February 21, 2012
It's certainly easier to engage with "The Renaissance Man" than it was the preceding story, "Destination: Nerva". I've grown used to the different sound of Baker and Jameson's voices, for one thing. I also knew in advance that the story would only be two episodes long, something that caught me off-guard the last time and left me feeling a tiny bit cheated. The other advantage that "The Renaissance Man" has is that writer Justin Richards absolutely nails the dialogue for the Doctor and Leela. Baker in particular seems to relish the script, which is filled with the sort of amiable nonsense he's so adept at performing. There's also a good supporting cast here, including Ian McNiece as the villainous Harcourt.
February 16, 2012
The X Files was probably the most successful of the "class of 1993", but the least successful was probably Space Rangers. Created by Pen Densham, one of the writers of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, it lasted six episodes before it was quietly and unceremoniously shoved off the screen. Since I've been giving the other two space shows of '93 a fresh appraisal, it seemed only fair to dust off my copy of Space Rangers and giving the pilot a watch.
It's predictably dreadful, but dreadful in that bizarrely watchable way. It's fairly fast-paced, and breezy, and certainly colourful, and it has that same use of slightly too early computer-generated effects as Babylon 5 had. It follows a team of peacekeepers known as the Space Rangers, based on the colony of Fort Hope, as they travel around rescuing starships in peril and fighting off attacks from the mysterious "Banshees".
"A Message from the Deep Sea" was the premiere episode of the series, which ran for two 13 episode seasons. In this first instalment John Neville (The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The X Files) portrays R. August Freeman's Dr Thorndyke. Neville only died a few months ago, so it was a slightly bittersweet experience watching him here. He's predictably marvellous, and one drawback of the anthology format of the series is that we never get to see him play Thorndyke again.
February 15, 2012
The thing that I have always loved about Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was the degree to which it explored the culture of a few key civilizations. Other Star Treks travelled around the galaxy, leading more often than not to a continuing factory line of interchangeable bumpy-headed aliens. Deep Space Nine, by virtue of its sitting in the one location, was able to explore the culture of both the Bajorans and Cardassians to a degree never previously done in SF television - and I'm not sure it's ever been done since (to be fair, Babylon 5 - through the Minbari, Narn and Centauri - gets remarkably close).
February 14, 2012
I think this may be the best episode of Babylon 5 so far. No, I don't think it - I know it. It does what a lot of great science fiction does, which is to use the genre as a sugar coating for real world issues. It's unsurprising that the episode is written by D.C. Fontana, who was one of the creative hands behind the original Star Trek - and one of its finest script writers.
February 9, 2012
I recall "Mindwar" was one of the Season 1 episodes that fans generally liked back in 1994. It's easy to see why: it features former Star Trek co-star Walter Koenig as Alfred Bester, who is a showy antagonist rich with opportunities for cutting insults and barbed dialogue. Koenig is visibly enjoying the opportunity to play him too, and I think that enjoyment does rub off on the audience as a result. He even has a geeky science fiction name to amuse the hardcore.
February 8, 2012
Sea Change is a 90 minute radio drama, written by John Fletcher and directed by Marc Beeby. It stars Charles Edwards, Kim Wall, John Rowe, Richard Dillane and Carl Prekopp. It was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 29 January 2012. It is available to download from the BBC until Friday 10 February.
British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s disgraceful process of “appeasement” with Nazi Germany remains one of the United Kingdom’s less pleasant periods of the 20th century. A new BBC radio play, Sea Change, explores not only the appeasement process but also the unexpected political coalition that changed British foreign policy and ended Chamberlain’s career. Docudramas are always a tricky thing to pull off; too dramatic and they lose authenticity, too withdrawn and they seem boring. Sea Change manages to skirt the line marvelously for its 90 minute duration, presenting an insight into historical that is at once familiar and surprising.
February 3, 2012
British production company Big Finish has been producing original audio dramas based on Doctor Who for some years, utilising the original TV casts to create a broad range of "missing adventures". They started off with dramas starring Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor, and before long added Paul McGann to the list. For many years, however, Tom Baker has remained the sole holdout among the "classic" Who Doctors. With "Destination: Nerva", he finally reprises the role of the Doctor for Big Finish. Generally speaking, it's a terrific debut.
February 2, 2012
"Invasive Procedures" is what's referred to as a 'bottle show'. Designed to save money over the course of a TV season, the episode uses a small guest cast, no extras, and utilises only standing sets with no location shooting. Given the fairly significant production costs of the season's first three episodes, it's unsurprising that some costs were cut while making the following week's adventure.