Category Archives: TV

Deep Ice: I don’t believe in anything (Howard Koch’s War of the Worlds II: Finale)

Now, where was I…

Jesus. Fucking. Christ. This was pointless and stupid. I could rattle off a long litany of all the stupid, pointless things, but we’ve lived through them these past few months and I am loathe to go back into the details.

On some level, the fact that this series has had sweet fuck all to do with the original 1938 radio play is the least of its sins. I mean, George Pal’s 1975 proposal for a TV series (Which is presumably a big part of the inspiration for War of the Worlds II) has sweet fuck all to do with the movie it’s based on, and the TV sequel that ended up actually happening doesn’t really draw all that much from it either.

If you were to ask someone — someone who knew and was into War of the Worlds, so basically me — what War of the Worlds II was about, the most normal sort of answer would be that it’s a sequel to the 1938 radio play in which humans, using salvaged Martian technology, travel to Mars in 1999, where they find out that the Martians were themselves enslaved by a bigger, badder alien race who now want to take over the Earth.

That is technically true, and it doesn’t sound necessarily like a bad concept for a series. Like I said, it’s the basic idea George Pal came up with in 1975. For that matter, it’s not too far afield from the premise of the Stargate TV franchise.

But, of course, over the course of four episodes, of something in the neighborhood of twelve hours, that makes up what, an hour of the story? At the outside. So what’s War of the Worlds II about? Well, it’s partly a James Bond-style over-the-top international intrigue about an insane evil trillionaire concocting a nonsensical plan to dominate the world, only they neglected to include the savant gentleman superspy who is the only one that can defeat him. And it’s partly a weird political farce about politicians who are hamstrung by nebulously defined “special interests” and at the mercy of comedy over-the-top radio pundits.

In this War of the Worlds sequel. Those ideas, they just have no place here. Those aren’t the sorts of plots that have any place. I mean, you could maybe squeeze them in around the edges — the Strangis’s series is heavily inflected with black comedy, it’s even got traces of that whole, “the government is willing to let aliens take over the world rather than cause a PR scandal.” But those things are around the outside. Like, there’s episodes of the series where the team has to deal with journalists. But there’s still aliens in those episodes. And the aliens are still the primary focus of the plot. But here, over and over again, you’re hoping against hope that the story on Mars will fucking get on with it, but no, it’s time for a “hilarious” argument between obvious-Rush-Limbaugh-expy and obvious-Sally-Jessy-Rafael-expy while obvious-Geraldo-expy sleezily reports on it. There’s just so many plot threads that have nothing to do with anything that might conceivably have brought you to listen to this. There’s the nonsense with DeWitt’s political maneuvering and the nonsense with the assassination attempt and the nonsense with Tosh Rimbauch and the nonsense with Ratkin and the ice sectioners and the nonsense with Nancy and Ethan and the nonsense with Ratkin’s wife and the nonsense with the Underground, and I don’t give a shit about any of it.

And there is no way they could make that many subplots turn into something coherent, but maybe they could pull off a few of them. Except that in addition to being utterly pointless, they’re also terrible. There is nothing even slightly believable about Ratkin’s machinations, or DeWitt’s unwillingness to just have Seal Team Six rub the fucker out, or the whole “special interest” nonsense. There’s no reason anyone would take Tosh Rimbauch seriously in any regard whatever. Making Ethan all twee and naive up until he suddenly goes all Artemis Fowl in his very last scene, vowing to outthink his father? Stupid, cliche, unbelievable. It’s just all so dumb, and don’t forget poorly written.

And then, of course, the big question: where are these subplots going? The answer is nowhere, because every single subplot becomes utterly irrelevant the moment the Tor announce themselves to humanity. If you think no one fucking cared about whether Ethan Allen is going to beat Ronald in the race to rescue Mrs. Rochester from Steinmetz now, exactly where is that plot going to go once the Tor start abducting billions of humans and stripping Earth of its atmosphere? It doesn’t. There is no way to continue any of the Earth-based plots the instant this second War becomes a shooting war.

That’s what’s been driving me nuts these past few months. Where could the other plots, the plots that make up about 90% of the story so far, go once the actual plot starts up? I could maybe see Ratkin continuing to try to work a deal with the Tor to be the warlord of a conquered planet if the Tor’s plan was simple conquest, but that doesn’t work at all if the Tor plan to transplant the entire human race en masse in the space of a week. Jessica Storm could maybe be salvaged. She seems right now like a character at the end of her arc, though: the traitor who realizes she’s been double-crossed and goes down in a blaze of glory that earns her partial redemption. But certainly, there’s room to rework her as the villain who’s forced to work with the heroes, while secretly trying to engineer things to get them killed in some “noble sacrifice”. The eleventh-hour introduction of The Resistance seems tailor made to be the backbone of the force that will fight against the Tor, except that nothing we’ve learned of them suggests this is in their wheelhouse or that there’s any reason to expect them to be more use to the cause than the actual military, which, remember, still exists. What about President DeWitt? Honestly, there’s nothing we’ve learned about her character that suggests she’d be of any use in an open war. It’s not simply her physical handicap — heck, the brilliant tactician who is physically handicapped is a fair enough trope all on its own. But DeWitt’s never really been depicted as having a particular skill at anything, really, other than the game of politics (at which she is, at best, just adequate). She’s a perfectly good character for a political drama, but nothing in the story implies that any of her skills would really be useful here. She can’t even give big rallying speeches, because she can barely speak unassisted. The pending plot to have DeWitt declared unfit, the Vice-President “taken care of”, and that weird Republican Kennedy-clone installed? This sounds like complete nonsense in the face of the alien invasion. And Tosh Rimbauch? Nope. Just nope.

So out of all the plot threads they started — and basically kept starting right up until the last twenty minutes — it’s only the ones involving the Orion crew that really even make sense going forward. And two of them are back on Mars, so barring a thrilling, “And then they spend four hours flying back to Mars to pick up the other two,” sequence, they’re out of the picture for the near future. Even if they were planning to set up, “Ferris and Rutherford rally the Martian slaves into revolting against the Tor,” it appears at the moment that the Tor have left Mars and the Martians don’t have any more ships, so there’s really nowhere for that plot to go.

Not that I miss them especially. Ferris has the personality of a block of wood, and Rutherford is a piece of shit who seems to exist only to make Nikki more likable by negging her. Asshole. Gloria, Talbert, Morgan and Gus are okay, I guess, though Talbert’s personality doesn’t seem to go much past, “He’s the only member of the crew who has heard of science.”

So what’s left to say in the final analysis? Not much, really. On a technical level, I guess I can give the weak praise that the audio is almost entirely intelligible. This should be a given, but I’ve seen too many low-budget productions that can’t get their audio levels right at this point in our little adventure through every War of the Worlds adaptation I could find to take it for granted. And there are clearly deliberate choices being made about how to convey these characters through their voices and tones of speaking. The major characters all have distinctive tones of voice, and there’s only a very few cases where it’s hard for me to tell them apart.

But, of course, you can’t go very far down the road of praising any element of War of the Worlds II without it leading you back to a problem. On the one hand, yes, almost everyone’s speaking voice is distinctive. But that is not the same as anyone’s voice being good. There aren’t many voice choices that I’d outright call “good”; most of them vary between “neutral”, “This was a bad idea but at least I can see where they were coming from,” and “What the hell were they thinking?” I mean, consider:

  • Jonathan Ferris: I think they’re going for “stoic” here. I have made no secret of the fact that they overshot and ended up with “inanimate object”. If their goal was to make me believe this guy was real, real dull, then congrats, but this is not necessarily a great thing to succeed at.
  • Nikki Jackson: Another very neutral voice. As her characterization shifts toward her being ruthless and driven, a less sociopathic version of Jessica Storm, her voice acting doesn’t do a great job of conveying it. The biggest flaw, of course, is that we’re asked to believe that this very obviously white upper-middle-class woman from the north east is, in fact, a black woman who pulled herself up out of poverty by her own bootstraps having been raised by her wise old Tyler Perry-portrayed grandmother in the Jim Crow south, which no. Just no.
  • Mark Rutherford: Mark Rutherford I is fine. Neutral. It’s a dubious idea to have this character based around his acerbic relationship with Nikki, the implicit, “Isn’t it adorable how he constantly negs her. They should totally date,” thing is awful, but I can believe the aspect of, “They used to be friends, and they’re professional enough to work together, but there’s still some bitterness there,” even if they never quite settle on whether they genuinely dislike each other, or just have the kind of friendship based on mutual insult. Mark Rutherford II, though, pushes into this weird “hapless ’50s guy” thing that is supposed to remind us of Dobie Gillis or Dagwood Bumstead or something, and it just doesn’t really make any sense. I think it’s an attempt to make him seem adorably awkward and likeable, which fits progressively less well as he becomes more and more of an entitled jackhole. Mark Rutherford III gives up the pretense of adorkability, which at least makes sense for the character, and is played as more of a deadpan snarker, but there’s still an old-timey aspect to his voice which doesn’t make any real sense.
  • Gloria Townsend: The combination of a slightly southern accent with her overly-technical mode of speaking is an interesting mix. I have no strong feelings about her.
  • Gus Pierelli: He’s the gear-head, so they have him a working-class accent. A little on-the-nose, but okay. His Brooklyn accent becomes less pronounced as the series goes on, though, leaving him sometimes hard to distinguish from…
  • Robert Talbert: There’s not really anything distinctive to him.
  • Medic Morgan (I don’t think she actually has a first name): Having her be sort of mousy and uncertain makes it easy to distinguish her from the other women on the Orion crew, but the notes of insecurity aren’t something that you really expect from a medical doctor, and brings to mind some unpleasant stereotypes about women in “male” roles.
  • Jessica Storm: So… I can see what they’re going for. Her tone of voice conveys a lot of information very quickly. From her first line, you know not only that she is evil, but also what kind of evil she is: she’s clever, ambitious and arrogant. But she also sounds like a soap opera diva. And I mean, okay, fair enough; War of the Worlds II, as it turns out, is a soap opera. But it’s impossible to take her seriously in any of her stated competencies. I don’t believe she’s a Wile-E-Coyote-class Sooper-Geeenious, I don’t believe she’s a top-notch space pilot. I don’t believe she’s a deadly assassin. I’d buy her seducing elderly millionaires, or even executing brilliant boardroom double-crosses. Not the actual things she’s allegedly brilliant at.
  • Ronald Ratkin: Everything about Ronald Ratkin I is designed to tell you he is the villain. He sounds like cartoon character. He sounds like he should be trying to tempt young Skywalker over to the Dark Side. He sounds like he’ll disappear in a puff of smoke if you say his name. Ronald Ratkin II is much closer to what they actually ought to have been going for, being very clearly modeled on Brando’s Don Corleone. Even then, though, maybe just a hair too on-the-nose?
  • Hoover Jones: Of course, they had someone playing a gangster before they recast Ratkin, but he’s playing a very different kind of gangster archetype. Fine, but the accent slips as the series goes on until he’s just doing a kind of generic “affluent” accent with his vowels inexplicably drawn out. I think maybe they wanted him to sound British (He’s one of the characters who awkwardly throws in occasional Britishisms for no reason), but he doesn’t. At all.
  • Tosh Rimbauch: No. Just no.
  • Sandra DeWitt: She’s so mellow and soft-spoken that it’s basically impossible to take her seriously as a politician. It doesn’t help that she clearly hasn’t learned her lines ahead of time and is hearing them for the first time as she says them. Also, her husband kinda comes off as a closeted gay man.
  • Nancy Ferris: No one is that southern. Plus, far more than any other character, she tends to narrate her actions, which is really annoying.
  • Ethan Allen Ratkin: Many, many things about the character of Ethan Allen Ratkin are wrong. The decision to have a voice actor who is not a twelve year old boy play him as a super-twee twelve-year-old boy is not terrible, until the end when they decide he’s suddenly going to take a level in badass and vow to bring an end to his father’s reign of terror using his own strategic brilliance of which there has been no evidence.

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Tales from /lost+found 137: Week 10

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4×10 Vincent and the Doctor: Something is coming. Something very different and very dangerous. To stop it, the Doctor needs to find a whole new way to look at the universe. And who better to show him than Vincent van Gogh? The Doctor and Sammy travel to 1890s France to meet the troubled artist who can see a monster no one else can.

Tales from /lost+found 136: Week 9

I am underproud of this one.

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4×09 Madame Vastra Investigates: In London, in the time of Queen Victoria, there were many tales of a remarkable personage known as The Great Detective. Scotland Yard has sought out the expertise of Madame Vastra of Paternoster Row when rigid corpses, dyed red appear across the city. But a case of this magnitude may prove too much for even the great detective, her beautiful assistant Jenny Flint, and her boy servant, Thomas Thomas. For this case, she must call on her own secret weapon. When his mysterious blue box turns up, unoccupied and dyed red, the Paternoster Gang faces the terrible possibility even the Doctor can’t get them out of this one…

Any Questions?

In honor of the recent broadcast of The David S. Pumpkins Halloween Special, I’ve decided to put off the next War of the Worlds thing in order to bring you… Unlikely Halloween Specials!

This turned out to be way harder than I expected, because it turns out that pretty much anything can be a Halloween special. Shoulda known.

Though respected in its own day, it is of course now considered controversial for its negative depiction of white nationalists.

Still better than the second live-action movie.

This is a cheat, since it turns out Peyo already wrote basically this. True story: it had to be recolored for the US market because apparently equating black skin with being mindless and violent isn’t considered racist in Belgium.

Fun fact: canonically, Bea Arthur’s character retired from the Cantina and lived a long, happy life with her wife in suburban Tattooine.

 

Tales From /lost+found 135a: You Want Me To Get That?

Once again I find myself doing that thing that I don’t like doing. A bit of a departure from the normal here, though.

See, a few years ago, I read this wonderful proposal: The Case For Making Columbo America’s Doctor Who. Ever since then, I’ve longed for a rebooted Columbo that could show off Kathy Bates, Giancarlo Esposito, Dame Judi Dench, Kyle MacLachlan, Henry Winkler, or Dennis Franz (as the War Columbo) donning a rumpled trenchcoat and confronting smug, upper-class murderers with “just a few more questions.” But there’s one particular goddamned national treasure we lost this week who I’d always lamented would’ve been unspeakably perfect in the role…

 

Clock to Embiggen

Sorry about the rush-job; this style is a lot harder than the Unbound covers I usually do.

RIP Robert Guillaume, 1927-2017. You were a goddamned national treasure.

Tales from /lost+found 135: Week 8

Dalek-Human Hybrid

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4×08 Evolution of the Daleks: Part 2 of 2. To save New York from the Daleks, the Doctor must make a devil’s bargain: help Dalek Sec complete his bold plan to create a new Dalek race. But as the Doctor starts to see that Dalek Sec’s transformation has changed him more than expected, a new and terrifying possibility arises: could the Daleks actually be reformed?

After These Messages…

Everyone needs a hobby.

Been having a lot of trouble with this ever since I changed the URL for the blog, frankly.

I’m seeing this as the story of a young transman overcoming bigotry to become the world’s most sought-after film editor.

Haven’t we all by now?

We all float down here.

Fun fact: this was the original title for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”

The first show where every episode is a “very special episode”.

I suppose we should have something seasonal.

Tales From /lost+found 134: Week 7

The Daleks Take Manhattan

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4×07 The Daleks Take Manhattan: Part 1 of 2. The Doctor and Sammy travel to New York in the 1930s, where people are disappearing, and an old enemy resurfaces. Trapped in Earth’s past without the Progenitor, the Cult of Skaro prepares a bold move to restore the Dalek race, and the only person in the universe who can save them from extinction is their greatest enemy.

Deep Ice: I’m Just Glad This Is Behind Us (War of the Worlds II, Episode 4, Part 4)

Oh thank God. Oh thank you dear sweet merciful lord. This is it. One more part and I can put this behind me forever unless someone finds a copy of episode 3 and sends it to me (don’t do that). We’ve got about thirty-six minutes of this ridiculous thing left, and there’s a whole lot of plot threads to tie up before we say goodbye to this cast of characters and resolve this complicated story. Fortunately for us, it seems like all the characters are heading toward a fateful confrontation at the banquet about to be held for the Orion crew, and I’m sure that will make for an epic setting for the tense final battle of—

Nah, just foolin’. Of all the things which are going on in this plot, like maybe one of them is actually going to get resolved. For certain definitions of “resolved”. Instead, can you guess what they’re going to do instead?

If you guessed “Introduce a bunch more bullshit plot threads that go nowhere,” you’re right. If you didn’t, hi, welcome to A Mind Occasionally Voyaging, where I write fake documents about an alternative history of Doctor Who on Saturdays and essays about adaptations and spin-offs of War of the Worlds on Wednesdays, except when I can’t be bothered and instead post something adorable about my children. You might want to catch up on the last fifteen posts in this series so you understand why you ought to have seen this coming.*[Technically, I would have also accepted “Waste a bunch of time with pointless whining about “special interests” that goes nowhere, but the other answer is better]

But before we get to nothing happening, first, we have to finish up last week’s nothing happening. Oh yes, we are not quite done with the exciting drama of Ronald Ratkin, the world’s richest man; Tosh Rimbauch, the world’s douchiest man; Ethan Allen Ratkin, the littlest child soldier; and Nancy Ferris, suddenly the standard-bearer of La Resistance.

Ratkin finishes buttering up Rimbauch and advises him to wait until after the banquet to air his expose. Once Tosh leaves the room (and, thank God, the series), Ratkin proceeds to monologue a bit about what a moron Rimbauch is and how easily he has manipulated the fat idiot into doing his work for him. He tells Hoover Jones that Rimbauch, “Becomes so caught up in his own rhetoric that he lets his guard down.” This seems to imply that Ratkin is setting Rimbaugh up for a double-cross, but one never comes. And it’s hard to imagine what the double-cross would be. I mean, the only possible thing would be if the evidence he’s given him of DeWitt’s infirmity were fake. But it’s not. There’s no reasonable setup here against Rimbauch. Unless maybe they mean to put in in a Glenn Greenwald sort of position. But isn’t Ratkin taking a pretty big chance here that if Rimbauch is subpoenaed over releasing the President’s confidential medical information, he’ll sing like a canary?

On the other hand, it’s pretty clear Ratkin has absolutely no concern over getting caught; he’s above the law, immune to subpoenas and law enforcement and vulnerable only to something like the heroes of an ’80s action-adventure show. So why bother with all this bullshit. I mean, seriously, he’s devoting all sorts of time and energy and money into keeping his plans a secret, suppressing the media, defaming the administration, secretly undermining societal institutions on all levels. But why? It’s clear no one can do anything to stop him. And his cover-ups aren’t even working: children on the street knew about his kidnapping of Nancy Ferris, that he was the one behind the ice sectioners’ strike, that he was the one preventing water purification efforts. Yet he persists in this farce.

After Ratkin and Hoover Jones have a good laugh at the idea of giving the crippled DeWitt a “run for her money”, Hoover expresses some sympathy: “It’s not her fault she was in your way.” “It was her responsibility to move before I ran her down,” Ratkin answers. And he pledges that she will too “Know what hit her”.

Ratkin calls Evans, who is still working on his mindwipe procedure, and tells him to have “Mrs. Rochester” returned to her relatives, so he can kill her in the privacy of his own house once he’s used her as bait to lure Ethan back to the compound.

“Not very far away,” the narrator tells us, Ethan comes to the same conclusion, and tells Nancy that he wants to spring his mom from Steinmetz before Ratkin can. Nancy warns him that, “Your father is a very powerful man, and a brilliant one.” Ethan insists that Ratkin taught him everything he knows.

Except that poor people exist. Or how capitalism works. Or really anything at all. Seriously, there’s this whole claim that Ratkin has been grooming Ethan to be this perfect heir, which is completely undermined by the way that he’s actually raising him to be utterly naive and completely isolated from the world. This is not the way you raise an evil heir to your evil empire. We all know this. You send him to military school then give him a million dollars to start him out in shady real estate dealings and advise him to engage in illegal discrimination, then let him doctor your will to disinherit your other son’s family.

You know what would make way more sense than this whole family dynamic? If the mind-wipe technique Evans is working on is really just step 1 of a mind transfer procedure and Ratkin actually intends to possess his son’s body and thus gain immortality.

I mean, that would be a fucking stupid ridiculous sci-fi-soap-opera plot worthy of nothing but laughing derision. But it would still make more sense than the plot we’re actually given.

Ethan, who is now being written completely differently, muses on “What kind of a man,” Ratkin must be to have treated his mother so badly. Nancy pontificates that, “Many rulers have treated women like dispensable child-bearing machines.” Ethan declares that, while he won’t allow himself to be used to hurt his father, he’s “not a child any more” and will prevent his father from doing any more harm to others, using his deep and detailed knowledge of his father’s “stratagems and gambits”, though, presumably, no knowledge whatever of what his father’s business actually is.

Kyle returns and asks if he can tag along to the Orion banquet. Nancy doubts she could get anyone not on the guest list in, and does not bring up the fact that she’s currently a missing person presumed kidnapped by Ronald Ratkin and probably wanted by the FBI as a person of interest. She also worries about Kyle’s safety since there’s “all sorts of opposition to Mission Red, and not just from Ronald Ratkin.” Also, “Who knows if the Martians are really friendly?”

After Nancy leaves, Ethan promises to find a way to get Kyle into the banquet. What the hell is Kyle’s stake in this again? Kyle reiterates his disbelief that Ethan is a Ratkin, but again, decides to go along with it. In accordance with the narrative laws set by the great Scoobert Doo, we cut away when Ethan starts to explain his plan, thus assuring its success.

This is, by the way, the last we will hear from Ethan Allen Ratkin and Kyle Jordan (Wasn’t he the Green Lantern?). Bye, kids.

“Meanwhile”, on Mars, possibly two days earlier, I’m not sure, the real Orion crew has found and repaired the Martian warship. Pierelli declares that it’s not so weird, “Once you get used to manipulating living tissue.” Yeah, the ship is organic, because of course it is, even though Orion-1 was supposed to be made from the same metal as the 1938 warships. Gloria isn’t showing any signs of losing her Martian powers this time, and in fact feels great. She won’t lose them for the remainder of the episode. It is acknowledged, but never explained. Gloria does muse a bit on how she being among the Martians, she feels for the first time in her life like someone really, like, gets her, you know?

Are they going for a reveal that Gloria’s actually a Martian changeling? We know that Martians can adopt a form indistinguishable from a human, so is it possible she’s meant to be some kind of advance scout who was dropped on Earth Son Goku-style? Or maybe she’s only half-Martian, and her dad was a survivor of the ’38 invasion who went native. That’s not a terrible twist, though it’s hard to imagine this reveal will actually mean anything by the time they get around to it.

Nikki Jackson pulls the commander aside to tell him what he’s already worked out for himself: the ship isn’t big enough to fit seven. Commander Ferris, his Star Trek Commander’s Hat low on his brow, tells her that he’s working on it, and to keep quiet for the moment. After Mark objects to naming the ship “Orion-2”, not wanting to be, “Two to Jessica’s Orion-1,” Gloria suggests calling the ship “Ares”, which she pronounces wrong. I mean, she pronounces it “Are-ees” rather than “Air-ees”. You might be able to make the argument that she’s pronouncing it in the Greek, rather than English way, but close as I can tell, that would be more like “Are-ess” rather than “Are-ees” (No, I do not know IPA. Sorry). I wouldn’t bring it up, but she made a big deal out of pronouncing “forte” correctly before. I do wonder, though, if it’s coincidence that her preferred pronunciation is indistinguishable from “Ari’s”.

Once Gus finishes the repairs, Ferris tells everyone about the ship’s inadequate seating. Thank God he didn’t let Nikki tell them forty-five seconds earlier. For the sake of padding, he lists off the reasons for each crewmember to stay: Pierelli to maintain the ship; Townsend to communicate with it; Talbert to navigate at relativistic speed; Morgan in case anyone is injured; and Jackson because they’ve been building up this whole thing with Nikki and Jessica needing to have a big showdown.

Nikki objects to leaving Ferris behind, but he’s stalwart. Everyone objects, in fact, citing his wife and the fact that Nikki is kind of a bitch. No one says a single word about leaving Rutherford behind, not even Rutherford. He pretty much gets that he’s completely pointless.

So, bye Rutherford. Ares launches, and Nikki orders them to maximum speed. Then she immediately backs off when she finds out that maximum speed is about .83c, and they’re not confident on their ability to decelerate quickly enough to make a controlled landing. They back down to a mere 20,000 kps, which will get them to Earth in four hours, rather than fifteen minutes. After a long-winded explanation about momentum being a cruel mistress, they move on to a long-winded explanation of how the reason they can see out the front of the ship is because Gloria ordered the front of the ship to turn invisible, and now it’s not a “reflection”, but a “simultaneous telecast”. Note that she says she turned the ship transparent, so what she actually did was just make a window. But the explanation, which goes on to compare it to the Martians’ own camouflage ability, presumes that what she’s actually doing is having the inside surface of the ship mimic the colors of light striking the outside surface — something more akin to a chameleon, maybe.

Talbert goes on to explain that they aren’t going fast enough to notice any relativistic effects, which is true, but because those only kick in “within 50,000 kilometers per second of the speed of light”, which is bullshit. I could be all nerdy and pedantic and talk about how ordinary real-world astronauts experience measurable time dilation, but okay, I’ll grant that picking up a second or two isn’t really anything to make a big deal over. But generally speaking, you should take relativity into account whenever you’re talking about speeds greater than one tenth of the speed of light. Which, admittedly, they’re not.

By the time the explanations are over, they have to start decelerating, since apparently the brakes suck on these Martian ships. This gives everyone an opportunity to pontificate on how, “Waste is the way of the universe,” as they are sad about leaving Ferris behind, having to “sacrifice so many good people because of the evil plots of a few.” Gloria muses on how war is irrational, while Talbert considers it a universal law. Gloria goes on to explain how she finds pain, bigotry, greed and suffering completely alien to her, and that she finds the Martian philosophy closer to her own than any she’s heard on Earth. Yep. I’m calling it: she’s an alien.

“At that very moment”, we’re told, Jessica Storm finally introduces her boss to her new shady business partners. Ratkin is snarky about the circumstances of her return: the official story is that a “malfunction” aboard Artemis killed the rest of her crew, and she was rescued by Orion.

Does it feel like something’s missing here? I mean, they’ve skipped straight from Orion calling in to let them know they’re on their way home to Jessica being in the “Hiltmore” hotel in Washington with the clone crew. We never actually cover Orion’s landing, their debriefing, how the clones somehow managed to convince NASA that everything was on the up-and-up despite the fact that their skills at passing for actual humans is somewhere in the Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons From Mars range. And now Jessica Storm, who as everyone knows was sent to Mars by Ronald Ratkin to assassinate Orion’s crew is not only at liberty, but has been given access to the celebratory banquet? I mean, okay, they’ve established that for some reason, even if they had rock-solid proof, they still wouldn’t be able to actually take legal action against Storm because of “protests”, but what the fuck is she doing being invited to the banquet?

Oh, and have you noticed what they haven’t said a single word about? The fact that Earth is deadly to Martians. Y’know, the one thing that you pretty much have to have in order to be an adaptation of War of the Worlds. Anyway, Jessica introduces Ratkin to the Tor over the video-phone. Keep in mind that the Tor haven’t revealed their true forms, as far as I can tell, and still look like “living shadows”. Also keep in mind that the Tor don’t actually speak, but use Martian intermediaries to translate their aroma-based communication into telepathy. So Jessica Storm has used a high-tech ’90s video-phone to introduce Ronald Ratkin to an invisible alien who doesn’t speak. Also, the Tor isn’t physically present with Jessica, but appears via projection. Science!

He is “honored” to meet them, and recognizes that it’s “convenient” that the Tor have no need for “primitive” names, since it puts their enemies at a disadvantage. Tor proceeds to explain how his species is dependent on Quorrium, which would be destroyed if humans try to extract water from the Martian rock, which is why they want him to prevent any further human exploration of Mars. And I’d say here that it seems like they’re giving a way an awful lot about their own weaknesses here, but we’re something like seven million hours into this production, and never once has it mattered that one side knows something the other side doesn’t, so whatever.

The Tor offer to make Ratkin supreme ruler of Earth in return for stopping the space program. Ratkin points out that he’s taking over the world just fine without them… But then they basically just say the exact same thing again, and Ratkin is like, “Wait, you mean you’ll make me the supreme leader of the Earth and all I have to do is promise humans will stop going into space? Sign me up.” He agrees to their terms, warning them that it would be unwise to betray them.

The plan the Tor propose is flatly ridiculous enough that it will presumably work like a charm in this stupid world: Ratkin will use his communications satellites to transmit DeWitt’s address at the banquet on every station around the world, whereupon the clone crew will seize the podium and declare that the Tor are making Ratkin the sole proprietor of all water in the universe.

Ratkin, presumably in need of a clean pair of pants, reflects on how he’ll soon have everything he’s ever wanted (except for his son back), and will make Jessica rich and powerful as a reward. We cut back to the Tor Master, for some Mua-ha-hahing about how they’ll soon have complete victory. The banquet will surely be “what they call ‘simulcast'”, and the Tor will “use their own technology to defeat them.” Because as it turns out, the Tor have the ability to beam people up via television.

A bit late in the day to bring that up, isn’t it? Yeah, despite there having been no previous indication of such a thing, the Tor have a technology so ridiculously far in advance of anything we’ve seen here, that it’s basically impossible to reconcile with anything else we have seen or heard. The Martians, recall, are like a million years more advanced than the Tor, but they don’t have teleportation. Also, the Tor can jam any human communication at will, so I’m not sure why they’re even bothering with this bullshit. “Once we have conquered Earth, no world will dare oppose us again,” the Master Tor says.

Oh, and by the way, let’s say goodbye to Ronald Ratkin now. This is it for him.

But I can’t linger on that ridiculous bullshit, since we’ve got a lot of ridiculous bullshit to get through. The Ares approaches the dark side of the moon and locates the Tor ship. More time gets wasted on exposition about how Ares can camouflage itself to look like space, and the Tor can’t detect them because their sensors are primarily smell-based (Ares has too mild of an odor to be detected). Gloria reminds everyone that smell and sound don’t travel in space. Ares intercepts part of the conference call between Jessica, Ratkin and the Tor, learning the location of the banquet. Gloria laughs off the suggestion that they might be able to “beam down” to Earth, since this scene was probably written before they decided that beaming was a thing that could happen in this universe.

As they land, Doctor Morgan reflects on how much she likes passing through the clouds: “It’s like flying in heaven.” Because we haven’t really had enough pointless time-wasting so far. Gloria introduces them to the marvels of Martian GPS to help Talbert navigate, and then talk turns to armaments. With audible and creepily sexual excitement, she tells them there’s a veritable arsenal on board, but most of the weapons can’t be operated by humans. Why do the Martians have hand-weapons anyway? They can manipulate matter on a molecular level with a touch. Actually, how the fuck did the Martians lose to the Tor when a Martian can pretty much turn anyone they like into a puddle of goo just by poking them?

Come to think of it, if Martians can alter their biology at will, why did they succumb to Earth bacteria back in the ’30s? I mean, other than “This sequel has completely forgotten that and will not bring it up.” Anyway, if you were hoping that we’d get to see some heat rays… You should be used to disappointment by now. Gloria presents them with a small hand-weapon that can disintegrate a human at a distance of half a kilometer. The mechanism isn’t specified, but they’re genetically coded to their operators and operated telepathically. They land Ares at the Hiltmore Hotel and set off to find their duplicates. Nikki leaves Gloria and Talbert aboard the ship with orders to go back and retrieve the others if they don’t hear back. Bye, guys.

Some classical music transitions us to Nancy Ferris. Her adventures in trying to reach the Hiltmore Hotel while evading recapture by Ratkin are… Not described. Instead, she announces for our benefit that she’s right outside her husband’s room. Somehow, she’s found his room number and gained access, apparently without anyone noticing. You’d think if she asked for him at the front desk, they’d have called up to his room. You’d think there’d be security, given that, as we keep being told, there are many who oppose Mission Red.

You would be wrong about these things. He answers the door with, “Can I help you?” and then, in a deadpan that is so thorough that I actually did get a smile out of it, “Oh. Yes. Nancy. My wife. I was told that you were missing. Enter, please. I am glad to see you.” She explains that she’s in disguise, due to having been in hiding for weeks.

Weeks. It’s been weeks.

Never mind. Press on. We’re almost there now. It takes Nancy a while, but she does eventually start to pick up on the fact that something might be a little off about her husband, pointing out that he hasn’t even kissed her yet. “Ah, yes, a kiss,” he says, sounding for all the world like Donald Trump Jr. trying to demonstrate that he is a real human being by placing photos of his family on his desk, facing away from him. Nancy gives him a sarcastic thank-you after a passionless kiss, and he returns a sincere, “You are welcome.” She asks if he’s acting strangely because the room is bugged. “Bugged? Ah, yes, bugged. I have no knowledge of such activities.” He suggests that he’s tired from the trip, and Nancy almost buys it, until she remembers that the real Jonathan is usually a useless klutz for weeks after a space trip, and he seems fine to her.

When he barely reacts to being told about their house burning down, the jig is up, and she accuses him of not actually being Jonathan Ferris. He apologizes, and actually sounds rather sad about it as he declares that he’s been ordered to kill her.

It’s just at that moment that the real Orion crew busts into the hotel room to rescue her. Jessica Storm arrives a second later with the other clones, giving Nikki a chance to flirt with herself, because at this point why not? Nancy challenges the Orion crew to prove their authenticity, and Nikki explains about the real Ferris having remained behind, which she finds convincing, since she knows her real husband would gladly stay behind on Mars to avoid coming home to her.

Jessica threatens them all with a Tor hand-weapon, and Nikki responds by declaring herself immune to being shot for plot reasons because she’s Jessica’s nemesis, and therefore Jessica needs her alive to have someone to beat at things. Jessica insists she’s okay with that, and starts to explain the plan for the benefit of the Orion crew. Weirdly, though, the Tor decide to interrupt her at this point and reveal their true intentions.

WHAT. IS. EVEN. THE. FUCKING. POINT?

After accusing the “smelly insects” of tricking her, Jessica tries to warn Ratkin to fire his missiles. I guess over a cell phone or something? I mean, she just says “Ronald, fire missiles!” out loud to no one. It doesn’t matter, though, because the Tor have blocked her signal. We get one last bit of pointless padding when the Tor explains that a rebellious Martian slave erased all of the Tor’s records about human biology, which is somehow relevant to why they need to wait for the banquet to put their plan into action. Jessica promises that the military will destroy the Tor, and if not them, Ratkin. The Tor counter that within a week, all humans who refuse to be relocated will asphyxiate. I, um, I thought they were going to beam everyone up, so how does “choice” figure in here? “The choice is yours, Jessica Storm. Only this time, you have no choice.” Oh. Okay then.

And that’s game. The narrator assures us that the story will be continued “soon”, but he is wrong and thank God. I think he suspects this as well, since he refers to “Episode 5”, but doesn’t give a name for it as he had previously.

End of Side Four. Please stay tuned for the final analysis…