This Week in Geek (21-27/03/11)


An improv fan came up to me Monday night after the league finals and handed me an Aquaman button. How nice! The stock art is an old José Luis Garcia-Lopez standard, but I haven't seen the button on the Aquaman Shrine. Gotta take a picture of it and send it to Rob, I guess!


DVDs: The Kung Fu selection this week was Ong Bak 3: The Final Battle, Tony Jaa's sequel to the prequel to the movie that made him an international star. Though the primal martial artist of the story has some bad guys to stop (Ong Bak 2 was very much the Empire Strikes Back of the series), the "final battle" is really the one for his own soul, working towards purer martial arts (undoing my problems with Tony Jaa using weapons) and a serenity that is beyond vengeance. The action is of a very high standard, and though the Buddhist teachings and healing are beautiful to look at, they may frustrate some viewers by their length and relative disjointedness. Not me though. Ong Bak 3 is a martial arts epic, yes, but it's also a decent Buddhist fable. The 3-minute HDNet featurette that accompanies it, however, is terrible, telling you exactly three things about the film, and one of them isn't true. This DVD deserved better, especially considering the stories of Jaa having abandoned movie-making for the monastery after Ong Bak 2.

I also flipped the 4th Doctor Who/Sarah Jane story The Masque of Mandragora, a well-remembered tale of a power from the stars trying to subvert the Italian Renaissance. The Doctor and Sarah are particularly good in it, and both the location and studio work look incredible (the former is in Portmeiron, but I could never tell despite being a Prisoner fan). There's a subplot that's pulled right out of Hamlet, but with Horatio consistently advising violence. If there's a flaw keeping Masque from becoming a true classic, it's in the ending. A bit of technobabble, the Doctor does something, the villains are stopped. It's not really clear on a single viewing, only partly due to execution. The DVD includes an unfortunately dull audio commentary. Tom Baker is often off-topic, while the others (producer Philip Hinchcliffe is the recognizable name) get a number of details wrong (dumb stuff like not knowing if the Hartnell years were in black and white). Gets better towards the end though. Other extras include a solid making of, a history of the console room motivated by the first appearance of the wood-paneled one, and a spoof of such extras by writer Gareth Roberts and Doctor Who magazine editor Clayton Hickman. It got some laughs out of me.

Revenge of the Cybermen was NOT so fondly remembered, in fact, I couldn't remember anything from it at all. The story has its strengths: Nice location and sets, a good Doctor-companions dynamic, and uhm, that's it really. Sadly, the Cybermen's first appearance in color is overly ambitious and the production team gets a lot of details wrong, from stiff alien masks to silly effects to naff models to paceless fights. The script is likewise cribbed with holes. So while not a terrible hour and a half, you might want to spend it with a beer in your hand. The commentary has Liz Sladen, so that's nice, but she's absent from the making of (most people are). Much better is a half-hour documentary about the collecting of Doctor Who in video, especially before Revenge came out as the official first video from the BBC. It's awesome and gave me the giggles as well as a teary eye on a number of occasions. A great bookend to the documentary about recording Doctor Who on audio tape that's on another DVD. There's also a vintage interview with Tom Baker when he was just starting.

Audios: A few 5th Doctor audios this week. Paul Sutton's Exotron features the worst audio performance for Peri I think I've ever heard, but the story that puts the TARDIS heroes in the middle of a war between telepathic monsters and killer robots has enough twists and turns to keep you interested, and ends on a rather emotional, and effective note. Still, took a while to get there, and the regulars just aren't in their best form. The disc has a second story, Urban Myths, which occurs just after Erimem has left the crew, and has Peri (here in better form) play waitress to a trio of Time Lords investigating events touched by the Doctor. It's a kind of playful Rashomon, and all told, better than Exotron.

I've loved what Daniel O'Mahoney prose I've read, but it's all been luxuriously dark, so I was intrigued by what his single audio would be like. Return to the Web Planet is a 5th Doctor and Nyssa sequel to the Hartnell original. They arrive on Vortis centuries or more later and face a new threat from the ground itself. The 50-minute play makes me wish O'Mahoney wrote some others. The two Menoptera in the story are charming, and represent well an alien point of view. As with his prose work, O'Mahoney crafts a thematically centered story about rebirth that weaves in some intriguing science fiction concepts. The cover in the style of the old Target novelizations is lovely too.

Erimem gets her replacement in The Haunting of Thomas Brewster, but not really. The Dickensian street urchin pairs up with Nyssa, not Peri. Jonathan Morris' story is a strangely structured one, but all the better for it. Part I is almost entirely Brewster's story, one we'll end up revisiting in other ways as aliens from a potential future contact him through his mother's ghost. The Doctor and Nyssa show up rather late, then separate them through time - which gets us a "look" at a bearded 5th Doctor - and then all the pieces start to come together. Because Brewster is the focus of the story, it's not clear how he'll do as a companion, but he gets a good start.

My Job Can Be Geeky: This week, not only did I issue the 4th of 4 "Where's Waldo?" type images attacking the provincial budget asking students to find their Prime Minister, eagle-eyed geeks of all stripes will also find a bunch of other stuff in the wilds of Canada. And then there's the Video Game Olympiad I had to organize and host for the "Campus Cup". Of the 16 games on consoles from across time (the oldest being an Atari 2600) and game types, who would have thought that the crappy Enter the Matrix multi-player mode would be the most popular. The combination of crazy moves and cool music made for a great exhibition event though it's actually crap to play. Clear win by the Improv team (my boys!), with the Science faculty a solid second. The Nutritionist school did the worst, but did so entertainingly, with the Halo player crying he was a pacifist.

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
II.ii. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern - Branagh '96


David H. said...

hey Siskoid, do you have another Task Force X retirement files posting coming up soon?

Siskoid said...

All things come to those who wait.

Bill D. said...

People hate them some Revenge of the Cybermen, but it's the first Who I ever saw beginning to end (thanks to that one initial video release!), and therefore the one that roped me in and made me a fan. It's not great, but nostalgia keeps me from feeling anything negative about it. Also, the Doctor shouting "Harry Sullivan is an IMBECILE!!!!" has to be one of my favorite moments of the entire series.


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