This Week in Geek (21-27/02/11)


I got quite a few DVDs this week: All-Star Superman (of course), Hard Core Logo, The Guild's 4th season, and in the Asian cinema column, The Lady Hermit and Ong Bak 3. I also got the Doctor Who Season 5 soundtrack, and the latest issue of my favorite fanzine, Enlightenment, came in the mail.


DVDs: I've been watching an episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker now and again for a few months and finally finished its single season this week. Darren McGavin reprises his role as Carl Kolchak - a journalist who stumbles onto supernatural events but is never believed - from two previous tv movies for 20 episodes in '74 and '75. As the season progresses, some of the threats turn out to be real howlers (that crocodile man is funkayyyy!), but the show finds its sweet spot in the many zany guest characters that show up. Kolchak is surrounded not just by weird events, but weird people too. It gives the series a wit that keeps it fresh today, and I wish its descendant, The X-Files, had shown half as much sometimes.

Fatal Contact is a Biblical allegory... about underground boxing in Hong Kong. No, really. It is. Even if accidentally so. On the surface, this is a Jackie Wu Jing vehicle with truly awesome fight scenes, melodramatic subplots, and an ending that isn't quite earned. But not 5 seconds after it ended, we were quickly spinning off a web of allusions to both the Fall from Grace and the Life of Jesus, sparked by our contention early on that the apple-eating girlfriend was the devil incarnate. Think what you like, but Wu Jing gets spiked with nails, the film's Judas commits suicide after the betrayal, and a lifeless Madonna weeps. The more you look at it, the more obvious it becomes. Not that the director mentions any of that in his commentary or interview. The DVD also features interviews with members of the cast, all of Dragon Dynasty's usual quality, much of it in English, and almost a half-hour's worth of Wu Jing's training (bit long). It Is however missing the deleted scenes promised in the commentary and apparently on the Hong Kong DVD release. Too bad, as it would have included a cut fight scene.

Audios: Big Finish's 100th numbered Doctor Who CD is called, simply "100" and features the 6th Doctor and Evelyn in four short stories by some of BF's top writers. Jacqueline Rayner's "100 BC" is a humorous tale having to do with Julius Caesar's death. Evelyn acts ridiculously, but it works in the context of the comedy (Rayner often sacrifices character for comedy, and it works about half the time). "My Own Private Wolfgang" is a silly idea by Rob Shearman, guest-starring John Sessions as Mozart, and it's a timey-whimey hoot. Joseph Lidster's "Bedtime Story" is the weakest story on the disc, perhaps because it's so serious compared to the rest. It concerns a family curse based on an old superstition, but it left me cold. "The 100 Days of the Doctor" by fan favorite Paul Cornell pays tribute to other Big Finish Doctors by having the 6th track down a virus that is killing him in both his past and future. Don't expect actual cameos, but he does look on himself from afar, and Cornell's tongue is firmly in cheek through the whole exercise. A clever and cheeky bit of fluff. Overall, a fine package in the style or Circular Time. The audios are very good at short stories and should do more.

The 8th Doctor is off on his own with Lucie Miller, but what about his old team of Charlie and C'rizz? Absolution is a strange science fiction story that sees that team start to unravel. Scott Alan Woodard has some good, epic ideas, but I'm afraid anything that puts C'rizz front and center is going to leave me yawning. The character never worked for me, and his evolution into something more seems to come out of left field. The guest characters are no more engaging, and even Robert Glenister can't save this story from the oubliettes. I do like the final scene in which Charlie has had enough (to be continued), but that could have been tacked on to any story, really. Absolution wants to be huge and at the same time personal. It only cursorily succeeds, and the parts are better than the whole.

Colin Brake's The Mind's Eye is a 5th Doctor three-parter about plants that trap you inside a realistic dream, putting both Peri and Erimem through fantasy lives that are part-joy, part-tragedy. Owen Teale (the cannibal from Torchwood) is excellent as the scientist who helps the Doctor rescue them from their dreams. A strong audio, then, with proper twists and turns, though the cliffhangers are perhaps not very convincing. There's a second story filling up the 4th episode's slot, Mission of the Viyrans (by Nicholas Briggs), introducing a new threat that I'm told reappears in other Big Finish stories. It's creepy as hell, but I don't think I understand the ending. Perhaps I need to hear their next appearance to get it. It's also an odd one because it happens after Erimem's departure, which hasn't happened yet. This is another team that's about to be dissolved so Peri can join the 6th Doctor in the Lost Stories line. But Erimem has one last story to go, which I'll get to probably next week.

Alan Barnes created Charlie in Storm Warning, so it's fitting that he should send her off in The Girl Who Never Was. You know, the best departure stories are those that instantly make you miss the character, even if you thought it was well past due that they should leave. Definitely the case here. It's a timey-whimey story - appropriate for a girl who came aboard the TARDIS as a living paradox - with plenty of twists and the Cybermen thrown in for good measure. And because it knows you know it's a departure story, it has fun teasing you with just what Charlie's final fate will be. It seems that every few minutes, you're going, "so that's what happens to her". Feels like every possible final fate is covered and yet it still manages to surprise you. Good fun and most importantly, well-written characters. Charlie finds the charm she had in those early adventures, while the Doctor is desperate to keep her traveling. Well played, Mr. Barnes.

Books: Respecting my New Year's resolution (1 book every 2 weeks), but only barely, I read Jacqueline Rayner's The Sontaran Games, a "Quick Reads" novella about Sontarans testing human athletes. As with much of Rayner's written work, it's a bit silly and the happy coincidences pile up until you can't be sure the Doctor was really any GOOD. However, it passes by quickly and unlike some other Quick Reads I've sampled, stuff actually happens and keeps happening throughout. I've felt that, sometimes, the writer for these wrote a single encounter (if you'll permit the RPG vernacular) and padded out the front to make it a "whole" story. Rayner is big on incident, and each chapter propels you to the next cliffhanger. So it's entertaining, if slight.

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
II.ii. The Fishmonger Scene - Tennant (2009)


Craig Oxbrow said...

Are there any audios where the Seventh Doctor does a variation on his "look me in the eyes... end my life" speech from The Happiness Patrol and Battlefield? Google informs mt Ace tries it in The Fearmonger...

I'm just curious, looking for a less whispery version than THP's.

For a video edit pitting him against the Weeping Angels. Of course.

Siskoid said...

Off-hand, I really don't know. Does anyone?

Craig Oxbrow said...

It's been another week in geek, so I'm guessing nobody does. I'll just have to use the THP version. :)

(Today's captcha: emolisa. She smiles mysteriously but her eyeliner is runny.)


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