evolved from reptiles. We’re also told that they are a sulphur-based lifeform, and that we should be ashamed of ourselves for assuming that all life must be carbon-based just because carbon is actually unusual in the way it can bond to other elements, and has properties which sulphur doesn’t. Also, being sulphur-based would seem to make the whole thing about the Tor being related to Earth-reptiles seem even more unlikely. But it doesn’t really matter; the main point is just that they stink).

The Tor also reveal that she’ll be returning to Earth with a cadre of Martian slaves who’ve used their matter-manipulation abilities to assume the likenesses of the Orion crew.

This would have been a more impactful reveal in a format other than audio.

We also get some sermonizing, in case you’ve missed clunkily inserted authorial politics. The Tor suggest that they’re not so different, and Jessica claims that humans would never resort to slavery over water shortages. The woman who has literally sold out humanity as slaves to the Tor. So Tor tells her that humans just call it “minimum wage”. Later, Ari will also point out that humans and Tor have a lot in common, though he grants that, unlike Tor, humans have the capacity for kindness.

Jessica tags along when the Martian clones go to suck out the memories of the Orion crew, though she’s disappointed to find out that the procedure is “mostly painless”. While that’s getting set up, the Tor who’s been dealing with Jessica is summoned to speak to his “Master”, a Tor with the voice of an old man. Time for more bwa-ha-hahing.

They explain to each other that they are totally planning to double-cross Jessica Storm. Despite what they’ve told her, the humans won’t be used for quorrium mining. Humans are ill-suited for it, lacking the ability to manipulate matter on a molecular level, and being prone to dying from radiation poisoning and all. Instead, they plan to transport the human race en masse to the planet Brick (Different people at different times pronounce it differently, so probably it’s meant to be an alien-sounding name like Br’iak or Breeak or B’r’k or B””””k or something, but I’m going to go with “Brick” because that’s what it sounds like) to farm fungi. Earth itself is going to be strip-mined for its atmosphere, because as it turns out the Tor eat pollution. Also fungi, I guess, but mainly pollution.

I will note here that “Pollution is rendering Earth more attractive to aliens” is a ham-handed science fiction plot device which has turned up in lots of things before. Doctor Who has done it at least twice. Power Rangers also did it possibly twice, but I’m not sure because the plot of Megaforce was a god-damned mess. Did Captain Planet do it? Feels like the sort of thing they would do. And heck, War of the Worlds the Series even threw it in. So it would be petty of me to object… But I still object. Because War of the Worlds II has not done anything good to make me want to forgive them for the over-the-top moralizing of “Don’t pollute or else aliens will come and eat all our air.”

All the same, the Tor Master orders the Tor Underling to keep an eye on Jessica Storm, because she’s clever enough to pose an actual threat to them.

We transition back to the Orion crew with a musical sting that sounds like a cheap knockoff of a Wagnerian Opera. Jessica enters and gets taunted about the sulfurous smell that accompanies her. They accuse Ari of betraying them, but Gloria recognizes that it’s actually Ohm: the Tor forced the Martians to build him a new body and reinstalled his mind from backup. It’s a neat idea to toss in which could have interesting implications later on, and which (all together now) doesn’t come up again.

Jessica relishes telling the Orion crew about their fate in the mines, and throws in the really incredibly hackneyed over-the-top villain comment that Nikki should be “pleased” to follow in the footsteps of her slave ancestors.

What. The. Ever. Loving. Fuck.

You know, the only thing I can even begin to imagine that line is for is because they got halfway through episode 2 and started to worry about how “implicitly white” this whole thing was, so they hastily started shoehorning in any line they could think of to convince the listeners that Nikki is black. And I’m not saying that it necessarily ought to be possible to tell a person’s race in an audio-only presentation, but Nikki is black the same way that any non-white character in the Superfriends is non-white: in the mode of a white person who spent a semester abroad and won’t shut up about it. Y’know, like your friend in High School who spent the summer in England and came back insisting on calling it “American Football” and using the exclamation, “bugger me!” in a way that indicates that she doesn’t know what it means. Everything everything about the character of Nikki Jackson screams at the top of its lungs “rich white girl”. So when she starts dropping anecdotes about being raised by her poor grandmother who lived through Jim Crow (the old one, not the Trump-era revival) in a few minutes, Imma call bullshit.

And Jessica’s casual racism is… So not only is it ridiculous and out-of-character, it’s not even believable racism. “You should enjoy slavery because your ancestors were slaves,” isn’t a sociopathic genius trying to be cruel. It’s not even a dumb person trying to be cruel. It’s just… I mean… Look, it’s 2017, so I think we all know what it looks like when a powerful white person says something incredibly racist. This is super fucking racist, but doesn’t sound like real-world coded racism, and it doesn’t sound like real-world overt racism. It sounds like exactly what it is: expository racism which is only there to remind us that Nikki is black, because the writers apparently have never actually met any black people and have no idea how to write the experience of being a person of color in 1990s America. Not that I do either, but at least I know enough to not do that.

Anyway, Nikki decks Jessica after the men all refuse to because they’re “old world gentlemen”. The Tor warn Jessica off of killing Nikki in retribution because, apparently, the Tor respect Nikki for her violent outburst.

With the Orion crew’s minds successfully copied, Jessica gleefully leaves them to their fate. And by “fate”, I mean another long talky scene. It takes Gloria and Nikki about thirty seconds to figure out what Jessica E. Coyote, Sooper-Geeeenius missed: that it’s radically implausible that Tor would want them as slaves in the mines.

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